Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Does Your Small Business Use PR?

One of the challenges of small businesses is to get attention without paying megabucks for advertising. One of the best ways to get that kind of attention - short of pulling incredible publicity stunts - is to create press releases.

Benefits of Press Releases
A press release does not automatically help you get attention. The press release needs to be published and then it can be picked up by newspapers, journals, and others before you get the attention you want.

One of the online marketing values of press releases is that once published, the press release provides a link to your website and other websites can link to your site or the press release. The benefit is that there is more traffic to your site and can boost your site's popularity and search rankings - which can ultimately result in more business.

A List of PR Resources
A post by SearchEngineWatch forums moderator "mcanerin" lists several PR submission websites that he says he knows are reputable PR resources:

You can create and submit press releases for your company using those resources above. PRWeb has a press release template and tips to help you get started.

Another good PR source, especially for small businesses, is to use your local area chamber of commerce and business associations. These resources have the power and connections to get you local attention which may increase your business andlead to more regional and national press attention.

So what is PR news worthy? Pretty much any news for your company is news worthy. Did you just launch and have an unique angle on your business? Did you secure a new client or new partnership? If it's information that is worth telling to people, outside of your family, it's worth creating a press release.

Google Stops Web Accelerator Downloads

Quiet as kept, Google stopped downloads for Web Accelerator. Fantomaster broke the news. Notice the quiet disclaimer from Google that they have reached the capacity limit for their users.

Clearly, a combination of the negative buzz surrounding this product and the Google outage on May 7 convinced Google to regroup a little.

If Web Accelerator truly is useful, I hope Google fixes the security flaws. Personally, with the cable modem connection that I currently have, I see no need to use Web Accelerator.

As a personal opinion, it's a good thing I didn't try it. I usually try the new products from Google and Yahoo. I particularly like My Search History and Gmail. But I do too much work online, like banking, to have Web Accelerator mess with my privacy and security.

Hope Google learns from this and fixes the bugs.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

One Great Small Business Blog to Read

John Jantsch runs Duct Tape Marketing, a blog for small businesses. He has great resources and articles on search engine marketing, guerilla marketing, and other topics for small businesses.

He also sells material that he created and wrote. MarketingSherpa, a great marketing research resource, voted Duct Tape Marketing as the best small business blog.

Marketing blogs can get stale, dry, self-righteous, esoteric, or just go off on the deep end and discuss social ethics or try to predict the future. Some ruminate about theoretical stuff - or pontificate about theoretical stuff.

Duct Tape Marketing keeps it based on reality.This is one of my personal favorite reads.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

DO NOT USE Google Web Accelerator!

If you value your personal information and security, do NOT use Google Web Accelerator!

Google recently launched Google Web Accelerator, a tool that is supposed to make web page loading faster. Part of the technology to allow this ability is Google caching websites and loading a cached website on your browser.

Security Flaws with Web Accelerator
Unfortunately, the technology comes with serious security flaws. It tracks all of the pages you visit and caches that information, and acts, in fact, like an ISP. For your information, your ISP has a wealth of information on you such as your passwords. However, your ISP is bound to keep such information private - Google, however, is not! Google Web Accelerator can cache your password information, even your online statements and be able to serve them up.

According to eWeek, Google confirmed on Friday, May 6 that at least 5 websites returned Web Accelerator users cached pages of other people's user names and accounts. Google blames the negative results on websites with improperly coded cache-control headers.

A Storm Over Google Fiasco
Their assessment set off reactions from web developers both positive and negative. A fury of negative reactions have plastered the web since Google lauched Google Web Accelerator. Fantomaster, an internet marketing expert and software developer, has been keeping a comprehensive log on this apparent Google fiasco.

Better Safe Than Sorry
If you value your privacy and online security, it is best for you to NOT install Google Web Accelerator. Whether or not the problem is improperly coded cache-control headers or buggy software design in Google Web Accelerator (the product is still in beta-testing), the risks are too great. Identity theft and other dangers are prevalent enough online - there is no need to involve greater risk.

Until Google perfects the product and relaunchs, it is best for you to NOT install Google Web Accelerator.

Searchenginewatch forums have more detailed information about the dangers of Google Web Accelerator.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Check Your Site Logs for Keyword Clues

One of the "secrets" of professional search optimization specialists is to check the log files of a website. Often SEO specialists do this after their work is done to measure their own results.

But this analysis also works for pre-SEO work. You can learn a lot about how visitors are finding your site based on information from your site logs.

Your site logs can tell you what search terms are bringing people to your site. Often the answers can surprise you but also reveal new opportunities.

Check Your Stats for Clues
One of the best web stats software is AWStats. AWStats is a popular web stats program often included as part of your hosting. You can simply log into your hosting account to check your web stats.

Check your stats for search terms and entry and exit pages. The search terms can often surprise you.

Look for the top search terms that bring visitors to your website. Pay attention to the search phrases, not single search words. Searchers search online in phrases and not single word terms.

Optimize or Create New Pages
Once you have reviewed the top 10 search terms that bring visitors to your site, look for opportunities to optimize pages for those terms.

Not all of the information will be worth value to you. Keep everything in perspective and realize that not all search terms that brought traffic to your site are useful. Look for the terms that you can actually use on your website.
  • You can optimize your current content copy to reflect the search terms. For example, if you find that your website name is the highest referral term, you may want to optimize your page copy for your website name or web address.
  • You can create new pages & optimize for those terms. Some terms may be better optimized as a new page. For example, if you sell natural hair care products and you find that visitors get to you by searching for "natural hair care locks", you may want to create a separate page talking about natural haire care products for hair locks.
  • Some terms may surprise you - if they are useful for your site, either optimize for those terms or create new pages. Any excuse to create new pages that are useful to your visitors is good. It helps build up your site size and it helps make you seem like an authority.
With your web stats, you can find clues and learn how to better service your visitors and what their behavior is like. Ultimately, you will also find clues to help build and improve your site to increase your business.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Synchronize Your Website with Your Offline Ads

If your business markets and advertises in the local newspapers, coupon mailers, and other ad venues, make sure you match those ads on your website.

Big Businesses Synchronize Ads...
Big businesses have only recently started to pick up on the power of synchronizing their websites with their offline ads and commercials. GoDaddy.com is an example of a business synchronizing their website with their Super Bowl commercial. In the days before the Super Bowl, during and after the Super Bowl, GoDaddy.com witnessed a spike in traffic as people clamoured to see the "GoDaddy Girl".

Another example is the Dove and Pontiac product placement on the hit show The Apprentice which increased web traffic for Dove.com and Pontiac.com.

...Small Businesses Should Too
If the big guys see benefit to synchronizing ads with website content, why not small businesses? Small businesses that advertise in local newspapers, coupon mailers, and other ad spaces, should synchronize their websites with their offline ads.

For small businesses, synchronizing your website content with your offline adveritsing can help increase traffic, increase your business, and increase your marketing ROI.

Consistent Image Reinforces Prospects & Helps Them Remember
If your ads contain your website address, having that same ad on your website builds a consistent image for your business.

The consistent marketing and image reinforces what your prospects sees both online and in the ads. This helps prospects remember your business and website better.

Prospects Want Assurance You Know What You Are Doing
Synchronizing your website with your latest ads also makes your website look very updated and modern.

Remember, prospects who visit your page want to see what you are about. A well maintained and active website demonstrates to them that you know what you are doing. It demonstrates to them that you care enough to put the effort to give them the information they wanted to see from you.

Ultimately, it gives prospects the confidence to do business with you which equals to revenue for you!

Make Sure People Can Find Your Name!

Does your business have a website? Make sure people can find you by your name! It may seem almost silly but, the truth is people may not always find you by a search for your company name.

In early 2005, Google adjusted their search engine algorithms. This adjustment temporarily threw a lot of site rankings off when searching for the business names of those sites. Prominent search experts like Aaron Wall's SEOBook.com were thrown out of their top ranking spots.

Can Your Site Be Found?
It is almost taken for granted that at minimum, a website ranks for the name of the business or website. It seems logical that a website for CompanyA will show up in a search for "CompanyA". But, the algorithm adjustment revealed a disturbing problem that even the name of a business may not be found in a search engine search!

This is a vulnerability particularly if your business name is "John Smith Plumbing", "Jane Smith Accounting", or "A-1 Roofers". These kinds of names are a dime a dozen and highly common.

How to Make Adjustments!
Make sure your site is optimized for your own business name! Stick to the SEO basics to help keep your site optimized for your business name.
  • Use H1, H2, or H3 tags for your business name, where appropriate
  • Use your business name and/or website name in the content copy of your site
  • Don't keep using "home" to link to the main page - use your business name or website name sometimes as the link "anchor text" to the main page
  • If you have a physical location with addresses, hours or other contact information, list them throughout the site; it helps serve your readers and helps search engines find you by name.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Local Search Advertising Options for Small Businesses

One of the hot topics in the search engine marketing industry is local search. Local search is the ability to search for local business listings online - an online phone directory, but through the search engines.

Local search advertising & marketing is still a nascent niche industry. The idea is that local and small businesses will have more targeted and refined online advertising options with local search rather than the more cutthroat national and international search advertising & marketing venue.

There are several different options available for small businesses and we'll take a look at a few available.
  1. Search Engine Local Listings: Both Google and Yahoo have prominent local search indexes that are free to submit for indexing. Yahoo even offers local businesses a free listing plus free 5-page website. Google requires you to have a Google account. You can open one for local listing or use a Gmail or Adsense.
  2. Paid Search Engine Listings: Yahoo Local offers paid advertising options that let you paid your way to the top spot in local search listings. So for example, if you wanted to be the top Mover in your local market and you know there are several other moving companies you compete with, if you can pay it, you can be the top listing in a local search. Google offers paid listings through AdSense only.
  3. Paid Listings in Online Phone Directories: You can also pay your way into a listing on YellowBook.com, YellowPages.com, SuperPages.com, and other online versions of printed phone directories.
  4. Pay-Per-Click Advertising: Text-based advertising where you pay only when someone clicks on your sponsored ad. In Yahoo and Google, you can set the geography that you want to target your advertising, so when someone searches for your industry by geography, your ad shows up. Costs per click can be as low as 1 cent, or even upwards of over $100 per click, depending on how competitive the market is. Yahoo & Google currently reign as kings of PPC advertising. Other smaller sites include Kanoodle and Mamma to name a few.
  5. Pay-Per-Call Advertising: Pay when someone calls a special #800 to reach your business. This is the newest form of advertising targeted specifically for the local business who does a lot of business by phone. The idea is when someone does a local search and sees your business's listing, they call a special #800 that is specific to your company and to your company's listing. When they call, you close the sale over the phone. This is much more expensive than pay-per-click, starting at $2 per call. However, the frequency of volume would be lower than pay-per-click. AOL and Findwhat are the major publishers of pay-per-call advertising.

These are just some of the exciting search engine advertising options for local and small businesses.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Creative Guerilla Marketing for Small Businesses

Small businesses often have the opportunity and flexibility to be creative in guerrilla advertising. While most of the time this creativity is driven out of necessity for lack of advertising funds, it can also be very rewarding.

John Jantsch of Ducttapemarketing.com wrote a post about a plumber in his hometown who created yardsigns during the last election and convinced customers to put them on their lawns. The signs read "Bob Hamilton for Plumber".

This is a creative and amusing tactic and probably generated enough buzz that a short article was written in the town newspaper.

Now imagine if your small business could do something like Bob only better? A small business website can open several marketing and publicity opportunities that translate into increased business.

Putting a sign in high traffic, highly visible areas could be a good way to advertise. It would, in fact, be a scaled down version of billboard advertising. To maximize this space, you need to make it easy for a driving passerby to quickly get the idea of what your service is.

You need to tell them:
  • Your name or Company name
  • What you do (plumbing, roofing, masonry, catering, mortgages, etc.)
  • Phone number
  • Website

Be sure to mention and advertise your website on these signs. Why?

Advertise Your Website!
Why be sure to advertise your website? What is easier to remember when you drive by a sign: a phone number or web address?

If your sign impressed the passerby, he or she will remember the website a lot easier than a series of numbers. By making it easy for your prospects to remember and reach you, you increase your chances of ROI on these lawnsign advertising.

This is the power of small businesses with websites - multiple forms of communications to prospects and existing customers!