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Month: December, 2007

Interview with Brendon Burchard

31 December, 2007 (16:28) | Life | By: Nick Dalton

Ken McArthur has finished writing his book Impact: How to Get Noticed, Motivate Millions, and Make a Difference in a Noisy World. (You can still listen to the recordings of his sessions with the writing coaches at Awaken the Author Within. Their goal was to do all the actual writing in 12 hours. Very useful information for any aspiring writer.)

Ken is now following the new book promotion model where you give away a ton of good stuff to generate interest and spike sales of the book. The book is not out yet, but you can sign up to Ken’s site now and start enjoying his freebies.

First out is an interview with Brendon Burchard. I’ve written about Brendon before and his excellent book Life’s Golden Ticket. Listening to Brendon always gives me a boost of positive energy. Highly recommended!

Go here to download the interview: theimpactfactor.net

A Concise Guide To Keyword Research

30 December, 2007 (11:35) | Search Engines | By: Nick Dalton

Keywords are the underpinnings of all major search engines. In order to rank well in search engines or to do well with AdWords ads, you need to do keyword research. Knowing which keywords to target is also a prerequisite for using the tools RaSof and rApogee.

Keyword Ideas

First you need to come up with an initial list of keywords that you think are relevant to your web site.

Brainstorm

List all the keywords and phrases that you think your customers would use to find your site. While this is a starting point, most people are too close to their own business to know what words their customers use to describe their products. As a business owner you are prone to using industry jargon and abbreviations along with internal product names and descriptions.

Thesaurus

Use a thesaurus to come up with possible synonyms for your keywords.

Analytics

Look at your web analytics tools to get a list of keywords that visitors actually used to find your site.

Google Webmaster Tools

In Google Webmaster Tools click on Statistics > What Googlebot sees, to get a list of phrases and keywords on your site as Google sees it. This often reveals some eyeopening information.

Competitors

Look at the keywords your competitors are targeting. One easy way to do this is to view the source of their web pages and look at the “meta keywords” tag.
<meta name="keywords" content="internet business,business,internet,copywriting,traffic,product creation,marketing,advertising" />

Things To Avoid

Single Words

Most single words are bad keywords because they are too broad. How can you tell what someone is looking for if all they type in is “internet” or “business”? Even the two word phrase “internet business” is very broad. An exception to this rule could be the names of your product.

Generic Terms

Very generic terms like “iphone” are going to get a lot more search volume than more specific search terms like “iphone ebook“. But visitors who type is a specific term are much more targeted visitors and are therefore more likely to convert to customers. Again there are exceptions. For example you may have a blog with general iPhone information.

Plurals And Stem Variations

At this point in your keyword research focus on the core keywords. Do not worry about listing every possible variation, including plural forms, of every keyword you think of. There are tools that can help you with that later.

Refine Your Keyword List

Search Volume

Use Wordtracker’s Free Keyword Tool and Google’s Keyword Tool to estimate the search volume of the keywords on your list. If too few people are searching using particular keywords then there is not much to be gained from targeting those keywords.

How much is enough search volume? James Brausch once recommended in his 5 Minute Marketing Research process that you should have at least as much search traffic has the keyword “airguns” gets. The exact numbers will of course vary depending on your market, but this is a good starting point.

Competitiveness

If you’re just starting out and you target very competitive keywords you have your work cut out for you. One way to gage the the competitiveness of keywords is to look at the total number of search results, but this is no longer very accurate due to the increasing number of junk web sites. A better way is to look at the number of AdWords ads shown in Google when you search for the keywords.

You can also use rApogee and look at the total scores for the top 10 web sites. If the scores are all above 500 they those pages are probably highly optimized for those keywords.

Long Tail

If you have found generic keywords with a lot of search volume but are highly competitive, then you should think about more specific variations that are applicable to your business. For example instead of “internet business” you may go after “internet business startup advice” or “internet business technical consulting”.

Organize Your Keywords

When you have your list of keywords you need to map them to web pages on your site. If you have a web site that sells a lot of products then that’s pretty straightforward. If you have a blog it’s a little more tricky; you can think of your blog categories as product categories and optimize for different keywords for each category.

Don’t agonize over treating your home page in a special way or consider it more important than all the other pages. Search engines couldn’t care less which page you consider to be your “home page”. Nor do your visitors, they just want the information they’re looking for.

The three major search engines have very different algorithms for on-page ranking factors. That’s the reason RaSof gives you different scores for the same URL depending on the search engine you have selected. As you are organizing keywords and web pages you may also consider creating separate pages to target Google, MSN/Live and Yahoo as it is very unlikely that the same page will have a top ranking in all three.

Continuous Improvements

Keyword research is an ongoing process. You need to constantly refine your list of keywords. Use your web analytics tool to find new keywords that visitors have used to find your web site.

But most important is to trim keywords from your list that do not result in conversions to sales, newsletter sign-ups, etc. Unless you are selling advertising on your web site by page views, more traffic in general is not what you should strive for. What you want is targeted traffic: visitors who stay on your web site, take some action and eventually become your customers.

Resources

A Christmas Gift For You To Complement The One From James Brausch

26 December, 2007 (00:42) | General, Search Engines | By: Nick Dalton

Again this year James Brausch gave away some of his products to all the people who had signed up to his Christmas card list. (And again controversy erupted when some people felt like they “missed” their gift. Just like last year…)

Since it’s the day after Christmas I think I can reveal the content of James’ gift without spoiling any surprise:

  1. he Ranking Factors Data which contains the raw data for how the three major search engines rank web pages. This product used to sell for $1000, but is no longer available.
  2. A free trial to the RaSof service which uses the ranking factors data to give any web page that you enter a “score” for the keywords that you enter. This is very helpful for improving the search engine ranking for your web sites. This service is normally $1000 per month.

I’m a long-time owner of both products. The data they contain is unique.

However as a beginner user of the products the amount of data, and the raw presentation, can be a bit overwhelming. Therefore I created a companion product called rApogee which takes the information and presents it in a more organized and actionable form. You can read more about rApogee here and here.

With James’ generous Christmas gift I reckon there will be many new users to RaSof and I would like to make their experience as productive as possible. Therefore my Christmas gift to you is a free copy of rApogee. Here’s the page to sign up and claim your Christmas gift.

To ensure that the electrons of this blog post reach all the remote corners of the Internet, you have all Twelve Days of Christmas to claim your gift. That is until January 6, 2008. After that date you will still be able to purchase rApogee for the regular price of $105.

That will also give you time to let your blog readers and customers know about this gift. (Hint.)

If you find rApogee useful I’d appreciate if you leave a comment below.

Got iPhone?

20 December, 2007 (12:24) | General, Tools | By: Nick Dalton

If you’re a seasoned iPhone owner you know that behind the shiny surface and the slick user interface there are many unexplored features hiding.

Did you know for example that you can increase your speed of typing on the iPhone keyboard significantly using this simple “Shift and Hold” trick:

Most keys don’t register your keystroke until you lift your finger. However the Shift and Punctuation keys are exceptions that you can use to your advantage.

  1. To type a punctuation character, tap and hold the punctuation key (.?123)
  2. The punctuation keyboard appears.
  3. Drag your finger to the desired punctuation key.
  4. Lift your finger.
  5. The keyboard returns to the alphabet layout.

How could you know that? There are no hints in the user interface that might lead you to discovering this trick. As it happens I have a shortcut for you to discover this trick, and one hundred other useful tips and tricks about the iPhone.

I just finished writing an ebook called “101 iPhone Tips and Tricks“.

If you’re getting/giving an iPhone as a gift this holiday season, do yourself and the recipient a favor: get the ebook as a companion for the iPhone. It will save you a lot of time and headaches. And it will allow you to get the most out of the iPhone.

Looking for a last minute holiday gift? The ebook doesn’t require any shipping. You can download it immediately at the last minute. But don’t wait too long. You will want to take advantage of the special holiday pricing before it expires. Here’s the URL:

http://www.iPhoneTipsTricks.com

Money For Nothing…and your clicks for free

19 December, 2007 (18:05) | General | By: Nick Dalton

Seth Godin has written a great little ebook about getting traffic to your web site. It emphasizes the three “U” tactics:

  • Useful
  • Updated
  • Unique

Most of the examples in the ebook are from Squidoo (no surprise since that is Seth Godin’s own baby), but the tactics are equally applicable to blogs and other web sites.

Six Tips To Keep Your WordPress Blog From Being Hacked

17 December, 2007 (13:05) | Security, WordPress | By: Nick Dalton

Copywriter Michel Fortin tells a harrowing tale of how his blog was compromised and subsequently blacklisted by Google. This comes on the heels of the highly publicized attack on Al Gore’s web site.

Unfortunately the details on what exactly happened with Fortin’s and Gore’s blogs are scant. But here are some general guidelines for keeping your WordPress blog safe.

Update to the latest secure version

No software is free from bugs and security holes. Make sure that you are running the latest secure version. For WordPress – as of this writing – that means versions 2.3.1, 2.2.3 or 2.0.11.

Since WordPress gives plug-ins and themes full access to your blog, you also need to keep your plug-ins up-to-date. With the latest 2.3 series of WordPress you are notified in the admin screen when the plug-ins that you have installed are released in new versions.

Only download and install trusted code

Just like you shouldn’t click on email attachments coming from people you don’t trust, you shouldn’t install software on your blog from untrusted sources. Only download code from the authors’ web site.

Since WordPress and most themes and plug-ins are released as open source, anyone can modify the code with malicious intent and put up the badware for download to unsuspecting web surfers.

Don’t be the guinea pig for the latest plug-ins. Take a cautious approach and wait until you see a plug-in being used by many other trusted bloggers.

Be weary of JavaScript includes

Many web analytics services and ad networks require you to add some JavaScript to your blog pages. Often this takes the form of a JavaScript include which gives the authors of that JavaScript almost wholesale permission to do anything with your web page. In essence you are trusting the security of your web site to this third party service.

In the case of Google AdSense and Google Analytics, or any of the major and reputable ad networks and web analytics services, I would not be worried. But if some relatively unknown company wanted to place JavaScript on my web site I would run away.

Ad networks also pose another problem if you don’t have control over who is allowed to advertise on your network. Google applies the guilt by association principle: If you are advertising for a site that has badware on it, your site may be blacklisted too.

Write-protect your themes directory

There appears to be an exploit going around that modifies installed WordPress themes to add spam links or malicious iframes. One way to make this exploit more difficult is to modify the file permissions of your WordPress themes directory to 755. The drawback is that you will now have to ftp modified files to your web server each time you want to make changes to your theme.

Unfortunately you cannot apply the same write protection to the plug-ins directory since many plug-ins write data to the directory where it’s installed.

Use strong passwords

This is an obvious good security practice, but too often forgotten. Make sure all your passwords are strong: your admin account, the ftp account and any other WordPress accounts that have any edit privileges.

There are numerous articles online about selecting good passwords so I won’t repeat that information here. Just make sure that you follow the advice in these articles and don’t copy the actual passwords they list.

View the HTML source of your site often

You should view the HTML source of your web site often. If you find chunks of encrypted JavaScript, or hidden links to sites you don’t know, then your blog may have been compromised. The reason to do this often is so that you can discover any issues before Google does and blacklists you, or any of your readers get infected by malicious software distributed by your site.

Should you abandon WordPress?

I love the WordPress platform because it’s so powerful, flexible and extensible. The downside to all these extensions is that it only takes one weak link to compromise your blog. Even though the core WordPress developers mostly follow good security practices for the code they write, that cannot be extended to all the thousands of WordPress theme and plug-in developers.

Since WordPress is the most popular blog platform, they suffer the same problem as Microsoft does with their products: they’re also the most popular target for security exploits. Therefore we are going to have to live with constant security vigilance. If you are not willing to at least follow the six steps in this article, then WordPress is probably not the best blogging platform for you.

Are you practicing safe blogging?

Tracking and Losing Affiliate Cookies

10 December, 2007 (11:08) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

Online affiliate marketing is a billion dollar industry and its foundation for tracking commissions is built upon very fragile browser cookies. This topic has been examined in deep detail by Benjamin Edelman and discussed on many blogs and forums over the years. Recently ShoeMoney had an interesting blog post where he suggests that cookie tracking may be replaced by server side tracking. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

Lets start with a simple case where you manage your own web site that sells a product and you also manage your own affiliate program. An affiliate’s link to your sales page may look like this:
www.business.com/index.php?affId=123

The server side code on the sales page grabs the affiliate id from the URL and adds it as a parameter to the buy link so that the information is transferred to the payment processor. After the customer has completed the purchase the customer is sent back to your thank you page. In order for your system to correctly record the affiliate sale the payment processor needs to post the affiliate id back to your thank you page. Since many payment processors don’t support passing arbitrary parameters through the payment process, this is not really an option.

The easy way around this problem is to store the affiliate id as a server session variable on your site. When the customer comes back to the thank you page the code just looks up the affiliate id in session. Of course to use a session, the server needs to set a session id cookie in the customer’s browser. And we’re back at square one.

So getting rid of cookies entirely in the affiliate process is very difficult.

To continue the discussion, let’s assume that we accept session cookies set by the merchant’s web site (also known as first party cookies). These cookies are also a lot less likely to be targeted by overzealous anti-spyware programs, than cookies set by the major affiliate networks.

The next complication is that your web site has many pages between the affiliate landing page and the checkout page. The affiliate id needs to be kept throughout this process. Again the server session comes to the rescue. The affiliate id is grabbed from the URL on the landing page and is immediately stored in session. On the thank you page the id is retrieved from session, just like in the previous example.

Next let’s introduce an affiliate network like CJ. The affiliate’s link will then look something like this:
www.aff.net/click?merchantId=42&productId=12&affId=123

The affiliate network registers this click in their database and forward the customer to your sales page with the affiliate id:
www.business.com/index.php?affId=123

The process is then the same as in the previous examples. With the difference that on the thank you page you need to communicate the products sold along with the affiliate id back to the affiliate network. This can be done with an invisible iframe or image, or with JavaScript. The affiliate network receives this information and stores it in their database and later matches it up with the previous click data.

Another issue is tracking affiliate commissions across visits (a.k.a. return days). Say a customer clicks on an affiliate link but does not purchase anything on the first visit. A few days later the customer returns to the merchant’s site (without clicking on an affiliate link) and then makes a purchase. Most affiliate programs pay out affiliate commissions for this purchase. Persistent cookies work well for tracking an affiliate id across visits for cases like this. Of course the cookies are not of much use if they are deleted by software on the customer’s computer. If the persistent cookies are issued by the merchant’s web site they are less likely to be deleted. However this would require more work on the part of the merchant.

In the future I believe that CRM systems will play a larger role on many e-commerce sites. You will be given an incentive to enter your name and email address (”squeeze page”) and that information is stored in a database along with the affiliate id that you arrived with. As long as you use the same email address when you make a purchase the original affiliate can always be credited.

All this extra processing and keeping track of the affiliate id on the merchants web site is probably more work than most merchants can or are willing to do. After all, merchants outsource their affiliate programs to avoid work. Another disturbing fact is that the merchants don’t have any financial incentive to improve affiliate tracking since more lost affiliate cookies result in less affiliate commissions to pay out. From the affiliate networks perspective they want to make it as easy as possible for merchants to sign up to their network, and they want to be compatible with as many technologies as possible. Therefore they offer to do all the tracking using their cookies.

In summary I believe that affiliate tracking can be vastly improved using server side technology, but the parties who are in a position to do something about it do not have any incentive to do so.

What do you think? Is this really a technology problem? Are there any scenarios that cannot be accurately tracked with the techniques described above?