Category Archives for Online Marketing Ramblings

Preventing Image Theft & Copyright Violation

Stop Image TheftCopyright law exists to protect the creators of a original work, whether than be an article, a photo or a drawing. As soon as you create it you have copyright to it, which stays in place 70 years after the author’s death; at that point it belongs to the public domain. Unless you grant license for someone else to use your image, it is considered a copyright violation if they use without your permission.

Image theft is an important issue on the web, especially to people who make their living creating visual art.  Just this week there was a furor over the site http://lxixixl.com/ which was copying and hosting entire collections of images from people’s websites. Complaints shut it down but there are others that are doing the same thing.

Theft of content and image happens every day on the web, so what can you do?

  • Inform:   Show that it is your original work by placing a copyright notice on your website.   For example “Copyright 2011 Pablo Picasso”
  • Make it less desirable: Many artists will only put low resolution copies of their images online.   So if they are stolen they are not of full quality.
  • Make it difficult: Implement functionality that makes it harder to steal the images.   For example, disable the right click functionality with javascript.  Note this will annoy some visitors who expect the right click to work for legitimate uses.  Another approach is to place a transparent image over the real image, so when it is saved the thief gets a blank image.   WordPress users might want to check out the iProtect plugin.   Keep in mind that that neither one of these are complete solutions.   Disabling right click doesn’t help when the thief finds the image in Google Image Search and gets the image there.  Which brings me to ….
  • Hide them from Google and Bing: Keep all your images in one directory and tell Google and Bing not to index that directory by placing a directive in the robots.txt file.   Note that this action is useless if Google has already indexed your images.
  • Watermark them: Perhaps the most effective solution, this alters the image so that it is “marked” in an identifying way.   It’s the same idea as branding cattle back in the cattle rustling days.  There are also WordPress plugins that watermark the image “on the fly”.

Ultimately it is up to you how much effort you want to put into preventing image theft and violation of your copyright, but don’t just ignore the issue, decide on an approach and take action.

Get More Traffic to Your Website? Now it’s More Complicated.

Happy New Year! This is the another in a series of blog posts on trends to watch in 2011.

Want More Traffic? Fragmentation of Internet Traffic Makes it More Complicated

Web traffic is the lifeblood of any website. It used to be that you had three choices to get traffic to your website.

  1. Rank for it organically – Build web pages that are optimized and match what searchers type into the google search bar
  2. Pay for it – Pay per click or per view with Google, Yahoo or another network
  3. Market to a list – The fastest way to get traffic, send an email to a list with a link to your website.

Then along came social media, mobile and apps and the fragmentation began. Google is no longer the only game in town. Facebook with it’s 500 million plus users can drive a lot of traffic. When the Beatles came out on iTunes, 26.32% of traffic to Apple websites came from Social Media, a jump from 15%.

Some traffic bypasses the web entirely, being facilitated by apps on mobile devices. Admob reports that “45% of our worldwide traffic now comes from smartphones, much of it driven from applications that didn’t exist several years ago.”

Putting something on a website to be found by Google worked in almost every niche. Maybe they didn’t buy anything, but if you did it right you always got some traffic. This “universality” is not replicated in our new fragmented world. Facebook only works for web traffic to websites on topics that you would like your friends to know about. While there are those who will share anything with friends, there are still more that will think twice about sharing topics that don’t come up easily in casual conversation, the usual suspects: porn, politics come to mind here. The three “C”s do well in social media: Cute, Celebrities and Causes.

Apps on mobile phones, fit in a different paradigm, the best apps deliver quick answers, and the real interesting ones marry the digital and physical world (check the iPhone app that delivers personalized traffic reports), in some ways apps are leading the charge to intermarry the internet with more of our life. Study of human behavior and needs could be real helpful here.

So with more choices on how to market your business on the internet comes more decisions. It’s more fragmented and not every ‘channel’ works for every niche.

Adsense Optimization With Colors

Have you heard that the most effective link color is blue? I decided to test it out and my conclusion is that this is indeed true. People just expect a link to be blue, so why fight it?

I manage a website that gets about 3000 visitors a month. Its primary monetization vehicle is ebay affiliate ads, but I have slowly been adding adsense to it. Recently I decided to try out the Ad links unit. Unlike the text ad units, these are the horizontal strips of adsense links without the descriptions or URLs. Many webmasters blend them into the header as a psuedo navigational bar. Given the website builder I was using, I didn’t have that “blending” option without a fair amount of work, but I decided to try placing ad link units near the header above and below the H1.

ad-link-unit

I choose three color schemes: 1) brown links on a beige background, 2) blue links on a beige background and 3) beige links on a brown background. The beige and brown colors are consistent with the overall color schema of the site. I used the 468×15 size and placed the adsense ads on six pages, 2 each .. I tried to pick pages that got about the same about traffic and were similar in content.

Adsense has this nifty feature called channels. Each of my ads I assigned to a different channel. (ie. I assigned the ad with the brown links on a beige background to a channel called ‘nav1’). The reports will break down the results into the channels so you can see which ad is performing better.

Then I forgot about it for 18 days and then checked back in. Here are the results:

color scheme    impress. clicks Page CTR
brown links on beige  225  0  0%
blue links on beige  205  3  1.50%
beige links on brown  266  0  0%

Again not a large enough sample size to satisfy the statisticians, but enough to satisfy me. Blue links win. Seems like I should consider changing the maroon links on this blog to be blue, yes?

However note that even the blue links on beige performance ad links is not as good as my text ads, which is getting a Page CTR of 3.64%.

One thing that is cool, is that you can edit the colors settings of your ads right in your adsense account (Adsense Setup -> Manage Ads). So I did and didn’t have to touch my pages at all. Here is my next test.

  1. Blue links on a white background (same as the site background)
  2. Blue links on beige .. but with the border set to white (so the “Ads by Google” part is on white but the ads are on beige – the above image at the beginning of this post is an example of this
  3. Blue links on beige – this is the same as before so I have a control group

I’ll be definitely tweaking and monitoring this more. My main dilemma is whether to add the text ads to more pages (which are doing better but are more “intrusive”) or keep going with the ad link groups.

Frank Kern: here is what i got

I had the privilege of seeing Frank Kern give a talk on Saturday. For those of you that don’t know him, Frank Kern is the highest paid internet marketer on the planet. Frank is a gifted copywriter and does direct response campaigns, both online (email campaigns, sales letter pages) and offline. Direct response means that the copy asks for the reader to take action (usually to buy something).

Frank is quite entertaining and swears a lot. But underneath that casual demeanor you catch glimpses of a sharp masterful focus on his craft. The rest of his time he parties and surfs.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Here is what I got Copy per Frank has three sections: 1) “Here is what I got” – what the offer is, 2) “Here is what it will do for you”, and 3) “Here is what I want you to do next” – call to action
  • Market research is critical You have to know your target market, what problem they are trying to solve and whether they have money to spend.
  • Attract Fans Give away free stuff of great value that helps a little. Then sell them a product that helps them a lot.
  • Sell high dollar products It’s a lot more effort to sell a $100 product to 100 people than to sell a $10,000 product to 10 people

Thanks to JeffAndKane for having Frank at their event.

Google Adsense and Adwords, make money magnets

What’s the difference between Google’s Adsense and Adwords programs?

Adsense and Adwords work together but are frequently confused. I find it most helpful to explain from a perspective of what role you are playing on the internet.

If you are a publisher, in other words you blog, write articles, or otherwise put content on the internet, then you may want to consider adsense as a way to make money online. Web site owners can set up adsense ads on their sites, and if their site visitors click on the ad, the site owners gets a commission. Setting up adsense ads is easy.

  1. You create an account with google (you can use an existing gmail account)
  2. You pick what style and colors the adsense ad will appear as on your site
  3. You cut and paste the generated code to your site

Google looks at your content and figures out what ads are relevant to show on your site.

If you want to advertise on the internet, then you should consider adwords (also known as Google PPC – pay per click). Your goals might be to drive more traffic to your website so you can sell online or build a list through an opt-in box. Adwords takes a little more to set up than Adsense but it’s not too hard to get started. Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind.

  • Each time someone clicks on your ad, you pay a fee, so it is easy to run through a lot of money. Most experts advise setting a small daily budget until you have the ad tuned. Make sure you do your numbers. If it costs you a $1 per click and you get a 10% conversion on the traffic, then will you make money on a $7 product? I don’t think so.
  • You will have the choice on whether to advertise in the search engine results pages in the sponsored listings, or through the adsense publishing network. Each is a different strategy.
  • Pay attention to your keywords, you have a lot of control on not only which keywords your ad shows up for but whether you want to just appear for an exact match, the keyword phrase in a larger search term or keywords in any order.

While it’s easy to get the basics, it’s another to be successful. Google Adwords (or Search Engine Marketing) is a specialized field that successful marketers can charge good money for a successful campaign.

The new internet marketing sales page

Have you noticed that the long sales letter is becoming a thing of the past? You click on an ad or a link in an email and it takes you to a long web page with lots of excited sales copy. Usually included are testimonials from satisfied customers and a progressively marked down price ending with a big Buy ! button. What do you do when you see such a web landing page? If you are like me, you scroll down, barely reading any of the copy, to see what the price is.

There are a couple of trends moving away from the long sales landing page approach.

  • The price isn’t mentioned on the sales page. For higher end products, internet marketers have stopped putting the price on the sales page, you don’t find out the price until you click on the “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now” button. This allows the marketer to first build a compelling case for the product before the user rejects the product as too pricey.
  • The sales letter is replaced by a video. If you haven’t heard about the explosion of video internet marketing, you have been living under a rock. Most people don’t really read anyway and for close to half of the population the preferred learning style is visual. And people retain more information when there is a mixture of visual and audio, making video a much stronger medium than just text. You can convey a lot more information in a 5 minute video than in a 5 paragraph sales letter.

If you are on any internet marketer’s list you should see many examples of the two points above.

Consistency or Perfection of the Moment?

I have been blessed with some modest athletic abilities. When I was playing a lot of volleyball, I achieved moments of pure perfection on the court. The spike I put away that rocketed past two defenders. The dig I got that ended in a roll, due to the stretch and momentum it took to get there. After that perfect dig one of my teammates said, “That was beautiful”.

These moments are so wonderful when they happen that sometimes they blind us to how to win the game. Which is … consistency and high percentages of not necessarily winners but keeping the ball in play.

Consistency is what we all need to do more with in our jobs and our businesses. Would you rather have a site that was a flash in the plan and earned a lot of money in one week or the site that is a steady if not spectacular earner for years?

Think of this in the context of PPC vs. SEO as a SEM strategy. While arguments can be made to the contrary, PPC in general is better for quick results and SEO is slower and works best with consistent efforts. Which one do you prefer?

Big Brother is tracking you

With all the recent noise over the FTC guidelines regarding product reviews and testimonials from bloggers, you might have overlooked another discussion the FTC has spearheaded about letting users know about profiling and tracking activities that web sites perform.

Here’s how it works. A site (or a collection of sites run by the same entity) gather profile information on their visitors. They watch where the user goes on the site and also gather data more explicitly through account creation and progressive disclosure (this last bit means the site asks more questions as you do more with it). Over time this data about you is number crunched into a profile that indicates what you might be interested in and when you visit the site again a targeted ad, based on your interests is shown to you.

An example could be, let’s say I visit an electronics site and I particularly visit pages on netbooks and low powered computers. The site recognizes this and shows me an ad for a netbook rather than a high end computer suitable for a gamer. Someone else might see a different ad based on their browsing behavior, or even previous buying behavior.

This is not a new concept, Amazon has been doing similar things for a while. It is still recommending video games to me based on a purchase a year ago. However what’s new is that the FTC wants sites to show a certain icon making it clear to the user that this profiling is going on.

To me this is an interesting UX (user experience) challenge, as somehow you have to wrap into an icon the notion that this is a “smart” ad that knows something about you. The wrong approach might just creep people out.

Ask me a question

If you have a business and you are not online then you are missing out on a ton of leads and sales. You know you need a web presence so why don’t you have one yet? And if you have one? Is it working for you?

Ok, so it’s a shameless post to get some good ideas for blog posts. But I do have useful knowledge to share. I’ve been around web technologies for 9 years, and done HTML, opt in pages, and SEO. But I don’t always know what people get stuck on. So ask me a question! Tell me what to write about that will help you. Just add a comment to this blog to tell me what’s on your mind.

Affiliate Internet Marketing and the new FTC Guidelines

I recently blogged about the new FTC Guidelines, which “address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers”. The revised guides require “disclosure of material connections between advertisers and endorsers”. While the intent of new guides appear to be more focused on bloggers who get free products and get paid to endorse a product, the language is sufficiently broad enough that it applies to bloggers that embed affiliate links, even if your review of the product is neutrally biased and not really a testimonial.

Prominent internet marketers seem to agree. Ken MacArthur and SiteFling, both have posted a notice on their blogs disclosing of their affiliate relationships.