Make It Wag, Baby
Ever heard of the “long tail”?
It’s something Amazon.com and all big retailers are aware of and work to use effectively. To give a quick definition, it’s where the collective demand for less-popular items (say, “Fly Fishing” by J.R. Hartley) can be greater than the demand for the most popular items (the Harry Potters and Dan Browns) added together.
How can this be? It’s because there aren’t that many really popular items, but there are loads of less popular (but still profit-making) items. So whereas the big-name items get all the publicity and marketing efforts directed towards them, a lot of the real money gets made in lesser-known, less-competitive markets.
This can apply equally well to your website and the phrases you’re hoping to be found for on the search engines. You’ll have your big-hitter keywords and keyphrases, sure, but there will also be a much greater number of word combinations people will use to reach you that you weren’t even aware of.
Until now. I’m about to recommend that you try using a bit of paid-for online software called “HitTail”. I’m not associated with them in any way, can’t guarantee that your site will be a perfect match for what they offer, and won’t be responsible if your SEO efforts end in miserable failure.
Okay, caveats over. HitTail lets you know in real time how people are finding you and gives suggestions on promising keywords and keyphrases that you might think harder about working to optimise. Some of the suggestions might be slightly off base – it’s an algorithmic bit of software, after all, not put together by humans – but a lot will make you think “Aha! Hhhmm, hadn’t thought of that one before. I’ll try it!”
It all helps your website to be found on the search engines, which can’t be bad. So give it a go. They offer a 60-day trial, so at the very least you’ll have two months of free suggestions before you pull the plug on them.
Here’s the URL:
It’s all very easy to set up on your site – all you need to do is add a tiny bit of code to the background HTML of the pages on your site – so g’wan!
Tags: Google · Internet · keywords · SEO · tips · website optimisation
When I’m feeling a bit low on inspiration there’s nothing better for the spirits than whipping out the credit card and spending some of the money currently burning a hole in my bank account. My drug of choice – and I apologise for being so incredibly dull – tends to be books on things like business psychology, marketing, search engine optimisation techniques, website metrics, that kind of thing. You can keep your white truffles and Pernod-Ricard Perrier-Jouet; I get my kicks by reading "Influence". Look, I had a sheltered childhood, okay?
I tend to order through Amazon, because their customer service has always been excellent. All my address and payment details are set up with them, so buying stuff is fantastically simple. Another good thing about the site is the objective reviews of stuff you get to look at. Want to know if a business book is any good? Check out its rating and what people are saying about it.
More and more, though, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be perhaps a little more cynical about the glowing reviews I sometimes read for books that end up being a disappointment. And Amazon, with the lack of checks they have for objective reviewers, might be part of the problem.
There’s a book on a particular business topic I’ve previously written about on this blog. Doesn’t really matter what the name of the particular book in question is, so I won’t write it. What I would like to write about, however, is the dubious marketing practices either the author or publisher of the book is using to make it look more attractive than it actually is.
The book was published several months ago to a chorus of… well… a chorus of yawns and mild contempt, really. It managed to scrape up about six reviews in the first four months following publication. Most of the reviews gave it one or two stars, saying that it promised a lot but didn’t actually deliver much. A lot of marketing-business books are like that. They have one idea in them that might make an interesting 10-page white paper. When it comes to translating that one idea to 200 or so pages of text, however, you tend to get a lot of repetition and meaningless anecdotes. The book in question, judging by the reviews, seemed to be one of those books.
Until April 1, that is.
Suddenly, after two months of zero interest… BOOM! Along come five reviews, all giving the book the maximum five stars. The very next day… POW! Another five reviews, all with – you’re way ahead of me, I can tell – five stars. And every single one of those ten reviews had something in common:
- They were all written by reviewers who had never sent in a review before
- They were all between 50-70 words in length (yep, every one of them)
- The writing style was exactly the same for every review
So whereas on March 31 the book’s average customer review would have been around 2, now it’s up to 4. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, do you? It’s the same person creating multiple accounts with Amazon and writing multiple reviews.
So what’s the moral of the story? It’s that you don’t take reviews at face value; you have to spend time doing your homework. It always depresses me when I come across stuff like this. Why can’t people just, I dunno, do a better job and earn good reviews legitimately? Why the chicanery? Sighhh…. It’s obvious I’m going to have to cheer myself up by looking at Bizkit the Sleepwalking Dog for the thousandth time now.
Have a great weekend.
p.s. Afternoon update. Just checked the USA Amazon site. Same story: several contemptuous and lengthy reviews giving reasons why the book is rubbish, along with dozens of five-star, one-paragraph odes to its wonderfulness by first-time reviewers. Shill, anyone?
Tags: business development · good suppliers · influence · Uncategorized · writing
Having problems doing the "right thing"? Can’t find the motivation to turn your eyes from DigitalSpy.co.uk to, well, to something a bit more productive? Or are you maybe wrestling with yourself as that carrot cake you bought in Tesco’s yesterday demands to be eaten all in one go and you’re not quite sure that you have the strength to resist?
Hang on, that’s… that’s me I’m talking about! It’s true. I’m as human as the next man and probably have less willpower than most, especially as I work alone and don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder, wondering what I’m doing.
How do I do it? How do I get things done? Why am I able to get out of bed in the morning?
Well, it’s not always easy. Seriously! You wake up, think "Got a sore throat. And it’s raining. And I’m 40 now. And the last real day off I had was last October. And blah blah blah blah blah where are the razorblades?" and immediately want to just turn the alarm off and roll over. One thing that helps, however, is a little mantra I say to myself over and over again. Here goes:
Help or Harm?
Will this help me – in other words, will what I’m doing now make it easier to get to where I want to be – or will it harm me? It works for pretty much every eventuality. For example: I’m about to eat a second massive slice of carrot cake and at the same time I want at some stage to be fit enough to run the London Marathon again. Will what I’m doing now help that goal, or harm it? It’s not always a case of being a good boy and putting the cake away for another time; sometimes I think "You know what? To hell with it. I’m having that second helping and will deal with the calories some other time."
It’s just about being conscious of my actions and their consequences. If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself day-dreaming your way through life from time to time. You’ve just come back from lunch and you want to check something on Wikipedia…. and when you come around and fight your way back to reality you’re shocked to find there are only 30 minutes left in the day. That kind of thing happens to me all the time – or, at least, it would if I let it. But once you make yourself wake up to the consequences of what you are doing – "If I look at Bizkit the sleepwalking dog on YouTube another five times I’ll laugh a lot, but it’ll mean I’ll have to make up the time later in the evening" – you can decide for yourself how much you really want to do what you’re about to do and not just do things in a daze.
So that’s where the "Help or Harm?" thing comes in. I’ve even got it as my desktop wallpaper, because my memory is bad enough sometimes for me to forget about the mantra without having it glaring at me in huge red letters.
What about you? Got a similar thing you say to yourself to push away the evil little pixies that sometimes alight on your shoulder and ruin your life? Want to use mine? You can, you know! I won’t tell anyone and won’t charge a commission.
I’ve even done you some wallpaper of your own, in case you want to download it to be your own reminder. Click on the links to get the size you want.
1600×1280 / 1280×1024 / 1280×960 / 1152×864 / 1024×768 / 800×600 / 640×480
Have a great weekend.
Tags: influence · motivation · productivity · tips
I’m probably not the biggest fan in the world of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. What’s PPC? It’s what you get when you search for something in Google, Yahoo or the other search engines. The "organic" results are the ones you get on the left of the screen; what you see on the right of the screen is the paid-for ads.
The thing about PPC ads is this: you can have a fantastically written ad which gets loads of people clicking to see what you’re offering, but (a) every click costs you money and (b) a click through to your site doesn’t equal a converted sale. You can end up spending a heck of a lot of money in a short time and not have very much to show for it.
One big advantage PPC marketing has over search engine optimisation (SEO) is that it’s immediate. Get yourself an account with Google Adwords, set everything up and you can be seen right there on the first page of results for the keywords or keyphrases you select the very same day. It’s really that quick. SEO takes time. That’s okay if you are prepared to invest days, weeks and months into waiting for the rewards of your efforts, but if you want results right now then PPC can be very effective.
So here’s the point of today’s post: the thing I’m about to give you the link to will allow you to check the market out and see what your competitors are doing with their PPC spending. I don’t know what kind of black sorcery it contains in its software, but it’s able to look at a paid ad, analyse how much the advertiser is paying for the ad, estimate how many clicks they’re probably getting for the ad every day, and – I’ve no idea how this is possible – even check out what other ads they have running, sometimes in completely unrelated fields.
And the best thing is, it’s completely free. Once you download it, it runs as an add-on part of your browser and you can switch it on and off just by clicking on the software’s icon. Sure, they try to upsell you to a paid version of the software that promises you positions one and two for whatever you want to advertise yourself, but I can’t really understand how that works. Doesn’t quite make sense how they can guarantee it, but my brain is feeling particularly small and challenged today, so I’m probably missing something. Anyway, the free version is more than good enough to be able to have a good look at what people are up to. Check it out:
PPC Web Spy
Have a great weekend.
Tags: business development · Firefox · Google · Internet · keywords · SEO · website development · website optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be incredibly rewarding when you finally get what you’ve been working for: first-page positions for your best keywords. For me that means getting on the first page of results for the word "copywriter", so it’s gratifying that things are going well right now.
But I have to admit it was a long, hard slog to get there. SEO takes time! You can be optimising up to the eyeballs and getting all the high-quality backlinks you can find, only to see no change in your current position at the back-end of nowhere.
So why is that? Why is it that you can one day be nowhere for a keyword you’re trying to get seen for, then quite soon after – and without having done anything different to what you always do – be right up there with your competitors, fighting it out for top spot?
It’s to do with what’s called the sandbox. All the search engines, including Google, the most important one, use secret, time-based indicators that slow down your progress to the top. And they do this for good reasons; it’s not just to mess with your mind. One very important reason is so that they can be sure the sites they reward with good positions are legitimate. If they didn’t do that, it would be the easiest thing in the world to set up a fraudulent site – offering to "sell" designer goods, taking customers’ money and never actually sending anything, for example – optimise it up to the eyeballs with hundreds of inbound links and on-site SEO, grab top positions, then run off before the cops catch up with them.
The search engines also, to greater and lesser extents, like to check that you aren’t indulging in "black-hat" search engine optimisation practices. What’s "black-hat"? An old-school example would be if you were trying to optimise your site for, let’s say, the word "Gucci". You think to yourself, "Okay, how can I mention Gucci a zillion times and get all the optimisation benefits that will accrue without making the site unreadable? I know! I’ll write Gucci in white font over a white background at the bottom of the page!" Doing this would allow human readers to view what they think is a perfectly normal web page while at the same time giving the search engines, which look at websites in a completely different way to humans, many repetitions of the word "Gucci" – to the effect that the search engines are fooled into thinking the site they are looking at is an authority on the topic and reward it with a first-page position.
Well, the search engines are wise to that kind of mischief and will penalise you severely if you start to mess them around. But they need time to check through your code – which is why they make you wait. You can rank for your target keywords and keyphrases in a month or two in MSN, in four months or so in Yahoo, and in up to a year in Google. A year!
So what can you do about that? Well, if you’re in a real hurry the obvious solution is to use pay-per-click advertising. That’ll get you the position you want immediately. The only thing is, you’ll have to pay for it. I don’t know about you, but I just hate paying money. For anything! So I’m happy to wait.
This is what you should do:
- Make sure your on-site optimisation is all done.
- Get good-quality links coming in to your site. In other words, links that are relevant to your field, authoritative, and from trusted sources.
- Go and have a cup of tea.
- Go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.
- Get up the next morning, check your site to see what you can tweak, then go and get some more inbound links.
Then one day you’ll wake up, sleepily enter your site’s optimised search term into Google while fully expecting to be stranded on page 37, and the world will be a much better place when you’re number seven on page one out of five million results. And that’s when you’ll wish you had an identical twin you could kiss.
London Marathon 2009 Update: Sigh. It’s no good. The leg I injured back in September is better now – more or less – but still feels very fragile whenever I do anything adventurous on it. Like running. The rumour is that the London Marathon actually requires quite a lot of running, so I’m going to defer until 2010. But it’s going to happen, believe me! Thanks for all your support.
Tags: Google · Internet · keywords · motivation · SEO · tips · website development · website optimisation