Saturday, May 16, 2009

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Don't be a Pay-Per-Click Tease

If you really want to waste your advertising dollars, write enticing Pay-Per-Click ad copy that incites your viewer's curiosity and compels them to click through, whether they want to buy your product or not.

In most forms of advertising, the highly successful ads first grab the viewer's or reader's attention, however they can. Consider the old auto parts ads with the pin-up models. They worked. The advertising funnel begins with general readership, is selected by gaining the attention of some, and then further refined to those interested in the product being offered. This strategy also works on the internet, but only so long as the advertising is paid for on a CPM - cost-per-thousand-impressions - basis. If you pay for impressions, you want to grab attention first, and then sell your product.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is a game-changer. If you use the old strategy of attracting attention first, and then selling your product, you end up paying for the clicks of the voyeurs, those viewers who are curious about your ad, but either don't understand your product yet, or perhaps already know that they don't want to buy it.

In the PPC world, you want to qualify your viewers as having a very high probability of being buyers BEFORE they click through - before you pay for their click. If you run an ad campaign that results in a low Click-Through-Rate (CTR), you have lost nothing. You got no results, but you paid nothing either. However, if you run a campaign with a high CTR but few conversions, you just incurred a big bill from your vendor such as Google AdWords, but achieved no sales.

When you are paying for your advertising on a PPC basis, provide as much detail about your product and your offer in your ad as you possibly can. If you can't fully describe your product and your offer in 95 characters, consider running an image ad, but one that is rich in text. Another game-changing aspect of PPC advertising is that you don't pay much more for big ads than for tiny ones. An ad as large as 336x280 pixels costs somewhere between the same and three times as much as a 95 character text ad on a PPC basis. If you need more space to describe your product in enough detail to avoid curiosity click-throughs, go for an image ad.

If someone isn't going to buy your product, you want to discourage them from clicking. Don't worry that having a low CTR will hugely inflate the price you are charged for your ads. Within limits, this is a vastly overhyped fear. With PPC, low-key highly descriptive ads are the real winners.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

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Making Money With Adwords - Why Conversions are Much More Important Than Click-Through Rate and a 10-step Program to Maximize Adwords Conversions

Read almost any article on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and you will be told about click through rate (CTR). Click-throughs are what you pay for. Click-throughs are great for the search engine provider, but for you, the business owner trying to make a buck, click-throughs are only a source of expense, not revenue.

Conversions, are where you make your money. Suppose your click-throughs cost you 20 cents. If only one in a hundred of the visitors driven to your site buys something or signs up for your mailing list, that sale or sign-up costs you twenty bucks. Unless that sale was a car or a boat, you can't afford that. Now suppose one in two site visitors buys or signs-up. Your cost, 40 cents to get each customer - huge difference.

Now that you believe in the power of conversions, here are 10 steps to really drive conversions:

1. Start by making a list of all the words that might describe your product or service.

2. Enter that list into the Adwords keyword tool. The tool will tell you keyword rankings and suggest additional keywords and phrases.

3. Remove all generalized words from your list. They are usually the words with the very highest keyword ranking, but they won't get you conversions. Let's say you sell car stereos. The keyword "stereos" will get you a lot of clicks, but you don't want to pay for the privilege of having people who are looking for home stereos visit your site.

4. Create a negative keyword list. This is a list of words and phrases to exclude from your search. The car stereo store would want to add words like "home" and "theater" to the negative keyword list. Negative keywords hold great power. The most effective Adwords campaigns have usually specified hundreds of negative keywords.

5. Look carefully at your landing page. Make sure your landing page delivers what your keywords promise.

6. Install Google Analytics, and learn to use it. Otherwise, you are flying blind.

7. Go for a test drive. Invest a few bucks and start running your ads, but keep your cost low, as you won't be getting a great conversion rate yet.

8. Use Analytics to study your results. Remove those keywords that have great click-through rate but few conversions. Also remove keywords with few click-throughs.

9. Experiment with alternative ads and landing pages. Track the analytical results of your experiments.

10. Keep adding to your list of negative keywords. You are likely to be surprised at the phrases that trigger click-throughs to your site. Tune your negative keywords to exclude those you don't want.

Optimizing your conversion rate requires some effort, but the payback can be amazing.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

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Amazon Associates vs. Google AdSense for Your Blog

You want to make a few dollars from your blog, now what? Most bloggers think first of Google's AdSense program, but that is not the only alternative. One interesting possibility is Amazon's Associates program. Which to choose, and why?

AdSense and Associates are both very easy to begin. Signing-up for either just requires filling out a simple form. The only other step to get started is copying a small chunk of HTML into a widget to display in your blog's sidebar. For Blogger, click Add a Gadget under the Layout tab, and select the HTML gadget.

If your only objective is maximizing current revenue, you could try to estimate whether AdSense or Associates will provide more income, but that is basically just guessing. Instead, put one of each on your side bar for a couple of weeks to compare results. Then choose.

A much more important consideration than current revenue, however, is the long term future for your blog. This is where the choice between AdSense and Associates becomes really important. Although you can specify a list of products, services, and brands that you don't want AdSense to advertise on your blog, the best you can do is minimize the harm that the ads cause to your blog's integrity and reputation. Maybe the revenue is worth the impact on your blog's character, maybe it isn't.

In contrast, Amazon's Associates program can actually enhance your blog. If you want, you can specify exactly which products will be advertised. For example, I write a book review and place an Amazon ad for that book next to the review. Or I talk about my favorite camera and place an Amazon ad for that camera on my blog.

If you do have Amazon choose the ads for your blog, their algorithm for selecting products makes amazingly perceptive selections - in my experience. I have found their choice of books to be a great complement to the content of my blog - adding interest rather than being just another commercial.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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Apple Continues to go the Wrong Way with Glossy Screens and Mini Displayport

I love my last generation Macbook Pro and my last generation 23-inch Apple Cinema Display - both with matte (antiglare) screens. Mostly, I think Apple does a great job with product innovations, but last Fall they made what I consider to be HUGE mistakes, and they have still barely begun to dig themselves out.

The new 15-inch Macbook Pro is still only available with a glossy screen - worse yet, the screen has an extra sheet of glass in front of it, so you don't just get reflections, you get double reflections. At long last, the 17-inch Macbook Pro has a matte (antiglare) screen option - but at extra cost on top of a $2800 base - that's a crazy price and it's not so portable.

Last fall Apple discontinued their matte screen 23-inch Apple Cinema Display with DVI connector, and introduced the glossy screen 24-inch LED Cinema Display with Mini Displayport. That broke just about everything. Previous Mac owners now have NO option for an Apple display in that size range - even if they would settle for a glossy screen, as Apple still doesn't offer a DVI to Mini Displayport converter. For buyers of new generation Mac's with Mini Displayport, the choices are limited to buying a glossy external monitor or ponying up extra for a Mini Displayport to DVI converter to allow them to connect to a non-Apple monitor. It's all ugly, and no word of help from Apple.

What's so important about an antiglare matte screen? While game players, movie watchers, and many casual users prefer glossy screens, surveys show that 2 out of 3 serious graphics, document, and business users - the typical user base for Macbook Pro's - prefer antiglare matte screens. Many, like myself, refuse to use a glossy screen at all - it's just too fatiguing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

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Exercises to Keep Your Mouse From Biting You

If you use your computer a lot and you are of that certain age, you recognize when your mouse is beginning to bite you. It may be your mouse hand cramping, your lower or upper arm muscles, your shoulder, or perhaps the opposite shoulder knotting in sympathy. Don't wait until you are suffering, try these hints to avoid "mouse shoulder" and its cousins.

1. Take a break every hour, if only for a minute. Many short breaks are more effective than a single longer one.

2. Stretch your arm tendons. Extend your arms straight out to your sides, forming a cross with your body and arms. Start with your palms facing the floor. Pull your hands up and back, tightening your arm tendons. Repeat 10 times slowly. Now, pull your hands up and back, and twist your arms clockwise and counter clockwise - remain in the cross position while twisting your arms like wringing out a wet towel. Do NOT do anything that hurts - even a little.

3. Perform the same towel-wringing motion with your arms extended overhead, then in front, finally extended straight down.

4. Take a short walk. Exaggerate swinging your arms as you walk.

5. Get two light weights - perhaps five pounds each. Raise the weights with your arms extended to your sides, then with your arms extended to the front. Raise the weights over your head. Finally, lower the weights behind your shoulders and raise them back to overhead.

Even if you only take a minute's break, and even if you only do the first of these exercises, do it every hour.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

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Blogging With Your iPhone Camera

Keep your personal blog up to the second with your activities by taking photos on your iPhone and emailing them directly to your blog.

Enable your Blogger.com blog to accept posts via email by clicking Customize, clicking on the Settings tab, clicking Email, choosing an Email Posting Address, and choosing "Publish emails immediately."

Take a photo with your iPhone, view it, click on the curved arrow icon in the bottom left, and choose Email Photo. You have a place to type a subject before you send the email to your blog's Email Posting Address. In a few seconds, your photo and one-liner are visible on your blog.

Go crazy with your new toy. Post pictures of everyone you meet, post photos of what you eat for lunch.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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Kindle file formats

I want to elevate a comment on my last post into its own post:
Jim said...

I'm not sure about compatibility, but a site like the Gutenberg Project (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page) gives you access to a dizzying array of content for free.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie said...

Jim, thanks for the link. That's a ton of free stuff just waiting to be read on a PC or Mac. Most of it is in PDF format.

Kindle won't accept PDF directly. Here's another blogger's take on the trials and tribulations of converting a PDF for Kindle use.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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Kindle-2 - Are E-Books the Future of Reading?

This post is not as much about Amazon's Kindle-2, which premiered today, as about reading preferences - the what, where, and why people read.

The Kindle-2 is now even more compact, and it has the same $359 price and ability to be read in bright sunlight as it's predecessor. In my opinion, the Kindle-2 is good technology, but I'm not rushing out to buy one because it doesn't address any of my personal reading needs or preferences.

The greatest market for eBook readers so far has been traveling professionals, but when I'm on a airplane, my MacBook Pro provides a fine reading screen, as well as a great movie theater. The Kindle's "read in bright sunlight" feature doesn't hold a lot on importance on an airplane. And then there are the times I want to snuggle in my corner and hold a real book. There's no warm comforting feel to any e-gadget.

There are lots of titles available for Kindle, but it never seems the one that I want is among them. This is changing, but...

The reader isn't all that expensive, but the content is. Sure, new releases cost the same or less than physical books, but where is the 99 cent closeout, free neighborhood library, or hand-me-down.

Between my MacBook Pro, my iPhone, and a stack of dog-eared paperbacks, I think I'll wait another few years to try any eBook reader.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

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So How Will They Find My Blog? Four Really Easy Ways

So How Will They Find My Blog? Four Really Easy Ways
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

You just started your first blog - probably at Blogger.com. You have written a few posts. You have told your close friends, and now you you would like a few more people to find you blog.

You have seen hundreds of articles, posts, and even whole web sites devoted to "search engine optimization," but it all sounds so complicated. Are there a few REALLY easy ways to let people find my blog?

1. Write a lot of posts. Especially if you are using Blogger, each of your posts will be indexed individually by Google and the other search engines, giving you more exposure with each post you write. There are two Blogger settings that you must leave with their default values in order to get indexed: Enable Post Pages under the Archiving tab must be Yes. Let Search Engines Find Your Blog under the Basic tab must be Yes. You also want to leave Add your Blog To Our Listing, also under the Basic tab, as Yes in order to be linked from Blogger.

2. Use Google's FeedBurner - feedburner.google.com - to make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog or receive it via email.

3. Add your blog's home page and at least a few of your individual posts to a few of the bookmarking sites. There are hundreds, but just focus on a few. StumbleUpon.com is probably the most important. Unless your blog targets a specialty audience, reddit.com and digg.com would be the next two that I would recommend.

4. Add a universal bookmarking button to your site so your visitors can easily recommend you to their favorite bookmarker. Several universal buttons are available, but I use the one at addthis.com

You can see each of these suggestions in action on Blogging Tips and Techniques.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

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The Future of Computing is Google - Should We be Worried?

The Future of Computing is Google - Should We be Worried?
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I didn't just say that Google is the future of the Internet - that is scary enough - and virtually true today. I said, The Future of COMPUTING.

Google has always been a gentle giant - unlike the bravado Microsoft. No rantings and ravings - no pronouncement that "our way is best," or "we know what is good for you." No, Google's way is to welcome open standards and actively promote their competition. For example, their tool to move a blog off their (free) Blogger service is fully as complete and usable as their their tool to transfer a blog onto Blogger. Try getting your data out of a Microsoft product such as Outlook or Hotmail.

Perhaps Google has learned from Microsoft's mistakes. Gentle wins in the long run. This is really good for Google, but is it good for the rest of us. Because Google take such great pains to offend no one, because it is so capable, and because it now has tremendous momentum, Google is taking over more of the world of technology every day.

Google completely dominates my own professional life as an author and blogger to an extent that is more than a little concerning. Google search and Gmail are the least of it. My blogs are on Blogger, but I could use another service. It's not even Picasa, or YouTube, or FeedBurner.

AdSense/AdWords - that's the stranglehold. Google is essentially the only channel for a small business to either advertise of receive advertising revenue on a website or blog. Yahoo and others aren't even on the radar. If I had to, I could use Yahoo's search engine, but if I lost AdSense/Adwords, 80% of my professional activity would vaporize.

In its own gentle giant kind of way, Google is now creeping up on computing and enterprise information sharing. Shared calendars and shared documents for starters - moving quickly toward a complete collaborative computing environment. Just watch - for most users, personal and corporate, the only local software will be a browser, perhaps Google's Chrome. Google's individual and collaborative on-line productivity and authoring applications will dominate for all but the most demanding users.

Should we be worried? Perhaps not, but don't become too complacent.

Friday, January 30, 2009

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Blogging - Just Do It - Today

If you are not yet a blogger, but keep thinking about it, stop waiting, and begin Today.

You have lots of questions - and doubts, and these have been stopping you. Which blogging service? How do I want my blog to look? What do I want to write? Who will read my blog?

Forget all your questions. You can always just delete your first blog and start over with a different service, format, and content - after you have learned by doing.

Go to www.blogger.com, click on "Create A Blog," and follow the instructions. Pick whichever Template you are attracted to, but don't sweat your choice - you can change it later. Then begin writing your first Post. Whatever you write is just fine. Write something today, and again tomorrow. Tell your friends about your blog when you feel ready.

There is plenty of time for fancy designs and add-on's later. In my personal opinion, simple is always best. I have visited so many blogs that were virtually unusable with several things flashing and unwanted music blaring. To avoid anoying your visitors, keep a light background with dark type, minimize the clutter, don't blink or pop-up anything, and don't play music without your visitor's permission.

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I'm a BIG fan of Blogger.com

I'm a BIG fan of Blogger.com - I have several blogs on Blogger, and have been very successful with my Daily Inspiration - Daily Quote blog. I have also tried WordPress and others, so I do have a basis for comparison.

There are 4 issues that set Blogger far ahead of the other free blog sites - and most of the for-pay ones (in my opinion).

1. No unwanted ads ever -- and I can run my own ads through AdSense

2. No extra charge for custom CSS - I can and do highly customize the look and feel of my blog. WordPress charges for that.

3. A Blogger blog automatically gets MUCH better placement in Google Search - after all, Blogger is a Google service, and they do favor their own. Why not start out with a free quick and easy boost to Search Engine Optimization.

4. Blogger supports custom domains at no extra charge. Get one for $10/year (from GoDaddy or other) and point it at your Blogger blog. Blogger makes that easy also.

Downsides to Blogger - in comparison to WordPress:

1. No pages. WordPress supports pages that are not blog posts. With Blogger, I need to put non-post stuff on another web site.

2. No Tag Cloud. Tag clouds are both cute and functional. I'm hoping Blogger gets them soon. (Yes, there are 3rd party tag cloud widgets for Blogger. I've tried several, but none worked well)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

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An Easy Shortcut To a Fresh Blog

The best content for your blog is always your own writing - either posted every day or scheduled for daily release. However, it's nice to have something new show up automatically on your blog.

Today's tip is to display content from another blog or blogs in your sidebar - not just the names of the blogs, but actual content. This keeps your blog fresh even when you skip your own posting. Ensure that you have the permission of the blog's owner to republish their content.

For Blogger, click Add a Gadget under the Layout tab. Currently, the Blog List gadget is at the top of the list of gadgets. Check Snippet, and then click Add a Blog to Your List.

For WordPress, click Appearance on the Dashboard page, then Widgets, Then RSS.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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How to Keep Your Blog Fresh While You Are Away From Your Computer

It is well known that blogs with daily or nearly daily posts get more visitors, but how to handle days when you are traveling, busy, or just don't feel like writing?

The best way to ensure that your blog is updated daily is to write blog entries in advance. Unless you blog strictly about current events, you can write several posts on days when you do feel like writing, and schedule them for future posting.

Consider maintaining a constant backlog of future-dated posts - enabled for automatic publishing on specified days. For my main blog Daily Inspiration - Daily Quote, I always have at least a week's worth of daily posts scheduled. Moreover I schedule the posts for the same time each day - which gives readers an even greater sense of dependability.

For Blogger, click on "Post Options" just below your post to access Post Date and Time. For WordPress, enter your desired post date and time in the "Publish" tab in the upper right of your Add New Post screen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

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How To Publish an Email Newsletter For Free

You have heard about the benefits of publishing an e-zine and building a subscriber base - they're all true. But the cost and effort... Here's a quick tip for turning your blog into an e-zine for zero cost and zero effort.

FeedBurner - now owned by Google - will turn your blog into an e-zine, manage your subscriber list, and mail out all your posts... for free. ConstantContact and other emailer services may have to watch their back sides.

To try the service, go to http://feedburner.google.com and sign up.

After your account is set up, click on the Publicize tab, and then on Email Subscriptions.

It's almost too easy, and it's been working great for me.

Take a look at FeedBurner email in action by signing up to follow my Blogging Tips and Techniques blog via email - using FeedBurner, of course.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

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How to Find Great Free Articles for Your Blog

Sometimes you run out of ideas for your blog, and sometimes you just want to post a wider range of content. Either way, there is an easy way to post other peoples great articles on your blog - free, and with complete legal permission, as long as you follow the rules.

A number of article directories offer free articles on almost any subject for you to post to your own blog.

The following instructions apply to EzineArticles.com but ArticlesBase.com and others are very similar.
Step 1
Go to www.ezinearticles.com

Step 2
Click on a category, sub-category, and an article you like.

Step 3
Click on "Ezine Publisher" in the upper right corner of the page.

Step 4
Copy the contents of the box labeled "HTML Version"
For an example, look at http://ezinearticles.com/ezinepublisher/?id=1796600

Step 5
Create a Post in your blog, select "Edit HTML" mode, and Paste what you copied in step 4.

Step 6
Click Preview to see how the article looks.

Step 7
Select "Compose" mode, and correct any formatting errors.
For Blogger (Blogspot), you need to remove the extra blank lines.
For WordPress, you need to remove the duplicate title.

Step 8
Copy the title to your blog post. Copy the KeyWords field from the EzineArticles page to your post's Tags or Labels field. Click Publish

Step 9
Respect the rights of the author by NOT modifying the article, author name, or links in ANY way (other than as mentioned in step 7). The author has provided a quality article for your free use on your blog specifically because he or she desires and expects that your blog readers will recognize the value of the author's writing and will follow the link to his or her web site or blog.

Friday, January 23, 2009

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How to Purge Microsoft Word Smart Quotes from On-Line Articles

On-Line articles and blog posts should not include so called "smart quotes" and other non-ASCII characters because older browsers and many email programs display them as a sequence of garbage characters. Here is how to understand the problem better and correct it - very easily if you have an Apple Mac.

Step 1
If you write all your on-line articles with a text editor or HTML editor, you don't need to read this article. The formatting of your on-line articles will be fine.

Step 2
If you intend to use Microsoft Word to author on-line articles, select Preferences, Auto Correct, and un-check all the "Auto-format as you type" options. Also un-check the "Replace text as you type" option. This should prevent the problem in future articles.

Step 3
Smart Quotes and other non-ASCII characters If you have articles that you have already written using Microsoft Word, or if you want to write articles that will look their best both in print and on-line, you need to understand more about "smart quotes." By default, Microsoft Word changes both single quotes (apostrophes) and double quotes into "smart quotes" or "typographer's quotes" - a different mark for the end of a quote than for the beginning. By default, Microsoft Word also converts two dashes into an "em-dash," three periods into an "ellipsis," 1/2 into a single character, and more. These all cause problems in on-line articles because they are all extended characters and not part of the basic ASCII set that is universal to all browsers and email programs.

Step 4
If you have a PC, go to step 6. If you have an Apple Mac you have been blessed by the computer gods, because your solution is so easy. Go to http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/ and download a free copy of the Text Wrangler text editor software.

Step 5
Start TextWrangler. Click File-Open, and enter the name of your file. Click Text-Convert To ASCII. Click File-Save. You are done. All the "smart" double quotes, single quotes, em-dashes, ellipses, and other non-ASCII characters have been converted to their best ASCII equivalents.

Step 6
If you are still reading, you have a PC and have to fix your files manually. Open your .doc file in Word, and turn off all "Auto-format as you type" and "Replace text as you type." - as in step 2.

Step 7
Open the Replace dialog. Type a double quote into the Find box and into the Replace box. Click Replace All. Repeat using a single quote (apostrophe).

Step 8
Getting rid of ellipses, em-dashes, and the others is harder. If you only have a few, edit them manually. If you have a number of them, the following MAY work for you depending on your OS version and settings: Using ellipses as an example, highlight an ellipsis and press control and c. Open the Replace dialog. Click in the Find box and press control and v. If you don't see the ellipsis in the Find box, give up and replace them one at a time. If you do see the ellipsis, type three periods into the Replace box, and click Replace All. Repeat for em-dash, 1/2, and each other non-ASCII character in your document.

Final thoughts:

* Even if you think that you have not used quotes in your article, remember that Microsoft Word will turn the apostrophe in "don't" into a "smart" single quote.

* You may have to customize the specifics of these techniques to your version of Operating System, version of Microsoft Word, and settings.