Author Archive

Interest-Based Advertising

Peeping Tom

Internet privacy watchdogs have recently raised their hackles in response to what Google calls “interest-based advertising.” Basically it allows advertisers to target your interests, choosing what ads to show you based on your browsing and search history. If you are a sports nut that loves to search statistics, team schedules, and watch sports related You Tube videos, then you would be tagged with a cookie that represented your interest in sports. This cookie could then be used to allow advertisers in the AdSense network to target you specifically for the Sports Memorabilia  store they started online. In Google’s document entitled, “How does Google Determine user interest categories?” they state that they will not show ads based on sensitive information or interest categories, such as those based on race, religion, sexual orientation, health, or sensitive financial categories. They also state that users are in complete control of their participation in the program and their interest categories through the Ads Preference Manager. AOL, Yahoo!, and Microsoft already have similar programs as Google used to disavow the practice. Google has informed its AdSense content partners regarding the new program and asked them have their privacy policies updated by April 8th, 2009.


Web Standards Again

Greetings! Many times we have clients that have trouble understanding the role of web standards and why they are important. So I created this high level explanation that I hope will suffice. It is, by its very nature, simplified and incomplete, so don’t stone me to death. Here goes…

The World Wide Web Consortium ( is the standards body for the internet. They define the standard “language” or markup that web pages are written in. All of our documents are written in the strict flavor of XHTML (eXtensible Hypertext Markup Language) 1.0 which is very intolerant of errors. Conforming to these standards has several practical benefits. First, the site is easier to update since all of the content is easy to read and logically organized. This reduces cost for updates to the site. The W3 provides a validator to check pages against the XHTML standard and report any errors that it finds.

Secondly, strict XHTML mandates that the graphical presentation of the page (how it looks) be separated from the actual content of the page. So there is a separate file we create called a “stylesheet” that determines how the page will look. All of the graphics, colors, and layout are determined by this stylesheet. This is a benefit because it makes for smaller, faster loading pages which can rank higher in search engines than bloated pages that are slow to load. It also makes it easier to update how the site looks. For example, as autumn approaches you could change the entire look of the site by changing the colors in the stylesheet to fall colors. This is much more efficient than redesigning a site in the old days when each individual page had to be changed at great expense.

Lastly, search engines look for unique, relevant content that is organized well. By keeping all of the content in a separate file, the content can be organized so that the most important information is close to the top of the document while repetitive elements such as the navigation links are closer to the footer.

Be sure to read this post about HTML validation for SEO

There is a great FAQ on web standards and their importance at:

Good Luck!


Email Marketing

Email marketing has been much maligned in years past due to the proliferation of spam by unscrupulous marketeers. There are few things more frustrating than sitting down to check your email only  to wade through countless profane and inane messages sent to you without a single thought. So does email marketing have a legitimate purpose? Sure it does! In 2006, United States firms spent $400 million on email marketing and President Barack Obama would likely be heading back to the United States Senate  if it weren’t for the shrewd use of  email marketing in his 2008 campaign.

One of the  primary roadblocks to effectively using email marketing is compliance with a federal law which can mean an $11,000 fine for each non-compliant email. Luckily this obstacle only takes a bit of common sense and an appropriate dash of technology to overcome. Compliance means conforming to the prescriptive methods of permission based email marketing set forth in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. A summary of the federal law can be found in the CAN-SPAM article on Wikipedia. The statute places restrictions on how email is sent, the content it contains, and prescribes methods for opting-out or unsubscribing from the email.  One of the quickest and most cost effective methods of sending out massive amounts of email without getting blacklisted is to use a reputable email marketing service like iContact or Constant Contact.  Prices for these services vary on the size of your email list and the features that you would like to use, but basically all these different services let you create custom forms for your website where your users signup to receive your emails. The user is then sent an automatic email to make sure they want to sign up, this is known as “double opt-in.” The client is then placed in your email database on the service which can be centrally administered. You then have a single place to track the performance of your email marketing campaign and see if you need to make any changes to your strategy. The dashboard shows how many people opened your email and also how many took action and clicked through to your website.

Getting back to the original premise, using an email marketing service like iContact can keep your customers, vendors, and friends aware of new products, services, or specials that your company may be offering. Studies have shown that customers that are consistently “touched” or contacted on a regular basis are more likely to make a purchase. So take advantage of their trial period and take your email marketing to the next level.

Good luck!


Google AdWords Conversion Tracking

Everyone wants to stretch their AdWords budget to get the best ROI for their money, but how do you know that you are performing at your best? Google includes a tool in standard Adwords accounts called conversion tracking. Put simply, conversion tracking allows you to monitor a user’s actions on your website and links that data to your AdWords stats in terms of budget. You can setup several different types of actions, which are goals that you want your user to accomplish, such as signing up for a newsletter, clicking on a button, completing a purchase, or submitting a form. The action types are:

  • Leads
  • Signup
  • Purchase / Sale
  • View of a Key Page
  • Other

Setting up the conversion tracking is relatively straightforward. Once you create and name your action you are provided with a snippet of Javascript to place in your page. Results are tracked immediately and can be monitored at the campaign, ad group, and keyword levels. Once enough results are calculated, you will be able to see how much it costs you for a user to take an action. For example, in a week if you have 100 clicks at $2.00 / click and 15 conversions then each conversion will have cost you $13.33. Using this information can become a metric for performance. You can work on  decreasing your cost per click, increasing your Quality Score, and reducing you cost per conversion.

Good Luck!

[What is AdWords]


Does Size Matter for SEO Consultants?

Bigger is better, right? Not necessarily when it comes to internet marketing companies and SEO consultants.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a team of 20 employees to put on a project and a million dollar budget just for office supplies. But would the results produced for my client  be that much better? I doubt it. Two of our clients have had remarkably similar experiences with large SEO consultants and internet marketing firms and both have had less than stellar results. One of our customers discovered a large, well respected California firm and contracted them to perform search engine optimization, Google AdWords management, press releases, and other services with a large down payment and a healthy monthly fee. Several months elapsed with no results for the customer. There was no increase in traffic, PPC was going nowhere, and 1 press release had been issued and forgotten. The “project manager” for our client was unavailable by phone  and many times would not even respond to repeated emails. There was a response, however, when the bills stopped being paid.

Fast forward two months. The  client came to us  for “AdWords Managment only”  due to the state of the economy, a tight budget, and the natural reluctance to fork out more money for SEO services. In the past two weeks we have doubled his click through rate and now have a PPC campaign that is pulling its weight. As a smaller firm we are able to provide the type of constant contact and reassurance that somebody who has been burned by the big boys needs. Communication and realistic expectations will go far in any internet marketing project to help it go smoother and make the client feel like they are using their dollars effectively.