Author Archive

Online Advertising in 2009

For many industries, things are going to get worse in  the first half of 2009, but that might not be all bad. Companies will have to get leaner and meaner which could mean more competition and subsequently more innovation and maybe some better prices.  Getting leaner means controlling cash flow and one of the areas that will see the largest paradigm shift is advertising. Many business owners that we have met recently are finding it difficult to justify bloated budgets for traditional print, radio, and television advertising in these uncertain economic times.

One of the questions that we get most often is, “How can I get my message to my target as cheaply as possible?”.  We typically have to answer the question by asking a series of questions designed to figure out what they are looking for, who are they targeting, and, of course, what is their budget. The answers to these questions will dictate a plan of action that will most likely involve online advertising. Some form of advertising will always be needed to reach target audiences, but the smart money is advertising online. Why? Because it is rapid, measurable, and affordable. Shifting dollars from traditional ad budgets to online advertising is like taking dollars to Mexico ten years ago; you would have some serious purchasing power.

Does this mean that print, radio, and TV are dead? Far from it, but they are changing. Google has made a foray into traditional advertising by creating the infrastructure for ad creation and campaign management right in your Google Adwords account. Take , for example Google TV ads. Using the same Adwords interface that you use for your pay-per-click campaign you can schedule a TV ad to run literally within minutes. Using the Google Ad Creation marketplace you can request bids on your project from Specialists in Production, Script Writing, Video Editing, and Voiceovers. These are powerful tools that simply were not available to small business owners before, and can be used to reduce advertising costs and make companies more competitive.

Good Luck!

Read Charles Hugh Smith’s article The Web Dismantles Old Media.


Google Adwords and Keyword Quality Scores

A customer has asked you to create a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising campaign to drive traffic to their web site. You do your competitive keyword analysis, research the industry, and develop a targeted plan that should theoretically work wonders. But it doesn’t. What happened? Have you looked at your keywords quality score? In Google Adwords each keyword is assigned a numerical value out of 10 that affects how much you are paying per click. If you are scoring 4 / 10 or lower then you have some work to do. Google calculates your quality score for each keyword based on several factors including  historical clickthrough rate (CTR),  the quality of your landing page content,  and the relevance of the keywords to your ads in the keyword’s ad group. Improving your score for a specific keyword can mean a better return on your adwords budget. In other words, less money for more traffic. Google isn’t stupid. If you are selling real estate and your keywords are for hair care and your ads are targeted for electronics then your quality score is likely to be low. Everything flows from the keywords so be sure that the keywords you are using are actually contained within the content of your landing page and then create ads that are interesting and concise (not like you have a choice with brevity).  If one ad doesn’t perform try several variations and weed out the weak ones.

Good Luck!


Writing Great Web Content

Every web site owner wants more traffic and one of the methods that has been proven to be beneficial in obtaining higher organic search engine rankings is content optimization. In the world search engines, content is king! But what does it mean to have “good” content on your site? Does it mean that it has to have the breadth and depth of the Encyclopedia Britannica? Not at all. The old saying that sometimes less is more applies to copy writing and creating content for the web. You  can have good content without rewriting War and Peace. One of the most important hallmarks of superior web content is focus. Noted editorial strategist Erin Kissane says, “Copy needs specific goals to accomplish.” Simply staying focused on a topic, while using correct punctuation, grammar, and spelling, can go a long way in increasing the quality of your copy and, consequently, your search engine rankings by feeding the the crawlers what they want: high quality content.

First, have a plan. Sit down, take a deep breath, and  figure out exactly who is your audience. What do you want them to know and then what do you want them to do? A typical web visitor is looking for something and your site may be one of many competing for their attention. Well organized content that is easy to read and think through will help Then, organize those thoughts  while asking yourself questions:

Do I have a main idea that is the focus of this single web page? Is that focus clear in the page’s description and title? Can I expand on this main idea and provide support for it? Does this thought belong with other like ideas in this page or is this idea so dissimilar that it belongs on another page?

So now look at what you have and pick out your topic sentences and calls to action. If these items were taken in isolation could you figure out exactly what the message was and what you should be compelled to do? If not, then keep at it until there is a clear relationship between your ideas and the knowledge you want the visitor to have and the action you want them to take.

A terrific resource for all web content authors is Janice Redish’s Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works which can be found at

Good luck!


Valid code and happy designers

Writing valid XHTML and CSS takes a little extra time but can save a client money and a designer their sanity. In the relatively brief history of web design there has been a great deal of controversy concerning web standards. Designers like to make money and making money means completing projects quickly. Typically, if the client liked it and it rendered correctly then the project is done. The major browser manufacturers carry some of the blame in their efforts to have the latest and greatest features they have implemented web page design elements in their own way. Rather than engendering innovation they have had the effect of creating a Tower of Babel of incompatible tags. In the old days,  some designers used any hack necessary to get a page to display properly in the the most popular web browsers of the time. However, in the past several years, the web standards community has been increasingly vocal about incompatible code and rendering problems. This has been especially true with IE-only sites that will not render properly or at all in alternative browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome. However, a standards compliant site provides greater interoperability for the same content on different platforms.

Another additional benefit of writing valid code is that it is easier to read, edit, and redesign. Separating the presentation of a site from its content using stylesheets seems like a no brainer. Theoretically you could redesign an entire site just by editing the stylesheet and the graphics without ever touching the XHTML. We have a number of clients who move to us from other hosts and the amount of spaghetti code that we are asked to edit sometimes makes us want to pull our hair out.

The point is, you can write sloppy code if you want to. You could even use <blink> tags in a site designed entirely in tables and transparent gifs if you were so inclined. But where is the return on investment for the client? There is a high probability that you are not the last one that will ever touch their website. So have a heart and validate your XHTML and CSS. You will get faster at making lean, mean standards compliant sites that look good on any browser.