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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Using Blog PR to Promote Your Site

The recent trend of using the press release to promote an online business has emerged with good reason – good press costs very little and can do more for a business than thousands of dollars of marketing. Most businesses use press distribution services like PR Web or PRFree to get the word out about their news. While distribution services certainly can be effective, they tend to miss out on arguably the most influential group of the press – bloggers.

Bloggers mold and shape the opinions of their readers, who are normally the most important in their particular industry, many of whom are also bloggers. Not long after a post from an influential blogger, your news has been picked up by several other bloggers and within days you are all over the blogsphere. Before you know it your site is getting more attention than it would if a story ran in the local newspaper! So how do you get the influential bloggers in your industry to run a story about your business?

Why Would Anyone Do a Story About Your Business?

Are you a new company? Did you just launch a new product that they could review? Did your business wín an award? Are you a group of college kids who started a company on savings from your summer jobs? You get the idea. There needs to be a reason that someone would want to read about you. Bloggers take pride in the content they feed their readers. You don't stand a chance of getting a blogger to write about you if you don't have a story that their readers will be interested in.

Research Bloggers in Your Industry

More is less when it comes to contacting bloggers. Buy a list of 1,000 bloggers and send out a generic email to all of them and you'll likely get no response. But send a small amount of personalized emails to the appropriate bloggers and you'll be shocked at how many positive responses you get.

The first step is to make a list of the bloggers that would be interested in your story. You can generally get a feel for whether or not a blogger would be interested in your story by reading a couple of posts and checking out their bio. If they've done a few similar stories in the past or they are heavily involved in your industry, there is a good chance they'll want to hear your story. If not, leave them off your list and move on.

The single best method that I have found to research blogs is the Technorati Blog Directory. You can peruse blogs in your industry in order of "authority" - how important Technorati thinks a blog is. This is extremely useful. For example, if you are in the travel industry, you can view a list of the most influential blogs in the world of travel.

Another great way to find the right bloggers is to search through your competitors press sections on their websites to see what blogs have mentioned them. You can also find out who has mentioned your competitors by looking at the sites that have linked to them (type in "" on Yahoo!). There's a good chance that if they found your competitors story interesting, they'll find your story interesting as well.

Compose Your Email

The best way to contact bloggers is by email. The good news is that most bloggers make themselves easy to access and provide their email addresses on their blogs. The bad news is that most people don't know what to do with said email address once they get it. Use the following outline for your email and you'll see amazing results:

* Have a simple subject. You probably won't get many responses by treating your email like a press release and writing RELEASE in the subject line. Try something simple like "fan of your blog" or "comment about your blog." You want to make sure they actually read your email and don't mentally mark it as späm when they see the subject.

* Start by complementing them. Since you've read their blog and learned about them from their bio, you know quite a bit about them. Use it to your advantage. Compliment them on your favorite post, or how cool it is that they worked for XYZ company.

* Request them to post about you (be direct). In three sentences or less, tell them your story, why you think it would be of interest to them and their readers, and respectfully ask that they write a post about it. Be direct and to the point. They will respect that.

* Offer something in return. You have something that could help them. Maybe it's a link back to their blog from your personal blog, or maybe you could provide them with a free product or service that could help them or their business. One way or another, there's something you have to offer them in return for the time spent on a post about you.

* Close with something nice. Thank them for their time and wish them luck with their blog and/or business ventures.

Notice that of the five components of the email, only one is about your story. The rest of the email is spent complimenting them and offering them something. Your chances of getting a positive response have just gone through the roof. Every blogger, no matter how large, likes to hear that people are enjoying their posts.

Respond Promptly and Respectfully

Not everyone is going to agree to run your story. Some will say that they don't do that type of thing or that they don't have time. Since you have been so nice as to compliment them, they will still usually reply either way. Regardless of the response, be sure to thank them for their time and wish them luck with their ventures. You nevër know when they will encounter someone who needs your product or service in the future (remember, they are in your industry) and if they have a positive image of you and your company they will undoubtedly give you a good recommendation.

Sit Back and Watch the Traffíc Roll In

Over the course of the next few weeks you will see post after post appear about your business. Be sure to send another thank you email to the blogger after the post and also be sure to promptly provide whatever you offered them in return. At this point you have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with someone important in your industry that can become invaluable over time.

That wasn't that hard was it? With a little research and a carefully crafted email, any business can effectively use blog PR to drive traffíc to their site.

Checking Out with Google's New "Checkout" Service

After months of "buzz" online about Google's proposed "PayPal Killer," they've finally launched their new service, "Google Checkout." After all the hype that was floating around, you'd have thought this new creation would be the death of Paypal, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Online payment options are important, so it's always nice to have another way to accept payments from your web site. But Google's new service is also good news for consumers who are concerned about their privacy when shopping online.

We all know Google likes to do things their own way and put a little "Google Twist" on their work, so it comes as no surprise that they've added some integration with their Adwords program. You don't need to use Adwords to utilize Google Checkout, but if you do, Google gives you some other nice benefits.

If you are a seller who also uses Adwords, you'll love this: For every $1.00 you spend with Adwords, Google will allow you to process $10.00 in "Google Checkout" salës for free. So if you're already using Adwords and start using Checkout you'll save monëy on your transaction fees. What are the fees, you say? 2% and $.20 per transaction, which does beat Paypal's current fees of 2.9% and $.30 per transaction.

Another advantage to offering Checkout on your web site is that your Adwords ads will display a small graphic of a shopping cart next to them. This is called a "Google Checkout Badge," and will identify your site quickly to searchers as one who will take "Google Checkout" payments from shoppers. Some are wondering if this may help your Adwords ranking. This is something that still remains to be seen.

To sign up, you'll first need to have a Google account, which you can get at nö chärge by going to At this time, you must live in the U.S. and have a bank account if you wish to process payments as a merchant. If you're a merchant you'll also need to specify your return and shipping policies.

Merchants can accept payments by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. If you have an Adwords account you'll want to link it to your new Checkout account during the registration process in order to earn your free transaction credits.

Before you get too excited, be aware there are some things not allowed to be sold using this new service. They include:

Adult Goods
Body Parts (don't you need to keep those?)
Buyers Clubs offering goods at wholesale
Credít and Collection Services
M-L-M and

For a complete list, see

There are three ways for sellers to accept payments:

1) Buy/Now Buttons: These are similar to Paypal buttons. You just copy and paste some HTML code and you're done.

2) E-Commerce Partners: For use with Google's approved partners' shopping cart systems.Some of them are: Channell/Advision, Infopedia, Mercantec, Monster Commerce, ShopSite, Volusion.

3) API: A more complex way to integrate more options. This involves a programmer to setup.

One disadvantage to the cut and paste button method is you cannot specify tax or shipping rates. You'll need to use the API checkout method in order to do that. Another shortcoming is the inability to specify your own return page after a customer completes the purchase process. They get taken back to a "Google Thank You Page."

All orders are placed into Google's Merchant Center inside your in box. To view your orders you'll need to log into Checkout and go to the "orders tab." If the order can be fulfilled, you then clíck the "charge button" that's located next to each order. After the order is sent you'll need to let the buyer know by clicking on the "ship button" next to it.

If you're worried about chargebacks, don't. They're all evaluated by Google and Google will go to bat on your behalf. If the transaction is covered by their "Payment Guarantëe Policy" and you supply Google with all of the documentation they request within 10 days, they will reimburse you within one week.

If you sell on Ebay and want to use Checkout, you might want to review their current approved payment types. There's been talk on the Net that they are not currently allowing sellers to offer this payment option. For more, see

Checkout's privacy features are great for your buyers. Google handles all of their personal information -- instead of entering a credít card with each transaction, all they have to supply is a user name and password to complete a purchase. All credít card details are maintained by Google with complete details of all transactions.

With the rise in identity theft and people more nervous then ever about sharing their personal information, this should make everyone happy. There's also the added benefit of a faster checkout experience which is to be appreciated if you've ever been put through page after page of a badly put together shopping cart.

Buyers can also clíck a box during the purchase process to specify if they would like to receive future promotional emails from this seller. This should help some with their already "too full" in boxes.

No matter if you're a merchant or a consumer there are advantages on both sides when it comes to Google Checkout. I'm sure with time Google will add more benefits and features that will make their Checkout process even more impressive. And who knows, maybe someday they will give PayPal a run for their monëy. For more information see: and

Outsource SEO vs In-house SEO

SEO is becoming increasingly important to all who look to do business and use the Internet as a marketing tool. It is the path in which your market finds your offering. It has become almost a necessity for businesses to incorporate SEO in to their marketing plan. Many companies struggle with the decision on whether to hire a firm or conduct their SEO in-house. Unfortunately many companies lack the knowledge about SEO and assume it will be cheaper for them in the long run to hire someone "in-house".

For some companies this may be efficient while others the overlooking the hiring of a professional firm to SEO can be costly. It is as critical to your business' health as if you were to feel that you could heal a fatal disease yourself because you have access to the Internet and books instead of going to a highly trained physician. Now you laugh and say that would be absurd, but is the growth of your company worth the risk.

Knowledge Versus Cost Versus Time = Your Success

SEO is an ever changing business. Search engines change their algorithm frequently and new rules are put into place. One has to have the resources to find this information and understand how to implement the changes. An SEO firm is more likely to be aware of changes to search engine optimization protocols than an in-house individual. Many in-house individuals will focus on developing and implementing your SEO strategies but typically remain in the dark about what goes on outside your organization.

Outsourced SEO professionals must perform these same functions while constantly studying the industry, staying current with changing trends and familiarizing themselves with the latest SEO techniques. It is a part of their day to day business and necessary if they intend to compete in the marketplace and wish to survive.

What about cost? Surely the cost of hiring an individual is substantially less than the cost of hiring a company, right? This is a common misconception. Let's look at it this way. You hire an E-Commerce Marketing Manager whose job is to develop and implements the strategic online marketing plan for an organization. Staying abreast of changes in the online marketing environment to best serve the objectives of the organization and adjusts plans accordingly. They may even be responsible for overseeing other aspects of the website such as the advertising and content components.

In most cases the individual will be wearing many hats spreading them thin. His or her base salary according to on average would be $85,703. That is $7141.92 a month and roughly $42 an hour. This is for one individual with hopes that they bear positive results. Let's say they do not. It will take 3 to 6 months to start to truly see if the individual is an asset or not. That is $21,425.76 if you decide to let the individual go in just the third month. Not to include cost of taxes and benefits. And if successful, your company just paid $85,703 per year for SEO.

The average SEO firm charges anywhere from $5500 to $35000 to perform the same task with a staff of highly trained professionals in the area of link building, writing, optimizing, web development etc. Even on the high end you are getting a staff for the entire year for around what it cost you to hire an individual in-house for a quarter. And if it does not bear positive results and you decide to terminate the relationship you will only have lost less than $10,000 if prorated based on the $35000. in most cases you can even get some of that back. This logistically saves you time and money.

Would you agree that having one individual do the job of five is rarely a good idea? Would you feel it cost effective?

Time is another concern with in-house SEO. Will one individual be able to optimize multiple pages, write content, tags, build links, run reports and perform other SEO tasks in a timely fashion? One person can only do so much. Would you agree that time is money? Most SEO firms can do in a matter of days what might take an individual weeks to do. Many companies who use in-house SEO personnel spend more than necessary to get the same amount of work done in a longer amount of time. Once again you have one individual doing many task versus many individuals doing one task effectively.

In any case, is outsourcing the right move for you or your company? Whether you choose to outsource or not, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Do your research by performing a simple cost/benefit analysis on what outsourcing versus in-house SEO will cost. It cost twice as much when you do it wrong the first time.

Results are all that matters. Top rankings for phrases no one is searching for means little, and shouldn't be used as a guage of someone's abilities. Ensure they can provide you with keywords that work for your business as well as a diverse plan of action. What do others say about the company or individual? Ask for references and check them. But even if they have limited or no reference don't panic. They still may know what they are doing. Just test them on a small project and see if they bear results for you. This is a true way to measure if they work for you. There are many variables you may not have privilege to in a reference such as their personal relationship or if they were a part of a team that was successful but they contributed little.

Remember, SEO is important to your business growth and time is money one way or another. Do the math and ask yourself what makes sense for you.