Sunday, November 18, 2007

Branding on the Web with Social Media

Blogs, social bookmarking and social networking sites are allowing entrepreneurs to build powerful small business brands online. Web branding levels the playing field and lets you connect with prospects and customers in a way traditional marketing can't.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Finding what your small business should be about

I've been thinking a lot lately about how so many large company employees are unsatisfied, frustrated and just fed up by their corporate job and the drudgery of their daily grind. Way too many people are sick and tired of going to the office every day, listening to an incompetent boss, and having to deal with petty office politics and senseless company policy.

Reading through blogs and forums I noticed that one of the biggest frustrations of employees who want to leave the corporate world is not being able to discover what their true "calling" is, that activity that will let them earn a good living while making them feel a deep sense of purpose.

If this situation applies to you, I found this post in Pamela Slim's enlightening blog: Escape From Cubicle Nation that offers some good starting points.

I came up with another idea today, as I was cleaning and organizing my bookmarks: Going through your bookmarks is a great way to re-discover your interests and passions. If you don't have a bookmark file, I deeply encourage you to start building one. I assure you that you will learn something about yourself and that after a few weeks you will have a more clear picture of what the topics or activities are that may turn into a genuinely enjoyable and emotionally rewarding line of work for you.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How to Make Money From Google Adsense

It not uncommon to hear less than stellar reviews of Google’s Adsense program. Truth be told, making money with Google Adsense is not as easy or straightforward as most people think. There is a misconception that all we have to do to laugh all the way to the bank is to publish a bunch of articles, slap some Adsense code here and there and sit down to wait for our visitors to click away.

There is much more to Adsense than that. Adsense success depends on a multitude of factors which must come together to create a “perfect storm”, among them:

  1. Blog topic: A product blog about car accessories or electronic gadgets will produce ads with better revenue per click than a blog about Greek mythology or medieval hunting habits.

  2. Kind of traffic: If your visitors come from highly relevant search engine queries, your Adsense click through rates will likely be higher than if your traffic is mostly repeat visitors who are already trained to avoid your ads.

  3. Position of the ads: Ads placed within the content area work better than ads buried at the bottom of a navigation column. Google even goes as far as sharing with everybody this heat map that shows the areas of the page that are likely to produce the best results.

  4. Color of the ads: Some people advocate blending the colors of the Adsense ads with the colors of the site, under the pretense that by making it hard to determine if something is an ad or just a regular link you will generate more clicks. Others believe that using contrast is better, since it makes the ad stand out. You can determine what works best for you after some good old fashioned trial and error.

  5. Size of your blog: Obviously, the more posts you write, the more Adsense impressions you will generate. If you post once a month and your blog has only twenty entries don’t expect great results. Hard work and consistency is key to build up content to the point that it generates enough traffic.

Before you rush to start blogging and filling up your pages with Adsense ads, I recommend that you first do some reading.

Probably the best place to start is these Google Adsense Optimization Tips from Google itself.

You should also read this extremely helpful and well thought eight step tutorial by Problogger.

I also recommend these Adsense tips, tricks and secrets by Graywolf, and this forum entry by a guy in Australia who writes about how he increased his Adsense revenue from $10 to $800 per week (and even shares with us the highly optimized template he uses to generate Adsense revenue from articles).

When you’re ready to read some eBooks, you can start with Joel Comm’s What Google Never Told You About Making Money with Adsense or The Definitive Guide to Google AdSense, by William Charlwood. Both are excellent and offer detailed, how-to advice.

As a footnote, in a significant new development,, the free blogging platform from Google, now lets you place Adsense ads without having to apply for a separate Adsense account.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Using forums to generate traffic to your blog

Actively participating in forums and discussion groups is a great way to get relevant traffic to your blog. This excellent technique has somehow been underutilized since the days when the search engines decided to combat forum spam by implementing the “no follow” tag. Some people mistakenly assume that because a link doesn’t have search engine value it’s not valuable at all.

That is a big misconception. Links in forums attract precisely the kind of high quality, relevant traffic you’re looking for. In fact, one of my blogs receives almost 60% of its traffic from forum inbound links that I’ve patiently seeded in a few forums related to my theme.

One way to seed inbound links to your blog is by creating a signature file with a link to your blog, and always including it with your posts. Another one is to read through the different post threads and find common problems or questions. You can then research the solution or answer, write a post in your blog, and then direct forum readers to your blog. When you use this technique, I suggest that you turn off your signature file, so that your post doesn’t come across as self-serving.

Other forum strategy that generates a lot of traffic is to create a poll (most forums are run by the same software, most of which support polls). If the poll is interesting, it will draw a large number of readers, who will see the link to your blog in your signature file going when they access the poll.

After you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll see that other forum members will have become habitual readers of your blog and will start to spontaneously link to it from their own posts. Other members will start bookmarking your best blog posts in social bookmarking sites like or I’m sure that by now you see the potential. It’s a little bit of work, but it will pay off exponentially and will bring you plenty of relevant traffic for a long, long time.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Making your blog posts easier to read

Reading online is harder, slower and more uncomfortable than reading on print. By following these easy tips your blog posts will be better laid out and more concise, and your readers’ experience more pleasant. Here they go:

  • Write less: Use 50% less words than you would use in print. Once you finish writing, go back and try to further reduce your word count.

  • Use plenty of contrast: black type on white background always works best.

  • Use headlines to break the discussion into several paragraphs. Breaking the discussion into small, manageable chunks makes things much easier for readers.

  • Web users don’t read: they scan. Use elements that facilitate scannability: bolding key words and phrases, and using bullet points are two examples of this technique.

  • Don't make your lines of text too long. With today’s high resolution screens, text that runs from one side of the screen to the other is very hard to read. Using a page layout with columns is a good way to keep the content area down to a width that makes reading comfortable.

  • Try to convey one idea per paragraph, three to four lines each.

  • Use hyperlinks to present complementary information instead of trying to include everything in the body of your post. Good bloggers use this technique a lot, not just to make their posts easier to read, but also to point readers to valuable resources and to give other bloggers credit for relevant content.

  • Don’t use a font that is too small. I recommend using 10pt. or higher, and using font types that have been specifically designed for reading on the web, like Verdana or Georgia.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Create a Branded Signature File for Outlook

One of my pet peeves is to see how many people (even employees of Fortune 500 companies) use those cheesy Outlook stationary templates in their outbound email. Nothing screams “unprofessional” more than a fuchsia background with clouds and ribbons, or a fake ring bound effect on a yellow background to go with those important email messages.

The damage doesn’t stop there. Considering the hundreds of emails that even a small company sends out every day, this terrible habit is also a waste of a great branding opportunity. Both from the esthetic and branding points of view, it is best to go easy on colors and textures. Reading from a computer screen is difficult, so what works best is a plain white background with black typeface.

For typeface, I recommend a sans-serif font like Arial. If you insist on using a serif font, I recommend Georgia. Choose a font type and stick with it.

Now, as far as branding is concerned, I recommend creating a simple signature file (open Outlook, click on Tools-Options-Mail Format-Signatures-New and type down your information).

Your signature file should include your name and job title in the first two rows. Then, leave a blank row and insert a small version of your company logo (right click on the place where you want to put it, click Browse and pick a logo). Once you’ve placed your logo, go to the next row and include your contact information: address, phone, cell phone, fax, email address, skype or IM username (if you have one) and your website’s URL.

Set your signature file to pop up in new messages as well as in replies and forwards and you’re done. You’ve just turned your outgoing email into a powerful branding tool.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Create a “Top Posts” List for Your Blog

People love lists. That's why articles called “10 Fastest Ways to Do This” or “Top 5 Ways to Save on That” are so popular, and are sometimes even called “linkbait”. It is also the reason why books in the Best Sellers lists stay there so long: by being in the Best Sellers list, more people buy them, which only fuels more sales, reinforcing the position of the books on the list, making even more people buy them. Wash, rinse, repeat…

Here’s a tip to easily increase your blog’s page views, maximize your conversion rates and grow your subscription ranks: create a “Top 5 Posts” list, “Favorite Posts” list or “Most Viewed Posts” list and place it at a visible location in your blog’s side column. To build the list you can pick a mix of the most visited posts, posts that generate the majority of search engine queries leading to your site, posts that have some kind of multi-media feature (like a cool video) or, if you are using Adwords, posts that are more likely to convert well.

Link to your bookmarks from your blog

The most successful bloggers are those who nurture and encourage the interaction between them and their readers. If your readers enjoy your blog, they will most likely want to know more about you. You can give them feedback about yourself in your Profile or your About Us pages. However, you can go beyond that by sharing your bookmarks with them.

By linking to your bookmarks you will give your readers a glimpse of your personal interests. By sharing with them the websites and blogs that you consider important, and giving them access to valuable tools and resources beyond your blog, you will strengthen the relashionship between you and your readers and get an edge over bloggers that are not doing it.


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