Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Adsense: What The Eye Tracks Gets Clicked?

Marketing Sherpa published a very interesting little book called the Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2006 that contains some interesting information on eye-tracking studies. One of the nice little tidbits contained therein is a study showing that people's eyes are drawn to images, especially images of people's faces.

Not surprising perhaps, but it might be useful. If anyone would like to have some fun with a little test, try putting a picture of your own grinning mug next to an Adsense ad banner or something, as I've done with the page header on this blog - see my face next to the ad up there?

I'd like to hear comments from those who give it a try. Ken Giddens showed me last summer just how much better his Adsense banners did with images aligned above them (as seen at www.mauihawaiihotelsandcondos.com.

Quick tip o' the hat to Ralph Wilson and his Web Marketing Today newsletter for the info on this useful report from MarketingSherpa. Ralph has been putting out that newsletter since you were in short pants, buster, so give him some love.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Email Marketing: Constant Contact Is Lame

I've been using Constant Contact for my newsletter mailing list for quite a while, but unfortunately I need to find another service to handle it... here's why:

CC allows you to create nice HTML emails, they have a variety of templates, it's easy to edit the templates... so far, very nice. CC converts URLs in the email to tracking links, so that you can count click-throughs. Again, so far, so good... It's nice to be able to track clicks, send follow-ups, etc. If the subscriber has opted to receive an HTML version of the newsletter.

The problem comes in when subscribers elect to receive a text-only version. Instead of just putting the URLs in as plain text (which would be the non-stupid approach), CC takes the stupid approach and puts tracking links in, which are extremely long and contain encoded characters.

This renders every URL in the newsletter unreadable, unusable, and unclickable for those receiving a text version. This can't be fixed by using shorter URLs, because the tracking code adds more than 55 characters to every URL, and the lines are wrapped at 55 characters in the text emails.

How hard would it be to use a non-stupid approach, or at least give customers a "non-stupid" setting? I don't know, but apparently it's too much for the folks at Roving Software Incorporated, dba Constant Contact.

In fact, it's not even possible for me to create a separate text-only version of the newsletter to fix the problem by hand. I can't even tell which subscribers, or how many, have chosen to receive a text-only version... so I have no idea how much the lack of non-stupidity is costing me.

Readers of this blog are invited to comment and recommend non-stupid email marketing solutions. Some things I need:
  • I don't want to hear how great Mailloop is. Don't bother telling me about any stinkin' desktop software, I want a web-based solution.
  • Subscribers should be able to choose either an HTML or text version, and receive a non-stupid email when I send my newsletter no matter which version they selected. Ideally, I shouldn't have to create an entirely separate text version by hand.
  • I need the ability to import my subscriber list from Constant Contact in some way.
  • I would like to be able to track and follow up on click-throughs. By follow up, I mean sending a second email to those who have clicked a particular link in an email campaign.
  • Subscriber interest groups, so we can send out special announcements on different services to those who actually want them.
  • The service needs to be able to send to 10,000+ subscribers in a reasonable amount of time, allow the emails to be scheduled in advance, and have the standard deliverability features (like authentication) that email marketers expect.
  • Almost forgot, another non-stupid feature, let me set a "thank you" URL instead of trying to send the visitor back to the referring URL. Thanks.
That's about it... If someone from Roving / Constant Contact would like to offer a solution, I'll be happy to listen, but your first level tech support didn't have a solution so if one exists you might want to let them know right after you explain it to me.

Free SEO Teleclass Tuesday May 30

Those of you who know me, know that I like to try different things when it comes to marketing. I am offering a free SEO training class this Tuesday from 7pm-8pm US Central time. Space is limited. I don't know if it will fill up or not, but if you want in, I'd suggest that you register ASAP.


Yes, I know it's a holiday weekend in the US... that's why I'm trying something different to see if I can stir up some interest among those few who are still online, working, and not busy on Tuesday night.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

SEO: Create A Google Sitemap

Google rolled out their Sitemaps service last year, and if you haven't checked it out, you're missing something really cool. If referrals from organic search results are an important part of your online business, you need to use this service.

If you wonder why so many people think Google is really cool, take a look at what they give webmasters for free, and compare it to what you pay for with Yahoo's site match program. Google kicks butt. They've got developers working on making cool tools for webmasters. They've got employees writing blogs to help us do a better job with our sites. That rocks.

What do you get with Sitemaps? You get stats, you get your robots.txt file checked for free, you get to give Google a list of URLs from your web site. You can even set up a sitemap for your mobile device content. The stats alone are worth the minimal effort required.

Did I say minimal effort? Yes, I did. Google offers a sitemap generator script that requires the Python scripting language, installation on your web server, etc. but there are a lot of free and paid 3rd party sitemap tools available.

One that's very easy to use is the Autositemap service. You just include a tracking image on every page of your site, and they do the rest. With a well-designed site, this could be as simple as modifying one file. If it's harder than that, go yell at your webmaster or site designer, and tell 'em I said it was OK. The Autositemap service automagically creates a sitemap file for you as people browse your site.

How you can help me: I need a good PHP script that will let me create RSS feeds from several other feeds - an aggregator. Ideally, we would be able to pull in the RSS & Atom feeds we specify, remove some items, and edit the summary/description if we want to. Then spin it all out as RSS & Atom feeds. The result will be something cool that we can all use to make our SEO/SEM lives better.
New coaching group starts June 2, only 25 seats available so sign up soon. You get 2 group training sessions per month, for 3 months, with a full year's access to our private site with video recordings from our advanced SEO & SEM training classes. The price? Just $295 for 3 months. Participants can also purchase additional one-on-one consulting time at my lowest available rate. Click here for more information and to register.
Sorry for the recent absence all, I've been sick, and busy enough teaching classes. There may be a few extra posts over the next few days as I clear the backlog.