While having fun with the grandkids the other day, we visited a place nearby that specializes in educating people about the California Gold Rush by providing an experiential tour of a mine on their property. What does this have to do with Web Marketing and Branding, you might ask? Read on….
The California Gold Rush created a lot of wealth. So has the internet. Not unlike internet properties, 49ers staked claims on mines, hoping the vein was rich. The conditions were difficult, picking their way back into the mines and chiseling through rock by hand. There were certain things that they looked for that provided direction about pursuit of a path. The same is true of internet businesses. It all relies on choosing the right “real estate” to begin with and doing the work necessary to extract the value of that space.
As the kids panned for gold in the trough that the owners of the ranch had set up, they each had different reactions. One child in the group complained immediately, saying it was too hard, and sulked for a while. Another “struck gold” right away, shouted out about their good fortune and continued to shriek every time they thought they had found another nugget. The remainder of the group quietly found nuggets, washed them off and set them aside, and proceeded to look for more.
Where is the Online Mother Lode?
If you are not new to online business, you know exactly what a niche is and how important it is too. If you are new, this is a term you need to understand. I can’t tell you what is a profitable niche in a blog post but I can tell you there is a lot of material out there regarding choosing a niche.
In summary, a niche is an area of interest for consumers. I will always recommend that people begin a business that is in line with their personal passions or hobbies. While your passions may align with a profitable niche, it is equally possible that your highest area of interest is NOT what other people are looking for. This should not dissuade you entirely but it will make penetration of that niche more work. Equally possible is that a niche that you know people are looking for is also a niche that is saturated. Specializing that niche may allow you to find a “vein” to follow to create online income.
There are free tools to use to explore possibilities but, as expected, digging for gold by hand requires a little more effort and time. The external Google keyword research tool is a great place to start. It may seem like a good idea to choose the niches with the most search volume. Within reason, it is. You need to be aware that searches with a lot of volume also have a lot of competition. A good rule of thumb is to choose phrases that have monthly global search volumes between 1,000 and 15,000.
Once you think you’ve found a niche to exploit, continue your due diligence. Use Google again to find out how many pages are there for you to compete with. Take the term that appeals to you, place it in a Google search box in quotes, and submit your search. This will return the number of pages with each word in your phrase in any order. If you submit the search without the term in quotes, it will turn up the count for all the pages that have all of the words in your phrase anywhere on that page, whether together in a string or not.
From a reasonableness perspective, it is best to choose niches that have less than 100,000 competing pages online, so long as the supporting search volume is there. This is a guideline only. Persistence will get your pages elevated in search engine listings for more saturated niches.
For the expense, a great niche research tool is cleverly named Micro Niche Finder. This tool allows you to analyze the strength of competition and computes the number of back links, which is a measure of how many links you will need to build to your site to allow it to rise above other listings for that term.
If you don’t want to learn at this level or purchase tools that would make it easier for you to conduct your own research, you can opt to work with someone who has knowledge of how to research a niche and choose good keyword phrases. Use the convenient contact form to initiate a conversation with me.
What Tools Can You Use to Launch your Campaign?
It is hard to be in an online business without a website. If the great keyword phrase you’ve found is an available domain name, grab it quick because you will need a website somewhere online to promote your niche. With all of its built-in features and since my specialty is WordPress Website Design, it is the best software that I can recommend for your business website.
While you can start a free site using wordpress software at Wordress.com, my position has always been that it is far better to retain ownership of your content. Besides, theme choices and add on open source software is limited at WordPress.com. These limitations can impede your progress.
I’ve worked with people who operate on an assumption that a site hosted at WordPress.com will get more traffic. WordPress.com is a high-traffic site but you must build interest in your page in order to have traffic. Why do all of that SEO work on a site if you don’t own it? Seems silly to me…
There are many free themes out there for you to use and, if you find a theme that is close to what you want, you don’t need any special technical skills to put up your own website. Personally, I recommend taking a look at Studio Press themes.
Remember that owning a website does require you to know something about HTML. Last year, Holly Powell and I conducted a couple of online webinars to teach people the nuances of choosing domain names, registering them, activating them on your chosen host, installing wordpress, and other things you might want to know to use the software. I will be updating the training for the latest version of WordPress soon but you can follow this link for access to the 2009 Live Blog Training at no cost. If you sign up for the newsletter there, you will find out more about new training modules as they become available.
What Kind of Miner are You?
Let’s get back to the kids who were panning for gold. Maybe you’ve already found your Mother Lode niche and are living your dream life. But, if you haven’t, what kind of miner will you be when you locate your niche and the first online payment arrives? Will you shout out your success for all to hear or will you use the knowledge you gained to find that niche to locate and develop another?
Designing a website for conversion is something that every business owner cares about, if they are savvy and have a solid business goal for their sites. Top gun internet marketers sell memberships and consulting services to people who want to get income online. It is a good idea to have a mentor when you are starting out, for sure, but I wonder if there really is a one-size-fits-all approach to building an online business. My instincts say no.
As an Online Branding Consultant and website developer, I’ve been monitoring website tools and trends for years. When my daily research introduced the idea that the color orange converted better than any other color, it seemed like a reasonable thing to try. Within a few months, just about every site that I saw had an orange buy now or add to cart button. Recently, this button has gotten much larger. Does the image below look familar to you and did you feel compelled to press the button? It took me 2 seconds to find one.
One trend that I have no argument with at all is to use WordPress website technology as the basis for a business and sales funnel. The software is remarkable, easy to manage, and delivers great SEO benefits too. Many top guns have migrated their sites to wordpress with good reason and anyone paying attention knows that WordPress is much more than a blogging tool.
Video capture pages are a very good idea and they have been for a long time. However, there has been a disturbing trend with them recently. The latest video marketing tactic is to enforce an opt in before one is granted access to the video. This is a ploy to build a list, which I understand, but if you do this please manage your lists so you aren’t broadcasting the same message multiple times. That is kind of irritating.
Another rising video marketing trend is to put up content with no controls or information about duration. I find to be both inconvenient and rude, and I know I’m not alone. If it is off-putting, why does it convert? Perhaps someone who is doing this and tracking results can enlighten us all.
The OTO (one-time-offer) tactic has taken on new proportions of irritation. When I opt in to something for free, I expect an obligatory up sell but is it really necessary to introduce two, three or more? Newbie or not, I’m betting that I’m not the only person who loses patience and gives up. It would be great to see the split testing results that support the claims of people who say this builds loyalty and increases sales.
Please save us all from the disingenuous “fear of loss” call to action tactic. If you aren’t sure what this means, it is the one that compels you to decide right now and threatens that, if you don’t, the offer will be lost forever. If it really is a limited time offer then using this tactic doesn’t constitute coercion. A high percentage of the time, however, the claim is not true. How many times have you bought something because you were led to believe you needed to decide right away and found that same site months after the fact?
When internet marketers began to sell products that teach how to target local business owners, it intrigued me. I wondered if they really knew what they were talking about. As it turns out, few internet marketers have ever dealt with offline business owners so please don’t expect them to teach you everything you need to know in order to succeed in this niche. I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea but, trust me, it isn’t an automatic gateway to wealth.
If you want to have credibility with a local business owner, you need more than a spiel and a ghost written book to hand to them at your first meeting. You must understand THEIR business and be prepared to explain how you can help them improve their bottom line.
Think about the different businesses that you see in your neighborhood for a moment, excluding chains and franchises. I doubt that the target market for an attorney, accountant, florist, or day spa lends itself to hype, being forced into opting in to view a video that has no controls on it, or the huge orange “add to cart” button. Please let me know if you think I am wrong.
Small busines owners understand their niche and they’re good at sensing deception or they don’t stay in business long.. You won’t know how to help them if you haven’t done your homework. Customer acquisition costs are a factor to small business owners, as well as return on investment. If you want to play in that field, make sure you understand business basics first.
The bottom line is this:
No internet marketing formula is one-size-fits-all.
We joke about watching paint dry when time seems to move too slowly but, believe it or not, this is an actual role for which people are paid. Duties include touching the painted item to ensure that it is dry. What does this have to do with businss and online income? Read on…
Many people put up pretty websites and expect immediate results. Very few people get what they desire, unless they have found a particular niche that is in demand and has not already been exploited or they have a well established and responsive list.
As a website consultant, I’ve always recommended beginning with the end in mind. During initial meetings with any new client, I always inquire about their keywords and SEO strategy. Of all the hundreds of sites that I’ve built, only one customer actually had a plan in place. Statistically, those who did not embrace the idea that they needed to identify niche keywords and strategically pursue them experienced less than optimal results.
Once you’ve determined your SEO and linking strategy, you must set about the task of doing the work necessary to accomplish it. This entails tactics that will build relevance based on keywords through on-site and off-site content.
Perhaps the best known method for getting links to your website is writing articles, adding a link to your signature in a forum, or commenting on blogs. But, how do you know which sites have importance from Google’s point of view? Michelle MacPherson recently released a free tool for monitoring top internet properties for your content and links. I don’t know if it is still available but I’ve used it and it is very helpful. The caveat is that each site has different rules so make sure you read the fine print when you register and begin to use them.
Lately, there has been a resurgence in using videos to promote your business or opportunity. This isn’t big news. Video marketing has been a great way to give voice to your brand for years and new video distribution channels are popping up every day. Your videos need to go viral, for them to really provide benefit, and if you don’t use good keywords when posting the video, it is just “out there” waiting to be found. Alternatively, and as I mentioned earlier, you can deploy it to your dedicated and responsive list.
Differentiating yourself online may be the biggest challenge you face. Most of what I observe is a lot of emulation. That isn’t a bad idea. Heck! It worked for me when I wanted to learn to sing like Joni Mitchell. :) Still, emulating what everyone else is doing only makes you like everyone else. Your market will choose to buy the offer, if it is something they want or need, and they will buy it from a link that appears in early in their search results. Thus, if you have no SEO strategy, whether or not you’ve done your niche research homework, there will be a lot of people ahead of you in the pile.
Assuming that you’ve are now convinced that learning SEO and keyword research is important to your business success … online or offline … what can you do? Well, you can begin by learning more about SEO and keyword research from an expert. Dan Thies has availed a great ebook entitled Fast Start SEO which you can download at this link. Dan Thies also offers a free membership where people aspiring to learn more, or those who are active in the arena already, can interact and swap ideas. You can choose to outsource the task to someone who knows what they are doing, if you feel you have more important things to do, but I imagine it will be hard to sift the wheat from the chaff when interviewing potential outsourcing partners without any knowledge so learning something about how SEO is done is still advisable.
Building an online brand requires patience, dedication and belief. Once you have your keywords and SEO strategy in place, all that remains to be done is to implement it. However, waiting for the benefits you seek can be difficult if you are impatient. Not much different than watching paint dry, I suppose. But, if you’ve done your homework and selected a good niche and linking strategy, your results will come.
Tools help. I use a product called Micro Niche Finder that is easy to understand and provides a lot of data very quickly. If you don’t want to buy a product, you can also use Google’s free keyword research tool.
If you’d like to know how I can help you, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can complete the contact form at www.VirtuallyMarj.com and I will certainly respond. I’d love to learn more about your business and, if it feels right to us both, help you build your online brand!
Perhaps I am the exception but it perturbs me that the long and predictable sales letter page is being replaced by an optin form leading to a long-winded video which has no details about its length and takes way too long to arrive at a point.
This trend reminds me of a desert character that I met recently on an outing. Although the dialogue was entertaining, this person spent an hour telling my friend and I what he was going to tell us AFTER he told us why he was going to tell us what he was going to tell us. Of course, we were free to leave at anytime but he seemed to have a need to tell his story, and I wanted to give him a chance. In the end, it was a circular and one-sided discussion and he never really told us anything. :D
But it was interesting to behold…
Time is a non-renewable resource
How we spend our time each day is one of our more important decisions. An email or link sent through Skype sometimes elevates my interest . When the destination turns out to be a video landing page that provides no text to scan, the journey is predictable. Someone is going to try to sell me something.
While it is entirely possible that what they have to sell is something that I want or need, what is the benefit of biding my time through more than 30 minutes of self-aggrandizing dialogue, waiting to hear the price and being forced to endure so much “ but wait … there’s more” yammering?
deep discount or inventory liquidation?
People don’t like to be convinced of something’s worth. Idle curiosity led me to computing the discount of the bonus items for the most recent Video Sales Letter so I could report it to you. The add-ons for this particular Video Sales Letter offer were “conservatively” valued at $38,731. Yet, this internet marketer was willing to “give” them to me for $1,997. That’s nice, but is it believable?
If you are quick with a calculator, you’ve already determined that this is a 94.8% discount. I’m fairly certain that opting into this offer would have led multiple upsells and an offer to have a trial membership with on-going fees of $97 a month, or more. I’ve seen it before.
But here is my point: Liquidation sales are not a new idea. In fact, Russell Brunson just had one and he didn’t pretend it was anything other than it was. I truly admired that.
ambiguity, logic and the law of averages
During the dialogue, the marketer informed us that his secrets had only been released to a handful of people who had proven to him, during 8 months of trialing his methods, that what he had found was not a fluke.
What is a handful to an internet marketing millionaire with a huge list? If the handful of people privy to the software and techniques have an 8-month head start, is there a prayer that these “hand selected niches” can be still penetrated and leveraged?
Even though I’m basically an optimist, this sort of talk makes me skeptical. I learned in the racquetball court that timing and position are everything in life. In other words, creating the money-making idea or being part of the cadre of founders is the place to be if you really want to be if you want to cash in on something.
If you are invited through a mass mailing, you are not in that group. Applying their techniques to your current tactics has potential to improve your sales but please stick with your own niches. Those “hand selected” niches are highly likely to be saturated.
My viewpoint is that wealth will follow the pursuit of something that you already are interested in and will enjoy working with every day. Using that base formula, your marketing, whether or not it is a Video Sales Letter, will genuinely convey your enthusiasm and have greater potential to become viral. Your time spent researching the niche is time that you would be spending anyway because it is interesting to you. Your targeted list is easy to acquire and grow because you are interacting with people naturally already, through Twitter, Facebook,LinkedIn and your blog.
Identify those things that you truly enjoy and focus on what you like to do anyway and don’t invest yourself in the outcome. It will come to you without a struggle if you maintain focus and don’t allow yourself to become distracted by the noise around you and frivilos get rich quick schemes.
At a recent networking meeting, the presenter included bullet items of methods they used to enhance their business lead generation on their slide presentation. One of the items on the list was to watch TV. This is a tactic they use to become part of the social conversation.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, watching television during prime time hours is not strictly a waste of productive time. Your prospects and customers watch TV. While they are going about their daily lives, they chat with others about what they’ve seen. Some even look up information on the internet during or following a program. Why not leverage these facts to build your business?
Established companies in all vertical markets are able to invest in television advertising and those ads can give budding entrepreneurs great information about consumer interests, and possibly new ideas for how they might create a product for their own business. Most of us are aware that prime time advertising comes at a premium price. If you have already identified your niche market, tune in when those programs are airing to find out what is being advertised and how those campaigns are structured. If you haven’t identified your niche, sample prime time programs on various stations to gain an understanding about what is being marketed to various segments.
Let’s take some obvious examples. Identity theft is perceived as a huge problem with the expansion of the internet for shopping and record keeping. Banks and credit unions advertise their security while also promoting their ease of use. Credit repair affects younger people. The clever ads with the minstrels at the Renaissance Fair, on a roller coaster, or leaving the car lot in a clunker make this crystal clear. With the growing population of Baby Boomers in their 50s, who are trying to avoid aging or pain, advertisements for potions and pills which answer these concerns are prevalent during dramas and documentaries.
To become part of “the conversation” for your market niche, your content could leverage titles for popular television shows, either in your product name or articles you are publishing. About a year ago, this theory was validated by writing an article about Big Foot when the creature was a hot topic in the news. It works.
Maybe you really hate the thought of watching television. If so, you can visit your local magazine rack and buy periodicals targeting various niches to see what is advertised within. From inserts to smaller text ads, clues about the interests of that niche will come clearer. You can also take a stab at finding websites which target market segments but the relevance of Google Ads is based upon on page content and not actually a good predictor of visitor interests, especially if the content is free.
The upshot of this post is no revelation to some but it may be the missing puzzle piece the causes things to come together for another. As always, I conclude with a friendly remainder to perform due diligence on any business decision you make and, if this bears out, have some sort of market plan to guide your movement forward into the fast lane.