Thursday, May 29, 2008

Catch Some Buzz from Alltop


Calling itself a "digital magazine rack," Alltop is a human-powered content aggregation site that brings together the best news and blog feeds from around the web in more than 80 categories (and counting) grouped into broad topic areas. Alltop displays the five most recent feeds for each source site; mousing over a headline pops up a small preview window of the content to help you decide if you want to click through and read the whole story. Each page also has a translucent stationary banner bar just above the bottom of the page, which serves as both a page marker to help keep track of where you are as you scroll through the headlines, and a bad pun ("we've got all the top stories covered" - get it?).

The human-powered aggregation model is somewhat similar to what TopNetPix, started by Jeff Rusinow, has put together. Both sites offer their own unique features. TopNetPix has more links, lets visitors create a personalized start page, and has its own Facebook app. Alltop has a much cleaner, less cluttered interface, a more focused set of content sites, and the aforementioned pop-up preview capability.

Speaking of that pop-up preview feature, Alltop acknowledges its inspiration from popurls, a sort of multimedia-content-aggregator-social-bookmarking hybrid site, which describes itself as "dashboard for the latest web-buzz, a single page that encapsulates up-to-the-minute headlines from the most popular sites on the internet."

popurls was started by Thomas Marban, Alltop by Guy Kawasaki along with Will Mayall and Kathryn Henkens. Marban is from Austria, Kawasaki from California, and it shows in the dramatically different visual designs of the two sites. Though there are functional similarities, the sites look nothing like each other.

Alltop was created by the team behind social bookmarking site Truemors, which they describe as “NPR for your eyes” (except that Truemors actually has some personality and manages to get by without taxpayer subsidies).

Alltop is definitely worth frequent visits to get a quick take on what's new and interesting. You'll find this blog as well as great stuff from writers like Paul Dunay, Ardath Albee, John Moore and Yvonne DiVita on the Marketing page, and the Alltop blog here.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Google Drinks a Fighting Problem

Content moved to Google Drinks Fighting Problem on the Webbiquity blog.

*****

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For Marketers, What Recession?

News reports about the "R word" have certainly abounded since the beginning of this year. Articles and blog posts written to help marketers adapt and shift tactics in light of the economic slowdown have also proliferated, with Recession: The best thing for SEO from Brian R. Brown , Building Brands In A Recession by Cory Treffiletti, Marketing Tactics in a Recession from the Marketing Safari blog, and, more recently, A low-cost plan to elevate your brand by Alan Ruthazer as just a few examples.

Problem is—and I hate to say this for fear events could somehow suddenly prove me horribly wrong—there doesn't appear to be any recession, at least certainly not from an online marketing standpoint. Sure, it's a difficult time if you're in the business of building new homes and a very tough period for anyone with "mortgage" anywhere in their corporate description, but the damage seems relatively contained.

Statistically, of course, the U.S. isn't actually in a recession. The 0.6% GDP growth reported in the first quarter was pathetically anemic, but it was growth nonetheless.

Another interesting data to point to follow is the Career Classifieds from MarketingSherpa. MS publishes postings from both employers and job seekers. This is how the number of new open positions relative to the number of job searchers has looked over the last nine weeks:

If marketing were really in a recession, one would expect the blue line in the graph above to be plunging while the purple line shoots skyward—which is exactly what happened back in 2000. That clearly isn't happening today.

Okay, so it's only one indicator and time may yet prove me wrong, but marketers are often the first people to get pink slips when the economy heads south. The fact that that doesn't seem to be happening right now is news to be celebrated. And perhaps we'll start seeing articles and blog posts with titles like "How to Market During an Almost but Not Quite Recession."

*****

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Hear About PR & Social Media at the B4B Conference


The Blogging for Business (B4B) Conference coming up in Salt Lake City on June 6 will feature an intriguing lineup of speakers, including:
  • Brian Critchfield of Navel Marketing on how the consumer revolution is driving transparency in marketing;

  • Charlie Craine, Director of Interactive Media for the Deseret News;

  • Christopher Barger, GM's Director of Global Communications Technology (who recently did a great podcast with Albert Maruggi);

  • Cyndi Tetro, VP of Products and Marketing at NextPage and co-founder of the Marketing Executive Forum;

  • Dave Bascom of SEO.com;

  • Jake McKee, Principal and Chief Ant Wrangler at Ant's Eye View, a Dallas-based customer collaboration strategy practice, and former Global Community Relations Specialist for the LEGO Company;

  • Jason Brown, blogger and co-founder of Brown Lures;

  • Intellectual property attorney and blogger Rand Bateman;

  • A panel discussion on "Pitching to Bloggers: What Works, What Doesn’t, and What Will Get You in Trouble" featuring Naked Jen of the New York Times, Mommy Blogger Shannon Johnson and Laura Moncur of Starling Fitness; and

  • me - talking about how PR practitioners can optimize their use of social media in a session called, for now at least, "Approaching Bloggers and Engaging Audiences."
Conference organizer Matthew Reinbold has once again put together an event that will provide invaluable information for marketers and PR pros on how to effectively engage their audiences online.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Are Americans Social-Media-Lazy?

In the latest installment of Outside the Inbox, Jared Reitzin of mobileStorm reviews some recent research studies and asks, when it comes to participation in social media (blogging, uploading videos to YouTube, etc.)—are Americans lazier than web users in other countries, or just busier?

Jared mixes good humor, bad music and questionable statistics with his unique ability to offend about half of the planet's population. Check it out.



As for Jared's take regarding American Idol and the U.S. election system, two comments:
  • Given that our choices for president this year have come down to three candidates battling each other to display their utter cluelessness in science, economics and history—among other subjects—maybe we should let 14-year-olds dictate how we vote. What, like they could do worse?

  • Sanjiya—creepy. But in case you've forgotten it from season 6, here is the best American Idol video EVER:



Relax, it's Friday. :-)

*****

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Email Marketers Need to Know


Three new how-to guides recently added to WebMarketCentral offer valuable guidance to email marketing practitioners. Since I don't know everything (as if that wasn't obvious!), these have been authored by some veteran professionals in the field: Dan Forootan, president, and Neil Anuskiewicz, sales director at hosted email marketing platform provider StreamSend.

Selecting an Email Service Provider (ESP) provides a list of the top 10 criteria to consider when choosing a hosted email marketing platform for your organization. Key considerations include deliverability, reporting, list management and split testing capabilities. Price makes the list—at number 10.

Email Marketing Best Practices offers five tips to maintain high deliverability rates and avoid being perceived as a spammer. These include techniques for proper list building and maintenance, message design, list segmentation and complaint handling.

Finally, Using Google Analytics to Track Email Campaigns shows you how to use campaign management features within Google Analytics to track not only the number of visitors generated by your campaign, but also the number of pages they visited, average time on your website, percent of new visitors to your website and the average bounce rate—useful statistics that may not be provided by your email service provider. Understanding visitor behavior enables you to more effectively provide the information your buyers are seeking, keep them on your website longer, and increase conversion or purchase rates.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, May 12, 2008

SEO - Why a Small Business Needs a Blog


The most difficult websites to search optimize are those of small or new companies, in a market with larger and more established players, focused on a highly competitive set of keywords. No matter how well the on-site optimization is done, it is tough to compete with the amount of content and external links that the established players have built up over time.

However, a blog can be a valuable tool in helping smaller, newer players improve their rank and generate search traffic. Here's a real world example of how a blog can both supplement and enhance search position based on a relatively new player in an established market, that has both a corporate site and a blog.

On a test of 12 key search phrases, the website appeared on the first page across Google, Yahoo and MSN for four phrases where the blog barely ranked at all (one 4th-page appearance on MSN).

On five other phrases, the blog consistently showed up on the first page of results across the major search engines while the website appeared on the second page or lower—including two phrases where the blog had a #1 or #2 position and the site didn't appear within the first five pages!

Finally, on three other phrases, both the site and blog appeared on the first results page, in most cases, across all three search engines.

There was also a difference in how the search engines ranked the corporate site relative to the blog; on MSN, in 90% of the instances where either the website or blog appeared on the first page of search results, the website ranked higher. Google and Yahoo were more favorable to the blog: on these engines, while the website was still ranked on the first page more frequently than the blog, the ratio was much lower.

A company blog can also be used to give a (small) SEO boost to the corporate site. For example, it could help the marketing events calendar on WebMarketCentral to appear somewhat more prominently in the search engines by linking the phrase "marketing events calendar" to it here.

And a few additional considerations:
  • Due to the dynamic nature of their content, blogs are generally indexed more frequently than corporate sites by the search engines.

  • Blog posts are more likely than corporate content to be seen as thought leadership content and linked in other blog posts or tagged on social bookmarking sites like Digg and Del.icio.us.

  • Blog RSS feeds can be syndicated across a large number of sites, providing exposure (and links) generally not applicable to a standard company website.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wireless Carriers Unplugged

Do wireless carriers abuse their power to infringe on the free speech of competitors and controversial groups? Is their revenue model reasonable? Is Verizon in 2008 the equivalent of AOL in 1995?

Jared Reitzin, CEO of digital marketing platform provider mobileStorm, uses humor, logic, passion, and one or two inappropriate words to blast mobile carriers for censorship, inefficiency and short-sighted business practices.

He makes an insightful and very timely argument, particularly given the spate of news articles over the last six months or so from sources like RCR Wireless News, Wireless And Mobile News and TechCrunch about free, ad-supported wireless calling models currently being tested. Why is this relevant? Because in the late 1990s, free ad-supported Internet access was all the rage. There were even companies that offered free computers, along with free web access, supported by advertising. Although those models ended up failing spectacularly, they did help push the dominant ISPs to move from $X-for-Y-hours-of-use pricing plans to unlimited access flat rates. A similar trajectory could happen in wireless.

Check out Jared's rant.



*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Hosted Email Service Price Comparison: Part 2


My first post on this topic generated a few comments and quite a few emails. Again, price is only one of several factors to consider when selecting a hosted marketing email platform. Here are three other key criteria.

1) Deliverability: A couple of people pointed out that some of the lower-priced platforms use shared IP addresses; if anything remotely spammy makes it way through, system administrators simply block these in total. Make sure that the platform you choose provides private IP addresses at your chosen message volume.

2) Service Level: Service tends to increase roughly proportionately with price. The lowest-priced platforms are designed for near-total self-service, with technical support provided primarily through email. Platforms priced in the midrange often offer additional levels of assistance. At the high end, a service like Bronto will do much of the work (strategy, creative design, monitoring) for you.

3) Target market: Despite the large number of hosted email platforms in the marketplace, there is less direct competition between the providers than one might suspect. It's competitive, certainly, but primarily between providers targeting the same segment of the market. For you as the buyer, this means selecting a hosted email platform that is focused on serving organizations like yours.

For example, services like Benchmark Email and Express Email Marketing—low-cost and self-service oriented—are targeted primarily at individual consultants and very small businesses who, generally, will be writing and designing their own newsletters and email marketing messages. For slightly larger organizations that may be working with an outside marketing agency to craft their messages, services such as StreamSend and Lyris offer a more sophisticated toolset. Non-profit groups can send up to 10,000 emails per month for free (and get a discounted rate beyond that level) through VerticalResponse. Larger companies may want to consider a full-service platform like Bronto or one with sophisticated features such as the Enterprise Edition from ExactTarget.

Finally, consider your need for special features, such as the ability to conduct email surveys, offered by platforms such as VerticalResponse and Constant Contact.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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