INTRO, TALKIE TYPE, CHATTING PIECE... TYPE... THING...
Sorry about that.
I needed a little bit of space to apologise about the missing
newsletter from last month, and to mention a couple of other
things: but I didn't quite know what to call it! Anyway, since
the last newsletter, I believe I only have a plague of Locusts
to contend with. And then, according to legend, I should be
able to get on with a normal life again (well, as normal as
life can be when you're me). No! Don't ask. You'll only regret
it if I start to explain. Okay, two quick things as it's a
double-bumper packed issue. "Link popularity", as
it's loosely known in search engine marketing circles, is
probably one of the most important factors in your strategy.
But why is it so important to search engines? And what's it
all based on? I wanted to write an article to complement the
excellent piece about Google written by expert Chris Ridings
in this issue. It became a full-blown feature on HITS the
underlying algorithm at Teoma. It has exclusive abstracts
from my book. And it's fr^e. You'll find a link to download
the .pdf a bit further into this issue. I also want to apologise
to the many people writing in With questions last month and
who didn't receive an answer. If you look at the end of the
article with Chris Ridings, you'll see where you should be
able to get some answers from to me make up for that. And
finally, due to popular demand - we're going bi-monthly. Okay,
what's up this month? Read on...
YOUR COPY WHAT YOU WROTE RIGHT? DON'T KNOW? YOU NEED EXPERT
=> Intro. <=
She is editor & publisher of award-winning
WordBiz Report, the first e-newsletter to focus on the business
of words online. A former (prolific) ClickZ columnist, she
is also the author of a new special report, Turning Clicks
Into Customers: Proven Online Copywriting Tactics. She does
a limited amount of consulting for smart clients who need
quickie tune-ups of the copy on their site or in their emails.
In fact, Debbie Weil is also attractive, talented and has
just returned from an exotic break in Myanmar (Burma). Yes,
we hate her already! Actually, just before Debbie flew off
to sunnier climes, I quizzed her about her new report.
Now, as many of you already know, I can't
resist a little bit of a "wind-up". So I couldn't
help letting my inane sense of humour get the better of me
and throwing in the odd off-beat question. Debbie, a good
sport (known to enjoy a little "tongue in cheek"
rapport) spotted them immediately and replied with rapier
like riposte. (We wonder if you can spot them :)
MIKE: Because we're all
different types with different timescales, levels of income/turnover
and creative ability: who should write our copy? I mean, can
we just go DIY if we read your newsletters and reports? Remember,
as we're not all Internet millionaires (yet), if you say we
need a professional, we may have to resort to stealing a van
and kidnapping Nick Usborne in the middle of the night.
DEBBIE: Hey, this is
a great question. I've got two answers for you. First, reality
is that most companies can't afford top-notch copywriters.
If someone is really good at writing online sales copy he
or she probably comes from an offline, old-fashioned direct
response background where he/she was paid thousands of dollars
(US) for an assignment. That just doesn't fit most Web site
And the 2nd reason follows from the first.
As Nick has pointed out eloquently in his book, until quite
recently copywriting was not seen as an integral part of the
development of a successful Web site. The Web was owned, so
to speak, by the techies. A writer (maybe even one of the
more literate programmers) was called in at the last moment
to,"oh, just add some words here on this page."
Gosh, I still haven't answered your question,
have I? What I recommend is to 1) recognize that the copy
on your site is equally as important as the graphics and the
functionality and 2) take a stab at writing your online copy
yourself, using your best in-house resources. Then go to an
outside expert like Nick (or, um, me) to get your Web copy
reviewed, edited and improved. No matter how good a copywriter
you consider yourself, you absolutely need to get an outside,
third-party perspective to make it better.
MIKE: Does size really
matter? I've seen web sites with very long ones and some with
very short ones. In fact, some with hardly any at all... What
I mean is, does longer "direct marketing sales letter"
type copy on a home page/landing page work better than short
bulleted type copy?
DEBBIE: Depends on who
your audience is and how much you need to tell them to convince
them to take the next step (whatever that is) after skimming
your home page or landing page. I.e. pick up the phone, sign
up for your e-newsletter (thereby giving you an email address)
or make an immediate purchase. Long vs. short sales copy is
a fascinating topic. I'm writing an article about it for WordBiz
Report, so stay tuned for more scintillating insights than
I can give you in this short space.
MIKE: In your report,
you spoke to two high profile SEO's called Jill Whalen and
Heather Lloyd Martin who specialise in writing copy for search
engines. They said that they had dramatically increased the
amount of traffic to one site by optimising it for the words
"gastric bypass surgery". Now, I've included those
words on all of my sites, and those of all my clients and
it doesn't seem to have worked at all. Are you absolutely
certain you're talking to experts in this report?
DEBBIE: Um, you're joking,
right? But you've put your finger on something absolutely
key about keywords. They have to be the keywords that your
target audience actually uses. Not the words you as the marketer
or site owner use to market your product or service. But the
words your target customer would use. It's just so easy to
be myopic and think that the insider, industry jargon you
fling around is what a potential customer will use when they
go looking for your service. I guess your target audience
is not looking for information related to "gastric bypass
surgery," right?? Better get Jill and Heather in there
to clean up your sites.
MIKE: You've mentioned
"taglines" quite a lot in your newsletter recently
and also in your new report. Can you explain what a "tagline"
is and what the benefit of having one is? And if they are
very, very important: how long would it take for you to knock
out a fr^e one for my site?
DEBBIE: You're pretty
funny, Mike. It works like this. Sometimes a great tagline
just pops into your head. Those ones are fr^e... just kidding.
But normally it takes many, many iterations to come up with
one that does what a tagline should do: tell a new visitor
to your site that she is in the right place and that you offer
the product or service she's looking for. The tag is the short
phrase that appears at the top of every page of your site,
usually next to your company name. It's often embedded in
the graphic header. If it's a good one, don't do that. Make
it HTML text so that the search engines can find it.
MIKE: What about the
practical and technical aspects of copywriting? For instance,
what about HTML newsletters Vs text - which is best? And fonts
and formatting: should we be using bold and italic and underline?
How many exclamation points should I use in my headline -
eight or ten?
DEBBIE: Let common sense
prevail here. As well as a dollop of good taste.The way you
format a texte-newsletter with ASCII characters can say a
lot about your brand. Ditto for an HTML layout. I always advocate
HTML lite so that it's easy on the eyes, prints out well,
and doesn't look like a promotional email. Ultimately, there's
a meeting point between what you as the publisher like - and
what your reading audience wants. I'm very old-fashioned when
it comes to good writing. Never use the word "very."
Don't use more than one exclamation point. It's OK to use
two question marks. Hey, I'm kidding!! Decide what's right
for you and your readers. Informal is fine; poor grammar and
typos are a no-no.
MIKE: Finally, I have
to mention the scourge of the Internet (no - not this newsletter):
Spam. What are your thoughts? Once the Spammers themselves
start replacing characters with an asterisk as so many newsletters
do these days: what happens then? Does email marketing still
have a future?
DEBBIE: Sigh... I wish
I had the answers. Yes, of Course email marketing has a future.
I am hoping that a bunch of folks cleverer than I - and with
keener political instincts - will come up with a solution
that controls the amount of sp^m without compromising the
instant and unfettered flow of information that defines the
Internet. There's gotta be a meeting between what's technically
possible and what is politically and economically feasible
if we're all going to continue to use the Web as a platform
for doing business. Sorry to sound so serious. I'm pretty
confident we can control this if we (publishers, marketers,
ISPs, corporations, government, etc.) work together.
Thanks very much to Debbie for that excellent
contribution. Turning Clicks Into Customers: Proven Online
Copywriting Tactics, the new report from Debbie, is getting
excellent reviews. Jonathan Jackson over at ecommerce-guide.com
"Thankfully, we now have Weil's pithy
words to guide us. By carefully reading Weil's superlative
advice, marketers should be able to make their copy both enjoyable
to read and profitable. The best of both worlds. This is invaluable
advice that can be put to use immediately, and well it should."
You can sign up for Debbie's fr^e Wordbiz
newsletter and find out more about her report here:
EXPERT EXPLAINS PAGERANK.
It's the search engine equivalent to the
Coca Cola recipe. Under the hood of each search engine is
the algorithm which powers it.
Chris Ridings is the author of PageRank
Uncovered, probably the most in-depth and authoritative document
available on the subject. PageRank is at the heart of Google's
power. So, what is it? And how does it work?
Here, in a special e-marketing-news feature,
Chris explains. I also asked Chris to give his thoughts on
the SearchKing V Google case.
By Chris Ridings:
PageRank was and is one of the most misunderstood
topics when it comes to search engines. Despite it's surface
complexity it actually is a remarkably simple concept.
When Google returns results pages, it
has basic high level criteria that it wants to fulfil. The
first is that the pages listed should be relevant to the query
the searcher typed, the second is that they should be sorted
in some way so that good pages tend to rise towards the top
of the results. "Good" is one of those terms that
we all know what it is but can't define specifically, so you
often find it substituted by other words. "Important"
is the one Google uses.
This second sorting stage is where PageRank
comes in. At it's simplest level PageRank is a number that
facilitates this sorting. As a page has a capability to be
more about a specific topic than another page, we generally
find the results listed are not in PageRank order but that
there is a tendency for the higher PageRank pages to do better
Search Engines did this before Google.
Google merely redefined "Important". Whereas previously
the measure of importance was the number of pages linking
to another page (or site), PageRank took this one stage further.
PageRank adds that if a page is important then its links to
other pages should imply a higher degree of importance in
the page linked to, than if the page was less important.To
put it another way, one link from an important page can be
worth the same as many links from less important pages.
The reason this hadn't been done before
is most likely that search engines hit a catch 22 situation
before they even started. If the worth of a link from Page
A to Page B relies on Page A's importance, you must first
have an assessment of Page A's importance. You cannot assess
Page A's importance with this method unless you know the importance
of all the pages linking to Page A. To do that you would need
to know the importance for all the pages linking to the pages
linking to Page A. Which eventually means you would need to
know the mportance of every page on the web, including Page
B which was what we were trying to work out in the first place!
The founders of Google took a different approach, rather than
trying to calculate values for the importance of each page,
they created a calculation that would make values slightly
more accurate. Meaning you could attach any value of importance
to a page, run this calculation and be slightly closer to
the true result. Run this calculation again and you'd be slightly
closer still. Run it enough times and you end up so close
to the true result that you can essentially say this is a
numerical value for the page's importance.
Anyone that's casually read about PageRank
in the forums, or who's downloaded the Google Toolbar can
probably tell you that that final PageRank number is a value
between 0 and 10. This is a misconception. PageRank values
are more likely to be small numbers like 0.0567. When Google
released the toolbar they chose to convert the actual PageRank
values to a different scale. Just to confuse us further they
chose to make that scale non-linear. Which means that from
the values of 1 through to 9, although probably directly related
to actual PageRank, there is very little we can learn from
the toolbar. To further muddy the picture, if a page is not
in Google's index then Google's toolbar will make a guess
at what it should show. In this scenario, the real PageRank
is zero but the toolbar may guess 7, the number that counts
in the ranking process is the zero. There's a distinction
I like to make between Toolbar PageRank and Actual PageRank.
The only place where the toolbar gives any reliable data is
at the extremes of 0 and 10. As long as you are aware of the
limitations, the toolbar does have some uses as a tool but
I personally have found it increasingly less worthwhile.
Having said that, there are other ways
we can learn a lot about PageRank. Observation and analysis
of similar algorithms allows us to deduce some fundamental
things that must be true of PageRank. PageRank relies on links
and links alone. For that reason when we look at using PageRank
in terms of optimizing pages for the search engines, we are
essentially talking about creating optimum link structure.
We are looking to achieve two objectives. Firstly, to get
enough PageRank in to the site to work with and secondly to
get that PageRank to the pages that can most benefit from
This nicely fits into the two categories
we can divide links in to: External and Internal. External
links are what is responsible for the site getting or losing
PageRank. Internal links are what enables a webmaster to place
that PageRank where it can best be used.When asking for links
to a site, there are a few PageRank things that might well
be worth checking. The first is that the page that is going
to be linking to you is in Google's index by performing a
search on the url. It's important here to remember that PageRank
is page based. If they will be linking to you from their links
page then that is the page you check and not their home page.
The second thing you will want to do is show a preference
for pages with less links. Do this regardless of the page's
current PageRank and you will form a good strategy that will
benefit you in the long run. If those links are of quality
sites then you also stand more chance of getting direct traffic.
When linking out to other sites, you are
almost certainly going to decrease the total PageRank across
all pages in your site. Meaning you will have less to work
with. There are ranking benefits to linking out to good pages
and there are obvious user/visitor benefits so you essentially
have to make the decision "is this link worth the cost".
That's really a personal decision that will depend on the
level of competition in the area the web site is in, but invariably
when linking out to good sites the answer will be yes.There
are ways to minimise the PageRank loss when linking out, which
is where we come on to internal links. Traditionally internal
links have been the most overlooked area of PageRank. When
a page says another page is important by linking, the quantitative
value of that statement is based on the importance of the
page doing the linking. If that same page instead said two
other pages are important by linking to them both then they
each of the two pages would get half that quantitative value.
The quantitative value of importance that a page can give
to others is divided by the number of links on the page. Say
you have a links page with 2 links to external sites and no
others. This effect means adding a link to an internal page
on your site decreases the importance given to those 2 external
sites. Or to put that in a way that's more likely to make
you smile - you've decreased, by just a tiny bit, the PageRank
of those other sites. Where has that tiny bit gone? Back through
that internal link to a page on your site.
Internal links can do more for you than
just that though. If you modified the internal link structure
of your page and waited a month or two, you would see the
PageRank of the pages change. This works because PageRank
is page based, and not simply site based. Each and every page,
wherever it is, has a PageRank and takes part in the PageRank
system. By using various link structures you can determine
where the PageRank goes in your site. The specifics of those
structures are beyond the space I have in this article, but
in general a page which you give more links to in your site
will do better. Using this method you can target PageRank
to specific pages.
This is the most important thing you can
do with PageRank. There is only effectively so much PageRank
you can pull in to your site, and unless you utilise that
efficiently you might as well not have it all. If a page is
already ranking well for a keyphrase, does it need more PageRank?
Obviously not so targeting PageRank on to a different page
that is having a tougher time is only logical. Often, people
worry too much about getting their home page to a particular
PageRank and completely forget that that PageRank is only
worth anything if properly used. As a general rule of thumb
you will find that if a page is competing for a competitive
keyphrase or if the page is competing for a number of keyphrases,
giving that page a greater PageRank is a significant plus.
If a page is competing for one keyphrase or a small number
of uncompetitive keyphrases it is easier for that page to
rank and your PageRank may be better used elsewhere.
These days PageRank has once again been
brought to mass attention, because of the SearchKing v. Google
case. For anybody not familiar with the case, the situation
basically goes like this: the owner of SearchKing sets up
a business "PR AdNetwork" to sell text ads with
pricing based on PR. Not too much later SearchKing, PR AdNetwork
and SearchKing's clients experience strangely reduced PageRank's.
SearchKing sue Google. Regardless of the specifics of the
case, it raises some very interesting questions about PageRank.
Google's defence is to argue that PageRank is their "Opinion".
I guess the number one thing we can learn from that is that
"it's better to have the mathematical version attached
to your site than the opinion version". But one of the
whole reasons why this question is important is because it
for the first time gives us information about the reliability
of what we are given. Who cares who wins when questions like
that are about to be answered?! When Google displays their
PageRank on the toolbar (with the wrong scale) does that represent
an actual mathematical statistic or the opinion of Bert who's
sitting at the console looking for sites that say something
he doesn't like? And how does that difference change user
perceptions of a site? If something is presented in the same
sentence as the words "uniquely democratic" then
we might not expect it to be manipulated by a few people's
opinions. To be honest, I think it's a smart legal defence,
but it does bring into question exactly what PageRank is and
(c) 2003 Chris Ridings. All rights reserved.
Thanks very much to Chris for that excellent
insight. You can get the full version of PageRank Uncovered,
fr^e when you purchase Search Engine Marketing: The essential
best practice guide. And you'll find Chris ready and waiting
over at Searchguild, his new online SEO forum site:
NB: Chris, knowing that I'm not really
a forums type guy, has threatened me with a written exam on
PageRank if I don't put in an appearance at Searchguild. I'm
off to Boston the week after next to hang at the search engine
strategies gig. But when I get back, I'm going to take up
a role as "junior moderator" or something like it,
so that I can experience the "full forum... er... thing."
So, if you didn't get a reply to your
questions from the last issue, then try and track me down
over at Searchguild and I'll do my best then. Okay, Chris.
Now I'm committed to it ;)
THESE SMART PAGES? OR ARE THEY COMPLETELY DUMB?
For the past few weeks I've heard a great
deal about "SmartPages". I have to say, I'd not
heard of them at all until someone linked them to "The
Whole Truth" which is a, kind of, online marketing toolbox
campaign. It seems to have been hugely successful (judging
by the number of affiliate promo's I see for it). So, it was
very difficult to comment on "SmartPages" without
having seen them. I purchased "The Whole Truth"
a week or so ago, and duly received my kit including the HTML
template for my "SmartPages".
Now, the reason I mention this is that,
when I looked at the code of the pages, I saw that they were
basically "spruced up" little cloaking pages which
included java redirects. So, people use all kinds of Spammy
pages at search engines. It's a fact. And eventually, search
engines will find them. But... they won't find them anywhere
nearly as quickly as your own competitors "snitching"
Most of the people who have been in touch
with me about "SmartPages" are either worried that
Google will ban them for using them - or - they have already
"tipped off" Google about their competitors Spammy
I'm not about to get into any kind of
"ethical" debate. But because there seems to be
a "rash" of "SmartPages" around just now,
don't be at all surprised if you suddenly find yours disappearing.
Remember, nobody is watching your marketing efforts closer
than your main competitor - not even a search engine.
POPULARITY? TRY TOPIC DISTILLATION: HITS, CLEVER DISCOWEB
THEN TEOMA (fr^e .pdf download supplement)
by Mike Grehan:
In its short history, data mining the
web has come a very long way. Web crawling, web page indexing
and keyword or "similarity-based" searching of web
contents is a mammoth task. It's tackled on a daily basis
by the web's leading search engines such as Google, Inktomi
and more recently, Teoma. As the challenge becomes greater,
then so does the technology as it scales in terms of both
capacity and capability. Hypertext-based machine learning
and data mining methods such as clustering, collaborative
filtering, supervised learning and semi-supervised learning
are the foundation blocks of this rapidly advancing technology.
The natural algorithm of the web is based on linkage. After
all, that's why it was invented. When applied to the web,
the knowledge derived from "social network analysis"
can tell more about web pages, than those web pages can tell
I'm going to generalise a lot in this
paper. It's not a scientific paper, but it does touch on some
very technical and scientific aspects. However, the intention
is to try and 'not' get too technical, but to try and 'simply'
get across the fundamentals of what is loosely termed as "link
popularity" (and why it's so important to search engines).
This paper is not at all exhaustive in its content (nowhere
near it in fact). It's merely a skim across the surface. Hopefully
though, it may help you to understand just a little more about
how search engines work, and the way that they take advantage
of "information rich" web linkage data.
During the course of researching the second
edition of my book, I became fascinated by the work of Professor
Jon Kleinberg and an algorithm he developed which has had
a major impact on search engine technology. The principle
behind the formula has been used as the basis for many experiments
in what's known as "topic distillation". Work in
this field also had a profound effect on Professor Apostolos
Gerasoulis, founder of Teoma.
It's the influence of this work, and the
further development work by Jon Kleinberg himself and a team
of researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Centre in California,
which (in the main) provides the basis for the underlying
algorithm at Teoma. So what is it about Teoma which makes
it so different? Please allow me to give a very general overview
of the important role of link analysis and the algorithm which,
some would say, is one of the most influential in the field
of information retrieval on the web.
Please download your fr^e copy of this
e-marketing-news supplement here:
ROUND WITH RICHARD GAY.
COLD WINTERS DAY.
I'm looking out of my office at work,
it's snowing, it's grey and it's miserable! My uncle, an early
retiree, phoned last night from The Algarve. Guess what...
it's sunny and warm there in his four star hotel on half board.
It's cheaper to stay there than run his home in England, not
to mention improve his rheumatism. He booked ONLINE!I bring
you the case of uncle, not to mention my aunt also, as I was
busy researching material for the Internet text to be written
by Mike Grehan, Dr.Rita Esen and myself. Within five minutes,
I picked up two publications which considered the virtues
of targeting the over 50's online.
The first, a new text from Paul Philips
from Surrey University entitled E-Business Strategy, highlighted
some of the problems with the older audience such as technophobia
and resistance to change, which is understandable in a general
sense. However, an interesting article by Ian Sclater in the
Chartered Institute of Marketing's Marketing Business magazine
delves further to highlight segments of the over 50's who
are largely responsible for the online travel boom.
Those of us who are still slogging away
at work, propping up a fragile stock market are the core group
in that over used phrase CASH RICH TIME POOR (Not sure about
the cash rich bit, not destitute but a long way from the comfort
zone in my case). With early retirements and early redundancies
we now seem to have a band of former middle and senior managers
(AB's) who are CASH RICH TIME RICH with the flexibility to
go where and when they want.
From Forrester Research, 50% of the 55-64
group have a PC at home From MORI research, 28% of UK Internet
users are over 45. The over 50's are predicted to be the largest
segment online by 2005.
This all sounds very promising and with
ABC1's supposedly richer, fitter and more adventurous they
will become a very attractive proposition for online marketers.
Many companies are responding positively to this growing segment
with specialized portals incorporating relevant over 50's
content to pull them in and increase stickiness. Tailoring
the content is fundamental to any web site isn't it??Naturally
this group is heaven sent for the travel industry to fill
airline seats, cruise liners and hotels off peak However,
from a ervice provision perspective their buyer behaviour
patterns must be considered. Whilst the 18-30 onliner is comfortable
to purchase everything with CD-WOW, Firebox, DABS, Boysstuff
etc online, our mature group seek information via the web
but also seek the reassurance of a friendly voice at the end
of a telephone when booking their arrangements. For companies,
targeting the over 50's,the Internet/Phone link seems a vital
persuader in the purchasing process.
Whilst travel lends itself nicely to this
cash rich group other lifestyle sites could meet their needs
such as health and finance sites. Clearly with their wealth
and flexibility they're not to be ignored. It's targeting
and tailoring again!
Well I must sign off now and get back
to the joys of marking exam scripts and think of my uncle
strolling around Penina.Roll on early retirement!
YOU MAY HAVE MISSED.
Leading New Zealand based search engine
marketing firm Web Rank, recently conducted a study into the
top 100 companies in Australia. In just the same way as I
discovered the facts about the top UK based companies and
Fredrick Marckini discovered similar with companies in the
US, corporate Australia needs to pull its "SEO socks
Cory Rudl invites you to take a risk
free 30 day trial of his best selling Internet Marketing course.
Two giant ring binders with supporting CD contain masses and
masses of marketing tips as tried and tested by Corey Rudl
THE FACTS MA'AM.
If you've read my book, you'll know how
much I just love doing research (I know, I need to get out
more). So, I spend a lot of time researching for research.
Often I come across stuff that's useful and fre*e. Here's
some stuff I found this month:Take up of new broadband subscriptions
has now risen to almost 30,000 per week, and the UK now has
over 1.4 million broadband users.
The 12 deadly sins of site design. The
BBC Training & Development Department studies over 60
web ites to discover the fundamental errors which cause problems
in site design.
netimperative has prepared
a study sponsored by Ask Jeeves and featuring input from yours
truly. It's a retty good look at search in your marketing
Editor: Mike Grehan. Search
engine marketing consultant, speaker and author.
Associate Editor: Christine
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