This is How Web 2.0 Works…

According to the Chinese, today is the luckiest day of the year. (08-08-08)

In China, the number 8 is considered extremely lucky, as a matter of fact, it’s the luckiest of all numbers and the competition for identification with the number 8 (the more the better) is fierce. From license plates to phone numbers, the more 8’s the better and some Chinese citizens are willing to pay a small fortune to possess a lucky phone number or a lucky license plate.

No wonder the Chinese are ecstatic about landing the 2008 Olympics and why the Olympic Games started at 8:00 AM on 08-08-08.

Samuel Goldwyn is credited with the quote, “The harder I work, the luckier I get. ” No where is that more true than on Web 2.0.

I recently received an email from a client who has launched one of those “easy” website builder type sites. About six weeks ago, she canceled her blog and now she now has four pages of unreadable (one big blog of text – obviously the p tag wasn’t an option) and forgettable content, but it’s a website she is able to set and forget.

set it and forget it websiteI’m not surprised by this series of events. Six weeks after the launch of her blog, she emailed me wondering why her brand new blog wasn’t appearing on the front page of Google for her desired keywords.

Since the keywords weren’t appearing in the domain name, the only other chance she had to score was via her content. I went to check on her blog – expecting to run a Wordle and show her how to focus her content around desirable keywords. However, when I went to the blog I found the “Hello World” post was the only content on her WordPress blog.

When she canceled her hosting for the blog, she said she was “much” too “busy” to create content for her blog.

I know that business success isn’t determined by your Alexa ranking… but having a website that can be found when people are looking for the solutions you offer is a bonus to any business no matter how you look at it!

WordPress doesn’t have to act like a blog! WordPress can act like a GREAT CMS (content management system). It provides a search engine friendly foundation for your website and you can create static pages just like a “static” website. When you use WordPress as your CMS it means you can use it to EASILY and QUICKLY publish articles to highlight product features and benefits on a regular basis.

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

On the other hand, I have several clients who are fighting the good fight and doing everything they can in pursuit of success. I recently received an email from a client who is going to be featured on NPR in November. Another client’s story is going to appear on nationally televised show thanks to her blog. Yet another client is pursuing a $10,000 project lead thanks to her blog. These are people who have put forth the effort and as a result, they’re getting “lucky”. They have prepared for success and now that success is knocking, they’re ready to answer.

It’s not just my blogging clients who are reaping the rewards of blogging. Yvonne over at Lip-sticking gives her story of how she scored a coveted invitation to Ford’s 2009 Model Year Product Program. Seems Yvonne joined a new site called SavvyAuntie. Turns out that was a KEY factor in Yvonne getting “discovered”.

Ford went searching for women bloggers on the woman focused site and found Yvonne. Now Yvonne is getting VIP treatment by Ford.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Vyonne is another example of someone doing the leg work and then reaping the rewards. Is there an element of luck involved? Of course there is!

Web 2.0 is all about making connections and the more connections you make, the luckier you’ll get! What’s your tale of “getting lucky” thanks to hard work?

What is Alexa? It’s a Website Traffic Spy Tool

One of the GREAT things about being involved in a “social networking site” such as Biznik is that people can communicate PRIVATELY with you.

I recently got a question privately there from someone who visited my blog and read my post Business Success Isn’t Determined by Your Alexa Rank. A well respected marketing expert, he wasn’t familiar with the Alexa tool and asked me to blog about it. Since I’m all about educating my clients and other readers, here we go.

What is Alexa?

Alexa is a product developed by Amazon (yes, the internet book selling giant and internet retailing pioneer). It’s a way to “spy” on the traffic of other competing websites.

increasing site trafficAlexa “ranks” websites in order based upon traffic from 1 to 24+Million. (I’ve seen TWO sites in the past 2 weeks that were in the 24 Million range.)

The last time I looked, Yahoo was #1, Google was #2 and YouTube was #4 according to Alexa.

If your Alexa ranking is above 1Million, you can congratulate yourself. You’re in the top 5% when it comes to rating traffic of the 24+ Million sites indexed by Alexa.

With that said, Alexa doesn’t get real interested in your website until your site breaks into the top 100,000. Once you break into the top 100,000, you can see your daily reach, rank and page views.

A Brief History on Alexa

The way Alexa used to collect the information it needed was via a plug in for MSIE (Microsoft Internet Explorer), Window’s internet browsing software. The plug in installed a toolbar in the user’s browser. While it offered a way for users to “spy” on the traffic of other websites, it also provided a way for Alexa to TRACK toolbar users movements on the web.

If you think about it, it makes sense that the only people who really CARE about what kind of traffic other websites are getting tend to be part of the techno-geek crowd. Very few sales training professionals CARE about the web traffic of any particular website. On the other hand, people who create websites are PASSIONATELY interested in the traffic ranking for a site. As a natural progression of events, in the early days the Alexa tool bar was used almost exclusively by web professionals or devoted web amateurs.

increasing site trafficAs the web has grown, so have the number of “non-tech” users. Many of these “non-tech” users didn’t have the Alexa toolbar installed in either MSIE or any other browser. As a result, the results of Alexa’s ranking became rather “skewed” statistically. Sites targeted towards technical users tended to do much better than websites that dealt with non-techy matters such as organic foods.

Meanwhile, new Web 2.0 businesses are popping up left and right. With the explosive growth of blogs has come advertising management services which will allow you to sign up and place ads on your blog via their network. Since ads are sold based on the number of impressions, many of these networks rely heavily upon the Alexa ranking of a website to determine traffic. (Log files can be altered, but Alexa is an unbiased third party.) Also, bloggers are popping up who aren’t blogging about the latest Tech Toy who are developing quite a following. These popular “non-tech” blogs were crying “foul” when it came to Alexa’s method of collecting data.

Recent Changes in Alexa

Back in April, Alexa responded, either to these cries or to the increased competition they were facing. (Compete.com comes quickly to mind.) Alexa changed the way it gathers data for its rankings to try to reflect what was happening in Web 2.0, where it’s not only geeks who roam the web for hours on end. ( Read more here Alexa’s New Ranking System Hurts Some and Helps Some.)

If you go to Alexa, you too can install this tool bar in your web browser. When you do, you’ll be contributing to Alexa’s data collection efforts. In other words, you can spy but you’ll also be spied upon.

blogs as money making marketing toolsThere’s actually a plugin for WordPress which will display your current Alexa ranking in your blog if you want the world to see. (Personally, I’m waiting to break into the top 100,000 to activate that one.)

If you don’t want to install the toolbar, you can always go to the Alexa.com site and type in the URL you want to check.

The most important thing to remember with Alexa is:

a) It’s an estimated traffic count

b) It’s a NUMBER and nothing more.

There are people whose blogs were ranked in the Alexa top 100K who have shut down their blogs and gone on to get real jobs because they weren’t making money from the traffic they had. On the other hand, I recently wrote about a business who is RAKING in the dough whose website is ranked in the 24 Million range.

For me, checking Alexa rankings could be called an addiction. I have a similar addiction to Diet Coke and coffee. (Caffeine FREE Diet Coke… I’m trying to be in “balance” because I drink a pot or two of coffee every morning. Screw moderation, I’m seeking “balance”.)

It’s only recently that I’ve come to recognize NEITHER my drinking habits or my Alexa checking behavior is productive. So before you install the Alexa tool bar in your browser, proceed with caution!

Business Success Isn’t Determined by Your Alexa Rank

web site trafficAs a web “professional”, I know the frailties that face Alexa. However, that darned tool bar is so easy to install and it’s literally become a habit for me to glance at the Alexa Ranking before the page has had time to load.

Over the  weekend, I learned that there are successful businesses who are NOT using the web as part of their success.

I know.

I was shocked.

It’s funny how short sighted those of us who live and work on the web can get sometimes- myself included at the TOP of that list!

This revelation started innocently enought. I got a phone call yesterday from a friend of mine who has a “real” job. She’s the training director for a large company… you know, the type of company that has “divisions” which each are assigned a “budget.”

She began her call with, “I’m at this conference to be a certified-blah blah and I met this amazing woman who’s launching her own business and needs your help.”

“Wait! Certified– to be what? Did you quit your job? Are you launching your own business?”

“No, my division has budget to burn so I’m becoming a certified “blah blah”. ”

I’m not being coy or trying to protect an identity- I really can’t remember the program name- it was THAT generic!  It was one of those made up words that people create so they are “guaranteed” top position in the search engines.

“What is a certified blah blah?” I asked.

“You know, I asked that before I left on Friday. No one at work knew either,” she said. “You’d think that someone would ask that question before plunking down $2500 for a 3 day seminar. But that’s how Corporate America works. By this time tomorrow, I’ll have another certification to my name.”

She then asked me to check out the website for the firm putting on the seminar. My friend is a business woman through and through and instead of paying attention to the presentation (which usually annoys her because she’s a real expert in training and sees the mistakes being made in the presentation instead of every absorbing the content), she’s counting heads and computing how much money this guy is bringing in.

She counted 300 heads in the room… and multiplied it by the $2500 her company paid for her seat there. She figured they made$750,000 in revenue from this seating alone and she knows there’s another seminar next month on the west coast.

I’m intrigued. I type in the website address and my attention goes first to the Alexa ranking. I’m STUNNED at what I see- I didn’t know Alexa numbers went above 24 million!

The Alexa ranking for the website is in the 24,500,000 range.

Talk about a billboard in the Alaskan Wilderness, this website is a wasteland. Oh, and it’s a mess both from a coding standpoint AND from a content standpoint.

The coding issue is obvious. I mean, you don’t reach the deepest darkest depths of 24 Million plus in Alexa without some serious coding issues at work. However, the content is what surprises me. I mean, it’s little more than a narcissistic rant tooting the horn of the seminar’s developer.

The site doesn’t follow ANY of the rules for website success!!!  Lousy domain name, poorly coded, narcissistic content… I can’t imagine anything he could do to make the site worse.

Despite all of that, he obviously has a thriving business.  I text my friend with a “you’ve GOT to find out how people found out about the seminar,” because one thing is certain, he’s not using the web to market it.

Turns out, he’s made connections with a national association and is offering this “course” at a substantial discount for members.  The association sent out the communication to it’s members and offered them a half price discount.

The whole experience has shaken me a bit.  It has forced me to admit a bad habit which I’ve developed –  I tend to look to Alexa rankings to judge how “successful” a website is and by extension, the business which owns the website. This particular website destroyed that belief system of mine.  It goes to show that you don’t need a great Alexa Ranking to have a successful business venture.

I should have known better.  I mean, I tell clients all the time that a blog can be used as a powerful tool for business communication.    Using your blog to communicate your marketing message is a GREAT use of a blog.  Using a blog in that manner is actually using your blog to target the non-blogging community.

Do I think a great web presence would help this guy’s business – definitely.  But the lack of one obviously hasn’t stopped him from achieving a level of success.

The Power of the Blog

I love blogs… WordPress self hosted blogs in particular. Like any great love affair, there are ups and downs.

The down side…Wordpress has announced version 2.6 is released today. UGH! I’m currently installing 2.6 on my “test” blog EZ Marketing Tool. I’ll soon know what works and what doesn’t in WordPress 2.6. The frequent updates are a downer for me because I not only have to bring my blogs up to speed but also roughly 100 other blogs as well.

On the up side though, there are several blogging stories out there to make the minor inconvenience of frequent updates seem minor in comparison.

Isn’t that the way a great love affair works? Sure there’s a pinch of G&A (grief and aggravation), but that pinch of G&A just adds a level of texture and flavor to the 101 things that are great about the relationship. (I’ll have been been married for 24 years this December 1, so my G&A thresh hold is obviously very, very high!)

Micheal Martine begins the singing the praises of blogging hit parade with his post How I Brought My Business Back from the Dead with Blogging.

I’m quote Ben Yoskotiz so often, I don’t have to check on how to spell his name lately (grin). Yet, here he is again with his story of how he was Quoted in The New York Times – The Power of Blogging.

To that I’ll add the story of my own client.  Janet Simpson is an AMAZING woman who has truly “been there, done that.”   She’s a lifestyle coach who survived a car crash against the odds.  Her tale of survival is documented in Junkyard Janet.  About six months ago, Janet decided to convert her static website Nourish Your Life to a self hosted WordPress blog. This week, film crews are visiting Janet at her home to document her tale of survival against the odds.

One of the things that fuels my love affair with blogs is how search engine friendly they can be.  Ben found that an article he posted over a year ago was the source of his claim to fame in the NY Times article.  The title of the post probably matched the exact search terms the NY Times reporter was using to find information.

Janet’s blog includes this line on her about pager which probably included the keywords A&E researchers were using to find stories for their series:

Life took an unexpected turn when a car accident/miracle changed everything.

What story do you have to share?   Share your story here.

Blog Diagnostic Tool – Wordle: Graphic Illustration of Your Blog’s Content

One of the basics of internet marketing is to recognize that keywords play a huge role in internet branding. Use the right keywords, and your blog will find it’s target audience quite easily. Use the wrong keywords and you’ll be left wondering why more people aren’t reading your great blog posts.

With that in mind, here’s a great big SHOUT OUT of thanks to Liz Strauss over at Successful Blog for introducing me to the very cool and very illustrative blog toy er, I mean tool Wordle.

Wordle will take any text you plug in and create a cool graphic of the keywords contained within. You have the option of choosing random text or you can pull text from your blog’s RSS feed.

Wordle To the left is the Wordle created from this blog’s RSS feed.

Not only is a Wordle visually interesting, your blog’s Wordle can also act as a diagnostic tool to answer the question “Why is my blog not working?”

In order for your blog to act as a powerful marketing tool, you must focus your (marketing) message. Focusing on the right keywords is the key to blog marketing success.

For example, you can see in this blog’s Wordle image, that the keywords “marketing” and “credibility” play a HUGE roll in the content on my blog. That’s good because those are the drums I tend to play in my business… so seeing those words appear in “large print” pleased me.

The term troll is a bit more prominent than I’d like… but then again, it’s a recent blog entry AND contained in the title as well. I have to ask myself, what did I expect that particular post to do to my Wordle?

Since I didn’t know about Wordle then, I couldn’t have thought much of it. However, the World of Wordle can help you to get a clear perspective of the role each post plays as you build your blog.

THIS IS A KEY TO SUCCESS AS YOU ARE CREATING AND BUILDING YOUR BLOG!

Often, when we’re blogging, we don’t think of each blog post as a part of the whole. It’s easy to view blog posts as standing on their own – when in fact, they are essential building blocks. Each building block makes a contribution to making up the blog as a whole.

From the looks of my Wordle, I’ve been focusing upon marketing, selling and credibility here. The whole troll reference actually fits into that theme if you read the post. I just should have named it something different to fit better into my Wordle.

So Wordle gave me good news on this blog. On to my other blog holdings.

I have another blog where the focus is EXCLUSIVELY upon using blogs as marketing tools for small businesses. The Wordle for that blog is pictured to the left.

Seeing the Wordle for this blog allows me to see that I’ve been focusing too much on the “blog” aspect of blogs as marketing tools in the content on that blog.

Not exactly good news, but useful news none the less.

With this information, I know that I need to start featuring the “marketing ” aspect of blogs in this blog’s content.

On to my next blog.

I created the Wordle to the right for the blog which I use to promote my book (Beyond Niche Marketing).

Ouch again. It looks like I’ve been focusing a bit too much on that magical marketing word “free” in the content of that blog and there’s not enough focus on the term niche. On the other hand, marketing is playing a nice role on the keyword parade for that site.

Informative and fun. This is great.

Just for kicks and giggles, I ran a Wordle for a client who is complaining that her blog isn’t “working” for her. She’s frustrated and with good reason. So I ran a Wordle for her blog. The image to the right is what Wordle came up with for her blog.

Now, if my client’s business had ANYTHING to do with gardening, then this Wordle would be a good sign. But her business isn’t gardening nor is it focused on kitchens. Her ideal prospective clients wouldn’t use ANY of those words featured prominently on her Wordle to find her business.

Unfortunately for this client, her business is about journaling and writing as a way to achieve spiritual healing. I say unfortunately because it doesn’t appear that is what she’s communicating via her blog.

So I ran a Wordle for another client who specializes in executive training.

To the right is what her site looks like through Wordle’s eyes.

Rosemary will be pleased to see how the posts on Miboso Training are shaping up, thanks to this tool!

Then, just as I was playing with this tool, another client emailed me and was wondering why despite consistent blogging her blog isn’t picking up any readers. So, I ran a Wordle for her blog.

This client’s business is coaching people who want to lose weight. Lose weight is an important keyword for her and is included in her domain name.

Yet, when you look at her Wordle, the word YEARS is by far the most prominent and coach does play a big role too. Weight does make it to the hit parade, but lose doesn’t.

Maybe it takes a bit of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) to build a blog full of the “right” keywords, but I’m really beginning to see a pattern here.

For kicks and giggles, I run Darren Rowse’s Problogger.net site through the amazing Wordle tool.

Hmm… blog, people, community, readers, campaign, advertising… those all look like words that readers of Darren’s ProBlogger.net blog would want to read about.

What I find fascinating is Darren has achieved this ideal “mix” while having guest bloggers write posts for his blog. Now THAT is the sign of a blog with a vision!

Wordle may appear to be a “toy” but in fact it’s a powerful blog diagnostic tool you can use to see the word picture you’re building with your blog’s content.

Take your blog’s content for a Wordle spin and see what you can see. It might be the best blog diagnostic tool yet!