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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Who Needs Money any More? Let’s all Just Barter!

We’re getting so social that currency might just disappear.

You can’t use money any more in Las Vegas.  All of your “winnings” are on your little card.  What is the fun of playing a slot machine that you don’t drop coins into?  Where is the rush of the jackpot when it just adds numbers to your account?  I want to see those quarters rolling down the chute, to fill my plastic tub(s) till they are too heavy to carry, waddle over to the change window and cash out.

This abstraction may seem irrelevant until you consider the current state of our economy.  Much of our local business is being transacted on perceived “credits.”  I have a bad back, and a good knack for marketing.  In exchange for my services building business accounts and profiles on YouTube, FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter, I get my back cracked for free.  Being that I have my own business, my insurance doesn’t cover Chiropractic, so it’s a good deal all the way around.  We have set up a website for  his business, optimized social profiles for his business,  and an extensive blog for his business.  It is fun.  There is nothing that gives me more satisfaction than taking someone who is unfamiliar with internet tools and showing them how simple and inexpensive it is to get started creating your own on-line brand.

My boat was in a state of amazing disrepair not too long ago, and is being worked on as we speak.  It kind of ended up being one person helping another, but a friend is doing a bunch of work on it.  It seemed a bit one sided, as the boat is at his house up in Mariposa and I am three and a half hours away.  There was only one thing that came to mind that could be done to reciprocate:  help him promote his business.  It’s not as if entrepreneurs don’t know how to market.  Most of them have had to be pretty good at it to make a living.  The problem is that when you are a sole proprietor/contractor you spend half the time working your craft, and the other half of the time out hustling for more business.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do both effectively.  He literally had no time to set up the profiles, re-vamp his website to take advantage of inbound marketing, optimize all of his content to include his keywords, etc.  This is all the stuff that comes really easy to me, and is fun to do so here we are again.

Same boat, different project, there is need of upholstery.  Strange coincidence, there is an upholsterer we know that is in need of all of the above, and doesn’t even have a website.  My boat partner’s wife is a sick graphic designer, I do websites, we smell barter.  There are the perceived “chips” to count; how much would we have charged to set him up with a website and accounts on FaceBook, YouTube, Hotmail, WordPress and Google.com?  How much would he charge to re-upholster the boat?  In the end it looks like it will be close enough that no cash will need to change hands.

I was able to help my good friend and caterer Chef Paul Bataille (Located on the San Francisco Peninsula) http://www.bataillegourmet.com/about-us.php with his business; same set of parameters.  He published a very nice review and recommendation for me in his blog.

In ten minutes it will be time for me to go have lunch with my publisher.  He and I taught LinkedIn, FaceBook, and Twitter together recently at ProMatch.  He is helping me with my business, and I am helping him with his.  No cash changes hands.

It would be nice if there was something we could work out with Starbucks for our lunch, but I’m afraid that they already have a fairly decent marketing department.

I guess there is an argument for paying jobs.  It would be hard to run around town with NO cash at all.

 

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Superman Renounces U.S. Citizenship in ‘Action Comics’ #900

Apr 27th 2011 By: Laura Hudson

After recently undertaking a journey to walk — not fly — across the United States in the “Grounded” storyline and reconnect with the country and everyday Americans, Superman appears to be taking another step that could have major implications for his national identity: in Action Comics #900……Superman announces that he is going to give up his U.S. citizenship. Despite very literally being an alien immigrant, Superman has long been seen as a patriotic symbol of “truth, justice, and the American way,” from his embrace of traditional American ideals to the iconic red and blue of his costume. What it means to stand for the “American way” is an increasingly complicated thing, however, both in the real world and in superhero comics, whose storylines have increasingly seemed to mirror current events and deal with moral and political complexities rather than simple black and white morality.

The key scene takes place in “The Incident,” a short story in Action Comics #900 written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda. In it, Superman consults with the President’s national security advisor, who is incensed that Superman appeared in Tehran to non-violently support the protesters demonstrating against the Iranian regime, no doubt an analogue for the recent real-life protests in the Middle East. However, since Superman is viewed as an American icon in the DC Universe as well as our own, the Iranian government has construed his actions as the will of the American President, and indeed, an act of war.

Superman replies that it was foolish to think that his actions would not reflect politically on the American government, and that he therefore plans to renounce his American citizenship at the United Nations the next day — and to continue working as a superhero from a more global than national perspective. From a “realistic” standpoint it makes sense; it would indeed be impossible for a nigh-omnipotent being ideologically aligned with America to intercede against injustice beyond American borders without creating enormous political fallout for the U.S. government.

While this wouldn’t be this first time a profoundly American comic book icon disassociated himself from his national identity — remember when Captain America became Nomad? — this could be a very significant turning point for Superman if its implications carry over into other storylines. Indeed, simply saying that “truth, justice and the American way [is] not enough anymore” is a pretty startling statement from the one man who has always represented those values the most.

It doesn’t seem that he’s abandoning those values, however, only trying to implement them on a larger scale and divorce himself from the political complexities of nationalism. Superman also says that he believes he has been thinking “too small,” that the world is “too connected” for him to limit himself with a purely national identity. As an alien born on another planet, after all, he “can’t help but see the bigger picture.”

Do you think the shift to a more global role makes sense for Superman? If he really is going to renounce his U.S. citizenship in order to function as a more international figure, how do you think it will affect the character?

Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/04/27/superman-renounces-us-citizenship/#ixzz1Kve7ZQE4

 

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Green Business Transportation

Cutting carbon emissions has been the subject of much attention in recent years with the British Government vowing to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

There has been a resulting focus on energy consumption in businesses with various regulations and incentives for organisations to become, and remain, environmentally friendly.

Cutting the amount of energy used in the physical workplace, whether it is an office, hospital, educational establishment or otherwise, is one of the main ways for a business to become more eco-friendly.

Transport is another major area which can be adapted to embrace energy saving measures. If you have a fleet of cars which are used for business purposes then there plenty of scope to save both energy and money.

When purchasing company cars, make your selection based on fuel efficiency. This will not only save your business money but will have a significant impact on the emissions released. Car sharing could be another option worth considering. Think about whether or not each individual staff member needs their own vehicle for everyday business. If not, a car pool scheme could be the ideal way to save a hefty sum.

It can prove worthwhile to provide your staff with training for fuel efficient driving techniques. According to Business Link, men and women who have taken part in the Safe and Fuel Efficient Driving (SAFED) training course save an average of £500 each year, simply by driving in a more energy efficient way.

Face to face interaction is important for business transactions but there may be instances where email or video conferencing can be used as opposed to travelling to make the visit in person

How your employees get to work is another area to consider when cutting energy consumption. Promote car sharing amongst employees and do everything possible to make the system accessible and easy to use. Ensure there are good facilities, such as showers or bicycle racks, for staff who cycle or walk to work.

If you are searching for new office space then look at locations in close proximity to public transport links. This encourages staff and anyone else visiting your office to make use of public transport instead of driving or taking a taxi.

The same principle can be applied to any business events being planned. Using an easily accessed venue will make it more likely that visitors will use public transport.  

Many organisations are introducing travel plans to reduce car use and increase energy efficiency, with funding and incentives often available. The Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme offers a tax incentive to businesses that invest in energy saving equipment and there are numerous ways in which your business may be rewarded for adopting an eco-friendly approach to transport and other running costs, such as business electricity.

Jennifer is a part of the digital blogging team at cashzilla.co.uk who work with a growing number of finance brands. For more information about me, or to keep up to date with the latest in finance news, check out my posts at cashzilla.co.uk or visit my Twitter account, @cashzilla.

 
 

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Slick Website Designers: Worth Splashing Out On

No-one can seriously hope to operate as a commercial entity in the current age without having their own website. This rule applies as much to individual traders as it does to substantial heavyweight enterprises employing many people.

Leading UK website designers know that their services are immeasurably beneficial to their clients. The best are never the cheapest, and in selecting a suitable provider to create and maintain a stunning website, the considerations to bear in mind range across the following points:

  • How confident are you that your preferred designer is the ideal project manager for your website?
  • Will your chosen designer do his very best to give you the most professional-looking graphics, page layout, colours, and text placement?
  • Are graphic design skills part of the package?
  • Will you receive a website that is easily navigable, with straightforward cross-referencing of pages?
  • Can you be certain that, beyond the superficial elements, the behind-the-scenes technical wizardry is fully taken care of?
  • Is there a dedicated marketing consultancy service ensuring that your website works well within an overall marketing strategy?
  • How reassured are you that a designer will get more traffic visiting your website?
  • Does the designer let you have the source files? In other words, should you need to make future edits, are the original files at your disposal?

What Might be Missing?

Not all website designers offer all of the skills and services mentioned above, and it may prove prudent to contract out some of the individual tasks. This can be the case where copywriting is concerned. You are likely to have to decide between writing your own text or contracting the services of a professional copywriter. The former is the choice of many starting-up entrepreneurs. It is they, after all, who really know their business inside out. But the question is, “Can the business owner articulate his or her message clearly and engagingly enough?” A good solution is to put together an approximation of the text (known in the trade as “copy”) that you want to see on your site, then to contract a professional to tweak and refine this draft to give you a fluently written, reader-friendly end product.

Website designers who are worth their salt will be able to recommend other professionals to whom you could outsource aspects of the job, including graphic artists and writers.

Paying Attention to the Nitty-Gritty Details

Another basic requirement, which can be overlooked, is ascertaining that you will own your domain name. In all probability, the most important consideration for the prospective client prior to contracting a web design service is cost. As with all services, it makes sense to obtain more than one estimate, in each case requesting a detailed breakdown. You can then decide which, if any, additional features to budget for, such as your own regular newsletter, a blog, auto responder and shopping cart facilities, SEO, etc.

In most cases, the billing method will take the form of monthly charges. It is vital to establish at the outset what is included in the price and what is not, and how billing will be done.

Reputable website designers will be more than happy to direct you towards happy clients, whether current or legacy. Armed with this type of track-record information, you should be on your way to owning the website of your dreams.

Article by Approved Index. Approved Index is a leading online service provider that connects buyers and suppliers for a range of services and equipment such as ecommerce web design

 

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PPC Ad Writing Tips from the Experts

By Elisa Gabbert

What qualities make for a great PPC ad?

JS: First, great PPC ads match the intention of the searcher – they have outstanding relevancy to both their search terms and the prospective customer motivations that caused the prosp

ect to type those terms into Google in the first place. This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many ads get this wrong, or don’t get it completely right.

Second, great ads quickly convey a unique and engaging sales proposition for the searcher. In other words, those ads answer the “Why do business with us” question in a compelling and credible manner.

Third, great ads are specific and credible. They use numbers and facts instead of superlatives and hype-filled adjectives.

There’s obviously more to that, but those three attributes go a long way. Plus, we can’t give all our secrets away ; )

Ryan Healy: Every week I write a column called the “Win of the Week” on the BoostCTR blog, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that great PPC ads are always clear. There’s no confusion, no big words, no awkward phrases. Just plain, clear language.

Probably one of the easiest ways to boost CTR and conversions is to make your PPC ad as clear as you possibly can in the space you have.

What are the most common ad writing mistakes?

JS: Well, this doesn’t have to do so much with the ad itself, but probably the most common ad-writing mistake is allowing a mismatch between what’s promised in the ad, and what’s promoted on the landing page. Quite a few PPC ads say one thing, and then point the prospect to a page that doesn’t immediately reiterate the claims and promise from the ad. This is a sure way to get PPC traffic to bounce off your landing page. Of course, getting solid match-up between ad and landing page may require the advertiser to build additional landing pages, but it’s usually well worth the effort.

RH: A big mistake I see is focusing too much on features and not enough on benefits. In most cases, it’s better to omit features from your ad and list a primary benefit instead.

Another big mistake is not investigating what competitors are saying. You might have a good idea for your ad — but if all your competitors are already using your idea, then you might want to go a different direction. Unique ads get more clicks.

How many ads do you recommend testing at once? Do you ever stop testing for certain keywords/ad groups?

JS: We test one ad per ad group that the customer has asked us to optimize, and we do a straight A/B split test, which means we only test one PPC challenger against the original per test. Now, we might run 3-4 tests against the original if the first few challengers don’t produce a winner for the client, but it’s only one ad at a time.

Are you ever surprised by which ad “wins” a round of testing?

JS: A fair amount of the time the winner is foreseeable. Other times the winner may not be the ad you expected, but the results make sense in retrospect. But I think everyone involved in optimization testing of any kind — or at least anyone who is any good at it — has had the experience of having a dramatically different result in a test that was supposed to be a sure-fire win. It may be relatively infrequent, but it happens, and those are really golden learning opportunities.

Those surprise tests are where you can gain new insight into the customer. Perhaps an upset tells you that perhaps the buying motivation that you assumed on the part of the customer was a faulty assumption. Or that a supposed competitive advantage wasn’t nearly as important to the customer as to the business. Or a given trigger word has different connotations to you than to your prospect. And so on.

But most people don’t do the hard thinking that they ought to when they get a surprise result. See, what too many people do is just randomly throw stuff against the testing wall to see what sticks. And in those cases, either they’re never surprised because they never bothered to anticipate which variant would win or why, or they’re surprised but totally unable to squeeze any learning out of the surprising result because they didn’t start the test with a sound hypothesis. So while split testing may not be rocket science, it should follow a scientific method.

If you could only change one element of a PPC ad to boost CTR, what would it be? The title? The call to action? The number of times you use the keyword? The URL?

JS: Well, all of those elements are very important, and I’ve seen tests where any one of them have driven astounding increases in CTR. And in such a tight space as a PPC ad, everything really works together, so it’s tough to isolate this or that part and say: this one thing is the most important element. But that said, I think the title plus call to action are really a hugely powerful combination; you can get a lot done by changing those two things.

RH: It really depends on the ad I’m trying to beat. What I do first is look for the untapped opportunity. Sometimes I find it by looking at competitors’ ads. Sometimes I find it by looking at the landing page. But whenever there’s an untapped opportunity, you should take advantage of it — whether that means changing the title, body copy, URL, etc.

Aside from awesome ad writing, what elements are most important to an effective PPC campaign?

RH: Keywords, campaign structure, bidding strategy, landing page, conversion and follow-up process. That’ll keep you busy for a while. ;-)

How does the keyword research process differ for PPC versus SEO?

RH: It actually depends on your business model. Let’s assume for a moment that you’re actually in business to sell products or services…

When you’re investigating keywords for a PPC campaign, you’re usually looking for keywords where the searcher has a strong intent to buy. This is because you must demonstrate positive ROI in a relatively short time frame (1-2 months for most people).

With SEO, you might look for keywords with less competition where the searcher is not quite ready to buy yet, but is moving in that direction. That way, you can get the searcher onto your email list, nurture that relationship, and move him/her closer to a sale.

But let’s look at a different business model: selling ad space.

If you’re in the business of selling ad space, you might be more interested in getting as much traffic as possible to justify higher rates. In which case, you’d bid on high-volume search phrases with low CPC. And for SEO, you’d target high-volume search phrases with low competition.

So your business model really determines your strategy for PPC and SEO.

What are your favorite, must-have tools – for PPC, SEO and otherwise – that you use every day?

JS: Well, for PPC, I think split testing is simply a must-have. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon to get surprise results, and one of the biggest elements of your ad’s quality score is your CTR. If you’re not optimizing for that, you’re volunteering for Google’s Stupid Tax, whereby they let lower performing advertisers pay more for their ads. Of course, I do work for BoostCTR, but don’t let that bias fool you. If you’re not split testing your PPC ads, you ought to be.

RH: For PPC, I use what’s usually referred to as an “AdWords Wrapper.” You type in one or more keywords; the AdWords Wrapper then provides you with a list that includes broad match, phrase match, and exact match formatting. Here’s a good example.

For SEO, I use a number of different tools. I use the Google Keyword Tool plus a number of paid tools for building backlinks to my website.

 

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Starting a Business From Scratch

by jenniferadams1985

If you’re thinking about going out on your own and starting your own business, there’s a lot to think about. Although there are plenty of how to books which make it sound easy and make it sound like you could very easily just work a few hours and spend the rest of the time on the beach, the reality is somewhat different.

No matter what industry you’re in, it takes time to build a business up. It takes time to build up clients, to make yourself known to customers within the industry and to establish yourself. It also takes quite a bit of time to get into the swing of things.

Things don’t always go as planned

You may have a fairly good idea of how things are going to work and what your customers want, but oftentimes, probably more often than not, you will find things going very differently to what you had written in your business plan. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the reality is more people starting out in business don’t realise what their customers want. Or they think they do, but then come across something that isn’t already in the market and focus on a new idea. Either way, starting a business isn’t just a case of copying what those who are successful are already doing.

Writing the business plan

The business plan is a big milestone. Although some modern entrepreneurs don’t believe in writing a business plan, there is still a lot to be said for getting your ideas on paper. As mentioned earlier it may be the case that your business plan isn’t what the market needs and so you might want to change things later on. This is fine. Make sure you’re comfortable with change and make sure your business plan is concrete yet adaptable to your market.

All the Small Things

The small things like finding an office, getting into a routine, organising a phone line, business electricity and all of that can take up a surprisingly large amount of your time, particularly at the beginning. Part of the reason for this is because you are very cost-conscious and don’t want to overspend too early. This is good but do keep an eye on the amount of time you spend on each task. It’s also worth networking with others who have recently gone through the same process to see if they can provide you with any tips of advice.
Finally, enjoy it. Although it’s a stressful time, it’s also an exciting time and one, hopefully, you will look back with great fondness.

Jennifer is a part of the digital blogging team at cashzilla.co.uk who work with a growing number of finance brands. For more information about me, or to keep up to date with the latest in finance news, check out my posts at cashzilla.co.uk or visit my Twitter account, @cashzilla.

 

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An Easy-To Follow Method For Ad Optimization & Testing

Apr 20, 2011 at 5:49pm ET by Crosby Grant

Most of us in the PPC world know that testing ads is a great idea – almost necessary optimization work. There are plenty of articles around the web expounding the benefits: increase QS, lower costs, boost conversion rate … all good stuff.

In this article, let’s tackle the basic block and tackling necessary to get ad testing up and working for you.

AdWords Ad Optimization

What Ad Is Better?

With ads, as with keywords, this is not always black-and-white. There are many metrics we can measure, but which should we focus on? What is better — Higher CTR or higher conversion rate? More Revenue or more margin? Higher QS or lower costs? It is possible to have really high CTR ad that costs you a ton of clicks without making sales, and vice-versa.

No simple answers here – every business is different. Let’s cover some basics and agree on some optimization parameters just so we have something interesting to talk about in the rest of the article.

Let’s consider an ad that reads something like: “Free dvd’s, porn downloads, and Myley Cyrus’ phone number.” You are definitely going to get a lot of clicks! Your widget sales at ACME company might not do so well though.

On the other hand, we could have an ad that reads something like: “Do not click here unless you want to pay $100 for a widget and have your credit card in your hand.”

You can imagine we will not get many clicks relative to the other ad. We would expect a higher conversion rate than normal for those who actually do click-through though. So we’ve got the “free dvd” ad that gets high CTR and low conversion rate, and the “don’t click” ad that gets low CTR and high conversion rates.

A third kind of ad might be the “what is that?” ad. It might read: “We are something-you-didn’t-search-for experts. Great shipping!” and it points to the homepage.

This ad might perform better than both of the above ads overall, but its notable characteristic is that it is untargeted and points to an untargeted landing page. So what do we optimize for? What is that “overall” metric?

For this article, let’s settle on one. We will use Margin. That is: (Advertising Revenue – Advertising Costs) / Advertising Revenue. At the end of the day, it is often the money in your pocket that matters.

By the way, the same techniques work regardless of what metric you choose to optimize on, but for the sake of clarity, we are going to stick with margin for this article.

AdWords “Optimize” Option

There is a Campaign setting called “Ad Rotation.” It is located near the bottom, in a section called “Advanced Settings,” then “Ad delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping.” You may need to click “edit” to reveal the options. The options are:

  • Optimize for clicks: Show ads expected to provide more clicks
  • Optimize for conversions: Show ads expected to provide more conversions
  • Rotate: Show ads more evenly
 

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