Web 2.0 for Publishers

January 30th, 2007

In this presentation to The Wisconsin Publishersâ?? Production Club‘s (WPPC) Catalog Innovations meeting in January, Netconcepts’ Director of E-Business, Hershel Reese explains how Web 2.0 has great implications for catalogers and publishers online.

RSS feeds are changing the way people are consuming their media. You need to stay on top of this channel in order to remain competitive online.

Web 2.0 is also changing the way people interact with web properties. The user generated content phenomena is helping site owners to actively engage an audience and build community online.

This presentation will also discuss how one online publisher,, is leveraging the Web 2.0 tool kit.

Social Media Sites are emerging as a channel to be reckoned with online. If you are not participating in these communities you are missing opportunities for increased brand recognition and traffic to your sites.

You Will Discover:

  • Best practices for RSS usage
  • The benefits of user generated content
  • Why tagging matters for website owners
  • How industry leaders are leveraging Web 2.0
  • How social media can bump up your traffic and impressions

This presentation was originally held on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at The Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee, WI.

Five Tips for Making the Most of Blogs

October 24th, 2006


Originally published in FundRaising Success

Abny Santicola, Editor, FundRaising Success Advisor, calls on the expertise of Netconcepts’ Founder and President, Stephan Spencer last week at Direct Marketing Associationâ??s (DMA) Annual Conference & Expo in San Francisco. Abny caught up with Spencer after his “Blogs, Podcasts and RSS: New Tools for Customer Acquisition and CRM” conference session.

In this article, Spencer discusses how blogs can serve as great marketing tools for non-profit organizations as well. Spencer also shares his success with, humanitarian organization and personal blog of former President Jimmy Carter, The Carter Center.

Spencer closes with 5 insider-tips for making the most of a blog.

Read this entire article and learn key blog concepts to put your non-profit on the blogosphere map.

Increasing Your Blog Traffic

September 1st, 2006


Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz has graciously shared 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic, and there are some gems in there. I’d like to piggyback on a few of Rand’s points:

  • 1. Choose the Right Blog Software (or Custom Build) — I’d say that over 95% of the time, WordPress will do the job and will be scalable for future needs. I have yet to come across a client blog project that necessitated a custom-built blog software.
  • 2. Host Your Blog Directly on Your Domain — Rand makes a bold statement: “Hosting your blog on a different domain from your primary site is one of the worst mistakes you can make.” I disagree. I can think of numerous examples where the blog is more trusted, more buzzworthy, and/or more linkworthy because it’s at an arms length from the company’s site. Consider the hypothetical example of an insurance conglomerate authoring a blog about getting a healthier lifestyle, in order to attract prospects to sell insurance to. Such a blog at sounds helpful and unbiased, whereas having it at (remember, hypothetical example… metlife is just used here to illustrate the point) comes off as salesy and self-serving.
  • 4. Participate at Related Forums & Blogs — I’d just like to make it clear that you’re not doing this for link juice (most links in blog comments and forum posts have “link condoms” (rel=nofollow tags) automatically added). Instead, you’re doing this to increase your visibility to, and credibility with, bloggers who read those blogs and forums.
  • 9. Invite Guest Bloggers — I really like this idea, and I’d like to add my suggestion that you also do phone or Skype interviews of guests and podcast those on your blog.
  • 15. Archive Effectively — Rand highlights a tough balancing act: “For search traffic (particularly long tail terms), it can be best to offer the full content of every post in a category on the archive pages, but from a usability standpoint, just linking to each post is far better (possibly with a very short snippet). ” I find the “Optional Excerpt” in WordPress to be invaluable for achieving this balance. The Optional Excerpt is one of the fields in the Write Post form that most bloggers ignore, but if you use it, you can code your non-permalink pages (like your category pages) to display the excerpt instead of the full post or instead of the paragraphs proceeding a “more” tag in your post copy. That’s exactly what we’ve done on my company’s corporate site, which runs on WordPress — for example, all the testimonials listed on our Testimonials tag page display excerpts. That gives you more flexibility to summarize and highlight particular sections or keywords from the full post.
  • 16. Implement Smart URLs — Rand says that “just re-writing a ?ID=450 to /450 has improved search traffic considerably on several blogs we’ve worked with.” I would definitely agree with that. We too have evidence that a blog or site with rewritten URLs flows PageRank more efficiently throughout the site. So don’t rest on your laurels if you have a blog with dynamic URLs, even if your blog is fully indexed by the engines. Your pages will rank better if you rewrite the URLs.
  • 19. Make Effective Use of High Traffic Days — What a great idea, to watch your traffic and increase your posting frequency and posting quality on days where your traffic is highest! It makes the best use of the traffic spikes. In fact, you might even want to hold back on publishing your very best posts and instead save them for high-traffic days.

Partnering up has its advantages

July 27th, 2006


Have you considered incorporating content partners and marketing partners into your online strategy? For example, partnering with content providers who could augment your own content with additional related content? Or partering with sites whose visitors match your target market?… If, for example, you wanted to reach women online, you could partner with a site like and build a microsite together, then have them promote it through their site and subscription lists.

Think about the sites you advertise on as potential partners. Join forces and create a microsite together and then promote it to a joint captive audience. Or make a deal with them and syndicate some useful content onto their site. For example, you could develop a whole library of useful tips and, rather than doing standard banner ads, you could provide these tips to your partner, who would then fold it with the rest of their content. Et voila!… “Sponsored content”!

Even better if, between the two of you, you can develop some sort of “hook” or viral component, such as a funny video, an addictive game, a downloadable ebook, worksheet, calculator, widget, etc…

Got an example to share of a site where the whole is greater than the sum of the partners? Post a comment!

New WordPress Plugin for SEO

July 14th, 2006


I’ve just released “SEO Title Tag”, a plugin for WordPress. As the name implies, it allows you to optimize your WordPress site’s title tags in ways not supported by the default WordPress installation. For example:

  • If you define a custom field (called “title_tag”) when writing or editing a post (or static page), that custom field will then be displayed as the title tag.
  • The post title and blog name are reversed for better keyword prominence within the title tag.
  • You can shorten or eliminate the blog name altogether from your title tags.
  • You can define a custom title tag for your home page through the Options page.
  • It will use the category’s description as the title on category pages (when defined).
  • If you’re using the UltimateTagWarrior plugin, it will put the tag name in the titles on tag pages.
  • It will also cook you dinner and all sorts of other amazing, useful stuff (not really).

Get the plugin now: SEO Title Tag WordPress Plugin

I’d love your feedback, as this is my first WordPress plugin.


Your link building strategy, PageRank, & pieces of the linking puzzle

July 12th, 2006


Link building is not all about transferring PageRank. Don’t get caught in the trap of basing your decision on high PageRank score alone. There are other considerations to be taken into account.

For example, your backlinks need to represent a range of importance scores (PageRank) so that Google doesn’t construe your link network as unnatural. Building links exclusively or mostly from high PageRank endowed sites may flag your site for artificially trying to boost your PageRank. And do you really want to attract additional scrutiny?

For long term benefit and security, sites that are selected for inbound links should be from an on-topic neighborhood, have aged domains, and if possible, have .edu and .gov sites in there. The list of sites needs to be analyzed to ensure that there are no technical limitations that slow the flow of “link gain” (e.g. PageRank). For example, the directory has let pages with session IDs (“PHPSESSID”) in the URLs slip into the indices, which makes it less ideal as a backlink.

In general, all links help (unless from “bad neighborhoods”), regardless of their PageRank. Some of the links NEED to be topically-relevant or your site is going to appear unfocused and the links won’t appear to have been “earned,” but instead bought, borrowed, bartered or stolen.

Directory submissions should be a component of your link building strategy, but don’t put too much emphasis on them. As Stuntdubl says, you need to balance the link equation and not rely too heavily on directories, and you need to spread your submissions out over time.

Certain directories are considered to be “hubs” or “authorities” or both (unfortunately only the search engines know which ones, so try to cover your bases as best you can), in which case it may be used by a search engine as an indicator of the topically-relevant neighborhood that your site belongs in.

Bear in mind that toolbar PR scores are months old and can’t really be trusted. The REAL PageRank is outside of our grasp, locked up within the Googleplex.

Also bear in mind that PageRank is Google-specific. That’s not to say that you can’t use PageRank to make some inferences about the importance of a page in the eyes of Yahoo! and MSN Search. The concept of “link gain” or weighted link popularity is alive and well at Yahoo and Microsoft, they just have different ways of calculating it and names for it. At Yahoo it’s been referred to as “Web Rank” and “link flux” (a term from their days at Inktomi). I don’t know what MSN calls it. The higher the PageRank, the more useful it is as an indicator of a powerfully important site across all 3 engines. For example, I’d have little doubt that a PageRank 9 link would be an amazing link opportunity that would reap benefits across Google, Yahoo, and MSN Search.

The death of the pop-up

June 30th, 2006


Seems like just about every toolbar out there includes a popup blocker (e.g. Google Toolbar, Yahoo Companion Toolbar). Plus, many web browsers are offering this capability built in. In addition, there’s antivirus / personal firewall security software like Norton Internet Security that blocks pop-ups (heck, Norton is so overly zealous, it strips out referrers so web marketers can’t tell where their traffic came from!).

Furthermore, don’t count on content within a pop-up getting indexed in the search engines. That’s because pop-ups rely on JavaScript — a roadblock to search engine spiders.

The short of it is, my advice is this: stop using pop-ups.

Online retailers doing wikis?

June 27th, 2006


In the past I’ve made the case for using wikis for online marketing.

Perusing recently I saw that there were already over 7500 product wikis contributed by Amazon customers. Cool! (Unfortunately not a single one of their wikis is indexed in Google because of the search engine unfriendly way they’ve implemented wikis on their site. Indeed, I couldn’t even find a way to link to their wikis from here, because links like this one expire and stop working after a while.)

It made me wonder how many other e-commerce sites were embracing wikis as a way to augment their product information and encourage customer participation in the site. I??haven’t heard of any other online retailers doing this.

Know of any etailers experimenting with wikis?

There is the ShopWiki website, which is not an online retailer but a site targeted to online retail. ShopWiki was founded by Kevin Ryan and Dwight Merriman (DoubleClick’s former CEO and former CTO, respectively). There is some good stuff in ShopWiki. For example, if you are looking to buy a compound bow, there is great buying guide as well as an explanation of how a compound bow works, type of material used in its manufacture, etc. (Unfortunately, like with Amazon’s wikis, ShopWiki’s wikis — including their buying guide on the compound bow — aren’t making it into Google. Fewer than 72 wiki pages are indexed).

Not strictly an online retail wiki, yet it overlaps partially with the ShopWiki is wikiHow, a how-to manual launched by the dotcom eHow. I am unclear why eHow started a separate wiki rather than folding it into I think they should have just opened up their eHow site for user contributions.

I think a wiki is especially suited to applications such as buyers guides, encyclopedias, glossaries, manuals, travel guides, etc when you want to elicit user contributions without making visible a lot of back-and-forth discussion. The real value is in the final product, not in the discussion that got to that point. That is where a wiki really shines.

The Long Tail and prioritizing your time on design and SEO

June 26th, 2006


I am a big fan of the Long Tail, the term coined by Chris Anderson, Executive Editor of Wired Magazine to refer to what happens in economics when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone.

In this article I found it quite interesting that UIE applied the concept of the Long Tail to prioritizing where you spend the bulk of your time on design and usability. Sure, there are a few pages that get a large chunk of traffic, such as the home page, but that doesn’t mean that that is where you should spend most of your design time. Instead look at the buckets of pages that add up to a large chunk of your traffic. For example, if all of the articles on your site add up to a large amount of your traffic, then you should spend a reasonable amount of your time in your redesign focusing on the articles template.

I think this same argument applies to search engine optimization (SEO) as well as to design. If your product pages account for 50% of your traffic, half of your SEO time should be spent on the product pages (rather than your articles, FAQs, etc.).

Spend your time on the tail!

When advertisers hurt your brand

June 26th, 2006


The other day when I was on I kept getting this tasteless banner ad:

Not only did I find the ad irritating and gross, I thought less of the White Pages brand after I saw it. It is an animated GIF banner, where the piece of poo actually flies across the ad from left to right and then hits the spinning fan, making the whole banner go brown. Nice.

Whoever at the White Pages approved that banner ad for publication should be fired.

I have also seen plenty of ads placed in email campaigns that hurt the brand. Here’s an ad in an newsletter that cheapened the JupiterMedia brand while simultaneously flagging the email for spam filters (the Alt tag associated with this banner ad was “Work From Home” — a terrible thing to say in an email campaign if you want your campaign delivered):

It always amazes me how email ads get approved when it’s so obvious that they are going to cause the campaign’s deliverability to tank. Like this one:

Some people think email marketing is horribly expensive. If only they knew about VerticalResponse. We give you the power to create, send, and track your email campaign, right from your web browser — for less than 1c an email! NO set-up fees, NO contracts, NO hidden charges. And it’s easy, too! See for yourself by creating your own test mailing — FREE. Get started today!

Some big no-no phrases in the above email ad, including: “no hidden charges” and “see for yourself”.

In short, your website and your email campaigns are a reflection of your brand. The advertising you accept for display on your site and in your emails is also a reflection of your brand. So think carefully before you take on an advertiser or accept a creative that isn’t “on message.”