How Google Search Works (in 5 minutes)

Every time someone searches for content on the internet, there are thousands, sometimes millions, of webpages available. How Google figures out which results to show starts long before a searcher begins to type.

In brief, Google evaluates the search terms a user enters into its search engine and matches them to the content on the web, seeking the content that is most likely to be helpful and reliable and then automatically putting it all together in a search results page designed to provide the information desired.

Google has been mapping the web since 1998, which creates an “index” of content. The index is like a library, except it contains more info than in all the world’s libraries put together.

In a fraction of a second, Google’s Search algorithms sort through hundreds of billions of webpages in their Search index to find the most relevant, useful results for what searchers are seeking.

Google’s ranking algorithms are constantly evolving in an ongoing attempt to better understand and serve relevant results to users.

  • The search words used are analyzed with respect to the same or similar words on websites (keywords).
  • Additionally, existing web links leading to the pages are also analyzed, which helps inform relevancy.
  • Furthermore, geographical locations and how recent the content was published are a few other factors that help filter the final results searchers are presented.

Google’s algorithms are also continually being developed to better identify scam websites to remove them from search results.

Google engineers continue to refine search results by conducting hundreds of thousands of experiments every year, resulting in thousands of improvements. It’s a never-ending process of attempting to provide a better search experience since that’s what keeps users coming back — some of whom will click on ads, which is how Google makes money.

Good and Bad of Modern Marketing

Artificial Intelligence

With the advent of modern advertising, and internet marketing technologies in particular, has marketing and advertising become easier, more efficient and less costly?

Or in fact, has marketing become more complex, more misunderstood, less efficient and more costly? (And I’m not even talking about integrating artificial intelligence into your marketing and advertising mix).

In brief: I would answer “Yes” to both questions.

MARKETING MISUNDERSTANDINGS

21st-century marketing, particularly internet marketing services, are prone to misunderstanding.

On the one hand, the technologies of internet marketing may seem so alien to some, that the whole subject may appear confusing.

On the other hand, there are some aspects of internet marketing that are simple enough, that given an understanding of certain basics (like, say, how to create a blog), that one may consider the entire subject relatively simple.

Therein lies somewhat of a danger. As an analogy, some individuals might believe they are competent photographers because they have a digital camera and have taken some good photos. However, the difference between a competent amateur photographer and one who is a true professional can be so significant, that it defies logic and rational economics at first blush. Why will companies and/or advertising agencies pay thousands of dollars to utilize the services of a top pro as opposed to a photographer who would potentially charge a lot less, but lacks pro experience?

One reason is because the cost to re-shoot an unsuccessfully executed project can be higher than the original shoot, and in the process, careers may be damaged as a result of a failed project. Stated another way, the cost of failing now may be considerably higher than the cost of getting it right later.

In simple terms, what it takes to provide PREDICTABLY good images, under specialized and/or pressured circumstances – on demand – is so different than what it takes to turn out good photos at one’s leisure, that the value difference between an amateur and top level pro can be exponential in terms of cost.

Returning to marketing, and achieving PREDICTABLE results, the difference between an experienced marketing professional and one who is not, can, in some circumstances, equate to the success or a failure of a company. Which is why some companies will pay large sums to consult with outside marketing professionals, when they are already funding large budgets internally for marketing services.

The understanding and misunderstanding of professional marketing is further complicated by the fact that the rate of change in marketing technology, and the execution of such, has evolved in more ways since the advent of the 21st century than at any point previously. Even highly successful marketing executives who may have retired several years ago, are out of the loop in terms of modern marketing technologies.

Internet marketing has not only dramatically changed the calculus of marketing in general, but the changes are still evolving every day!

MODERN MARKETING: GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

The good news is that such changes have resulted in lowered costs in certain areas and simplified services in others. For example, setting up a website has never been easier. Nowadays, it’s possible to set up relatively sophisticated websites for a fraction of the cost of only a decade ago. Furthermore, the skill required to set up such a site is also less than what was required a decade ago.

However, the bad news is that the simplicity and low cost of setting up websites has led to misunderstandings about the “marketing” of products and services via the internet. The problem is quickly realized by any business which has set up a website and then experienced the unhappy reality of very few visitors and the website not making anywhere near the profit that was anticipated.

21ST CENTURY MARKETING: BEST NEWS

In brief, 21st-century marketing changes have resulted in good news and bad news. Here’s the best news: never before has there been so many ways to measure and quantify the results of marketing, via the internet. This means the results of “professional” and/or “amateur” marketing services are now subject to the level of scrutiny and evaluation that have long-been required in the realm of scientific discovery and advances.

Stated another way, never before have marketers, and purchasers of marketing services, been able to so effectively gauge what they are gaining from their marketing investments. The relative merits (or not) of marketing campaigns and marketing services are more transparent than ever.

“How much sales increased” is a vital statistic. But it’s also invaluable to know where those sales came from and how to improve sales further. The application of market testing in combination with modern analytics, speeds up the efficiency of marketing campaigns while reducing costs.

More importantly, in terms of establishing a marketing campaign or professional marketing services, one can better understand what lies ahead through the guidance of a marketing pro who can embrace the existing technologies, as well as a specific company’s circumstances and business goals, and coalesce these components into a customized strategy for the benefit of the client and the client’s expansion.

CUSTOMIZED, PROFESSIONAL MARKETING STRATEGIZING

For example, following is the Skyworks Marketing 4-Point Propulsion Strategy, which is a relatively simple approach to resolving dynamic and complex marketing problems and opportunities:

  • Conduct a consultative Analysis of a company’s current and/or past marketing activities.
  • Prepare and present a customized Marketing Program to expand the company, with an emphasis on low-cost, hard-hitting technologies for the most economical and sustained expansion possible.
  • Oversee execution of the Marketing Program (using the company’s staff and/or Skyworks Marketings’ resources).
  • Train company staff to apply cost-effective marketing technologies to continue to propel the company higher.

The net result of applying standard marketing principles, with modern marketing technologies (internally or externally), for the purpose of achieving marketing goals, all in combination with performance measurements, is an effective way to increase a company’s bottom line.

CONCLUSION

New marketing technologies do create marketing efficiencies. Simultaneously, they create confusion for those who do not understand the technological opportunities. This creates an apparent paradox of simplicity and complexity; efficiency and inefficiency.

The net result as it applies to you revolves around time and money: Do you have the personal bandwidth to learn it all? Or should you hire a marketing professional to guide your business growth?

The Old Way of Marketing

Marketing used to be about shouting at people loud enough and often enough with a message so they’ll be influenced by what you have to sell. (And there’s no shortage of this type of advertising nowadays).

Although the delivery of the “Big Brand” message became more subtle through the latter part of the 20th century, the concept of “frequency,” and hitting the public repetitively with the same message did not change.

For example, if you think of “Big Brand” marketing messages, such as the large soft drink manufacturers, fast food chains or car companies, the message may be designed to position their product, in your mind, with the concepts of “youth,” or “happiness,” or “luxury,” or “wealth,” and/or “family.” However, the real power has been in pushing that message out, over and over and over and over to imbue it within the public psyche.

HUGE amounts of money are invested every year to forward this model – because it works.

But if you or I don’t have multiple millions to invest in marketing the old way, we can not only gain a tremendous cost advantage by using 21st century technologies and methods, we can also achieve a greater degree of effectiveness by engaging with, and interacting with the types of prospects that are interested in our products or services!

In fact, new media marketing (which is changing and evolving as you read this) is so effective, that even the big brand advertisers are moving a larger percentage of their overall advertising budget to the internet and new media technologies.

New media marketing represents digital media native to computers and the internet for distribution. Some examples include social media, virtual worlds, website games, computer animation, interactive computer installations and digital advertising in general.

New media are often contrasted to “old media”, such as television, radio, and print media, although the distinction may be moot, since for years, these, too, have been in the process of becoming digitized.

The question is not whether 21st century marketing technologies are effective, or whether your business should avail itself of the same; the question is HOW MUCH are you taking advantage of new media and new technology marketing right now?

Internet Fraud and Work-at-Home Scams

Consumer scams are not new.

As an example, in the 1920’s, the Ponzi scheme (bogus investment swindle) was a notorious way to bilk individuals from their savings. However, the idea of that specific scam goes back earlier, to 1857, when Charles Dickens described it in his novel Little Dorrit. Back in 2008, Bernie Madoff became the operator of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, a testament that old ideas can be given a fresh suit to steal from people anew.

Of course criminal behavior goes back much earlier than Charles Dickens depicts. One of the Ten Commandments (“You shall not steal”) is indicative of how long criminal acts have been problematic to Mankind.

Nowadays, a modern way for criminals to put on a new suit is by cloaking themselves behind the Internet.

Examples of Internet Scams and Fraud

The list of ways that theft is perpetrated via the Internet is seemingly endless.

The FBI maintains a website resource of Internet Crime Schemes and how to avoid such. The FBI notes a whole bunch of common categories of Internet fraud. Here are a few:

  • Internet auction fraud
  • Non-delivery of merchandise purchased from websites
  • Credit card fraud
  • Investment fraud
  • Business fraud
  • Nigerian Letter Fraud

That last is so well known as an example of Internet fraud that the FBI lists it on the same page as its own singular category. Although it has been bilking individuals of their savings “online” since the 1990’s, the scam goes back decades earlier in the form of direct mail and faxes.

Work-at-Home Scams

Many scams can be identified with the simple admonition, “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Most work-at-home scams could be avoided by simply respecting that age-old common sense.

A work-at-home scam usually involves a victim who is lured by a home employment offer to do some simple task for a disproportionate compensation. The true purpose of such an offer is for the perpetrator to extort money from the victim, either by charging a fee to join the scheme or requiring the victim to invest in products whose resale value is misrepresented.

To be sure, there do exist legitimate work-at-home opportunities. Many people do, in fact, work in the comfort of their own homes. But anyone seeking such an employment opportunity should be wary of accepting a home employment offer and apply due diligence, common sense and the following advice from the Justice Department.

Protect Yourself from Internet Scams

Internet fraud is common. And even though “auction fraud” is one category listed by the FBI, the vast majority of purchases made via auction sites, such as eBay, are fairly transacted. In other words, only a small percentage are fraudulent. The same is true for business fraud and online credit card transactions in general: the vast majority of purchases made over the Internet are transacted fairly.

The US Justice Department lists a number of ways to avoid becoming defrauded, including:

  • Being Careful About Giving Out Valuable Personal Data Online
  • Being Especially Careful About Online Communications With Someone Who Conceals His True Identity
  • Watching Out for “Advance-Fee” Demands

For more info on protecting yourself from internet scams click on this link from the United States Department of Justice on Internet Fraud.

What is a “Performance-Oriented” Website?

network

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of a performance-oriented website is what it is “not”: It’s not a website that is merely an online brochure.

At the lowest level of effectiveness, a website that simply exists is arguably better than no website at all. (Having said that, a really poor website can lower the repute of your business, which, theoretically, could be worse than having no website in the first place).

Stated another way, if you publish a website expecting it to help you achieve any of the three purposes stated below – it won’t do so effectively – unless you take advantage of any of the many things that can be done “after” you have established a website.

Generally speaking, anything and everything that can be done to make your website proactively work for you, could be categorized as building and realizing its performance potential.

Website Purposes

If we consider that a website would have one, or more, of the following purposes, we could define performance as anything that improves such attainment:

♦ Selling a product or service

♦ Conveying information to as many individuals as possible

♦ Facilitating social and/or professional interaction

Avoid the Most Common Website Problems

A website that offers nothing more than a description of a product or service will not likely achieve much of anything, if nothing is done after it is published.

In other words, a commercial website needs to incorporate as many different promotional opportunities as possible, in order to become profitable.

However, even a non-commercial website would still benefit from the majority of web promotion strategies and technologies, to further the attainment of non-commercial purposes.

Leveraging Internet Marketing and Communication Technologies for Greater Website Performance

Very small, or very large amounts of money and resources can be engaged to further the purposes of your website.

From a practical perspective, even with an unlimited budget, it would still be prudent to approach spending on a gradient basis, with the intent of testing and tuning the various marketing elements along the way, to more effectively leverage the return of your dollars and resources.

The following is by no means an exhaustive outline of all the things that can be done to increase your website’s performance, but it certainly delineates some of the most common.

♦ A simple and inexpensive activity would revolve around establishing and regularly publishing new content to a blog. Search engines like new content and this one activity alone, over time, will boost your website’s profile on the internet.

♦ Taking advantage of the “basics” of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will further make your website’s content more friendly to the search engines and establish a greater probability that your pages will be delivered to individuals searching for what you have to offer. SEO encompasses a broad swath of activities to create more traffic to your website: some more readily learned than others. However, the most basic points are not burdensome to learn and will boost the performance of your website.

♦ Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the fastest way to generate qualified traffic to your website. It makes the most sense for commercial sites, since every click costs money. PPC advertising is easy to get started, and “used to be” an easy way to make profit. I emphasize “used to be” not because it is less effective nowadays, it’s just that it has proven to be so effective (and become so popular), that the costs have gone up tremendously since its early days and the sophistication required to excel at it has also increased. Regardless, the entire traffic and profit stream for some commercial websites revolves principally around PPC advertising.

♦ The term “joint venture” is used to describe the concept of two or more independent parties working together for economic advantage. In respect to online marketing, this can embrace a number of different types of joint venture relationships. One effective opportunity includes sharing the profits of any of your sales that are generated via an email campaign (or other promotion) from other web entities. For a specific example, check out this Simple Flow Chart for an Email Marketing Joint Venture Campaign. Joint ventures can be one-shot campaigns that may, or may not, be repeated in the future.

♦ Affiliate marketing might seem similar to a joint venture, in that it incorporates the concept of working with others to sell your products or services. However, there is a critical difference. In a joint venture, two (or more) parties are specifically and personally working together for mutual advantage. Affiliate marketing is more impersonal (at least in the beginning). Affiliates are like free agent marketers. If they are interested in your products and like your commission plan, they will drive some traffic to your site (as a test), and then will only continue to do so if it is profitable for them, and/or until they switch to selling your competitor’s products should they offer a higher commission.

♦ Taking advantage of social media networks is another way to further promote your website and business. Although many people think in terms of the no-cost opportunities related to posting content, nowadays the labor involved doesn’t always yield a positive return on one’s time investment. What is more workable is a paid social media strategy.

♦ Regardless of how few or how many of the aforementioned promotional actions you take advantage of to drive visitors to your website, one very fundamental action is setting up an auto-responder database service to automatically capture the email addresses of interested visitors (usually in exchange for some valuable info or free service), which will then allow you to keep in touch with them, to build a relationship, and to better achieve your website’s purpose.

Website Metrics

Monitoring and improving your website’s performance requires a comparative analysis of what has been achieved in the past as opposed to what is going on now, in order to boost the performance for tomorrow. The most fundamental metric for commercial sites is conversions, which can mean sales, or email subscribers, or white paper downloads, more information requests, or any key performance metric that results in value for your organization. But it can also include metrics like how many people visited your website, how long they stayed on the website, how many pages they visited, how many visited high-value pages (such as sales pages), how many videos were watched, how long the videos were watched, how many people filled out a survey and so on.

Conclusion

A performance-oriented website is really the centerpiece of a proactive and strategic marketing activity and process, which includes driving visitors to the site, converting them to take some action (i.e., purchase a product, request some free info, enter their name/email into a form, etc.), all of which is quantified in terms of website metrics for the sake of improving the performance of your website, in respect to its individual purpose(s).

What is a Website’s Value?

I’ve purchased a few websites over the years from previous owners, and “How to determine a web site’s value” has always been a part of such discussions leading to a successful transaction (or not).

There is considerably more information available nowadays, but the common theme is what you and I have understood about evaluating the worth of any item: The final value of a website is determined between a buyer and seller.

Regardless, following is some practical info about a website’s value.

Profitable Websites vs. Websites that are Not

Although the ways to value a website are quite varied, there is a dividing line between websites that make a profit and those that don’t.

1) Websites that cannot prove profitability are subject to greater whimsy in terms of valuation between buyer and seller.

2) Websites that can prove profitability can be more effectively valued, but the ultimate worth is still subject to many factors that have varying degrees of importance between buyers and sellers.

In either case, sellers tend to believe their sites are worth more than some hypothetical reality, and buyers tend to believe they are worth less than some hypothetical average, so establishing some basis for discussion at least can allow a discussion to occur.

Valuing a Website Based On Revenue

One general rule for determining a website’s value is multiplying the monthly revenue into the future for 2 to 3 years. The idea is to establish a “range” of value. For example, 24 months and 36 months multiplies by its monthly revenue (let’s say $1,000 per month) would be $24,000 to $36,000.

Website Value Calculators

Not all websites have revenue. They still have value based upon traffic, social media following, email subscribers, web ranking and more.

There are a number of free tools for determining a website’s value. Just do a search for “Website Value Calculator” and you’ll find a bunch.

These tools may be interesting in regards to starting a conversation. But do not rely upon them as a reflection of true worth.

In the end, the final value of a website is determined between a buyer and seller. “How motivated is the seller?” And “How interested is the buyer?” will always be factors that inform a successful transaction or no transaction.

The Four Fundamentals of Database Marketing

The subject of databases and database marketing usually does not inspire most people’s imagination, in the same way as say, finding long-lost buried treasure.

However, as an apt comparison, effective use of databases is analogous to finding buried treasure – it’s just hidden within your own business.

Database marketing refers to leveraging information about your customers and/or prospects, for the purpose of generating more sales and profit. Computer databases make the whole process simpler and faster.

Although there is much one can know about database marketing, for this overview, we’re simply going to address databases from a high-level perspective, and not delve into the many ways that database information can be dissected to yield even more efficiencies and profit.

Let’s look at the four fundamentals of database marketing.

1) You Need a Database

The first and most obvious fundamental is that you need a database. Any database.

Although this may seem too obvious to state, here in the 21st century, there are still companies that are so focused on selling and delivering products and services that they haven’t had the time to go through the process of converting paper records into a database.

And although creating a database from past records won’t likely be featured within your favorite list of business projects to contemplate, even starting a database is better than having no database at all.

At least any effort it takes to begin a database, even if it’s not companywide to begin with, is a step in the right direction.

Having said that, converting old records to a database is very desirable.

2) Update The Database

Fundamental #2, you need to update the database. Setting up a customer database, or prospect database, and not updating it with ongoing information has very little value. It’s almost like having a map of where to find the buried treasure, but not using it.

And to be clear, by “updating the database,” I’m simply referring to putting pertinent information into it. And continuing to do so.

As an example, whether updating your Customer Relationship Management database, Inventory Tracking Database, Payroll and Scheduling Database or other business databases, such requires diligent updating of all relevant information to maximize their value.

3) Analyze The Data

The third fundamental is where database marketing begins to better parallel the idea of digging for buried treasure. Except in this case, you can have a very high certainty that there is treasure to be found. However, a better way to describe the “digging for treasure” would be to call it “analyzing the data” for ways to better market your products and/or services or to insinuate efficiencies into your business processes. And this kind of treasure reveals more and more of itself the more you dig.

Stated another way, you will not receive the payoff until you analyze and act on the data.

4) Act On The Data To Generate More Sales

Acting on the data to generate more sales would be analogous to contacting the treasure chest with your shovel and actually pulling it up.

In the spirit of keeping this short and on point, and merely reflecting a high-level perspective, recognize that the process of analyzing the data and extracting the treasure will vary from business to business.

If we considered a spectrum of applications of database marketing, from simple to more complex: on the easiest side of the spectrum we’d have examples like sending seasonal emails to past buyers who made seasonal purchases. If they bought holiday gifts last year, send them an email promotion about buying holiday gifts from you this year.

A slightly more complex example would be to isolate those prospects in your database whose contact information was derived from a specific series of trade expos over the past 3 years. Once that segment of your database has been established, then conduct an email and telemarketing campaign featuring a new product or service that is directly pertinent to that niche.

A more complex aspect of the spectrum would be paying to have your database of customers and/or prospects cross-referenced through a national database clearinghouse to find which of the customers who purchased running shoes from you in the past, might also be camping or hiking enthusiasts. In which case, they would be good prospects to email and to send direct mail promotional offers about your new line of hiking boots.

There are more sophisticated ways to leverage the value of any business database but this simple overview expresses the fundamentals of what database marketing is about.

Should You Offer a Paid Online Newsletter?

A client of mine has been entertaining the concept of offering a paid newsletter. It certainly seems compelling: Write an ongoing valuable stream of content to attract more and more subscribers, which equates to more and more profit for roughly the same amount of work.

My reply was to note that this model was more popular fifteen years ago, although it is certainly still in existence today. However, as the earlier success of online email newsletters grew popular, the concept of offering them for free, as a low-cost marketing media, also garnered success. So much so, that in this day and age, free newsletters of some sort are so ubiquitous that they REALLY need to be compelling to stand out.

Regardless, that does not suggest that you should not consider offering one yourself. Or stated more specifically, you should offer something free in exchange for the email addresses of visitors, so that you can build a relationship with them and keep them connected to you, which will make them more amenable to paying money to you.

Offering A Paid Newsletter

But I diverge. The subject here is offering a “paid” newsletter!

In simple terms, if you were to offer a newsletter that results in 1000 subscribers who pay $100 dollars per year, then you would establish a $100,000.00 annual revenue stream. Of course, if you were to double that number of subscribers, your revenue would double, and your workload would not.

But what would it take to generate 1000 paying subscribers?

Well, one thing is for sure, you’ll need to reach out to exponentially more than 1000 potential subscribers to hope for that kind of paid newsletter base. And that will take some amount of marketing and/or publicity, which also will take some amount of time.

And let’s not forget attrition. Some amount of subscribers will cancel their subscriptions. This is a routine metric to monitor for both free and paid newsletters.

In this day and age, with so much that is readily available for free on the Internet, the idea of paying for online subscriptions is a more difficult revenue model to master.

The point is that although a newsletter-only model would offer revenue, what it would take to make it really viable precludes it from being a basket to put all one’s eggs in.

Direct Response Monetization Model

Now, I’m not suggesting that a paid newsletter be ruled out. In fact, what I suggested for this client is a more traditional online direct response monetization model that would include a paid newsletter.

1) Attract readers and subscribers with free content (consider it advertising). Driving traffic to the free content could entail the use of any, all or a combination of the following: a blog, social media, pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization, online lead generation services, online press release distribution, joint ventures, affiliate marketing and more.

2) Offer some product/service for sale, ideally including a relatively low-price information product that is high quality and fulfills a need. This may be a special research report, review, analysis, or “how to” manual that is less than $50. The idea is to make the barrier to a customer’s first purchase from your business low enough that it does not require too much of a commitment from a wary public. (You could even make the product less than $20 or $30). This is where a paid newsletter could fit, and/or at any (or each) of the following steps.

3) Offer a higher priced information product that is also high quality and fulfills a need. This might entail the creation and development of a more involved training or educational multi-media product, which would include a manual, a workbook, DVDs and/or CD’s with audio and/or video educational materials and perhaps additional references. This could be a few hundred dollars, or more, depending upon the uniqueness, need, perceived value and competitiveness of the market.

4) Offer higher priced products and or “services.” At this point, the term “services” is introduced as it could include access to your expertise. By that, it could mean access to you via teleseminars, webinars, live seminars at a hotel and/or personal one-on-one phone consultations. At this point the fees could be substantially higher, including several thousand dollars for a specific period of time (a weekend; training once a week over a month; or 6 weeks; 10 weeks; etc). Alternatively, the fee could be paid monthly, on the order of many hundreds of dollars (or higher) and the subscribers would continue to pay as long as they derive the expected value and/or achieve the results they are after.

Although this latter part may seem to be the fundamental economic engine for your enterprise, and worthy of the total focus of all your activities, each preceding lower-cost offering is an important step towards your most valuable products and services. Additionally, your largest revenue generation service would not require expensive outbound marketing, as it would enjoy inbound interest which is a result of all the marketing efforts directed towards the lower cost products.

Stated succinctly, the idea here is to continue to expand a circle of influence while inspiring those interested in your services to self-select themselves into a sales funnel that results in an ever expanding opportunity for higher cost, higher quality information, products and services, which could ultimately include a level of personal access.

Obviously, one would need to maintain high quality standards throughout the process, as the concept of a percentage of your buyers seeking greater and greater value, necessitates that their needs and expectations are met at each of the lower cost levels.

Internet Backlash

One more point is worth noting. The Internet is a fantastic media for getting your message out, and it’s just as easy for anyone else to do the same – and many do. But this includes a great variety of messages, good and bad. Really, ANYONE can say anything they want. And people do.

More to the point, along the way a small percentage of individuals are going to express disagreements, protests, mud slinging, etc., regardless of how well researched and accurately presented your products and services are.

Some of this backlash can be a source of valuable information for improvement and refinement. Some of it will just need to be ignored. As long as you are truly offering something of value, just consider that such backlash is garnering attention for your products and services and is additional promotion for your cause.

Conclusion

The net result of this client meeting was my suggestion that offering a paid newsletter service should be considered after getting more data, such as a survey of existing free subscribers. If that looked positive, initiate some test advertising to see what kind of results would be generated before committing to the content production required for full development of a paid newsletter.

What is a Landing Page?

A landing page is a special type of website sales page. It may be a page that directly sells a product or service. Alternatively, it could be a web page that sells visitors on the benefits of entering their name and email address in exchange for a free download; or to get more information about a product or service (usually for more expensive or complex products or services); or to subscribe to a newsletter; or to register for a contest; or to call for more information; or for any of many other types of lead generation strategies.

In most cases a landing page is not a home page (although there are exceptions – including for certain websites that only sell one product or service).

In certain limited examples, a landing page is not even part of a website’s navigation menu, which means that users would not end up on such a page as a result of browsing a particular website. They would arrive, or land there, by being purposefully directed to that page via an email, or an advertisement. (By the way, the advertisement could be an ad on one’s own site, in addition to other sites).

Landing Page Expectations

Typically, a visitor “lands” on a landing page via an advertisement (such as PPC or other ads), e-mail, or search listing. That initial message establishes the viewer’s expectation for what the user anticipates he or she will see when they click on a link that leads them to your landing page.

An obvious point that contributes to the sales success of any landing page is how well the landing page delivers on the expectation of the ad or email that drove the visitor to the landing page.

If a person clicks on an ad, or email, or search result, desiring a solution to a problem, or more information, or certain details, only to land on a generalized page about a company (such as a home page), then the visitor is forced to search again for the information that brought him or her to the site. Most visitors will leave such a site and look for another website that makes it easier for the searcher to find what they’re after.

For example, if a searcher clicks on an ad that describes a sale for a particular brand of motorcycle tire, only to land on the home page of a motorcycle dealer’s website that features all kinds of motorcycles, helmets, jackets, accessories, parts, mechanical services – as well as motorcycle tires – the visitor would be forced to do further searching on the dealer’s website to find the tire sale. Many visitors will leave such a website disappointed, and continue their search for a site that will show them the exact motorcycle tire they’re after.

A better example would be a searcher who clicks on an ad for a particular brand of motorcycle tire, and arrives on a web page that has a picture of that exact tire, with the regular price, the sale price, the tire’s specifications, shipping details, a phone number to call for any questions, and a very easy-to-see “BUY” button (or “Add to Shopping Cart”), so that such a consumer can get the info they’re after (if they want), but more importantly, so they make their purchase and move on with their day.

Landing Page Call-to-Action

The “call-to-action” is what you want the visitor to do, such as make a purchase, download some information, make a phone call, etc. In the above example, the call-to-action is represented by a very prominent “BUY” button.

Whatever it is you want the visitor to do, be sure to clearly state it on the landing page. Any visitor should be able to quickly identify what their expected action is.

Market Testing Landing Pages

There is more that one can know about landing pages, including not distracting visitors from the main intent of the web page. Hence, landing pages can be made more effective by “not” including other advertisements.

More importantly, landing pages can be made more effective by testing, testing and more testing. Market testing landing page variables such as the wording in the headlines, copywriting, the placement of “more details,” and product images are among some of the fundamental items that should be statistically compared and then refined.

How To Start And Grow A Tech Company

Mint CEO, Aaron Patzer, gave a presentation on building startups from the ground up.

He started Mint with an idea about handling personal finances more efficiently. He turned the idea into a company and built it from the ground up and sold it for $170 million in less than three years.

This video is one of the most revelatory resources I have come across in terms of providing real-world finance and start up details.

Following are some notes from the video.

Three Phases of Startup Business Growth

  • Phase 1: Garage (<$100K)
  • Phase 2: Seed (<$1m)
  • Phase 3: Funded (>$1m)

Phase 1: Garage Goal

  • Main goal is to build a prototype
  • Question: How do venture capitalists and angel investors determine the value of a company that has no product and no revenue?
  • Answer: Pre-revenue valuation:
    • +$500K/engineer (prototype development)
    • -$250k/business guy (idea, market research, biz plan)

Phase 1: Garage Expenses

  • Founders: living expenses $30k/yr
  • Engineering First Hires: low salary, high equity (1-5%) $30-50K year
  • Office: by the cube, $400 /cube/month
  • Tech: laptops, couple of servers, development software, $10K
  • Legal: Corporate setup, deferred payment for 0.50 – 0.75% of company
  • TOTAL with 2 founders + 1 engineer/contractor = $150k / year burn (Assumes 1 technical + 1 business founder)
  • Need to raise seed money within 9 months

Phase 2: Seed Goal

  • Main goal is an alpha launch of the prototype
  • The product needs to be usable, but not a polished or scalable product
  • Headcount: 5-6
  • 3-4 engineers
    • 1 product developer / frontend specialist
    • 1 business generalist to do everything: fund raising, sales, marketing, recruiting, etc.

Phase 2: Seed Expenses

  • Salaries: Equity decreases, salaries rise, but below market, $50-90k per yr, total $450K/yr
  • Overhead: Facilities + benefits + taxes + food + laptops, +20%, total $100k/yr
  • Legal: VCs will make you pay for the financing, $25k incorporation, $2k/mo general, total $50k
  • Total burn for 5-6 person team = $600k / yr
  • Need to raise series A funding within 12 month

Phase 2: Seed Revenue Projections

  • Your absolute revenue projections will be worthless.
  • However, projections based on what you will make per product, per user or per transaction is best. If there’s a big market, investors can figure out realistic earnings.
  • Walk investors through your revenue projections very linearly. Go from website, into revenue stream, scaling, etc.

Phase 3: Funded Goal

  • Goal: Launch a real product and grow a profitable business

Phase 3: Funded Expenses

  • Salaries and Overhead: Salaries at market + taxes + facilities – $200k /yr
  • COG’s: Customer service, SMS, bandwidth, servers to scale – widely varying
  • Legal: contracts, patents, employment scale up with headcount – $10-50k / month
  • Total burn with 30 person team = $6.0m / yr
  • “Hidden” expenses:
    • Legal: patents, trademarks, contracts, financing, employment, immigration
    • Consultants: SEO, SEM, design, logos, DB tuning, etc.
  • Need to be profitable with 2 years

See the whole post on TechCrunch: Startups 101: The Complete Mint Presentation.