Cheap internet marketing tricks - counting impressions

Counting clicks is one thing, and counting impressions is something else. Everyone who is anyone in internet marketing counts both. Google does it, and Amazon does it. All the merchants who use Commission Junction do it too.

An impression happens every time someone sees your link or ad, whether they click on it or not. The ratio of impressions to clicks tells you something about the efficacy of your ad or link. Counting impressions is fairly easy by counting the number of time an image is displayed on a page. Amazon and Commission Junction use tiny little 1 x 1 pixel images with text links, so that things don't get slowed down much, but any image will do the job.

If you have access to a server log, that is one crude way of counting the number of times an image file is accessed, or a simple PHP script will also work. But, what if you don't have access to a server, don't know a log from a hole in the ground, or never heard of PHP?

There's a simple trick you can use.

working image
Bit.ly is a free link shortening service, but it also works with image links. Bit.ly records stats on how often the shortened link is accessed. Usually, for a normal link, this would mean that the link was clicked upon, but an image link does not require a user to click it. The link is accessed every time the page is accessed and the image displays. Thus, it keeps a rough count of impressions.

Webinars: What's the point

I receive a lot of invitations to webinars, and many of them are free. I never accept the invitations anymore, even for the many that I find to offer an interesting topic. With webinars it is always for a specific time and a specific date that I have to 1. Remember, and 2. Not be doing something else.

What's the point of that?

The technology of webinars offers a fine opportunity for intense interaction that does not require travel or taking a shower, but just to listen to a presentation? I'm interested in webinars for the purpose of learning something new, and not to offer what I already know. As for the possibility of asking questions live, if that is even made available, it is fairly useless to me.

All my best question arise at least three hours after the presentation is over, and everyone has gone home.

Record your presentation and put it on YouTube so I can watch it at 3 AM, which is sometimes best for me. Don't ask me to be sitting in front of my computer for an hour at a time certain and with a date fixed by you. It goes against my basic principles.

Give me a pause button at least, so that I can get up and walk around when it all gets too boring for me.


The value of a good email subject line

Last month Salon.com switched away from using "Salon Daily Newsletter" as the subject line of its emails. Now, such subjects lines as "Salon Daily: The 10 most compelling on-screen gangsters" show up in my email inbox.

Think about it. Which type of subject line would most likely inspire you to open an email? An unopened and unread email is like no email at all. Worse, in fact. An unopened email is an unwanted email with your name on it. An unwanted email is inbox clutter, and very likely it will soon be deleted.

A good email subject line gives the recipient a reason to open and read the email. From a marketing point of view, that is its main function, but the subject line must also accurately identify the content of the email. People do not like being tricked.


Free advice to a book author

I'm no different from anyone else in that I form quick judgments on minimal information. That's just the way the human mind works, it seems to me.

Based on totally insufficient information, I almost instantly pigeon-holed your new book as "spiritual romance," or chick book. Then I compare it to my pigeon-hole image of myself, and ask, "Am I the type of person who reads spiritual romance stories?," and the answer is "no."

This is undoubtedly unfair both to you and your book, but that's what you're up against, or something similar.

Some people read books as an enjoyable way to structure time. Others read books because they believe doing so will give them new information or perspective. Where does your book fit here?

Your book has a natural preexisting audience, I'm sure. I hope. Establishing a brand new category is nearly impossible in the sort-term. There is no such thing as a book for everyone.

There is a lot to be said on the subject of marketing books. I think a good question to ask and to answer with every mention of your book is this: "This is a book for __ (fill in blank) __"

Focus on the reader rather than on the book.

Hope this helps some.


A social solution in search of a problem

Brightkite.com has recently introduced a new small group SMS text messaging system they call Group Text. Group Text is a many to many chat system developed by Brightkite. It enables you to communicate in real time with up to 25 people via SMS, web, mobile web and dedicated mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Symbian. In other words, you can message a lot of people at once for free in real time and when someone responds to that message, everyone in the group sees it too - kind of like a "reply all" in Email conversations. It's free. Can you think of a use for it?


Google social network fun and games

The chatter these days is about the new Google social network about which something new will be announced later this Fall, but hardly anyone I've noticed is talking about the Google social network that already exists. Google has been building it for years, and Google introduces new features nearly every week. They just don't make a big fuss about it because it is so incremental.

Maybe there will be a big splash later this year with a new roll-out, but maybe the big splash will be that Google just tells folks what they have been working on and slowly introducing all along. It will seem like a big splash and a surprise. One of the tricks is that Gmail is still by invitation only, as far as I know. You can't just go and sign up for a Gmail account because you want one, and the main way to notice the many social features that are, as of right now, up and running is to have been using the Gmail service for a while, in connection with Google Buzz, Google account profile, Google Voice, Google Reader, and Feedburner, to name what seem to be the most important ones. Oh, I forgot that Google Blogger, along with other blog platforms can be integrated through the Google Buzz connections.

I read today that Facebook and Skype are negotiating an integration of services somehow.

Google is already doing telephony in a much bigger and broader way. Say Android. Do you know about Google Voice?

The best thing about the existing Google social network is the expansiveness of it. It's not at all like living in a box, as with some social networks I've encountered.

If Google really has a bunch of new features that are soon to hit the streets, I'm excited.


Apple's gross profit margin on new iPod Nano

Apple's gross profit margin on new iPod Nano is about 70% (330% markup), according to Boy Genius Report. This is with Apple's strong pre-existing market position, a large and experienced manufacturing ability, and nearly guaranteed sales of a bazillion units.

Each $149 iPod Nano costs Apple about $45 to manufacture, says Boy Genius.  

Market gap analysis - Setting the reference point

The beginning is the most important part. It is here that you set your goals and constraints about an opportunity that has not yet been discovered. It is important because it is so much easier to be hard-headed about the business practicalities before you fall in love with an idea and get carried away with wishful thinking. When I say "business practicalities" I do not necessarily imply a project optimized for monetary profit. Non-profit organizations labor under the same "business practicalities" as everyone else. They just don't have to pay income taxes.

Goals and constraints relate to what you want to get out of a project and what you are willing to put into it. Just for the sake of simplicity, the discussion will focus on business-for-profit. Monetary profits are so much easier to measure, but the same considerations apply to a not-for-profit opportunity search.

Instead of "business practicalities," you can also read it as "sustainable."

A comprehensive set of goals and constraints, established in writing at the very beginning, is important because of the powerful distortions inevitably introduced by the emotional attachments that arise once imagination is engaged. You fall in love with your own ideas and wishful thinking swamps rationality and prudence. But, with a written set of goals and constraints, it is sometimes possible to pull yourself out of your own business fantasies.

One common tendency is to understate both goals and constraints. You think you can succeed with a smaller profit margin than what you actually need, it will take less time than is realistic, and it costs more in money and effort than what you imagined. Overstate goals and constraints in your written reference point, and understate the expectations for any particular opportunity.

As the maxim goes, "Aim High. That way you will at least avoid shooting off your own foot."


Market research - Trade publications

Whether you are searching for business customers, partners, vendors, or competitors, industry trade publications are an efficient source for current information. Finding trade publications is made easy through TradePub.com.

TradePub.com offers an uncounted number of industry trade publications and white papers, most of which are available as digital downloads. The purpose behind making these publications available for free is to generate qualified leads. The idea is that you are a potential customer, and the publications are made available to you only if you agree to be contacted with quotes and offers.

It's a small price to pay.

The digital publications are easy to obtain, but there are a few which are available in print only. These, I suspect, are screened carefully and are more difficult to get.

Even at that, if your need is great enough and you have a compelling story, you can probably talk your way into receiving a complimentary copy.

Other sources:
Yahoo directory
Entrepeneur Trade publication directory
ImportExportHelp.com - Directory of trade publications
Directory of Engineering and Scientific Trade Technical Magazines


Market gap analysis - Introduction

A first milestone for any start-up business is to uncover a market large enough to support your financial profit goals, in which demand exceeds supply. The tool of market gap analysis couples with market verification will assure your business with a lucrative market.

Like the selling funnel metaphor so well known to marketers, a market gap analysis starts with a large mass of everyday observations collected though research and exploration. Curiosity is a useful trait to have here. The process of analysis narrows the possible opportunities to a manageable number. Those candidates that survive the funneling process will consist of viable market opportunities and mirages. The mirages will out-number the real opportunities.


To scroll or not to scroll

Six Revisions dot com has provided us with a fine selection of web usability insights in its post, 10 Usability Tips Based on Research Studies. However, the conclusion they offer on the question of user scrolling behavior seems doubtful.

Web design wisdom, generally attributed to Jakob Nielsen, is that web site visitors frequently do not scroll down a page that is longer than screen height. Best practice, therefore, dictates the most important items on a page be located at the top, "above the fold." This has the power of common sense behind it, to place important items where they can be seen whether a visitor scrolls or not.

However, Six Revisions' usability tips advise, "Don't Worry About" vertical scrolling. This is based upon user testing that shows the percentage of people who scroll, as expressed in the following graph, which I have borrowed.

image of graph

Strictly speaking, the test and the graph show the percentage of users who scrolled down at least 90% of pages that ranged from 500 pixels in height to about 10,000 pixels. From glancing at the graph, it looks to me that overall only about 25% to 30% of the users that were tested scrolled down that far.

Rather than "don't worry" about vertical scrolling, I interpret these test results to confirm the common wisdom that most people do not scroll to the bottom of a long web page. Placing the most important items at the top of the page is still good advice, along with advice not to ignore the bottom of the page.

CafePress tests brick & mortar retail outlets

CafePress is known on the web for custom imprinting of nearly everything, and for providing designers with a platform for selling original art imprinted on almost anything. CafePress has opened three walk-in brick & mortar retail stores in two Louisville, Kentucky malls and one strip mall this year. CafePress is also buying local TV advertising to promote them. CafePress Louisville stores.

It seems likely that Louisville was chosen for this new off-line venture because the main CafePress production facility for its on-line business is located in Louisville. Gateway computers had also previously tested walk-in retail locations in Louisville for a few years, with limited success.

CafePress Mall St. Matthews
5000 Shelbyville Rd. Suite 1590
Louisville, KY 40207
(502) 891-8933

CafePress Hurstbourne
2048 S Hurstbourne Pkwy
Hurstbourne Acres, KY 40220
(502) 491-7400

CafePress Jefferson Mall
4801 Outer Loop, Kiosk #T77
Louisville, KY 40219
(502) 966-2415


Ingenious promotional marketing with Twitter

Element Fusion Internet Development is giving away 10 iPads, one a day in ten days beginning September 13.

The only way to enter the daily drawing is to post the specific message provided by Element Fusion on your personal public Twitter account, every day during the contest period. The daily Twitter posts are what establish your eligibility for that's day's drawing.

One problem with promotional contests is the necessity to promote the contest itself. The inherent structure of the Element Fusion's contest assures that the contest is self-promoting.

Entering the drawing spreads word of the promotion, which also spreads word of the company.


Marketing principles - The law of settlement

The law of settlement
Been there, done that, and got the tattoo.

Once a decision has been made and acted upon, it shifts state from fluid to solid. Once a decision has been made and acted upon, it is difficult or impossible to change for a minimum period of time. Depending upon the agony that went into the decision making process and the nature of the investment in the deed, that minimum period might be measured in decades. If you buy a house or take a spouse, all other alternatives evaporate for a while. Sometimes it is for a long while.

As one who wishes to influence other people's decisions, there is a window of opportunity while the question is under consideration and still undecided. Once the deed is done, the window is sealed shut for the winter, and the matter is settled. If, as a marketer, you miss the window of opportunity, you are just out of luck.


Optimization - Landing pages

Optimizing a web page for business purposes frequently involves an invitation for further conversation. That's a fancy way of saying web businesses often strive to get a web site visitor to divulge her email address, as a business prospect.

There is much that goes in advance of an invitation like this and more that goes after, before an anonymous web window shopper is transformed into a paying customer. But, as party planners have known for centuries, the form and the delivery of an invitation has a direct effect on turnout.
"The mistake we often make: thinking that the problem is that there's not enough people starting the process, not enough people being exposed to your offer. In fact, it's almost always a problem with how efficient the funnel is and how likely it is that loyal customers tell their friends." - Seth Godin
In a back-handed way, it could be said that the goal of doubling the number who accept your invitation does not require you to double the number who reject or ignore it.

Improving your conversion process may be more efficient than increasing your site traffic.

Marketing Experiments Blog provides us with a specific example of how this was accomplished in practice. This Just Tested: An aesthetic design that produced 189% more leads - by Austin McCraw


Marketing principles - The law of authority

Because of a human infant's unusually long period of total dependence upon parents and family for survival, humans are conditioned at a very deep level from the beginning to obey authority figures. In later life there may be an element of selection as to whom or what one accepts as an authority, but the psychological response of follow-the-leader is built in as part of our behavioral foundation.

An "appeal to authority" is a well recognized logical fallacy, where it is argued that a statement is correct merely because the statement is made by a person that is regarded as authoritative. It is such a well recognized logical fallacy because it is encountered so frequently, and it is encountered so frequently because it works so effectively to influence behavior. This form of false reasoning even works to influence the thinking of people who recognize it to be a logical fallacy. It is bred in the bone.

Being an authority figure is relative. For every authority figure there are always bigger authority figures around somewhere, and lesser authority figures below. To a sheep, a sheepdog is perceived as an authority figure.


Marketing principles - The law of confusion

A mental and emotional state of confusion, the combined subjective experience of being confused, frequently is felt as acute anxiety. Mental confusion is potentially dangerous, from a survival point of view. Confusion triggers an immediate and sometimes frantic search for meaning and clarity, to reduce the anxiety caused by uncertainty. If you have ever lost a pet and don't know what has become of her, or Heaven forbid if you have ever misplaced a child, you understand how extremely urgent finding a solution to the mystery becomes.

The anxiety that comes with confusion produces several strong responses.
  1. Increased attention and alertness.
  2. Frequent scanning of the environment for clues to the puzzle.
  3. Increased likelihood of grasping at straws, or willingness to assume causal connections that are not true.
In short, confusion is a problem to be solved. If you have a working solution that solves some type of common confusion, you potentially have a product to sell. The conditions are ripe for success. This who are confused are looking for a solution (you) and they will latch on once they find you.
"Anybody who is confused is likely to jump to conclusions by holding onto the first apparently reliable piece of evidence that he detects through the fog of his confusion." Watzlawick p. 28


Marketing principles - The law of the middle

The law of the middle
Always color inside the lines

Some decades ago McDonalds sold only two sizes of soft drinks; an 8 oz. small and a 16 oz. large. When McDonalds introduced a new 32 oz. large size and re-named its 16 oz drink as 'medium,' total sales increased. A significant percentage of customers switched from the small size to the new medium size, even though the absolute size of the drinks had not changed. The perception had changed.

One theory involves a human tendency to avoid extremes. With only two options there is nothing but low price - high price extremes. The addition of a third size created a middle option, and people feel comfortable keeping to the middle. Not only does it work to introduce a middle ground where none existed before, it also works to raise the average sale by adding higher priced options to the menu. Moving the high side extreme up moves the middle up too. This has been demonstrated to work, even if the highest priced options are never purchased themselves.

If the theory has validity, one might expect the same effect should be seen on the bottom side when lower priced options move the minimum extreme down. Average sales will decrease when the middle shifts lower.

But, maybe make it up on volume.

Marketing principles - The law of games

Classic game theorists have called out two general categories of games: Zero-sum and non zero-sum. Broadly speaking, a zero-sum game necessarily involves a win/lose transaction. Sport competitions can be viewed as zero-sum games. When one team wins it means by definition that the other team has lost. Non zero-sum games allow for the possibility that both parties can win, or both parties can lose, as a result of a transaction.

Classic free-market economic theory explains voluntary market transactions as being non zero-sum games by bringing more value to both buyer and seller at once. Classic game theory and classic economic theory have both embraced the use of mathematical modeling and analysis. These models seem to work best with easily quantifiable units, such as money or money equivalents, and where the participants are most rational. These theories find practical application in financial markets and mass marketing. It is a game of playing the odds, trusting the numbers, and measuring results. It's pure business.

Direct marketing to people, on the other hand, does not derive much benefit from the classic theories. There are many reasons for this, and the first may be the fact that marketing to people is not particularly rational.

Eric Berne's definition of interpersonal games may be more useful:
"A game is an ongoing series of complimentary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined predictable outcome. Descriptively it is a recurring set of transactions, often repetitious, superficially plausible, with a concealed motivation."
Being a psychiatrist, Dr. Berne was preoccupied with the examination of neurotic games, but it's hard to deny that a lot of neurotic game playing goes on in marketing, human resource management and customer relations.

It's a big topic.


Marketing principles - The law of opinion

The law of opinion
Everyone always has an opinion about everything

Just ask and you will usually find that everyone always has an opinion about everything at the drop of a hat. If you're lucky, they will wait to tell you their opinions until you ask. The speed with which humans appear to form new opinions is an illusion. The human mind is designed for speed and efficiency, and not for deliberate rational analysis. The mind does not so much quickly form new opinions as it swiftly classifies new people or situations into already well established mental categories. This very dominant part of the mind is programmed to do a quick sort on the most superficial criteria.

It is a survival issue. The fundamental question that must quickly be answered in any new environment or encounter is this: "Is it dangerous?" That, at least, is one issue upon which everyone has an opinion about everything, and the answer we come up with is always based upon the past. Past experiences, training, and indoctrination determine the answer. That is why it is so quick. It does not require any thought.

The mind is a self-organizing adaptive information structure that is also general purpose. The fact that it is general purpose suggests the opinion-forming process that works so well for survival purposes will also be used for other non-survival purposes. Thoughtless opinions are therefor the norm, and not the exception.


Marketing principles - The law of affinity

The law of affinity 
We buy from those we like 

The marketing principle of affinity is simply stated. You are more likely to buy something from someone you like than you are from someone you don't. As a business marketer, then, the challenge of invoking the affinity principle in your favor is to get people to like you. How to do that?

This too is simple: Like them first. 

People like to be liked. It tickles their fancy and it makes you appear friendly. People who appreciate being liked by you are very likely to like you right back. Someone has to get the ball rolling in the first place, and it might as well be you.

Although it's true that giving and receiving occur simultaneously in eternity, everything is simultaneous in eternity. In time, such as we are, the giving must come first before the receiving is possible.

Proactive friendliness has been proven through long experience to produce beneficial business marketing results. The opposite tactic can be well described as waiting for a fried chicken to fly into your mouth.


Marketing principles - The law of leadership

The law of leadership
It's better to be first than it is to be better

Reis and Trout state that the basic issue in marketing is not about offering a better product, it is about creating a category in which your business can be in first place. Maybe that's true and maybe it's an exaggeration, but either way Reis and Trout have been good at challenging conventional thinking. I'm inclined to think that the basic issue of marketing is to generate business profits.  Whether that is short term profits or long term profits, large scale profits or small scale profits, the issue of market position ought be secondary to return on investment, however that is measured. Maybe I'm a closet bean counter.

There is no reason to believe that the second largest company cannot be more profitable than the company with the largest market share.

Reis and Trout make the point by reference to memorable historical events, as in, "Who remembers the second person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo?" But the flip side to that is, "What good does it do Charles Lindbergh for me to remember him?" Just as what good is it that I can remember the words to the Oscar Mayer wiener song from decades ago? You say "wiener" and I say "Oscar Mayer," but it's not the brand I buy when it comes down to it.

Memorable is not enough.


Looking for work - from Chris Brogan

I Create Work
" . . . . Today, I deposited two checks, one from Amazon and one from Google. These represent my two lowest paying affiliate sources, and so the checks weren’t for much. They totaled a few hundred dollars short of my mortgage. My affiliate check from Genesis (affiliate link) this month will be quite a different matter. That check will pay 3 to 4 times my mortgage. That means that all my years of hard work of building an audience, building great content, and earning your trust now pays for my family’s home every month, which means that I have a lot more opportunity to say no to work, if it’s a bad fit or if I can’t do it, timing-wise.

"I created that work. I built something. In fact, I created all my last few years of work. I don’t have an employer. . . ." From Chris Brogan - Read More


Refining site keyword relevance

As I mentioned in my post of two weeks ago, Google Webmaster Tools displays, in order of frequency, the keywords that Google search has identified in the collection of indexed pages from a website. For this microEnterprise blog site Google considered the keywords August and July to be significant, listing them each in the top thirty results; 28th and 30th in rank respectively. These months appeared so frequently because I had set the post date format and the archive list format to show date in a verbose format. Nearly all the posts on this blog (89 of 104) so far were posted in those two summer months.

I decided I did not want the dates for posts to affect keyword significance or search results, because of their irrelevance to the content of the posts. I changed the date format displays from verbose to numeric.  After nearly two weeks the offending names have dropped from 28th to 31st, and 30th to 38th.  I expect that they will continue to drop further as Google proceeds to re-index the various individual post pages over time.


Putting customers in thier place

I've been a user of the Vox.com blogging platform for about 4 weeks now, which hasn't been enough time for me to fall in love. Still, it came as a surprise when I received an email notice that Vox is shutting down by the end of the month.

But, it was one of the few time that I was personally notified of a significant change like this before reading about it in the public media. It is common for a company to issue a press release and send  the customer notifications afterwards.

I think Six Apart, the originators of Vox, has its priorities straight.  Thanks, guys.  Vox was a nice platform.


SEO vaporware - a note to Sandy

This is a note to 'Sandy," whoever you are. I found your comment in my spam filter. Except for Google Blogger's decision that your comment was spam, it would have gone into my "Awaiting moderation" folder. Nobody with any sense lets comments automatically post these days.

I usually don't give spam comments a second look, but I was curious to see what type of SEO optimization business would leave such a blatantly spammmy comment. I was almost sure they taught not to do that at SEO optimization school. So, the first thing I did was to check your profile, Sandy, to find out who you are. I already told you once four years ago that I insist upon knowing who I am dealing with. You do not have a public profile to look at.

 Then I checked out the link you left and Googled your business name. It turns out that you have two different domain names pointing to two slightly different web sites, both of which have a Google Page Rank of ZERO. I can't help but have a few doubts about your marketing abilities. I deleted your comment.


A good idea is not enough

Did you ever have the feeling that you knew exactly what needed to be done , but you couldn't get others to go along with your ideas?
  • — Did you ever have the feeling others were able to get their ideas taken seriously, even though their ideas were not as good as yours?
  • — Do you constantly encounter roadblocks, resistance and indifference when you try to get others to agree with your suggestions?
  • — Have you tried to follow what the experts say about exerting influence and persuasion, but you watch as they jump on another bandwagon and your ideas are left standing on the sidelines watching the parade pass you by?
  • — How is it that others can get people on their side, win support, convert skeptics, and get results?
Finally, someone has written a logical step-by-step book that navigates the reader through the process of attaining success.

Find out more about it here.


Marketing wisdom of Gloria Estefan

Turn the beat around. Turn it upside down.
Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine

The orthodox conservative view of affiliate marketing books by blogging and email is to write a glowing review of the "must have" marketing book du jour, and to give an affiliate link. The theory is that your loyal followers will click the link and buy the book, because you recommended it.

There are few minor bugs in the theory. The main flaw is that it does not work in practice all that well. It is a low-percentage conversion process and it takes loads of targeted traffic to make it amount to much. see: Click the damn link.

I suspect the emphasis is misplaced. A good portion of affiliate sales come from anything but the specific product recommended. The critical component is clicking the link and setting the cookie. After that, I don't care what you buy. Look around until you find something you really want to buy today, please.

Rather than a time sequence of  (1) Read my timeless wisdom of a book review and then (2) Clicking on the affiliate link, I think I'll reverse the process using Amazon aStores. If you want to know my opinion of Web Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik, you have to click through to that specific Amazon aStore product page to see it. Please do so now.

Turn the beat around. Turn it upside down.

The trick is you are limited by aStores to 1024 characters. That is 7.3 times the maximum Tweet size, and it is actually a lot of words. But, writing book reviews is not my strong suit, as you can see.

I don't recommend that you buy this book. You will probably hate it. It is very detailed and technical. All I want is for you to click the link and set the cookie.


Two social media types

My brief and unscientific survey of all things pertaining to functioning social media sites excluded subscription AOL, music sites, photo sites, and video sites. Otherwise, they are all listed here on my Syndication Feed Lab page.

It's just a list. Don't bother making sense of it all. It is an incomplete list.

My first focus of interest was how these sites inter-operate and connect though feeds, APIs, and widgets, in actual practice. I'm almost positive I've learned something over the last few weeks, but it is a busy marketplace and things keep shifting as I watch. You'd think these folks would take a vacation now and then.

This more technical interest of mine was in service of the Internet Marketing gods, and I discovered two types of social media sites.
  1. Social media sites that are inhabited, and
  2. Social media sites that are uninhabited.
It is a fairly obvious distinction once one browses for groups, friends, followers, fans, or co-conspirators. The opportunity to make new friends is there, or it is not. Most of these sites provide the opportunity to invite my existing friends to the site, and even strongly encourage it. The philosophy seems to be, "If I can't spam my friends, who can I spam?"

But, what's the point of that? I already know my friends and have established reliable means of communicating with them, and I'm not talking about Facebook. Not that I would ever spam my friends beyond their level of tolerance anyway.

Syndication + social media = opportunity. It is the opportunity to smooze, make new friends, and distribute content to a wider audience. The smoozing and making friends part is critical to the success of the operation.

On the other hand IROTWS (I Read On The Web Somewhere) an offer to "Build a network of trusted friends for you!"

How the heck does that work? "Trusted friends by proxy" does not seem to compute.

From my spam filter - instant karma

"Instant gratification is the only necessary precondition for instant karma."

So, two to five months is too long to wait for a five-figure monthly income? The following screenshot of a spam email today is appealing to a sense of desperation. The reason I used a screenshot rather than copying and pasting the text is to avoid polluting the search index of this blog with spammy language. The language of spam has a definite flavor and tone to it.

Screenshot of smap email

The punchline was the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.

"ATTENTION: I send ads for many different marketers for many different income opportunities. I don't have the time or resources to investigate each opportunity to be sure that it is legitimate. Therefore, I don't endorse any of the opportunities. Be sure that you investigate the opportunity before you become involved."


Claiming my own marketing back yard with a hobby

Louisville, Kentucky, is not a big city, but it is big enough to have distinct sections and neighborhoods.  I happen to live in Old Louisville, which is a historic preservation district containing more Victorian era residences than any other.  I've lived here for a bit more than a year now. This spring into summer, before the weather became so brutally hot, I moseyed, sauntered and wandered around my new neighborhood with a digital camera taking snapshots.  Photography has been a hobby of mine since high school. I took a lot of them, and I massaged them with Photoshop.

I intend to use these photographs to create a blog that will weld my name 'Tom Fox' with my local stomping grounds, 'Old Louisville.'  It may take as long as a year to accomplish, but I'm not in any rush.  I plan to use Seth Godin's 'drip' strategy, by daily posts of a new image with a street address. According to theory, this will burn the connection into Google's digital brain.

You can see my Old Louisville photos here. http://old-louisville.blogspot.com/

Once a day, every day, for the next 365 days, at least one new Old Louisville photograph will be posted on that blog.  The key phrase is "Old Louisville," and for some reason I want to own it.

I think it will work, but there is only one way to find out for sure, and that is to do it.  Since photography really is my hobby and I've already done the photo & Photoshop part just for fun, taking it this next step is fairly easy. If I had to pay someone else to do all the work, I could never afford it.

This is a form of search engine optimization, as a subset of search engine marketing.  If anyone is searching for things related to 'Old Louisville," I want them to find me. I still need to devise a way to connect and interact with those who visit that blog.  I suppose that would be classified as a variant of social marketing.


Enabling Google Gmail Web Clips

I don't have much of an opinion about Google's Gmail Web Clips, so don't consider this to be a recommendation. I am very curious about what Google is up to in general, and Web Clips drew my attention because it revolves around syndicated feeds, and I have just started to look into it. So far it looks heavily slanted toward the display of paid advertising, but I still need to mess with it some more before trashing it.

Enabling Web Clips is easy and reversible. There is a Web Clips tab on the Gmail Settings screen.  It  is also possible to add an RSS feed to the list, but that part hasn't been so easy yet.

Screenshot of Google Gmail WebClips setup procedure


Private social networks for business - Yammer

Yammer.com is a hosted enterprise microblogging platform that has an entry level for free, and advanced levels that are not for free. The buzz words and catch phrases are:
  • Company social network
  • Collaboration tool
  • Knowledge base
  • Productivity tool
  • Mobile tool
One registers for the Yammer service with a company email address. Only people with a verified company email address can join a company network. When I attempted to join using my Yahoo! email address, it was refused.

"You've entered an email address that was not assigned by your employer. Yammer is only available for users with valid company email addresses. If you have a company email address, please Sign Up using that email address, so we can connect you with your network."


SEO - Check your backlinks with Google Webmaster Tools

Checking your site's back-links with Google Webmaster Tools costs only a little bit of time and effort. Being a free service provided by Google, Webmaster Tools belongs in any bootstrapper's web toolbox. You can check the links that Google has found to your site from around the web, assuming that you installed and verified ownership of you site with Google about two months ago.

Once at the dashboard for your site in Webmaster Tools, It is three-click steps to begin learning who links to your web site. The screenshot below shows the first two clicks:

First click: Under the right sidebar menu item "Your site on the web", click "Links to your site."

Second click: Next, see the numbers in the far right column and click one.

Screenshot of Google Webmaster Tools *Links to Your Site* Page

Third click: Then, on the detail page of backlinks as shown in the screenshot below, select one of the links and go see who likes you.

Screenshot of Google Webmaster Tools *Links to Your Site* second page


Web optimization and diminishing marginal returns

Professor Paul Samuelson stated the law of diminishing marginal returns is one of the most famous laws in all of Western economic theory. In simplest terms the law of diminishing returns means that you can throw twice as many resources at a problem, but you should not expect to necessarily get twice the results you want. This is one of the central messages of Seth Godin's book Permission Marketing.

Godin begins that book by observing in recent decades consumer oriented businesses have spent more and increasingly more money on mass-market advertising, but with decreasing effectiveness. In part this is explained by the economic principle of diminishing marginal returns. It's not the only factor in play, but it is an important one.

The idea of diminishing marginal returns is especially important for small business owners to consider when contemplating directing scarce resources toward web site optimization. Of course every small business web site owner wants more business, but the ever present questions are, how much does acquiring one more customer cost, and is it worth it?


Deleting or editing blog posts

Somewhere along my searching the web I got the strong impression others think it a bad idea to ever edit or delete a blog post, regardless how crappy or irrelevant it is. Here are two quick examples. Rewriting blog history: Bad idea, and Advice: Never delete a blog post. A more balanced view is expressed by Dave Taylor in Should you ever edit or delete blog entries? There are others in a similar vein.

I take a contrarian view of the situation. Elimination is an essential part of every healthy living process, on a micro level.  On a larger system level, everything is recycled and ultimately incorporated somewhere else if it has persistent value, or it is transformed.

Some think of the internet as a historical record, but that is not the way I view it.

Google maintains a site-wide keyword ranking as well as a page-specific keyword rank. I know this is true because Google Webmaster Tools reports these numbers and shows them to me in a graph. Although it is not clear to me how Google uses these site-wide keyword ranking, I know I'm not alone in my ignorance. But sometimes an extraneous series of posts may skew Google site-wide view of my web sites in a keyword direction I don't like. Eliminating the non-focused posts altogether may be the quickest solution to improve search performance, in my opinion.

But, I feel strongly about it. Especially when the abundance of my own verbosity on subject no longer of any interest to me are involved, and when they distort how search engines view the subject matter of my own blogs.  I have also written about it here.

Webmaster Tools - Keyword view

Google Webmaster Tools shows the significant keywords of a site, as seen by the Google search index. This will depend in large part upon which pages or posts that Google has actually crawled and indexed. Rarely is it every page.

Apart from the question if Google sees as much of your site as you wish it to, there is the issue of how Google sees a site.  The Google Webmaster Tools keyword data is a useful way to discover keywords you do not want to be given Google search significance. The screenshot below shows the resent keyword results for this blog after seven weeks, eighty posts, and 80 percent of the posts being indexed.

As you can see the red arrows point to "august" and "july" being counted as keywords in the top thirty of the most significant. This is not what I want, and it comes as a surprise. The month in which a post was written has little is any relevance to the content of the posts.
screenshot of Webmaster Tools site keyword data

Now that I am aware of the problem, I can investigate it and devise a remedy.

To me it looks like the cause of this problem was my blog setting choices for date formats.  I opted for a verbose display, with the names of the months spelled out for each blog post and for the blog archive display. It is a simple matter to change these settings so that dates are displayed in a purely numeric format. Actually doing that immediately changes the date format on the blog posts, but so far it seems to have had no effect upon the blog archive date format.

It makes sense to me that part of keyword optimization is to eliminate the keywords you do not want.

screenshot of blog page showing source of unwanted keywords


Google Analytics - Visitor loyalty

One of the standard reports available to me through the use of Google Analytics on this blog is a count of return visits by the same computer, presumably representing a single individual.  The recent incarnation of this blog was six weeks old on August 17. The screen shot below shows the Google Analytics Visitor Loyalty graph of this blog for the period July 6 through August 17. Analytics counted a total of 726 blog-wide visits during that time span.

Google explains the loyalty graph this way.
"Loyal visitors are usually highly engaged with your brand and a high number of multiple visits indicates good customer and visitor retention. A high number of new visitors (i.e. those at the top of the table) indicates strong visitor recruitment. On this histogram, your most loyal visitors are shown on the bottom and your new and least loyal visitors are shown at the top." 
People either like this blog and return, or they don't and they stay away.  That much is simple. It's useful to know the percentages.

Screenshot of Google Analytics Visitor Loyalty graph


Google's social media platform

Google's social media platform is so obvious it took me two months to see it.

The center of Goggle's monster social media contender is the profile page. Here's mine. It has a unique personalized URL, www.google.com/profiles/tomwfox. Parts are public and other parts are totally or partially private, as selected.

Compared to Facebook, The Google profile page "About me" and "Contact info" present the same type of information as does Facebook's Info Page. The Google profile page "About me" is invariably public it seems, but the "Contact info" is not public. You specify which people or groups of contacts can see it. The Google profile page "Buzz" tab is the functional equivalent to the Facebook Wall. Although I haven't looked at it closely, it seems that Google's Latitude competes with Facebook's newly announced social local mobile feature.

Google's continuing integration of Blogger, Picasa (photo hosting), Google Reader (Feed reader and sharing), and other platforms already easily matches the capabilities of Facebook, but just constructed out of previously independent parts. Facebook is more like a big lump compared to Google's structural and functional integration.

It just keeps getting better.


And the winner is . . . Koornk

It was three weeks ago today that I began my syndication experiment with this blog, or to spam the universe through an unconscionable misuse of RSS feeds, as some might say. The main purpose of the test was to see through experience how RSS feed syndication worked in practice, using only free online services. A second purpose was to find and reach new audiences that might be interested in my writing. Third in order of discussion was the possibility of self-created back-links to this blog to increase traffic and boost PageRank.

An important issue was the question of indexing the various blogs, quasi-blogs, and micro blogs by Google. The points of interest were: (1) If, (2) When, and (3) What effect?

Today I found out the answer in a small way. My Koornk blog  was the first of my testbeds to have a feed back-link indexed by Google, as shown in this screenshot. The Google search result for Koornk linked to the individual post, and not to the main blog page.  Due to the quirkiness of the system I cobbled together, the back-link is not to this microenterprise blog, it is to an intermediary transmission stage of mine located on Status.net.  Don't ask why.  It's complicated.

Screenshot of Tom Fox Koornk blog

Local web marketing through Google WebClips

I like to push buttons and click links just to see what happens, secure in the knowledge that if things go south I can always reach over and pull the plug, literally.

I enabled Google's WebClips in my Gmail web dashboard out of a need to satisfy my curiosity, and I was lucky to immediately discover the LivingSocial.com site I've written about as a result. WebClips is an amalgam of pre-loaded syndicated feeds, that I might or might not be able to edit and add to, mixed in with a dose of shameless commercialism and advertisements through Google. These are displayed one at a time discretely at the top of my mail inbox. The first one I saw after enabling the feature is shown below, and it was location specific to me, here in Louisville, Kentucky. "Louisville 1-Day Coupons."

I pushed the button out of curiosity and found LivingSocial.com's Louisville page and deal of the day. So far, LivingSocial Louisville looks great, and it bears looking into further.

Note: August 21, 2010 - afternoon

Really, Google Web Clips on Gmail does not have anything to do with local web marketing, per se.  Just so happened the LivingSocial's ad was the first one I saw.  I'm glad I saw it.  LivingSocial is something I need to know about.  All the rest of the advertisements since then have been fairly typical.

Screenshot of Google Gmail with WebClipsPublish Post


Incomprehensible irrelevant uncertainty as a marketing tool

Screenshot of Groupon.com offer
My question for today is: Does gratuitously injecting an element of incomprehensible irrelevant uncertainty into a sales pitch increase sales?

I think not, but I'm not an advertising professional and I don't have access to the split-test comparison data.

At first glance, the deal offered by Louisville's Bard's Town Pub through Groupon.com is straightforward. Spend $10 today, get $20 in beer and burgers tomorrow, and the opportunity will be available for another 2 days, 16 hours, and 19 minutes, more or less.

First thing in the morning I can understand that much.  I can even read the fine print without being shocked, dismayed or confused. In my mind it is a really good deal to make your beer and burger money go twice as far.

Then I get to the "46 bought, 54 more needed to get the deal" part of the ad.

I don't appreciate my WTF? moments to start coming quite this early in the day.

Nowhere in the fine print does it say "Offer not valid until a minimum of 100 people buy-in."  It would be a logistical and logical nightmare, not to mention a big legal problem, to structure the deal that way.  You can buy it today but you have to wait 24 hours before using it (fine print) tomorrow, except if less than 100 people opt-in before the offer ends on Tuesday in which case it is not valid at all?  This does not work.

What sensible reason does Goupon have for doing this?  What are they thinking?


Catastrophic browser incompatibility

I received an email promoting Ektron.com's content management software (CMS 400.net), and out of curiosity I clicked through the link. I clicked through both links contained in the email, and then I searched Google for Ektron and clicked through a different third link.  In each case, I received the following error message, as shown in the screenshot below: Runtime Error - Server Error in '/' Application.

Bummer. Ektron's server is down. Bad timing after sending out the email.

Still not satisfied, I tried the link with a different browser, and voila!, it worked. The runtime error seems to have resulted from a wild and uncorrected site incompatibility with Google's Chrome web browser. Ekton is running Microsoft Active Server Page (ASP) scripts.

Who wants a content management system that totally befuddles the Google Chrome browser from a software company that didn't bother to check it out? I assume that the Ektron site runs on its own CMS 400.net software, but if not, why not?

Screenshot of Ektron.com error page

Internet marketing for local business - LivingSocial.com and Groupon.com

LivingSocial.com is best known from its Facebook app business, but it also has a parallel web-based presence outside of Facebook. LivingSocial has pushed its web presence toward marketing local businesses. When I visit the LivingSocial.com URL, I get my location specific page, LivingSocial Presents Louisville - my home town.

The tempting offer is an opportunity to purchase a $30 gift certificate to a local Louisville business for only $12. It looks to be a very good deal. It was a business that I had never heard of before: Amazing Green Planet. I don't travel in that part of town often these days.

A list of U.S. cities served by LivingSocial can be found here.

Groupon.com offers a similar service. Today's deal that comes through Groupon is $25 to buy a $50 gift certificate from Gap.

Either of these two deals qualify as a loss-leader, being an offer to double your money. But the two deals, one from Amazing Green Planet and the other from Gap, are of different value to the advertisers. The potential benefits are:
  1. Awareness,
  2. Action, and
  3. Buzz
Amazing Green Planet bought a whole lot of awareness by advertising through LivingSocial.com. I had never heard of the store before, but now I have a favorable impression, I'm curious, and I know its general location. Like me, most people who see the advertisement will not act on the offer outright, but they may remember it.  I can't say the same about Gap's ad. I didn't learn anything new. It was  just another Gap ad.

I was tempted by the Amazing Green Planet offer because it seemed to be such a good deal, even though I wasn't sure what the store sold and there isn't much I want to buy. I fell back to my default position that the best way to save money is not to spend it.

In both instances I was tempted to take voluntary action to share these two deals with some friends.  With Amazing Green Planet it was because I though the store looked cool and I want to know if any of my friends had knowledge of it.  The Gap offer would go to friends who shopped at Gap anyway.

But I didn't.  I did not buzz a single chirp, nor a tweet.

Seealso: Deal or no deal? What’s the deal?

Social media: Local mobile Facebook check-in

Facebook introduced a check-in feature for its mobile equipped users who are inclined to tell their friends exactly where they are at any given point in time during the day. As CNN reports, the good folk at Facebook have given special attention to users' privacy concerns. My personal solution to these type of privacy concerns is to not go out of my way to tell anyone where I am or what I'm doing, but that's just me.

Michael Sharon wrote of the official Facebook blog, "Ever gone to a show, only to find out afterward that your friends were there too? With Places, you can discover moments when you and your friends are at the same place at the same time."

On the bright side, this technology can be viewed as encouraging spontaneous bonding experiences and social cohesion. There is a remote possibility that it could impinge on the party planning business, or be used by political dissidents to orchestrate impromptu civil unrest. Worst case, the technology might be used to co-ordinate the illegal activity of street gangs. If Facebook wants to focus on creating a service that would be useful for the social lives of users, there may be surprises in store when it finally comes out all the ways of devious and inventive societies on the fringe. Whatever can be used can also be misused.

I'd bet that before the end of the year there is a technical means to spoof the system into reporting you at one location when in fact you are at another. The market for the app would be cheating husbands or wives, and there aren't that many systems which genius hackers can't crack.

The recent development at Facebook puts it in direct competition with other local mobile social media providers like Foursquare Labs Inc and Gowalla. Facebook's plan to make the new service pay for itself is unclear. I predict that some form of advertising will be involved.

To use this new service requires one of the smartphones supported by Facebook.


Google Caffeine is really fast

Google announced its new web indexing system called Caffeine in the first part of June this year.

Borrowed Google image
"Our old index had several layers, some of which were refreshed at a faster rate than others; the main layer would update every couple of weeks. To refresh a layer of the old index, we would analyze the entire web, which meant there was a significant delay between when we found a page and made it available to you."

The Official Google Blog
My test of Google's improved speed claim was to perform a Google search on the title of my last blog post, Motoral uses Open Source StatusNet, within less than 120 seconds after posting it.

Voilá! There it was!  Fast!

Screenshot of Google search results

Motorola uses Open Source StatusNet

Although this sounds like a standard commercial self-promotional press release, it illustrates one business model built on Free Open Source software.  I don't mean how Motorola uses StatusNet micro-blogging software in its business, I mean how the software experts who develop the StatusNet software package and give it away manage to pay the rent.

They charge for their expertise to those who lack the time to become experts themselves.

This is my assumption.  The software is free, but the expertise to quickly and reliably customize the package and make it work is not free.

Global technology leader Motorola turned to StatusNet to enable conversation and collaboration between employees.

"StatusNet has revolutionized our internal social communications."
— Rami Levy, team leader at Motorola Open Source Technologies

Read our new Motorola case study to learn how StatusNet helps Motorola:

  • promote social knowledge management
  • encourage real-time collaboration
  • reduce email inbox clutter
  • improve visibility for corporate events and program

Want to learn more? Contact us to find out how to use StatusNet's social messaging platform in your company

Microblogging standards

In the ancient and arcane world of Usenet, cross-posting was considered by many to be a great sin, and it was usually discouraged.  It was discouraged because it was annoying.  Reading a cross-post was like reading a message from somebody who wasn't really there. Cross-posters generally weren't available for conversation. Cross-posters were not interested in conversation, they were interested in shoveling their message far and wide. Some were so unkind as to call out cross-posters as being "spammers."

The idea of microblogging standards involve the character length limit for microblog posts, and essentially, the ability of various services and platforms to cross-post. These days, cross-posting with blogs is not only encouraged, it is practically a fad.  I have pursued blog syndication myself with some gusto.

A few of the main players in the world of microblogging interoperability standards are found at: ostatus.org, and microblog. See Wikipedia also.

This type of interoperability, or cross-posting as I call it, is something that people donate large sums of money to further. In 2009 the Knight Foundation gave money to design a system that allows anyone, anywhere to easily create a Drupal online news site whose content can be published on Facebook in order to reach an extended social network. - from drupal.org


So much for standards - small signs

Standards based HTML <img> tags generally have a minimum of two components, a src="http://some.url" part and an alt="some text" part.  As far as I can tell, there isn't a web browser in the world that cares which comes first, the src or the alt. It works fine either way.

It just so happens that I learned to use the HTML <img> tag putting the src= part first and the alt= part last, and that's the way I've done it ever sense out of habit.  That is the way I've done it unquestioningly until recently while working with the Google Blogger post editor, which is built to check user supplied HTML.  Also, it seems, the Blogger post editor was built to re-write user input HTML for no obvious reason.

The Google Blogger post editor re-writes the sequence of the <img> tag components so that the alt= part is first.  When I input <img src="http://some.url" alt="some text" /> to the Google Blogger post editor, it changes it to read <img alt="some text" src="http://some.url" />. Every time.

My current mindset is that Google is the benchmark for how things ought to be done, and my pragmatic philosophy is to give a huge, powerful, and impersonal bureaucracy (read Google) exactly what it want in the way it wants it.  Accordingly, I shifted my habit and reversed the <img> elements sequence when writing HTML.

Then I went to post on a Wordpress blog, and the Wordpress post editor did precisely the same thing as the Google Blogger post editor, except in reverse. Wordpress re-wrote my <img alt="some text" src="http://some.url" /> to read <img src="http://some.url" alt="some text" />.

The only effect this has for me is to re-enforce the observation that the sequence doesn't make any difference.

But, if it doesn't make any difference, why do Blogger and Wordpress re-write this code?  Moreso, why do they do it in opposite directions? I'm sure there's a compelling reason somewhere, but I'm not going to put any time into finding it.

The important point for internet marketers and search optimizers is to use the <img> alt tag.  Forget about the sequence.


Browser compatibility with Scribd.com

The actuality is hard to describe, but my opinion is fairly easy to state.  Using this document on Scribd.com, I think that Google Chrome displays it best.  Safari and Firefox display it differently from Chrome, but about the same as each other, and are tied for second place.  Internet Explorer 8 comes in a distant last place.

Maybe I'm missing a plugin, or something.

Note to self: Meta Weblog API

"The MetaWeblog API (MWA) is a programming interface that allows external programs to get and set the text and attributes of weblog posts. It builds on the popular XML-RPC communication protocol, with implementations available in many popular programming environments."

The myth of web optimization

“I think that maybe inside any business, there is someone slowly going crazy.”
— Joseph Heller

In his business book The E Myth, author Michael Gerber states, "The technical work of a business and a business that does that technical work are two totally different things."  In this sense, the ability to bake a marvelous cake and decorate it beautifully is considered 'technical' work, and it is Gerber's point that skill as a pastry chef does not necessarily translate into skill in running the business of a bakery.

Baking and managing the business of a bakery are two different skill sets.

It is very similar with search engine optimization (SEO).  The ability to increase web site traffic through technical means does not necessarily result in an increase in business profitability.  But it is very different from Gerber's E-Myth because most small business managers are not SEO technical experts themselves, nor do they wish to be.

Business managers are dependent upon the technical experts for SEO guidance, but in the small business world the SEO experts all too frequently have no understanding of the business needs of the entrepreneurial purpose.  Optimization of a business web site is not a task that managers or business owners ought to delegate.

A business web presence is too important to trust entirely to technicians.

Does Google index PDF files?

Question: Does Google index PDF files?

Answer: Yup, as long a the PDF is not encrypted or password protected, and it meets Google's other standards of index-ability, whatever they are. PDF files are frequently returned by a Google search.  Google has indexed PDF files since at least 2001, going by Search Engine Watch  According to GOS Blog in 2006, Google also uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to index PDF files consisting of scanned pages. This was confirmed in 2008 on the official Google Blog.

Furthermore, PDF files can contain hyper-links, if you put them there.  You know, links to URLs. Frequently the significance of this may be overlooked for SEO and marketing purposes.

A list of file types that Google indexes: Google Webmaster Central
"PDF formatted files are the most popular after HTML files. PostScript and Microsoft Word files are also fairly common. The other file types are relatively uncommon by comparison."
Google FAQ - Filetypes


Google search quiz answer - sitelinks

The answer to my July 30 Google search quiz - How did they do that?

How they did it is still a mystery internal to the secret workings of the Google search machine, but there is a name for it — Sitelinks.  A webmaster can facilitate the creation of useful Sitelinks in Google's search results for a site by creating a nice logical and clearly defined hierarchical site structure and navigation system.  Doing this is just what Google recommends webmasters do.  But the time and the manner of Google Sitelinks, if they happen at all, is up to Google.  That's the way it is, as stated by Google in the screenshot below showing Google Webmaster Tools Sitelinks page.
"Sitelinks are links to a site's interior pages.  Not all sites have sitelinks. Google generates these links automatically, but you can remove sitelinks you [the webmaster] don't want."

screenshot of Google Webmaster Tools page on Sitelinks


Cheapo feed syndication blues

Playing with feed syndication services that meet my specifications has its challenges. My criteria are simple. These requirements for feed syndication service are:

  1. They must be totally free.
  2. They must be easy to understand and use.
  3. They must work at least some of the time.

In point of fact, it's a lot like playing with Leggos where each piece is made by a different factory to slightly different specification. Sometimes the quality control is not six-sigma.

So it goes in cheapo land.

Slow change and small business

"The slow changes in the media landscape are accelerating and virtually every pre-digital system is in danger. The slow changes in the marketing landscape are in their second decade and these changes will have their effects on every business and cause as well." - Seth Godin

In 1987 my wife and I started a retail computer store. We had a good location and we put a lot of money into advertising.  This consisted of Yellow Pages ads, newspaper ads, and local radio ads. It was effective to build the business.

I doubt that it would work today.  I don't remember the last time I looked through the Yellow Pages, read a newspaper, or listened to local radio ads.

Things have changed.


Syndication Notebook entry - Superfeedr.com

Superfeedr.com has been in existence for about a year or so, going by the date of its domain name registration, and I just found out about it today.  At first glance, Superfeedr looks like an answer to my prayer, but it is a bit more technical than most of the services I've looked at recently.  It will take me some time to get with the program, I'm sure, due to the level of technical detail that seems to be involved.  I'm not the swiftest learner on the block, either.

PubSubHubbub stands for PUBlisher-SUBscriber HUB, or PubSubHub. The 'Hubbub' is cute, though.

Part of the specification documentation is hosted on Google Code - here. The reference hub is located on the Google Apps Engine.

This will take me some time to figure out. Best of all, it involves a whole new thing, XMPP, of which I know nothing except XMPP is commonly called 'Jabber."

XMPP.org software libraries


Google's stealth social media strategy

Google is assembling the parts of an integrated social media system that will ultimately dwarf any other (read Facebook), through sheer grinding persistence backed by a bazillion dollars. As far as I've noticed, they are doing it very quietly.

My public Google profile is my main piece of evidence: http://bit.ly/foxbuz

I've had a Google profile for years, and for years it was a great big nothing. Previously, a Google profile consisted of a photo and a name, and not a thing more than that. It was even more lame than my Yahoo! profile page.

These days, I've recently noticed, my Google profile page has grown legs. Not only can I display biographical information on my profile page, and LINKS!, I've also answered the question: "What the hell is Google Buzz good for?" My Google Buzz entries are now also a part of my Google profile, as you can see if you look. Google Buzz is still part of and controlled through the Google Gmail web interface, which is for personal contacts only. My Google Buzz is now echoed publicly on my profile page.

Syndication: Blog RSS to Del.icio.us

Del.icio.us, or delicious.com as Yahoo! calls it, is a social bookmarking site, and the Microenterprise blog RSS feed is now channeled to Bebo like this:

Blogger —> Feedburner —> Twitterfeed —> Status.net —> Ping.fm —> Delicious.com

As you can see, the form of the entry is unacceptable. "Tom Fox (tomwfox)'s status on Sunday" is much less than useful.  It is counter-useful.  Plus, Delicious.com inserts rel="nofollow" in to the anchor tags.

This one is for the dustbin.  Plonk.

Delicious.com's FAQ include the following:
How can I promote my website or advertise on Delicious?
Bookmarking websites in order to promote or advertise them is considered spamming, and that's against our Terms of Service. If you'd like to advertise on Delicious, you can use Yahoo! Search Marketing to be in Sponsored Search results within Delicious.
For what it's worth, the Delicious TOS does not actually say that.

Screenshot of delicious.com bookmark page


Google site search box in Google search results page - how did they do it?

I saw this Google site search box in Google search results page (screenshot below) for the first time that I remember, ever. How did they do that?

Screen shot of: Google site search box in Google search results page


Social media marketing: Bebo

Bebo was purchased by AOL in 2008 for $850 million.  AOL sold Bebo earlier this year for somewhat less, after threatening to shut it down.  Bebo was obviously patterned after MySpace.  If you are peddling bubble gum flavored lip gloss, Bebo might hold your target market.  Bebo users seem to be very young adults still focused upon adolescent pursuits.  It's a big, if temperamental, market segment.

Bebo offers its users a public profile page consisting of selectable and movable modules.  My own experimental Bebo user profile page has a "Lifestream" module that currently displays this Microenterprise blog RSS feed.  This is subject to change at any time by either Bebo or myself.

The Microenterprise blog RSS feed is now channeled to Bebo like this:

Blogger —> Feedburner —> Twitterfeed —> Status.net —> Ping.fm —> Bebo.com

The link to the original blog post goes through several transformations withing the various steps of theis transmission chain, but by the time the Twitterized blog post reach Bebo, they are all shortened to the ping.fm system and they all point back to a Status.net post, but not to the original Blogger post.  Even at that, Bebo displays the shortened link-back verbatim, but passes the URL as a text string to a Java Server Page (JSP) as a query parameter.  I doubt that a search engine would follow that level of re-direction, but at least both Bebo, Ping.fm, and Status.net can count the clicks, if there are any.  Bebo does not insert any rel="nofollow" tags that I noticed.

One anomaly is that not all the posts get all the way through the pipe.

Another branch of the RSS distribution channel is to Twitter, like this:

 Blogger —> Feedburner —> Twitterfeed —>Twitter

Bebo also has a Twitter module available for its user profile page that I installed.  This made it possible for the same Twitterized Microenterprise post to appear twice on my Bebo profile page.  The Twitter feed to Bebo contained the Bit.ly link shortening URL used by Twitterfeed.  Again, I don't know if, or how, Google search deals with shortened links in general, but I'm fairly sure that the larger link shortening services count clicks and sell link popularity data to somebody, for some purpose.

How useful this information may be for internet marketing purposes remains to be seen.


Social media and structured data - Friend of a friend (FOAF)

"Local. Mobile. Social. We're talking about street gangs here. Local mobile social media is for nothing but high-tech street gangs." 

"The dynamic of our society, and particularly our new economy, will increasingly obey the logic of networks. Understanding how networks work will be the key to understanding how the economy works." - Kevin Kelly, New Rules

An important type of network related to understanding the human economy is the human social network.   Describing the wide variety of human relations isn't easy. The Yupik language of the Inuit has a worf for a degree of friendship that translates roughly as "I like you very much, but I wouldn't want to go seal hunting with you." Seal hunting involves long weeks in very close personal contact under difficult circumstances.

Nevertheless, there is a movement to create a Web of machine-readable homepages describing people, the links between them and the things they create and do. It is called the Friend of a Friend (FOAF) movement, and this post represents the full extent of my research on the subject.


Semantic Web - FOAF
Drupal includes a FOAF module. Drupal is an Open Source social media publishing platform.
FOAF-a-Matic - Generates FOAF XML from user input data.
RDFweb FOAF Project 
FOAF Project Org
FOAF on WIkipedia

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


Syndication - RSS feeds to ShoutEm.com

Ordinary RSS feeds cannot be imported into ShoutEm.com created community blogs or lists, as far as I can tell.  ShoutEm.com directly supports conections between it and Twitter or Facebook, but not for any generic RSS feed, unless it is hidden somewhere.

HelloTXT.com lists ShoutEm.com as a candidate as a feed link through it, and it even goes through the motions with me setting it up.  The thing is, ShoutEm.com does not realize it is suppose to honor HelloTXT.com's request.  Nothing happens.  

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


I doubled my blog traffic in one week with social media

Except that going from 25 visitors per day to 50 visitors per day is no big deal, and spending 25 hours to do it is silly.  Then there is the fact that it will fall off once I stop humping it.

Don't be a chump.  Hype is hype.

RSS to Ping.fm jury rigged

I'm thinking since Ping.fm was spawned in the micro-blogging Twitter World, and feeds from big-blogs introduce complexity and a level of pesky details previously not encountered by Ping.fm.  Parsing a single XML file type, the Twitter type, is not a big deal, but building a general purpose XML parser capable of dealing with a wide variety of RSS types is a big deal.  Yet, it can be done.  It has already been done by others, and I'm confident Ping.fm will get it right soon.  If not, they should quit.

Anyway, I've re-wired my experimental RSS distribution circuit to avoid any big-blog RSS inputs directly connected to Ping.fm.

This Blogger blog -> Feedburner -> Twitterfeed -> Status.net -> Ping.fm.

In this distribution scheme, Twitterfeed does the parsing of the big-blog RSS and shoves it to Stastus.net which generated the RSS feed that is input now (today - right now) into Ping.fm.

This is not an ideal arrangement, but it might work.  This is the eleventh time I've re-drawn or revised my Blog syndication distribution map. If you look at it tomorrow, it will have probably been changed again.

This post will be my first test of the new channel.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

How well does Ping.fm parse Wordpress blog feeds?

How well does Ping.fm parse Wordpress blog feeds?  It depends on how you look at it, and how long you look at it.  With a statistically insignificant number of samples . . . a grand total of two . . . I'll give the optimistic view of Ping.fm's performance, and give it the benefit of the doubt by saying it got exactly half right. The other half, not so good.

"The WordPress->Feedburner->Ping.fm did not work any better than the Blogger->Feedburner->Ping.fm did. Maybe the problem is with Feedburner. I just switched to the native WordPress feed of this blog to Ping.fm, just to see what happens next." 
- The Learning Curve - RSS to Ping.fm - Again

The first and most encouraging sample was Ping.fm-feed version of this Wordpress post: Another Ping.fm test

Ping.fm correctly came up with this as its shortened link: http://ping.fm/8m1Jo

The second less than inspiring example is Ping.fm's rendition of #smartmarket test

For this one, Ping.fm came up with a shortened link, http://ping.fm/6D8ie, that incorrectly re-directed to the blog post's comment feed:


Ping.fm has a serious problem parsing Feedburner blog feeds and Wordpress blog feeds.  Is it fair of me to think that Ping.fm may have problems with blog feeds in general?

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Snooping Yahoo - RSS syndication feeds and more

Both Yahoo! Pulse and Yahoo! Meme easily allow the importation of external RSS feeds, and display the content, such as a blog post, in a Twitter-like truncated feed, with a shortened link. It is usually displayed as the blog post title, with the shortened link back to the original, and possibly a bit more.

One unexpected find was the fact that Yahoo! Meme posts are automatically sent to Yahoo! Pulse.  So, the same RSS feed sent to both results in duplicate postings, or near duplicate postings, on Yahoo! Pulse.  One comes from the direct RSS feed to Yahoo! Pulse and the other comes from the same feed echoing off of Yahoo! Meme.  Therefore, I eliminate the feed to Yahoo! Pulse, and no harm done.  It gets there anyway.

My personalized Yahoo! Pulse page is not accessible to the general public, and I have no idea if or how it may be visible to another Yahoo! member, or friend, or distant cousin.  In other words, Yahoo! Pulse seems fairly useless to me.

Yahoo! Meme, on the other hand, is nice by providing a unique URL for my page there, which I named Ephemerality (http://meme.yahoo.com/ephemerality/) .

This is the same name I used on Tumblr.com.

Another unrelated discovery was my Yahoo! blog with the unique URL:


It's nice to have a unique URL for my totally free Yahoo! blog space, but that URL is ridiculous.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter


RSS to Ping.fm works fine except . . .

RSS to Ping.fm works fine except with Google Feedburner RSS.  With them Ping.fm gets the links wrong.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter

Syndication - RSS to Twitter, et al. flummox

Automated syndication of RSS feeds to social media platforms is in a state of transition and growth.  Add in the fact that several social media sites are in the midst of transitioning user authentication protocols. These things are a little glitchy, at the moment. As a guy doing things on the cheap (meaning free), I can't really complain all that much.  Except possibly about the fact that I'm interested in testing the actual marketing usefulness of these free services in the social media world, and not so much interested in testing if they work right and issuing ticked-off public bug reports..  Nevertheless, that's the way it is. A lot of it just doesn't work right for now.

First — As of this first week of August, 2010, Ping.com allows one RSS feed to directly connect as an input for its services.  Ping.com is new to this.  The other more commonly accepted method for connecting a RSS feed to Ping.com is through Twitterfeed.com.  Twitterfeed.com is the original Twitterizing service.  Ping.com has been a social media distribution service. I opted for the new untested option and used a Feedburner RSS feed for this Mircoenterprise blog in Ping.com.

Second — Twitterizing services shorten links due to the 140 character limit on Twitter. When Ping.com shortens the link to the original Microenterprise blog, it has a difficult time locating the correct link to shorten in the Blogger - Feedburner RSS feed.  Ping.com only gets it right about half the time, and this is annoying.

Third — So, when I get the bright idea to switch the circuit, and use Twitterfeed.com as an input to Ping.com, like everyone else does, and not have a direct connection between Ping.com and Feedburner, it doesn't work. I don't know why it doesn't work, but every time I try, the setup fails.

Note: As of August 6, 2010 afternoon, this notice appears on the Twitterfeed.com signup page for Ping.com:
"Please note that Ping.fm have temporarily suspended the use of twitterfeed with their service. Until they re-instate this functionality, we are unfortunately unable to post to Ping.fm."
Fourth — Then I say to hell with Ping.com, and I start moving all the social media connections already established there and take them over to HelloTxt.com.  HelloTxt.com is working perfectly, as far as I can tell, but now the problem is that HelloTxt.com does not support all of the social media platforms I connected with on Ping.com.  One of them is Yahoo! Meme, which is odd.

Note: As of August 6, 2010 afternoon, the few social media services that I switched from Ping.com to HelloTxt.com are not working . . . yet. Sometimes these things take time.

Therefore, I moved what I could and left the rest on Ping.com.  Ping will get it working soon enough, I hope.

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky
Tom Fox on Twitter