Friday, May 29, 2009

PLAN YOUR INTERNET SUCCESS - Part 1

Plan of Action for Your Internet Success



Being an Internet addict for a good fifteen years now, I’ve come across a great number of books, reports, ebooks, lessons and other stuff that claim to be the last thing you’ll need to learn the Net and become successful. No matter how good it sounds when I read the caption on the back of the book, 100% of the time this thing end up in a place where it will be forgotten. And the reasons are simple. They’re tool long, too vague or simply too stupid, and often all three combined.

Additionally I often come across these sites that claim to be from Gurus and promises to deliver reaches only if you were to buy the guy’s ebook. Often there’s the Ferrari and the mention in the background and this guy is going to give you all his secrets for $9.99. Of all the garbage that I’ve seen on the Net (and there’s a lot of it) this is the stuff that piss me off the most because this collection of easily attainable information on the Net is nothing than BS riding on people’s hope.

As a result, I decided to write an “abc” of how to put together a plan of action to succeed (or at least have the chance to succeed) on the Internet. I’ve been putting this idea in the back of my mind for quite some time until I came across “The Marketing Helper” (http://www.theimhelper.com/). Similar idea that offers great advices except for its length (all combine I guess that all lessons would fill 500 plus pages book). However reviewing it done on me that this would be a great idea if it was “distilled” and presented as an easy to follow and apply guide. The result is what I offer here and on my site and what I call simply my “Plan of Action to Success on the Web”

This Plan of Action is of course free to use and to pass on as long as whoever uses it does not claim it as its own or tries to sale it. The idea of this plan of action is to make it a “living document” whereby I will insert new steps to the plan, gather comments and additional information and update on a regular basis

The first steps that I cover this month are as follows:

1. Define your Business
2. Search for Keyword
3. Research your Competition
4. Pass your First Test


1. Define an Area of Business where Opportunity Exists and Find a Niche

Many websites and gurus claim to have the secret to that one but if they know something you or I do not, I would be very surprised.

Bottom line, you must have an idea for a business, hopefully original but, more importantly, something that you want to do because you care not because someone told you that you can make millions doing nothing. I’ve been around for quite some time and been an entrepreneur most of my life and have never come across something that was easy.

So, please, whatever you do, do not spend your money buying some “get rich quick” skim. Doing this is like going to Vegas. Bells and whistles with only one guarantee: You will loose your money! (and I’m not sure you’ll even get bells and whistles)

Resources:

http://www.ecademy.com/

http://www.ryze.com/

http://www.cre8asiteforums.com/


Once you’ve done your research and found something you’d like to pursue, try to drill down to the very specifics of what you could do that is unique as far as targeting a niche audience, niche product or service, etc. For example let’s say that you’d want to generate leads for cars. That’s a business idea that has its merits but defining what kind of cars would bête even better. For example

2. Search for Keyword

The critical part of keywords is to find the best possible keyword with least possible competition. Furthermore it is very important to identify keywords as well as key phases that people search when looking for your product or service.

This being said, the type of keyword you will use for your Meta Tags (see SEO) and an SEM Campaign like Adwords maybe quite different.

Resources: Keyword Popularity

http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

While the first resource (worldtracker.com) will give you an idea of the volume of search and similar terms, the second (adwords.google.com) can give you a good idea of what the cost for buying these keywords or key terms maybe.

Finally, I would definitely recommend that you open a Google Adwords account (Adwords.google.com) and set aside a small budget for testing your idea, creatives and website. But not to worry this will be explained later.

3. Research Competition and Learn

The best and easiest way to do this is search through Google, Yahoo or via directories for competitors and see what they do well and not so well and make a check list of what to do to improve or what not do when you come across competitors that are not doing it right

Resources:

Same as 1.

4. Pass your First Test

So here you are with a business idea, you research on keywords and an idea of you competition. Before you continue, you need to review all this and ask yourself a few questions:

a) Is the idea still a good one?
b) Are the keywords that you found well searched and is the cost reasonable considering your potential margin. This is a huge topic and one that is specific to your business and I’ll be happy to help if you contact me. No worries, I do not charge anything for simple questions so send me an email at jeantouboul@jtouboul.com or go to the form below.
c) Is your competition the type of companies or entities that you can take on? If you are trying to go after a market that is cornered by Apple for example, you better have a unique product and a lost of resources.

If all checks then I suggest that you go over all the details once more and make sure that you have not inserted in your analysis some elements of wishful thinking. As a matter of fact, I would suggest that you take the time to write a short pitch (couple of paragraph) and present it to someone who has never heard of it before. If you need to explain what it is you just presented then, in all probability, your idea is not clear and you need to go back to the drawing board. And DO NOT dismiss any criticism no matter how trivial or “uneducated”. I’ve seen too many people, including myself make this mistake and pay dearly for it.

Read Part 2 of the Plan of Action for Internet Success by clicking here

5 - Selecting a Domain Name

6 - Design and Content for your Site

7 - Select an ISP

If you need assistance contact me by clicking here

Also check out my on-going posts about Internet Marketing Success 101 at jtouboul.com

PLAN YOUR INTERNET SUCCESS - Part 2

Web Success 101 - Plan for Your Internet Success - Part 2

5. Select a domain name

Don’t try to do too many things with your name like for example use all the keywords. I’ve come to the conclusion that so much is at play when it comes to SEO and selling a concept or attracting people to a site that the shortest, easiest to remember and to spell name is the best option.

For example I created site like search-engine-optimization-professionals.com and realized that this is so long and so complicated (not the “s” at the end – I actually debated for or against the “s” and selected both domain at one point) that all this was pointless. Additionally Google started penalizing sites with “-“ in their names.

Bottom line, find something easy to spell and remember.

Finally, as a personal preference, I do not recommend that people buy their domain name through their hosting company. I personally use Godaddy as much because I started with them and have too many domain to move somewhere else but any specialized domain registration site is what I would recommend. This being said there are no specific rule here so whatever works for you…

Resources:

http://www.godaddy.com

http://www.buydomains.com/

http://www.sedo.com/main.php3?language=us

http://www.register.com/

Bottom line is who cares what you select today? For under $8.00 for a domain per year you can afford to buy a few and test them? Who knows, you may have some variation and I am testing them to see what kind of action I get if any. A couple of years ago someone some-one suggested that I get some wine sites and I got a few but came up with the idea of some name that would personalize these sites. So I got what was available (www.mycaliforniawinery.com or www.buy-california-wine.com – Yes, at the time the “-“ was still working) but was not satisfied since most good stuff was gone. I thought about it and decided to select a bunch of things that were “customized” around the concept of myxxxxcorner.com (for example mycaliforniawinecorner.com, myredwinecorner.com, mychardonnaycorner.com, etc.). I must have spent $80.00 and by the end of the first year abandoned half of them.

Keep in mind though that if you want to brand a name, what I describe above will not work. However, there is always the option for sub-domain like wahetver1.domain_name.com, whatver2.domain_name.com, etc. but SEO is peculiar for these so it is another issue to consider.


There are many options for what may be your best option, and I suggest that you think through but at the very minimum secure a few domains that you think may work for you.


6. Create a Website

Some people spend a fortune on this and I think it is not very smart unless there is an absolute need to have very specific look and feel to create an image or ambiance. Most people on the net do not seem to care much about web design if you believe what you see. Amazon, Yahoo, Google are not exactly the most attractive sites on the Net yet they work for the people who use them and that the key… work!

Bottom line you want to start with a simple site and take it from there. There are plenty of sources for free templates and I encourage you to take them into consideration.

Where I think your money would be better spent is on a program that allows you to manage your website. There are free ones (open source) like Joomla, Drupal, Magnolia and paid ones that are often specialized solutions like Salesforce but cost a bundle. I personally use neither and rely on Micromedia Dreamweaver and the assistance of my php programmer to do what I need because I like 100% control over my website.

As a result my recommendation is to get a copy or Dreamweaver and start learning the basic of building and maintaining a website. It’s not the easiest route but this with the “ready to go” template makes it best approach in my view.

Resources:

http://allwebcodesign.com/

http://www.templatetuning.com/

http://www.flash-template-design.com/

http://www.dreamlinestudio.com/

http://www.oswd.org/

http://www.zerodollartemplates.com/

http://www.webmastersplaza.com/

http://www.dreamlinestudio.com/

http://watson.addy.com/

http://www.whitegyr.com/flash-templates.htm

http://www.freeflashsites.com/

http://www.templatepark.com/

http://www.bizweb2000.com/

http://www.roopletheme.com/

http://drupal.org/

Finally you must have noticed that some website show a small icon next to their domain name and if you want to create something like that it’s super easy. Just create some kind of logo (keep in mind that since it is tiny it should be something easy to recognize like a letter) and go to http://www.favicon.cc/ and you’ll see how easy it is to do

Whatever you decide to do, do not waste too much time re-inventing the wheel on this one. What you need is a simple, easy to navigate websites that is attractive and pleasing to the eye and “Paramount” has something to say, hence # 7 below.

7. Create Content for your Websites

Well, here is another vast and interesting subject. Many people think that they are great at writing content and they go on and write long tirades about their websites and business and loose the point, let alone the attention of the visitor. Others read some SEO articles about content and learn that you have to include as many keywords as possible. So they go on and load their text with so much stuff that it becomes a weird concoction of words that barely make any sense. Yet, other who may have tried both approached and failed hire a web copy writer to do all of the above.

In my opinion the secret of great content for a website starts with something that has been around for centuries and that is applied very commonly in all newspapers, TV promos, etc. It’s the headline… If you have a great headline that grabs the visitor’s attention then you have already done half your job.

How does it work for a website? Simple -- You must capture in a few words that describe what this site is all about. In other words whatever made you decide to start this business in step 1 should now be explained in a short statement. For example if you decided to sell used technical manual online because no-one else does it then state it “The Place for Used Tech Manual”

Resources:

http://www.articlehub.com/

http://www.articlecity.com/

http://www.articlehub.com/Marketing/

http://rdf.dmoz.org/

http://w.moreover.com/

http://www.advertisingknowhow.com/members/articles.php

http://www.magnet4web.com/content/affiliate-marketing/what-is-affiliate-marketing-and-how-do-i-get-started.php

TIP: In case you need content in a hurry and for a temporary period of time, you should know that Wikipedia allows anyone to use their content as long as it is recognized as originating from Wikipedia

Finally while this is not really content related, you should not forget to check on the option to add a search capability to your website. Here are some free and paid solutions.

Additional Resources:

http://www.freefind.com/

http://www.fusionbot.com/

http://www.spiderline.com/

http://www.phpdig.net/

http://www.atomz.com/


8. Select an ISP

There are thousands literally these days and all offer the same things (more or less).

There are three main option:

I - Shared Hosting – You along with hundreds of others are hosted on the same machine(s)

II - VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting – A space within a machine or machine is dedicated to you and only you and you get basic admin support

III - Dedicated Server – A server is dedicated to you and only you and the admin support is a bit more advanced

Bottom line is that if you are going to have a few links on what is mainly a content site with very little or no functionality then get a shared plan. If on the other hand you are going to run a data base and need to install some apps to run your business then VPS and dedicated is for you. The big difference between the two is volume and capacity between the servers, and this is when you need to make a decision between VPS or Dedicated.

Resources: ISP that I like and use

http://www.jumpline.com

http://www.hostgator.com/

http://www.serverintellect.com/

http://www.hypermart.net/

Regardless of where you decide to host your site, I would suggest that you make sure that you can upload your files via FTP and to get an FTP solution and always backup your websites’ files. This will allow you to switch to another ISP provider if you are not happy with the one you first selected*

* Hence you want to register your domain with an independent registration provider independent of your ISP. This will allow you to make a simple change of DNS when you want to switch.

Ready to continue? I'll have more about optimization, Press Releases, using social media, etc. in a couple of weeks (around May 25), so come back and check it out.

Next topics will include the following:

Read Part 3 of the Plan of Action for Internet Success by clicking here

  1. Optimize your Website

  2. Press Release

  3. How to Use Social Media

  4. How to Use eZines, Blogs

  5. Paid and Free Listings

If you need assistance contact me by clicking here


Also check out my on-going posts about Internet Marketing Success 101 at jtouboul.com

PLAN YOUR INTERNET SUCCESS - Part 3

9. Optimize your Website

I saw once a statement that I find so true and the pitfall of many first time web entrepreneurs… It read “Now you have a web site, great content, a reasonably priced ISP… Congratulations! Now What??? (I read in the “Now What” something even more true “So What – Who Cares”

The reality is that having a great website on the web does not in itself achieve anything… It’s like opening a great looking store in the desert. No matter how great it looks no one will now about it. Hence comes the “fun” part, promoting your site. This is the area where gurus will charge you a fortune for telling you what is readily available on the Net, and, if you decide to go the SEM route (Search Engine Marketing – pay per click type of traffic), the folks at Google Adwords are waiting for you with a big (and I mean BIG) smile.

But before you get there, you should make sure that you do some home work and insure that your web site is optimized and will be “seen” as it should be “seen” (not as you intended it to be seen) by search engines.

A very short pause here to explain what the “seen” mean in case you do not know. Search engines index websites by sending a crawler that “read your pages” and then use the result of this crawler as well as all kinds of criteria to decide how high (or low) on your position. Assuming that you’ve selected a dozen keywords that really represent your business as discussed in part 2, you can simply enter one key word (or key term) at the time on the Google search engine and see how many websites that feature this keyword are listed (often the number is staggering but not to worry). The idea in optimizing your site is to insure that when a crawler visits your site you will be ready for it.


Two things are critical in my view for crawlers (assuming that you have already developed your content) and they include the Meta Tags and the HTML Validation.

Meta Tags

These are a set of information about your web site that is created to inform crawlers on what your site is all about, including title, description, as well as language, http type, etc. Here is an example of my website Meta Tags:


<meta name="generator" content="HTML Tidy for Linux (vers 6 November 2007), see www.w3.org">
<title>Internet Marketing and eCommerce Consultant</title>
<meta name="description" content="Internet Marketing Expert providing Affiliate Marketing, SEM, Email marketing, PR, SEO, guerrilla marketing, advertising, programming and product development.">
<meta name="keywords" content="internet marketing, online marketing, affiliate marketing, international business, plan, website optimization, email, SEM, SEO, strategy, advertising, consulting, small business, consultant">
<meta name="resource-type" content="document">
<meta name="generator" content="Meta Tag Maker">
<meta http-equiv="pragma" content="no-cache">
<meta name="revisit-after" content="20 days">
<meta name="robots" content="ALL">
<meta name="distribution" content="Global">
<meta name="rating" content="General">
<meta name="copyright" content="Jean Touboul">
<meta name="author" content="Jean Touboul">
<meta http-equiv="reply-to" content="jmtouboul@xxxxx.com">
<meta name="language" content="English">
<meta name="doc-type" content="Web Page">
<meta name="doc-class" content="Living Document">
<meta name="doc-rights" content="Public">
<meta name="classification" content="Internet Services">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">

These Meta Tags are typically placed right after the start of the header <head> but before then end of the header </head>

I invite you to use the Meta Tags sample and replace my information with yours. If you did not the search engine would think you’re my site.

HTML Validation

Once this is done then you must run the HTML Validation to insure that your website satisfies W3C specification for your type of website. Ideally you want to get a perfect score but it is sometimes hard to do and the idea is to eliminate the most obvious errors. The validation tool allows you to get a corrected version of the code and if you do I suggest that you first test it by saving it as index1.html or php or whatever.

Other Optimization Steps

Other obvious optimization steps that you will need to do include giving and alternate name to the images on your website.

Here is an example <img src="images/sample.gif" alt="sample image" class="right" /> where “sample image” should be replaced by something that describe your image and hopefully contains a keyword. In my case I would put something like “jean touboul consulting picture” to illustrate my own photograph.

In case you are not familiar with code (and I strongly suggest that you do familiarize yourself), tools like Dreamweaver allow you to point on an image (any image on your site) and see its values at the bottom of the screen. One of the values that you will see is the alternate name (Alt). Alt is used to show something should the image not display. Simply write something that correspond to your image and try to include a keyword.

Finally, one thing that I recommend is to create a site map that will list all the pages on your site and be contained on a simple page directly linked to your home page. Depending on the complexity of your site you may want to simply create one yourself or use site map tools.

Resources: Meta Tags Generators and related

http://www.optimization-services.com/meta.asp?ID=4 (free generator for those who want have a piece of software create it for them).

Resources: HTML Validation (W3C Validation)

http://validator.w3.org/

There are other things that you could do such as checking the keyword density or simulating a crawler from Google or one from Yahoo, etc. and optimize for optimum results but I would suggest that you optimize for Google to begin with. You will always have the opportunity to tweak later on.

Here are some resources in case you want to check it out:

http://www.seobench.com/keyword-density-analyzer/ This is a keyword Density Analyzer that will check your keywords count – Make sure that your keywords are what appear on top of the list. It does not have to be perfect).

http://www.dead-links.com/ This is a link crawler and link checker that will list all your pages and let you know if you have broken links.

http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/site-link-analyzer/ Same as dead-links.com but check out the other tools that they have. They may find something that may be good for you.

http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ This will help you create a site-map and even allow you to download an almost ready to go html page.

There are another number of things that can be done such as creating a “robot text”, assigning a Google validation number, etc. but this can wait as things are already getting overwhelming I am sure.

Once this is done it is time to submit to the main search engines and they include Google, Yahoo, MSN, as well as other (list provided below)

Be very careful to do all this right or have the right people do it for you. Do not be tempted by the cheap guarantees out there that promise optimization and submission to thousands of search engines. Not only is it a waste of time in most instances, it may be harmful to your campaign and overall success. And one the damage is done it takes months to correct.

For the “do-it-yourself” crowd I suggest the IBP software that does all of the above and more. Check it out at http://www.ibusinesspromoter.com/


10. Write a Press Release and distribute

You simply cannot launch a business or website, let alone both without broadcasting that event, and the best way to do that is via press releases.

Write one or more press releases about your site, product, or any aspects of your business or venture that could be interesting to a reader and submit them to press release distribution services. Also do not forget to make available on your site via a “press” or similar button.

Finally make sure that you have a link to your website on the press release. It should not only mention the name but also include a link to your home page (and if it make sense additional pages as well but don’t over-do-it.

Resources:

http://www.prweb.com
http://www.clickpress.com
http://www.webwire.com/
http://www.emediawire.com
http://www.businesswire.com
http://www.prwebdirect.com -
http://www.theopenpress.com
http://www.free-press-release.com
http://www.pressbox.co.uk
http://www.i-newswire.com/
http://www.pr9.net
http://www.pr-inside.com
http://www.newswire.ca/
http://www.pressreleasenetwork.com
http://www.marketwire.com
http://www.urlwire.com/
http://www.prurgent.com
http://www.prleap.com -
http://www.prnewswire.com
http://www.prfree.com/
http://www.openpress.com/
http://www.softpressrelease.com

Bottom line on Press Releases is that if there is only one thing that you could do after launching a website it would be the publishing of a press release across the Internet and to newspapers and magazines that specialize in your space.

While there are no guarantee (and there none for anything on the web no matter what anyone tells you, this is by far the most effective and inexpensive way to get noticed.


11. Social Media

Social media and social bookmarking are the way to market your product, service and website and it is worth looking into it or paying someone to do it for you..

To be successful in the social media you must spend a good amount of time writing, updating and maintaining your blogs and articles.

For social bookmarking you’ll have create, offer and store lists of Internet resources and make it accessible to people.

Resources: Social Media

http://www.twitter.com
http://www.blogs.com
http://www.blogger.com
http://www.linkin.com
http://www.facebook.com
http://www.youtube.com
http://www.myspace.com

Resources: Book Marking

http://del.icio.us/
http://www.digg.com/
http://www.blinklist.com/
http://ma.gnolia.com/
http://www.furl.net/
http://www.diigo.com/
http://www.complore.com/
http://gamingtags.com/
http://indiagram.com/index.php
http://www.goesby.com/
http://teachershare.org/openig/
http://www.chaamp.com/
http://www.a1-webmarks.com/
http://www.tektag.com/
http://www.bookmark.it/
http://www.wirefan.com/
http://www.linkatopia.com/
http://www.optimiz.us/
http://www.web20toolbar.com/
http://www.tallstreet.com/

Additional Resources: Social Media Profiles

http://www.meetup.com
http://www.tribe.com
http://www.ryze.com/
http://www.livejournal.com
http://www.linkedin.com/
http://www.friendster.com/

Make sure that you mention your site and give anecdotes, updates or write about events, news, new articles (see Write Articles for eZines and Blogs below) every time you have the opportunity to do that.


12. Write Articles for eZines, Blogs and other Posting Websites

Regardless of what people say the idea for a web site owner trying to get some traction is to

write things like articles, comments, reviews, opinions, etc. in as many places as possible. Once your blog is well provided with content, postings, etc., then it will be time to list it on the search engines (this will be covered later). Critical here is to have one or more links to your website in anything that you publish.

Once you have written a few articles or have three or four post then submit your post address to the search engines. It's that simple. Of course if you can get people within the web-blog to read what you have it is even better so pay particular attention to your post title and short description.

Resources:

http://wordpress.com/
http://www.ezinearticles.com
http://www.goarticles.com
http://www.articlecity.com
http://www.a1articles.com
http://www.ideamarketers.com
http://www.searchwarp.com
http://www.isnare.com/
http://www.amazines.com
http://www.articledepot.co.uk
http://www.articledashboard.com
http://www.easyarticles.com
http://www.articlebin.com
http://www.articlebeach.com
http://www.articlehub.com
http://www.articlegarden.com
http://www.articlesphere.com
http://www.articlealley.com
http://www.articlesfactory.com
http://www.articlewise.com
http://www.articlegeek.com

13. Paid and Free Listings

Some people may tell you that it is worth listing yourself in the Yahoo Directory, Yellow Pages, or one of the directories that charge a fee for listing your website. I frankly am not a fan of these directories but I must admit that you could get some traction from something like the Yahoo Directory for example and, as a result, this is the only pay directory that I always consider when listing a website. It’s not cheap at close to $300.00 per year but it may be worth it the first year or a launch.

Aside from paid directories there is one directory that you must submit to and that is dmoz. Dmoz is managed by human who are supposed to review and select the best site within a category. Unfortunately, it’s been reported that from time to time editor give preferential treatment to their buddies to the expense of others. I am not sure how wide spread this is but I still think the dmoz is one of the best listing you can get. Make sure that you find the right category and sub-category since dmoz is a maze.

As far as free listings, there are thousands of directories some legitimates some not so legitimate since they are designed to sell you something (they should not be confused with FFA or Free For All). Regardless, these directories have their value and there are services out there that offer to list your site to as many as 2500 or 3000 directories for as little as $50.00 or$60.00. The submissions are legitimate (I offer such a service and send submission reports) and the results vary greatly depending on time of submission vis-à-vis submissions to search engines.

Resources:

Listings on Paid Directories

http://dir.yahoo.com/ ($299.00)
http://botw.org/ ($99.95)
http://www.goguides.org ($69.00)
http://www.yellowpages.com/
http://www.business.com/
http://www.joeant.com/
http://www.jayde.com/ (also free listing)

Listings for all other directories: A sample list

http://www.dmoz.org
http://www.femina.com

http://www.gogreece.com

http://www.worldhot.com/

http://www.123india.com

http://www.elib.org

http://www.ezilon.com

http://www.epooch.com

http://www.christiansunite.com

http://www.toronto1.biz

http://www.canadianeh.com

http://www.aardvark.co.za

http://www.nzs.com/

http://www.aigam.com

http://www.lii.org/pub/htdocs/home.htm

http://www.sacentral.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm

There are too many to list (around 3,000 as mentioned above) so if you need a referral or help with this send me an email and I ’ll give you a list or help you submit to those free directories.

Ready to continue? I'll have more about advertising, link exchanges, etc. in a couple of weeks (around June 10), so come back and check it out.

Next topics will include the following:

Part 4

14. Advertising and Banner Exchange

15. Classified Ads

16. Link Exchanges

17. FFAs

If you need assistance contact me by clicking here

Also check out my on-going posts about Internet Marketing Success 101 at jtouboul.com