Archive for the ‘Online growth’ Category

Measures and metrics for niche blogging

Niche blogging will eventually change the way people measure the value of blogs. Most of the media attention for bloggers is based on high volume blogs, as measured by traditional website metrics (unique visitors, pageviews) and blog traffic metrics such as Technorati.

But for a small business owner who runs a niche blog with no advertising and yet gains a lot from each new customer, a very small amount of traffic can lead to enough conversions to make a huge difference to his or her business.

Niche bloggers don’t all care about massive amounts of traffic. A highly successful niche blog won’t show up in the top anything at Technorati, and may never get a high page rank. But they have an audience, in many cases a highly profitable one in their niche.

So, if you are a niche blogger, don’t be disheartened by the metrics of the big sites. Track your new clients, track your acquisition costs. Measure and test. And enjoy the benefits of niche blogging!

Blogging as part of Australian Govt Policy-Making?

Governments around the world (particularly ours) are known for their slow adaptation of new technologies and policies. Recent OECD figures show Australia ranking a poor 17th out of 30 developed countries for broadband take up.

So it is with great suprise that we see so much attention suddenly being directed at Australia’s internet access and, even more impressive, its planned implementation as part of Government policy making.

“THE Howard Government has unveiled sweeping plans to employ Web 2.0 practices to encourage greater citizen participation in policy-making.

The Minister (Gary Nairn – Special Minister of State) last week launched a set of “Principles for ICT-Enabled citizen engagement” as part of a wider government commitment to support a consistent experience for everyone engaging with the government electronically.”
— CeBIT Australia News

This comes only days after Australian Opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, announces a plan to spend $AU4.7 billion with the private sector on an Australia-wide broadband network!

While I am fortunate enough to live in an area where broadband access isn’t an issue, it is still very encouraging to see how important the government sees Australia’s online future, and shows further how imperative it is that businesses throughout Australia get online and take their place in our global market.

How old is your audience?

Do you know who is reading your blog or website? I came across a fascinating exchange about WordPress taking on Movable Type (the action is in the comments), which led me to see these age based demographics of Live Journal users

Demographics of Live Journal blog users.

Who is your audience? MySpace and YouTube are well known for their youthful audience, and you can see that Live Journal users (content creators) are predominantly 15 to 25. Creating content is a very active process, and to see youth so heavily represented is significant.

In traditional media, you pretty much had to be a media mogul to have a say on the global stage.

Not any more.

Getting to online marketing

Since we launched, I’ve been constantly refining the online marketing approach we use for our publicity offerings. The biggest change occurred over the Christmas break in the form of an improved ‘long copy’ description of our services. At the same time, we introduced an autoresponder based education series covering the material from our publictity workshops. This has led to a definite increase in the traffic to our website and our conversion rate, and a range of interesting new clients.

The online marketing approach we use is finding its way into our service line. I am finding that in talking to clients about the kind of on-line marketing we are doing they want to add this into their site as well. Some are keen to launch a new site altogether. When I am talking about on-line marketing I am talking about key word research, adwords campaigns, dedicated landing pages, education via email auto responders and effective offer pages … etc. Its a long list, and helping people understand these marketing tools and how to use them takes more than one conversation.

Putting these elements together into fixed price services that our clients can tap is what I am currently working on.

I’ve been involved in sales and marketing of services for fifteen years. What is currently happening is a change of the rules of marketing for services. The on-line environment offers real opportunities for small players. This is one of those periods of time when everything about sales and marketing is changing. This is not always clear for people who are in the middle of it. Personally I find it very exciting. I’d be interested to hear whether you are getting a sense of these changes too.

Blogging for money

There have been a number of posts recently on the topic of making money from blogs.

First of all, Guy Kawasaki noted that he earned $3,350 in 2006 from Adsense. That really caught my eye when I saw it, as Guy is in the top 50 on Technorati, and has well and truly earned his stripes as an A list blogger. If you don’t read his blog and are interested in business startups, go and review his top posts. [And subsequently Guy posted a follow up, seems a lot of people got interested in this one.]

Next, Chris Anderson responded to this figure and suggested Don’t Quit Your Day Job. And I’d particularly draw you attention to his note that “the reason to be a Long Tail producer is not direct revenues.”.

Today, Yaro Starak, an excellent Australian blogger, posted on What It Takes To Be A Professional Blogger. Some great discussion here about Darren Rowse, who demonstrates money can be made from great content.

Ok, three great posts to read. My take on all this is that its the indirect revenue that is most interesting for small business. None of our blogging customers expect to make direct revenue from their blog. But they do expect indirect revenue. A small business that has products and services should consider how blogging can be used to:

So Darren Rowse and others can make direct revenue from blogging (just don’t try this in a Long Tail niche), businesses can get a lot of indirect value from Long Tail niches. Here the pay off isn’t AdSense or other forms of advertising revenue, its about selling more products and services.

Paul & Jenny Geelen – who are clients of ours – are using blogging in exactly this way. The content they are publishing on their blog is niche focused and remarkable, and they are also getting a lot of interest in the stories of eye loss. Customers are contacting Paul * Jenny directly from their blogsite – they read the content, and get in touch about their services (and people are getting in touch from outside their traditional markets). So for Paul & Jenny, whether blogging makes money from advertising is not relevant. What is relevant is their geographic reach into their niche audience.

So when looking at blogging for money, keep in mind both direct and indirect models. Both are viable. But over the long haul, the indirect revenue model is going to be the most important for small business.

OBO will be the next acronym you need to learn about

You wouldn’t have heard about OBO yet. But my guess is you will.

OBO In Google Jan 2 2007
Googling OBO on Jan 2, 2007

We need an acronym like OBO to stand for Online Business Optimisation (or optimization if you prefer). A lot of small businesses are having to coming to grips with Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – because when your business is online you just have to.

Compare OBO (a fledgling acronym) to its fully fledged partner, SEO:

But the availability of SEO services are only a part of the picture.

To run a business online, you need:
An online prescence -> then traffic to your site -> then conversations with your prospects -> then conversion to customers -> then follow up.

SEO helps with traffic, that is all. So I’m going to call 2007 as the year of OBO. OBO will of course include SEO, and help a business optimise itself online across each of these stages. OBO needs copywriting skills, in spades. SEO already recognises that it needs more copywriting, and as OBO takes hold, copywriters are going to find themselves more in demand than ever.

There are already a few companies positioning themselves as experts in Online Business Optimisation (and yes, a lot more for Online Business Optimization). But nobody has coined the acronym. Something must be wrong in the acronym supply chain – are Gartner/Meta/Hurwitz asleep at the wheel?

I’m off to outline the OBO Book :)

Traffic statistics, big business and the Long Tail

Steve Edelman, on his always interesting Micro Persuasion blog, is saying It’s Time for Traffic Stats to Die.

Working in the world of the Long Tail is very different to the world of big business. Largely the business media covers big business, and its like that with coverage of Internet trends as well. The big companies and the big trends get a huge amount of coverage. But in the world of the Long Tail, different rules apply, and different measures are relevant. And even though big business mightn’t notice it yet (or like it when they do), it will matter.

I like Edelman’s post, because the “Page Views aren’t accurate any more” discussion has been mostly about technology and advertising .. some technologies don’t make you request a new page to do something, so the advertising industry billing model is challenged. Hmm, so what. But this post picks up on what is a much bigger issue … even if page views were accurately counted, not all page views are equal.

Most small business aren’t ever going to attract huge volumes of traffic. Why would they? The main measure of online success for a small business is … does my website lead to more business? Do you need lots of traffic to achieve this? No. A relatively small amount of good traffic will do just fine, thanks very much. So online marketing strategies for small business are very different to big business.

Just last week, a blogging client of ours got a call …. “I’m looking at your site, I want to make a booking.” That matters a lot to them, its their first born-on-the-web client, it didn’t come from a personal referral. The return from that client is significant, for a business that knows all of their customers personally. All around the world, companies like ours are helping small business find their customers online (and blogs are a big part of that).

That’s not to say small business doesn’t measure or care about traffic at all (some of our blogging clients love poring over Google Analytics). But Steve Edelman is right when he says that different measures matter. Big business is facing a new, and very dangerous, competitor. Small business. Hundreds of thousands, millions of them. Not going after hundreds of thousands of page views. Nothing that will ever reach the top 100 of Alexis or whatever. But very specific online marketing strategies looking for quality traffic in their niche, leading to a very-tidy-profit-thanks-very-much.

That one visit to our client’s website – and the events that led up to it – is what should be measured. What did the customer want? How did they go about finding it online? What did they find? How did they interpret the information the found online, and what convinced them to buy? Traffic statistics that are all about tracing millions of hits to support millions of low value advertising transactions aren’t going to be that helpful. Who cares about numbers of page views if customers buy somewhere else?

Now even if a big business could start to trace this type of metric, once they found out what was happening would they be able to defend themselves? Consumers of information, products and services are getting new choices, and making different decisions. People love having this choice, love finding stuff that is more like what they want. This is what the Long Tail is all about. Given a choice outside the Top 40, people buy some pretty weird and wonderful stuff, becuase its what they want.

So lets wait and see what new ways of measuring traffic are developed. Perhaps the new measures will help online marketing efforts for small business even more than big business. We live in interesting times.

Why you should know about the Time Person of the Year

Time Person of the Year
Time has named the Person of the Year as You.

Here is the article (and I’ve linked to the print version, so you can see it with as few ads as possible): Time POTY.

So aren’t they talking about consumer Web 2.0 issues, unrelated to small business? Definitely not. The people currently participating in the “massive social experiment” referred to by Time also reflect the massive increase in the size of potential markets for small business. An explosion has occurred in the online participation rate already – but we are also in a massive growth phase.

Statistics can be a bit obscure at times, but consider in Australia:

  • There are over 6M active internet users, and about half have broadband (ABS data)
  • Small business is exceptionally well connected, with 80% of SMEs with broadband Internet access (ref: July Sensis e-Business Report). This is up from 17% in 2002.
  • Over 60% of employees of SMEs have Internet access at work (ref)

This is similar to the US, where 78% of almost 20 million small businesses use the Internet (wow, that is over 15.5 million small businesses!). In 2005 they spent $43B US online (see eMarketer).

So, its worth reading about the Time Person of The Year, and reflecting on what it means for you. Our clients – and yours – are out on the web in ever increasing numbers, and in a mushrooming set of niches. What a fantastic story for diversity. And such a great opportunity for small business.