Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Just for Fun: Sid and Fancy

Today I'm taking a break from writing informative, educational content to write about something fun! I saw this fantastic band perform last Saturday when I was on vacation in Portland.

They're called Sid and Fancy, and their music is kind of a punk-rock mix of country and dark comedy. All their beats are happy and quick, but the lyrics threw me for a loop! These guys were up there singing about drinkin' cause their girl left 'em -- plucking on a banjo and stomping their feet all the while.

They also had this great fiddle player -- wow! She was awesome. She was standing at the very back of the stage, but she had such a huge presence that you just couldn't ignore it! I highly reccommend checking them out if you're ever in the Portland area. For a $10 cover I got a full night of entertainment.

To hear a sample of their music, check out their spot on MySpace . They have some great pics and an awesome song on their homepage.

I wonder if they need help with their website... >:)

Making Friends With Google

As the Google guys foresaw with such prescience when they created their search engine, the first and foremost reason people want to go online is to gather information. Internet users want answers. They want them quickly, and they want them to be accurate.

It is to this end that Google created its search algorithm, which gives preference to websites with lots of links back to other credible websites. How often do you click through four or five pages of Web results to find what you’re looking for? The statistics say not very. In fact, about 90 percent of Web traffic goes to the top 30 search results. That’s a pretty slim margin!

None of this is a secret – you can read about it in The Google Story by David Vise and Mark Malseed. You can also read about it in Google’s “About” pages. They explain the way their system works pretty clearly on this site. Just go to the Google Webmaster Help Center and check out all the information they’ve posted about how to improve your PageRank™. They even have a Webmaster Blog that talks about all the developments over the past year.

The key here is to provide your customers accurate, helpful information. Articles crammed full of repeated keywords no longer fool Google, Yahoo! or any other major search engine… and yet people keep writing them! Do you remember the days when you’d enter a search for “boating” and come up with 500 websites on completely unrelated topics, just because someone had crammed “boat” “boating” and “sailing” into the description? Google pretty much put a stop to that when it came on the scene, but keyword-stuffing persists in clogging up the Web nonetheless.

It is still true that the best way to attract visitors to your site is to link it to as many other sites as possible, but the way to do that is by writing solid content. Here are a few tips:

1) Write about what you know! You own a small business or run a website – write about what it’s like to start your own company, or about a product or service you sell. Do you have a particularly interesting life experience? Write about that. There are no limits here!

2) Write as though you’re talking to a friend. Maintaining a conversational tone will make it easier to get the words out, and you can always go back and edit later. The biggest mistake a lot of people make is only writing one paragraph and then agonizing over it until it’s perfect. It’s much better to write down everything you have to say and then go back and read it in one piece.

3) Write about something others want to read. Do you know how to build a website? Thousands of people search for that topic every day. Goodness knows I have. Writing informative “How To”-type articles is a great way to inform your readers and get those eyeballs on your webpage.

4) Don’t make it too long. The ideal article length for publication on a broad scale is between 400-750 words. Less than 400, and content sites aren’t interested. More than 750 words and your reader has moved on or fallen asleep.

To that end, I’ll wrap this up! Here’s the bottom line: It’s getting harder and harder everyday to fool Google into thinking that SEO articles are actually good content. Just because people continue to try to buck the system doesn’t mean it’s necessary – and in the end it takes just as much if not more hard work.

Honestly, how easy is it to write a 500-word article containing the phrase “Caribbean yachting” 40 times? It would be so much better – for your readers and for your business – just to write about that fabulous cruise you took over Christmas.

Notes from a Novice: My Marketing Adventure

Well, here goes. I’m going to give this “writing” thing a shot, even though I’m not much of a writer. Right now, my graphic design website only gets about 100 hits a week – and that’s not even enough to show up as a blip on the radar when Google searches the Net.

I’ve tried writing search engine optimized articles in the past to sell my graphic design services and I’ve got to tell you… it didn’t do me much good. Search engine algorithms get smarter all the time, and keyword-stuffing doesn’t work nearly as well as it used to. One of my clients (who will remain nameless) asked me to do a series of SEO pieces for his band’s website -- and their site ranking actually went down as a result.

During a rare day of accelerated motivation, I was doing some Web research and came across the concept of article marketing. Fans of the practice claim that if you do it right, writing one or two articles a week about your business will drive traffic (and therefore money) right into your hands. So here’s the experiment: I want to take the $5,000 per year I make now off my online efforts and turn it into $15,000. Ideally, articles like this one will help me get there!

The concept is simple: All I have to do is write one or two of these articles per week (provided I can keep up my motivation!) and when I distribute them to online content sites, I’ll start getting links and improving my PageRank. That all sounds well and good, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Distributing articles to these sites is tedious!

It seems like every content site has totally different parameters: This one wants 75 characters per line, that one wants 70. This one accepts HTML coding, that one wants all plain text – absolutely no HTML. By the time I had successfully submitted my latest article to three places, I was ready to uncork the chardonnay and call it a night! It took nearly four hours just to get my words out on three websites. I was ready to give up on the Internet for good after that.

After a little more reading, I discovered that I was not alone. In fact, there were so many other people like me that some enterprising Internet gurus had created systems that would negate the need for all the busy-work. I’m not sure yet whether I want to sign up for a paid subscription to one of these sites, so I’m going to do a little further research.

The first place I looked at was isnare. They offer a free article distribution service, but in order to reach their entire list of 40,000 sites you need to pay a fee -- something that is fairly commonplace in this industry. The fees work on a sliding scale depending upon how many articles you want to submit. It costs $10 to submit five pieces, right on up to $100 for 115 articles.

The next place I looked at was PhantomWriters. Cool name, right? I pictured myself wearing a leotard and a cape, flying from website to website distributing pearls of wisdom.

PhantomWriters has a snazzy website that is quite content-rich itself. In fact, I got pretty caught up reading some of their writing tips! This service is a little more expensive, ringing in at $35 per submission, or a volume discount of $200 for 10 articles. This one seemed a little steep for my budget, so I moved right along.

My next Internet search brought me to SubmitYourArticles. They charge a flat rate of $37 per month for four article submissions, which works out to just under $10 per article. They also offer HTML editing tools and a good directory of tips and tricks to get your work published.

Another service I found was Article Marketer. They work on a subscription system, and each level of subscriber can submit unlimited articles during the course of their subscription. The quarterly subscription is $74.99 right on up to a lifetime package for just under $500. Article Marketer submits to more than 66,000 sites. They also employ a team of editors who read each subscription and check it against a 150-point Diamond Assurance checklist to make sure it’s publishable.

All four of these places have something unique to offer, and depending upon the volume of articles I submit, each of them could be a better value. In the end, it’s all up to me – and you!

Groovy Graphix Revs Up

Hello Everyone!

My name is Dana Davalos. I've been toying with the idea of creating an online business for a year or so now, and I finally have the motivation to give it a shot!

I love my day job as a graphic designer, but right now I'm taking jobs that I would otherwise pass on just to make ends meet. I intend to change all that with this blog -- using the power of Internet marketing. It is still possible to be a successful online entrepreneur... if you know how to market yourself and you don't get discouraged.

With this blog, I intend to teach you (and incidentally myself!) all about online marketing. If you're a beginner on the scene, you've come to the right place! If you're a dabbler like me, we'll learn this thing together.

Thanks for reading!