Aggregated and Filtered Content Is King

Let’s face it, no matter what your business card says, you are probably in the information business.

Want verification of this from a Pulitzer Prize winning author? Go pick up a copy of Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat. It’s a big book, but by page 45 or so you will come to understand that only those who can make information more valuable will survive.

Just a few years ago the rallying cry on the web was – content is king. Not so much anymore. I can find a person with a reasonable command of the English language to crank out 50, web page length articles in a week, for about $100. And, Google’s AdSense program has incentivized all the Internet marketers to create this kind of content for ad revenue sake.

The crush of content that the average person has to consume is out of control.

So, the answer? Find, create, enhance, package and distribute content – aggregate it, filter it and make it more useful. That’s your job.

And for that job, RSS, and the various tools lumped into the RSS bucket provide the power.

For the self-proclaimed computer geek, the RSS tools and open APIs are an unlocked candy store. But, you know that already.

For the average small business guy or gal, the ease of implementing these once foreign applications makes using RSS beyond blog posts a simple proposition.

Here are some ways companies are using the automatic distribution features of RSS

  • Keep customers informed about their company, products, services and promotions
  • Update employees and associates about company matters and events
  • Aggregate and publish news headlines and stories of interest to clients
  • Collect and filter sales intelligence
  • Send daily communication to salespersons
  • Track changes to real estate and auction listings
  • Publish news and news releases to various web pages
  • Advertise job opening
  • Recommed and update books from Amazon
  • Republish FAQs and support forum headlines
  • Promote random sales and special offerings
  • Provide product or service updates to buyers and owners
  • Create and send training programs to employees
  • Publish calendars or events and company happenings
  • Research competition and competitive keywords
  • Send daily tips and other marketing communications

Your job is to learn about this tool and then take what your learn and find creative ways to apply it in order to make the information that your provide, the content you provide, more valuable.

Here is a list of sites to help you get started on the “uses for RSS: journey (The list below is a BlinkList – a tool you may find useful in your information business)

If you’ve got some extra time on your hands

If you find yourself with some extra reading time and want to discover a host of new “possibly” useful Internet services, visit the Company Index at TechCrunch. The author of this site finds and highlights all that is new on the web. Some of the companies/services, like Basecamp, actually flourish into important small business marketing resources, others are techno-geek playgrounds, but fun to read about none the less!

The Search Engine Rules Never Change

I got another one of those SEO spams offering to use secret algorithm busting tricks and the latest rule changes to move my web site to the top.

Here’s the deal about search engines. The rules never change.

This is all you have to do:

  • Find out what your market is searching for
  • Create good content around those searches
  • Write well formed HTML around those searches
  • Network like hell to get links around those searches

That’s it. No Florida, no Jagger, no Google Dance to be named later will ever have a negative impact on your traffic if you follow these three simple rules of web site optimization.

Duct Tape Review: AWeber

For this review I have chosen a marketing meat and potatoes kind of tool – the autoresponder. I know there’s nothing Web 2.0 flashy cool about a system that sends email, but effective email marketing is and always will be a key marketing strategy.

AWeber Systems has done what few other autoresponder services have done in my opinion. They’ve updated their system, changed with the times, adopted new technologies, such as RSS and, in effect, remained a very useful tool.

At the heart of AWeber is the follow-up autoresponder that allows you to create email message campaigns and automatically send follow-up messages to subscribers. I also use AWeber to send out my weekly HTML newsletter.

The things that set AWeber apart are:

  • They aggressively weed out spammers that hurt all legitimate marketing
  • They achieve over 99% deliverability of email
  • They offer unlimited lists, follow-ups and newsletters
  • They have added RSS distribution and archiving
  • They offer a variety of very easy to use sign-up forms
  • They offer email distribution of your RSS feed – you can actually send your blog posts to email subscribers

The basic service is $19.95 per month and they offer a 30 day money back guarantee.

AWeber gets my 5 rolls recommendation –

Automation and consistent follow-up are critical marketing tactics. Using AWeber’s autoresponder system gives you both.

Google Sitemaps – Another great tool

I’m sure you’ve read about Google’s sitemap initiative, but if not, it’s worth your while to learn enough about it to implement it yourself or demand that your web person understand it.

Basically, Google is allowing website owners to submit a map of their website in a special XML file. This file is then used by Google to crawl the site. The XML file also automatically adds any new content and alerts Google to have a look at the new content. On the surface this seems like a perfect new tool and it is.

Brand new sites have a much better chance of being listed immediately and spidered deeply – something that could take months in the past.

I added to Google sitemaps to all of my sites when I first heard about them, but frankly, my sites were indexed already. About a week ago I launched a brand new shopping site for a client and wanted to test the Google sitemap on this clean slate. This was a brand new domain and brand new site. I added a Google site map, submitted the site map to Google and did nothing else. No submissions, no RSS feeds, no inbound links from high ranking sites – nothing. Within 48 hours, all 18,000 pages from this site had been indexed and traffic from Google searches started to show up.

And, it gets better. In the last few days Google added some statistics to the site map program. (They also added the Urchin Analytics program but it is having some function issues so far – more on this later.) For instance, you can now see top search queries and top search query clicks for your site. Top search queries are the top queries to Google that return pages from your site. Top search query clicks are the top queries to Google that directed traffic to your site (based on the number of clicks to your pages in our search results). Good stuff to know.

Okay, now that I convinced you to check into this, here is a list of great Google sitemap resources:

By the way, I use the VIGOS GSitemap software for my sites.

Small Business Innovation – Extending Brick and Mortar

There is a hardware store in my neighborhood that harkens back to a day when hardware stores had well-worn wooden floors and a staff that knew something about how to fix everything.

Kevin and Kathy Euston are second generation owners of a type of small business that has, for the most part, gone away.

So, what’s kept Euston Hardware going? Innovation and the ability to change. It’s the same thing that helps millions of small businesses survive.

Get close to your customer and find out how to keep them coming back.

First, Euston Hardware added a tool and equipment rental business. This step allowed them to bring something into a urban neighborhood that the chains couldn’t

This week, Kevin tells me, they officially launched – NeighborhoodHardware.com – an online hardware store with over 3000 items. Another revenue stream and the ability to appeal to millions of online shoppers who, like me, love to support the local small business.

You know you want that 19 volt cordless drill!

Stop Wasting Prime Web Real Estate

A bit of a soap box speech today, but I can’t take visiting another small business web site only to be greeted by a home page that says – Welcome to our web site! (then of course, the title tag is the name of the company) It’s like someone wrote this rule that, if you call it a home page, it’s like the cover of a book. No, think of your homepage as the only 3-4 seconds you may get to convince a prospect that you have something worth sticking around for. (And don’t make me go into my flash only intro page rant.)

Look, web surfers are the poster children for attention deficit. When you are strolling in the park, it’s okay to exchange pleasantries. On your web site, you’ve got to grab people by the throat and immediately convince them that this place is worth their time.

Think of your home page as an ad for your web site.

With that in mind, write a powerful headline that grabs your visitor’s attention. Then, spend the rest of the words on that page pointing out in very specific terms how your firm in unique. Blast them with the 3-4 top reasons they need to know all about you. And please, go beyond the basic description of your business and it’s services. Go beyond explaining the obvious expectations. Dig deep and layout that you get who THEY are and what THEY need.

Lastly, write, or have your web designer write, a meaningful, keyword rich title and tag for the page. Something that might actually look like a search phrase.

Something like:
Kansas City’s Most Trusted Remodeling Contractor-Schloegel Design Remodel

is far more effective than – A.J. Brown Construction Services

Where In The World Is Local Search?

Look, I’m not going to waste too much time trying to convince you that people are searching for every kind of business, right there in you hometown, using the Internet. Every major search engine is rushing to become the next local phone book and you need to get your business listed now, while it’s still free.

Here are the major plays you need to make today. (Of course, this will change by next week but, it’s a start.)

Register your web site and business listing with each of these local versions of search engines.
Google Local
Yahoo Local
Super Pages (provides listings for many search engines and part of Verizon)
City Search (said to feed AOL)
MSN Local

Let’s say you were looking for a marketing coach and you typed in “Marketing Coach Kansas City, MO” in Google Local. This is what people do and they need to be able to find you when they do!