Archive for August, 2010
There is a good deal of hype out there about automating article submissions to directories; my advice is – caveat emptor [buyer beware]. While it may be possible to automate submissions for a select group of directories, which use the same user interface (UI), the quality directories have unique UIs. Therefore, it may not be desirable.
Furthermore, the promise of high value back links is a myth. The major search engines (SE) are too smart to fall for these hat tricks. The best practice is to work with fewer directories that are productive, posting the same article across [not within] directories to create views, website traffic, and quality back links.
However, do not assume that this is a static situation, directories like all sites go up and down on Google page rankings and Alexa scores – so keep an eye on them. Additionally, remember not all directories are created equal with respect to productivity for your particular content. It is not a set-it-up-once and done type of game. However, you can create a process to make it efficient!
Use a spreadsheet to log the articles you have submitted to each directory and track which articles have been approved. Also, track the numbers of views each directory has produced. You can add other elements to your log, such as reasons for not being approved and the directories current Alexa score – if you care about such information.
An article-marketing log is also a good place to keep your username and passwords for each directory, information you’ll want at your figure tips. It may help to set up a folder for the content (with subfolders for drafts vs. final products) and perhaps a SWIPE file of article ideas. Getting organized and creating a routine process will save time and reduce errors.
P.S. I have achieved expert and platinum status with a number of directories – the secret is to focus on quality… shhh don’t tell anybody.
P.P.S. You can outsource this work and that may well be a good solution for many businesses. Selecting the appropriate partner to help you is a topic we can talk about in the future.
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Written in collaboration with Dr. Ralph Finos
We forecast in order to discern what is most likely to happen in the future, which enables us to do something about it. While the future is impossible to control (and very hard to predict), good forecasting allows us to see into dark corners. We gain insight into what could happen next. This insight allows users of the forecast to take action and influence the vision of the future offered by the forecaster.
Market Forecasters answer questions like:
- What are the likely sales in my market over the next 6 months?
- What are the likely sales in my market over the next 5 years?
- What is the growth potential in segment X of my market vs. segment Y in 5 years
- What is the potential to create a market where there are no products yet?
- What is the growth potential of my market if the basic product features and functions are different from what’s offered today?
Depending on the purpose, the forecaster can be in the business of prediction or explanation or both. Consistently getting the answer right (regardless of the “how”) is a great benefit. Understanding why the result occurred, gives you power to influence the future – which is a greater benefit. Be sure you are clear about which one you’re doing.
For the purpose of clarity, we’ll call the focus on prediction “near term forecasting” and the focus on prediction and explanation combined “long-term forecasting”. “Near” and “long” are relative terms – consumer products may have short life cycles in real-time (perhaps the duration of the December holiday season). This type of product is certainly a candidate for a near term forecast. On the other hand, the life cycle of a large-scale technology product such as data center sized storage products, are likely to require a long term forecast.
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The answer to this question might appear to be obvious. However, the reasons companies invest in market sizing and the approach they use or purchase will vary dramatically based on what they (you) are trying to do, the requirements for precision, and the tolerance for ambiguity in the room.
Market sizing is (and this is true of many areas of market research) a combination of science and art. Many analyst firms provide market sizing services to companies as a cornerstone of the syndicated research programs they offer. Companies interested in understanding (typically from a supply side analysis) the size of a market, use these services to determine market share and to plan future business strategy.
Gathering sales information from at least all the major players in a market is a typical approach to sizing. Further detail by market segment and geography is also typically part of the effort to size a market. The greater the detail the easier it is to find errors in the estimations.
Ultimately, companies use market sizing to estimate the position they hold in the market place. The estimates of market share become increasing accurate as firms compare the data for current size with the historical information they have collected. An analyst firm with five or more years in the business can pinpoint the size of a market with remarkable accuracy – assuming they are using a solid methodology, but that’s a topic for another time.
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Written in Collaboration with Andrea Lacroix
In real estate, there are three important considerations location, location and location! Project management also has three important considerations they are: communication, communication, and communication!
Before we go further in our discussion of project management, let’s discuss communication. Communication with team members, vendors, and clients throughout the project is vital. Okay, you knew that – right!?
The frequency and type of communication will change throughout the course of the project, but establishing consistent meeting times and consistent communication patterns will ensure that the client and team members are aware of the latest progress and issues as they occur.
Documentation is also critical. So much happens on a project before it goes into the field changes are bound to happen and equally true the reasons and approvals can be forgotten – don’t let that happen. Create a clear and friendly paper trail. You should, as a best practice, always follow-up meetings and phone conversations with an email. Summarizing the conversations that took place as well as noting decisions, next steps, and approvals will all help to keep the project on track.
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Written in Collaboration with Charley Spektor
During the past several months, we have examined several website registration forms. Different businesses have different registration needs, but we must all grapple with a similar website registration problem: High and sometimes extremely high drop off rates once website visitors reach the registration page.
In many cases, we have seen more than 90% of the visitors abandon the registration forms on a site. Registration for these and all sites is the lifeblood of their business and in some cases it is the business – selling completed registrations to outside vendors as sales leads.
Optimizing Your Registration Forms and Pages
During our years working with online products and services we’ve committed our share of registration page blunders. Here are three key problems and three remedies that have improved performance.
1. Eliminate extraneous registration form fields
Ask yourself, “Do I really need all of the information I am currently gathering? What are the essential data points I need to capture?” Scratch the rest. One site we examined had at least six form fields you could eliminate immediately, with no loss of quality, including two “create password” fields and four (4) “never-to-be-used” postal-mail fields.
2. Eradicate extraneous non-form-field content from the registration page
When a website user reaches your registration page, you want to provide just enough non-form information to help facilitate the completion of the form. Get rid of all the non-essential and redundant material that prevents the user from focusing on the task-at-hand. For example, at the top of the registration page of one form we reviewed were two text lines that said essentially the same thing. They simply employed a different syntax of words.
One line of text read, “You’re requesting information from Vendor X.” Right underneath this line the reader confronted this text: “Vendor X Requested Information.” To add a bit more confusion, a third line under these two asked the reader if they are a “member” of the site (less than half of 1 percent of previous visitors had bothered to become members). However, there was a fourth line of text which asked the user to “Log-in to pre-fill” the form. If you’re the typical reader, you’ve already spent five to 15 seconds reviewing (and thinking about the meaning of) these four lines. What a colossal blunder!
3. Eliminate extraneous website navigational routes that prevent successful registration-form completion
This last tip should be a no-brainer, but it occurs all too often. The journey many sites force you to take to really complete your registration and information request is round-about to say the least.
For example, after users click the “Submit” button on one of the sites we visited, they don’t get the PDF they’re interested in. Instead, a “thank-you” page is triggered, informing users that ‘a confirmation email’ has been sent to their email address. When users click on that email link, they still don’t get the material. The users are sent to the site’s home page, where they have to log in with a password, and then, to rub salt in the wound, they’re left on their own to find the proper navigational path to the PDF they had originally expressed interest in via a search query. Because of the poor navigational links from the home page, most readers did not find the PDF – talk about an unfriendly experience!
Are you thinking, “Wow I’d better go check my site?” Or are you still feeling “It can’t happen here; not on my site; not on my watch.” Just for kicks, take a fresh look at your registration pages and let us know what you find.
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Written in Collaboration with Dr. Ralph Finos
This is a short collection of quotes related [in some cases loosely] to market forecasting. Forecasting is a difficult and challenging endeavor. It can be a dirt job, but someone has to do it!
We’ll kick it off with a quote from Mr. Churchill, he is always to the point.
The Basic Challenge
The future is just one damn thing after another. – Winston Churchill
Prediction is very difficult. Especially when it’s about the future – Anonymous
Our business is prophecy and if prophecy were certain, there would not be much credit in prophesying – Max Radin
Never mind the noise in the market, pay attention to the price of the fish – Bahamian saying
Forecasting Tools and Processes
Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly – GK Chesterton
If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called “Research” [or in our case forecasting!] – Albert Einstein
Sources and Data Quality
Every tool carries with it the spirit by which it has been created – Heisenberg
Torture the data long enough and it will confess – Anonymous
Staying on Top of Your Forecast
None of us really understands what’s going on with these numbers. – David Allen Stockman, Director US OMB, on the U.S. Budget, 1981
Every model, no matter how detailed or how well conceived, designed, and implemented, is a vastly simplified representation of the world, with all the intricacies we experience on a day-to-day basis. – Alan Greenspan
Be Open to Novel Outcomes
We do not know what the future will bring, except that it will be different from any future we could predict – John Maynard Keynes
Normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive to its basic commitment. - Anonymous
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them – Albert Einstein
We make progress in economic theory one academic funeral at a time.
While it is easy to poke fun at ourselves as we endeavor to create useful forecasts, the forecaster’s job is a difficult one. Fortunately, there are best practices and a body of work we can draw upon.
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