Friday, January 26, 2007

Managing Your Website

A long time ago, I wrote an article up on my business blog about a promotional strategy called “Hub and Spokes”. It’s a great and powerful strategy for the long-term life of your web business. You can find the article at The strategy basically involves having a central primary website, the “hub”, and then having it surrounded by lots of other interlinked websites, called the “spokes”. Think of a bicycle wheel.

One thing I hear a lot as I present about this topic, though, is: “How can you manage so many websites! I can barely handle one!”

Well, first of all, it doesn’t happen overnight. These sites build up over time, and the network grows. That, and, over time, I’ve developed systems that happen daily, weekly, and monthly that keep me moving forward.

But I thought it might be helpful to go over those and share my strategies. This doesn’t mean that you have to do it my way, or that my way is the only way that works. But it HAS worked for me, and so it might help you a bit as well.

Up front, let me say that these steps are for maintaining and updating my sites. They are already built and published. That’s a whole other issue.

Daily (or at least every other day)

  1. Check traffic. I look to see how many hits came to my site, and I look at where they came from. I’ll also check search engine URL’s to see what sort of search queries people were using when they came from a search engine.
  2. Check orders. Are there new ones? If so, fulfill them right away.
  3. Respond to emails. If someone asks a question, it really impresses them if you answer quickly. On my music site, I like to follow up on performance requests ASAP!
  4. Check and participate in communities. Email groups, forums, and MySpace are a large part of my marketing strategies, and I can spend as much as a half hour a day reading messages and participating in the discussion. Checking and adding the MySpace friend requests is also a big part of that.
  5. Track Auctions. When I have auctions pending, I’ll check the progress of those daily. If it’s the last day, I’ll do that even more often, since most of the bidding happens right at the end. When it closes, I contact the buyers and get the product shipped quickly.


  1. Blog. If I lag more than a week between my blog entries, I start to notice my traffic dropping. At least once a week is my rule.
  2. Read other people’s blogs. Not only is it a great way to draw up ideas for my own blog, but when I post relevant comments on other people’s blogs, it can draw attention back to my blog and my sites.
  3. Tweak my site. I’ll make adjustments to my site regularly. Adding a paragraph here or there, or a new product is a simple thing that keeps the site alive. I also keep a running “news” tab on the main page, so that when I make a deep change, the main page changes, too.
  4. Linking. I’m constantly looking for link exchanges, or ways to get other people to link to me. Not only for search engine ranking, but more links means more direct click traffic!
  5. Checking traffic on spokes sites. I don’t track them as much as my main hub site, but I do track them. Information is power!

Monthly (or maybe quarterly)

  1. More significant changes to the site. A new information page, a new special on some products, a new product line. I don’t make these kinds of changes often, but still periodically. Monthly works well.
  2. Checking my rankings. It’s always good to investigate the search engines and check how you’re ranking on various keywords and search terms. When my site tracker shows me getting results from certain searches, I’ll check to see how I’m ranking on those. I might want to rework my site to enhance those results.
  3. Adjusting my search terms. At the start of my site’s life, I research my keywords and search terms to see which ones are the strongest. Every once in a while, I’ll do that research again just to make sure I’m still optimizing for the best words. Then, I’ll make sure that those good words appear on the pages of my site often enough to get me good rankings.
  4. Sending out newsletters. What’s the point of building a mailing list if you never use it? Once a month, I’ll send out an announcement of the changes that are happening at my site.
  5. Writing and submitting an article. If I get my articles into directories and published on other people’s websites, then I get linkbacks, which is great for both traffic and ranking. It also helps me feel like an expert.
  6. Creating or updating a spokes site. Once in a while, it’s good to update things on the fringes. Build a new spoke in your site wheel. Update an old one that might be getting stale.


  1. Major revisions to my website. With all those little revisions going on month in, month out, it’s easy for my site to build up a lot of chaos. About once a year, I’ll revisit the site, and give it a good reorganization. I’ll move the content into more relevant sub-categories, and make sure the flow is clear and sensible. In some cases, I might even rebuild the site from scratch, just to keep it fresh.

These are all things that happen in the regular course of my site’s life. It is work, but it pays off! Take it a bit at a time, and it’s all manageable.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Pen is Mighty

There’s a lot being said lately about “Article Marketing”. It’s a concept that’s been around for a few years, but only recently got dubbed with a name, and is now being actively practiced by many savvy webmasters.

The practice simply is based on the fact that on the ‘net, Content is King. The sites that have the most usable content (information) keep the visitors there. They become “sticky”. Soon, the visitors start shopping, as well. Also, the search engines love the good substantive text to index. The spiders can really sink their teeth into it.

So, the smart webpreneur would want his website to be full of good sticky pages, full of information both for visitors and for search engines.

This opens up a great opportunity for someone with a little knowledge on a subject and a little bit of interest in writing. The idea is to write articles and content and submit it to other people’s sites. In return, they link back to your site.

The benefits are many. First of all, having the article visible on other sites (especially respected ones in your field) can boost your “net cred”. You become an expert, and that gives you more strength in the community.

Having the link back to your site also brings a couple of perks, too. It brings traffic, as people click from the article to your site, looking for more. This will spike as the article is first published, and then taper off. Most article sources will archive the content, so that link will remain active virtually indefinitely, so traffic will continue to trickle in.

The linkback also counts for search engine link popularity as well, and it’s one of the strongest inbound links you can get. It’s non-reciprocal, it’s deep in the text, and it’s a part of the content.

OK, how do you do it?

  1. First of all, pick something you know about, something you can speak of with confidence. If you’ve based your website around one of your own interests, this probably won’t be too difficult.
  1. Pick a subject matter that’s relevant to your site’s audience. If my site is about sports cars, it doesn’t help as much to write about beanie baby trading. Remember, you want to find your audience, and get in front of them. Writing about their interests will pull you up in their searches.
  1. You don’t have to write too much, but don’t write too little, either. I use the rain puddle as my guide. It has to be clear, and it has to be enough to cover the ground, but no so deep that they have to wade through it. As a general rule, 750-1000 words is good. If you find that an article is going longer than that, narrow it’s focus or split it into two articles.
  1. Make sure that the article is full of actually usable information. Too often I read a few paragraphs that just sort of dust over a topic, and don’t leave me any more enlightened than I was to begin with. Even less covers how to implement the topic. Why would a site owner want to publish content like that?
  1. After you’ve written a first or even second draft, go back through it and make it more keyword-rich. What search terms would be relevant to the topic? Work those words and phrases more into the text, repeating some of the stronger ones. This will help people find the article.
  1. Once you’ve got an article written, the first step is to post it on your own site. Some good, keyword-rich content will do wonders for your rankings and your traffic.
  1. Next, go to google and search for article directories. Post it to as many of these article directories as is appropriate for the content. More postings here can draw more uses of your articles, as site owners and newsletter editors choose their content. More uses means more linkbacks. One of my favorites is, but there are many others.
  1. Offer it to specific websites, too. As you’re out and about on the web, whether you’re looking for reciprocal links, or just checking out the competition, pause and offer an article to another site that targets the same audience. Don’t charge, just have them link back to you. They benefit with the content, you benefit from the link. Everybody wins. If the article is about web business, submit it to us at
  1. If your article has a journalistic, reportage sort of flair, post it to websites like, too, as well as other press release directories.

These steps can help to establish the buzz, the links, the reputation, the traffic, and ultimately the success of your website!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Hunting Story

Yesterday, I was meeting with one of my students, and he told me a story that so beautifully illustrated one of my core principles of internet marketing, that I asked his permission to share it here.

He told me of a friend of his that lived near him in Arizona for a number of years. He and this friend loved to go hunting, though they rarely got the chance to go together. Still, they got together socially often, and when they would, my student would admire the trophies on his friend’s wall. Magnificent examples of wildlife, of deer and antelope, the kind a hunter dreams of seeing, even more so of taking.

Time after time, my student asked his friend the secret to bagging these big bucks. His friend always demurred, preferring to keep it to himself. Year after year, season after season, my student tried to pry open this man’s mind and experiences to get at the gem that would bring him the same hunting success.

Finally, after years, the man relented and gave his secret.

“I go where the deer are.”

He continued, “If there are no deer there, I don’t hunt there.”

What profound simplicity. Hello, Mr. Obvious!

And yet, how many of us are frustrated about our failing businesses and we don’t see that one simple point. Maybe we’re hunting where there are no deer!

When I translate that into business terms, especially on the Internet, it boils down to three steps:

  1. Identify your audience
  2. Find out where they are
  3. Go there

Let’s look a little more in-depth at those.

  1. Identify your audience

This can often be the hardest part of this exercise. If you don’t know if you’re hunting deer or duck, how will you know where to go, and what kind of gear to bring? Sometimes the audience will be clear right from the start, like if you’ve got a product that’s already a niche product. Other products are more general and you might have to explore a bit and find out who the audience is. If you’re starting a business based on a hobby or interest, you also have a bit of an edge, because YOU are a part of the audience.

In some situations, you might have lots of options as to who your audience could be, and you get to choose who to go after first.

In all cases, be wary of the temptation to think, “The world is my audience!” That kind of broad market might work if you’ve got millions of dollars in your ad budget. For home business startups, I’d rethink it.

  1. Find out where they are

Once you’ve identified who you want to aim at, the next step is to find them. This may well take some time and exploration. It’ll also be an ongoing effort, throughout the life of your business.

Head out on the net and look for sites that appeal to your audience. Some will relate to your business as well, others will seem to be divergent. Still, you’ll have one thing in common with them: customers!

Look for online communities and forums. Look for subgroups within larger groups, like the message groups in What blogs, books, and magazines do your people read? Where do they shop? Where do they meet other people?

  1. Go there

Finally, when you’ve identified and found your audience, the next step is to get the word about your website in front of them. Reciprocal linking is a great way to start. Find a site that relates to your audience, and contact them. “I’ll link to you, if you link to me” is simple and clear.

Participate in the forums. Post messages in the chats and communities. Buy ads, if you can.

These three simple steps will help you bag the big business bucks!

Mark is the Director of Education for Clickincome, and a frequent contributor to e-Shop Talk Magazine.