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Where Marketers Go to Grow

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Marketing / September 4, 2007 Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing Part II - Website Metrics
Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing Part II - Website Metrics

By Mike Volpe

This article is the second in a series called Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing.  The previous article was Part I: Executive Level Metrics.

Part II: Website Metrics

Continuing in the series of articles about what metrics to measure in marketing, I want to turn to website visitor metrics.  These are the 5 most important metrics I like to look at when specifically investigating my website ... Read More

Marketing / August 30, 2007 Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing - Part I
Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing - Part I

By Mike Volpe

This article is the first in a series called Marketing Metrics: What to Measure in Marketing. Use this link to read What to Measure in Marketing Part II: Website Metrics.

Part I: The High Level Executive Metrics

As more and more companies move from "old marketing" or "outbound marketing" (tradeshows, print advertising, direct mail, telemarketing) and embrace "modern marketing" or "inbound marketing" (using the Internet to make it easier for customers to find you using your website, SEO, PPC, Blogs, etc.) a lot of people wonder what metrics they should track to measure their success and progress.  Based on speaking with a number of our customers, my experience in Internet marketing for the past decade, and talking with the Internet marketing gurus at HubSpot, here are some ideas for the 5 marketing metrics you should track at an executive level.

1) Website Grade - The great thing about this score is that is it very easy to understand (who doesn't comprehend a 1 to 100 score?), and it compares you against your peers (currently over 70,000 other websites), and it is based on a number of different metrics so it summarizes data to save time.  This metric is available for free from the Website Grader SEO Tool.

2) Website Traffic - This is the total number of unique visitors to your website over a time period, usually a month.  At a high level, this gives you a sense of the overall interest in your business, and if the marketing programs you are doing are working or not.

3) Leads - This is the next step in the sales funnel, and is the most important metric for measuring your marketing efforts.

4) New Customers - "How many sales did you close this month?" is probably the most important question you should answer for your business.

5) Customer Acquisition Cost - Many businesses don't compute this on an ongoing basis, but knowing the total sales and marketing cost for each new customer (on average each month) is important.  It gives you a good sense of how your business is going, and if it is getting easier or harder to grow.

Of course there are many more things you could track, but the goal of this list is to have 5 things that you should measure on a monthly basis to see a high level or executive view of your business.  In the other articles in the series, I will discuss more detailed metrics for measuring marketing in more detail.  One final note, make sure to measure these metrics as a trend, keeping track of how they change over time.  The real value is not just in knowing where you stand, but also knowing if you are moving forward or backward.

What do you measure for your business?  Are there any particular detailed metrics you would like to see discussed in future articles?  Leave a comment below and let me know. 

internet marketing kit
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Marketing / August 28, 2007 Walking the Thin Line Between Networking and Notworking
Walking the Thin Line Between Networking and Notworking

By Brent Leary

After joining my latest business networking site I started thinking about all the ones I already belonged to.  This includes MySpace, LinkedIn, Digg, JumpUp, Facebook, FastPitch!, Del.icio.us and MyBlogLog.  My local sites include GoDekalb and Southern Fried Tech (yes I live down south in Atlanta).  I'm not even going to talk about Soundclick, Imeem and Podseeq.com which are sites that I could say are business related for me....technically speaking...for podcasting purposes. And I'm just getting warmed up here as I could fill a book up with social networks I belong to.  I even use a site called Profilactic that allows you to access all my popular social network accounts from one location.

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Marketing / August 22, 2007 The Perils of Pandering To Google: Balancing SEO and TAO
The Perils of Pandering To Google: Balancing SEO and TAO

By Dharmesh Shah

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all the rage. Even within the small business community, there seems to be an increasing interest in SEO as indicated by the continuing growth in usage of our free SEO analysis tool .

This interest in SEO should not come as a big surprise. Who wouldn't want free, targeted traffic to their website and get more clients to grow their business?

But, successful internet marketing is not just about SEO. In this article, I'd like to introduce the concept of TAO -- Target Audience Optimization .

Lets take one example. As part of many SEO projects, one of the key areas of focus is the Page Title. There is wide consensus among SEO experts that the Page Title is an extremely important factor for "on page" SEO. There was a time that some people argued (including a few of us here at HubSpot ), that since the page title really got displayed only at the top of the browser window, that it was of little interest to humans and much more important to search crawlers. As such, one possible strategy is to optimize the page title for the search engines only, hence taking the most advantage of this important SEO factor.

My opinion is that in addition to thinking about SEO when writing page titles, even *more* emphasis should be placed on TAO ("Target Audience Optimization"). Page titles are not just shown at the top of the browser window. They are also shown in the search results, saved when users bookmark a page to their Favorites, submit your site to a social networking site, etc. To think that page titles are only for search engines is misguided.

So, what the heck is Target Audience Optimization? Whereas SEO is based on optimizing your content for search engines (in order to increase the chances that you are "found" -- i.e. have high search rankings), TAO is about optimizing your content so that when people do find you, they are more likely to click through to your website and somehow get "engaged" by your content.

SEO is about drawing more traffic to the doors of your business. TAO is about pulling them in.

Now, back to page titles. There are several considerations when making a Page Title work well from an SEO perspective:

1. Short titles are better than long titles (as each word then gets more "weight")

2. Early words are given more importance than later words (so the first word is given more importance than the 6th word)

3. Exact matches of keyphrases are better than partial matches.

So, if we were focused just on SEO for the page title, we'd use important keywords, put them in the right order and leave everything else out. But, the goal is not just SEO and pandering to the search engines by giving them just what they want. Even if you succeed and make the first page of Google, it doesn't mean very much if nobody clicks on the result and comes to your website! So, to balance this out, we balance SEO and TAO. We include the right keywords in the title but also ensure that a human (yes, those carbon-based lifeforms that this whole exercise is about) will actually read the title, be engaged and want to learn more about your offering.

Don't optimize your website for Google at the expense of your customers . The goal of internet marketing is not to get more free traffic from Google to your website. The goal of internet marketing is to help your best customers find you and engage you.

In a follow-up article, we'll talk about specific use cases and examples of page titles that are just written for SEO and then modify them so that they take a balanced approach to both SEO and TAO. Stay tuned.

SEO kit
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Marketing / August 21, 2007 Exclusive Preview of Marketing Sherpa B2B Demand Generation Summit
Exclusive Preview of Marketing Sherpa B2B Demand Generation Summit

By Mike Volpe

Like most B2B marketing folks, I am a big fan of Marketing Sherpa.  I read many of their case studies, and nearly all of their research reports.  This year I am going to attend my first Marketing Sherpa event, the B2B Demand Generation Summit in Boston on October 15-16.  (There is also an event in San Francisco on October 29-30).

internet marketing kit
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Marketing / August 14, 2007 Our Society's Growing "ADD" and Multitasking Implications for B2B Marketing
Our Society's Growing "ADD" and Multitasking Implications for B2B Marketing

By Mike Volpe

We all know that we are living in a world where the competition for someone's attention is growing, and people are multitasking more and more, and paying attention less and less to any one activity.  But how bad is this multitasking problem anyway?  And what are the marketing implications of this growing "societal ADD"?  I recently came across some good data on the subject from the Profiting from Proliferation book by McKinsey.  The book itself is about a broader set of issues, but around page 100 there are some facts about this particular topic.

marketing multitasking

What I find amusing is that I am not only listening to some MP3's while I write this, but I also have my second laptop open next to me while I restart it to try and reconfigure some settings in Outlook to add a new account.  So, while I am older than this demographic, I too am a multi-tasker.  In fact, similar data indicates that 80% of businesspeople multitask.  I am sure we all know of co-workers who check their email while on a conference call, check their Blackberry while in a meeting, or worse, while driving! (I plead the fifth.)

What is interesting to me, is that the same data from the book also shows that while consumers and business people are multitasking more, they still don't feel like they are successfully escaping from the advertising they are trying to avoid, according to these statistics.

• 65% of consumers feel "constantly bombarded with too much advertising"
• 69% are "interested in products or services that would help skip or block marketing"
• 54% "avoid buying products that overwhelm with advertising and marketing"

What are we marketing people to do?  The key to marketing in our "ADD society" where people are constantly multitasking is relevance.  But, how can you be as relevant as possible?  Here are a few tips on how to make your marketing relevant to appeal to your prospects who are constantly multitasking.

1) Get found in search engines.  Go to Google, and pretend you are a prospect who does not know your company name.  Search for whatever phrase you think describes what your prospect will be searching for when they might be interested in your products and services.  Is you company on the first page of results?  If not, then you are missing out on the most important and most relevant place your company can be, and you should develop a plan to do something about it. (If you want help, check out HubSpot Internet Marketing.)

2) Switch from Email to RSS.  Email gets in my face and clogs up my Outlook, and everyone feels like they get too much email.  I use email to get things done, and messages that get in the way of that usually suffer a quick death from the delete key.  But, when I am ready to consume some content, I open up my RSS reader and go digging through the stories.  At that particular time the content which was annoying when it was in my email inbox instantly becomes relevant because I am in a different state of mind and looking for useful information.

3) Create a useful tool that also spreads your message.  We built www.websitegrader.com as a tool for our internal use, and then decided to open it up to the world to see if others would find it useful.  Without any launch or other promotion, it has now graded over 50,000 unique URLs and is growing fast.  What is even better is that it does an effective job of spreading our company message about the importance of Internet marketing but still provides useful information to people.  Rather than spending time and money to advertise to people, they are coming to us because we have built something useful.

Do you have any other thoughts about how B2B marketing professionals can cut through the clutter and make their messages more relevant?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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Marketing / August 7, 2007 When Should You Buy A CRM System
When Should You Buy A CRM System

By Brian Halligan

I was asked by a small business owner recently when he should invest in a CRM software for his company.  I thought about it for awhile and came up with three different phases in a company's life cycle from a CRM perspective.

Phase 1 -- You less than 20 customers and are not doubling your customers in the next quarter or two.  You have 2 or 3 employees that "touch" customers and need to track forecasts.  In this scenario, I recommend you just use a good old fashioned Excel spreadsheet and email it around with one primary owner/changer who has the "master."

Scenario 2 -- You have 20 to 100 customers and are not doubling your customers in the next quarter or two.  You have 3 to 6 employees that "touch" customers and need to track customer progress.  In this scenario, I recommend you use a Google spreadsheet.  It has less features than an Excel spreadsheet, but the shared/collaborative aspect of Google's tool is more important as you grow the number of people touching it.

Scenario 3 -- You have at 100 customers or are (already) growing very quickly headed toward 100 customers.  You have at least 6 employees that "touch" customers and others that are tracking customer traction.  In this scenario, I recommend you use Salesforce.com.

Salesforce.com has gotten a bit more complicated as they go after larger businesses, but it is a good shared database driven system for helping track largish volumes of customer information and reporting on it.  When you buy Salesforce.com, you should be prepared to buy some of their consulting with it and be prepared to upgrade to a more functional version of the product as you will quickly be missing a feature or two from the baseline product.

My personal bias is that small companies spend too much energy on CRM systems which do a great job of "counting" customers/prospects already in their funnel and not enough energy "finding" new prospects to fill the funnel.  For more reading on this see "Why CRM Initiatives Fail At Small Businesses."

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Marketing / July 26, 2007 Stopping The Google AdWords Morphine Drip: How We Saved $183 Last Week
Stopping The Google AdWords Morphine Drip: How We Saved $183 Last Week

By Mike Volpe

I have written a number of articles about the importance of being found in Google, especially for B2B marketing.  Though Google AdWords is a great way for businesses to start getting immediate results for search engine marketing -- in the longer term, we think the optimal strategy is a balanced approach to PPC (pay-per-click) efforts like Google AdWords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts.  Too often, businesses get very used to the "morphine drip" of Google AdWords and forget that there are other ways to draw traffic from search engines. 

It is widely believed by search marketing experts that more people click on the "unpaid" search results on the left in Google (vs. the AdWords on the right).  Question is, just how much more?  And, though everyone knows free is better, how much better?  Is it really worth all the time and effort to try and rank in the organic search results?

Lets take a look at one small example within our own company.  We are now ranking for the term "internet marketing software".  This is a good thing, because, as it turns out, that precisely describes what we do. HubSpot ranks #6 for this term in the unpaid/natural results.  This gave us 25 visitors last week  So, 25 people  searched on that phrase in Googlek, saw us in the results, and clicked through to our website.  This is not that much traffic, but even then, we would have had to pay Google $183 for this traffic because the average CPC (cost-per-click) is about $7.32 for that phrase.  So essentially, we're saving over $700/month on just this phrase alone and getting lots of great qualified traffic to our site.  This is what gets us excited about SEO.  But, let's look at some more data.

Most people know that in order to actually be found in Google, you need to be on the first page of results.  But where on the first page, exactly?  Well, recently I looked at a variety of data from Enquior and Marketing Sherpa to compile some aggregate results on Google searches, specifically to see "where the action is" or where people looked and clicked.

Here is an eye tracking image of the first page of Google showing what areas people looked at the most.  Red shows the areas where more people looked for longer periods of time, blue areas got less attention, and grey not much at all.  I discussed heat map images before in the article "3 Hot Marketing Tips from Heat Map Analysis"  But here I wanted to go a step further.  What I have done is overlayed some statistics on the heat map image to show where people click.

google heat map

google eye track heat map seo vs sem

Here are the key takeaways from the data and the images above:

1) Organic results get 75%+ of the attention.  People don't click on the ads nearly as much as the organic results.

2) The first organic result gets over 25% of all clicks.  Within the organic results, the first result gets the most clicks by far - more than double the second result.

3) Within the ads, the first ad also gets the most clicks.  But, since you pay per click for the ads, you should care less about volume and more about if the traffic will actually convert and what your cost per lead and cost per sale will be.

4) There are a good number of clicks on all top 10 organic results.  Even the last result gets about 3% of people to click on it - this is about the same rate as the second pay per click ad, and unlike the ad, its free!

Note: Google heat map images from Marketing Sherpa.

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Marketing / July 20, 2007 Finally! Alexa Supports FireFox (...and there was much rejoicing)
Finally! Alexa Supports FireFox (...and there was much rejoicing)

By Dharmesh Shah

For those of you just joining, Alexa is an online service that measures the web traffic received by thousands of websites (actually, over 2 million from what I can tell).

The way Alexa does this is by "watching" the websites that are visited by users that have installed the Alexa toolbar.  Based on this traffic data, Alexa ranks sites based on the volume of traffic they are getting.  For example, the current Alexa Ranking for SmallBusinessHub.com is about 75,000 (which means that of the over 2 million sites being ranked, this site is in the top 75,000). 

Many people (including me) have criticized Alexa because it's ranking is not particularly accurate.  One big contributor to this inaccuracy is that the Alexa toolbar was only available on Internet Explorer.  So, FireFox users (which are a large and important group) didn't get "counted" for the Alexa rankings.  I'm one of those people that wasn't being counted.

I'm happy to announce that after months and months of being beaten over the head by the industry for not having FireFox support, the folks at Alexa have finally released Sparky, The Alexa Toolbar for FireFox.  I think this is great news.  First off, despite being widely recognized as inaccurate, lots of people still look at the Alexa rankings because the data is both free and easy to get to.  That's why it's included in the calculation of website grades by our popular Website Grader SEO reporting tool .  Now, the data we've been using anyways will likely be much more accurate (not perfect, but just more accurate).

So, if you're a FireFox user, head on over to the Alexa download page and grab Sparky.

And, for those that still think that Alexa is grossly inaccurate because it still only counts people that actually download one or the other toolbar -- I agree.  But, there's really nothing better out there right now that is free and easy to integrate. 

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Marketing / July 17, 2007 The Right Move: Sprint Nextel Telling Customers: "You're FIRED"
The Right Move: Sprint Nextel Telling Customers: "You're FIRED"

By Mike Volpe

Recently numerous blogs and news outlets have reported that Sprint Nextel has fired a bunch of customers (seems to be only a few thousand) basically because they were unprofitable.  These people either called customer service frequently - one report I heard said 25 times a month - or used unprofitable services extensively, like thousands of roaming minutes on other networks.

What has really surprised me is that so many people find this to be "shocking" or "horrible" or "bad customer service." I disagree.  This is one of the smartest things Sprint could do.  Note: I am a formerly a customer of both Sprint and AT&T (within the past year), and currently a Verizon customer, in case you are wondering.

Especially as a small business, you need to be careful what customers you add because only a couple customers that eat up all of your support and development resources can really negatively impact your growth.  My Internet marketing startup has specifically not sold to a few potential customers because we knew that for what they were demanding we would not be able to keep them happy without draining our resources and sacrificing the development of our core products.

Here are the 3 reasons why I think firing some of your customers is a good idea:

1) All your other customers will love you more.  If I am one of your customers and I know you are spending a ton of money supporting a small number of other customers, I would be pretty mad.  Why spend all that money on a few unprofitable customers, when I am a good and profitable customer.  Spend money on me instead.  Upgrade your network, offer more services, and decrease my hold time for the rare occasions when I do call.

2) Business is a FOR-profit endeavor for a reason.  Sometimes in all the web 2.0 and customer centric trends in our world people seem to forget that businesses are built to generate a profit.  And profit is good because profitable sectors attract more competition, innovation and new products. Customers of unprofitable companies should be worried, because the long term viability of those companies is questionable.  One of the criteria customers should use in choosing a service provider is the long term viability of that provider.

3) Pushing back brings respect and value.  Just like when you are in a relationship - either professional or personal - with someone who always does exactly what you ask and never pushes back, over time you lose respect for the person and they will not become a trusted advisor.  Some of the best working relationships I have had with vendors and service providers (both in my B2B and B2C life) are with companies that occasionally question what I want and why I am asking for something.  If they truly are "value added" they should know more about what they do than I do, so they should be able to push back to provide different or additional services that will actually make me happier and that are usually different from what I was originally asking them to provide.

In case you were interested, here is an example of one of the letters:

sprint cancel letter

What do you think?  Are you a Sprint Nextel customer?  How does this change your opinion of the company?  Leave a comment below so we can discuss.

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Marketing / July 10, 2007 B2B Marketing Tips from Rap Stars - Part II
B2B Marketing Tips from Rap Stars - Part II

By Mike Volpe

As a follow-up to my article and rappers and the insights they can provide to B2B marketing, I thought I would mention a couple other marketing tips that B2B marketers can learn from rap stars.  These were inspired by the many emails I received about the original article, so thanks for everyone who contacted me with thoughts and comments.  To see the first 4 tips, read the original article - 4 Tips on B2B Marketing from Rap Stars.

1) It's OK to appear in ads for other products/services.  Rappers are constantly promoting other products, even products not relevant to their music.  Method Man has been in a bunch of Right Guard deodorant commercials, and now Jay-Z is in a huge advertising deal with Budweiser for their new Budweiser Select beer.  While more traditional musicians usually avoid "going commercial" and being featured in advertising, most rappers embrace it.  Why?  Well, I think the answer is simple and is related to the "repetition is good" point from the original article.  The more time in front of people you can get, the more likely they are to remember you and develop an affection for you. "All PR is good PR." So, even if you are taking about the benefits of the power stripe in Right Guard deodorant, people will still see you on TV and hear your voice and will be more likely to buy your album.  And the great part about this type of advertising, is you also get paid for it.

2) It's OK to promote other products/services in your product.  This seems very similar to the last point, but read carefully, because it is a bit different.  The last point relates to the benefits of you or your company being in advertising or promotion for other products, this point relates to you actually promoting other products or services as part of your own product.  There are lots of examples of this in rap music, but perhaps the most famous one was when Busta Rhymes created the hit song "Pass the Courvoisier".  Courvoisier saw its sales increase by 4.5% initially (Q1 2002), and then even more after the song became an even bigger hit later that year.

Other examples include rappers mentioning products such as Cristal champagne, Hummer trucks, Lexus cars, Timberland boot, Bacardi rum, and Nextel cell phones.  Early growth in Cadillac Escalade sales were largely driven by its prevalence in rap music.  "Escalade" was the top mentioned brand in early 2005 on the Billboard Top 20 singles, with 41 mentions (in just 20 songs!).  Most of these types of placements started without any monetary compensation, but that is changing.  Petey Pablo in his song "Freak-a-Leek", rapped about gin in general, until he signed a deal with Seagrams, which saw sales rise 10% in urban markets after he changed the lyrics a bit.

3)  Make sure to cross promote your own products.  Not only are rappers masters at promoting other companies products, but they also cross promote their own products in thier music.  P.Diddy always taks about how he wears Sean John apparel (his line of clothing named after his legal name) and Jay-Z often raps about hanging out at the 40/40 Club (his chain of clubs/upscale sports bars, one is in New York, one is coming in Las Vegas).  Many B2B marketing professionals feel a bit queasy about cross-promoting their brand, but if you do it effectively without detracting value from the original product, rappers are proving your customers won't mind.

4) All this promotion needs to be relevant and unobtrusive.  I have now written two decent length blog articles about rappers and marketing, yet if there really was a ton of annoying ads in rap music, none of these rappers would be selling millions of records.  How do they do it?  Be relevant and unobtrusive.  When rappers mention a brand in a song, it is not an in your face promotion where the song stops and a 5 second advertisement plays before the song begins again.  Usually the brand is just mentioned in a subtle way, fitting into the flow of the lyrics and not necessarily extolling the benefits of the product in a very detailed manner.  It is almost subliminal, but that is what makes it work.  And, of course, all of the brands they mention are relevant to the audience and the brand of the rapper.  You don't hear them speaking about Depends or AARP.

For more reading, check out this great article about marketing and rap music from BusinessWeek and another article with a lot of details about some of the promotion of liquor brands in rap music.

I think this will be my last article about rappers and marketing for quite a while, so I thought I would end with one relevant quote that brings all of the marketing insights from rap music into a single sentence. As Jay-Z says in one of his songs, "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man." Think about it. He's right.

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Marketing / July 2, 2007 6 Quick Tips for the Blackberry You'll Actually Use Every Day
6 Quick Tips for the Blackberry You'll Actually Use Every Day

By Dharmesh Shah

This is the week of that omnipresent Apple device whose name will not be mentioned.  I'm going to resist the temptation to write about that device and the uber-cool people that bought one and instead like to address all those other people.  These are the the people that have a Blackberry, put their shoes on one foot at a time, are doing just fine with a real keyboard with tactile feedback and otherwise are interested in getting work done.

Although I've come across lots and lots of Blackberry tips, there are a limited few that any normal person will hold around in their head, so I thought I'd focus on just the ones that I personally use at least once a day.  These are not the best, the most brilliant nor the most hackerish -- just the ones I think a majority of people will actually get value out of immediately.

6 Quick Tips for the Blackberry You'll Actually Use

1.  Capitalize a letter easily :  If you've composed messages on the Blackberry for a while, you'll likely find that the device makes pretty good guesses as to what should be capitalized.  But, it doesn't get it right all the time.  When you need a letter capitalized, the easiest way to do it is to simply hold the letter key down for a couple of seconds.  You'll find that the lower case letter magically turns into an upper case letter.  I like this one because it requires no other key.

2.  How to move horizontally with the thumb-wheel :  Most Blackberry users are thumb-wheel fanatics (and why shouldn't they be?)  But, when moving within a message (or anywhere for that matter), it is often necessary to move left and right (i.e. horizontally) on a line instead of up and down lines.  To do this, just hold down the ALT key while scrolling with the thumb-wheel and the cursor will move left/right on the line.

3.  Delete messages prior to a date:   I don't know about you, but I'm currently using the Blacberry with a regular POP3 mail server (which means my messages download to my blackberry but also go to my desktop computer).  As a result, I often have the need to delete a bunch of old messages from my blackberry (because I already have them on my computer).  The quickest way to do this is to scroll in the message list until you see a Date.  Then, click your track-wheel button and select "Delete Prior".  This will allow you to delete all messages prior to the date selected.  The nice thing about this approach is that it is much faster than the shift-multi-select-delete approach.

4.  Efficiently entering email addresses:  If you enter a lot of email addresses into your address book, you'll find that you get slowed down by having to enter the @ symbol and the [dot].  A little-known tip is that when typing into an email address field, if you hit [space] when you need the @, the blackberry knows what you're doing and adjusts.  Then, when you need the [dot], hit [space] again and it'll once again adjust automagically convert it.  You have to try this once or twice and you'll be hooked.

5.  Starting New Sentences:  If you're writing multi-sentence responses in an email, the quickest way to do this is to hit the space key twice at the end of your sentence.  The Blackberry will automatically insert a period for you and you can go about your merry business.

6.  Filtering Your Inbox:  If you have tons of email, SMS and phone logs on your device, you'll find this VERY helpful.  When in your email list, press Alt+S to see just your SMS messages.  Press Alt+O to see just your outgoing messages and press Alt+I to see just your incoming messages.

All of these are tips I use every day.  I hope you find them helpful too.  If you have your own tips that you use every day (not looking for the arcane hacker tip that is cool, but not useful) then please share them in the comments.

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Marketing / June 27, 2007 In the Technology Business, is Arianna Huffington Really More Influential than Marc Benioff?
In the Technology Business, is Arianna Huffington Really More Influential than Marc Benioff?

By Brent Leary

Business 2.0 magazine just came out with their list of the 50 most influential people in technology today. I'm looking at this list in terms of who is influential to the SMB community.    I think the list is a pretty good one, but......

Biggest Diss: Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com
Why:  Say what you want about his self-promotional stuff but Salesforce.com has been the poster child for SaaS

Who should have gotten dissed:
  Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post
Why: Yeah she has shown how to use the web to combine tradional reporting with social media. Nothing personal here, but I just can't take politcal pundits, especially those who sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Who should have been higher up on the list: Us (the small business community)
Why:  We are the ones driving all of this stuff.....the good, bad and ugly.

Most Influential:  I have to agree with Business 2.0 and say the Google guys.
Why:  Do I really need to explain this?  I didn't think so.

What do you think of the list? Who's on there who shouldn't be? Who should be on there who isn't? In your opinion who is really the most influential person in tech today?  Leave a comment below so we can discuss.

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Marketing / June 25, 2007 4 Tips on B2B Marketing from Rap Stars: Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Mike Jones
4 Tips on B2B Marketing from Rap Stars: Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Mike Jones

By Mike Volpe

The world of B2B marketing is rapidly changing, especially since the advent of the Internet.  I believe that the most cutting edge marketing takes place in the B2C market, which is where a lot of the "guerrilla" marketing tactics first emerged.  And within the B2C market, the music industry is known for using a variety of guerrilla marketing methods before anyone else.  For instance, bands were one of the original groups to use MySpace as a promotional tool.

As someone responsible for B2B marketing at HubSpot, I thought it would be useful to look at some of the techniques rappers are using to promote their music, since they are considered to be on the more aggressive and cutting edge side of the music industry.  (You don't need to like rap music to learn business lessons from rappers.), and see what we can apply to B2B marketing.

Here are some marketing lessons that a B2B marketing professional can learn from Rap Stars.

1) Repetition is good.  Most marketing experts and studies will tell you that people need to hear your advertising message at least 4-6 times before they remember it.  Mike Jones, a rapper from Houston, may not have a marketing degree or an MBA, but he acts like he does. In his first album on a major label, all of his songs contained his name, in a catchy jingle "Who???  Mike Jones!" that he used in the background of a number of his songs.  This is really important because when his music was played in clubs or on the radio, you were more likely to remember who the song was by, and more likely to buy the album.  How many times have you heard a catchy song on the radio and went to buy it but had no idea how to find it?  Mike Jones solved that problem by just making the repetition of his name part of the song.  Note:  Rap stars have been putting their name into their songs for decades, but Mike Jones was the first one I know of to take it this far - in his hit song "Back Then", his name is mentioned 5 times, and in the song "Flossin'" his name appears 15 times! So, the takeaway is that you should figure out what marketing message you want people to remember, and repeat it for them.

2) Embrace user generated content.  Many companies are concerned about their trademarks and protection of intellectual property and tend to create "walled gardens" of content preventing users from adapting content to suit their own needs and add value to it.  Musicians' incomes are tied to sales of their music, and as we all know since the advent of peer to peer file sharing and the mp3 file format, record labels and musicians have generally been trying to copy protect their music and maintain an increased level of control over the distribution of it.

But one rapper has been bucking this trend.  Jay-Z always releases an "acapella" version of his albums, which is just his voice without any background music or beat at all.  The main purpose of these albums is to enable DJs and dedicated fans to remix Jay-Z's lyrics with other beats and songs.  In fact, Jay-Z's previous album "The Black Album" was remixed into two other complete albums by separate DJs.  DJ Dangermouse remixed it with the Beatles' "White Album" to form the "Grey Album" and DJ Cheap Cologne remexed it with Metallica's "Black Album" to form the "Double Black" album.  While rap music is frequently remixed into other songs, this was really the first large scale example of an entire album being remixed by two different DJs to form two other completely new albums.  While Jay-Z didn't earn any royalties from the sales of these other albums and the remixed albums themselves were only sold online and in a somewhat underground fashion, the other albums certainly helped propel sales of his own music and created more buzz around both him and the "Black Album" since there were lots of people playing the remixed versions in clubs and people discussing them online. Because of both his talent and also because he has embraced user generated content, Jay-Z is widely acclaimed to be not only one of the best rappers of all time, but also one of the most financially successful (his net worth is estimated at $340 million).

3) Have a specific call to action.  One other interesting marketing strategy Mike Jones used was putting his personal cell phone in a couple of his songs, and not in a hidden or obscure way, but actually in the main part of the song and repeated numerous times so everyone remembered "281-330-8004".  Before long, he was getting hundreds, then thousands of calls per day.  And he would actually personally answer a bunch of them. (The number is now inactive, in case you are trying to call it.)  While the huge number of calls was probably a bit annoying, it definitely helped Mike Jones differentiate himself, and I think for the thousands of people he actually talked to for 30 seconds or so, they were very likely to buy his album and talk to their friends about it.  I have seen too many advertisements and especially websites and emails where it is not clear what action you are trying to get people to take next.  It might be to complete a contact form, or call your company, but whatever it is, make sure your prospects know what the next step is that you want them to take.

4) Use lot of partnerships.  Many businesses only use partnerships in a limited fashion, and only if they are very structured and set up to be in place for a long time period.  Similarly, in the music industry most rock bands typically play their own music and rarely work with other bands.  Not so in rap music.  Rappers and hip-hop artists very frequently collaborate with each other and produce songs on each other albums "featuring" someone else.  In fact, it is almost a formula to have a song on a famous rappers album featuring an unknown rapper, or vice versa.  One very famous example of this was when Dr. Dre basically launched Snoop Dogg's career by featuring Snoop Dogg on a couple songs on Dr. Dre's album "The Chronic".  People who loved Dr. Dre for years got a chance to hear someone new, and liked him.  Snoop Dogg's next album "Doggystyle" was a huge success, selling over 800,000 copies in the first week and over 6 million copies through the end of 2006.  In keeping with this theme, I would like to give a "shout out" to Carlton Hass, who wrote a blog article "3 Lessons Gangsta Rappers Can Teach You About Marketing" which I found after I had half written this article and was doing some additional research.   It was his article that inspired this lesson about the importance of using partnerships and collaborations in business inspired by their success in the world of rap music.

What do you think?  Can B2B marketing professionals learn anything from rappers?  Are there any other lessons you think we could learn from other "consumer" markets?  Leave a comment below so we can discuss.

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Marketing / June 22, 2007 A Domain By Any Other Name Would Not Rank As Well
A Domain By Any Other Name Would Not Rank As Well

By Mike Volpe

        'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; 
        Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. 
        What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, 
        Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part 
        Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! 
        What's in a name? That which we call a rose 
        By any other name would smell as sweet; 
        So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, 
        Retain that dear perfection which he owes 
        Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, 
        And for that name which is no part of thee 
        Take all myself.

I will leave to Juliet any thoughts about how appealing Romeo would be if he had a different name.  But what I can tell you is that your domain name has a big effect on your ranking in Google and other search engines.  Here are some of the reasons to look into buying a premium domain name.

1) Look bigger than you are.  Even a small business can look big on the Internet if you have the right domain name.  If you are a local marketing firm, you look like you know what you are doing if your URL is www. LeadMarketing .com instead of www. MyCambridgeMarketing-Online .net  And, usually a premium domain is far less expensive than many other marketing activities.

2) Get more traffic.  With the right domain name, you can get more traffic to your website in two ways.  First, some people will just type in your domain into the browser address bar and see what happens.  If you own the domain, your website will be what comes up!  Second, if you have good keywords in your domain, it is much easier to get ranked on the first page of search results, driving more traffic to your website.  Google and other search engines assume that if you have keywords for a search in your domain, then that website is a good search result that has relevant content, and that means you get ranked higher.

3) Upstage your competition.  What better way to stand out from your competition than to have a website with the best URL for your industry?  How would you feel if your competitor all a sudden ended up with the perfect domain name?

4) Acquire an asset.  Most marketing expenses are impossible to recover any portion of the cost.  The nice thing about premium domains is that they are an asset you can always sell later.  And recently, most domains have been increasing in value, so you might even end up making money on your investment.  Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Now that we have covered some of the ways that a premium domain can benefit your business, let's discuss how you can evaluate a domain to decide how valuable it will be.  Here are some of the things to think about so you can choose the best name for your company.

1) Generic keywords are good.  Most businesses really can't spend the money to build a brand around their company name, this is especially true for small businesses.  So, if you can buy www. computers .com, you should do it, since it will be better for you than www. gateway .com.

2) Avoid punctuation and extraneous words.  Adding a dash into a URL makes it harder to type and look less professional, so avoid it if possible.  Also, adding generic words like "my" or "best" or "the" or "online" to the start or end of your URL is not a good idea.  They don't add any value.

3) Try to get a .com domain.  Unless you are a nonprofit or outside the US, most people assume your business will have a .com domain extension and will usually have trouble remembering your URL if it ends in .net or something else.  Domains ending in .com have always been in higher demand and command higher prices than any others.

Now that you understand the value in having a premium domain and how to pick a good domain, maybe you should think about buying one?  If you are interested in buying a premium domain, there are a number of services to do so.  At HubSpot we have used BuyDomains.com before and we have found BuyDomains to be a great place to buy a premium domain.

Have you bought a premium domain?  Have you found it to be a useful tool for your business?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

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Marketing / June 20, 2007 B2B Marketers Beware: More of Your Customers Use RSS, Blogs and Social Networks Than You Think
B2B Marketers Beware: More of Your Customers Use RSS, Blogs and Social Networks Than You Think

By Mike Volpe

I talk to a lot of B2B companies about using blogs, wikis, RSS and other modern marketing methods to engage with prospects and customers to drive lead generation and sales (it is my job after all).  A lot of the time I hear that "our customers don't use that stuff" or "only teenagers use blogs" or "our prospects can't spell RSS".  Well, now there is some very mainstream data (from BusinessWeek nonetheless) that shows that things like Blogs, RSS, social networks, posting videos online, etc. are a LOT more common, especially with "older" people (myself included) than you might think (I went to college before email was widely used and did not have a cell phone until I got one as part of my first job).

If you assume that the 41-50 year old crowd of "young boomers" is a good proxy for a typical B2B buyer, then look at these stats from BusinessWeek as representative of your B2B prospects.  And then tell me that creating a blog, publishing using RSS and leveraging social media is not important to your business... with a straight face.  Frankly, if you are selling B2B a lot of your purchasers are probably younger than this demographic, so these estimates are probably conservative.

• 12% of your B2B prospects publish/create a blog or website or online videos
• 18% of your B2B prospects post comments on blogs or write online reviews
• 15% of your B2B prospects use RSS
• 15% use social networking sites (think LinkedIn, not MySpace)
• 31% read blogs and/or listen to Podcasts

And, overall, 46% of your B2B prospects who are online participate in some form of social media.

Here is a link to the full chart of data from Business Week

What do you think?  How is social media such as blogs and RSS affecting B2B marketing?  Leave a comment and we can discuss below...

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Marketing / June 11, 2007 3 Keys to Closing More Sales Deals
3 Keys to Closing More Sales Deals

By Brent Leary

Ok, we all know what a business opportunity is. Basically an opportunity is a potential sales deal associated with a specific account. So now that we’re all in agreement about what an opportunity is, what is it really?

In order to get the most out of your sales initiatives it is important for everyone involved with sales to have a solid understanding of how opportunities are managed. This starts with answering these three basic questions.

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Marketing / June 7, 2007 Will Getting Dugg on Digg.com Improve Your Grades?
Will Getting Dugg on Digg.com Improve Your Grades?

By Dharmesh Shah

Digg.com is a social content site. Users submit articles that they like and find interesting and other users can then "digg" these articles. With enough diggs, an article can make it to the front page of digg.com (and as a result, a lot of server-crushing traffic ensues).

Last night, a new feature was added to Website Grader which will uses the newly available digg API (application programming interface) and shows a summary of digg submissions for a website.

Here's the information we currently grab and show:

1. How many articles from the website were submitted to digg?

2. What's the total number of "diggs" (votes) that these articles received?

3. How many of these articles made it to the digg popular page?

Since Website Grader attempts the measure the marketing effectiveness of a website and social media sites like digg.com are becoming increasingly important as way to gauge audience interest, it seemed like a natural thing to check out the "digg-savviness" of a website.

So, back to the original question: Does getting a bunch of articles on the digg front page improve your grade? The answer is: Yes, but not directly. Since this is a new feature, it is not incorporated into the algorithm that calculates the final grade yet. We may change this later.

Check out the new feature and let me know what you think. Might also be interesting to run a report for some of your competitors and see if any of them have been able to get an article on the digg front page.

And, in case this article winds up digg.com, give it a digg. Would be cool for WebsiteGrader.com itself to have an article on the digg popular page.

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Marketing / June 6, 2007 Why HD DVD Will Beat Blu-Ray: A Better Name For Mere Mortals
Why HD DVD Will Beat Blu-Ray: A Better Name For Mere Mortals

By Dharmesh Shah

I was recently shopping at BestBuy with my wife, Kirsten.  She's close to the opposite end of the tech-geek spectrum as I am (she uses a computer every day, but mostly for useful things and is not particularly concerned about some of the religious debates around technology and the relative merits of one thing vs. the other.  She's not going to be running out to buy an iPhone as soon as it launches (I likely will be).  

I'm currently in the market for a new DVD player at home.  I'm generally not big on DVDs as I find the whole notion of moving data bits around using atoms organized into shiny disks someone quaint.  My parents are visiting us from India, and there are some things they want to watch that are not "in the cloud" somehwere -- only on DVD.  But I digress.  

So, we are in the market for a DVD player.  I've been following the HD / DVD Blu-Ray debate for a while -- primarily as a curious bystander, because it didn't really affect me all that much -- until now.  As I was walking down the DVD player aile in the store with Kirsten, she paused and pointed to one and said "why not just buy this one".  (It was an HD DVD player).  I asked her why that particular one had caught her eye.  Her response:  "Well, it's an HD DVD player.  Aren't you all over that whole HD thing?"  She basically thought HD DVD was what connected to our HDTV and that was that.  The whole notion of Blu-Ray with all it's technical merits never crossed her mind.  It just made sense to her that an HD DVD went along with an HD TV.  In her mind, Blu-Ray wasn't even in the race.  Decision made.  

So, my question is this:  Of the thousands of mere mortals (i.e. not tech-geeks) that will make the DVD player buying decision in the coming months and years, how many times will this story repeat itself?  How many people will walk out the door with an HD DVD player simply because they think it's the "natural" choice"?  How many of these decisions will it take for HD DVD to become the prevailing standard not on technical merit, but just because of the name?  If we think back to the VHS vs. BetaMax debate, I find a bit of similarity.  VHS (when people asked) stood for "Video Home System".  BetaMax didn't stand for anything.  Will history repeat itself?   What do you think? How important is a simple name in helpling customers make a decision?

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Marketing / June 5, 2007 New Stats on Search and B2B Marketing
New Stats on Search and B2B Marketing

By Mike Volpe

A recent whitepaper on B2B search revealed some interesting statistics about B2B purchasers and how they search, which reveals a lot of really useful insights for B2B marketing.  A couple days ago I found a blog article on this topic and posted it on DailyHub next to a bunch of other interesting marketing and business articles.

Here are some of the stats I found particularly interesting in the whitepaper:

• Over 70% of B2B buyers use a search engine at the start of their purchasing process

• About 75% of B2B prospects click on the organic results

• Less than 19% of B2B buyers click on search ads

• 77% of B2B prospects prefer Google over any other search engine (see chart)

Key takeaways for B2B Marketing:

1) Your B2B company needs to be able to be found in search engines.  Over 70% of your prospects are looking for you there, right at the time when they are ready to buy, so this is probably more important than any other marketing activity for your company.

2) Make sure your B2B company is listed in the Google organic results for the right search keywords.  You can probably ignore the other search engines for B2B marketing purposes since Google has 77% marketshare for B2B purchasing.

3) Consider bidding on paid search terms in Google as well, but watch your ROI.  The organic results matter most, since the ads only get you access to 19% of B2B prospects.

For a free analysis of your website's marketing effectiveness and tips on how you can be better found by your B2B prospects in search engines, visit www.websitegrader.com.

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Marketing / June 1, 2007 5 Things to Consider Before Plunging into Podcasting
5 Things to Consider Before Plunging into Podcasting

By Brent Leary

I just hit the six month mark in podcasting...and they said it wouldn't last. I do it a little differently than many as our podcast, Technology For Business Sake, is actually repurposed from a weekly radio show I co-host on a business talk radio here in Atlanta. As the guy responsible for producing the show and the podcast, I've learned a few things that you may want to consider if you've been thinking about taking the podcasting plunge. These tips won't focus on the technical side of podcasting, as there are a number of great resources for this type of information, like www.podcast411.com or http://www.apple.com/itunes/store/podcaststechspecs.html. These are things we found made the podcasts get better over time, according to the folks who listen to us.

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Marketing / May 30, 2007 5 Expert Tips to Maximize Google AdWords Results
5 Expert Tips to Maximize Google AdWords Results

By Mike Volpe

A friend recently sent me an article that summarized the stories of two boutique chocolate companies using AdWords to increase their sales.  One was quite successful, selling over 30,000 pounds of chocolates through AdWords in a year (my estimate is their revenue was about $900,000, and I know their AdWords cost was $100,000).  The other was not happy, spending $3,000 over 3 months and generating only 5 sales, probably $300 in revenue.

Based both on the article and also my experience launching and managing AdWords campaigns ranging from $20 per month to $10,000+ per month, here are the 5 most important tips to make sure you maximize your Google AdWords Campaign ROI.

1) Dedicate lots of time.  AdWords is not a lightswitch - you can't just turn it on and expect to get satisfactory results.  Many agencies charge a minimum of a few thousand dollars and/or 15% markup on your AdWords spending to manage your campaign.  If you are going to do it yourself, then you just need to dedicate time to make sure you are successful.  A good rule of thumb is for a campaign with 50 similar keywords and 3-4 ads linking to the same landing page, should take about 4-6 hours per week to manage once it is set up.  About 3-5 hours one day to do a deep review and make changes to the keywords, bids, landing pages and ads to optimize the campaign, and about 15 minutes per day another 4 days to just check in and make sure things are ok and not going to hell in a handbasket.  A campaign of this size probably takes a couple days to set up, depending on what tools you have available to do the keyword research, write the ads and build the landing pages.

2) Try lots of keywords.  There are two major benefits to using a lot (100's or 1000's) of keywords on AdWords, at least to start.  First, by trying lots of words you can find opportunities where there is less competition for words, so you will pay less for the clicks.  Second, you are more likely to find words and especially phrases that are more targeted to your business (like "buy Internet marketing software" rather than just "internet marketing") and will be more likely to have a higher conversion rate.

3) Keep your CTR (click through rate) high.  Having a high CTR means that you can be higher up in the ad placement for lower bids, so you get more for your money.  Google only makes money when people click on ads, so they give you a little boost if your ads actually get people to click.  One great way to get a higher CTR is to have very targeted ads for each keyword - so if the keyword phrase is "buy Internet marketing software" use all of those words in the ad text and especially headline.  This is a real pain to set up, especially for a lot of keywords, but I have seen it double your click through rates (or even more) in many cases.

4) Measure everything.  Make sure you measure not only the things Google tells you in the AdWords interface like CTR and CPC, but also conversions* and the cost per conversion, plus ultimately the cost per sale. Measuring the CPA (cost per action) and is critical - and you can decide if the action is a lead or a sale.  You have to know what you are spending for the desired action you are driving people towards.  AdWords is a numerical and mechanical process.  Having good data is essential to success.

5) Optimize on your CPA (cost per action) not CPC (cost per click).  If someone is definitely going to buy my product, then I would probably pay at least $500 for a click.  If there is no chance in the world they will buy my product, I would not pay $0.05 for the click.  Whatever your goal is (generate leads, whitepaper downloads, sales) make sure to focus on the cost of achieving that goal.  Your goals do not align with Google's goals.  Don't get fooled by Google - their goal is to get as many clicks as possible at as high a price as possible.  Your goal is to get as many actions as possible for as low a cost as possible.  These goals are not completely opposite one another, but they are definitely not aligned.  Be careful with using Google's tools, since they are honestly in my opinion designed to get you to get more clicks at a higher price, which might not get you more leads or sales at a lower price.

Are these tips useful?  What other tips do you have based on your experience?

* A note on measuring conversions: To do this you go through the setup of putting the Google javascript code on the correct page of your site (or if you have an IT person maybe he or she can do it for you).  I frankly prefer to use more powerful tracking tools so I can get a complete picture of what happened - if people converted on the first visit or a later visit, and also if they converted on the form to which I sent them or on a different form on my site to which they navigated.  But I am lucky since I work at an Internet marketing company that builds tools like this.  I also don't like the mandatory "tag" that Google makes you show users in order to track conversions (I think it is childish that Google makes you do this, when at the same time they track everything you do on their sites and track many things you do outside their sites - like tracking all your toolbar searches - and they don't use tags like this themselves.

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Marketing / May 29, 2007 Paid Search vs. Organic Search
Paid Search vs. Organic Search

By Brian Halligan

We meet many small businesses who ask our advise about buying CPC ads versus optimizing their sites for optimal organic results. 

The benefits of optimizing your site for exposure in the organic results of the search engines relative to paying for PPC campaigns:
1.  If you rank high for organic results, it is (typically) long lasting.  So, the time/money you spend helping yourself move up the ranks is relatively persistent while the PPC campaign is money spent over and over again.
2.  Organic results are clicked on a lot more than paid results, especially for well educated crowds.  I read a study that showed dramatic differences as you moved from high school eduction to associate degrees to bachelors to masters to phd's.  The more educated your prospect, the less likely they are to click on an advertisement.  If you are selling to high school students, you should buy cpc ads.  If you are selling to engineers or professors, you need to think more about seo because that's where the volume is.
3.  Organic clicks convert at least as well as paid clicks.  Marketing Sherpa's Search Marketing Benchmark study of 3,217 marketers showed that organic clicks converted at an average of 4.2% v. 3.6% for paid.
4.  Often times searchers visit your site more than once before self-selecting into a form, whitepaper, etc.  We track this data carefully at HubSpot and notice that a decent portion of the leads we get are from people who have visited the site through multiple searches over multiple months.  Organic search campaigns have more latency.
5.  Marketing Sherpa reports that in the b2b environment, less than one-fourth of b2b buyers to look to paid listings in their first try at accessing information. 
6.  Many think of Google as a search company, but I think of them as a modern media conglomerate with an ultra-efficient mechanism for selling advertisements that work particularly well in the longtail.  Like other media companies, Google benefits from efficient pricing of advertising.  As more and more niche companies start to advertise on Google, their prices will become more efficient and their rates will become less and less attractive relative to other media outlets.

The benefits of buying CPC ads versus organic seo:
1.  It is fast.  You can be up and running with paid ads the very same day you are inspired to move.
2.  You can experiment cheaply.  The good thing about advertising on Google is that you don't have to create a huge budget for advertising, you can throw as little money as you want, experiment efficiently, get the ratios where you want, and then expand.
3.  You can send the clicks to custom landing pages crafted for just the words you bought.  [In theory, this should dramatically increase the conversion rates relative to organic results that more often than not land on your home page, but the Marketing Sherpa numbers say otherwise.]

There are big benefits to both, so I recommend doing both.  To get maximum benefit, I recommend optimizing around some keywords for organic results and buy other keywords. 

-- Brian Halligan.

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Marketing / May 23, 2007 5 Free Magazines Every Small Business Should Receive
5 Free Magazines Every Small Business Should Receive

By Brent Leary

I know this seems terribly old fashioned in this Web 2.0 era of blogging, but there's still something nice about reading a great magazine.  Don't get me wrong, I'm an avid reader of a number of blogs, and have been blogging myself for close to two years.  And I enjoy the conversations that blogs can create as well as the realtime stream of information the blogosphere provides.  But there's something about thumbing through a colorful, glossy magazine with great content.. written by folks with professional editors at their disposal...ready, willing and able to fix bad grammar and other mistakes we tend to overlook... making it a little more challenging than it should be to read even the best blogs.  And as GoDaddy.com founder Bob Parsons once said,  people don't curl up in front of a fire and read a nice blog.  And when you're flying do you really print off a list of blog entries, or do you pick up an interesting magazine or two?  Before I hit the road I grab a handful of mags I enjoy so much I might even pay for them if I had to.....but I don't. 

Direct is a magazine that bills itself as the information resource for direct marketers.  I'd have to say I agree, as it each month it comes packed with great stats, stories and best practices all around building, keeping and using customer lists.  It combines all this information into a slim 70 pages or so which makes it easy to carry around, and the articles are written in a way that entertains as well as informs.  And Ken Magill does a great job with his e-mail best practices articles.  Plus they have a nice companion website with tons of up to date info.

Small Business Impact & Deliver magazines
I lumped these two together because they both are US Postal Service publications,  they are monthly mags that arrive at the same time, and together they amount to only 48 pages or thereabouts.  Small Business Impact covers a variety of subjects, challenges and other issues facing small businesses.  The articles are short, sweet and to the point cover everything from online marketing basics, to health care, to time management. 

Just from an aesthetics standpoint, Deliver is really eye catching.  I find myself actually checking out the ads because they're so good looking.  But going beyond its slick publishing, there are some great articles for those charged with marketing and brand building.  Articles include how today's printing technology can impact customer relationships, and an interesting interview with Chris Anderson on how new media is forcing marketers to "keep it real".   

Streaming Media
I don't even know how I started getting this but I'm glad I did.  This might not seem all that important to small businesses, but this magazine will prepare you for how people will be able to take in all kinds of content, and how you can use technology to put your company right in their faces, whether it be on a computer, TV, PDA, or whatever.  It comes monthly and weighs in at over 100 pages, but it's an easy read.  This month's issue had a good article on monetizing podcasts and video blogs, and another one on the television paradigm shift that had me thinking a bit. 

Computer Shopper
I used to get this about ten years ago but couldn't take it anymore.  It was just too big and heavy to even attempt to read.  It must have gone on a diet or something because now it's under a 100 pages.  And now I can't wait to get it every month.  It gives me great reviews and coverage of products and services of which I need to at least be aware.  In many cases it helps me decide which way to go in terms of buying something.

Now there are a ton of magazines out there you can get for free by giving up some contact information.  I probably get over 20 a month, but there's no way I'm reading all of that stuff.  But the above mentioned and a few others (like 1to1, eWeek and BrandWeek) are easy to read, easy to carry and still packed with good information...and did I mention they are free?  You may want to check them out.  What freebies do you recommend?

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Marketing / May 21, 2007 Does Your Website Pass The .7 Second Test?
Does Your Website Pass The .7 Second Test?

By Brian Halligan

The page title is the piece of meta data on the very top of your browser.  In the picture below, the page title is "HubSpot: Internet Marketing Software."  The title is an interesting beast because when most humans read a web page (see first picture below), they do not ever look at the title; therefore, many marketing people do not pay any attention to it.  However, when you do a search (see second picture below), the organic results you are looking at and potentially clicking on is the page title you used on your site.

You need to write your titles with the search engines in mind.  The average human spends .7 seconds per page title on a Google search results page.  That means, someone scanning down the list of 10 results on the first page of Google makes up her mind very quickly as to which link she is going to click on. 

If your company is a well-known brand in your niche, it might make sense for you to put it in your title as it will increase the likelihood of someone clicking on it after their spending .7 seconds looking at it.  If your company is less well known, then I would advise leaving your company name out of the title completely.

It is important you choose the words in your title carefully.  You really want the words in your page title to match what the searcher is looking for.  Choosing the keywords in the title is rather tricky.  You should look at four different variables to make the title phrase decision:
1.  Frequency of search -- if no one is search is searching on the phrase, then you are wasting your time.
2.  Competition -- if the phrase is very popular and you are competing for a spot on the first page of the results with major players like Wikipedia, CNN, etc., then you better have high page rank if you want to play that game.
3.  Fit -- the phrase should be as close a fit to your business as possible.
4.  CPC cost -- if the phrase that best matches your business has high competition, but a relatively low cost to buy an advertisement, it might be worth buying that one and optimizing around another similar phrase.

Through our websitegrader property, we are now tracking over 30,000 websites and their page titles.  When those titles change, we are able to watch behind the scenes to see what kind of impact that has on the rankings for the keywords entered or removed from the titles.  In terms of "on page" analysis, our data suggests that Google values the page title more than most people (and seo consultants) think.  The easy way to think about it is that Google is looking for clues as to what your website is about, so it can deliver your site as a result on searches.  It turns out that the keywords in the page titles of your site are a major clue that Google takes, so make sure you get the right keywords in your titles if you want to "get found" by prospects.

When crafting titles of your site, make sure you keep it short and sweet.  Our data suggests that the first words in the title matter more to Google than the last words in the title.  In addition, it seems like the more words in your title, the less "value" each word has.  Outside of Google, no one knows, but from our data it looks like Google discounts by the number of words in title.

When crafting titles, make sure you carefully pick a title for every page on your site.  The title of the home page is likely the most important one as that page likely has the most links into it, but every page title on your site is a potenial search result that will get the .7second test.  Do not just use the same title on every page as you are wasting a golden opportunity.

If you have any questions on page titles, feel free to leave them here.  If you want to see some additional data on how to set your website up, so that people searching in your niche can more readily find you, I suggest you run your site through our free websitegrader .

-- Brian Halligan.

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Marketing / May 18, 2007 3 Hot Marketing Tips from Heat Map Analysis (images)
3 Hot Marketing Tips from Heat Map Analysis (images)

By Mike Volpe

Over the past few years many marketing research firms have been using eyetracking technology to learn more about how people view and process information online.  This can be extremely useful data for optimizing many types of B2B Internet marketing.  Here's a quick summary of the major takeaways of the eyetracking research I have seen:

Issue #1: People scan but do not read.  Look at these eye tracking maps.  Clearly no one is reading all of the text, but rather people scan the page in both a vertical and horizontal way.

Solution #1: Use short sentences, bullet points and bold text. If people scan text, just adjust your content to take advantage of that.  Keep everything as short as possible.  Use bold text to highlight key messages.


Issue #2: Images get a lot of attention.  I noticed this first a few years ago when I was doing some analysis of my email marketing and looking
at the click through rate on the emails I was sending.  I started to look at which links in the emails people were clicking on and I noticed that people loved to click on images.  In fact, people even clicked on images that were not obviously linked to anything.

Solution #2: Use images effectively.  If people are going to give images more attention than perhaps they deserve, make sure you use them effectively.  All your images should work towards the goal of the page.  If it is a landing page, they should help convince people to submit their information.  If you are creating an email, the images should convince people to click on them.


Issue #3: People rarely scroll.  Anything "below the fold" - things that are not visible when you first open the page because you need to scroll down to see them - will only be viewed by about 50% of the people who visit your page. 

Solution #3: Put important content above the fold.  Since anything below the fold will only be seen by about half your visitors, make sure your best content is above the fold, and when possible the page is not very long.


Note: Eyetracking images courtesy of marketingsherpa.com.

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Marketing / May 14, 2007 7 Signs You Should Run Screaming From An SEO Consultant
7 Signs You Should Run Screaming From An SEO Consultant

By Dharmesh Shah

First off, a disclaimer.  I'm not an SEO consultant and I don't play one on TV.  But, because my startup, HubSpot is in the internet marketing software business, I've had to learn a fair amount about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) .  I've found it to be a fascinating industry and have embedded a lot of what I discovered into our (currently free) website grader .  Website Grade, among other things, is an SEO tool which makes some simple suggestions on improving the SEO of a website
Many business executives I talk to are in the process of evaluating their internet marketing strategy , and the topic of SEO is often near the top of the list.  Below are a few tell-tale signs that you're probably talking to someone on the wrong end of the cluefulness spectrum and as such, you should be looking for the nearest exit.
7 Simple Signs You Should Be Running Screaming From An SEO Consultant
1.  References Unknown "Experts":  Instead of citing known and trusted sources like Aaron Wall (from SEOBook.com ) or Rand Fishkin (from SEOmoz ), they make vague references to "experts" that have given them "proprietary" insights and strategies.  In my mind, the SEO industry is a bit like the encryption industry.  Those that are really good are the ones that talk openly and to put their ideas out on the web for public debate and discussion.  
2.  Suggests Specific Keyword Densities:  He tells you that your content should be written with a primary focus on making sure you embed all the right keywords as frequently as possible.  Run away faster if he tells you that the optimal keyword desnity is 14.2%.  My guess is that the average engineer at Google is likely smarter than the average SEO consultant.  As such, you're better off writing content that people will enjoy and link to instead of writing content to try and lure the search engines into ranking you higher.  Sure, your keywords should be in there, but try to make it "natural" sounding.
3.  Manic Directory Submissions:  She offers to submit your website to a bunch of online directories.  Run away faster if she suggests that she has a proprietary list of "high quality" directories that nobody else knows about.  There were a ton of these "submit your website to 478 directories" tools that came out a while back.  I'm going to argue that most of the directories that let just about anyone in are likely not worth much to you.
4.  Overly Focused On Link Buying: Shortly after a $2,000 "assessment" project, his first step is to ask you to create a $5,000 monthly budget to buy links.  Anybody can buy links.  Many can even buy good links.  But, there needs to be some effort to create high-quality inbound links that you're not paying for every month.  SEO strategies , particularly in the B2B SEO sector, should be about leverage .  It's going to be hard to find arbitrage opportunities (i.e. buying links for less than they're actually worth) by going to what are increasingly becoming "efficient" marketplaces.
5.  Naive Use Of Social Sites: She offers to submit your site to the popular sites like digg, reddit and StumbleUpon.  Run away faster if she suggests she's got an army of drones in Fictitioustan that will vote on your articles and get you on the front page of digg and drive a bunch of traffic.  One reason is that you might just succeed in getting your site's URL banned.  Another is that unless the article is interesting and useful, you're not going to get a lot of link-love anyways, so there's minimal SEO value.
6.  Black Hat Practices: He suggests any form of black hat (or dark gray hat) techniques like putting hidden text on pages, redirecting users to a completely different site, offering different content to search engines vs. human users or anything that sounds like it's a misguided attempt to "trick" the search engines.  Once again, see note #1:  If I had to bet on a Google engineer vs. an SEO consultant, I'd bet on the Google engineer.  Besides, it's not a fair fight.
7.  Overly Complicated Explanations: They can't explain the rationale behind their strategy and approach in ways that a relatively intelligent person (i.e. you) can understand.  Though  search engine optimization can be nuanced, unless you're in a highly competitive sector, you don't need a PhD from MIT to understand some of the simple, but effective basic practices. 
These are just some of the obvious signs that came to me at midnight.  I have a ton more that are more subtle (and a big collection of "positive" signals too).  If there's sufficient interest, I'l post a follow-up article with some of those. 
Have you interviewed or hired an SEO consultant recently?  If so, would love to hear your thoughts about the experience (both before and after).  If you have any other tips along the lines of the above, would love to hear them.  Please leave a comment.

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Marketing / May 9, 2007 Executive Summary: Linkbuilding and SEO for the Internet Marketing Neophyte
Executive Summary: Linkbuilding and SEO for the Internet Marketing Neophyte

By Mike Volpe

Links to your website are very important for Internet marketing and getting ranked higher in search engines for keywords related to your business.

Benefits of links to your website:
1) The right links can drive traffic to your site which can convert into leads.
2) Links help search engines find all of the content on your site to index that content.
3) The number and quality of links to your site help determine your Page Rank (basically a measure of how important Google thinks your website is) and your Page Rank helps determine your rank for many search terms.

Tips on how to get links:

1) Submit your site to web directories. Focus on the directories with the best brand and traffic. We have found the Yahoo! Directory and Business.com (both require an annual fee) to be effective, and also try to give the free open directory a shot. You can also try other, smaller and free or lower cost directories, but avoid any that seem really small or just don't look valuable - remember that the quality of the site linking to you matters. A couple ideas are: www.joeant.com, www.worldhot.com, and www.splut.com.

2) Communicate with others in your industry. Search around and find people who have useful sites related to your industry. Don't start your conversation with "will you link to my website?", but engage them in a business and intellectual conversation about something they recently wrote. Once you have established a relationship with them, then send them something you have published on your site and ask for their opinion. You'll be surprised how many will link to your site.

3) Create compelling tools and content. We have never promoted Website Grader very much. But because it is a really useful tool that people like, lots of people link to it. In fact, in under 3 months, we already had 800 links, and over 20,000 URLs had been graded on the website.

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Marketing / May 5, 2007 New Compare Websites Feature in Website Grader
New Compare Websites Feature in Website Grader

By Dharmesh Shah

Website Grader went through a major upgrade this past week.

Lots of cool new features, the biggest of which is the ability to compare a set of websites.  If you enter a list of other URLs on the main page, Website Grader will now calculate the grade for all those other websites too and give you a comparison table (with a break-down of the key data for each of those sites).

If you enter a set of keywords, Website Grader will tell you how each of the sites ranks on Google for those keywords (in the organic search results).

We're continuing to make major improvements to the tool, so if you have ideas about how Website Grader can be more useful to you -- please leave a comment. 

Meanwhile, I'm happy to announce that Website Grader has now processed over 20,000 unique websites.

As you may have noticed, we're now asking users to register for the site and create a user account.  In the next update, we're going to make specific features available only to registered users, so if you find the tool useful, we encourage you to register.

Thanks for your support.

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Marketing / May 5, 2007 Shortest Tutorial Ever on SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Shortest Tutorial Ever on SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

By Mike Volpe

I've gotten a few questions from a number of companies recently that basically ask "What is the shortest thing I can read that will help me get started on search engine optimization?".  Here is my response for how to optimize one page of your website very quickly.  Repeat for other pages as desired.  I have also included links to a bunch of other materials after the article if you want to learn more.

1) Find keywords.  Pick a list of words relevant to your business.  Think about which words are most likely to get people to do what you want them to do (convert into leads) and focus on those words.  Then pick one word (or phrase) to use on one page of your site.  For more detailed info, read: Detailed Internet Marketing Keyword Tips or 4 Helpful Tools for Identifying the Right Keywords.

2) Put keywords in the page title. The page title is one of the most important things that Google and other search engines evaluate to determine what is on a web page.  Put your keyword or phrase in the title, keep it short.  For more detailed info, read Why a Web Page By Any Other Title Would Not Rank As Well.

3) Put keywords in the page URL.  Google and other search engines also use the text of the URL of the page to determine the content of the web page.  You should use your keyword or phrase in the URL of the web page - either the folder/directory structure or the HTML file / page name itself.

4) Put keywords in meta data.  While the page meta data (page description and keywords) are not nearly as important as they used to be, they still count.  Take advantage of them by putting your keyword or phrase there.  The description should be readable by a person and make sense and the keyword meta data should focus on your keyword or phrase - do not make it long, less is more.  For more detailed info, read Understanding the Magic of Meta-Data.

5) Put keywords in your H1 text.  The H1 text is usually the title of an article or some larger bold text at the top of your page.  Google and the smaller search engines can see this and they put extra importance on the words in the H1 text.  Make sure your keyword or phrase is there.

6) Use keywords in the page content.  Putting the keyword in your page content also signals to search engines that the page is actually about the keyword and should show up in search results.  I have heard from "experts" that you should use your keyword anywhere from 4-6 times to 10-12 times.  My advice is to just write naturally.

7) Monitor your rank. Give the search engines some time to do their thing (a couple days) and then keep checking your rank to see what happened and track your progress.

[End of article "Shortest Tutorial Ever on SEO"]

Okay... now for those of you who want to be more advanced, here are some other resources and suggestions.

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Marketing / April 30, 2007 Four Technologies that are about to change the world
Four Technologies that are about to change the world

By Patrick Fitzsimmons

All four of these technologies have had major breakthroughs in the past year. Whether you are doing a startup or working in an established company, they all will change your business and provide new opportunities.   Below I introduce the technologies and explain their implications for business.

1) Air Taxis - the dream of hassle free travel

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Marketing / April 25, 2007 7 Sure-Fire Ways To Lose Friends And Get Your Story Buried On Digg
7 Sure-Fire Ways To Lose Friends And Get Your Story Buried On Digg

By Dharmesh Shah

As a relatively regular blogger on a couple of blogs, I've had the good luck to have several of my stories make it to the digg front page.  As such, I often have people ask me what the secret formula is for having a story make the front page of digg.  The honest truth is, I don't know.  I haven't come up with any sure-fire ways to ensure that your brilliant article will get dugg up to the front page.
However, I do know what I think are reasonably effective ways to ensure that your digg story gets buried.  As it turns out, getting a story buried is much easier to do than getting a story on the front page -- so I thought I'd write about that instead. 
7 Sure-fire Ways To Lose Friends And Get Your Story Buried On Digg
#1.  Write a title that makes it clear that the story is SPAM:  It is not sufficient to simply write a crappy title.  Crappy titles are much too easy to ignore.  What you want is a title that will motivate a pool of digg users to take time out of their busy days and come bury your story.  However, some subtlety is required.  If it's too obvious that it's spam, you might fail to get buried because everyone believes the story is so obviously spam that a bunch of other people have alreay buried it.  The key is to find the right balance to ensure that people will take action.
#2.  Write a description with a sales pitch:  Of course, the title can only go so far.  You might be able to lure a few digg users before their morning cup of coffee into doing what is morally right and visiting the story to burying you.  But, now you need to close the deal.  Make the description some sort of salesy "call to action". 
#3.  Suggest that Bill Gates is Cooler Than Steve Jobs:  No more needs to be said.
#4.  Suggest that Steve Jobs is Cooler Than Kevin Rose:  This one is a bit more nuanced than #3.  As it turns out, only 23% of the digg user base actually believes that Kevin Rose is cooler than Steve Jobs.  But, this is a sufficient number to get a story buried.  As it turns out, you can't reverse this and try to get the other 77% to bury you by saying Kevin Rose is cooler.  Those people are way too pragmatic and sure of themselves to come waste time burying your article.
#5.  Use Your Own digg Account:  Often, you do a decent job at #1 and #2 above, and get some good burying activity.  But, you don't really generate the comment flames and name-calling that you could have.  One way to achieve a higher level of vitriolic response is to make sure you post your story from your own digg account.  As it may not be obvious you're posting your own story, you can write the description in the first person so they know for sure it's you. 
#6.  Make This Your First Submitted Story:  Some digg users that have recently had some "happy moments" might make the mistake of cutting you some slack before they decide what a schmuck you really are.  One way they'll do this is to check out your history and see what kind of other stories you've submitted or comments or voted on.  Make sure you haven't voted on anyone else's article and if you have submitted other articles, they should follow these guidelines too. 
#7. Leave Some Crappy Comments On Your Own Story:  Ideas for actually coming up with appropriately crappy comments is beyond the scope of this article.
Bonus #8. Never, ever write about Google, Apple or digg itself:  Doesn't matter how well you do at the seven items above, but if you make the mistake of including any of these companies in your story title, description or somehow make a passing but glowing reference you greatly diminish your chances of being buried.
Of course, nothing in life is guaranteed.  But, if you follow the steps above, you've got a decent chance of having a sure-fire loser of a story.  Let me know if I missed any and leave them in the comments.

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Marketing / April 24, 2007 Which East Coast VC's Walk The Internet Walk
Which East Coast VC's Walk The Internet Walk

By Brian Halligan

We have had visits from several East coast venture capitalists over the last couple of weeks.  For the most part, the folks we are meeting are thoughtful about internet marketing, the space we are focused on.  For kicks this weekend, I decided to run each of them through the WebsiteGrader to see which of them went beyond talking the talk and was walking the walk on the internet.

The website grader algorithm was developed with the help of a friend of ours from MIT with a math PhD and uses a proprietary blend of over a dozen different variables, including search engine data, website structure, approximate traffic, site performance, and others.  A few of those variables are shown below in the comparison chart, for your interest. 

east coat VC venture capital comparison internet marketing

 Congratulations to the folks over at Highland Capital who came out on top of the East coast vc heap.  A website grade of 89 for Highland Capital means that of the thousands of websites that have previously been submitted to the tool, our algorithm has calculated that this site scores higher than 89% of them in terms of its marketing effectiveness.

I plan to do a similar post in the near future comparing the West coast vc's to eachother and will take a look at how the West compares to the East.  Now that I have all this data in our system, we can show trendline information on how these firms change over time, if there's interest.

Let me know if you feel like I left your favorite East coast vc out or if you want to make sure I include your favorite West coast firm in my next post...

-- Brian Halligan.


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Marketing / April 19, 2007 Expert Tips on Converting Website Visitors - Strong Call to Action Required
Expert Tips on Converting Website Visitors - Strong Call to Action Required

By Mike Volpe

The most important key to converting website visitors into leads is to have what marketers call a "strong call to action" or a particularly convincing offer that asks people to give their contact information (so they become a lead for your business) in exchange for something.  People are on your website, viewing your company information, and they are looking for clues as to what they are supposed to do next.  A strong call to action is a clear, simple and compelling offer that persuades them to take the action you want.

What always surprises me is how most small business websites don't even have a "call to action".  Just having a "Contact Us" form on your website is not very appealing to your website visitors and is barely counts as a call to action.  What's in it for them?  Not much.  So why should they use it?  Most people won't.  Sure, some people will use it.  And the people who do use it will sometimes buy your services since they gave you their contact information in exchange for nothing - just the hope that you will call them and sell them something.  But, if you really want to increase your website conversion rate beyond 1% to an above average 4% or 5%, you need a stronger call to action.

Here are some tips on creating a strong call to action:

1) Keep it Simple.  People don't like to think too much, especially when surfing the web.  The more confusing the call to action, the fewer people who will respond.  Use fewer words.  Make the offer clear.  Don't have any conditions or special rules.  Don't force people to click through to too many pages to complete the action.  The harder it is to complete, the fewer people who will complete it.

2) Make it Obvious.  Don't bury your call to action at the bottom of a page.  Make it clear and upfront and obvious.  Believe me, some portion of your website visitors are looking for a call to action.  Just by making yours more obvious you can get more of the to find it an complete it.

3) Most important: Make it Valuable.  You always want the offer (what you are giving people) to be appealing and valuable to your target audience.  One way to do this is by adding a gift, like a USB drive or an iPod.  But a better way is to give useful information that is targeted to your audience (and therefore will attract them but not the other people you don't want to talk to).  Usually, you can repackage existing materials to make something more valuable.  For example, maybe you are a small consulting group that works with companies to implement better management and organizational behavior practices to lower their turnover rates.  You want the HR managers that are viewing your website to complete a form to give you their contact information so you can follow up with them and sell them on your standard 5 day consulting engagement.  You probably already have a 2 page PDF document that describes the services your company provides.  You also have a couple customer case studies in PDF that show how you have helped other customers reduce their turnover.  And you might even have a short document that you leave with clients that contains the 10 most common mistakes or the 5 best ways to reduce turnover, or maybe you even have reprints of some articles you have written for an industry magazine.  Well, combine all these materials, and now you have a "Free Expert Guide to Reducing Employee Turnover".  What HR Manager would not want a copy of that?  Another great thing about these electronic guides is that they are downloadable - your prospect gets instant gratification and you don't pay more than a couple pennies for bandwidth.  If you have even more content, you can create a "whitepaper", which is usually also very appealing to business prospects.

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Marketing / April 17, 2007 10 Secrets to Marketing with Social News Sites - Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon and more
10 Secrets to Marketing with Social News Sites - Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon and more

By Mike Volpe

PR used to mean you did a lot of hard work with a very small number of people (writers and editorial staff)who had a huge amount of control over what was published or broadcast.  But now a lot of marketing and PR for both online and offline businesses takes place on the Internet, and increasingly on "social news" sites, which are sites that allow their users to submit news stories and vote on them.  The theory behind this is that the world at large can do a better job figuring out what news people want to read than a couple editors can.  My personal experience is that these sites tend to devolve into a lowest common denominator of stories about celebrities and animal costumes, but nonetheless they are important to build links and traffic for your website in today's world.  With some simple tips, you can exploit these websites for your benefit.  For a great overview of these social news sites, their audiences and more, see this TechCrunch article Towards a Better Digg, and also see the end of this article which lists the major social news sites and some key statistics from Website Grader about each of them.

So, here are my Secrets to Marketing with Social News Sites:

1) Great headline required.  You need a great headline to make your story stand out from all the rest of the others on the page to engage the other readers on the social news sites.  The headline needs to be less factual and more enticing, sometimes mysterious.  Think about what will make it most likely someone will click through to your article, usually telling them too much is a mistake.  A great resource for creating good headlines is Copyblogger, he has 2 articles on this topic: 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formats that Work and 7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates that Work. You can see I took one of his headline templates for this article.

2) Get your friends to help.  While there are lots of posted rules about not "spamming" these sites, there is nothing wrong with emailing a link to your new story or blog article to your friends and asking them to submit it or vote for it if they like it.  This will help you get a few initial votes (it also helps if they vote for your article at the same time, see #4 below).  Plus, if they really are your friends, they probably are interested in what you wrote and will like it.  Don't be shy.

3) Make it easy.  For people who come to your site and read your article, the easier you make it for people to vote on it, the more likely they are to actually vote.  Clicking your mouse once is easy.  Clicking through to another website and then entering some infomation and then voting is not easy.  An example of what I mean are the simple links to Digg this article and vote on Reddit at the top of this article.

4) Timing is everything.  An article that gets 25 votes in 15 minutes will rise very quickly to the top page of most of these sites.  An article that gets 100 votes over two days will not in most cases.  So, not only do you want your friends to vote for your article, you also want them all to vote at the same time, and usually near the time that the article has been submitted.  What this does it helps it rise in the rankings early on. Then if other people on the social news site like it, it will continue to rise or at least remain near the top for a longer time.  Because most people never make it past the first or second page of these social news sites, you need to get to the top of the rankings quickly to have any chance of making it there at all.  If you are on the 4th or 5th page of Digg or Reddit, it is very unlikely you will ever make it very high and get any meaningful traffic.

5) Remember you're buying lottery tickets, not government bonds.  Remember, you are trying something that might work, but might not.  If it does work, it can be extremely valuable.  Being on the front page of Digg or Reddit can mean many thousands of visitors (or more) to your website in a single day, and you will also get a lot more links to your website, which helps you rise higher in search engine rankings.  But, your efforts may not pay off at all.  When marketing to social news sites, you are buying a lottery ticket - the price is low and the chances of winning slim, but the potential payoff is big - not a government bond where the payoff is certain, but much smaller.  So, if it doesn't work the first time, try again and buy another ticket.  It's not too hard.

6) Become an active community member.  It is easy to just submit your own articles to the social news sites and not submit other articles and not vote on other articles.  But you will be more successful if you are at least paritally engaged in these communties since you will gain a better understanding of what the community likes and dislikes.  This will help you be more successful over time.

7) You cannot predict success.  No matter how hard we have tried at Small Business Hub and HubSpot, we cannot predict which articles will be successful and which will not.  I have also not found anyone who can predict this with enough accuracy as to be useful.  My advice is stop trying to predict success (remember, you're buying lotttery tickets) and focus your mental cycles on writing more articles and submitting them.

8) Target the right sites.  Perhaps most important of all, you need to focus on the social news sites where you will have the most success.  There are enough of them around now that you can't really spend time trying to promote you content with all of them.  You need to pick where you think your efforts will have the biggest payoff.  My personal opinion is that the community at Digg is so big and so picky and so focused on a certain topic set (very techie and apple/design stuff) that for most businesses it is not worth doing.  Especially when you are first getting started.

9) Use these stats for each social news site.  These stats give you a sense of the and how valuable the link will be for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

Social News Site

Alexa Traffic Rank 

Google Page Rank 


































* Their site was down when I was researching this article, so I was unable to determine the PageRank.

Also, here are Website Grader reports for each social news site if you want to explore more marketing information about each site:
BlinkList  |  ClipMarks  |  CoRank  |  Digg  |  Netscape  |  Newsvine  |  OpenServing  |  Reddit  |  Spotback  |  Spotplex  |  StumbleUpon

10) The best "arbitrage" opportunity is probably Netscape.  Netscape still gets a ton of traffic from the days when they were a regular web portal, which came form the days when everyone used Netscape as a web browser and the default home page was netscape.com and most people did not bother or did not know how to change it.

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Marketing / April 11, 2007 What Everyone Should Know About Website Statistics - 5 Tips plus Bonus
What Everyone Should Know About Website Statistics - 5 Tips plus Bonus

By Mike Volpe

I have been talking to a lot of b2b marketing people lately about their Internet marketing programs. One of the first questions I ask is "What are the most important statistics you track for your website?" The answers are sometimes surprising. About 40% of the time I hear "we don't really get any stats, we just know that sometimes people look at the website and call us." Another 40% of the time I hear "we get lots of statistics from [blank], but we really don't focus on a couple of them, we look at a lot of things" where [blank] is WebTrends, Google Analytics, Web Side Story, or another very detailed website analysis package.

Only about 20% of the time do I hear the right answer, which is "we track a few key statistics on a regular basis which are..." Why is this the right answer? Because focus is so important with business metrics - you can get lost in a sea of numbers very easily, and even convince yourself that things are going well when clearly they are not. Here is a list of the most important website statistics you should track so you can be like those 20% who know what they are doing.

I will also show you the charts that we use at HubSpot to evaluate these statistics over time. These charts, by the way, are automatically tracked and produced for any website using our Internet marketing software.

1) Visitors (new and repeat).  This is the number of people who have come to your website for the first time or who are coming back for a second time. This is important, because this is the size of the pool of people from which you are trying to get leads. The bigger the number of visitors, the more potential for you to get leads.

This graph shows New Visitors, Repeat Visitors and Leads

2) Leads.  This is the number of people who self-select on your website and do something to give you their contact information. It could be signing up for a demonstration, requesting a whitepaper, or viewing a video, but there must be a form where they give you at least their email address and sometimes more information as well. This number is critical since your website leads are where your sales come from.

3) Conversion Rate.  This is the percentage of your total website visitors who become a lead. So, if you had 200 visitors to your website today, and you generated 3 leads, that would be a 1.5% conversion rate. Most people will tell you that a 1-2% conversion rate is the average for a b2b website. The conversion rate is important because it is telling you how efficient your website is at turning visitors into leads. Remember, you can double your company's number of leads by either doubling your website traffic or doubling your conversion rate. If you want tips on how to raise your conversion rate to get more leads, check out this article on Increasing your Website Conversion Rate.

This graph shows Leads and Conversion Rate

4) Website Grade.  The free tool at www.websitegrader.com gives you an excellent overview of the marketing effectiveness of your website, including things like your Google PageRank, number of inbound links and other key statistics. What is nice about the Website Grade is that it summarizes this all into one number from 1 to 100. You should know what your website grade is and track it over time to make sure you improve (or if you already get a good score, to make sure you don't slip).

5) Keyword Search Rank.  For most business websites, the most efficient traffic and leads will come from organic search. This is the traffic that comes from people searching on Google, MSN and Yahoo and other engines and finding your website in the results. This traffic is not completely "free", since you need to work on your website to really maximize it, but it is usually much more cost effective than other sources. You need to know how you rank in the search engines for at least a few key terms related to your business, and you also want to know how that rank is changing over time - are you moving up or down - since that will determine the future success of your website visitors and leads.

This graph shows historical Keyword Search Rank for a search term

BONUS: 6) Close Rate.  I almost didn't put this here since very few businesses measure their close rate effectively and it is also something that for most b2b websites takes place offline (on the phone or in person), so it isn’t technically even a website metric, but it is so important I still have to list it. The close rate is the percentage of leads that close into customers in a specified time period. This is important to know because once you have your conversion rate and your close rate, you can actually put a value on your website traffic. For instance, let’s say each new customer you add is worth $5000 to your business in profits over the lifetime of the customer. If your close rate is 10%, then each lead is worth $500 to your company ($5000 x 10%). If your website conversion rate is 1%, then you also know that each visitor to your website is now worth $5. Knowing this, you can start marketing programs that drive traffic to your site for any cost up to $5 per visitor, so it is a useful number. Just be sure to check the traffic quality to verify that the new traffic has a similar conversion rate and close rate to the rates you used for this calculation, otherwise you will not be making money.

Summary / Next Steps:  I am sure you can use a combination of your web analysis software and Excel to get charts that look like the ones I have shown here. If you liked this article, and would be interested in getting these statistics in charts like these which are produced automatically for your website in real time, check out HubSpot Internet marketing software. Didn’t like the article? Do you have other website metrics you prefer? Leave a comment and let me know what they are and why you like them better.

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Marketing / April 9, 2007 7 Beginner Blogger Blunders and How To Avoid Them
7 Beginner Blogger Blunders and How To Avoid Them

By Dharmesh Shah

I've recently finished reading Clear Blogging  by Bob Walsh.  If you're thinking about starting a business blog or already have one, I think you'll find some really useful information in the book.  It is a practioner's guide to blogging.  [Disclaimer:  Bob interviewed me for the book so I have a section in there about using the social content sites to build traffic].  Having started three blogs of my own and helped several others kick theirs off too, I've found some common mistakes that beginning bloggers (or would-be bloggers) make. 
This article is intended for beginning bloggers.  However, even if you're a long-time blogger , bookmark this article so that you can forward it along to your friends and family when they make these common mistakes.  I'll bet you a dollar that you know at least one person that is making each of these mistakes.
7 Common Mistakes When Beginning Blogging
1.   Never actually launching it :  This is likely the most common mistake.  Sure, you've been meaning to get your blog kicked off.  You may have even authored your first article.  But guess what, it's not a blog until you actually publish something.
2.   Using a sub-domain (ex: myblog.typepad.com):  If you're going to go to the trouble to start a blog , then you owe it to yourself to get started right.  Even if you decide to use one of the many popular free blogging services, you should register your own domain name.  There are many reasons for this, but the most important is control over your website URL.  This is one of the few decisions about your blog that is going to be difficult to fix later.  Trust me on this one, the price is worth it.
3.  Spending too much time on design: Don't let the design of your blog get you bogged down.  Pick one of the many existing templates out there that are free or close to it and go ahead and get started.  You can always change templates later.  Besides, blogs are fundamentally about content.  Aesthetics help, but your first focus should be on writing great content .
4.  Not telling anyone about it: The beginning days of a blog are the hardest.  You don't have anyone linking to you, the search engines are not ranking you (and maybe not even indexing you).  So, there's really only one source of traffic:  Direct contact.  The best way to get a new blog launched is to tell people in your network that you now have a blog.  Many people are a little reluctant to do this becomes it seems vain or boastful.  As long as you're sending the notification to people that have an interest in your topic, there's nothing wrong with it. 
5.  Getting discouraged too early: Most things in life worth doing take time.  Blogging is no different.  You should give yourself at least 6 months (perhaps even a year) to determine what kind of interest there is out there before giving up due to lack of traffic.  Early momentum is hard, but once things start moving, lots of things will start working in your favor.
6.  Too many blidgets: Given how easy it is to add various blog widgets to your blog, it's tempting to go overboard.  Resist the temptation.  In the early weeks, focus on the basics:  Content, comments, categories and perhaps a blog roll.  Save the fancy stuff for later.
7.  Monetizing too early: Just because Google makes it easy to throw ads up on your blog doesn't mean you should.  With minimal traffic, the amount of money you are going to make is neglible (probably pennies a day).  If you're serious about blogging, you'll first focus on building an audience before even attempting to try and make money at it.  Trying ads out on your blog too early will reduce the chances of your getting that critical early traffic.
I'm sure there are many more common mistakes.  Which ones do you see people make the most often?  Share your thoughts and leave a comment and make the blogosphere a better place.

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Marketing / March 30, 2007 6 Power Tips To Use Google Like An Expert
6 Power Tips To Use Google Like An Expert

By Dharmesh Shah

A few weeks ago, I authored an article here with some quick tips on how you could improve your Google searches.  It provided some of the most useful features of Google that are relatively straight-forward, but few people knew about. 

Here's the first article, if you haven't read that one yet:  12 Quick Tips To Search Google Like An Expert

The response to the article was overwhelming.  Both those relatively unfamiliar with Google's advanced features and those that were Google experts seemed to like the article.  The experts likely bookmarked the article to send to their friends and family.

In any case, as a follow-up to that article, I'd like to share another set of quick tips to improve how you use Google's search bar.  Many of these were user contributions as comments to the original article.  Thanks to those that shared their favorite tips.

6 Power Tips To Use Google Like An Expert

1.  Unit Conversions :  You can enter common units and convert from one to the other.

    Example:  72 inches in cm

2.  Current Time In Major Cities :  You can have Google tell you the current time in most major cities of the world.

    Example:  time in Tokyo

3.  Currency Exchange :  Find the approximate value of one international currency in another.

    Example:  100 Euros in US dollars

4.  Check The Weather :  Find the local weather in any area in the United States

    Example:  weather in 02142

5.  Movie Schedule :  Enter the name of a currently playing movie and Google will help you find local showings.

    Example:  The Lookout

    Example:  The Lookout in 02142

6.  Stock Quotes :  Just enter the stock ticker symbol as your query.

     Example:  GOOG

If you have some favorite tips that I missed above, please share them in the comments.  Seems that there is no end to the creative uses for the Google search engine.

SEO kit
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Marketing / March 26, 2007 New Text Readability Feature on Website Grader
New Text Readability Feature on Website Grader

By Dharmesh Shah

We recently updated the software to Version 1.7 on Website Grader .
The major new feature in this version is the calculation of a "readability" score for the specified web page.
The idea behind the readability score is to approximate the level of education required in order to understand the content on the web page.  There are several widely documented algorithms for this kind of calculation.  Currently, we are using the Flesch-Kincaid algorithm.  Another option would be the Gunning-Fogg index (but we can't find evidence anywhere that one is better than the other).
From a marketing perspective, a website should write to a degree of clarity that is appropriate for the audience.  For example, if the site has a score of 12 or higher it is likely not going to be as effective unless the target market consists of academics or those with higher levels of education.
If you have thoughts or ideas on this feature, please leave a comment.  We're always looking for ways to make the software better.

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Marketing / March 23, 2007 Google As Dictator: 5 Most Devious Things It Could Do, If It Were Evil
Google As Dictator: 5 Most Devious Things It Could Do, If It Were Evil

By Dharmesh Shah


Imagine if we all lived in the Kingdom of Google. The emperor has immense amounts of information, is a brilliant strategist and continues to grow in power. Now imagine for a minute that the emperor is not only brilliant, but also devious . What type of patterns of behavior might we expect in this hypothetical land of Google? What kind of threats would loom for the citizenry? This article takes a hypothetical look at just this issue. It's intended to be an opinion piece and spark some intelligent discussion. Though I've tried to keep the tone light and avoid any "tin-foil hat conspiracy theory" style thinking, only you can be the judge as to whether I've succeeded.

Important disclaimer: I'm not accusing Google of anything here. I'm just pointing out the degree to which certain products are successful and how, if Google were evil, what it could do to exploit its power.

5 Most Devious Things Google Could Do, If It Were Evil

1. Favor the emperor's chosen few: Google could provide some search ranking preference to sites that are running on Blogger (its blogging platform) vs. those on other platforms (such as WordPress or TypePad). This one is easy to do, and would be extremely hard to detect as so many factors play a role in the determination of the Google Search Rankings. The impact is that more and more citizens try to become some of those "privileged few".

2. Punish Citizens Without Due Process: This is a hot button of mine. If you are a Google AdSense customer or for that matter operate any website, Google could (in theory) ban your website from the Google search engine for alleged infractions. In this regard, Google is both judge and jury and you are guilty until proven innocent. There are literally hundreds of articles on the web where dismayed website operators discuss how they got banned from the Google search rankings, banned from using AdSense, etc. In many of these cases, Google may have been right and may have had a legitimate case. That's not my point. The point is that this entire process is not transparent and Google has full, unfettered discretion. Nothing helps keep the citizens in line with the emperor's wishes more than some random punishments (or punishments that seem random).

3. Know Who Is Related To Who: This is an interesting (and subtle) one. Now that more and more Google products are using a central Google account for authentication (Gmail, AdWords, AdSense, Webmaster Tools, Blogger, etc.) it is actually quite possible for Google to know exactly which sites you are affiliated with. Normally, this is not a bad thing (one could argue that this helps Google deliver better search results). The danger here is that not only could Google exact punishment on a given website, it could do so on other related websites. This is like a citizen being fearful of antagonizing the emperor for fear that not only would she be penalized, but that such penalties could impact her friends and family as well.

4. Force Businesses To Advertise: Since Google "knows" which websites are advertising (and which are not), it could lower the organic search rankings for sites that it knows have purchased Google AdWords in the past. Though this seems counter-intuitive (Google would be penalizing its customers), in the short-run, there is economic incentive to do so. The fact that the search rankings themselves are a closely guarded secret means that no individual business would ever be able to prove that Google is intentionally giving it a lower organic ranking to extract more ad dollars. This is a bit like the emperor controlling the local newspaper. The emperor gets to decide who gets free mention in the editorial parts of the paper and who is forced to buy advertising.

5. Change The Laws And Keep Them Obfuscated: There is an entire industry build around search engine optimization (which for most means Google Optimization). Hundreds of people spend their lives trying to understand the Google algorithm and determine how best to earn the privilege of ranking their clients high for particular searches. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it ties into all of the points above. The search rankings have become so important for so many customers, and the underlying algorithm is so ill-understood that there is major potential for abuse. Should it ever come to be that Google needs to exert even more influence amongst the citizenry, all it has to do is change the laws of the land and send the masses scurrying to try and figure out what the new rules are.

There are many more possible problems with Google's growing power. The ones that bother me the most are at the heart of many monopolies: product bundling. As Google amasses a larger and larger pool of products that touch millions of people, the potential to start tying these products together in ways that do not benefit everyone is increasing.

What are your thoughts? Am I totally off-base with any or all of these particular concerns? Is Google a benevolent dictator, a not-so-benevolent dictator – or not a dictator at all?


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Marketing / March 16, 2007 How To Spend $1 Million On A Domain Name And Lower Your Web Traffic
How To Spend $1 Million On A Domain Name And Lower Your Web Traffic

By Dharmesh Shah

It’s been a while since we’ve had a lot of discussion around people spending hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on a domain name.  If you had tickets to the last bubble, you likely witnessed a lot of this craziness back then.  The example that leaps to mind is Business.com being purchased for $2.5 million. In more recent news, a company called Topix purchased their domain name (Topix.com) for a cool $1 million.  They already owned Topix.net (and were getting a fair amount of traffic to it), but decided that a “.com” domain would be a more effective brand and it was worth it to them to spend that kind of money to acquire it.  The company is pretty big and I’m sure they could afford the purchase, and I tend to agree that the “.com” domain for most businesses is much, much better than “.net” (or other domain extensions). 

At some point, someone at Topix likely realized the errors in their original ways and decided to pay a premium to fix it. Had this just been a story about a million dollar domain name, it would be interesting, but I wouldn’t have given it that much thought.  What makes it interesting is that when they made this name change, they lost a ton of their traffic through Google. Yes, you heard that right.  They spent a million dollars, changed their domain name to something better , did all the things “correctly” in terms of setting up a permanent redirect .  In fact, I don’t know of anything they could have done differently, but the traffic went down anyways.  For a detailed look at this phenomenon, you can see the Wall Street Journal article titled “ How Search Engine Rules Cause Sites To Go Missing ”.  It is a pretty good article and worth a read if this is an area of interest for you. SEO kit
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Marketing / March 13, 2007 Presidential Internet Marketing: Data Comparing Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Romney, Giuliani, McCain
Presidential Internet Marketing: Data Comparing Obama, Clinton, Edwards, Romney, Giuliani, McCain

By Mike Volpe

I am not an overly political person. I actually enjoy reading about marketing, technology and Internet topics a lot more than politics. But all this election talk made me think that perhaps I should become more politically informed. After all, there is an election coming up. Then I thought, well what if I combined the topics I love with the presidential race? Maybe that would make me interested in learning more in depth info about the candidates?

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Marketing / March 9, 2007 Publishing Is To 2007 As eCommerce Was to 1997
Publishing Is To 2007 As eCommerce Was to 1997

By Brian Halligan

The industrial structure of the publishing industry is at an interesting historical point.   The internet, search, social bookmarking sites, blog software, Google Adsense, and RSS in combination are acting as a disruptive technology to the publishing industry by lowering the barrier-to-entry (no printing costs!) for new entrants and improving consumption patterns for consumers (more specialization).

internet marketing kit
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Marketing / February 26, 2007 Backroom Confessions Of A Marketing Executive
Backroom Confessions Of A Marketing Executive

By Brian Halligan

The room is dingy and poorly lit. A single light-bulb hangs from a wire in the ceiling. There are no windows and the paint on the walls is peeling. The interrogator is clearly a “professional."  It’s not a matter of if the man in the chair will give up his secrets, it’s a matter of when. The man being interrogated, a marketing executive, looks nervous. His mind is working fast to see if there is some plausible response that might make the questioning stop – but doesn’t reveal too much.

internet marketing kit
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