Archive for January, 2010

How To Pitch A Blogger

Friday, January 29th, 2010
Any blogger will tell you that as soon as they made their first few posts, the pitches for coverage or product mentions came rolling in. There’s good reason for that — a mention on a few popular blogs provides plenty of benefits including brand visibility and incoming links.
Here at Website Magazine, we get plenty of pitches — from story ideas to products, every day businesses hungry for exposure send us an e-mail or product to try. Some are very effective, while others are relegated to the trash bin faster than they arrived. A proper pitch requires planning and execution.
Know Your Audience
Nothing triggers the “delete” button faster than a pitch that begins something like, Dear blogger… On the other hand, using the blogger’s name or the name of the blog usually keeps them reading. This personalization of the message not only engages the reader but shows that you value their time and their blog.
In the same way, do your research and know the blog’s purpose and audience. It takes just a few minutes to read a post or two from the blog, and knowing the subject matter will show in your pitch. Nothing is more frustrating to a blogger than spending valuable time reading a pitch that is completely irrelevant to their audience. This is a common mistake and often results in a “blacklisting” of the person making the pitch — future relevant pitches risk never being seen.
Be Succinct
Bloggers value their time. To be most effective, be upfront with your pitch. Tell the blogger what you want and why your product, service or announcement matters to them and their audience. If you haven’t stated your purpose withing the first two or three sentences, chances of exposure drops dramatically. If a blogger is truly interested in what you have to offer, they will take the time to learn more, if needed. After all, if you pique their interest, chances are excellent that their readers will want to know more too.
Offer Something
Bloggers want readers. And one way to ensure repeat visitors and new readers is to give something away. Based on the blog’s audience, offer something of value. It could be an online coupon, free product, free trial or free membership.
Also, tailor the offer to the specific blog via a custom coupon code or similar measure. The blogger wants to give readers the appearance of authority and value — by making your offer “exclusive” to the blog’s readers, they feel validated and the blogger benefits by becoming a valued resource. Also, people like to share inside information, giving your brand and offer a better chance of being shared to a wider audience.
Provide Resources or Creatives
Researching and writing blog posts is time-consuming. It can be very frustrating to receive a good pitch, then have to crawl all over the Web looking for images, landing pages or other resources. Make sure your e-mails have everything the blogger needs — links, images, even verbiage.
Ask Questions
If you’re having trouble getting the attention of a particular blogger (or any blogs at all), don’t be afraid to ask very direct questions. Find out what type of pitches the blogger wants.
• What type of products are important to his or her audience?
• How does the blogger prefer to be contacted?
• Are there particular topics of interest that the blogger would like to cover but lacks the resources to?
• Do they have an editorial calendar? If not, find out if the blogger writes any regularly-scheduled posts such as year-end wrap-ups or lists, seasonal posts, etc.
Finding the Right Blogs to Pitch
There are tens of thousands of active blogs out there — what are the ones you should contact? Start by simply searching your topic with keywords. Use search engines’ custom search options like blog searches, related searches and Google’s Wonder wheel. You will find people posting on your topics and related topics. Search for topics on sites like Digg.com — find those submissions with high vote totals to identify influential blogs. Look on social networks too, for bloggers with high numbers of fans, friends and followers. Also look for popular blogs on blog aggregator sites.
When you find a few blogs to target, check some statistics. One quick and easy way is to use Compete.com to find estimated traffic levels — some blogs are very good at SEO, but might not have a very large following.
By asking questions, you give the blogger the impression that you want to become a resource for them, not just a media hound. It is very possible that you can provide material for the blogger they might not otherwise come in contact with. Think like a partner.

ny blogger will tell you that as soon as they made their first few posts, the pitches for coverage or product mentions came rolling in. There’s good reason for that — a mention on a few popular blogs provides plenty of benefits including brand visibility and incoming links.
Here at Website Magazine, we get plenty of pitches — from story ideas to products, every day businesses hungry for exposure send us an e-mail or product to try. Some are very effective, while others are relegated to the trash bin faster than they arrived. A proper pitch requires planning and execution.
Know Your AudienceNothing triggers the “delete” button faster than a pitch that begins something like, Dear blogger… On the other hand, using the blogger’s name or the name of the blog usually keeps them reading. This personalization of the message not only engages the reader but shows that you value their time and their blog.
In the same way, do your research and know the blog’s purpose and audience. It takes just a few minutes to read a post or two from the blog, and knowing the subject matter will show in your pitch. Nothing is more frustrating to a blogger than spending valuable time reading a pitch that is completely irrelevant to their audience. This is a common mistake and often results in a “blacklisting” of the person making the pitch — future relevant pitches risk never being seen.
Be SuccinctBloggers value their time. To be most effective, be upfront with your pitch. Tell the blogger what you want and why your product, service or announcement matters to them and their audience. If you haven’t stated your purpose withing the first two or three sentences, chances of exposure drops dramatically. If a blogger is truly interested in what you have to offer, they will take the time to learn more, if needed. After all, if you pique their interest, chances are excellent that their readers will want to know more too.
Offer SomethingBloggers want readers. And one way to ensure repeat visitors and new readers is to give something away. Based on the blog’s audience, offer something of value. It could be an online coupon, free product, free trial or free membership.
Also, tailor the offer to the specific blog via a custom coupon code or similar measure. The blogger wants to give readers the appearance of authority and value — by making your offer “exclusive” to the blog’s readers, they feel validated and the blogger benefits by becoming a valued resource. Also, people like to share inside information, giving your brand and offer a better chance of being shared to a wider audience.
Provide Resources or CreativesResearching and writing blog posts is time-consuming. It can be very frustrating to receive a good pitch, then have to crawl all over the Web looking for images, landing pages or other resources. Make sure your e-mails have everything the blogger needs — links, images, even verbiage.
Ask QuestionsIf you’re having trouble getting the attention of a particular blogger (or any blogs at all), don’t be afraid to ask very direct questions. Find out what type of pitches the blogger wants.
• What type of products are important to his or her audience?• How does the blogger prefer to be contacted?• Are there particular topics of interest that the blogger would like to cover but lacks the resources to?• Do they have an editorial calendar? If not, find out if the blogger writes any regularly-scheduled posts such as year-end wrap-ups or lists, seasonal posts, etc.

Finding the Right Blogs to PitchThere are tens of thousands of active blogs out there — what are the ones you should contact? Start by simply searching your topic with keywords. Use search engines’ custom search options like blog searches, related searches and Google’s Wonder wheel. You will find people posting on your topics and related topics. Search for topics on sites like Digg.com — find those submissions with high vote totals to identify influential blogs. Look on social networks too, for bloggers with high numbers of fans, friends and followers. Also look for popular blogs on blog aggregator sites.
When you find a few blogs to target, check some statistics. One quick and easy way is to use Compete.com to find estimated traffic levels — some blogs are very good at SEO, but might not have a very large following.
By asking questions, you give the blogger the impression that you want to become a resource for them, not just a media hound. It is very possible that you can provide material for the blogger they might not otherwise come in contact with. Think like a partner.

–Mike Phillips

5 steps to a manageable video strategy

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Video content has a good chance of dominating the web. In July 2009 alone, an astounding 158 million U.S. internet users — or 80 percent of the nation’s online population — watched online videos, according to data from comScore Video Metrix. While the best way to meet this demand is to provide more video content, it should be noted that too much content will become an “untamable beast” — especially when it comes to ensuring that videos are personalized and customized.

In addition, according to recent research from The Diffusion Group (TDG), the number of global broadband households will near 440 million by 2010 and top 1.2 billion by 2030, bringing high-speed connectivity to a tipping point. As a result, online publishers will treat this broadband gold rush with gusto, ensuring that video content is prolific and ubiquitous.

So, the stars are all lining up for video to be the “king of content” on the web. Online publishers will post massive volumes of videos that are aimed at driving more traffic, and they will look to provide a more personalized experience to keep users engaged. The downside is that there is such as thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to video, and online publishers need to use tools to maximize this opportunity.

Once online publishers start building out a deep repertoire of video content by producing it, licensing it, or syndicating it, this massive volume of videos can become unwieldy and cumbersome to discover, share, and monetize. In addition, a haphazard approach to posting content — just based on posting high volumes of videos — would be like selling a product that people don’t buy because they don’t know it exists or have no interest in it.

To avoid being trampled under the foot of this potentially untamable beast, we recommend you follow these five critical steps:

1. Think strategically
Take a marketing campaign-like approach to posting video content. The most successful campaigns are driven by a well-thought-out strategy that is supported by the most cutting-edge tactics. Online publishers that actually spend time developing this plan in a written document, and ensure that the entire web team is thinking strategically while executing the tactics, will yield the best results.

2. Scale up quick and early
Scaling up can always be done, but is optimal when completed early in the game. By tagging and managing the videos by category — even if the categories go very deep in terms of user preference — you will be able to build a true foundation for all other videos to be launched, managed, and monetized. This will also allow third-party technology vendors to more easily be integrated to your site (in terms of analytics, third-party ad serving companies, discovery, and others).

3. Provide a personalized experience; create your competitive advantage
Make sure you serve up a more personalized video viewing experience. This means that, based on viewing patterns, tastes, and preferences, videos should be served up to users much like a custom-made piece of furniture or musical instrument — as unique products. Too much of a commoditized video experience will cause users to migrate elsewhere. Simply put: Web users prefer some guidance.

4. Maintain, maintain, maintain
If you have the right foundation in place and you are scaling properly, it is very easy to get complacent at precisely the time when managing online videos can become beastly. Make sure that you build in routine maintenance of your online video efforts.

5. Measure success and recalculate
Managing online video content without the proper analytic tools and metrics goals is like going hiking without the proper equipment. One wrong turn and you could be lost very deep in the woods. Be sure to fully analyze and measure all of your efforts at the end of a campaign (recommend every three months). This is the ideal time to truly recalculate efforts, purge low-value video content, and move forward with a modified plan. Such quantifiable metrics could be CTRs on your different navigation tools, colors schemes, player sizes, pages per visit, and others.

While the online video gold rush is showing no sign of slowing down and more ad revenues are kicking in from TV to online, publishers should avoid quickly rushing out West — much like the California gold rush — with the wrong tools for mining. After all, only a handful of people struck it rich during the gold rush — most were left destitute. By using the right strategies and tools for managing and personalizing videos, every online publisher can grab a hold of the bountiful riches.

–Adam Singolda

10 Simple Steps to Creating Effective Web Video

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Does the prospect of creating Web video fill you with fear? If you’ve never done it before it can certainly seem overwhelming. But you can relax, because I’m going to walk you through the process.

Why should you be using video on your websites? Video is highly persuasive, and users have come to expect it. A well-produced video can deliver your message in a way that engages and persuades visitors to take an action that you specify. For example, my weekly WebTV show (www.HelpMyBusiness.com) attracts thousands of new viewers each week, many of whom buy various products and services I recommend to them. You can do something similar for your niche, regardless of your industry.

The number one key to creating an effective Web video is simple: Preparation. Unfortunately, most people dive in head first and end up with an awkward, disjointed mess. Preparation might not be the most fun part of the process, but it is critical to success.

Here’s a simple, 10-step process you can follow to ensure an effective Web video:

STEP 1: Decide on the primary purpose and objective of the video. Do you want to sell a product or service? Is it to educate the audience about a commonly misunderstood topic? Is it a product demonstration? The video must have a single overriding purpose — otherwise, the audience gets confused. Try to state your objective clearly in one sentence. For example, “the video will overcome any negative perceptions toward hiring new staff from an online employment agency.”

STEP 2: Who is your target audience? For example, based on previous buyers, how much do they know about the subject already? What are their backgrounds, languages and abilities to comprehend the topic? Are they naturally interested in the topic? You would make a very different video for children under the age of 10, than you would for lawyers who specialize in divorce cases.

STEP 3: Decide how you will present the topic. Will you use a documentary style? Will it be dramatic or humorous, sensitive and factual, or light-hearted and lively? There are other considerations too. Should there be a presenter on screen, or an unseen narrator? Also, try to achieve a balance of information and persuasion. Do you want to appeal mainly to intellect or emotion? At one end of the spectrum you could present the information like an instruction manual — purely factual. The other extreme is to persuade the viewer by feelings, emotion, and entertainment. A balance of the two is usually best.

STEP 4: Plan the structure of the video. It’s helpful to think of your video as a story — it must have a beginning, middle and end. The introduction must grab the viewer’s attention, the middle should balance emotion and facts, and the end must contain a powerful call to action that can not be ignored.

STEP 5:Work out the best duration for the video by boiling down the essence of the message and conveying that in the shortest possible timeframe.

STEP 6: Decide who will “own” this project and follow it through to completion. It’s no use assigning it to a staff member who is already over-stretched with other work.

STEP 7: Set a deadline. It might be a few hours or days for a simple video, or several weeks for a complex production.

STEP 8:
Research and acquire information and elements to include in the video. Do you own any existing footage that could be used? Other elements might include artwork, logos, graphics or music.

STEP 9: Write the script. A script is the blueprint for your video. It includes not only spoken words but a detailed description of the visuals and music that accompany the words. Don’t expect to sit down and write the finished script in one session. It will evolve.

STEP 10:
It’s time to record. Find a proper setting within the theme of the video and eliminate distractions and ambient noise.

Preparing your Web video will ensure a smooth recording process and a polished finished product. Users are viewing more video than ever on the Web and they are becoming discerning viewers. Stay ahead of the curve. A properly prepared video will always achieve better results than a haphazard effort.

–Peter Prestipino

Top 50 Social Media Resources – Feb ’09

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

A September 2008 study from Universal McCann described a “new influencer landscape,” characterized by three trends: the rise in social media, the importance of digital friends, and the proliferation of influencer channels. According to the study, the impact of this phenomenon is threefold: an influence economy, the democratization of influence and the rise of the “super influencer.” While that might be a little philosophical for your average Web worker, it is clear that few have anticipated the meteoric rise of consumer generated content and social media. However, due to some growing pains (no practical business models) and mistakes caused by youthful over-exuberance, social media content is still considered by many to be in its infancy.

The use of social media does raise many questions for the population of Web workers and the Internet businesses that support them. Which sites are most important? What sort of time commitment should be made? How do we monitor our successes and failures? These questions and others are asked each and every day as those within the social media landscape learn from their collective experiences.

This edition of Website Magazine features 50 of the top social media resources available on the Internet. While you may find some of your favorite micro-social networks absent from the list, keep in mind that this is one sample from the overall behavior of one subset of the entire Web population. The list does, however, provide a valuable look as to where the mass of social Web users spend their time, sharing content and visiting sites in droves. Research for this report comes courtesy of Ranking.com, the Web’s largest provider of website popularity metrics and detailed website information on more than one million online destinations. To suggest a Top50 category for consideration in upcoming issues of Website Magazine, please visit us online or email Top50@WebsiteMagazine.com.

–Peter Prestipino

Google’s Real-Time Search Changes Everything

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The real-time Web is here. Google has officially jumped into real-time search, taking full advantage of its recent partnerships and changing the face of search engine optimization. Conduct a search on Google and you might now see a sizable part of the page dedicated to real-time search. This is a scrolling, live update of content from across the Web about your query and one of the most significant public-facing changes Google has made in a long time. It’s also one of the biggest changes to SEO (as it applies to Google) in recent history.

The real-time updates – or “Latest results” – take up a significant portion of screen space. After the sponosored listings at the top of the page, then the top organic result comes the real-time updates. In some cases, the box is also very close to the fold. In short, as it stands today, your company’s organic listings might have already changed dramatically. While the total number of results does not seem to have changed, you might have dropped below the fold. That means checking your search positions immediately, and getting to work on improving them.

Below is a Google results page for “Obama health care.” The first result is the top result, then you will see the real-time results. The bottom result after the real-time box is just above the fold. This is a hot topic, so keep in mind that not all queries will produce real-time results, or results will be ordered differenlty. For example, a search for “zhu zhu” (a popular toy this holiday season) shows real-time results, but at the very bottom of the page. Also impacting the position of real-time results and normal organic listings will be the number of paid search results.

One thing is for certain – Web professionals’ stock in Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca just went through the roof. Those companies are now partners, waist-deep in the Google mix; and that’s where many of the real-time results are coming from. In short, if you’re not on some or all of these networks, it’s time to get started. And you must go beyond just making a profile. These real-time results will take into account your social graph – the connections you make and your “authority” in the space, as well as the content you provide on these networks. We’re talking quality here. Businesses must provide value to their social connections. For example, if you tweet an important piece of information and it gets re-tweeted by your followers, you can bet Google will take notice. Google will be examining accounts’ social stock and including those in the updates – on the first page of Google. You will also notice that real-time results are not limited to social networks, but include blogs and other websites. Content creation and optimization (creative copy, keyword-friendliness, etc.) becomes a mission-critical business objective.

It will also be interesting to see if these new partner networks get flooded with “content noise,” once publishers realize the opportunity.