Designing An Effective Banner

There are plenty of places to put a banner advertising your blog these days, from Entrecard to Project Wonderful.

But what makes an effective banner? One school of thought seems to be that any banner that gets a click is best. This gives rise to the recent rash of banners featuring sexy young women, advertising blogs that have nothing to do with sexy young women. But isn’t that effective, if it gets someone to click through?

Not really. I’ve written before on this topic, such as the post “How Good Is Your Traffic?“, and “Qualifying Your Visitors“.

The basic concept is that traffic alone is useless (except in a certain situation I’ll discuss below). What’s useful is traffic that will convert (e.g. take some action that makes you money). You’ll make more profit with less traffic if that traffic is very likely to convert. Traffic also has a cost associated with it, in terms of server resources used, bandwidth, CPU allocation, etc.

So what you want is highly qualified traffic, not junk traffic.

An effective banner is one that gets clicks from people who are likely to convert, and convinces people who are not likely to convert to not click. That’s right, half the purpose of a banner is to convince people not to click on it. For example, if “converting” for your site means buying an ebook at $19.95, then put the price on your banner. That will convince people who think $19.95 is too expensive for an ebook to not click. The people who do click are more likely to buy, because they don’t see $19.95 as too expensive.

Effective banners are not misleading. They communicate exactly what the site is about, including using appropriate images. Using sexy young women (or men) on your banner is only effective if that’s what you’re selling (well, pictures at least…selling the real thing is illegal).

When you’re having a banner designed for your site, think in terms of both communicating what your site is about, and discouraging visitors who aren’t going to convert. You may have to do some work to think about what your typical customer is like. A survey of your existing customers, if you have some, might help.

As far as traffic goes, think Quality, not Quantity.

Keyword Research – Traffic vs Competition

I’ve written a lot about keyword research before.

My post about How Good Is Your Traffic? and Qualifying Your Visitors both talk about why less traffic is sometimes better than more traffic. This goes against typical online wisdom, which holds that the more traffic you get the better off you are. This leads people to target the highest traffic keywords possible.

That’s a bad idea, for a couple of reasons.

High Traffic Means General

High traffic keywords are general keywords. They’re high traffic because they apply to a variety of search queries. For example, the keyword “shoe” gets more traffic than the keyword “red shoe”. But the more general keyword “shoe” includes people searching for “blue shoes”, “black shoes”, “dress shoes”, and even “free shoes”. The keyword “red shoe” is far more targeted, and likely to lead to a sale.

Targeting specific keywords is very important for increasing your conversion rate.

High Traffic Means More Competition

Usually, higher traffic keywords have more competition in search engine rankings. Lots of sites will be trying to rank well for those general keywords. Even the more specific high traffic keywords will have a lot of competition, as people try to monetize that traffic.

Competing in such an environment takes time, effort, and often money. Toss a web site up and do nothing else with it, and it will end up on page 20 of Google for competitive keywords. Do the same thing for a non-competitive keyword, and the site can end up on page 1.

Would you rather have a vanishingly small percentage of a large amount of general traffic, or a high percentage of a smaller amount of targeted traffic?

If you answered the high percentage of a smaller amount of targeted traffic, congratulations! You’re on your way to doing very good keyword research.

Flogd Review

Flogd is a new service that provides you with a way to build an online store to sell your products.

This is one of many such services offered online, but each has it’s own spin. Flogd is intended to help you sell your own products on your own website, or on MySpace. You can specify the name and description of the product, and several varieties (e.g. different sizes, colors, etc), and how much each variety costs. Flogd will give you some code to paste into a website, or MySpace profile, and your visitors will be able to add items to a shopping cart and check out using PayPal. Flogd will collect sales tax for you. You’ll be responsible for reporting the tax to the appropriate parties, and getting it to them (e.g. the state you live in).

The store itself is a bit of Flash code that is displayed on any website you put it into. You don’t get a web page you can direct people to, as in Zlio or Bravisa. You must already have, or be willing to create, a website to place the store code on. This is most useful if you already have a website that gets traffic, and want to easily add your own products to the site. For example, you run a site with tutorials on making hand made jewelry, and want to start selling your own jewelry. Or you run a site about your band, and want to start selling CDs of your music.

You are responsible for ensuring delivery of the items. This is distinct from Oronjo, which specializes in products that can be digitally delivered and handles that for you. Flogd seems more suitable for physical products that need shipped.

The big disadvantage is that you need a product to sell! Luckily, Flogd has partnered with Bravisa to let you import all the products from your Bravisa store into Flogd. The idea is that Bravisa would take care of shipping and customer service, leaving you to just put your Flogd store on a web page that gets targeted visitors. The current integration has a shopper redirected to Bravisa to finalize the purchase of Bravisa items, although that’s supposed to be more seamless in the future.

Another feature that would work well with the target market is the ability to allow affiliates to put the store on their web sites, and earn a commission from sales. That feature doesn’t currently exist, but reportedly is coming soon.

Flogd seems ideal for small groups that have physical products to ship. A band might use Flogd to sell their CDs, or someone who makes crafts or homemade jewelry might use Flogd to sell their products. Other solutions exist if you’re selling info products, but if you’re selling something that you produce and physically ship, Flogd might just cut down the time you need to sell online.

Note that Flogd is currently free, but that is only through the beta period. No details are available right now on the fee structure that will go into place at the end of the beta period, but that should be in September 2008.

BlinkWeb Review

BlinkWeb is a new service that claims to allow anyone to build a web site through point and click technology.

BlinkWeb is a bit like Google Pages. The features of both are similar. You can create a multi-page site, choose a layout and template from their gallery, and drag and drop different components onto the pages. BlinkWeb has more features specific to Internet Marketers, though.

The components supported by BlinkWeb right now include a contact form, a guest book, Google Maps integration for showing where an address is, Google Adsense integration, and a custom HTML widget. You can also include paragraphs, a paragraph with an attached title, images, and a paragraph with an image embedded in it, along with doing a two column layout for part of the page. You can also easily add in video and Flickr integration.

The templates available are a bit sparse right now. You might find something for your niche, or you might not. The widgets available are also a bit sparse. They’re fine for basic sites, but you’ll have to use the custom HTML widget for anything more complicated.

One of the attractive points about BlinkWeb is that it offers a Sales Letter as a page type. These pages have a different set of templates, all modeled after typical Internet Marketing type sales pages. So putting up a simple sales page with BlinkWeb is very trivial.

Another type of page provided is a blog page. This provides the standard blog sorts of widgets and a sidebar. Of course, you can specify the typical SEO information, such as meta keywords and description, and the page title.

BlinkWeb is definitely targeted toward Internet Marketers. They offer a five day lesson in how to earn using BlinkWeb, which basically walks you through an overview of developing an information product and using BlinkWeb to create a sales site. They also provide a Facebook widget so you can promote your site on Facebook easily.

This is all free. So what does BlinkWeb get from it? In Day 5 of the lessons, they suggest you obtain a domain name instead of using a subdomain of The way you can use a domain of your own that’s built into BlinkWeb is to purchase web hosting from them. You get the domain itself for free, and web hosting at $1 for the first month and $14.95 a month after that.

It isn’t clear from reading the site if the $14.95 a month only covers a single web site, or multiple. I’d guess a single web site, and that they intend for online marketers to pay out of the profits from selling their product.

BlinkWeb does do what it says. Anyone can make a web site with it, although you might need to figure out what to put into the meta keywords, etc. And, you can do it for free, and get your web site up and running and perfected before you make a decision on whether you want to pay $14.95 a month basically to use your own domain name with the site.

Online Time Management

When you’re working online time management becomes an important part of what you do.

After all, we all know how easy it is to become distracted by various notifications coming into our email. Bloggers usually get emails when someone leaves a comment, or a comment needs to be moderated. If you run a forum, you probably get notified when a new member registers. If you participate in forums, you have tons of notifications from threads you’ve participated in, telling you that someone has added a new post to the thread. And then there are the tons of emails you get out of the blue, or from lists you’ve subscribed to, that all want your attention.

This has become a big thing lately, and lots of people will offer you advice and coaching, generally for a fee.

But the key to managing your time online is easy: Don’t get distracted!

Working online, you probably have your email up constantly when you’re on the computer. It may even be one of those programs that plays a chime when you get new mail. New emails practically beg to be processed immediately. My first thought, when I check to see who the email is from, is, “I can reply to that in just a couple of minutes, why put it off?” Over time I’ve gotten a reputation for being prompt to reply to emails.

Those two minutes add up, though, when you count all the emails you need to reply to over the course of a day. More damaging by far, though, is that while you can answer that email in just two minutes, it will take you more than two minutes to get back into the mind-set of what you were doing before you took your email break. It’s like having the answer to a question on the tip of your tongue, and then having someone ask you an entirely unrelated question. It takes me days sometimes to remember what I was going to say.

Online time management is all about focus. You don’t have to schedule your day, but if you sit down and feel like working on a web site you are creating, block off an hour or two to do nothing but that. Close your email program, and don’t check email until your hour or two is finished (breathe, it’ll be okay…everyone can wait for a reply that long, or they would have called you instead). Don’t open up a web browser to pop onto another web site, unless it’s research you need to do for the one you’re creating.

After the hour or two you’ve allocated, take a break. The more time you spend on a particular task, the less you get done. You could process your emails during your break, but you’ll get more out of getting away from the computer and doing something physical. Get your blood moving and your heart pumping, even if you just take a walk around your neighborhood. You’ll be refreshed then, to sit down and spend another hour or two doing something online.

Other distractions are harder to cope with, such as kids and pets. But try to isolate yourself for the hour or two that you’ll be working, so you can focus and concentrate. You’ll get far more done that way.

We’ve become so used to reacting to online events as soon as they happen that it might take you a while to get comfortable with choosing when to process emails, post forum replies, etc. But the result in terms of productivity is well worth it!

The Magic Of Unsubscribing

Anyone who is interested in Internet Marketing is probably on a lot of email lists.

I’ve taken advantage of getting back from vacation to use that “unsubscribe” link on the bottom of a lot of emails that were waiting for me. I’d highly recommend this after a time away, since it’s a great opportunity to get some perspective on the lists.

Wading through hundreds of emails, many of them multiple emails from the same list, is a time when you can pretty accurately measure the ratio of content to advertisements in the list. Most lists are heavy on advertisement, and light on content. Going through multiple emails is also a great time to see which ones are all pushing the same affiliate products.

I unsubscribed from a lot of the lists I was on, and stayed subscribed only to those that were providing some decent content. One benefit is that it’ll take me far less time to process my email every day, now that I won’t have as many to simply delete out of hand.

Even if you aren’t going on vacation, I encourage you to put all those email list emails into a single folder for a week, and then go through them to see which ones are actually providing you value. Get rid of the rest.

The “Find A Crack” Contest

Following up on my post about niches and cracks, I thought it’d be fun to hold a contest to see who could come up with the best crack to be filled.

To enter, just post a comment here with the details of your idea. Include:

1) The crack that your idea fills (e.g. the stumbling block that currently exists)
2) How your idea fills the crack (e.g. makes things easier for people)
3) How your idea might be monetized, while still providing significant free services

Judging is entirely subjective, based on which idea I like the best. I’ll pick a winner July 1st, and announce the winner in July 2nd’s post.

The winner gets a month’s worth of 125×125 banner exposure here (in the spot currently occupied by the Brain Foggles banner). This exposure will start at the end of July, and run at least until September

The ideas that seem most doable will also get the opportunity to follow through on them over at The Advisory Panel. I can’t promise any of the ideas will get successfully implemented, but having a team of people working on it instead of just yourself raises the odds considerably.

So, what cracks have you run into lately?

Using Blogs for Affiliate Marketing

This is a guest post from – an affiliate directory where you can find affiliate programs to get you started with affiliate marketing.

Using Blogs for Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a relatively new way of making money online and the business is constantly growing. As this is a new type of business it’s a good idea to use modern ways of communicating with clients/readers. One of the ways to get noticed when working with affiliate marketing is through blogs. Read this post and understand the benefits of bloggin when trying make some of that affiliate money.

If you’re able to create a hugely popular blog and combine it with affiliate marketing it’s probable you’ll make some big cash. If you for example write about the topic of beauty and add beauty affiliate programs to the blog chances are you’ll make some online money.

Popular Since the Start

Instantly when blogs started to show up on the Internet they became popular among people all over the world. Everybody, from single persons to big companies, use blogs to connect with people visiting their site. Many people visit blogs to obtain information about a certain subject – or to simply get entertained and read about various products and services.

Readers will Feel Dedicated

If you keep your blog niched on a certain topic you’ll have a great chance of attracting dedicated readers. Many visit blogs to get exclusive information about the topic they love and that they feel they won’t find on a regular website. Surfers feel as if it’s more personal reading a blog and as if it’s not a big company trying to sell them a product or service. One could say that you become somewhat of an opinion-leader that people turn to in order to obtain information.

Easy Manageable

If you’re thinking about starting up a normal website you have to have some technological knowledge. The basics of how to create a site is a must. This is far from the fact when it comes to blogs. They are easy to set-up and don’t require you to have any understandings of HTML. Publishing new articles and updating is done by a push of a button. Even though blogs are as easy manageable as they are they’re still very professional looking, at least most of them – visitors won’t notice your lack of knowledge.

Inexpensive Way of Marketing

Although it’s cheap to setup your own website it’s often even cheaper to start up a blog as many are offered for free. When staring up a business you don’t want to spend a fortune while doing it and with blogs you won’t have to. You will for sure also get your message across in an easy manner and if you’re really good you will get a lot of incoming links which will only increase your popularity. Blog platforms such as Blogger and WordPress both have great free blog solutions that are well suitable for a start up affiliate marketer.

Search Engine Optimization Friendly

The last thing that we would like to mention is that blogs are extremely search engine optimization friendly. This is a must if you want to increase your visitors – which you of course want as it will increase your possibilities to make a living as an affiliate. If you’re running a regular website you have to be much more of an expert at SEO to get a high ranking on search engines. When blogging you simply have to update your content on a daily basis and it would be a good idea if you could stuff it somewhat with necessary keywords.

To sum up you’ll have great possibilities to make money as an affiliate through blogs. You’ll save lots of money and, if you have it in you, readers will feel dedicated to you and they’ll return every day to see the latest news that you’ve written about. So, start blogging today and increase your income!

Your Niche Might Be A Crack

When you think about finding your niche online, you probably think in terms of topic areas that you either know a lot about, or that you enjoy. And that’s a good thing. Picking a topic area allows you to create knowledgeable content on the topic, attract traffic, and make money from the traffic.

But it’s important that you don’t forget the cracks.

The cracks are the areas where it’s just a bit hard to get things done online. The bits about working or living online that make people stumble, every time they hit one. You can make an enormous amount of money by filling in the cracks.

Picture the world before Paypal. Sending money online was a hard task, a crack that people stumbled over. Paypal changed all that, and made a lot of money in the process. Ebay filled in the crack between people who wanted to sell online, and people who wanted to buy.

The cracks these days are smaller, but they still exist. Look at my recent reviews of Oronjo or OblinQ. Those are services that fill in the cracks, making it easier to do what you could already do.

Filling in the cracks makes you a service provider, not a content producer.

You don’t need to be a programmer to fill in the cracks. You just need to spot a crack, and be willing to partner with programmers who can make your vision of a service to fill it in a reality.

So when you’re online, doing your normal business, look for those things that are just more difficult than you think they need to be. That might be an opportunity!

How To Find A Programmer

So you have an idea for a really great service to fill a need online. How do you find a programmer to make your vision a reality?

I’m assuming that you’re either not a programmer yourself, or you don’t feel that programming the service yourself is the best use of your time.

You want to find a programmer who is going to be reliable, skilled, who won’t charge you an arm and a leg, and who (ideally) would become a long-term partner in your projects. Getting all of that in a single person is quite the task!

One option is to go to a web site designed to help you find freelance programmers. Elance is one of them, RentACoder is another.

My personal experience with sites like that haven’t been great. I’ve had a project accepted, and then later told that they wouldn’t be able to complete it after all. I’ve had bids given, and then later found them trying to increase the amount they get by nitpicking the project requirements.

But, other people have had better results, and some have even found their long-term partners on such sites, so your mileage may vary.

If you live in a college town, you might check with the computer science department of the college to see if there are any students interested in taking on your project. In any CS department there is always at least one student who is a whiz with web programming, and could probably knock out your project in a short time. Being a student, they often won’t charge you what you’d pay a professional to do the same job.

Another option is to hook up online with a programmer who is looking to make money online, but lacks some of the skills you have. A true partnership benefits both of you, and makes it far more likely that you’ll both see your projects through to completion.

If you already work with a good programmer, how did you come across them?