Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Online advertising remains untapped by most in Thailand

Google's Thailand representative says there is great potential in efficient online advertisting technology

Bangkok Post
Thursday, September 14, 2006

By Woranuj Maneerungsee

Google is by far the most popular search engine among Thai internet users but it has yet to catch on as a medium for advertising.

Pornthip Kongchun, the first representative of Google in Thailand, said in a seminar on online advertising last week that there was less competition among local operators for advertising on Google's Sponsored Links facility, reflected by lower bidding prices than in other countries.

She explained that firms had to compete to get space on the Sponsored Links list, a prime spot for advertising, by bidding for keywords. Google worldwide has set an initial bidding price of one US cent, or about 40 satang, per click.

"There are two or three competitors [for each keyword] here, compared to more than 100 in America. So the successful bidder [in Thailand] will win with a price only slightly higher than the starting price," said Miss Pornthip.

However, the hotel and jewellery-export industries were exceptional cases, she said, because they mainly targeted the international market, and so were familiar with Google and were willing to compete for prime advertising space.

According to www.truehits.net, operated by Thailand's National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, Google had a market share of 88.4% out of about eight million internet search users in Thailand as of August, followed by Sanook with 9.75%, Yahoo 0.85% and MSN 0.61%.

Miss Pornthip said her mission in Thailand was to promote brand awareness and educate Thais about the efficiency of online advertising and marketing.

She said the country was ready to embrace new media tools due to its rapidly growing number of Internet users, more advanced facilities such as broadband, and lower Internet access fees.

Advertisers can download a program called Google AdWords to post an ad with the search engine.

"[Google's] business here is getting better and better," she said.

Jatupol Tanaruthai, the CEO of Globlet Co Ltd, an online advertising agency, said Globlet's business outlook was also promising, with three-digit growth last year, in line with bright prospects for online advertising and marketing in Thailand.

The company, which hosted the seminar to promote online business, claims to currently provide services to 300 clients.

Mr Jatupol said the US-based website emarketer.com had reported that American marketers spent US$907 million for online advertising in 1997, then $12.5 billion by the end of 2005.

Popular interactive marketing channels for US marketers include: search engines, e-mail, online auctions, blogs, forums, and online classified advertising.

"We project this kind of trend for Thailand too," he said, adding that the industry in Thailand had lagged four or five years behind that in the US.

Kanokporn Nitheranont, managing director of OgilvyOne Worldwide, also saw huge prospects for online advertising and has been encouraging clients to try it.

Mrs Kanokporn said that clients were amazed with the great potential and cost-efficiency of online advertising technology.

Nielsen Media Research Thailand attempted to collect figures for online advertising spending a few months ago, but failed as website operators were reluctant to co-operate.

A source at the research firm said it planned to resume the survey as agencies were now eager to find out the full potential of online marketing.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Intranet Project ? RAD or Waterfall? - Ecommerce

Building Bridges

I have often used the analogy of building a bridge to explain to business colleagues the difference between Rapid Application Development (RAD) and Waterfall.

Let's say that we are in the middle ages and the Mayor of Kingston-upon-Thames is evaluating whether or not to build a bridge over the river to the north side, to replace the current ferry. The whole area has been growing rapidly and a bridge at Kingston should give his town a lead against competing local towns like Ham and Richmond (who also have their own ferries).

However, building a bridge presents problems. Firstly, the bedrock north and south of the river are very different. Secondly, the river is still tidal at this point and its path continues to vary across the floodplain. Finally - and perhaps most importantly - there is no guarantee that the projected growth in cross-river traffic will indeed materialise - or that people will wish to cross at this precise point, rather than further up, or down, river. A new bridge could prove an expensive white elephant and divert much-needed town resources away from other projects. The increased local taxes required could also scare the very businesses he is hoping to attract away to other local towns.

Option 1 - Waterfall

Waterfall, as a methodology, is all about building reliable systems. At each stage of the lifecycle, the results are correct. The Mayor's engineer believes that - when building a bridge - the result needs to be safe, sound and capable of lasting for decades. He recommends a design phase, which includes thoroughly testing the bedrock by driving piles and developing ways to limit the future variance of the river's course. During the build phase, the bridge would be tested to ensure it can take the loads that will be placed upon it and to deal with high winds or flood conditions. The engineer confirms that each stage would only start once the previous stage had been proved correct beyond reasonable doubt. The stone bridge will take five whole years to build (with a high upfront cost commitment). If the project were ever stopped, the value tied up in phases to date would be lost. The engineer reminds the Mayor that a collapsed bridge would not help his place in history!

Option 2 - RAD

RAD, as a methodology is all about building relevant systems. The argument runs that it is better to be there quickly with 80% of the functionality in 20% of the time, so as to take full advantage of the business opportunity. The Mayor's political advisors recommend the RAD option; to lay a pontoon bridge first alongside the existing ferry. This can be achieved in just three months, using a series of boats with a makeshift road surface and swing bridge lock for river vessels to navigate. The pontoon bridge allows the business model to be tested very quickly; If the expected benefits materialise, then further iterations of the bridge can be constructed later on. Sounds good, but of course (overall) the costs will be higher than waterfall if a full, stone bridge is ultimately required. In the meantime, if the river changes course, or floods impact the area, then the pontoon bridge will be washed away. His chief advisor reminds him that a bridge five years from now would not help his re-election prospects two years hence!

The Mayor's selected option

Hmm. Interesting, isn't it. Not a clear-cut decision. There are good arguments for either approach. The Mayor's decision will ultimately depend on (a) how sure he is of his own vision, (b) his financial and time constraints and (c) how changeable these factors are likely to be over time. In short, he has a trade-off decision of relevance vs. reliability.

Turning the analogy onto Intranet Projects

In the Development Methodology chapter of my (free to access) Intranet Portal Guide, I explore these concepts in a bit more depth.

However - put simply - the answer for you will depend largely on how sure you are of your vision, the support of stakeholders, the availability of resources and the degree of change in your organisation and it's requirements.

If you are operating in a stable business environment and are well funded and supported, then waterfall offers real benefits. You could establish an Intranet Portal that is well founded, scalable and secure. If not, then RAD could offer you the means to make some progress now at low cost and use the results of your early work to build a stronger case for future investment. It also allows you to vary the approach - or begin again - should circumstances or requirements change.

Most Intranet evangelists will find themselves perhaps in a mixed situation, where there is support and funding but there is also the risk of rapid changes to the underlying business environment and requirements. Here, I would recommend a mixed approach: Use a waterfall project to establish the underlying portal infrastructure (as this platform will be the bedrock on which you will build and needs to stand the test of time). Then use a RAD method to build the content and applications (developing solutions that are timely and relevant to businesses operating in a fast-moving and competitive environment).

About the author:

David Viney (david@viney.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.

Read the guide at http://www.viney.com/DFV/intranet_portal_guide or the Intranet Watch Blog at http://www.viney.com/intranet_watch.

Looking For Free Advertising, Here It Is! - Ecommerce

There are lots of ways to advertise for free but they are time consuming so I guess technicall

There are lots of ways to advertise for free but they are time consuming so I guess technically, they are not free because your time is worth something! But if you have the time and not the money this is for you.

I posed the question of "free advertising" to a few forums and they all can back the same, but with new links to check out. It's basically what I already knew, but it's nice to try and find new ways of doing things.

For this article that has helpful links in it, Please go to my Website and click on Free Advertising.

Link Popularity:

This is the most important thing and in doing any or all of the below things, you will gain link popularity. Links to your Website, wither you link back or not, gets you ranked good with search engines ( the best free advertising of all) and you will get visitors from other sites that are "targeted visitors" that are interested in what you have to offer, and that my friend is your "MAIN GOAL"

So here is what I know about free advertising and what I have recently learned in no particular order:


Writing articles and submitting them to different Website will get you the exposure you need and also build your credibility. It's not so difficult to do this, just give good advise on a subject you know a-lot about, hopefully it is somehow connected to the product/service you are selling on your Website. Make sure in your signature that you have your URL or a way to contact you. When you go to submit your article, they usually give you a step-by-step way to do this. You can always go to one of the site first to get an idea of what you will need to write and publish your article. You can also go to my Website and see how I have written them.You can go to Google or Yahoo and search on "Submit your article for free".

Classified Ads:

Classified Ads are another way of getting free advertising for your business. In this you can highlight the benefits of your site and/or offer a special to get people to come to your site. These have limited space, so you need to make it short-n-sweet, and to the point to get them to your site. The key is to have a headline that sells, I can't give you my source because I buy a program to get this kind of info., but you can do a search on Google or Yahoo for "Headlines that Sell" and it will give you some resources. If you would like to know what program I received my sources from e-mail me and I will give you the link.

Again, you can search on "Free Classified ad submission" to find places to place your ads.


Forums are not only away for free advertising but you can also ask questions from people that have different way of looking at things or just plain have the answer to your questions. You can also answer question for other; it builds your credibility up and gets you exposure for your business. The way to find forums that relation to your Website is to do a search for "______ forums", example: it could be video games forums, cb radios forums, Internet business forums, etc?

Press releases:

Sounds so professional, but you can do it, I have faith! A press release simply tells the World about your company and that you are ready to do business. Most sites you go to will have a temple you can go by to do this, I will be providing that soon, maybe by the time you read this. It's pretty straightforward and anyone that can type can do this. You can do a search on " Free Press release submission"

Link exchange:

Link exchange is a good way to get free advertising and looks good for the search engines. You can do this in a couple of ways but you need to do what is right for you! There are link exchange programs out there that are for free and some you pay for. Stay away for ones that you cannot pick and choose which sites you want to link with. Link farm are very bad for your site and can go against you with the search engines. Link farms are from companies that upload, let's say 100 links to your site and those same links will be on all the other sites as well. It's like a generic links pages, way not good. It defeats the purpose of links and shuts you out of search engines.

Paid vs free, Paid everything is done for you, all you have to do is accept links from other sites or go out and request a link exchange with another site with basically a touch of a button. The free link exchange you have to go out and request individual link exchanges manually. Then manually add their links to your site and there is not guarantee they will link back after doing so. It all depends on how much time you want to put into this.

Good Luck and Please contact me if you need help or have any questions. That is what I'm here for,

Veronica Bath


My mission is to help people with their goals of becoming their own boss or just make extra money. I have been scammed big time before and want to help other avoid doing the same thing.

My Website is for this purpose, "Home Based Business Opportunities Central" at http://www.home-based-business-opportunities-central.com/ !

Copyright SC Bath Enterprize - Fruita

Simple Steps to Start a Profitable Member Only, Subscription Web Site - Ecommerce

Having a successful member only, paid membership site is one of the best ways to make money online. A successful membership site can give you the steady income of a CEO ?.but without the job!

For example if you had just 200 people paying you just $20 a month, you would have a steady cash flow of $4000/month, month after month, rain or shine. Many people accomplish this the first month or two their site is up. But that's just the beginning. Some individuals have member only websites that generate 5-10x that amount of money!

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's discuss exactly what a member only, paid membership site is?

Whether you call them member only, membership, subscription, or mentor websites, they all have one thing in common. ? they are bringing in steady, recurring cash flow for their owners, month after month, from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars with an endless variety of topics.

Some of these sites provide mentoring or coaching, others contain useful articles or information in a particular field or product. Still others publish the results of tests and studies or product reviews. Finally some membership sites provide specialized service or act as a meeting place for people with a common interest.

But all these sites have one thing in common: to access the website (or the best information on the site) you have to pay for it!

Why Would People Pay for Information on the Internet?

The key to getting people to pay for access to a website, is to provide specialized information/coaching/data/service that is hard to find anywhere else, or would be time consuming to find on your own.

Here's another way to look at it:

Have you ever subscribed to a newspaper, magazine, or newsletter? Have you ever bought a non fiction book that gave advice on a topic you were interested in? I'll bet you have. I'll also bet that you could have found almost all of the information these resources contained from free sources.

You paid for the information either to save time or because you thought the information would be better or more specialized for what you were looking for, isn't that correct?

Just a few short years ago it was almost unheard of to charge for access to a website and almost no one was doing it. Today it's not only much more acceptable but there are still relatively few membership websites. This makes it the perfect time to start your own member only site, since there is still little competition.

Choosing a Topic

This is the most critical decision you'll have to make. Choose the right topic and you'll have people clamoring to give you money to access your site. Choose the wrong topic and you're doomed before you even start.

The first place to look for potential topics should be within your own world. The list of potential topics could come from your interests, hobbies, vocation, business training, or even your location.

Find a topic that you are passionate about, and the odds are that enough other people are also passionate about the topic to make it a successful membership site. Since you are going to be spending time building and maintaining your membership site, why not choose a topic that you enjoy?

Note: If you are already a speaker, consultant, writer, or "expert" on almost any topic, then you are in a perfect position to create a membership or mentor type of website which could double or triple your income. You should start a membership site today! In just 3-4 months, one of my clients turned his existing expertise and client base into a member only site that generates $40,000/month!

You wouldn't believe some of the unusual ideas that people have turned into profitable paid membership websites. Topics include: unusual business ideas, fireworks, repairing guns, physical conditioning, marketing, specific makes and models of cars, digital cameras, dieting, dating, tall people, and 2nd wives clubs.

Setting Up and Running Your Member Only Website

Finally there are many tools to help you build and maintain your member only website.

At the most basic level, you can do much of the website creation yourself and use 3rd party services to help you with the administration. However, a quicker and even better way is to use one of the new all in one membership management software systems that helps you get your site set up quickly (even if you don't know anything about programming) and automates almost all the administrative features. These membership software programs can reduce your workload by 75% as opposed to trying to do it all yourself.

Is There a Members Only Website in Your Future?

I hope this brief article has given you a glimpse into the tremendous potential that could await you with your own membership website.

All over the world, people are earning large sums of money online, on a regular predictable basis from the comfort of home, because they had the insight to start a paid membership site.

What are you waiting for?

Ron Ruiz

Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved


Want more information on membership websites? You can receive a FREE mini course by email with more helpful information. Just to http://memberstar.net.

Ron Ruiz is a product developer, marketer and newsletter publisher. He has extensive experience in all aspects of starting and running a membership/subscription/coaching website. His own membership website http://www.businessfastlane.com has been operating for several years and has members from over 26 countries. He has also developed his own all in one membership software system called Memberstar? which makes it easy to set up and run a members only site. http://memberstar.net

Choosing on Order Fulfillment Service - Ecommerce

When your eCommerce business grows to the point where you can no longer package and ship the orders yourself, it's time to begin outsourcing your order fulfillment. Although all order fulfillment centers offer the same basic services, their individual methods and costs will help you choose one over the other. When selecting an order fulfillment service, keep the following in mind:


Order fulfillment warehouses are located all over the country. It's more important to select a warehouse that is close in proximity to your customers than to select one that is close to your business. For example, if your warehouse is located in California, and most of your customers are located on the East coast, your shipping rates will be higher than if you had a warehouse located in Kansas. Fulfillment centers located in the middle of the country will be able to ship to both the east and west coast for similar prices.


Fulfillment warehouses range from small business with just a few employees to large companies such as UPS. Select a fulfillment service that can meet your daily order fulfillment needs. Do you have consistent orders each day or do your orders spike? If you have orders that spike, be sure to choose a fulfillment center that can handle the extra workload and still ship the orders within the agreed timeline.

Shipping Options

Most fulfillment centers offer a variety of shipping options. Make sure the fulfillment service you select offers all of the shipping options you currently offer your customers and the shipping options that you may want to offer in the future.

Turn-around Time

Each fulfillment warehouse has it's own policy regarding order processing. For example some fulfillment centers will ship all orders that arrive before 1pm on the same business day. If you miss the 1pm deadline, the order is shipped the next business day. This could impact your customers if a next-day order is placed after 1pm. In this case, next day shipping turns out to be two-day shipping.

Order Entry

Order entry methods can be very important when considering a fulfillment service. The most common methods include:

ท Forwarding individual order invoices to the warehouse

ท Entering each order on the fulfillment center's web-based system

ท Emailing an Excel spreadsheet with all order once a day

Each method has a different affect on your business. For example, you may save money by manually entering orders into a web-based application, but it can be tedious if your business grows to the point where you have more orders than you have time to enter. You may pay a higher price to automatically email each individual invoice to the warehouse, but it may be worth the extra costs to have orders may be shipped as they arrive. Same day shipping could give you the edge over your competitor. On the other hand, if you have a high volume of orders, you won't want to individually enter each order into a web-based system and may not want to pay the extra charge of having individual orders emailed to the warehouse. If you don't mind shipping the next business day, you can send an Excel spreadsheet containing all of your orders once a day. Choose a warehouse that offers an order entry method that meets your business needs and fits your budget.


Communication is an important part of every business. There will be times when you need to contact the fulfillment center to modify a customer's address or cancel an order. Select a fulfillment center that is available via phone and email. You should not have to wait more than a few hours for a return email or call from the fulfillment center.

Error Rate

Mistakes will happen. Some customers will receive the wrong items or the items will be shipped to the billing address rather than the shipping address. When interviewing potential fulfillment centers, ask about their error rate and their process for remedying the situation. For example, do they issue UPS call tags to pick up the incorrect item and pay to ship a replacement item? Will they ship the replacement item at a faster rate to compensate the customer?


Each fulfillment center operates under a different payment schedule. Some use sliding scales and require contracts while others charge per order or per item with no contracts. You will also be charged a base fee to store your inventory at the warehouse and an additional fee per pallet or per item. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the fulfillment center's costs and any contracts.

When choosing a fulfillment center, create a checklist of the features you would like. Interview a member of the warehouse staff, as well as, their references to make sure the warehouse will meet the needs of your growing eCommerce business. When you outsource order fulfillment, the time that you normally spend packaging orders, managing inventory, and dealing with returns, can now be focused on growing your business. Use this time to expand your product line, enhance your online image, promote your business or expand into new markets.

Copyright 2004. Danna Henderson. All Rights Reserved

About The Author

Danna Henderson started EZ Train in order to provide parents with comprehensive potty training and breastfeeding information and products. For more information, or to browse the parenting store, visit the Common Breastfeeding Myths.

Get Out of The Way - Ecommerce

Get out of the way and make it easy for your visitors to find what they want.

Recently I completed a report for a site that was the most 'peaceful' and among the most 'useful' I had seen in a long time. That is to say, the visual and promotional 'noise' on the pages was at a minimum.

Take a look for yourself here: www.businessobjects.com/devzone

As you can see, the headings are all the same size and weight, there are very few images and the background color remains consistent.

I'm not suggesting that every site should be without color, images and big headings. But what this site showed me is that when you take out all those heavy visual and promotional elements, you make the content much easier to scan.

Your eyes are not being dragged from one place to another. The design isn't attempting to say, "Look at this area first! Look at me first!" There is no visual shouting, as it were.

The result? It's a calm place. Your eyes are free to roam without undue influence from the design. You can quickly scan the headings to find the content that is most relevant to your task.

In addition, the text of the headings themselves is not shouting. There is no 'copywriting' here. The headings simply describe the content.

So now neither design nor text is trying to make you go to one place first. You are left free to decide for yourself, without having to fight your way through promotional clutter and noise.

And that's the key here: the absence of promotion. The company, Business Objects, is not using this site to push, promote or emphasize any one of more of its products or services in particular. They are simply providing information and allowing visitors to find what they want, as quickly and as simply as possible.

This is the benefit of 'getting out of the way'.

On most sites, our promotional interests get in the way too much. We shout and scream in an attempt to get visitors to spend their time looking at what WE want them to focus on.

The problem here is that we may not always be very good at anticipating what THEY want to find. And our breathless attempts to get them to look in one direction makes it harder for them to find what THEY are looking for.

This is where this site really shines. The company, designers and writers have moved out of the way. They have created an interface and written copy that is essentially 'sales-neutral'. It's a bold move.

But as a result, their visitors are spared the noise of so many other sites, and are given a layout, headings and links that make it simple to find what is most important to THEM.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Direct Marketing isn?t all Brute Force - Ecommerce

There are so many metrics surrounding direct marketing. So many facts, figures, test results and other sundry measurements.

It's tempting to think the only thing that matters with direct marketing copy is to get the tried and tested elements in place.

If that were the case, you would be able to buy DM copywriting software.

You would just enter a few lines of information about your product - price, offer and audience - and the software would draw on a database of thousands of previous, proven DM letters and ads. Press Enter and you would have near-perfect copy delivered to your screen in the blink of an eye.

Sounds cool, eh?

The trouble is, the 'metrics' approach to direct response writing - whether written by you or a machine - limits your potential considerably.

One major attribute of every good direct response piece is how it touches its audience at a personal level. Great DM speaks to us as individuals. It touches our hopes, fears and ambitions. It makes us feel, it makes us 'want'.

And by that, I'm not talking about the 'smack-em-in-mouth' approach. As in, "If your life isn't insured, your children could end up on the streets". Or, "Get out of debt in 30 minutes". I don't think our industry is served well by manipulating the fears of decent people. Or over-promising in any way.

>> An example of DM copy that touches the reader

A long time ago I was given the job of beating a control brochure that was selling a book on the subject of US forces in Vietnam.

I changed nothing except the captions under the photos.

I remember one photo that showed an American 'Tunnel Rat' about to enter one of the Viet Cong's tunnel systems. A scary job, to say the least. The existing caption said something like, "At the entrance of a tunnel system".

There are two things wrong with this caption. First, it is redundant, telling you nothing the photo itself doesn't already communicate. Second, it fails to 'touch' the reader in any way.

It's a long time ago, but my rewrite was something like this, "Tunnel Rat tenses before plunging into the darkness".

What I wrote was probably much better than that. I spent a lot of time on that brochure. But hopefully you get the point. What I did was use words that said something the photo alone didn't express. I also put the reader in the mind of the soldier. To some small degree. I simply wrote in a way that engaged the reader's emotions.

Good DM writing does that all the time.

And yes, the new brochure beat control.

>> How this applies to the Web

When it comes to touching your reader on a personal level, the web offers more opportunity and potential than any other mass medium. Online, people respond immediately and positively to any sense that a web site has a personal voice. People love that someone is 'there'.

Where can you add these personal touches? Where can you reach people on an emotional level? Just about anywhere in the text. In headlines, subheads, body text or links.

(By the way, don't start writing captions for all the images on your site. In a print brochure people generally look at the photos first, and then read the captions second. Not so online. Visitors to web sites look at the text first. They want to know if your site will give them what they are looking for.)

You'll be most successful with this personal approach if you use a light touch. Put the verbal hammer and exclamation points away. There's no need to shout. Just make sure the text sounds like it was written by a living, breathing, feeling human being. Don't just state the facts...write in a way that touches the reader's emotions. Help them feel it, not just read it.

Things really begin to fly when you combine the proven principles of direct marketing with the personal potential of the web.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Your Readers are Publishers Too - Ecommerce

Too often we charge ahead and treat the web as if it were just like any other medium. We know it isn't, but somehow we just can't resist retaining complete control of the creation and publication of our website and newsletter content.

Meanwhile, our readers are writing blogs, participating in discussion lists, writing book and video reviews, adding their opinions on shopping comparison sites, completing online surveys and so on.

Our readers are also online publishers. They are creating valuable, interesting content every day.

There are two opportunities here.

First, you can have your readers contribute content for your site and your newsletters. Take a look at Amazon.com. They have thousands of pages of content written by their customers. Imagine the cost saving of having their customers write all those reviews.

And it's not just about saving money. It's also about recognizing that the aggregate knowledge of all your customers is a great deal larger than that of any individual writer. When you invite your readers to participate in the creation of content, you are tapping into an extraordinarily broad base of knowledge and experience.

Also, when you get your customers and subscribers involved in writing, you are building content that is directly relevant to the interests of your readers. As editors and marketers it is sometimes tempting to create the content that *we* think is best. Invite your readers to contribute, and all of a sudden you'll start building content that is much better attuned to the interests of the people who come to your site.

In addition, you increase the credibility of all your content. You are no longer perceived as just another publisher who pushes their views and marketing messages. Slowly, that perception will shift. You will be seen as a company or organization that has the courage to open the doors and publish outside views and opinions. Even contrary views and opinions.

And there's more. This is where the second opportunity lies. When you include reader-created content to your site and newsletters, you are transforming the nature of the relationship between yourself and your customers or subscribers.

Your site and newsletters cease to be *your* places, they become a shared space. When your readers become participants in the creation of content, they take on a small element of ownership. And when your site or newsletter becomes a shared place, the perceptions of all your readers will begin to shift.

Those who have made contributions will want to come back more often, will want to contribute more often. And word of mouth will spread faster too. If someone has found their review, question, interview or opinions posted on your site or in your newsletters, you can be sure that they will be more likely to tell their friends and colleagues.

Word of mouth is a primary driver in the growth of community and network sites and lists.

Include your readers in the creation of your content. Share the burden of writing. Invite your readers to become participants in the growth of your business. Increase the credibility of all of your content. And watch the power of word of mouth increase your site traffic and newsletter subscriber base.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Helping Your Visitors: a State of Mind - Ecommerce

What does "helping your visitors" mean exactly?

It means writing your sites, newsletters and emails in such a way as to help each visitor achieve his or her goal.

That may sound like a simple task, but it isn't. Before you can write in a way that helps your visitors, you have to recognize and achieve a number of things.

1. Recognize that websites are hard to navigate

Even the simplest site is a lot harder to figure out than a catalog or magazine. We all know how to "use" a catalog. Start at the front cover and keep turning the pages. Same deal for every catalog you touch. It has always been that way and always will be.

If only it were that simple with a website. Unfortunately that's not the case. With every new site we visit, we have to "learn" how it works, how its "pages" turn, how to find what we are looking for.

The fact that no two sites are exactly the same creates a roadblock or speed bump for each new visitor. When they arrive at your site they have to pause, look around and figure out exactly how this "catalog" works.

Recognize this moment of difficulty and you'll see that the text on your homepage has to be very clear and has to help direct the visitor forward to the information he or she is looking for.

2. Understand what it is your visitors are looking for

We may pay lip service to being "visitor-centric," but all too often our homepages primarily serve the needs of the organization, or even our own egos.

We carve up the real estate of the page to represent the different stakeholders in the company. Or we thrust our own views on design upon the visitor. Internal politics and ego are just two of the things that make it even harder for a first-time visitor to figure out how to find what she's looking for.

And to write a homepage that really and truly is there to help the visitor above all else, we first have to understand the needs of the visitor.

At this point too many people just throw up their arms and give up. "We have so many different kinds of people looking for so many different products and services, we can't possibly write our homepage for the visitor."

Nice excuse, but no reward.

Dell.com does it. Dell has what is probably to most visitor-centric site of all the computer manufacturers. For years now they have built a homepage that holds back on saying, "Look at us, we're great." Instead they devote a significant part of the page to an area where visitor can self-select.

The design and text on the page immediately recognizes that some people are looking for home computers, while others are looking for networks for local government offices. Both audiences and more are addressed. The Dell.com page says, in effect, "Yes, you're in the right place. Yes, we can help you. Yes, self-identify and please click here so we can help you find exactly what you need."

If they can do it, why can't the rest of us? Why can't we design and write homepages that are primarily created with a view to helping each visitor find what he or she wants as quickly as possible?

3. Accept that visitors scan your headings and links

You've done it yourself. You go to a new site and scan the page. You may read one or two headings and links in their entirety, but often you will skim over others.

Here comes excuse number two: "Hey, we have a huge site here. We have to create a large number of sub-heads and links on the homepage."

Well, here's a really big site that seems to have worked around that one: Microsoft.com. They may be the "dark side" to some designers, but they have a very lean homepage for such a huge organization.

And there's something else to note about how they do things on the Microsoft page. See the link text? They say enough to get the point across. That's helpful. All too often design constraints limit links to just three or four words each. When that happens, you often leave the visitor guessing about what is really behind that link: is it what they are looking for or not? Say enough to make it clear.

If you want to help your visitors, try to reduce the number of headings and links on the homepage, and make those forward links as clear and unambiguous as possible.

4. Be relevant in the words and phrases you use

If you want people to know how to find what they want on your site, be sure the language you use is relevant to their needs.

At its simplest, this means avoiding corporate-speak and industry jargon. It means taking the trouble to find out which words and terms your visitors use when thinking about your products and services.

Don't use your company's "hot terms." Write in a way that is relevant to your visitors.

The words and terms you use are essential to helping people find what they want. Use language that they recognize. Write in a way that makes them sit up and think, "This is exactly what I'm looking for!"

How can you achieve this? The simplest way is to research your logs and see what search terms people are using when they arrive via the search engines. See which words and phrases they use in their searches. This is the simplest and most elegant way to get a feel for the language they use when thinking about your products or services.

And when you use the terms that people enter into search engines, you achieve instant recognition. "Hey, these guys are speaking my language!"

Executive Summary

We all want to help our visitors achieve their goals, right? It's what we want and it's what they want too.

Being helpful, being focused on helping visitors is a state of mind, it's an attitude.

It means being an advocate for the visitor.

It means stripping out the corporate-lingo and industry-speak.

It means speaking in their language and demanding clarity in what we write.

It means writing headings and links with an understanding of what our visitors want, and what they need to know in order to move forward from the homepage.

It means designing each page so that people's attention is drawn to key messages and links.

It means fighting some fights - and reclaiming the homepage for the visitor.

It means putting a sticky note on your monitor, just to remind you to stay focused:

"What can I do to this homepage that will make it more helpful for my visitors?"

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Say Something Worth Talking About - Ecommerce

I recently published a short e-book called 'One Thing I Know About Doing Business Online'. Seventeen people contributed - including Seth Godin, Jeffrey Zelman, Danny Sullivan, Jared Spool, Gerry McGovern and Ann Handley.

But I didn't make a contribution of my own. This article is about the one thing I know...

First, I should say that the rules are a little different for me within this article. I allowed my contributors only 150 words each. Why? Because I wanted them to think hard, find that 'one thing' and explain it clearly and briefly.

To be half fair, here's my 150 words or less version:

"Say something worth talking about. Unlike any other medium, the online experience is linked, networked... through sites, email, newsletters, discussion lists, forums, weblogs, wikis, cell phones, PDAs and more. If you have products or services that people actually want, then invest some time in talking about them in an interesting and different way. Talk about them in a way that stands out, makes your readers smile, laugh or scream in outrage. Don't be safe. Say it as it is. Say it loud. Say it in a way that strikes home and is memorable. Do that, and you'll have done something worth talking about...and the network will reward you."

Ok, now for the cheating part - where I go on to embellish on what I've said.

I think we can all agree about the online space being networked. It's a beautiful thing... to have all those prospects and customers connected and just a click or two away from each other.

It gets a little tougher when we look at the issue of whether you're selling something that even a small group of these people online actually want. Because if you don't, it doesn't matter what you say... you'll never have something worth talking about. However great your copy and text, if the product isn't interesting, nobody is going to talk about it.

Assuming you have a product or service people truly want, then writing in a way that really differentiates you from your competition will pay off in spades.

The Web is awash with safe, boring text. Approved, screened and whittled down until it can offend nobody. You can blame your managers, your company lawyers...blame whoever you want.

But the trouble with boring text is that it reads just like all the other boring text on the Web, and you can be absolutely sure that none of your prospects are going to get excited about it and tell their friends.

With boring or 'ordinary' sales copy and content, you have to invest big bucks in pushing the message out there. In other words, you have to pay for advertising, in one form or another, just like you do offline.

But if your sales copy and content is interesting enough, really interesting...then people will notice it. They'll laugh, smile, be offended or amazed. And remember, they are networked. And in the same way that people email jokes, cartoons and horoscopes...they'll also email news of your site. And rave about it in their weblogs, or post a mention in a discussion list, or tell a friend through instant or short text messaging.

From what I can see, there are three types of copy being written online right now.

There's the really boring, super-safe corporate stuff that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what it is they are trying to say.

There is the super-hard-sell - "You'd be a moron not to buy this NOW" copy - that seems to come from the desk of some demented Ginsu knife salesman.

And there is the OK stuff, that is written well and clearly...but really doesn't get your heart beating or your neurons firing.

But where is the really exciting writing? Where are people writing in a way that is unexpected and surprising? When did the text on a commercial Web site last make you smile or laugh?

Sure, it's scary to write that way. But as soon as you do...as soon as you say something worth talking about...the network will begin to hum and word will spread.

So, truthfully now, are you writing in a way that is really worth talking about? Does the text on your site and in your newsletters terrify the boss? Have you had to lock the lawyer in a broom cupboard?

This is the Net - and if the words aren't interesting, they won't spread.

Article resource: Here's that ebook I mentioned at the beginning of the article: One Thing I Know About Doing Business Online

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocate of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Tell Them Whats in The Can! - Ecommerce

What does 'the can' mean? Well, its literal meaning relates to canned goods on supermarket shelves. If your can is up there among thousands of others, the label had better state pretty clearly exactly what's in the can.

Sliced peaches? Peas? Coffee?

Really, it would be unthinkable for a can label designer to feel that any job was more important than simply describing the can's contents.

So here's the question...if your Web site were up on a shelf among tens of thousands of others (it is!), do you tell people what's in the can?

How quickly can a first-time visitor find out exactly what's in your 'can'?

In general, I think most Web sites do a horrible job in this regard. If a Web group were given the job of designing the label for a can of chili, it would probably read something like this:

"Family Meal Solution"

And if they were sent away to improve on this, they'd come back two weeks later with something like:

"Robust Family Meal Solution"

It seems as if we go to extraordinary efforts to disguise what can be found in our sites. It's almost like we turn all our cans around, so they are facing away from the aisle. We fill that first screen with the contents, the ingredients and other non-critical information... But we fail to achieve the most important task of all - telling our visitors what it is we do and offer. We don't tell them what's in the can.

Here's a quick example.

I recently went to a site called plaidonline.com. The name and tagline that jumps out off the screen at you is this:


So Beautiful. So Easy. So Plaid.TM

Do you have any idea what they offer through their site, based on those words? Neither did I.

So here, drawing on my many years of copywriting experience and a sock-drawer filled with awards, is my suggested alternative:


We Sell Craft Supplies.

And no, it doesn't take any great copywriting talent to write a simple line like that. In fact, the temptation to 'copywrite' can often get in the way of clarity at a time like this.

Remember, visitors come to your site with the hope of being able to achieve a specific goal. They want to do something. They want to get a task completed. Whatever the dominant tagline or copy block on your home page may be, it needs to be written with a view to helping your reader get started towards achieving her task.

Don't think of your home page as 'ad space'. Think of it as one can, on a long shelf, in an aisle in a huge supermarket that stocks millions of cans.

Don't assume that everyone knows what it is you do. They don't.

Don't assume that every visitor will take the time to dig deeper and work out for themselves what you offer. They won't.

The responsibility to describe the contents of your site is yours alone - and you need to achieve that within the first two seconds.

Job one is to tell people what's in the can.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

The Art of Being Human - Ecommerce

This isn't the first time I have written about the benefits of inserting a human voice or presence into your online communications. And I make no excuse for writing about this again.

Site visitors crave the sense that someone is there, within and behind your Web pages, your emails and newsletters.

Dealing with the bare technology of online interactions is a cold experience for many, or even most of us. It makes us feel anxious. Technology isn't warm. It has no heart. It neither understands us, nor cares for us.

For many Web sites, whether for businesses or organizations, we simply plug in and play the bare technology - the super-duper means of information delivery. All the site visitor sees and feels is the design, the interface, the links and the clicks. The experience is about as warm and human as banking with an ATM machine.

And then we sit in our expensive offices and wonder why it is that we get such terrible conversion rates on our sites, why so few people continue to open our emails or read our newsletters.

Well, perhaps it's because we're bringing an 'ATM' style to the most interactive, vibrant, networked, warm and essentially human communications space imaginable.

But what if you enabled your visitors to catch just a faint scent of humanity in your site? What if you did a few small things to show that your business is more than just a cold room, filled with servers? What if you showed that the heart of your business is about people, and not technology?

Would that be such a bad thing?

In fact, it would be a very good thing. Your readers, prospects and customers will feel relief, they will smile, feel reassured. And they are more likely to sign up, to register, to buy and come back.

Can I prove this? No, not with certified, verified figures, charts and signed affidavits. But I have corresponded with and listened to so many business people who know very well how 'being there' and 'being human' has helped them online. They have seen how conversion rates, sales and levels of customer loyalty can rise and fall in response to the level of 'humanity' expressed through their sites.

Here are a few, very simple examples of how different businesses have sneaked a little humanity into their sites and emails.

- A second level page at 1800Flowers.com features a photo of the CEO Jim McCann, and a personal message to his customers. (You might consider this to be an unoriginal and mundane idea. Well, do you have an equivalent page on your site? Would it harm you to give it a try?)

- At iQVC.com you can see how they have included images of and short messages from a variety of hosts and experts. (Are you too cynical to believe that visitors can really relate to paid 'hosts'?)

- At Foolmart.com they use simple words and phrases that tell you right away that a 'real' person wrote that content. Have a look at the text for their Customer Service Pledge. See how the word 'leap' and the phrase 'burning questions' transforms this from corporate-speak to something very human and a lot more credible.

It's not hard to take a few steps that will add a sense of humanity to your sites, emails and newsletters. You can do this with images, a few carefully chosen words or a combination of the two.

And if that works for you, take an audit of all your online communications. Take a look at all the places where you could add a more human voice.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Web Users Crave Familiarity plus articles and information on Ecommerce

The sad truth is, general Web users would love it if all our sites looked like Amazon.com.

They'd immediately be familiar with the interface, they would know how to find what they wanted, and they'd find it a breeze to check out and complete the purchase.

Or, if your site is crammed full of thousands of pages of content, make it look like Yahoo!. That's what FindLaw.com has done.

The trouble is, the creative spirit hates to copy the work of others. We want to make out own mark, do something different, be original. And the more creative we are as individuals, the greater that compulsion becomes. As a result, we build flash homepages, with unfamiliar scroll bars and use strange icons in place of familiar words like 'Home' and 'About'.

Or designers make a compromise and build a traditional homepage, but with a different look. They'll move the navigation links from the left side to the right side - anything to look different!

And writers are no better. We'll look for other ways to say familiar things in a different way.

Some writers say 'Entry Page' instead of 'Home', or 'Go to Checkout' instead of 'Buy Now'. Is this a problem? I don't have figures to prove my point, but my guess is that conversion rates drop off whenever you give a reader reason to pause. And when you say "Entry Page' you are giving your readers pause for at least as long as it takes for them to wonder to themselves, "I wonder if that means the homepage?"

But the issue of familiarity goes beyond the words we have come to expect on the Web. We should also keep in mind the many words and phrases that our prospects have grown to recognize from the offline world.

If you sell directly from your site - and that includes selling newsletter sign-ups and registrations - spend some time looking at the junk mail you receive each day.

Also, take a look at those small cards that drop out of the magazines you receive. Check out the language.

Limited Time Offer. Save. FREE. Reply now. Special Offer. Call 1-800-000-0000. Offer expires May 22. Free Gift. Trial Offer. Guaranteed. 30-Day money back guarantee. Subscribe.

And so on.

While you may not see all of these words and phrases in abundance online right now, you might want to try a few.

A sense of familiarity can cross boundaries between media. All of the terms above are also use successfully on TV and radio. So why not on the Web?

Learn from the hard-won experience of others and use terms and words that your consumers are familiar with, whatever the source.

When you do that, you speed up the decision-making process, you remove all those pauses when your prospects are figuring out what exactly it is that you really mean.

This is true for the look of your site, the navigation of your site and the copy you use to try and engage attention and close sales.

As much as we may hate to accept it, originality is usually the enemy of a smooth customer experience.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.

Tell Site Visitors What To Do plus articles and information on Ecommerce

Your site visitors make all the choices when it comes to browsing the Web.

No other medium gives users, readers or customers such control over their own experience. TV, radio and print present information in a very linear, controlled way. But on the Web, there is no telling how your next visitor will experience your site.

Where will they click? Which pages will they visit? It's hard to tell.

Being sensitive to the fact that the user is in control, many sites simply present as many options as possible on their home pages. The thinking apparently being that the more choices you show on page one, the more likely you are to present something that connects with as many visitors as possible.

Perhaps this was the strategy behind Ford.com.

While a considerable improvement on how it looked a little while ago, the Ford homepage still offers almost forty links to other pages on the site.

In addition, no particular priority is given to any one individual or group of links. The choice is left to the user.

No emphasis or priority is offered. Ford is sitting back and saying, "You decide."

The trouble is, when they take that position, they are asking the visitor to do all the work. The visitor is now required to scan those forty links and try to figure out what to do next.

Does anyone smell conversion drop-off?

Now look at a site that takes a very different approach. Take a peek at GetSmart.com.

They offer a variety of different ways into the site. But they also present some clear preferences.

Dead center on the page they say...

* Refinance, Home Equity, and more...

* Pay virtually ALL your bills online

* Organize all your online accounts

* Consolidate debt, auto loans, and more...

Four simple choices, three of which open with an active verb. In short, they tell you what to do.

Click on that first link. You're taken to another page, with a variety of options. However, once again, they show a preference and tell you what to do.

* Refinance your existing mortgage

* Consolidate your debt

* Home Equity financing

* Purchase a home

For another example, visit TravelNow.com.

Again, you'll see clear directions on what to do.

* Search for Hotels

* Search for Cars

* Search for Flights

* Stay Drive Fly

These sites support their users by offering clear instructions on what to do.

Does this preclude someone from taking his or her own path through the site? Not at all.

But for many users, particularly those who are there for the first time, finding these simple instructions comes as a huge relief.

Here is the heart of it. Just because your visitors enjoy an unprecedented level of control over their experience at your site, doesn't mean that they don't want some help.

Don't simply give them numerous, passive options. Don't leave them to do all the work.

Help them out. Express a preference. Tell them what to do.

You're not being pushy when you do that. You're being helpful.

Nick Usborne is a copywriter, author, speaker and advocat of good writing. You can access all his archived newsletter articles on copywriting and writing for the web at his Excess Voice site. You'll find more articles and resources on how to make money as a freelance writer at his Freelance Writing Success site.