Archive for September, 2010

‘Hits’ are the Pits – It’s People That Buy Manufactured Homes

September 30th, 2010 No comments

In baseball ‘Hits’ can earn you millions – in web stats they are completely meaningless!

Everytime I hear someone talk about how many ‘hits” their website gets, I have to stop and wonder. Are they misusing the term or are they trying to deceive?

Since most people have no intention to deceive, they are probably just using the wrong term. But there are exceptions; those who intentionally use inflated stats for their own aggrandizement.

Why would someone want to deceive you or me about the number of visitors to their site? As so often is the case, it comes down to money. The more traffic a website gets, the more it can ask for advertising or other services.

For instance, a website owner can charge more to place an ad or item if he can show more traffic. If a web designer can show that she is drawing big traffic numbers to a website, her value goes up.

So, what’s wrong with ‘hits’?

When counting web traffic, three common terms are used, each of them measuring something different. In A couple of things you need to know about website stats, I stated “‘Hits’ are the most misleading and worthless stats on a web log” and showed an example of how 89 pageviews can turn into 1,171 ‘hits.’

Since pageviews represent people and most ‘hits’ represent some other, non-human page element, the problem is one of who your business serves – people or elements. If your business is like mine, it’s people who pay the bills.

How would you like to pay for 1,171 of something and only receive 89?

Alright, let’s explain the three main terms used to describe web traffic. You may have seen this before, but sometime seeing it again in different words helps clarify it.

Sessions – A session is initiated when a visitor enters your website. The session ends when they leave the website or when the session times out. The session can time when a visitor enters your site, and walks away from the computer without actually leaving your website. The we web server has a timing mechanism and when the visitor stays beyond that time with no activity it times them out and ends the session. You’ve probably had this happen when you logged on to a website (maybe the bank), got distracted and then returned to the web page to find yourself logged out. A ‘unique’ visitor is one who initiates a new session. One person can initiate more than one session in a day if the web server it set to time them out quickly.

Pageviews – A pageview is recorded whenever you visit a web page. So a visitor to your website who visits several pages can record several pageviews in a single session. Your sessions and pageviews counts, along with the stat that tells you how long the average session lasted are very valuable stats in helping you determine the value of a website visitor, whether for advertising purposes or for your own analysis.

Hits – A ‘hit’ s recorded every time a web page or an element of a web page is loaded into your browser. That means the web page counts as a ht as well as every element of that web page including images, javascripts, stylesheets or anything else the page calls. Those with an interest in inflating this statistic can also pre-load images – even though they never appear on the page, they are counted as ‘hits’. That’s how 89 pages viewed produced 1,171 ‘hits’ as mentioned above. For most purposes, ‘hits’ are meaningless.

When someone quotes ‘hits’ stats to you, look at it with suspicion, not necessarily for the the intent as much as the lack of knowledge. Ask them for the ‘people’ stats of sessions and pageviews. If they can’t or won’t supply those, take your business elsewhere.

I’ve never received an order or a visit from a photo or a javascript. It’s the people that count. Make sure you are counting the people and you’ll always get your money’s worth of value.

Fresh content one key to success of manufactured housing websites

September 26th, 2010 No comments

While researching a story this weekend for our Monday News at Noon, Industry in Focus Reporter Eric Miller and Associate Editor Catherine Frenzel came across a retailers website where the last update was apparently sometime in 2008.

This brings up an important point. There are way too many websites out there – some of them belonging to businesses in the Manufactured Housing industry – that haven’t been updated in years.

They once had good ranking in searches for their keywords, but lately have been eclipsed by new material competing for those same keywords.

That should come as no surprise. As Henry Ford once said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” Websites that haven’t been updated recently fail on both counts.

There have been ongoing discussions on dating web pages and articles. And that might make a difference to end users. But the search engines (SEs) have no problem in determining the age of a file. When a search engine robot (spider) scans a website, it records a variety of information about each page including it’s file date.

Every file is automatically tagged with a file date as it is uploaded to (or saved to) the web server.

Some folks try to fool the SE’s by overwriting files with new copies of the same file, but to no avail as the filename, content and file date are all captured by the spider and newly dated files are easily compared to older files bearing the same name. New date + same content = no credit for new material.

SEs love fresh content. Their very purpose is to serve their users the best and most recent content they can find that most closely matches the searcher’s request.

The reason why SEs seem to favor blogs in their results in not the simple fact that they are a blog, but that blogs tend to be updated much more often than static websites.

While there are many good reasons to have static pages on your site, if no part of the site has been updated recently, the SEs may have reason to conclude that your site is no longer active. And by active, they mean that the site is not being updated on a regular basis.

That could be enough to allow your competitors to pass you on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for your keywords. And that could directly impact the results you receive from your website.

There must be something that your business does every week or month that is newsworthy in your local area or field of interest. Be sure that every accomplishment makes it to your website and to relevant online press release sites.

Keep your website’s content fresh and hold your position on the SERPs and maybe even climb up a notch or two… or don’t and watch your competition climb over you.

Categories: Search Engine Optimization Tags:

Horns of a Dilemma

September 22nd, 2010 No comments

In Wednesday’s News at Noon podcast, our opening story was about how the term “mobile home” so often appears in negative news coverage. And it seems that is the only type of housing singled out even though all the follies of life are carried out in every imaginable type of dwelling.

And yet we know, as I covered in earlier blog posts a large number of online searches for manufactured housing uses the keyword “mobile home.” (see, The best keyword is not always the most desired term and A few more words on keywords)

“Mobile home” carries with it all of the baggage of negative stereotype and prejudice that have shadowed the industry over the years.

But, let’s face it. It is a lot easier to say and spell “mobile” than “manufactured.” When presented with two possibilities, the vast majority of people will always take what they perceive as the easy way.

To move forward and be taken seriously as America’s (and the world’s ) logical affordable housing choice, we need to shift attention away from the stigma that the term “mobile home” carries, but still take advantage of it’s common usage.

We can’t conduct an effective online marketing campaign (or an offline one for that matter) and ignore the huge percentage of consumers who still refer to manufactured housing as “mobile homes.”

How do we make sure we cover the “mobile home” keyword, draw the traffic that searches by it and still make the point that today’s manufactured housing is a vastly superior product to the pre-1976 “mobile home?”

One suggestion I might make involves embracing the industries history. Just as Ford once made Model-Ts, the manufactured housing industry once made “mobile homes.”

They are an essential part of an industry’s growth from infancy to the mature, technologically savvy market leader manufactured housing is today.

Using your blog (you one one don’t you?) to publish historical references and nostalgic looks at the industry’s past allows you to claim the “mobile home” keyword, link it to your business and at the same time, be very clear that “mobile homes” are about the past, not the present or future.

Categories: Search Engine Optimization Tags:

Facebook vs. Twitter – which should you choose to promote your business?

September 19th, 2010 No comments

In Friday’s News at Noon podcast, we reported on a report eMarketer. The report stated that “daily Twitter users who followed a brand were more than twice as likely as daily Facebook users who ‘liked’ a brand to say they were more likely to purchase from the brand after becoming a social media follower.”

News at Noon further reported that ‘a February 2010 survey by Chadwick Martin Bailey also found that Twitter followers were more likely than Facebook fans to say they had an increased chance of buying or recommending the brands they connected with in social media.’

While awaiting the inevitable breathless “Death of Facebook” report from some well-known blogger with an out-sized imagination and well-developed ability to channel P.T. Barnum, it came to me that I had heard the Facebook vs. Twitter question before on forums, blogs and even from the lips of more than one of my own clients.

I’ve heard it more than once… “I’d like to get my company more involved in social marketing. Which should I use: Facebook or Twitter?” For me, that is a very easy question to answer and the answer is the obvious, if not always stated one. Use both. They appeals to different audiences and different levels of engagement.

In fact, use all of the social networking tools that you can. The days of advertising – usually expensively – in a geographic silo are long over. We are in Central Kentucky. In recent years we have sold homes to many buyers – almost half of them to buyers moving to the Bluegrass from out-of-state.

Whether they are natives returning home after careers took them elsewhere, retirees looking for lower cost of living, snowbirds the North Country looking for a more temperate winter or any number of other reasons, ignoring the “out-of-town” market is at your own peril.

And social networking is part of your overall marketing strategy whether local, national or global. Yes, even housing is a global market as people move between countries seeking new opportunities or adventure.

A good social networking strategy will include a presence on these networks at the very least:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • YouTube
  • Flickr

So it isn’t a question of one social network over another – it’s a question of how effectively you use all of the tools you have at your disposal.

Start today to put these services to work for you and you’ll notice a difference before too long.

Postman’s Motto Doesn’t Apply to Email

September 12th, 2010 No comments

This is my 50th post to this blog. I love little landmarks like that – road signs on the road to success. Well, on to #50:

Email @ symbol“Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night will stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” So says the motto carved into the granite of the old post office at 33rd Street in Manhattan.

Weather may not have stopped the mail, but rising costs sure slowed it down. from twice a day, to once and now maybe five days a week instead of six. I guess the real question is when will the last letter be delivered?

It’s OK though because we can use email. The younger and more tech-savvy among us text and tweet and post to Facebook anyway – they are much more immediate. And business email is still an effective medium and will be for years to come.

Marketing gurus are always telling you to build your email list and some of you have even listened. Many local businesses have emailing lists of several thousand.

But how do you know those emails you send are getting through?

One test (if you are sending HTML emails) is to use the “open rate” tracking function of many email applications. Trouble is, they are notoriously inaccurate. I’ve had “open rate” trackers tell me that 140% of my emails were opened. I didn’t know I had sent the mail to 140% of my list.

And what does “open rate” mean anyway? Many email applications embed a transparent 1-pixel image in your HTML emails. When the 1-pixel loads, that’s a “read.” It doesn’t mean the recipient actually read it -it just means they clicked on it causing the 1-pixel image to load.

Other applications use a hidden URL that hits a script telling the app that the email was “read.” Same problem, though. The script is activated when the recipient clicks on the email, not necessarily reading it.

What all this means is don’t get too excited about “open rate.” There is a far bigger fish to fry if you want to be successful at email marketing.

The real question is “are your emails getting to the recipients at all?” If they aren’t getting them, it doesn’t matter what percentage are reading them – 100% of nothing is nothing.

There are many things that can keep emails from getting through and the first of those are emailing limits put in place, both on the sending end and the receiving end.

Stop signIf you have a mailing list of as little as 250, you could be exceeding the email limits of your ISP. We’re going to have a look today at the limitations placed on your emailing and the consequences of ignoring them. We’ll then tell you about two types of solutions you can use to be sure the maximum number of your emails arrive.

Many business people just starting an email list might think that just creating a group in Outlook or another email program on their computer is the solution. Aside from making it way too easy to be in violation of the CAN-SPAM act, this is about the worst way to get your email messages through. Some will make it, but many others can just disappear into cyberspace.

Groups in your email program work really well until the number of recipients exceeds your ISP’s email quotas – and they all have them in some shape or form.

For instance, Verizon allows you to have up to 100 recipients per email and a maximum of 500 total email recipients per hour. That is fairly liberal, but if you hit the limit, you can’t send emails for 24 hours.

With Comcast and RoadRunner, the limit is 1000 recipients per day.

BellSouth makes decisions on a case-by-case basis – that simply means they do what they want and it is possible that the policy is not applied equally to all customers.

Some ISPs even have monetary penalties in place for those who, intentionally or unintentionally violate their terms of service by sending what is in their definition, unsolicited commercial email (UCE).

I have several mailing lists that exceed those limits and you will, too if you put any effort into your email marketing campaign. So living with these limits is unacceptable in the long run.

Another plan might be to use the mail server that is included with your web hosting service. But there again are limits. For instance a Shared Hosting solution on HostGator limits you to 250 emails per hour – that means a 5,000 subscriber email would have to be sent over a period of twenty hours. Other Shared Hosting solutions allow up to 1250 per hour reducing sending time to five hours. Better, but what if your list keeps growing as it should?

If you’re building your list from scratch, do it right from the beginning and build a double opt-in list using a service provider like AWeber or Constant Contact. They own their own servers and have no sending limits. They are the ideal solution. But they may require that you re-confirm your subscribers. We’ve had lists re-confirm and usually we have a 40%-60% attrition rate.

An argument can be made that those who don’t re-confirm weren’t good leads anymore, but I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt – especially in a retail situation.

If you already have a large single opt-in list, it may be better to use email software on your own server, but be sure you have a hardware/software solution that is robust enough and scalable so it can continue to do the job for you as your list grows.

There are some very important decisions you need to make when setting up or upgrading you email marketing campaign. If you need help getting yours set up, give me a call at 859-544-9005 or drop me a note using the contact form on this website.

Categories: Email Marketing Tags: