Capture The Conversation

Blogger Web Comments for Firefox: Behind the Times

Jason Cormier, September 10, 2006

So tonight for the first time I finally tried out a Firefox browser plugin that’s been around for a while: Google’s Blogger Web Comments for Firefox.

It sounded so cool. This plugin was supposed to give me a little icon in the lower right corner of Firefox indicating, for whatever page I happened to be on, whether any blogs had linked to that page. Click on that, and a list of blog links pops up. (Yes, despite its name, this plugin has nothing to do with actual blog comments, but rather cross-links — another disappointment, but I’ll let that go for the moment.)

The trouble is, this plugin is too slow to keep up with the blogosphere. It appears to be able to give you cross-link info for pages that have been posted for a while, but not brand new content. And when it comes to tracking blog buzz, you need the freshest information possible.

Here’s what I mean: Today’s includes a home page article that’s sure to generate instant blog buzz: War’s Critics Abetting Terrorists, Cheney Says. Sure enough, when I search Technorati for that story’s URL, I get a slew of results. But the little Google browser plugin icon shows nothing at all.

Maybe this is because Google needs to crawl the web to index appropriate results, which takes time. This plugin might be a good tool to follow old buzz. But honestly, I rarely need old buzz.

I’d love to see a plugin like this that would work with cross-links gathered by Technorati or Icerocket. But so far, I’m uninpressed by this Google tool.

Can anyone give me a good reason why I shouldn’t uninstall it? Am I missing some key benefit here? Please comment below.

Strategic Linking from Dave Taylor

Jason Cormier, September 7, 2006

My friend and colleague Dave Taylor, who writes several popular weblogs on technology and business, today posted an intriguing article to his free Blogsmart News e-mail newsletter: “Linking as a Way to Drive Links.”

You have to subscribe to that e-mail list in order to see this article (it’s in the archives), but here’s the gist of it.

On Sept. 6, Dave posted a blog entry about Hewlett Packard: Dunn follows in Fiorina’s footsteps as HP implodes yet again. This business story includes links to related postings by three other bloggers: ValleywagPaul Kedrosky, and Robert Scoble. He found these related postings with a simple Techmeme search — but for non-tech topics, more general feed aggregation services like Technorati would work just as well.

The Payoff: Dave wrote, “While I was sleeping, top blogger Robert Scoble was reading through my article and then updating his own blog entry to include a link back to mine: ‘UPDATE 2: Dave Taylor, who worked at HP with both Hewlett and Packard, [gives us the historical context] behind why this can be traced back to Carly Fiorina¹s time running HP.’

Links from A-list bloggers inevitably bring lots of traffic to a site or blog. They also help build constructive relationships with more established individuals, communities, or organizations. Plus, linking directly to related posts or sites positions your contribution to the public conversation as a resource, not a mere pontification. That means that content probably will attract more links and more traffic over time, since it serves as a gateway to an array of information, or to the historical record.

Dave also notes: “The ”trackback’ system is supposed to let bloggers know when others cite their works, but many blog authors — myself included — ignore trackbacks. If you’re really eager for a link back from an authority, it might be worth sending a two line email message notifying them of your article and inviting them to read it at their convenience.”

He’s right about trackbacks. — on all my blogs, I’ve gotten so overwhelmed with trackback spam (“spings“) that I’ve just turned off trackbacks. I hate it when a good conversational tool gets co-opted and trashed by spammers, but that’s inevitable.

He’s also right about e-mailing bloggers to let them know you’ve linked to them. As a matter of fact, I’m going to do that right now…. Yo, Dave…

The + Content = Formula

Ben Castelli, September 7, 2006

With the challenges involved with reciprocal link building, generating incoming links through article marketing has proven very effective. A well crafted article with great content can deliver increased traffic, incoming links, and higher search rankings.

But how do you create the content that leads to a viral article, especially when your business is less than exciting?

Esoos Bobnar over at recently published a great article on how to create online article content that will build links and increase search engine rankings.

Web surfers today have very short attention spans and are looking for information that either solves a specific problem or entertains them. Esoos breaks down 3 common elements of successful articles that generate a large amount of incoming links:

Lists + Instructional + Catchy/Descriptive Title = Good chance for incoming links.

You can’t turn on the TV or look at a magazine these days without seeing some sort of list – Top 50 this or Top 10 that – it only makes sense to use this same element in your online articles. Lists are short, easily digestible pieces of information that draw people in. Instructional lists are popular since they are offer a valuable learning experience (How to…). A good example of the is the the Make Magazine Blog which has made its way to the homepage of Finally the title is key since most web surfers quickly scan article titles and quickly make a snap judgment. Your title is your 3 second audition to hook the reader, get them to spend some time with your article and then blog about it on their own site.

Getting started with some good content creation is only part of the equation, check out our Article Marketing Services to help guide your writing efforts and promote your articles through leading online article marketing networks (for RSS syndication) and user generated content sites (

Findability Tip: Geotag Flickr Photos

Jason Cormier, September 5, 2006

On Aug. 28, the popular free photo-sharing site Flickr debuted a fun and potentially useful new feature: drag-and-drop geotagging. This is the easiest way I’ve found so far to show people exactly where each photo you post was taken, and to make it easy for people to find your photos when searching by location.

Flickr GeoTaggingFor example, this past weekend I hiked up to the summit of Bear Peak, on the western edge of Boulder, CO. I snapped a couple of photos of myself up there, and later that evening posted them to Flickr.

HOW TO DO IT: Flickr has posted a couple of short screencast tutorials on this topic:how to geotag your own photos and how to use all the controls for searching and exploring geotagged photos.

WHY TO DO IT: If geography is relevant to your projects or business, and if you’re creating relevant photos, your photos should be as findable as possible. Even though this Flickr feature is brand new, it’s becoming very popular. Flickr users are avidly searching for photos taken near other pictures they like — especially for recreation and vacation interests.

Also, it appears that Flickr’s geotagged data is getting indexed by Google, which already indexes images and captions from Flickr. A popular photo, or a photo taken near a popular photo, could increase your site traffic and pagerank.

And of course, Flickr’s approach to geotagging is dead easy. It only takes a few seconds per photo. Give it a try.

MySpace, YouTube – Money Can’t Buy You Love in Social Media

James Clark, September 1, 2006

Marshall Kirkpatrick, of TechCrunch, posted about a recent Hitwise finding showing MySpace is driving more online retail traffic than MSN search. First of all this is great news for MySpace, and all indications are that MySpace will continue to grow in presence and influence over the next two years. Where they’ll be in terms of influence after that is still to be seen – come on we’re talking about the Internet here. Other social media sites like YouTube are picking up tremendous speed, plus YouTube is not under the ominous ownership of Fox like MySpace is.

Personally the most interesting line in Marshall’s post was the summary of The Financial Times article on the belief that the shortage of marketers skilled in negotiating sites like MySpace and YouTube is one of the biggest barriers to the growth of advertising online.

We can attest to the truth behind The Financial Time’s position, as the largest and most sophisticated brand and marketing agencies are getting stumped on how to enter social media sites. We are seeing a sharp increase in curiosity and questions about how to capitalize on the growing popularity of MySpace and YouTube, and a lot of that interest comes for large established brand agencies that are use to dropping a few million on traditional main stream media campaigns.

Sure there are companies and people right now setting up clandestine marketing programs in MySpace, hoping their message will go viral. But our perspective lies in leveraging the deep niche interest areas of the site that bring people together because of shared passions. It’s one thing to make a funny video and see it spread like mad through YouTube, it’s another to reach out to a particularly small group of people that have chosen to communicate with each other because of like interests and provide something of value to the conversation.

Reaching out and spending time communicating with small niche groups is not a skill set most marketers are good at. In social media the idea of marketing needs to be replaced with the idea of having a conversation. Buying your way in doesn’t cut it – you need to actively join and participate to gain credibility and confidence from your peers. Hmm, sounds a lot like real life doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why it scares people.

Merging Traditional PR Into Online Conversations

James Clark, August 29, 2006

Awe the lines are starting to blur and I like it.

Using public relations is a critical tactic in generating awareness for many businesses, and online businesses should be no different. The irony is traditional PR tactics (media relations, ed cal tracking, by-lined articles, speaking opportunities) to drive awareness in the main stream media (MSM), are as foreign to an online business as RSS feeds and blogs are to a majority of offline businesses.

Steven Van Yoder’s recent post titled “Why Online Businesses Should Embrace PR” provides excellent insights to using PR to drive traffic.

To quote Steven, “They read newspapers, magazines and listen to the radio. To reach your market niche comprehensively, you need to explore ways to reach your prospects beyond the Internet. It will help you drive traffic to your web site.”

We agree. Our experience has been that offline MSM coverage drives a tremendous amount of traffic to a company’s website. We know this because we work with PR teams to help them avoid The Placement Crash typically associated with MSM coverage driving new visitors to a dull and non-engaging website.

The magic happens when the PR team is able to work with the online team in delivering a unique and fresh conversational experience to those new visitors.

Don’t waste the amazing opportunity media coverage gives you. Capture the conversation by:

  • Extrapolating the salient points in the MSM coverage on your blog and continuing the conversation by posting and responding to comments
  • Setting up a teleconference on the coverage topic a week out and provide the ability to register for free online
  • Get them to sign up for your email newsletter
  • Provide an in-depth article on the coverage topic available for download

Because of the nature of online businesses, it is my honest opinion they are more apt to capitalize on the MSM exposure than many traditional offline business. The reason – they have the technical skills and flexibility to update and use social media and online technologies (blogs, podcasts, email newsletters) to capture the conversation that are often beyond the scope of knowledge for most companies.

For more information on strategies for leveraging the synergies between online and offline media tactics, check out our posts on The Placement Crash and Tried and True PR Tactics for Igniting Online Buzz.

Keyword Infighting

Ben Castelli, August 29, 2006

One of the more common SEO problems we see with our client’s websites is that they target the same keyword phrase on multiple pages. Many people think that the more a keyword in placed on a website, the better the organic search results – wrong. SEOmoz recently referred to this as “Keyword Self-Cannibalization”, an appropriate term I think. They broke down 3 major issues with targeting the same keyword phrase on multiple pages:

  • Forces the search engines to choose which page is the most “authoritative” or relevant to that subject on your site.
  • Creates additional competition for rankings – you’re vying against yourself for position in the SERPs.
  • Dilutes the potential ranking ability of a single phrase by spreading link power, keyword targeting, and anchor text on your site across multiple pages.

Speaking of keywords, an interesting new service called HitTail was recently brought to my attention. This free service (for low to medium traffic sites) tracks every search hit that leads to your site and then pulls out the keywords. The underperforming, or long tail, keywords are given to you as suggestions to incorporate in your editorial content, such as blogs. The idea is that the collective demand for the less popular keywords (the long tail) can exceed the most popular terms added together. By using these under performing keywords, you can help out your natural search results and bring more qualified traffic to your site. These less competitive long tail keywords could also be very beneficial to a PPC campaign and likely result in a higher click through rate, lower cost per click, and more pre-qualified traffic.

Email Marketing 1: Customer Retention is Key

Ben Castelli, August 25, 2006

I must say I was impressed to find that Constant Contactemploys a development director whose sole job is to travel around and offer free training on how to use the Constant Contact service and general strategies on how to run a successful email marketing campaign. I recently attended a one such seminar here in Boulder and found it to be quite informative.

Overall the Constant Contact interface is easy to use and more intuitive compared to some other email services such as Aweber. They currently have 70k customers and are growing rapidly so they must be doing something right. Here are some interesting stats thrown out at the seminar:

– It is 6-7 times more expensive to gain a customer than to retain a customer.
– On average it takes 7 customer touches before a sale occurs.
– The average email user receives 361 emails per week and they perceive 70% to be spam.
– The industry average for open rates is 25% however this number is likely higher since many people use the preview pane and the email is not counted as an open if they do not download the images.
– Industry average for email blocking, where the email does not reach any folder is 17%

Email marketing is not a great tool for gaining new customers (spam), however it continues to be among the most inexpensive and effective ways to reach your customer base. For most business models, repeat customers will generate the most business and as a result customer retention is key.

The immediate purchaser is very small piece of the pie. Most consumers will be exposed to your product or service and then purchase at a later date. Email marketing allows you to stay in contact with potential customers and keep your business at the top of their mind.

Check out part 2 where I will highlight the steps in creating an effective email marketing campaign.

Email Marketing 2: Pearls of Wisdom

Ben Castelli, August 25, 2006

Recently I attended a free Constant Contact seminar here in boulder and here are some of my notes from the Creating a Winning Strategy in email marketing session:

1. Building your list – Put a subscribe button or link EVERYWHERE and give an incentive to subscribe.

2. Define your objective (motivate a purchase, enhance brand awareness etc…), write it out, and revisit while creating your HTML email.

3. Content Creation – Your content should be digestible, relevant, prompt readers to open and valuable enough for them to save. Make readers feel like they are part of a community, and special for opening your newsletter.

4. Call to Action – What you want the consumer or reader to do, why they should do it, and how to take the next step. Provide the same call to action in 3 different places in each email. Be sure to include a forward to a friend link.

5. Getting email opened.
– From line – Make sure your company name is in from line. The clearer the better.
– Subject line – This is where you put the immediate benefits of opening newsletter, why are you sending me this? You only have about 30-40 characters to work with here which equals 5-8 words. Make sure you test on part of your list before sending it to everyone. Do NOT be on a first name basis with your customer in
– When to send – highest open rate is Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am – 3pm.

6. Evaluating your results – Look at the bounce, block and filters rates and clean invalid addresses out of list. Finally track your click throughs:

– opens(time and frequency)
– track links
– purchases
– forward to a friend

Check out our Email Marketing Services to stay in touch with your customers and generate repeat business.

Using Tried and True PR Tactics to Ignite Online Buzz

James Clark, August 23, 2006

Every blogger has faced the pressure of what to blog about. We work with our clients to create online reputation management systems to get them plugged into listening to the conversation first so they will know: What are people talking about? and How they can add a relevant voice to the conversation? We’ve posted recently about strategic blog commenting strategies and how to enter the online conversation.

What I want to discuss are two techniques on how you can be the online BUZZ STARTER that everyone else is commenting and creating trackbacks on.

Having completely transitioned to online communications and social media, I brought along some tried and true PR tactics that can be applied to capturing the online conversations. As a matter of fact a few basic block and tackle PR tactics are some of the most powerful ways to be the BUZZ STARTER.

#1. Editorial Calendar Tracking
As much as those of us in the social media world want to lay claim to starting and generating the conversational trends, the fact of the matter is that traditional main stream media (MSM) continues to have a huge influence on conversational topics. The beauty of the MSM is that they are an advertising driven revenue model, so they must publish editorial calendars about subject topics in upcoming issues in order to secure ad sponsorship. Often times editorial calendars are published a year in advance. These calendars are your ticket to being a Buzz Starter. Go get the editorial calendars from your industry trade publications and find out what they are planning to publish in print and start blogging and writing articles for online syndication a month or two in advance of the publication issue.This gives the search engines the time to index your content giving you high visibility for the topic once the publication hits the street.

#2. Industry Conferences
The survival of great industry conferences depends on the quality of the speakers and the relevance of the topics to the attendees. Just like editorial calendars, conferences are planned well in advance, and conference organizers will put out a call for speakers based on subject matter they have identified as being timely and relevant to the audience. By looking at the speaking tracks you can identify subject trends that people will be seeking additional information and knowledge on. If you are subject expert on one of those trends, then start creating and syndicating content a month or two prior to the event. Find out who’s speaking and engage in a conversation with them either via personal email, or posting comments and trackbacks on their respective blogs.

Okay, so the obvious strategy here is to also be in the stories presented in the editorial calendars and be the speaker at the industry conference. I’ll go over that strategy in an upcoming post.