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Want to study up on the latest online advertising, marketing and public relations tools and techniques? We gathered the best articles on blogs, podcasts and other topics of interest for you.

Online Marketing

Why Is Internet Marketing Important?
Even if you have a traditional "brick-and-mortar" business, you'll lose valuable customers without an online presence. People routinely search for goods and services with their computers instead of picking up the yellow pages. If your business isn't on the Web, customers will likely choose another company to do business with. And because you can provide customers with a wealth of information, they no longer have to pick up the phone to get their questions answered.

The 10 Key Steps to Successfully Market Your Business Online
More and more small businesses are finding it essential that they market their products and services online. Customers are increasingly turning to the Web to research companies, compare product features and prices, and to purchase online. A company that does not take advantage of the Web and email to market their business can lose valuable customers. Here are 10 key steps to successfully marketing your business online:
  1. Obtain a Good Domain Name.
  2. Build a Professional Looking Web Site.
  3. Make Your Web Site Easy to Navigate and Make it Easy to Find What You Are Trying to Sell.
  4. Build up Your Email List.
  5. Send Periodic Email Newsletters.
  6. Buy Banner Ads.
  7. Optimize Your Site for Search Engines.
  8. Buy Keyword Ads on Search Engines.
  9. Make it Easy to Buy From Your Shopping Cart.
  10. Provide Great Customer Service.
Ten Attention-Getting Ways to Use E-mail Lists
Email is revolutionizing the art and science of direct marketing, bringing new marketers new opportunities and challenges. Try these attention-getting ideas to make the most of your email marketing:
  1. Sponsor a contest.
  2. Publish an online newsletter.
  3. Publicize special promotions or events.
  4. Drive traffic to your Web site.
  5. Make new product or personnel announcements or press releases.
  6. Offer discounts.
  7. Solicit surveys.
  8. Care for customers.
  9. Encourage participation in government, civic and community projects.
  10. 10. Tell a joke.


Bucks for blogs
In recent months, big-name blogger Jeff Jarvis, on his Buzzmachine.com blog, has hammered on Dell for its poor customer relations. That, in turn, unleashed a deluge of similar comments from his readers, and spurred other bloggers to whine about Dell, too. On Wednesday, the University of Michigan released a survey confirming a drop in Dell's customer satisfaction ratings, something that may or may not have been related. Just how should companies respond to snarky bloggers? Clam up, or let their employees start their own blogs to respond? ``PR is dead,'' [said] Dave Taylor, a blogger and entrepreneur to public relations professionals Taylor argued that blogs have stymied traditional forms of public relations.

ID theft ring hits 50 banks, security firm says
A major identity theft ring has been discovered that affects up to 50 banks, according to Sunbelt Software, the security company that says it uncovered the operation. The operation, which is being investigated by the FBI, is gathering personal data from "thousands of machines" using keystroke-logging software The data collected includes credit card details, Social Security numbers, usernames, passwords, instant-messaging chat sessions and search terms. Some of that data is then saved in a file hosted on a US-based server that has an offshore-registered domain, according to Sunbelt. "The types of data in this file are pretty sickening to watch," Sunbelt President Alex Eckelberry wrote in a blog posting dated Saturday. "In a number of cases, we were so disturbed by what we saw that we contacted individuals who were in direct jeopardy of losing a considerable amount of money."

Blogging Bosses
Some of the highest-ranking managers at companies like Sun Microsystems, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, and Boeing have entered the blogosphere, writing weekly or semimonthly entries in their online diaries. Any curious reader can learn why Sun's President and COO Jonathan Schwartz suffered two months of bad hair days (hint: Never let your 2-year-old's barber trim your ponytail). Or find out what Bob Lutz, vice chairman of global product development for General Motors, has been driving lately (preproduction models of the Pontiac Solstice and G6 Coupe, and a Hummer H3). You can read the thoughts of Randy Baseler, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, about why Airbus's strategy is dead wrong (come on Randy, tell us what you really think). And you can find out how all of these executives view important trends in their industry.

Corporations Entering World of Blogs
A growing number of companies are stepping softly into the blogosphere, following a path blazed by Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and others in the technology field. The Internet journal format, they find, lets businesses expand their reach, generate product buzz and encourage consumer loyalty - while bypassing traditional media. [T]here are probably more than 100 official corporate blogs, with hundreds more in the works, said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for Intelliseek Inc., a company that analyzes and tracks blogs. Done well, corporate blogs can create good word-of-mouth among consumers who aren't reading business pages or thumbing through trade magazines.

E-Mail Newsletters

Using E-mail Newsletters for Customer Retention
Businesses work hard to build a customer base, and retaining those valued customers should be one of your top priorities. One of the best ways to keep them coming back is to reach out to them regularly through an email newsletter and let them know just how valuable they are. It is one of the keys of any customer-retention strategy. Sending a monthly or quarterly email newsletter is probably the easiest way to stay in touch with your customers. It is a great way to keep your clients abreast of the latest developments in your business, including sales, new product offerings, and seasonal deals. Including newsletter-only specials or coupons is a great way to generate interest in the newsletter, increase your subscriber list, and drum up sales. But because so many of us are already overwhelmed by the daily deluge of email, your newsletter will need to be much more than just ads for your products. Including informative articles, interviews, or other information may help entice your subscribers to actually open and read your e-newsletter.

Attracting Newsletter Subscribers
[I]t goes without saying that a newsletter is a powerful marketing tool. Any promotions you send to your customers and subscribers after they've been receiving your newsletters will be that much more successful because with your newsletter, you'll have:
  • established your credibility,
  • developed a reputation as an industry expert,
  • cultivated a relationship with your subscribers,
  • inspired customer loyalty,
  • and maintained regular contact.
Regularly give your subscribers useful or entertaining information that they'll benefit from, and they'll come to trust you, respect you and buy from you. Sounds great, right? But now you're probably left wondering, "How do I get people to subscribe?" After all, you can write hundreds of newsletters, but if you only have a handful of subscribers, it can be a lot of work for little reward. Try following these steps to increase your subscriber base:
    Step 1: Promote your newsletter on your Web site.
    Step 2: Offer existing customers a subscription.
    Step 3: Promote your newsletter in your e-mail signatures.
    Step 4: Ad swap with other newsletters and e-zines.
    Step 5: Promote your newsletter in newsgroups, discussion lists and forum postings.
    Step 6: Offer subscribers the opportunity to give gift subscriptions.
    Step 7: Renting opt-in e-mail lists.


Kraft Recipes on Your iPod
A new marketing application from Kraft is leveraging the iPod phenomenon in a way that goes beyond podcasting. Owners of the ubiquitous device who download the company's "Greatest Hits of Summer" widget can carry a library of over 100 Kraft-inspired recipes with them wherever they go. The download, promoted at kraftfoods.com, offers grilling ideas, desserts, and additional recipes featuring Kraft ingredients. Users can browse recipes using the iPod's scroll wheel and look up ingredients while at the grocery store. The promotion is one of a limited number of iPod applications that don't use audio, an area that may be ripe for innovation. The iPod Photo is particularly well-suited to graphical development. One entrepreneur has made subway maps for several cities available for download.

IBM Podcasts to Customers
Big Blue is getting hip. Just a few months after adopting a corporate blogging policy, IBM is latching onto another hot tech trend, podcasting. the company posted the first podcast in a new series aimed at sharing its researchers' views about the evolution of technology in various fields. Podcasting "is extremely portable and accessible, and can convey information in a way that's easier to absorb than in a lengthy document," said John Bukovinsky, an IBM spokesperson. "This follows a pattern of trying to give investors insight into the company by looking at what we think is a strength, which is our ability to understand diverse industry segments." "We'll cover a variety of subjects," Bukovinsky said. "They'll be a look ahead at where we see a convergence of business issues and technology solutions."

The Podcast as a New Podium
Admit it. You don't know what podcasts are. Your plan is to do that thing of half-reading tech articles and waiting in denial until it's scarily mandatory that you really understand it -for instance, you have to create your own podcast for some random reason in one hour - and then desperately turning to Wikipedia or a teenage relative for a last-minute explanation. Just as you did long ago with the World Wide Web. But let's say today is the day you're going to understand podcasts. Before the emergency. Ready? Podcasts are little radio shows that people create on the cheap; you can download them at no cost from the Web, and listen to them whenever you want.

Mainstream Media Is Tuning In to 'Podcasting'
[L]ast month, the grass-roots phenomenon known as "podcasting" went mainstream. Apple Computer Inc. made the talk or music shows, known as "podcasts," easier to find and download on its iTunes online music store. The site went from zero podcast subscriptions to more than a million in just two days. Corporate media moved quickly to stake out podcasting as an avenue for reaching new listeners. While early podcasters offered talk radio-style shows with quirky titles such as "The Frat Pack Tribute" and "The Rock and Roll Geek Show," big companies have elbowed in with condensed versions of popular broadcasts. The result demonstrates how a new technology can remain part of an underground culture only for so long before corporations adopt it.

Web Sites

Online Hits: The Best, and How They Do It
Look behind the scenes of today's pro sports team Web sites and you'll find commitments. Commitments to far-reaching, well-thought-out publishing strategies. Commitments to new, creative ways to capture more fans, and more fan attention. Whether it's the Seattle Mariners' focus on cutting-edge technology to suit a tech-savvy city, the New York Giants' thorough redesign of their site, or Major League Baseball's content-packaging innovations, now found on all 30 MLB club sites, a commitment to a specific strategy is clear.

Web Sites New Twist in Celebrity Drug Ads
[A]ctress Cheryl Ladd quit taking hormone pills after research showed risks of breast cancer, stroke and heart attack. But after months of horrible hot flashes and disrupted sleep, the star of the 1970s TV series "Charlie's Angels" resumed taking a hormone drug after consulting her doctor. Now she's doing ads urging women to talk to their doctors or visit a Web site. The site is sponsored by Wyeth, maker of leading hormone replacement pills Prempro and Premarin, and Wyeth's logo appears in the TV ad. Ladd's subtle promotion is the latest twist in the 7-year-old practice of celebrities promoting drugs, whether they use them or not: Rather than pitch a specific medicine, the celebrities make you "aware" of suffering you might have overlooked and usually point you to a Web site sponsored by a company selling a treatment for that condition.

Improve the Customer Experience on Your Web Site
Whether you're launching a new Web site or making enhancements to your current one, stop and think about how you can improve your site and make it easier for people to use. The customer experience is one aspect of Web development that often gets lost somewhere between the HTML and the FTP. Ignore the customer experience and you'll pay the price. In its report, "Why Web Sites Fail," analyst group Forester Research says that every customer who has a bad experience on a Web site tells 10 other people about it. And according to consulting firm Creative Good, you can kiss frustrated customers goodbye. In one of its e-commerce surveys, Creative Good found that 62 percent of online shoppers have given up at least once while looking for products on a Web site. And 42 percent of those shoppers actually abandoned the Internet and made their purchases through traditional retail channels.

Search Engine Optimization

Click Fraud Claims Drive Lawsuits
A few years ago, Diane Frerick and Kevin Steele, co-founders of Karaoke Star, a Phoenix-based karaoke equipment seller, were on their way to $3 million in annual revenue. They owed much of their success to paid search advertising on Google and Yahoo Overture. By bidding anywhere from 40 cents to $3 for keywords revolving around karaoke (such as "karaoke player" or "karaoke song"), Frerick and Steele were able to generate $6,000 a day in sales from $2,000 in advertising Then, in the summer of 2003 the number of clicks on certain keywords jumped from 200 to 800, forcing Karaoke Star to burn through its advertising budget, but $2,000 in advertising yielded just $3,000 in sales. Karaoke Star was a victim of click fraud, a web phenomenon that has been attracting increasing attention.

Google Searchers Male, Yahoo! Skews Young
Google users are predominantly male, but Yahoo! has a higher proportion of searchers between the ages of 18 and 34 than Google, MSN, or Ask Jeeves, according to a new Hitwise study, "The Online Search Report," released [August 17, 2005]. The report also found that searchers at Google, Yahoo!, and MSN tend to enter just one or two words in the query box; an average of 87 percent of searches at those three engines are no more than two words.

Can Anyone See You?
Google's home page tallies eight billion Web pages indexed. Yahoo! keeps track of about half of that. The universe of Web content out there is enormous. Where does yours exist in all that, and can searchers find you? Search engine optimization, or SEO, refers to a toolbox of techniques that enable Web site developers to enhance a site's content to be efficiently located and indexed by search engines. Optimizing your site this way may improve your ranking on a results page, but most important, it's a big shout out to the search engines telling them that your site actually exits.

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