Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Fun (and useful) Tools Now Offered by Google Calendar Labs

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I was playing around in my Google Calendar today and noticed the addition of Google Calendar Labs. For those of you who are not familiar with Google Labs, this is how Google describes it. “Google Calendar Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready for primetime. They may change, break or disappear at any time.”

I loving hearing about these new features, especially when I see a use for it with my business. The new offerings for Google Calendar include the following:

- Attach Google Docs: This is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to attach your Google docs to your calendar event. I see this being very useful for a client meeting, whether to review a proposal or go over search engine optimization results.

- Background Image: This allows you to choose a background image for your calendar. Not particularly useful,  but I will try it.

- World Clock: This clock will keep track of the time around the world. When you view an event, you’ll see the start time in each time zone. This will help clear up some of the confusion on conference calls with representation across multiple states.

- Jump To Date: Instantly jump to any past or present date in your calendar.

- Next Meeting: I really like this feature because it shows me the next meeting in my calendar and the amount of time until that meeting. Particularly useful on a busy day.

- Free or Busy: If you decide to share your calendar with your friends and contacts, you will be able to see if they are available. Good luck getting any work done with a long list of contacts.

For all of you coding geeks, Google will also be releasing an experimental API to allow you to write your own Calendar apps. More information can be found here:

If you are currently using Google Calendar, check out these features in the settings of your calendar. Don’t use Google Calendar? Get access here.

Real Estate On the Verge

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

I don’t normally re-post other people’s articles, but I am currently working on developing a business blog and corporate identity for Knox County Realty, LLC, located in Vincennes, Indiana, and this article was fitting. I have yet to speak with a client in any industry where it doesn’t make sense to build a website for their business, but for this particular client, I can see a huge potential for online promotion. This article makes some great points about taking advantage of the current slump in the market. Prepare your real estate business now with a informative website presence and help turn your followers in to home buyers.

Real Estate on the Verge
By Michael Stark

Declining prices, a credit crisis and millions of foreclosures pushed the real estate market to the brink. Commissions are under attack. Sellers try to connect directly with buyers. Investors crave to know about deals before they hit the MLS (multiple listing service). And consumer frustration makes matters worse.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported on May 12, 2009, that first quarter sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million homes and condos sold. The population of prospects is enormous when you add in all of those struggling to sell, buyers on the fence, approximately 1.1 million realtors, and countless lenders, escrow, insurance and home improvement contractors. The real estate vertical seems poised for a gold rush.

Current tools used for marketing this depressed market — PPC advertising, banners and even e-mail — are not working as well as in the past. There is simply too much inventory. Therefore, claiming your stake in the virgin vertical of real estate means moving your covered wagons across a great divide. This new land of opportunity is ready to settle, and it starts with forming long-term relationships with those steeped in the industry. When the housing market rebounds, this will put your business in a position to fuel the impending boom.

The first obstacle is to understand that people are not leads. Investors, sellers, realtors and lenders are real people involved in a very long business sales cycle. Enterprises that can help these individuals and businesses through the process, while serving up products and services will gain trust, respect and profit. Your site will bookmark, brand and build if you educate, enlighten and enable individuals.

Pioneers scouting the real estate territory should understand its five sub-verticals, with some sites blending two or more.

1. Sites that allow MLS search. Most agent sites provide a local service. is great nationally.
2. Sites that deliver blogs and news. A good blog can provide important news, featured listings or valuable resources. is a nice example.
3. Sites mashing up census, neighborhood and lifestyle content such as
4. Sites providing valuations and sales data, such as
5. Free and paid sites that assist FSBO (for sale by owner) sellers. Free sites syndicating postings to other sites and search engines are the most popular.

To grow your prospective or existing real estate business, contact the top sites in each sub-vertical, and entice them to sell your products or services on a CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) or CPL (Cost Per Lead) basis. You might find that some site owners ask to be compensated for access to their database and audience.

Even more opportunities can be found by exploring the angles involved in each real estate transaction. With some creative thought and planning, the list of possibilities grow. For example:

* Buyers are interested in loans, investments strategies, foreclosures and sales data. Any one of these topics could make for a nice side blog to your website, or consultancy work.
* Sellers want tools beyond yard signs, flyers and print ads. They need websites, e-mail, SEM and SEO services, and help engaging prospects — social media strategies and video production.
* When a property doesn’t sell in a timely manner, rental options are needed. This involves prospects, community organizations, and even moving companies.
* Contractors are always needed in every real estate market to make repairs and prepare properties for selling or renting.

In the foreseeable future, times will continue to be tough for real estate buyers, sellers, realtors, lenders, contractors and insurance professionals. But now is the time to connect with this demographic. Show them how your product or service will improve their life, and you’ll discover a huge new source for customers — now and, more importantly, in the profitable times to follow.

Don’t Let Web Analytics Intimidate Your Small Business

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

In a time of tightened budgeting and online, knowing all about your web visitors is more important than ever. Many hosting platforms offer website traffic statistics but tracking your conversions is usually not something that is offered by these applications. While there are many great statistic software applications available for purchase, I often recommend Google Analytics to many small businesses for several reasons. Google Analytics can be implemented fairly easily in to your website, by placing a chunk of code on every page of the site. After the site is confirmed, you will be able to access your site visitor information, down to the city of the visitor. The best part? Google Analytics is free.

There is a learning curve to the program and information overload can happen if you don’t know where to focus your attention. If you want to start with a general overview of what is happening on your website, I would recommend monitoring a few specific categories.

1. Unique Visitors: I often hear businesses discussing “hits” on their websites and using that for a gauge on how they website is performing. This number can highly overestimate the popularity of your website. A hit is registered whenever one of the many files on your website is loaded. For example, a single page in your site might have 10 images, as well as 2 script files within it’s code. This page could register 12 or more hits from one single visit to the  web page. For that reason, I monitor unique visitors. This number will provide a more accurate way of monitoring the number of people who come to your site, excluding multiple visits from the same computer.

2. Referring Sources – Having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on marketing during my career, I consider the referral data on your statistics to be very important. The referring sources will be able to tell you who is sending you traffic. This can be very valuable if you are spending company time exposing your business to the social networking marketing mediums, or more importantly, paying for display and paid search marketing.

3. Conversion – This is the most important statistic that you are going to monitor, hands down. You can drive all of the traffic in the world to your site, but if they are not turning in to a customer, then you have some work to do. Google Analytics allows you to place some code on your site at what you consider to be the point of conversion. For most businesses, this is the order confirmation page, which thanks them for placing their order. However a business’s goal may be to drive an online information request lead or to drive a phone call. In these cases, placing the code on the contact form confirmation or on the contact page itself can give you an idea of the interest in your particular conversion. Either way, if you are getting the traffic without conversions, it is time to dig deeper in to your site to find out what is happening. In these cases, bounce rates and average time spent on the site by a visitor can get you pointed in the right direction.

For more information on conversion tracking on your website, contact Angie Commorato at Angie is an Indianapolis based web consultant and owner of the online marketing company, a&g Digital Consulting, LLC.

Too Tired to Think? Let Decide.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I am always on the lookout for new concept websites. Today marked the release of a new website called When I visited the site, I was presented with a series of twenty questions with everything from “Do you sing in the shower?” to “Which french fries do you prefer to munch?”.Once my answers were given, I was released in to the website. You can choose a variety of topics and after answering a few more questions pertaining to that topic, you are presented with their suggestion based on your personality. was created by Caterina Fake,who was also co-founder of the photo-sharing community Flickr. She says she created Hunch not because people need help with emotional decisions but because it’s too tough to find smart information online. I wanted to test it out, so after their server had stabilized, the first topic I chose was “What funny video should I watch?”. A few questions later, I was watching a cat fight a copy machine on, complete with sound effects. I found the clip pretty funny and proceeded to watch a few other suggested clips, that were entertaining as well. It turns out that I should also be leaning towards designer Marc Jacobs’ clothes, adding an adopted Saint Bernard to our brood and choosing a Chevrolet Corvette for my next car. Whereas all of the choices didn’t necessarily fit my tastes, it was on cue more often than not and was an entertaining website.

How to Make Your Pay Per Click Campaigns Successful

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

If you have ever felt like the sole purpose of your pay per click campaigns is contribute to the wealth of Google and Yahoo, you are not alone. Many businesses long for their website to appear at the top of the search engines and they set up a paid search campaign to make that happen. However, after their ads go live, they continue to spend money without seeing the increase in sales.  Here is some advice that I can give pertaining to these kinds of campaigns and what it takes for them to be successful. This advice is targeted toward Google Adwords.

1. Target Your Ads by Location – If you are located in Indianapolis, Indiana and sell new cars, you probably won’t want your ads showing in California. Only choose Indiana ad placement, or better yet, target the Indianapolis area only to further stretch your spend. Lets say that you offer residential moving service in the Midwest. You will want to target Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and any other states that you can serve, but you will want to deactivate all other states. Otherwise, you will be paying for customers to see your ads and you won’t be able to service them when they contact you.  I even advise customers who would like to sell within the entire United States to choose a few states to target, evaluate the results and then expand accordingly. Pay per click advertising can get very expensive and this will allow you to get better exposure for your money.

2. Adjust Your Ad Times – Google Adwords allows you to choose the days and times that your ads will display. If your customer typically want to speak to someone about your products or services, you might consider only running your ads during your business hours. I had a customer who had 90% of their website sales happen over the telephone. However, they only had phone sale staffing Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm. We were able to adjust their ads to show during the week, during those hours only. If you are a true ecommerce website which can take online orders 24/7, you can choose the days and times that you would like your ads to appear. I have seen trends within different industries to where certain days of the weeks will convert better than others. To determine which days are the best for your products, you will need to test your campaigns and adjust your targeting based on the results.

3. Have Analytics Available – It sounds so simple, but so many businesses don’t realize the importance of  being able to monitor the source of your website sales. To be able to gauge the effectiveness of your paid search ads, be sure to have some website statistics installed on your website. Google Analytics is a free statistics program that will help you analyze not only the traffic coming to your website but also the impact of your keyword ads. The analytics program will allow you to place a code throughout your website to track conversions at a keyword level. This will allow you to disable under-performing keywords and/or target more of your budget towards the better keywords.

4. Search Engine Optmization – You can always pay to be at the top of the search engines, but the ideal mix of search engine marketing lies in a little paid search and a whole lot of search engine optimization. Once your site is optimized and your website is appearing in the top results, your cost per aquisition will more than likely decrease significantly. It is important that you work with a company that has enough knowledge to get you top ten results for the major search engines. Once those results are achieved, maintain an on-going relationship with that business. Search Engine Optimization is a very reactive form of online marketing. Once you see your website sitting in a top slot in the search results, your competitors are going to take notice and do what they need to do to take back their position.

For more information regarding pay per click campaigns, contact Angie Commorato at

Marketing Your Website – Where to Begin

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

In the last few years, I have had a lot of companies approach me who have a website, but they have no idea of why they aren’t getting any sales. After reviewing their site analytics, my response is usually the same. You can have the best website in the world, but if no one knows about it, you will never get any sales. Now I know that not everyone has a large budget set aside to promote their site on the internet, but I am going to talking about some of my favorite advertising mediums, some of which require a budget and some which are free.

Social Mediums/Free Website Advertising – For those with or without a budget, social mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc. can be a great way to promote your business. The effectiveness all depends on your industry and can be particularly good for business to consumer selling.  The best part of social networking is that the only cost that is involved is your time. If you are going to set up a facebook page, it is important to keep the information updated. The same goes for blogging or twitter accounts. People are going to follow you for a reason and will expect to see fresh information as well as special offers from your business.

Don’t forget about those other free online mediums. Free online classified ads, relevant forum/blog participation and free directory listings can also be great ways to drive traffic to your site.  Also, if you have a store front, it’s a given to include your website address on any and all printed materials, including shopping bags, receipts or invoices, t-shirts, etc.

Pay Per Click Advertising. – Pay per click advertising is a great compliment to natural search engine placement. It is not recommended for business with little to no budget, because it can get very expensive, very quickly. There is a large variety of search engines that offer this type of advertising and the quality and quantity of traffic can vary greatly. From a volume standpoint, Google and Yahoo are the best places to start. They are both very easy to set up and while the average cost per clicks are typically a little more (varying by industry and keyword phrase), you are going to get the most volume of traffic. This is not to say that their traffic is necessarily going to convert the best. That is something that you will have to test to determine the best audience for what you sell. There are a lot of two and three tier advertising engines, which can cost a lot less but will generally bring in less traffic. I personally have not have a lot of success with the engines outside of the big guys (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Ad Center,, but that’s not to say that you won’t be able to get some good leads from the others.

Start using Google Ad Words: Click Here to see an example of where your Google Ads can appear.

Open a Yahoo Search Marketing Account

Open a Microsoft Ad Center Account

Open an Advertising Account

Tip: If you are going to set up a pay per click campaign, make sure that you have a designated person to keep an eye on your accounts, minimally on a daily basis. Tweaking keyword phrases, cost per click amounts by campaign and phrase and display times can be critical in reaching your desired cost per acquisition.

Display Advertising – Wanting to brand your company name? Are you promoting a special event that you want to be able to target to a certain community or demographic? If so, this is where I will recommend using a little display advertising on various websites. Websites will usually charge you based on impressions, or number of times that your display ad is shown to a web visitor. This doesn’t guarantee a click, but over time, the repetition of an ad can assist with branding efforts and/or get your promotion in front of someone at the right time. Lets say your offer carpet cleaning and are using some ads to promote a “Buy 2 rooms, get one free” promo.  Maybe the web shopper sees your ad today, and whereas they don’t need their carpets cleaned at that very moment, perhaps they will two weeks from now, when they see your ad again.

I recently had a customer who was needing to target 4 larger cities across the US for a 2 week promotion. We used about 25% of their online budget to display their ads on a series of local Television and Newspaper sites within those markets. Due to the nature of what they sell, the point of their marketing is to drive a phone call from the website to their inbound call center. Since we had a decent size ad displaying on those TV and newspaper sites, we were able to include a promo code for the customer to mention when they called. This is key for tracking.  We had also included a phone number on some of the ads to allow the customer to either call directly from the ad or click to visit the website. When the phone is involved, tracking is never 100%, but we were able to lift our website traffic, calls and sales as a result of our overall marketing campaign. I believe it is hard for display advertising to stand on it’s own, but combined with a new other mediums, it can be effective.

Tip: If your budget will allow for it, try to avoid run of site placement. This will allow the advertisers to place you anywhere within the site that they need an advertiser. This can cause your advertising to get buried on internal pages with very little traffic. Ask for fixed placement, above the fold to get the most exposure.

Email Advertising – I have one bit of advice pertaining to email advertising – do it. Email advertising can be one of the most cost effective means of advertising available. Find a good email platform, follow the rules for the Can-Spam act and start collecting opt-in emails today. If you are unfamiliar with the laws in regards to email, check with a professional. The last thing that you want is for your company to be labeled as a spammer.

Search Engine Optimization: Search Engine Optimization is a must with any website. Unless you are lucky enough to be selling something very unique with little online competition, you are going to need to invest some time and money in to getting your website to display “organically” in the search engines. What does it mean to be displayed organically? If your site is coming up organically, it means that your site is considered among the most relevant for a search term or phrase. You are not paying by click or by impression for this traffic. Beyond the work and investment is takes to get ranked highly in the engines, this traffic is free. Think about it. If you want to come up on page 1 for Google for the phrase “Indianapolis Pet Store”, the easiest and quickest way would be to purchase some Google pay per click advertising, as mentioned above. You are going to be paying a set price per click everytime someone clicks on your site, but you will have a solid presense. Now if your website is optimized correctly for Google, ideally you would also want to display in the organic results, as seen below.   These click are free and for the percentage of web shoppers who completely ignore the paid advertising sections, you can get some great traffic. Again, paid search can be displayed almost immediately. Achieving top organic results can take some time. Experiment with both until you can find the mix that works for you.

Google Organic Search Results Compared to Paid Search Results

Google Organic Search Results Compared to Paid Search Results

I could go on and on about all of the other advertising mediums available. There are many options, although I have found the above mentioned to be the most effective for my customers.