Archive for the ‘Mostly Marketing’ Category

Jul 23rd, 2010 2 Comments

Testing paid online advertising

Advertising, when done correctly, is part art and part science. Unfortunately most small businesses only consider the art – they spend money on design services, copywriters, color selections and logos. Completely ignored is the science: documenting and measuring user actions, analyzing results, feedback loops. Today’s guest contributor, Sara Morgan, is an author and marketing consultant. She recently conducted several online advertising experiments for her own business and has kindly offered to share her experience and conclusions.

Is Paid Advertising a Waste of Money for (My) Small Business?

I am a former corporate web developer who now focuses on producing easy to follow technical guides for small business owners. Through the years, I have tried various paid advertising campaigns using Google Ad Words, but always met with no success. I had pretty much given up on Google entirely, until the day I got an e-mail from LinkedIn. They offered me $50.00 off one of their Direct Ads and it was at that time that I decided to do a little experiment.

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Apr 11th, 2010 No Comments

The business case for the iPad – Part 2

iPad From All Sides

Looking at the iPad from all sides

Read part 1 of this review.

The iPad has been available for a little over a week and Apple just announced that they have to delay international sales because demand in the US has been much greater than expected – apparently over 500,000 were sold in the first week. Cynics will say that it’s just a bunch of Apple fanboys and lemmings that blindly buy anything bearing the fruity logo, but I think there is something more at work here and that real business users are snapping these up.

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Mar 13th, 2010 No Comments

Location services are interesting, but do they have value for your business?

With the rapid proliferation of smartphones (Apple’s iPhone, Palm Pre, Blackberry, Google Android phones) people are suddenly broadcasting their location wherever they go. There’s an obvious benefit when emergency services need to find you following an accident, but it also presents some disturbing security implications. Ignoring the police and stalkers for now let’s take a look at how average people and businesses can use these services.

Foursquare logo

A few of us recently started experimenting with something called Foursquare. This company just celebrated its first birthday so they’ve had time to polish the rough edges on the service, and it’s pretty interesting. Basically, they provide two things: 1) an easy way to let people know where you are; and, 2) a way for travelers to find things to do in a new city.
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Jan 16th, 2010 No Comments

Printed word not dead yet just getting harder to create



During the ’90s, computers made training manuals and technical books obsolete. During the oughts, PowerPoint made printed presentations obsolete. Over the next few years, e-readers will make paper news and fiction obsolete. But once in a while you still need to print things, or just distribute a copy of something where Internet access is not available, and that can be difficult because Web pages are not designed for good-looking paper output.

A new Web site can simplify the process of grabbing a Web page and turning it into a PDF file. Called simply pdfmyurl, this Web site does exactly what it says. Enter any Web page address (URL) and it will hand you a PDF file.

There are other Web sites and desktop tools to this already, and Apple computers have the capability to create a PDF built right in. But Windows users have to go looking for the proper tools, and the results have been mixed. pdfmyurl is fast and handles formatting of complex pages very well.

If you frequently need to print Web pages pdfmyurl can save you lots of paper. After getting the PDF file you can easily delete unnecessary pages before printing them, such as a page filled with ads and Flash video, or skip printing the last page if it only contains a footer with navigation links.

Nov 27th, 2009 No Comments

Ads gone wild – bad, good and not quite Taylor Swift

Newspapers and magazines are struggling to keep customers spending money on their paper products while both readers and advertisers are quickly turning to online news, commentary and fiction. So it’s interesting to watch publishers adapt to this new world, testing technologies to draw in readers and trying to keep their ad revenue flowing.

Three magazines and their online advertising caught our attention over the past couple of days. One site (Forbes) we may never visit again because their advertising is so obnoxious. Another site (Esquire) has an ambitious online/offline integration that works well and is fun to play with. The third (InStyle) also tried to integrate online features, but it was a total bust – we couldn’t make it work at all, which probably doesn’t make Taylor Swift very happy since she’s the 3-D cover girl.

Bad – Forbes

Bad ads on Forbes I

Never, ever design pages like this

Forbes has solid editorial content and a rich history, but the desperation apparent in their online advertising is ridiculous. They seem determined to cover every inch of the online page with ads. For some time now their site has been loaded down with multiple animated ads on each page. This is really distracting when trying to read the story. To make things worse, some of those ads have sound that begins playing automatically. This can be shocking if you left the volume turned up while rocking out the night before, or it interrupts your current soundtrack or the quiet of your office.
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Sep 29th, 2009 6 Comments

Google Voice teaches your old phones some new tricks

Google Voice logo


Most of the excitement about telephones these days concerns the iPhone, Palm Pre, Android phones and similar small computers. These devices let you browse Web sites, check your e-mail, make appointments in your calendar, watch the latest You Tube videos, listen to music, take pictures, make movies, direct you to your next meeting with spoken turn-by-turn directions, and even make phone calls.

With all that excitement in your pocket it’s easy to forget that most of us are also tethered to one or more wired phones at home and work. Missing an important call from a client is easy to do if you don’t hear your cell phone ring, and don’t bother checking your office voice mail before heading out on Friday afternoon. Using only a cell phone works for some people, but it’s not practical if your company has a main and/or toll free number, or for those cases where you have to transfer a caller down the hall.

Google seems to be everywhere these days so I guess it’s not surprising that they are also trying to shake up the old fashioned phone business with a service called Google Voice. (No surprise, AT&T has already complained to the FCC about Google Voice, trying to nip this upstart competitor in the bud.) Like many of their other new online tools Google Voice is technically in beta test so it’s not guaranteed to be reliable, available, or ever become a real product. But for now at least Google Voice is available, mostly reliable, free, and really handy for small businesses in particular.
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Aug 7th, 2009 1 Comment

CrossLoop screen sharing improves phone meetings

CrossLoop logo

Have you ever been on the phone with a client across the country when you wanted to show them something on your computer? You can try reading the URL. (Me: type this URL. Client: what’s a URL? Me: nevermind. in the address bar of your browser, type httpcolonslashslashwww… Client: wait. what’s a colon?) But that’s a great way to waste valuable time and aggravate the client. If you have a spreadsheet, or some artwork to show them your only option is usually to e-mail the file – another great way to waste the client’s time on the phone, and they might not be able to open your file anyway.
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Jul 27th, 2009 No Comments

Twitter guide for business

Twitter logo


The folks at Twitter have just released an interesting new guide for businesses. Called Twitter 101, the online guide (also available for download as a PDF file) provides a comprehensive overview of Twitter, the terminology you’ll need to understand, and best practices.

The really fun stuff is the case studies from companies like Dell, Pepsi, JetBlue, CoffeeGroundz, and Teusner Wines. Some of these companies are large, public corporations while others have just a few people. Lots of good ideas in there that would apply to any business.