Friday, July 17, 2009

Backlinks 4 - Commenting

Almost all marketing comes down to whether people know you. (As they say in Hollywood, it's not who you know, it's who knows you.)

And they need to know you for good things, not bad. That's why all of those "power" efforts to spam announcements of articles don't work so well. If all anybody sees of you is an ad, then they think of you as an ad. They start to think of you as the spam they didn't want with their breakfast.

So as I mentioned in previous backlinks post about signatures, just having your contact information available as you interact normally is a great way to start. You can use the same principle, though, well beyond email.

Commenting on blogs is an easy way to do this. Different sites have different rules, but they almost always have a place in the comment form to ad an URL. It's usually not displayed, but rather it's embedded in your name when you comment. So it works like a sig, in that if somebody wants to know more about you, they just click on your name and they'll be taken to the page you entered there.

There are two very important things to think about before you do this, though:

One: Nobody is going to click on your name if your comment isn't interesting or useful. If it smells even a little bit like spam, the proprietor is likely to delete it, too. Your comment should be relevant, and interesting in and of itself. It should NOT say "hey, here's an article that relates to this topic, go and read it." One way to make things interesting is to give an opinion. It can even be a controversial opinion as long as it is respectful. (Again, the proprietor will delete disrespectful comments.) "That's a great point, although I prefer this for that reason" is a great post, if your reasons are well spelled out.

Or when in doubt ask a question. Even if nobody answers, you have at least contributed to the usefulness of the discussion.

Your other major issue is that you can only put in one URL, though, so which page do you put in? Some people like to put their article that is closest to the subject, and that's a pretty good idea, although you really have to be prepared with a list of possible URLs at hand whenever you go reading blogs and newspapers.

This is why many people end up creating their own web page or blog, where they can put an index of articles. That way they can concentrate on promoting just one URL. Other people promote their eHow profile page.

One consideration: many blogs have restrictions on who can comment. You may have to have a Google Blogger account - and if so, the link always goes to your Blogger profile. It can be good to set up a profile with appropriate links in each location where you might want to comment on blogs - Blogger, LiveJournal, etc. Many blogs use Open ID, which is a site where you set up an ID account, and it does something similar across a wider range of services.

Profile pages are as important as sigs. I'll be the first to admit I don't make good use of them, but the masters of marketing DO, and if you are serious about marketing, you should always be thinking about your profile pages. Remember that the key to marketing is that you want people to like, or at least trust, you. They will be interested in your product only after they find out you are a person who doesn't waste their time.

Next time I'll talk a little about using Yahoo Answers as a promotional tool. (Just remember, as with any community, they HATE SPAM at Yahoo Answers, and you should only use this to genuinely answer questions. If you don't do this right, you could lose your whole Yahoo account!)

Previous backlinks posts:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Earnings Tracker is Published!

17of26 wrote a convenient Firefox plug-in to help people track their earnings. I tried it today, and it certainly saves me time on getting those figures into my spreadsheet. (To get them into the spreadsheet, though, requires an extra step or two - which I'll mention below.)

From the screen shots, it looks like this think keeps the info and compares it from day to day. This is also very cool, but it will take a few days to sort out how well it works for that.

For now I am just using it to grab all of the information from my Articles pages and then exporting it to a text doc, and then importing it to my existing spread sheet. Unlike regular tables (such as the articles pages themselves) I can't just copy and paste from the report. They seem to be delimited in a different way, but never fear, there is another plugin that get that data out of the page - it's called table tools. So, to do what I did, here's what you need:

First you need the latest version of Firefox. Version 3.5 is a big update, and if you use a lot of plugins, you may find some of them don't work with 3.5. If you love your plugins and they haven't been updated to work with 3.5 yet, then you may want to postpone trying out this plugin. For the rest of you, continue on....

After updating Firefox, you need to get your two plugins. From inside Firefox, all you need to do is go to the "Tools" menu and choose "Add ons". This will get you to a pop up menu that shows you the plugins you already have. At the top there is a button that says "Get Addons" which will take you to the Mozilla site, where you can search for and add whatever plugins you want. Search for "ehow earnings tracker" and then for "tabletools" (one word - tabletools not table tools). Then all you have to do is click the "add to firefox..." button. It will ask you to confirm you want to "install now" and when it's done, it will ask you if you want to restart or just continue browsing. Don't restart until you have downloaded both plugins.

Then, when you come back to eHow, you can just go to your articles page, and tell the earnings tracker to "update earnings" (this is in the "Tools Menu" also, but I believe you can right click to get the menu as well).

NOTE: The data will be much neater if you first click on the Date column to make it show Oldest to Newest. That way if yo do put it in a spreadsheet, the new titles will be added neatly at the bottom of the list, rather than push all the existing titles down a notch. (I don't know how it would react if you do it one way one day, and then the opposite way the next. I may try that tomorrow!)

When it's done gathering the data, it will show you a neat little table of your earnings and then another of your views. To get these into a format that Excell can read, your best bet is to then right click on the table. This will bring up a big menu which has the TableTools menu, but it doesn't label it as such. It calls it: "View Page info > Other Table Operations" The menu that pops up for that selection gives you a choice of "Copy As Tab-delimited Text".

This actually will give you text that can be pasted into Excell - complete with headers. (The first time I tried it, however, it wouldn't paste, so I pasted it into a text document, and then just copied the data without headers and it worked. I think, though, that was a fluke.)

I love these tools. Even if none of the other features work, this will save me SOOOOOO much time and still allow me to keep good data on what is working and what isn't for my articles.

Thank you, 17of26. (To everyone else, this addon is free - so please donate to 17of26 to show your appreciation for this great earnings tracker plugin!)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Backlinks 3 - Signature Files

The biggest thing you can do to promote a web page is to put the URL in the signature file of your email or newsreader program.

Some of you may not know what a "sig" file is. You've probably seen them, though. At the bottom of an email, many people have an address or a quote. It usually appears after a line with pair of dashes on it like "-- ". The great thing about it is that it is always there, and as long as you adhere to the rules of sig file etiquette, it doesn't bother anybody. It's just there, so anybody who gets email from you has a reference to your URL.

It's like a business card, in that way. Very handy and yet unobtrusive.

And like a business card, it can be surprisingly effective. I remember once when a couple of people got into an email battle at work. It was one of those things where people keep adding more and more people to the cc line. I wasn't working that day, but I happened to be the one person who could give the one bit of information that could settle the dispute, so I emailed the whole group from home. My home computer automatically puts my private website in the sig of anything I send from there.

When I checked my web stats that night, I saw that within an hour of that email, every single person on the distribution list had hit my website.

Now, normally sigs are not that effective. You don't get hits on every email you send. Sometimes you don't get hits for months on any email you send. But that story illustrates the magic of sig files. AND it illustrates the magic of how to use them.

See, I didn't tell people to go visit my website. What I did was resolve a problem they were all having. Many of those people were really annoyed at being a witness to this series of emails, and then I put an end to the argument. That got their attention. And then, because my web address was so handy, and they were curious, they all clicked.

The thing about a signature is that people are going to respond to you most when you aren't trying to get them to respond. You may even get their attention at one time, but they don't click until they see another more boring message from you. But whenever they do get around to being curious about you, a signature is always there. The magic of the sig is that it's handy.

Nearly all the best methods of getting backlinks are in some way based on the signature principle. I'll talk later about commenting on other people's blogs, or using Yahoo Answers. While you don't use email to do either of these, there is an unobtrusive place to link in both cases that works much like a sig.

In the meantime, learn how to add a sig to your email. (And if you read any old fashioned newsgroups with a news reader, these often have sig files built in too.) There are many eHow articles, not written by me, that tell you about how to add a sig in your particular email program. You can search on "email signature" at eHow.

I will just end with a little bit about signature etiquette. The shorter the better. Never use more than three lines. People don't like a sales pitch, but a one-liner and link is fine. Better yet is just the link - all by itself. Think of this as a business card. For eHow, I would suggest linking to your profile page, or if you've created your own directory of your articles on a blog or website, connect to that.

(Those of you who have written articles about how to add a sig to specific email programs are welcome to post a link in the comments section of this posting.)

The Backlinks Series:
What is a Backlink?
Backlinks - blogging
Backlinks - signature files
Backlinks - commenting