Tuesday, September 26, 2006

10 things to do (or not) - Las Vegas Pubcon

As I mentioned earlier I will be attending November's Las Vegas Pubcon, chewing the fat with the geek fraternity. Based on my performance last year, here are my top 10 things to do this year:

1. Learn to play at least one card game. And be cool while I'm doing it. Last year, I messed up with the rules for roulette.

2. Go shoot the biggest gun I can lay my hands on. Frightened the life out of myself last year with a peashooter, but then I am English.

3. Get Matt Cutts to review my site. Remove all the spammy links to/on my site

4. Stop politely saying "No thank you" to each and every chap in the street who offers me a youg lady's business card.

5. Try to remember at least one useful nugget of SEO information before the beer washes it all away.

6. Stop pointing to the monorail/helicopters/fake Eiffel Tower like I'm the country cousin.

7. Not brag about my tuppeny websites when I'm sitting next to the guy who owns hotels.com (and realestate.com and... )

8. Find out if there really is a Ferrari dealership inside the Wynn (So my friend claims).

9. Take some business cards, so I can win some free mouse mats/mp3 players/more mouse mats.

10. Realise that the attractive ladies who sidle up and chat to me at the bar at 3am are not really interested in "this great conference that I've just been to" and in fact may have an altogether different agenda.

Handbags at dawn?

Predictably in the wake of Viva Estates new listing policy and the subsequent closure of the Interagency MLS there has been an entertaining amount of mud-slinging.

Initially Viva Estates launched their 2% + 1% marketing campaign, with Chris McCarthy explaining it in detail to members on the SpanishPropertyInsight Forum. The reply from the disgruntled IN membership was a 2 page advert in one of the local papers, questioning the motives and wisdom of Viva's new approach.

An article has also appeared in OPP documenting the spat. Martin Dell of Kyero, ever a sage voice, states:

"The reaction of other IN Network members is understandable from a business perspective, Viva was the majority shareholder and the single largest property lister of the IN Network. Without their involvement, the other members of the network must restructure and, where previously agents cooperated within the Network, there will now be competition between the new network and Viva."

So on it rumbles, a vitriolic email here, a press article there. The good thing though is that buyers and sellers are emerging as the winners out of this mess. The new IN is now operating at 5% in line with most other agents in the area, whilst those who feel brave enough to cough up the non refundable deposit can enjoy Viva's shiny new 2% (or is it 3% ?!) commission structure.

Presumably by early next year we will know if Viva's strategy has worked and more agents reduce their commission levels. Personally, though (and from purely anecdotal evidence) I would be concerned about the numbers of staff who appear to be jumping ship. Are they just greedy salesmen, or do they know something we don't?

Stay tuned...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pubcon Las Vegas

Quite excited. Going to Pubcon Las Vegas in November.

What the chuff is Pubcon? Its a conference for geeks like me who are into internet marketing, both organic SEO and PPC. Its a great event because it is relaxed and aimed at the small to medium sized business. It also covers a range of topics and have really good speakers, including representations from the major search engines.

And its in Vegas baby.

If you are just starting out in online marketing, or even if you are an old hand, its well worth going to, since you are almost guaranteed to learn something worthwhile. Plus you get to see a lot of Elvis-alikes.

Super duper

Create your own superhero: http://www.marvelvc.com.br/Hero/

How sad am I?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Real Estate SEO Primer (Part 2: Links)

So if you read the first part you should have a well structured, easy to navigate site. The site should contain all your property listings and comply with the guidelines of the major search engines. You may have even created a site map to help the search engines find all of your content.

So now, how do you get your amazing site noticed? Links, that's how. Yes I know there is a whole world outside the net where you can publicise your site: newspapers, magazines and mouse mats with your company logo, but these come under offline marketing, about which frankly I know even less than I do about online marketing.

Online marketing is all about links, and there are essentially 2 types of links:

  • Links that drive traffic to your site directly (advertising)
  • Links that improve your position in search engines (and therefore indirectly drive traffic to your site)
The first type of link is fairly obvious. You find a site which you think will a) have traffic and b) have traffic that will be interested in your product. You then procure a link, usually by purchasing or exchanging, preferably in a reasonably prominent position on a relevant page.

More often than not you will purchase a link from, for example, a regional portal site. Compare prices of various packages and of various sites. You want to maximise your volume of relevant leads within your available budget. Don't be afraid to ask about their stats, and scrutinise these figures carefully, and if in doubt ask for a trial period to measure the efficacy of the placed ad(s).

It all boils down to cost per lead. A site may offer very cheap ads, but have either no traffic, or not enough traffic relevant to your product. Another site may initially seem quite expensive, but the resultant push of traffic could equate to a huge increase in the number of enquiries for your product. Overnight you become the darling of the sales team. Especially if the cost per lead knocks spots off traditional marketing methods.

The other type of link you will sell your grandmother for is the SEO type link. This is one where there may not be any immediately obvious benefit in direct traffic, but rather you place the link in order to improve your ranking in the search engines. If your sector is remotely competitive you will be seeking lots of these type of links to acheive any level of visibility in Google and the like. Note here I am referring to the main (or organic) rankings, not the sponsored advertising which appears alongside them. I'll mention these ads a bit further down.

Lets use hiperprop.com as an example. I want lots of links from other websites to point at hiperprop.com so we can let potential clients find us in Google or Yahoo or MSN. The first thing to do is to work out what keywords your pages should rank for. There are various keyword tools such as Overture Keyword selector that will give you an idea of how many searches are performed using various keywords. Ideally, for example, I would like hiperprop.com to rank for phrases like "Spanish Property" and "Property in Spain". Since these are popular search terms that match my product.

Usually the more popular a keyword phrase is, the more traffic it will produce, however bear in mind big volume keyword phrases tend to be very competitive and will require more links to achieve the desired visibility. Whilst we may want to rank for "Spanish Property", maybe a savvy SEO will realise that ranking for "Costa del Sol Property" is more quickly acheivable.

In fact I might be really bright and realise that I should try to rank for a bunch of more regional keyword phrases such as "Marbella Villas for sale" or "Apartments in Fuengirola". Whilst each of these individually deliver less quantity, collectively they will produce a significant level of site traffic, and moreover, often produce a higher quality of enquiry, since the keyword terms presuppose a level of knowledge of the region on the part of the searcher.

Look, the leads are now qualifying themselves! And these phrases ought to be significantly easier to compete for. These are often referred to as "niche keyword terms" in contrast to the more general keyword terms such as (in my case) "Spanish Property".

So you know your desired keyword phrase(s). Now what? Well I want to rank for "Spanish Property" so
  1. I make sure the page I am going to optimise talks about my keyword "Spanish Property". In the body, in the title, in the Paragraph headings etc..
  2. I find a site with pages that broadly correspond to my keyword term. Ideally it will also be a site, or a section of a site, that talks about "Spanish Property".
  3. In general the more authority a site has the more value the link will have for your purposes, eg a link from the Times Online Property section will carry more weight than exactly the same link from some crappy back bedroom property portal set up last week. Harsh but true.
  4. Finally I get the target site to link to my optimised page using "Spanish Property" as the text for the link. This is known as "Anchor text" (Thanks Conor).
But then that's the real trick isn't it. How do you get them to want to link to you? Answers include (but are not limited to):

  • Money
  • Begging
  • Use and abuse friends with sites
  • Exchange links (this can be reciprocal or triangular for example)
  • Create what is known as linkbait - offer something unique/useful/mind blowingly original on your site and in theory (at least) it will organically garner links.
A good example of linkbait in my sector are the price reports that Kyero.com regularly publish on their site. Think of a tool that adds value to your own site, eg a weather report, currency tool, great maps whatever. In addition useful content and tools often add stickiness to a site, and may be one of the factors that contribute to a site becoming an authority.

That's the theory anyway - in reality true linkbait is hard to create and viral inbound link growth is slow and uneven, unless you really have had a brilliant and original idea. So for us mere mortals a lot of networking, trading and slogging are on the horizon.

I was going to talk about Pay Per Click (PPC) and measuring your conversion rates, but I have droned on enough, and I've already missed the start of CSI:Las Vegas so they will have to wait until next time I'm in a mood to bore you all.

Fat Kid on a Ride

You'll need sound to appreciate why this had me in tears of laughter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuTf7rPIuY8

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Disco Inferno

Have you ever played on those arcade dancing machines?

Check this guy out - http://www.thatlitevideosite.com/view/2095

Webmasters in the sun

Not posted for a wee while, as I had my birthday followed by a few days off and decided not to look at a PC.

This weekend, I shall mostly be trying to glean some trade secrets from a bevvy of internet marketers who are attending Webmasters in the Sun. This is an informal conference organised by a friend of mine, Conor, who seems to know just about everybody worth knowing in the SEO business.

Before you start thinking of pale white geeks getting sand kicked in their faces/talking about Star Trek - the reality is more akin to a semi serious networking event, with some scarily successful young marketers. I end up feeling like the country cousin.

As always, anything I learn will no doubt be washed away by the flow of booze from the free bar. Never mind.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Frickin Idiot

This is really quite stupid, but fascinating. Man sets fire to his own parachute.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Zombie Fun

Its a slow Sunday:

Enjoy killing some zombies. Tip - use the shift key to switch to the shotgun.

These pictures are amazing. Pavement artist plays with perspective.