Developing A Connection

A big part of online marketing involves creating content. Article marketing, writing website copy, producing email newsletters, and all call on your ability to get a message through to your readers. To get that message through, your audience has to be receptive. To do that, you have to connect with them on some level.

You can accomplish that using several tried-and-true methods. To bring that theory into reality takes creativity and real finger sweat. But it is within every online marketer’s reach.

Know Your Audience

To connect with your audience, it helps heaps if they trust you. To gain trust, you have to know your audience. Are they elderly housewives and moms in a rural area? Are they young urban professionals? Are they abroad mixture of all types of people? It can be tough to know, but you have to do the best you can. Research and some educated guesses can get you a long way.

Think of it as a political campaign (without the questionable positions and character assassination, of course). That is, if you want to ‘get elected’ you have to know the kind of ‘voters’ to whom you’re trying to appeal. Once you do, you can focus your message in a way that is right for that audience. That creates a strong connection.

Yin and Yang

To an extent those two ideas tug you in opposite directions. You want to tailor your content broadly enough so that it can appeal to anyone who might read it. But you have to be specific enough with the audience who is most likely to read it that they find something of value in your content.

You are, in essence, ‘selling’ your content to ‘buy’ some of their time, in the hopes that later they will buy your actual product or service. To do that, you have to work along those two tracks at the same time. That’s a tricky balancing act. It takes planning and creativity to stay on the balance beam as you walk to victory.

Know Your Stuff

It should go without saying that you have to know what you are talking about. That’s part of building trust. Your audience will be eager to hear what you have to say if they believe you are the right one to be saying it. To earn that, you have to become an expert in whatever it is you are selling.

That does not necessarily mean you have to have to be a professional travel agent in order to recommend Honeymoon Vacations. (Of course, that doesn’t hurt.) It could mean just that you have been on one (or two or six) vacations yourself. It might mean only that you have taken the time to study the subject well and can present information convincingly.

That expertise, in whatever form and wherever it comes from, makes you the ‘go to gal’ on the subject. When people want to know something about the subject, they look to you for answers. That reputation is priceless because the connection it forms between you and your audience then becomes solid and long-lasting.

Email subscribers will not just sit on your list, but be happy to be there. Magazine readers will be eager to open the next issue that hits their inbox or mailbox. Website visitors will have you in their favorites and visit often and stay awhile when they do.

Be Appealing

The most fundamental twin needs visitors have are for information and guidance. That’s why they go to your website, open your emails, and so forth. But that content can fall on blind eyes if it isn’t presented in a way they find appealing. To be appealing you have to give it to them in a form they like. That will vary from audience to audience. But for the vast majority it means reaching out to them as real people.

Real people like to be talked to, not talked down to. Approaching them (through your writing) in a conversational style makes them relax. It opens them up to your message. Every good salesperson knows you have to get your customers to trust you before you ever speak a single line of your pitch. A conversational tone is one great way to do that.

Address your audience personally. For example, instead of writing “Online marketers want tips they can turn into traffic,” write “You want tips you can turn into traffic,” when your audience is, in fact,online marketers.

If you can tell a good joke, that’s great. Humor puts an audience in a good mood. But if you can’t do it well, skip it. Not every good public speech opens with a funny anecdote. Some bad ones do, and they start out badly because the speaker just doesn’t have the knack for putting one over. Not everyone is Jack Benny or Steve Martin or Jon Stewart. (See what I mean about the importance of knowing your audience?)

Part of the way you can ‘put stories over’ is by being believable. That’s as true in written content as it is in live speeches. It’s another way you build trust with the audience. Your readers have to be willing to at least give you the benefit of the doubt, if not wholly embrace your every word.

Provide Details

Beyond offering an engaging style and trustworthy content, you have to get specific if you want to connect to them. Your visitors are busier than ever. They want practical, useful info in easy-to-digest bites. To do that, you have to get down to the nitty gritty. You have to zero in on a small number of key messages, and then be concrete about them.

It’s one thing to say “Nutri-Box is the finest supplement ever devised!” Yeah, who hasn’t heard that kind of hype a million times? It’s another to say, “Nutri-Box provides three healthy ingredients – Folic acid, Chromium, and Beta Carotene” then go on to explain how each is vital to good health.

That’s not hype, it’s useful information. If it comes from someone viewed as an expert, it will be taken seriously. Being viewed as an expert translates directly into increased income for all the reasons we talked about above.

Make It Zing, but Keep It Real

Cynics say that marketing is all sizzle and no steak. Someone else might argue that steak is filling and sizzle is phony. The fact is, both these components are crucial to connecting with an audience. You have to have something worth selling (even if that is just your words),and you have to make it appealing. Both those lead to good word-of-mouth. Fall down on either task and you encourage negative word-of-mouth, a sales killer.

Create eye-catching article titles and email subject lines. Create what novelists call “a hook,” a simple but compelling statement that makes your reader want to read more. The same idea works for website copy and info-products. Identify a problem shared by most in your audience and draw your readers in with the promise of solving it painlessly.Then deliver on the promise.

Wrap Up

There are several ways to keep your audience interested to the end, and leave them smiling while you’re taking your bows. One effective way is to summarize, perhaps with bullet points, the main ideas you presented. State the ‘take away’ in bold. Another is to close with a memorable anecdote that encapsulates the “moral of the story.”

Or, you can just say “Thanks for listening; I hope you got something useful out of what I had to say.” You’ll know soon enough whether they were happy they spent time with you. You’ll see traffic increase or fall. Revenue will rise or stay flat. Or, blunt comments – pro and con – will tell you whether or not you hit the mark.

Video’s Big Secret

It’s overlooked and underutilized and it’s capable of helping achieve the Big C.

Psssst. Listen up. I’m going to say this quietly so only a few of you can hear. We can’t let this secret out to everyone yet; just you, dear reader, the top performers in your industry who read this magazine. Ready? This is a HUGE secret. Okay, here it is.

Video converts well.

Yeah, that’s the big secret. I’m guessing that right now you’re about to flip the page to the next article because you are thinking one of these things:

  • I can’t afford to do video
  • It’s too hard to do video
  • My customers don’t want to see video

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Keep reading.

If you’re not using video either as a merchant or even as an affiliate, you’re missing out on converting beyond your “mildest” dreams. No, not “wildest dreams”; video isn’t the panacea to all of your online challenges, but it’s just quite possibly the most overlooked and underutilized tool in your utility belt.

Let’s backtrack a bit to clarify a point. I think performance marketing needs a new tagline. has “the Big O,'” so let’s just steal that phrase and change the O to a C. The Big C! CONVERSIONS!

Performance marketing is all about conversions. You merchants reading this know it and your affiliates do too. I can tell you for sure that those elusive super-affiliates out there know about the Big C, and if you want to eventually get them to put a saddle on your horse, you’re going to have to prove to them you can convert – better.

So what do you do to convert better as an online merchant? Maybe you streamlined your shopping cart process, or you tried adding free shipping with a coupon, or even added some personalization tools to help conversions soar. And maybe those things worked.

But why not try video?

According to Alexis Martin, owner of, a niche business that sells Cuban clothing and items, the recent video they ran on their home page provided a 287 percent return on investment.

“Our video outperformed Yahoo, MSN and Google PPC, plus my newsletter,” Martin says. “Our average order from the video promotion was $118, and overall it represented 9.61 percent of my sales in that month.”

Not too shabby, huh? But was it as simple as throwing a video clip on his home page? Sort of. And did it break his checking account to have it made and delivered? Not really. worked with a technology called inPerson, an on-screen video tool created by Rovion, Inc. The company’s website says that “Rovion’s patent-pending inPerson technology enables websites to come alive with highly compelling and literally out-of-the-box streaming video messages … leading to increased response rates, recognition, retention and revenues.”

Let me translate that from cyborg corporate- speak so it’s easy to understand for all you non-techies out there: They help you record cool video messages to play back on your website that your visitors dig, man. Now pass the Cheetos, dude.

Remember, it’s all about the Big C, right? Let’s continue. recently tested out the inPerson video for a Mother’s Day promotion. The results were a 78 percent increase in revenue. Call it whatever you want – hokey or a novelty – but it’s hard to argue with an increase like that.

Len Ostroff, CEO of Rovion, hit the nail on the head. “Whether we’re working with a Fortune 50 company or a start-up, inPerson videos create recognition, revenues, retention and most importantly, ROI,” he wrote in an email.

ROI, indeed.

So Why Video, Why Now?

Technology is flattening the media landscape, and that’s a good thing. Blogging grew out of advanced content management solutions (CMS) that eliminated the gatekeepers and put the power of instant publishing into the hands of the masses.

Technology is doing the same thing for video and 2006 will be the first year in which we’ll see that flower blossom into full bloom, from video ads through Google AdWords and even self-created video by the likes of, where anyone can make a movie, upload it and share it with the world.

Video works online because it’s simple, people use the Internet and they watch television. Using video on your website as a sales tool adds to the user’s experience, and it gets attention ” and attention helps convert.

What about affiliates? Can they use video to convert?

Gone are the days that affiliates can afford to throw up banner ads and expect to earn a living. Super-affiliates know this, and they’re already beginning to incorporate video tools like Rovion into their very own websites. Remember, as a successful affiliate, you have to convert too, sometimes even better than the merchants you promote.

Affiliates who pay-per-click arbitrage know how risky it is to pay for clicks in hopes of a sale. That’s why they’ll do anything they can to help convert their own traffic before they pass them along to the merchant.

Jeremy Palmer of understands conversions are an important piece to the successful affiliate’s methodology, but doesn’t think affiliates are ready for video just yet.

“I predict affiliates will be slow to adopt video ads because of time and production costs,” Palmer says. “My winning formula is good writing, text links and graphics that are easy on the eyes. But video is something my team has been looking at this year.”

You heard that right folks, Jeremy Palmer, who made over $1 million dollars in commissions last year (see article on page 90), just said that he’s got his eye on video technologies to help his online affiliate businesses.

Now I ask you, is video still not something you want to look into this year as a merchant or even as an affiliate? Stop worrying about costs and stop thinking it’s too hard. Sure, it’s not bargain basement cheap, and no, it’s not as easy as creating a banner ad, but you know what? All good things are never cheap and easy. I can guarantee you one thing: One of your competitors is looking into it as we speak.

Your online performance marketing business + video = a smart move to increase conversions.

My job is done. I leave you now with a truly geeky quote from Jedi Master Yoda that I hope will inspire you.

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Now excuse me while I go and concentrate on using the Force to delete all my blog comment spam.

JIM KUKRAL is the publisher of, the thought-shaping group blog, not the magazine you’re reading. He is also the vice president of branding and marketing at Forge Corporation.

The Power of List Building

Any marketer who has achieved business success in the long term – either online or off – strongly agrees with the old saying, “The money is in the list.” Indeed most marketers view their lists as the foundation for their success and their most valuable business asset.

However, despite an almost endless supply of tutorials and testaments to the incredible value of list building, most new affiliate marketers still aren’t adding those precious email capture forms to their sites. They fail to either grasp the concept of long-term visitor value, or think that list building does not apply to them.

Many of the list-less affiliates with whom I consult assert that setting up a list, generating ideas for content and publishing a regular newsletter will be difficult and time-consuming, or simply “too much work.” Let me dispel the notion that list setup and publishing are even slightly onerous tasks.

It takes all of one minute to grab form code from an autoresponder service like AWeber, another minute to place the code on a page and perhaps five minutes to tweak it to the site’s look and feel. Alternatively, those without HTML skills may choose to spend those seven minutes writing a project outline to have an e-lance Web designer do all the “hard work.”

Regular publishing is even easier than list setup, especially for bloggers who use AWeber’s RSS to email capabilities. All you have to do is add the feed URL into the Feed Broadcaster form blank and set delivery parameters. You choose whether to broadcast your message each time you post or wait until two to seven more entries have been posted. Next choose between automatic or manual delivery.

Generating ideas is the real stumbling block. Here are 10 ways to constantly come up with ideas for fresh content:

1. Solve a Problem
Identify and make a list of problems that are common to visitors in your niche market and get busy writing solutions. For example, an affiliate who promotes jewelry might suggest alternatives for those with allergies to certain metals; explain how to remove scratches from silver; and how to avoid fake diamond ripoffs. To learn about your subscribers’ problems, visit forums where they hang out and build a comprehensive list of the questions they ask.

2. Create a Series of Top-10 Tips
People love to read lists of helpful tips from which they can glean a useful nugget or three. Better yet, these lists are easy to write. To get your brain in gear, start with the base title “Top 10 Tips to ____,” then add one of following words: Improve, Save, Create, Choose, Prepare, Start, Better or Prevent and feel how the creative juices suddenly start to flow. Build your own list of add-on words or complete article titles to use when you need inspiration and ideas. Tip lists can be delivered tip by tip and day by day via your autoresponder series or written as one complete article.

3. Write a Tutorial
Do you promote a product that involves a learning curve for new users? Then consider writing a tutorial that takes your readers step by step through one element of that product’s functionality. If you sell digital cameras, you could write an article entitled “How to Remove Red-Eye from Your Digital Photographs Online.” As this type of tutorial likely will involve graphics, it’s the perfect opportunity to bring visitors back to your site to “see” the process. As a result, exposure to your site increases, as will your search engine rankings.

4. Send Out Your Latest Product Review
As an affiliate marketer, you regularly review products for inclusion on your sites. The next time you write an endorsement, write a brief summary that emphasizes the product’s benefits and send that out as your newsletter. Keep this tactic to a minimum, as overuse will sour readers and increase unsubscriptions.

5. Provide Public Feedback to Visitor Questions
When a visitor or subscriber asks you a question on a topic that has not been discussed on your site, publish both the question and your answer in your newsletter. If you want to use the name of the person who submitted the question, be sure you get their permission to do so.

6. Interview an Expert or Happy Customer in Your Niche
Other than the time involved in preparing for and conducting an interview, then producing a transcript from audio if required, interviews are a highly valuable source of free content. Adding expert or customer advice and opinion to your publishing mix enhances both your credibility and authority.

7. Look for Clues in Merchant Correspondence
Some merchants write highly informative affiliate newsletters. Look for mentions of significant industry developments, product changes and snippets that might have entertainment value for your readers. Summarize the most interesting points in your newsletter or your blog and be sure to include a link to that merchant’s product!

8. Stay Informed and Share Your Opinion
Subscribe to industry-related feeds and newsletters and review them daily. Sign up for Google Alerts to receive automatic notification by email when there are new results for search terms you specify. Subscribe to your competitors’ news as well. When breaking news occurs, digest the event in your own words and add your opinion. Always aim to be the first to inform your subscribers of significant events in your niche.

9. Celebrate the Holidays
Acknowledge and incorporate upcoming holidays and events into your messages. At Christmastime, affiliates in the financial sector could spin a generic “10 Money-Saving Tips” article into “10 Ways to Save Money this Christmas” or “How to Avoid the January Credit Card Blues.” Dating service affiliates can tap in to the loneliness that some singles feel at that time of year and write the seasonal “Give Yourself the Gift of Love this Christmas.”

10. Repurpose Your Content
When ideas for new content have started to wane, it’s time to review and repurpose your previously written material. Dig one up, dust it off and spin a slightly different twist on the subject. Give an old article a shiny new title, introduction and summary. Or, do what recording artists do and produce a “gold” version that links to your 10 best articles or blogs on a specific theme.

To guarantee that you won’t be at a loss for ideas when newsletter-publishing day arrives, start building a list of topics and article titles and save it to a spreadsheet. Get in the habit of making notes on that spreadsheet whenever an idea for a new topic, or additional content for an existing topic, pops to mind. Build a list of generic “fill in the blank” article titles such as “How to Handle _______,” “Questions and Answers about __________” and “Mastering the Art of __________” to spark your ideas.

Here’s the bonus tip for generating a rash of new ideas for newsletter content: Send a broadcast message to your subscribers and ask them to share their biggest problems or for their opinions on a particular topic. Not only will they respond to your request but they will also know that their input is valued.

Value, as always, is the key ingredient. When you give something of value, you get value in return; and nothing is more valuable than building that list of customers who trust your informed recommendations and turn to you to guide their online buying decisions.

ROSALIND GARDNER is a super-affiliate who’s been in the business since 1998. She’s also the author of The Super Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling Other People’s Stuff Online. Her best-selling book is available on Amazon and

Blurring the Lines

Recently, I posed my question to a diverse audience: “At your company, who is in charge of social media marketing? Raise your hand if it’s the marketing group.” A few hands went up. “The public relations team?” A few hands again. “Market research?” Once again, only a smattering of hands was raised. “So I guess most of you aren’t using social media at all?” I suggested. “Must be your lawyers are in charge.” That struck a chord. Laughter all round.

So, who’s in charge of social media marketing at your company? At many companies, no one’s in charge because the legal team is still assessing the risk. The first thing to do is to fi nd an appropriate executive to accept the risk. That tells the legal team that you’ve heard their advice but that you believe the business value of social media outweighs the downside. But who is that appropriate executive?

It’s Marketing

It seems obvious. If it’s social media marketing, shouldn’t you put the marketing folks in charge?

Perhaps, but whether that’s a smart decision depends on what kind of marketing people you have. Traditional brand marketers steeped in television advertising might struggle a bit with social media marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing has migrated online to be christened viral marketing, but most marketers have never lifted a finger to get customers to talk to other customers. Marketers accustomed to paying for advertised messages might be shocked at how much harder it is to foment word of mouth.

Social media marketing depends on your customers wanting to tell other customers something good about your product or service. What you’ve been paying media outlets to say about you won’t cut it. You need a message that is interesting, entertaining, appealing, and just plain hard to keep quiet about.

It’s rare that trained marketers pull this off. As discussed in my last column, Blendtec launched a terrific viral marketing video series, obliterating iPods and other unlikely objects in its blenders. But it was not a marketing plan that started the series – grinding up weird stuff was part of their product testing.

Marketers who’ve grown up screaming, “Act now and get, free, an ice crusher!” doubtless have little chance of getting their messages listened to, much less passed on.

It’s Public Relations

So, if not marketers, then should it be public relations? Or Corporate Communications, as they so often like to be known nowadays? Good reasons exist for such a decision.

PR folks have long faced the problem of enticing others to pass along their messages. PR people have spent their careers talking editors, producers, and reporters into covering their “news” and getting customers to pass along a story seems like a similar challenge.

Moreover, social media requires listening, not just talking, which any good publicist knows how to do. Tracking what’s being said about your company in cyberspace is just as important as in mainstream media. Someone who knows how to respond to a media crisis has valuable skills that can be employed when the blogosphere and message boards light up over some issue.

But PR people have limitations, too. For one thing, they tend to respond to a problematic press story based on how much influence the source possesses. They burn the midnight oil when the New York Times prints something, but don’t break a sweat when it’s the Picayune Press. That approach works fi ne for mainstream media, but it’s harder to judge the effect of a customer’s opinion in the social media space.

A public relations professional might not be the best person to assess its influence.

It’s Market Research

So, who could gauge the importance of a customer’s opinion? Perhaps market researchers, because they have spent their lives understanding customer feedback – divining the importance of opinions based on prevalence.

Market researchers use focus groups, surveys, and other techniques to tease statistical signifi cance from the noise of customer feedback. They collate the information and analyze it so that your company can take action. Surely that’s the right kind of experience, yes?

Well, maybe not. After all, market researchers are great at listening but not terribly experienced with sending messages. They don’t know how to convince an audience, preferring to find out what the audience thinks without contaminating their opinions. Marketing depends on getting customers to buy what you are selling, which requires some persuasive powers.

It Requires Cooperation

So, we’re back to where we started. Social media marketing requires the persuasiveness of a marketer, the media savvy of a PR pro, and the listening ability of a market researcher, all rolled into one. Now, maybe you’ve got someone like that lying around at your company, but I’d call that a long shot. What can you do instead?

Break down the walls. It’s not easy, but social media marketing, like many types of Internet marketing, require that you abandon the traditional barriers that cordon off each profession from one another.

Perhaps you need your market research people to learn to use reputation monitoring technology to listen to the Internet conversation about your company. They can use their well-honed analytics expertise to assess the meaning and importance of what your customers are saying.

Then you need your communications people to step in. Some of that Internet chatter might be coming from blogs – your PR folks can help you treat them like press. But they can also use their experience to concoct the kinds of messages that customers will pass along.

Your marketing team can work with the market researchers to understand what kinds of stories might persuade your target markets, and your PR folks can help design them. In fact, IBM has just reorganized all three teams under the same executive – more companies might take that same approach.

Now, will having your teams work together solve all your social media challenges? Of course not. Even the best teamwork will leave you with normal challenges of crafting appealing social media campaigns. But at least you’ll have every possible person working together to do so.

Social Networking Bailout

Our politicians, along with Wall Street, a few bankers and some mortgage firms may be able to take our money, but they can’t take away our friends. In fact, our friends may be all we have left someday. There’s no doubt that the crisis we face today financially and otherwise will test our mettle as small business owners and brands.

So in tough times what can we do? Well, if you’re like me you turn to quoting Lennon/McCartney and say, “We’ll get by with a little help from our friends.” Once again, the Beatles solve all the world’s problems.Of course, you see where I’m going here,right? Social media will save us, if we use it wisely. Think about it. Social media at its core is simply friends and associates, using media tools to connect with each other in different ways – online.

It’s nothing new. Well, the “Web” part is. But in all actuality, social media always existed, even before the Web. Think about neighborhood watch meetings where everyone in your community came together at someone’s house to discuss crime in your neighborhood. It’s still happening, but today, that kind of thing can be done on Facebook, Myspace, or Ning, virtually as well. What about getting together with your friends at a local coffee shop to chat with each other about your lives, or to recommend an auto mechanic or dentist? That’s still happening, but now it’s also happening on Twitter and Pownce.

Social media extends our interactions and widens the net so we can have even more friends and even more discussions. And that’s a good thing. Especially if you’re wise enough to build a diverse and strong network of people who you can count on in times of trouble.

Here’s how I think social media, and the power of friends can get us through tough times.

Career Advancement

At the time of writing this article, 4,000 jobs were just lost, here, in Cleveland, Ohio due to a bank that is closing down. That puts 4,000people scrambling to find a replacement job,with many looking in the same industry. But there are only a few available jobs in the area and now there are 4,000 more unemployed workers vying for those positions.

In such a competitive job market, I believe those that leverage social media will emerge with a job. For example: let’s says that Joe the Banker and Sarah the Banker are both seeking employment. Joe never bought into the whole social media scene. He never thought it was important to have “friends”online so he ignored building connections.Sarah, however, realized long ago the power of social media. She’s amassed hundreds of Twitter followers, and has just as many Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections.Not to mention her blog where she has a complete resume of her skills and full contact information.

The first day after Joe loses his job; he heads out to grab the morning newspaper and begins to scan the want ads. Maybe he also calls a few friends who might know of something, and he might even call a professional recruiter. His job search has begun.

Sarah, on the other hand, started the job search minutes after she was laid off. She immediately told all of her followers about it on Twitter. Minutes after that, she updated her profile on LinkedIn and notified every contact there that she was available and looking. Then she updated her Facebook status and wrote a blog entry about her experience and what kind of work she was looking for.

So who got the job quicker? Of course, it was Sarah. The power of social media enabled her to sneeze her message out to more people,faster than Joe could. Her associations with”friends” also enabled her to be recommended personally by someone who might have a connection inside a company she is hoping to work for. Joe, on the other hand, is still checking the classified ads.

Sales, Leads & Publicity, Oh My!

Small businesses are feeling the crunch too. Now, more than ever, it’s a challenge to keep your business going strong. Today, the stakes are higher with challenges such as making payroll and providing health benefits for your employees. Oh yeah, and while the same time finding a marketing budget to advertise your business.

The good news is, social media can help with that ad budget and do things for your small business that a billboard can’t. Online footwear retailer Zappos as an example of this. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, actively uses Twitter to communicate with thousands of customers about his brand. Visit to follow him. He also encourages his employees to use Twitter.There are more than 400 Zappos employees on Twitter.

At the time of this writing, Zappos on Twitter has just over 15,000 followers. That means that at any given moment, Zappos can instantly send out an update about their company to 15,000 people who are interested in their business – and it costs nothing. Let’s see, if you wanted to reach 15,000 targeted potential customers on radio or television,what do you think that would cost, and could you even measure it?

About 100 west of Boston there’s an Argentina Steakhouse called Caminito. Justin Levy runs the restaurant and realizes the power of social media. “Since we are a small restaurant in Northampton, Mass. we don’t have the ability to spend a lot on traditional print marketing. We allocate some funds to newspaper ads, travel books/guides, etc. but I tend to focus my energy on Internet-based advertising, social media, etc.”

That includes having a blog and actively using Twitter. Plus having a MySpace and Facebook page where they can post events,photos, menu items, specials and videos to let customers feel part of the experience.The results for Justin and his steakhouse(in addition to a lower ad spend) is a 20to 30 percent increase in customers since implementing the social media strategy.

There’s Still Time

I rejected social media when it first exploded onto the scene a few years ago. I was like Joe the Baker in my example above.I already had friends in the real world. I didn’t need more online. I rejected Twitter at first, and refused to setup a Facebook profile. I saw them as distractions.

It wasn’t until six months later I realized the enormous error in my judgment. Being social online using social networking tools is more than just having new friends to chat with. It’s about finding effective ways to build your brand and grow your business or your career through the immense power of friends.

You still have time. Don’t be Joe the banker. You can, in minutes, create many social media profiles and begin to help yourself through tough economic times.

Lights, Cameras, Action!

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Blendtec. I bet you are familiar with Blendtec and I bet I know how you first heard of their blenders – from their viral video series called “Will it blend?” That series, showing iPods and other unusual items being reduced to powder by a powerful blender, serves a strong branding message: If it can annihilate an iPod, it will make quick work of your smoothie.

Whatever people conclude, the videos are certainly working. Blendtec’s sales have quintupled since the start of the campaign. Total cost of all this marketing: a few thousand dollars for video equipment plus the cost of the objects destroyed. Every video viewed was the result of people passing them to their friends or finding them through search.

Videos provide the richest way to send a message to your customers, and they might cost less than you expect. Online videos can be targeted at far smaller audiences than TV commercials and cost nothing to distribute, unlike mailed DVDs. Online video is especially important to marketers targeting younger audiences – 42 percent of individuals between 18 and 34 watch video online at least once a week.

So how do you go about making your own online video? Here are five tips for making great online videos.

Keep it short. The shortest videos seem to be the most watched, with the highest viewership for clips between one and three minutes. Some popular video podcasts are five minutes long, and many are ten. Don’t make yours 30. Better to do a weekly 10-minute show than a monthly hour.

Use tight shots. Some people will watch your clips on iPods and other small screens, and even those that watch on their computers generally do it in a small window. So, when you shoot your video, use close-ups with your subjects. And forget widescreen mode – stick with standard mode.

Don’t move. Talking heads work best. Many fast-motion sequences will be lost on an iPod’s small screen.

Write big. When you add on-screen titles to your video, remember that text that looks fine while editing your video on your computer could be unreadable on the tiny iPod screen and small computer windows. Use text judiciously and in a large point size.

Watermark it. If your video is well done, people will share it, which is great. But if you don’t identify the site it’s from, people won’t know where to go for more.

You can’t expect to reach people with online video as easily as you would with a TV commercial. With TV, you merely choose the show that matches your target market, plunk down your cash, and your commercial runs. On the Web, customers usually find your video through search, so search marketing is crucial to getting your message seen.

The best way to do that is to optimize your videos for search. Google’s Universal Search and other blended search result pages have made it more important then ever to optimize your video clips for search.

The good news is that if you know how to optimize Web pages, you already know a lot about optimizing videos, because search engines don’t see the actual video images and can’t hear the audio soundtrack. So the page containing the video carries a lot of weight with search engines.

Place each video on a separate webpage, so that you can optimize that page with the keywords that best match the clip. As always, use those keywords in the title, the description, and the body (especially in headings). Include a short summary of the video’s contents within the body, or, even better, post a transcript of all the words spoken.

But there’s more. You must get the videos themselves indexed by search engines.Some search engines crawl videos, so place all your videos in the same directory, as close to the root directory as possible. If you’re producing a steady stream of videos, set up a Web feed for them, pinging the search engines each time you add a new clip. You can also use a Video Sitemap ( to get the same treatment for your videos that you get for your Web pages.

And don’t stop there. You can improve your search results further by following these four tips:

Use keyword-rich file names. Name your video files to show the search engine what they are about. If it is a demonstration of a product, name the file after that product, such as ipod-nano-demo.mpg. Don’t drone on with keyword after keyword in the name – keep it short, with just a couple of keywords.

Optimize your metadata. Videos can be encoded with metadata keywords within the “properties” of the video file itself, by tools such as Autodesk Cleaner ( Video search engines frequently rely on this information when deciding which videos to show in the search results (and in what order).

Submit your videos. Video sharing sites, such as Google’s YouTube (, allow you to post your videos right on their site. But you should reach farther than YouTube. Use TubeMogul ( to submit your clips to over a dozen sites simultaneously and to track their viewership. Use keyword-rich titles and descriptions on those sites – they’re just as important as on your Web pages-and tag them with keywords, also. Some video sharing sites allow a linkback to your Web site, so take advantage of that, too.

Publicize your video. If your clip is noteworthy, submit it to social bookmarking sites, email people who would be interested, and link to it from your blog or another Web page.

If you follow this advice, you’re sure to improve the visibility of your online videos.

But it’s not enough to optimize your videos for search, however. Just as getting a #1 ranking for a Web page does not get that page clicked, your video must be watched, not just found. How do you get people to watch what you’ve created? Learn to share. Ensure that videos posted, especially to social networking sites, are marked “public” rather than private.

Give your videos “curb appeal.” Some video sharing sites allow you some control over the image selected as its thumbnail image – the picture shown before the video is played. Select an attractive thumbnail. Emphasize what works. Pay attention to viewership metrics, so you can repeat techniques and themes that have succeeded with your customers in the past.

Video has become a force in Internet marketing. If you produce compelling videos, optimize them for search, and get them watched, the force will be with you.

The Importance of Follow-through

I am not a golfer- but I rented some clubs and hit at a driving range for the first time a few months ago. I had no clue what I was doing, but I happened to be standing next to someone who was in the middle of a lesson. I watched closely and tried to apply what the trainer was telling his student to make my swing better. After a few tries, I was consistently driving that sucker over 100 yards – with some sense of control to boot. I realize this is no great feat, but I was thrilled! This was much better than my initial attempts – some of which went backwards (don’t ask…).

Anyway – one of the main points the instructor kept mentioning was the importance of following through with the swing.

“You’re not following through,” “make sure you follow through,’ “what happened to the follow through?”

I began thinking about how follow through is critical for success in many sports. In basketball you have to follow through with your shot – in baseball you need to follow through with your swing.

Of course, the principal of follow through is not limited to sports, but I had not previously seen what a structured concept of following through would look like for the business of Web design. This became a topic of conversation at Sostre & Associates for quite some time. We pride ourselves on doing a great job of planning and consulting and developing so that a site is ready for launch, but the general consensus internally was that we could do a better job following through with that site after launch day.

With that in mind, we created a short checklist of tasks to perform post-launch for every website we create. These follow through items go beyond just making the site functional, and help ensure that it’s really successful.

Let the Data Design for You

One of the most important tenets of Conversion Design is to look past best guesses, best practices, and intuition. Oftentimes, the keen eye of an experienced designer can get things right most of the time, but proper use of your Web analytics data will steer you in the right direction all the time. Reviewing your website visitor data to discover what your users want, and then designing specifically for them is one of the most effective, and often overlooked, follow through activities you can engage in. I often recommend Google Analytics.

First, because it’s one of the most robust systems out there (especially at this pricepoint – free) and second because it allows you to schedule reports to be emailed to you daily, weekly, or monthly. This is a good way to get into the habit of reviewing your data regularly.

I also use Crazy Egg ( to run heatmaps whenever we make layout or non-standard content changes to a site. Heatmaps analyze visitor clicks to a page and display the data as brightly or dimly colored areas based on number of clicks. They help you see how visitors interact with your site in a whole new way and can illuminate common sense design flaws that you haven’t noticed before.

Keep it Fresh

I’ve seen it time and time again where a site launches and does really well, but then it doesn’t get updated for a while and performance starts to slip. Almost imperceptibly if you aren’t keeping close tabs. One of the reasons for this is that users start to get nervous if they feel like a site isn’t being updated or maintained. They get the impression that “no one is home”.

Update highly visible areas such as prominent photos or content on a regular basis. If your site isn’t the type that gets updated,consider including some automated sources such as displaying RSS feeds from related sources to help users feel like the site is up to date.

Keep the Traffic Coming

For the final point in our list, we all know that an optimized, up to date website does no one any good if users can’t find it. Therefore your follow through wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include monitoring your website’s status with the search engines.This includes evaluating and maintaining titles, descriptions, keywords and/or tags, backlinks, social bookmarking, and more.

With all the sites out there (Google, Digg, Technorati, etc”),it would be tough to follow through with every single one – lucky for us there are several services out therethat can provide the majority of this critical information about your site very quickly. You can try, or for examples. Running a report every quarter or so will help avoid any issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Just like sports, if you can learn to follow through consistently, your efforts will be much more successful. Remember that each site is different so you will want to add items to this list as time goes on.

Finally, for a quick follow-up – in the last issue, we showed how consulting firm, Think First, could use wireframes to spec out the content before moving to a full redesign.Their existing site looked nice, but offered almost no explanation of their services of unique value proposition.For good measure, we took some time this issue to finish the job by turning the wireframe into a full homepage mockup.

As you can see, the redesign stayed true to the wireframe and kept a lot of the same look and feel elements from the existing site. This is to show that a successful redesign isn’t always about colors and graphics.The core of Conversion Design is to display and organize the elements in such a way that they accomplish a desired goal. In this case – educating Think First visitors on what they have to offer.

Would you like to get your website made over for a future edition of By Design Makeover? Send your name, company, contact information (phone, email, etc.), a brief description of your business and its goals, and, of course, your URL to Please put “Revenue’s By Design Makeover” in the subject line.

YouTube Should Get Down to Business

According to the U.S. Census Bureau,there are nearly six million businesses in the United States. Think about the enormity of that number.That’s billions and billions of dollars in revenue generation every year. That’s also six million businesses that all require the same basic nourishment to survive – marketing and sales.

If you’re one of those six million businesses, there’s no way around one basic fact – if you want sales; you need marketing. There’s simply too much competition in the global marketplace to survive without marketing. Even items like water, a basic life essential that has always been free, is now big business. But water is also heavily marketed. The messages are that it is “the freshest” or the “finest natural spring” water in an attempt to convince consumers to choose a specific brand.

And right now the old (or shall I say, traditional) methods of advertising and marketing are beginning to fade away or take a new shape. For my money, that new shape is online video. However, some of the biggest names in video have yet to fully embrace the medium as a highly effective marketing platform. And, yes, I’m talking about YouTube. You know, that little company owned by the other little company called Google? I target “Goo-Tube” because it’s just not being very innovative these days.

Case in point, Google executives recently came out and said the company doesn’t know how to make money with YouTube. Gasp! Google doesn’t know how to make money? That’s certainly not the innovative company I know.

So here’s my plan for Google to get back some of that innovative spirit it seems to have misplaced – YouTube Business. It’s the innovation YouTube should build if it wants to start making money right away,and at the same time, explicitly lock up almost every business on the planet into a long-term subscription based plan. Sergey, don’t try pretending that the plan isn’t Google global dominance. We all know the score.

There’s no doubt that every company that does marketing in the future is going to find it necessary to have some type of video on its website. Those videos are either going to be commercials or infomercials. Product demonstrations, training guides, video spokespeople and customer testimonials are just a few examples of video elements consumers are beginning to expect from businesses.

Currently, there really isn’t any place for a business to quickly, easily and cost-effectively post their business video content. Companies could invest in third-party hosting, but that requires figuring out how to create a proprietary Flash player to stream videos. But, more importantly, videos hosted on YouTube will definitely benefit from being indexed into Google’s universal search.

The bottom line – even for large companies – is that it’s much easier to have a single site or repository specifically to host business video content. That type of site also solves all the issues associated with the complexities and hurdles of video including streaming, compression, and quality, etc.

It’s All About Subscriptions

But there’s no point in building something that isn’t going to generate a profit. After all, this is business we’re talking about. For the sake of this argument, let’s conservatively estimate there are 1 million businesses ready to sign up today to this new YouTube Business channel (why wouldn’t they?). Let’s say that YouTube Business charged each one of those 1 million businesses $100 per month to host their videos. That’s $1,200 a year per company multiplied by 1 million accounts. That equals $1.2 billion a year. That’s not a bad business model.

So the real question is…would a business pay $100 a month to have its videos hosted at YouTube? I say, yes! They’d pay that in a heartbeat and here’s why:

  • Universal search integration for videos that meet “requirements”
  • The ability to remove the YouTube branded logo on the player allows the business to both stream the video on YouTube, as well as on their website
  • Full HD capability, if wanted
  • Long-form videos (allowing videos up to two hours in length)
  • Maintaining brand equity by segregation from amateurish and inappropriate videos in the general population
  • Unlimited views
  • Trend tracking and analytics
  • Private community
  • Custom-branded business channel pages

I like to think of an innovation as something that is created out of a need. Sure, sometimes innovations “just happen”, but most of the time, someone is trying to solve a problem. In this case, YouTube has a BIG problem. It can’t make money.

It’s time for someone at YouTube to stop worrying about skateboarding videos and start thinking real practical money-making innovations that solve problems for millions of revenue generating, and spending, businesses. It’s time for YouTube Business.

If you’re interested in learning more details or giving me your thoughts, you can read the entire plan at

Affiliates are Bullish

With the U.S. dollar sinking to new lows, oil and gold attaining new heights, and both food and gasoline prices rising quickly: corporate CEO’s, the media and government officials finally acknowledged what millions have seen coming for years – the U.S. economy is in BIG trouble – and the future looks bleak.

As expected, those hit hardest by the current downturn are working people. During uncertain financial times, people without jobs don’t spend money, while those who do have jobs tend to cut back on discretionary spending and postpone larger purchases, which doesn’t sound like a happy prospect for those of us who want to sell to them.

However, there are many ways for affiliates to survive and even thrive during a recession and diversification is typically the first key to continued prosperity. Fortunately for most affiliate marketers, making the leap from promoting luxury items to recession-proof products that consumers use regardless of their economic status or level of income is fairly simple. We can add new products to our current mix or start pumping out content on a new domain, join some affiliate programs, ramp up the marketing and be in a new business in relatively short order.

So, if your commissions from the sale of cars, diamonds and fur coats have been falling off of late, here area number of recession-proof product and service suggestions for your consideration.

Job Search: Although the employment market is perpetual, during a tough economy, mergers, acquisitions and layoffs all inevitably lead to more job seekers. Point your visitors to career websites such as where they’ll find millions of job postings along with general career advice and help to prepare for interviews. pays a buck for each new resume posted and 50 cents for each new My Monster account created.

Resume Preparation Services: As many of your job-seeking visitors will find it difficult to get an interview because they don’t have experience or their resume is out-of-date, you should also tell them how they will benefit by using a service to beef up their resume. Some services, such as, have market-specific offerings such as military transition resumes, a niche which CEO Frederic Thom reports was marked by a sudden increase in February. pays commissions of 12.5 percent to 25 percent and their resume writing package prices top out at $357.90 for executive level positions., which pays 12 percent and powers the resume writing services of The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, HotJobs, and The U.S. Air Force is another option to consider.

Education: After all the stops have been pulled out and the job search still fails to pan out, many people choose to stay in school or return to school to beef up their education and subsequent chances for finding a job. Companies with affiliate programs in the education field include those that help with college and university placements as well as scholarship search, which provides direct assistance to students with college education funding. Online training to improve basic computer skills or those which are geared toward technical certifications like Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco and Novell as is offered through (ShareASale) are becoming increasingly popular. You might also consider promoting language-learning programs such as Rosetta Stone (available through CJ) for those of your visitors who decide to flee the country in search of brighter economic prospects.

Business Opportunities: While there is never any shortage of those seeking business opportunities, an increasing unemployment rate makes this market even more potentially lucrative, especially for those who have had business success and can teach others how business is done. In addition to selling instructional information products in the form of ebooks, podcasts, webinars and conferences to new entrepreneurs; affiliates can make bank promoting productivity and marketing tools as well as office supplies. Almost every business needs business cards and PsPrint, a CJ merchant that pays 15 percent commissions, has a staggering 3-month EPC of $521.15. When individuals eventually decide to form their own business and incorporate, you can promote American Incorporators $299.00 incorporation packages for a tidy 34 percent commission.

Tax Preparation and Filing Services:Economic slowdown or not, the tax man cometh every year and helping your visitors find additional spending money through deductions can be very lucrative. With more than 138 million taxpayers filing taxes online in 2007, industry experts expect 2008 to be the most popular year for filing federal income tax online – until the 2009 tax season. Several IRS authorized merchants can be found at Commission Junction, including TurboTax, H&R Block and Tax Brain, the latter of which pays a 30 percent commission on all their products, including a premium tax preparation service which costs $69.95.

Health Care: Workers that have just lost their employer-sponsored health plans will need to buy health insurance while they have no preexisting conditions and are still eligible. When you partner with, which has relationships established with over 160 health insurance carriers, you’ll earn $40.00 for each health insurance application submitted for an individual or family. Assurant Health pays up to $78.00 per lead and both Commission Junction merchants have 120-day cookies.

Budgeting and Debt Reduction:Helping folks reduce or consolidate their debt load and save money is always appreciated and the subject matter is relevant to almost any niche in which you are currently working. Partner with merchants that offer secured credit cards, debt consolidation services and help with foreclosures; and consider converting your weekly newsletter to a daily “Money-Saving Tips” or “Coupons and Deals” broadcast to gain additional traffic and branding for your site.

Entertainment and Vices: While the wise eliminate frivolous expenses during tough times, those less disciplined tend to seek more escape from reality through various forms of entertainment. So, if you were ever inclined to go the porn route, now might be the time. If that holds no appeal for you, try adding sports, concert, and theater tickets to your mix. (CJ) pays 7 percent commissions on gross transactions that are typically in the $450.00 range.

While the suggested items above don’t represent an exhaustive list of recession-proof products and services, it should get you thinking about options that will at least keep your affiliate business profitable during the recession. So, ignore the purveyors of doom and gloom. There are always ways to thrive during the hard times, if you are perceptive and swift. Choose to see opportunity and profit where others see only potential for loss and failure and use the recession as a compelling reason to diversify and grow your affiliate business.

Growing in an Unhealthy Climate

Economists, politicians and media types are no longer arguing whether or not the economy is in a recession. Instead most are debating how long it will last.

If recent trends continue, the prognosis is relatively dismal for real estate values, gas prices and the unemployment rate. And as corporations and consumers grow frugal, cutbacks in advertising threaten the vitality of everything from cable operators to newspapers. Internet analysts, wondering about the ripple effect on the industry, offer a variety of opinions. While some think a recession would not have any affect on online advertising and marketing, others feel that it could have a significant impact – negative or positive – on the sector.

Slashed traditional advertising budgets are already apparent. TNS Media Intelligence found that ad spending in the fourth quarter of 2007 declined .1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2006.

But a Direct Marketing Association’s Quarterly Business Review survey in the fourth quarter of 2007 uncovered good news for online marketers: 50 percent said they would increase email marketing, 44 percent would increase database segmentation and 35 percent would increase spending on search engine optimization in 2008. And PQ Media found that spending on alternative media such as social networks, lead generation advertising and consumer-generated media is expected to grow by 20.2 percent in 2008 to $88.24 billion.

These findings reflect a long held belief that there will be a shift of marketing dollars from traditional media to the Web. Some believe this move would protect online companies from feeling the effects of a recession. Standard & Poor’s Internet analyst Andy Liu noted at the company’s 2008 Media Summit that he expects online ad revenues to grow by 20 percent this year – recession or not.

However, not all indicators (or analysts) are so bullish. In March, market researcher eMarketer lowered its estimates for U.S. online advertising market by nearly $2 billion, predicting that it will grow $25.8 billion, as opposed to $27.5 billion, in 2008.

Ability to Measure

Advertisers are shifting online to not only reach their audience, but because Internet advertising costs less and is trackable. Founder of Seer Interactive, Wil Reynolds, predicts a trend where any medium that offers less tracking will lose dollars to areas that offer more accountable results. Effectiveness can be measured by clicks, impressions, registrations and purchases, which are very attractive to bean-counting advertisers.

Brad Waller, vice president of business and affiliate development for, points out that General Motors, the country’s third largest advertiser, announced it is shifting half of its $3 billion budget into digital and one-to-one marketing within the next three years. He claims this is the beginning of things to come, noting that the market online is growing faster than any other spend.

Founder of, Tim Storm, says online advertising can be measured but offline initiatives, like direct mail, can’t be tracked. Online campaigns offer ROI down to the penny – so advertisers don’t wonder where their budgets were spent.

Paying for Performance

Even more appealing during belt-tightening days is performance marketing, where advertisers only have to pay when there is an action that is commissionable or measurable. Storm says he thinks there will be a shift of spending toward performance marketing, as opposed to advertising on a CPM basis. He doesn’t think Internet advertising will be affected by the recession as long as advertisers don’t look at the spending as a budgeted line item – which tips the scales in favor of performance marketing.

Online marketing consultant Sam Harrelson agrees that CPM big budget ad buys will suffer in 2008 and performance marketing will continue to increase its reach, effectiveness and popularity.

In fact, the Interactive Advertising Bureau statistics for the first half of 2007 indicate that "CPM deals" were replaced by "performance deals" as the leading pricing model for Internet advertising. In 2006, CPM deals comprised 48 percent of the overall total while performance deals (such as CPA) were at 46 percent. However, in 2007, performance deals made up 50 percent of deals while CPM fell to 45 percent.

There is evidence that performance marketing initiatives such as paid search are becoming more popular. found that 48 percent of all U.S. online advertising spending in 2007 went toward paid search, and predictions are even higher for 2008.

Paid Search

Although paid search is considered more resistant to cuts than other advertising because it’s performance based, some think it is not immune to decreased spending. Advertisers could reason that people are less likely to surf the Internet for potential purchases during an economic downturn.

In March, comScore, the Internet ratings firm, reported that Google’s paid clicks fell .3 percent between January 2007 and January 2008, even as the number of searches rose 40 percent in the same period. As recently as April, Google’s ad clicks were rising at a 60 percent clip.

The industry panicked that Google, considered a bellwether for the overall sector, was being affected by the cyclical economic forces of the overall market.

It’s possible that Google is tightening the reins on clicks to combat click fraud and generate better clicks in general. And Hitwise found that the percentage of traffic going from Google to retail shopping sites is actually increasing. Since the bulk of paid search advertising is shopping related, the Hitwise data draws a different conclusion than the comScore data.

But cost per click has its challenges – there continues to be big inflation numbers. As more folks jump in, the costs get higher.

It’s possible that there won’t be less activity in paid search but there might be less money spent on bids. Seer Interactive’s Reynolds offers an example: the same number of marketers could bid on a term like "mortgage" but spend less money doing it. So if in the past a marketer paid $1,000 for 10 leads that convert, today that $1,000 dollars would only buy five leads.

Reynolds doesn’t believe this will cause marketers to abandon paid search, but thinks it could cause them to lower their bid to spend $750 for those five bids – reasoning that "smart marketers always will spend up until they max out their ROI." Interestingly enough, Reynolds says the saved $250 isn’t likely to go to buy radio or display ads. From what he has seen, people looking to rein in their paid search move into SEO as their next step.

Reynolds has seen shopping and e-commerce people moving from paid to SEO – and believes the affiliate space might have a good fallout as well because the closer a marketing channel is tied to results, the easier it will be for managers to get funding for it.

Survival of the Fittest

Google has boomed over the past few years because of search engine marketing – so it is possible that search engines will fare well during an economic downturn if paid search continues to be popular. Yahoo, Google, MSN and AOL have worked to become one-stop shops for advertisers by building up ad networks with targeting and tracking capabilities. David Hallerman, eMarketer senior analyst, notes that when "the portal is both destination and network, perhaps advertisers can get all they need without straying – at least that’s what the Big Four hope for."

Many niche sites have flourished while they get better at improving targeting to meet the needs of their clients. Reynolds says that vertical sites, if they can show ROI for marketers (even with less traffic) will start to get dollars if markets like Google become to expensive to play in.

Specific verticals that offer people a way out of a bad situation such as employment sites, job training sites, and mortgage refinance loans and debt consolidation sites like LowerMyBills, could become more in demand. Also well positioned are sites that offer people efficiencies in a weak economy such as comparison shopping engines and coupon sites.

FatWallet’s Storm believes that coupon sites could fare well this year – he points out that some of FatWallet’s best years were during the last downturn of 2001 and 2002. When the economy is in a slump, people gravitate towards being more cost conscious. For example, Storm has read reports that the craft industry does well because people make their own quilts – it is both entertainment and fulfills a need.

So far this year, Storm has not noticed any spending shifts – booms or drop offs – for FatWallet. Electronics and technology continue to be FatWallet’s strong categories as do other categories like Health & Beauty and eBay.

Insurance is another sector well positioned to weather an economic storm. Jon Kelly, president of SureHits, an ad network for insurance and loans, thinks it could increase because consumers are adopting the Internet as a primary means of buying insurance. Even technology laggards, who in the past surfed the Internet to find the best quote but picked up the phone to complete the transaction, are purchasing through e-commerce.

Another reason for Kelly’s bullish prognosis: "When the economy turns rough, people start looking for the best deals on insurance and they turn to the Web to do it." Kelly explains that auto and home insurance look particularly strong over the next few years because consumer demand for them does not drop in a recession – car insurance is mandated by law and home insurance is mandated by mortgage companies.

Kelly predicts that there will be increased Internet spending by insurance companies as the battleground for customers moves online. He thinks the areas where they will increase spending are paid search and affiliate and ad networks with a strong vertical focus like IndustryBrains, Quigo and SureHits Ad Network.

AdJungle’s Waller has seen record growth on its classifieds site, EPage – with 30 percent growth in revenue with January 2008 over January 2007 and an increase in the average revenue per user. He has seen growth in areas that want to get rid of excess inventory and says that in a tight market, people buy more items used than new. Listings for home-based businesses that offer ways to earn extra income are popular – like "how to make money from your laptop."

EPage makes money from advertisers paying for more exposure, as opposed to getting a cut of the purchase price. Advertisers pay to have their ad ranked higher on the page – when advertisers have success; they are willing to pay more.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that real estate would be hard hit in a recession. But Michael Stark, the founder and president of, says that just because the housing market is tanking doesn’t mean there will be a negative effect on the online real estate vertical.

His real estate sites focus on the for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) market, which accounts for approximately 15 percent of U.S. real estate and says that traffic to his sites continues to grow despite the recession because of the focus on enabling the "do it yourself " FSBO movement. In fact, the crumbling prices, slow sales and a credit crunch in 2008 will make the FSBO option attractive to an increasing number of buyers and sellers.

Foreclosures are good for Stark’s sites because more postings mean more inventory, which means more advertising for his sites. Advertisers on Stark’s sites include people trying to sell their house, brokers, agents and lenders looking for new business.

Waller says that lead generation companies like Epic Advertising (formerly Azoogle), XY7, CPA Empire and Leadpiles could do well because people are buying and selling leads for real estate.

Performance marketers should feel confident that their industry is well positioned to weather a recession although things could get a bit tougher. Affiliates might get scrutinized more heavily – marketers don’t want to pay affiliate commissions if they find evidence that a paid search campaign created the sale. "Many marketers are estimating the ‘influence’ of their affiliates and zeroing out commission when other marketing campaigns are involved," Lee Gientke writes on

Some industry watchers say that marketing will move more in-house as knowledge of how to do search or affiliate marketing continues to spread out into wider communities instead of just specialized networks or agencies.