Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Non Profit Online Marketing

Since I run a successful online service firm, I'm often consulted by friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends...well, you get the idea.... about how to help non profits enter and use the online world.

Fortunately, I like to help. So please keep those questions coming. First, I'll quote an article by Victoria Linssen of the Non Profit Times:

Most nonprofits are still communicating at, rather than with, donors. They create Web sites with no ability for donors to add content, comments, or suggestions.

Here's a brief summary of the steps a non-profit should make to take advantage of the new media.

1. Get a website built. Then improve it. Then improve it again. Do not let budget or technical issues get in your way. Today, your web presence is more important than of those printed newsletters or brochures. So budget your time and money accordingly. Hire and rate your team accordingly. Sure, you hire people who are great writers, but do you check on their online skills? Here's the good news. You can find a local agency that will do it gratis. But, think about maintenance issues, how much exposure you are giving them, and discuss the issue with agency up front. This article is too brief to really touch on design and refinement issues but take the point of view that the website is supposed to do something (attract visitors, educate visitors, solicit volunteers, produce new volunteers, produce new members, solicit contributions etc) and measure it's effectiveness at those tasks.

2. Inventory the skills of your board, chief donors, volunteers, docents, and staff. You might find that you have some real expertise in online marketing. Find out who has skills in MySpace or Facebook. Many nonprofits are using these to build communities. Maybe you have people with experience with blogs and forums from their hobbies. Or skills in digital graphics. Build a working group of people interested in building an online presence.

3. Start publishing an online newsletter. Find a vendor or technology to send it out professionally. You can re-use much of the content from your usual print newsletters to start but you'll find, given the economics of a newsletter, that it's cheaper to send them out and people prefer short ones. So many nonprofits switch from a quarterly print newsletter to a monthly or twice monthly email newsletter. Write the newsletter soliciting feedback and comments and always acknowledge each comment that you get (give an email address for easy feedback). By the way, you should use an outside agency to send out your emails once you get a list bigger than a hundred. It is more complicated than you would think to manage such a list well. I hooked up a non profit that I'm involved with (Feeding Broward) with a local email firm that provides the service for free. I use Aweber for my business and others that I see are mailermailer.com

4. Add a blog or forum to your website. Put the newsletter articles on the blog. Invite people to comment. Maybe use the blog as the newsletter (look at how this is done on Vocabulary is Fun) where the blog articles are the newsletter.. You might take our Blog Writing Course to get the blog off to the right start. Or, you can start a forum and have people discuss the issues that your charity is supposed to address. If you are a homeless shelter, why not invite people to discuss the issues on your forum? Heck, why not invite some of your clients to post their stories on the forum? If you are a women's art museum, why not invite every group that visits to give their comments online? At the same time, you could ask them to forward your info to any contacts that they have that might be interested....

5. Get some free online traffic. Google has a great grant program which gives non profits free traffic. You basically pick which search terms you would like your advertisements to appear next to and google gives you a grant to have your advertisement posted for free.

6. Be active online. Daily. Join and maintain your listing in all the non-profit clearinghouses online such as the Charity Navigator, Charity.com, and CharityGuide (to name a few). And network online leaving your name and link as part of it. For instance, if you are a non-profit reading this article, you might leave a comment about how it helped you or what else could be mentioned. You could mention how your 401c3 is using the virtual world. I, and others, might notice your signature and go see what your charity is about. And zoheee, you solicited a new visitor to your site learning about your mission and potentially, getting involved. You can also comment in appropriate forums. Many newspapers and magazines now publish articles online and when they are in area of expertise, comment.

This is a start. This is version 1.1 of this article. I intend to polish and extend it. By the way, there is a great article up on the BlogWritingCourse's blog looking at blogs and non-profits.

Blog Writing Class

I think there are a great number of people ready and interested in blogging as a new hobby, a way to make friends, and a way to explore their interests and skills. To unleash this potential, I have created a blog writing course for beginners. I think it would make a great gift for your mother or father. I'm signing my mom up for it. Also, for people trying to make a little "shoe money" or even work towards a new online career, this provides a great foundation of how to construct a popular blog. Here's some more info that I borrowed from a blog on learning fun....

While anyone can learn to blog, for many it is a lonely frustratingly-long time before you are writing a quality blog and have an audience. Why not take a short cut and ride along with us?You can, of course, learn about the key skills in blogging by reading articles and through trial and error. Or you can take a fun course.

One, Get Ready to Blog, is a free automated course that anyone can sign up for and take at any time. It's for total beginners, a precourse to get students ready for Blogging 101. In the precourse, you'll start with the very basics about how much it costs to start a blog (nothing) and the different approaches to blogging and setting up your first blog. BlogWritingCourse.com also offers Blogging 101, an 8 week online course with a teacher which you take as part of class. The course teaches you the skills you need by having you practice and get feedback. There are some reading assignments but the heart of the course is learning by doing with guidance and support and feedback.

What many students like best is that by starting their blog as part of a group, they have readers, feedback, and comments from the start. And long after the course has finished, they have their initial classmates who have become their first group of online friends that they can learn from and shares experiences with.

The students are a diverse group. From the recent alumnae, there's Topsy Techie who writes about her Unconventional life of a homeschooling family and is well on her way to becoming a famous bloggger. The students range from the Daily Grind of kooky caffeinated JavaMama, the ultra fit Spin Diva, the aging but still eager BlackBeltat50, the trials of Renovation Girl redoing her house and starting a family and of SheParent wrestling with her 11 year old, the life of one BBW (big beautiful woman), and there's the more senior Grey Haired Geek.Come sign up.

The free automated precourse is a total no brainer for anyone thinking they might like to start a blog and want to get a basic orientation. And Blogging 101 sessions fill up quickly so you should move quick. The Blog Writing Course just announced that the summer session starts July 7th and the fall session starts September 8th. Reserve your place now.

The course is part of the offering by Time4Writing - writing tutors - and Time4Learning - Online Learning, PreSchool, Elementary, & Middle School .



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Google Analytics - not really working, yet

For a little over a month, we've been trying to implement google analytics on Time4Learning. So far, I don't really feel that we've learned that much. The good news is that:
- the number of conversions from Google Analytics matches (within a few percentage points) what our shopping cart/credit card system is showing
- we are beginning to get a sense of which of our referring sites (aka ads and partner sites) are contributing not just in terms of traffic but conversions.

It just occurred to me that we don't know if the we are correctly tracking the PPC traffic. We installed tracking codes on our Google, Yahoo, & MSN PPC campaigns so we can track that traffic separately. I wonder if the the PPC results from within those programs matches the Webanalytics results?

The big problem is that 70% of our conversions are being tracked by Google Analytics as "direct", meaning they found our site through typing in our URL or through a bookmark. I simply don't believe that since our users report, as part of the signup process, how they heard about us and we get around 70% reporting that they found us through the search engines.

I also noticed that we got NO conversions out of our top 16 keyphrases from natural search.
This feels unlikely to be true.

When we dug into the statistics, I was told because of the iframe coding on our demos, the sessions could not be tracked. (which is why the iframe demos were recoded with java script).
This would explain why two thirds of our conversions are classed as "direct entry".

But, this doesn't make sense. Google analytics, much like PPC, is primarily cookie-based. This means that whether the session was trackable or not, google analytics ought to be able to track the conversions back to the original entry to the site. So even if a user found us through natural search, bookmarked us, return a week later and signed up, Google analytics should report them as natural search.



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Multilingual SEO - How does it work?

I have a site that helps people to learn English. It has a variety of English vocabulary word games. The site is well positioned in the search engines. It is number two on google for the word vocabulary and most of it's traffic is from people who have bookmarked the site and keep returning to it.

It recently occurred to me that many of the potential users of the site might not be searching for such a site in English. So I have invested in getting some pages created describing the site in different languages. I've put them up on the site and am now wondering if the different versions of google (spanish, french, turkish etc) will find and rank these pages.

It would help if someone built links to the pages in their native languages but I fear that might be a little beyond me. Here's the pages that are up so far....

Build Vocabulary

Construcción de Vocabulario

İngilizce Kelime Dağarcığını Öğrenin

Изучайте Английские Слова

Вивчайте англійські слова

Научи думички на английски език

Apprendre le vocabulaire Anglais

Naucz się Angielskich Słówek

Lernen SieEnglisch-Vokabular

Impara il lessico inglese

Lær Engelsk ordforråd

And coming soon, the oriental languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese), Hindi and some other languages from the Indian subcontinent, and Russian. Any views on whether these efforts will be cost effective? We're spending about $25 per page to get them translated plus inhouse costs for managing the project and get the pages up.



Friday, June 06, 2008

Old links vs archived links vs new links

When blog software "archives" old articles, do the links lose some sort of importance for google? If so, this might be the achilles heel of using blogs as a way to create links. Mostly, us SEO types, really like blogs. They seem to build their own incoming links everytime they post. It's something to do with how they "ping" all those directories which index and refer (think links) to them.

But, once archived, do those links become less visible to google? Less important?

Think of it this way, new links are important. If lots of sites link to a site, it's likely that there is something of importance on that site. If those links are still around after a few months, the site is still important but somehow, if there aren't new links, google must also think about the significance of that.

But what if all the links start showing up only in "archives"? What does google think about links from archives? Do they rate them differently than other links that have been in place for a long time?

Any real visionaries got an opinion they'd like to share?

PS - Anybody who is watching me closely might notice that I'm posting this the same day that I'm deep in Yosemite park. It's thru the magic of blogger's new post options which include future dates. Like Hermonie's time trick.



Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Blog posts, corrections, RSS & Feedburner - How does it work?

I sometimes (often) make mistakes in my blog posts. After I publish them, I notice the errors and I open up the post and fix them. I've often wondered whether after hitting the publish button, will my corrections show up on every instance of my post or not?

For instance, I use feedburner to publish my posts. I've learned that feedburner sends out the posts at the end of the day (maybe Califorinia time). So as long as I make corrections during the day, the errors don't show up in the versions that get emailed out.

But, my posts also get published thru feedburner to countless readers thru RSS. And this blog is also hooked up to blogcatalog.. I just looked at my posts insider blogcatalog and my post from about 15 minutes ago is not yet there. But, once it appears there, if I make a change in the original, will it get fixed there?

I will now run an experiment. I am going to go back to my post of Tuesday May 27th, 2008 and I'll change the ending:
from: Dear reader, what would you do?
to: Dear readers, what would you do? I'm willing to pay for a real answer to this question. Contact me for details.

And I'll see whether the version in blogcatalog changes. Also whether the version in my google reader changes