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    Back Issues, Weekly
    Week Ending: April 20, 1996
    April 20, 1996
    You weave the foundation for your web enterprise from a series of links. We're very clear that the depth and quality of your inbound links constitute the commercial infrastructure, the playing field, of your enterprise. Since we're located within eyesight of the Golden Gate Bridge, it's hard to avoid the suspension metaphor. Links are the suspension and bridge that allow traffic into your site. By definition, the relationship has to be two way. You must offer some sort of outbound links as a part of your traffic development.

    We think that there are several discrete types of inbound link. They vary in quality and effectiveness. Since, for all intents and purposes, your operation *begins* at the inbound link, we think that it's critical to manage them.

    Imagine a matrix with one dimension being content and the other, context. Each scale runs from 0 to 9 (like the matrix management courses that I'm sure you've been exposed to).

    The simplest and least effective link has neither content or context (0,0). It appears on a long list of links with no discriminating information. These are easy and inexpensive to arrange. The web is full of hot lists. We call them "Commodity Links". Like the mundane parts of a suspension bridge, you must have all of the commodity links you can get. They don't discriminate, they just keep you even.

    The second type of link has content but little enduring context. (9,0). Think of reviews that run for a short while and then get lost in the review archives. They provide burst traffic with little sustained volume. The best example of this is being named as a "cool Site". The traffic spikes and your email baskets burst at the seams, little revenue emerges because the traffic source is more important than you as a destination. We call them "Feel Good Links".

    The third type of link has context but little content. Yahoo! is our favorite example of this (0,9) type of link. The link endures and gets your operation identified as 1 of X businesses in the niche. We call them "Library Links".

    Obviously, your ideal is to have all your inbound links well positioned with very positive reviews in an enduring place. It's why the Top 25 Recruiters list works so well as a traffic generator for the Websites on the list. These 9,9 links, which we call "Relationship Links", usually have some underlying reciprocal relationship. It can be as simple as a trade of links and a simple cross-promotion agreement to complex revenue sharing arrangements.

    There are, equally obviously, many shades of link types inside the matrix. Nothing really fits solidly into any of the categories. There's also the question of the volume of traffic generated by the link. A relationship (9,9) link on a heavily trafficked site can make all of the difference to your business. The same link on a site that gets 10 visitors a week is not worth much effort.

    Given the complexity of the Web in it's current form, we generally argue that the optimal approach is to create the largest number possible of inbound links. Then, we suggest that you mine that "pile" in search of the commodity links that are most easily converted into Relationship links. So, effectively, you continually refine your incoming traffic as a way of defining your demographic.

    Finally, there is the question of site design and your inventory of content. On the web, you can get lots of traffic to a dumb destination. Converting that traffic into return visitors depends entirely on having changing and useful content that is easily accessible, relevant and understandable. In other words, success is dependent on both traffic and audience development.

    April 19, 1996
    Solid Oak Softwareproduces Windows tools that help supervise net usage in family and work settings. They've just announced a voluntary Website Rating System that works in conjunction with their Cybersitter package. You can see the implementation details (it's additional HTML) by sending a blank piece of email to: ratings@solidoak.com. Voluntary ratings strike us as an intelligent response to censorship concerns. Though it's hardly clear that Solid Oak Software will lead the pack on the issue, they've made a solid contribution by demonstrating a working approach to the problem.

    April 18, 1996
    Early on in the game, many online marketers worry about search engine placement. "How do we get our site into the top 10 slots." "When I go to look up X, I never find us and we're the best." and so on. To answer these perpetual questions, Maximized Online offers a very solid and compact search engine tutorial based on a well done study of search engine performance parameters. In the search engine tutorial. You'll find lots of solid answers to your basic search engine questions, written from a marketing perspective. We genuinely appreciate it when a business goes out of its way to answer a tough question like this. We're sure that they'll get traffic resulting in sales by providing the service. Nice Job.

    April 17, 1996
    5 computer crashes, net traffic snarls and a broken Domain Name Server got us wondering about the real utility of the Web. As the saying goes, "You've got to kiss a lot of toads to find one handsome prince." Today, it seems that we've been kissing an awful lot of toads.

    Recent estimates suggest (conservatively) that there are over 130,000 discrete websites with 100 new ones added each day. From our work in other areas, we know that 2-3 of those 100 new sites are employment related. It seems as though 30 of them are devoted to new businesses that provide web development, marketing and advertising services. While we kiss toads for a living, we began to worry a bit about our clients and their customers.

    Increasingly, the web is becoming a search for diamonds in the rough. Unfortunately, most of the potential market is very used to finished work. We think that that means the search for "coolness" is almost over. Increasingly websites will be judged on their longevity and the consistency of the content that they deliver.

    April 16, 1996
    If you've been following 1st Steps for a while, you'll know that Tripod is high on our list of marketing success stories. They've precisely targeted a demographic market and begun delivering an amazing array of services to their audience.

    A big difference between traditional publishing and web publishing is the level and quality of service that can be delivered on the web. It's tempting to say that service is nothing more than customized information. There's a level of proactive anticipation of customer needs that makes excellent service stand out from simple tailoring. Tripod delivers amazing high quality services.

    Some simple examples:

    • Resume Doctor allows a reader to create and publish an HTML resume. Tripod even provides the storage space and URL at no charge.
    • Tripod's Homepage Builder gives registered members a step by step template for free web page development including clever tools for creating animations and forms. As a part of the free membership (registration is required), Tripod again provides storage and addresses at no charge. Making changes is simple, supported and encouraged.
    • Newest on their list is Tripod's Reminder Minder. Several websites are offering this type of service...give a list of important dates and occaisions and get email reminders. Tripod expands the definition of utility by making the accounts editable.
    These automated services are nested in a host of content that is directly relevant to the target audience. It's no surprise that traffic is soaring. We think that Tripod is pioneering online definitions of quality and service. Watch them closely.
    After our short piece on Salon and Border's Books (See April 14), we got more detail on the story. It gets even better.

    It turns out that the only relationship between the two is a co-marketing agreement. We thought that the level of marketing integration was extraordinary but possible because the two sites shared cashflow and management. We're really impressed now. The staff at Salon assured us that Border's Books deserved all of the credit.

    April 15, 1996
    Random Waves
    • Are you using Webcatcher? The service provides a regular emailed listing of new and changed sites sorted by general industry and subsets. It's a great way to stay abreast of the competition.

    • Take a look at the Internet Domain Survey, January 1996. If you have the patience for the details, it's a very technical look at market growth for the Web/Net as a whole.

    • Marketing to online women? WWWomen is a useful jumping off point.

    • Computer ESP JavaScript Agent: Search dozens of computer stores with one click. Also provides a single interface for all of the search engines we can think of. Bookmark it!

    • Smart Business Supersiteprovides an overwhelming array of resources for decision makers. They call themselves The How-To Resource For Business

    April 14, 1996
    The web is everywhere and marketing is broader than simple online tactics. Yesterday, while visiting our local Border's Books, we asked a clerk for some help in finding a book. Over the course of the conversation, she went to great pains to tell us about the Border's website Salon (There was no way she could have known that we were at all interested in the Web, we we're hunting down a book on the future of the economy.) And what a sales pitch she delivered.

    Though not really our taste, Salon is sort of like a Newy Yorker for the web...very literary and directly designed to appeal to the Border's typical demographic. As she went on about the website, we began to realize the targeting potential of a retail sales force and the powerful combination of a website and a physical store.

    As we paid for our purchase, we were given two paper bookmarks, by yet another clerk, proclaiming that Salon was the website for people who read.

    Borders has elegantly distinguished between its own commercial website and Salon, which is a place for its customers. The only visible meeting ground between the two is at the point of ordering.

    It looks to us like Borders is using the web to tighten bonds with its customers. Take a close look at the two sites and visit your local Borders to see web marketing integrated into an overall package. Very sophisticated and smart.

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