Can you solve this web marketing disconnect?

A number of the clients that hire me to do web writing are small web-based businesses. They ask me to write web copy to boost their search engine rankings and get people to click through from the search results to the site.

But I’m learning that for many of them, the train stops there…quite a distance from the station.

All the emphasis is on getting people to the site. It’s as if the conversion from site visitor to paying customer (or donor) will then occur by magic once visitors see what the business has to offer.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t generally work that way, and I don’t want any clients or prospective clients to think that it does. While a small fraction of site visitors make a purchase on their first visit, in the majority of cases conversion of a site visitor to a business customer requires getting that visitor to take at least one or two of several small but highly significant intermediate steps. Steps such as:

• Signing up to receive emails or subscribing to newsletters or blog feeds
• Calling a phone number, writing to an email address or filling out a form to receive more information
• Acting immediately to take advantage of a limited-time special offer or coupon
• Using an interactive section of the site to create or complete something (contest, quiz) that involves either signing up for something or inviting friends to visit the site
• Making a small initial purchase of a break-even or loss-leader product/service)

When I suggest that prospective clients consider developing some of these web features to create an ongoing marketing relationship with their visitors, they look discouraged and mumble something about not having any database capabilities to manage the electronic mailing list some of this work this would generate, and not knowing how to send out mass emails to a mailing list if they had one. Many say they don’t have time to blog, and others say they don’t want to get a lot of email. In many cases, it turns out they aren’t doing email/newsletter communication with existing customers, either.

Digging deeper it becomes apparent that often the only person who can do anything at all with their website is a web designer they talk with a few times a year. Simply putting up a weekly coupon or blog post would be a major (and costly) operation. And while the designer can create forms, and set up “mailto” addresses so someone in the organization can receive emails from the site, few web designers are in the database management business.

As the title of this post suggests, I can describe the problem, and posit a theoretical solution to it, but when it comes to identifying website-powered database marketing systems affordable for small businesses, I’m way out of my comfort zone. So if someone can tell me about a solution I can pass long to my clients, I’m all ears.

Just the text, please

I don’t read Hemingway online. Or e.e. cummings. In other words, I don’t read online for an intellectual or spiritual experience. I read for information, and sometimes it’s damned hard do that with all the white-text-on-black-background and 9-point-text troweled on the page by some designer who thinks words make pretty wallpaper.

So, unlike Slate’s Michael Aggar, I don’t have my undies in a bundle about visually effective online communication making readers “lazy.” (Or making writers condescending.)

However, I did enjoy reading his July 13 piece, “Lazy Bastards.” You’ll see why.

(Thank you to Anita for calling my attention to it.)

Listening with our mouths full

Are we so busy taking advantage of our new abilities to customize our own experiences that we’re missing important opportunities to listen to other people?

There are only so many hours in the day. And there is no question that technology and culture are giving us easier and more entertaining ways to do what we want with those hours. But, whether we’re using our time to text message, shop online, blog, Twitter, knit, or write the great American novel, the key factor is that we can now do it any where, any time. And we do — with less and less regard for what might be going on around us.

The paradigm reminds me of eating — if you engage in constant snacking, you never find yourself with enough of an appetite to enjoy real sit-down meals. And it’s not that the new ways of spending our time are inherently bad; it’s simply that they are being employed so that they compete with and shut out valuable traditional forms of learning.

In this post on SmartMobs, social networking authority and college professor Howard Rheingold ponders the challenge of helping students “train their attention” to appreciate a variety of learning experiences—even (gasp) non-interactive ones.

Bye .Mac, hello MobileMe

Opal (who left a comment on my previous post) was right: .Mac has mutated into MobileMe, though as of the moment the (login required) version of the .Mac site is still up and probably will be around for a while changes are announced to the .Mac membership.

The non-member page, however, says “.Mac will soon be MobileMe.”

The message to current .Mac members is:

• You keep your .Mac services.

• The new web address is instead of

• You will have a choice of keeping your email address or getting your same email name for (Oooh, tough choice. Go with the legacy address or the trendy one?)

What I’m not seeing is any mention of how iWeb web publishing and hosting will work with MobileMe. Will my current web resume address (“”) have to be changed? I’ve put in some questions to iWeb authority Steve Sande.

Whither .Mac in the age of Twitter?

If the real estate mantra is “location, location, location” the tech mantra is surely “timing, timing, timing.”

For no company has timing been as bittersweet an issue as for Apple, which is so often early to the game.

Apple products like the initial, expensive, GUI desktops and the Newton handheld were simply so far before their time that the marketplace scratched its head in confusion while a few nerdy early adopters worked themselves into a froth.

And then, there’s .Mac (“DotMac”).

Launched just as the gel-colored iMacs were making Apple a true household name, .Mac internet services foreshadowed the Google/Yahoo suites of goodies we now find essential to our daily lives: Easy-to-use web-based email; easy-to-access online storage and backups, including simple file sharing; online photo albums; and web hosting of web page and photo album templates (and your own coded pages). In short, “your life, online.”

A .Mac subscription runs about $100 a year, which left Apple in a hard-to-defend position as soon as Google turned up with free gmail, Yahoo put real power behind its still-unsurpassed Yahoo Groups, and Flickr photo sharing appeared on the scene. None of these are as sleek and complete as .Mac, for sure, but they’re plenty powerful, dependable, easy to use — and cross-platform.

While Apple has continued to make enhancements to .Mac, most of them are closely tied to Mac OS X and iLife applications such as iPhoto and iWeb. Meanwhile, the rest of the online world has been getting deliciously loud and messy with wikis, MySpace, and blogging software, essentially offering people free online “performance space.” Amazon, Zazzle, and CafePress make possible the creation of “instant” online stores, complete with checkout systems.

Loud, messy, and commercial? That just isn’t the .Mac style.

Rumors have it that a major re-vamp of .Mac (including a new name) will be announced at WWDC Monday. I’m trying to imagine .Mac in the age of Twitter. Some are speculating that Apple will merely transfer the back end of the service to a company like Google. Others are hoping for a richer, trendier suite of services. Still others are recommending more competitive pricing, with a free year of .Mac service to be bundled with the purchase of a new Mac. The most tantalizing rumors have .Mac playing a big role for the next iPhones.

As a long-time .Mac user (and former .Mac employee), I’m ready for the new incarnation.

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