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E-Business Secrets

The role (or non-role) of ads in building your traffic
Search engine referrals may be enough for profitability

By  Brian Livingston March 05, 2002  

I've written for the past two weeks about ISBN.nu, a one-man e-commerce site that makes a healthy profit by showing price comparisons among different online booksellers that carry a particular book. Webmaster Glenn Fleishman grossed about $100,000 in 2001 and expects to gross about $80,000 this year -- minus expenses of about $30,000 -- through a site that he says he now spends only 5 hours a week maintaining. He reaps commissions when his visitors ultimately buy anything sold by the booksellers in question.


In this issue, I conclude this series with a surprising revelation. Fleishman says his experiments with Internet advertising have led him to eliminate most of his paid ads, relying almost solely on search-engine traffic to keep his site busy.

This doesn't mean that YOU should eliminate all of your e-business' online advertising. Most sites require a constant stream of promotion to continue attracting new visitors and new customers.

But Fleishman's site may be one of the exceptions. He says he receives about 7,000 unique visitors a day, most of whom have found his site through just two search engines: Google and MSN. I previously described how ISBN.nu uses a creative database design that leads search-engine spiders to find almost every possible page. As a result, the site has more than 130,000 pages indexed at Google alone. When you search for an individual book, you often find an ISBN.nu page in the top 20 results.

For a time, Fleishman purchased text-based ad listings at Google and elsewhere. These listings appeared on-screen when a surfer conducted a search on specific book titles or more generic keywords.

Fleishman was able to track the results of his ads through several steps in the price-comparison and book-buying process. In chronological order:

1. A surfer clicks an ad from, say, Google to ISBN.nu

2. The user sees a price-comparison of booksellers

3. The user jumps to a specific bookseller as a result

The booksellers don't provide data on what individual buyers do after reaching the booksellers' sites. So Fleishman couldn't track the actual sales (and therefore commissions) that arose from any individual ad. But he found that merely getting users to complete step 3 to jump to a specific bookseller from ISBN.nu was costing him an average of $6 each time. If that person then bought a $50 book, Fleishman would receive a commission of $5, more or less. But, of course, not everyone who jumped from ISBN.nu to a specific bookseller actually wound up buying any book at all.

For the time being, Fleishman is relying upon the strength of his search-engine traffic while he slowly builds up relationships with other sites that can send surfers his way. He found that paying for keyword advertising wasn't the secret to his success. But Fleishman's analysis might give you some ideas you should use to evaluate your own ad effectiveness.


http://www.isbn.nu http://bri.li/?4e51

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No sooner than I had written about cell phones with usable Qwerty keyboards in last week's issue than Research in Motion (RIM) announced a new model of its popular BlackBerry handheld computer that can be used as a full-fledged phone.

The BlackBerry 5810 looks just like its well-known and widespread e-mail gadget brethren, complete with their distinctive fan-shaped keys. But the new model has a slot for a cell phone SIM card and a plug-in earbud and microphone for voice calls. You can also use it for a form of wireless Web surfing.

The device won't actually go on sale until later in the month, so few people have actually used it yet. But the 5810, priced around $500, will certainly be a serious contender against a host of other "convergence" products.


http://www.globeandmail.ca http://bri.li/?7561


http://www.blackberry.net http://bri.li/?9889

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1. Congress is wary of copy protection in tech devices

http://www.wired.com http://bri.li/?419

2. Should music e-tailers treat customers as criminals?

http://www.msnbc.com http://bri.li/?801

3. Pew Internet report says users are now more serious

http://www.pewinternet.org http://bri.li/?be9

4. New Amazonscan.com site tracks sales data on books

http://publishing.about.com http://bri.li/?fd1

5. A key to learning what Amazon rankings even mean

http://www.fonerbooks.com http://bri.li/?13b9

6. How "Google bombs" are boosting some sites' rankings

http://www.corante.com http://bri.li/?17a1

7. Why you should encourage deep-linking to your pages

http://www.useit.com http://bri.li/?1b89

8. The limits of high-tech: how the U.S. lost bin Laden

http://www.csmonitor.com http://bri.li/?1f71

9. New Flash MX includes features appealing to coders

http://www.news.com http://bri.li/?2359

10. The tricks you need for successful Web services

http://www.webmasterbase.com http://bri.li/?2741

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A music video is now making the rounds of the Internet, despite the fact that its star isn't a professional entertainer. But entertaining is a good description for it: the singer is U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The nation's highest law-enforcement official broke into song during a speech at a theological seminary in North Carolina on Feb. 25. Now you, too, can witness the performance, which people on different ends of the political spectrum may view as inspiring or appalling.

Of course, this is America, so anyone can sing any song they wish. But with lines such as, "Only God, no other kings, let the mighty Eagle soar," attorneys within the Justice Department are starting to complain that Ashcroft is making them sing the song during meetings and asking them to translate it into other languages, according to the Guardian of London.

The hilarious or stirring video (take your pick) is available through the URL below, which links to a CNN.com copy of the video.

Staff Cry Poetic Injustice: Ashcroft Sings Like a Bird

http://www.guardian.co.uk http://bri.li/?c381

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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld Contributing Editor Brian Livingston (http://SecretsPro.com). Research director is Ben Livingston (no relation). Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets:

http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets:

http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534130

Win a gift certificate good for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints. mailto:Brian@SecretsPro.com

Brian Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send tips to him at brian@briansbuzz.com.

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