How Marketers Can Use Yahoo! Pipes to Increase Their Online Sales

While RSS end-user adoption has been relatively slow, marketers have jumped at the chance to use this new internet channel increase their online sales.

If you’re new to the world of RSS — RSS is a simple technology that allows you to deliver your online content directly to your subscribers, other websites and the search engines. It helps you improve your content delivery, as well as increase your online traffic and reach, and even conduct business intelligence more easily.

RSS content is delivered through so-called RSS feeds, which are just simple files that carry your online content. Each of these simple files containts multiple “stories” that you may want to deliver to your audiences, called “content items”. A content item can be anything … an article, a blog post, a whole newsletter issue, a sales letter and so on.

But there is more to RSS than simply getting your content out.

One of the fields of RSS marketing is also NewsMastering, which allows you to:

[a] take multiple third-party RSS feeds,

[b] mix them together,

[c] filter your new mix using various keywords that you’re interested in,

[d] use the mix and your filters to create a new stream of content, pulling together all the content items from dozens or hundreds of other RSS feeds … but only the content items that match your filters.

You can now take this stream of content and either subscribe to it yourself, if for example you want to find out immediately what the market is saying about you, what it’s saying about your competitors, and what your competitors are doing themselves.

Or you can take this stream of content and display it on your website to:

[a] enrich the visitor experience, by giving them access to the latest and most relevant list of content from your field, such as the latest news in the field you are covering … and do so automatically;

[b] by doing so also making your website more search engine friendly, thus increasing your rankings.

But up until now doing all of this was quite complicated and really wasn’t accessible to most internet marketers.

But no longer so …

YAHOO! PIPES CHANGES THE LANDSCAPE

http://pipes.yahoo.com is the latest offering from Yahoo!, finally bringing the premise of NewsMastering to the mass market, and actually putting it on steroids.

The general idea behind Yahoo! Pipes is to allow its users to “easily” connect various internet data sources, mix them together in various ways, add additional functionality to them and create a new single output, pertaining directly to your settings.

While this may sound a lot like the standard RSS aggregation & filtering we mentioned above, it actually goes much further than anything on the market in enabling you to manipulate outside sources and come up with a new content output, all of this in a visual programming environment.

The “old services” simply allowed you to combine various RSS feeds, set some basic rules on how you want to get content from them, such as limiting the output to only the content items that match your keywords and removing duplicates, and get a new single RSS feed from them. You could then subscribe to this RSS feed in your RSS Reader (for business intelligence purposes) or use it to display its contents on your website.

But Yahoo! Pipes goes much further.

[BTW – in the Yahoo! Pipes glossary, a pipe is an output you create from mixing and manipulating various content sources]

[a] Aggregate and Filter any XML Feed

Aggregate any kind of XML feed, not just RSS, which means that if your application provides an XML data output, you can now aggregate that data feed with other different feeds you might be interested in, and create a single RSS feed that you can subscribe to in your RSS Reader. Just as an example, imagine having an RSS feed that brings you various data from your organization in a single output, such as the latest sales data from your webstore, latest account of company expenses, notifications of new employees, important team communications, your website visitor counts and so on. It even lets you combine other pipes into a new single pipe.

[b] Content Manipulation

Apply various filters, such as a keyword content filter to give you only the content you’re interested in, sort, count, truncate, join or even create your own filters. It even lets you add your own input fields. For example, you could create a pipe that aggregates all the RSS feeds from top online retailers, and include an input field that allows you to enter the name of the product you want the latest deals on, and then creates an on-the-fly output with the latest deals for this product. Essentially, it allows you to add simple or advanced search functionalities to filter out only the content you’re really interested in … from hundreds or even thousands of content sources.

[c] Social Applications

Browse through pipes created by other users to either use them as an end-user, or use their pipes to create your own new pipes. It of course also allows you to make your own pipes public and even provide them as a service to end-users.

There are really almost countless opportunities of what you can do with Yahoo! Pipes, and various new applications will surface when the service gets some milage.

The best part is, you can either create your own application that you use when the need arises from the Web, or an RSS feed that you subscribe to in your RSS Reader, to constantly deliver to you the content that you want. Or you can use the RSS feed to display that content on your website.

All of this is done through a visual interface, which might be daunting for the average user, but shouldn’t present a problem to marketers that either have the time to learn the ropes or pay a little something to a person that already has.

HOW MARKETERS WILL PROFIT

If you’re thinking of how you can profit from Yahoo! Pipes as a marketer, there really are countless opportunities.

[a] Provide highly relevant streams of content on your website to enrich the visitor experience.

[b] Become a preferred access point to relevant and latest content in your industry.

[c] Build applications that allow your visitors to easily access the content they’re interested in.

[d] Take your business intelligence activities to the next level.

And much much more …

With all the capabilities available through Yahoo! Pipes, countless new opportunities will certainly arise quickly.

The best part is, you can now more easily take advantage of them.

The Many Uses of Pipe and Drape

When you hear pipe and drape, you may automatically think of those booths you see at trades shows and other corporate events. While this certainly is a common use for this product, pipe and drape has many more uses as well. Its versatility makes it a smart investment for businesses and organizations.

Pipe refers to fixed or adjustable uprights and horizontals that are supported by a heavy base. They can usually be configured to make different shapes, depending on your needs. Drape consists of large panels of fabric that can be added to a pipe system. Pipe and drape can be used for a variety of purposes. It is a temporary fixture that can be assembled and disassembled quite easily. This makes it ideal for traveling from place to place.

Trade shows are typically a gathering of different companies and vendors who want to promote their products and gain exposure for their business. When visiting a trade show or exhibition, it is very common to see booths created out of pipe and drape. Companies use these exhibits to promote their products and services. A well-designed booth is an effective way to differentiate yourself from the displays around you. With bright-colored drapes, banners, and more, your business will get attention from those individuals passing by.

Another way that pipe and drape is utilized is to reduce the size of a large room or auditorium. The system can be set up to create a smaller room within a large venue. This is helpful when you have a large space but need a small area in which to meet. It is also useful when you have multiple gatherings occurring in one large space. You can even enclose small areas for private sessions. A pipe and drape system allows you to make the most of your space.

Many venues will use a pipe and system to create a beautiful background for a play, presentation, orchestra, or any other type of performance. With a beautiful drape, any area becomes more pleasing to the eye. It is a good way to hide damaged walls or unappealing areas that you want to hide from your visitors. A pipe and drape system allows you to create the perfect backdrop for any event.

If you are in the process of remodeling or have a lot of inventory and nowhere to store it, a pipe and drape system can help you conceal it. It is an effective means for creating visual barriers for boxes, construction areas, and any other unsightly items that you may want to hide from your visitors. It can also work as a barrier against unauthorized areas that you want to prevent your guests from entering.

Both pipe and drape come in a variety of sizes, heights, and widths. You can find high quality drape available in a variety of colors and fabrics. Because it is relatively inexpensive, many individuals will buy many different colors and fabrics to use for various applications. Heavy fabrics like velour have a richer, luxurious look than some of the lighter fabrics. No matter what your need, find a retailer that offers good customer service and a money back guarantee.

SEO ROI – The Return On Investment For A Small Business SEO Effort

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

In order to understand the value of SEO, we first need to have an understanding of what SEO is. Without going into the technical details of the SEO process, I offer the following definition:

SEO, Search Engine Optimization, is the process of getting a website to show up in the top results of a search engine such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo for a meaningful search phrase that will increase traffic to the website. If a website ranks well for a meaningful search phrase, it is considered to be optimized for that search term.

I stress “meaningful search phrase”, because if you optimize for a phrase that nobody will be using in their searches, there is nobody to find you and the SEO process will not deliver any real results. In other words, nothing in equals nothing out. A meaningful phrase is one that has a high potential for being used by the population of searchers when searching the web for a product or service.

Armed with a search phrase, known as a keyword in the business of SEO, which is meaningful, we can now explore the potential of a site optimized for this keyword.

SEO Works For Your Small Business

Your company website is an advertisement for your business. As such, it needs to be seen just like any other form of advertisement in order to be effective. Not only do we want quantity of viewership but also we want quality viewers, ones who are likely to respond to the advertisement once it has been seen.

Unlike many forms of advertising both on and off the web, a website that is optimized will be viewed often and by a highly targeted audience. Because a search user is actively looking for your product or service, they are already in the mindset to buy as long as they can find what they are looking for. The odds of making the sale to this type of ad viewer is already far increased over a viewer of more passive advertising media such as print ads, radio, and television. In passive advertising, the viewer is not looking for the product in the moment and success is only achieved in a small percentage of cases.

The user of a search tool is primed and ready to buy, but this potential buyer has to find your website in order to learn about your business offerings and then ultimately contact you to make a purchase.

Being found through internet searches will directly contribute to your bottom line. E-commerce sites and other online business hybrids with online as well as brick and mortar units understand this very well and invest heavily in SEO and other online marketing. It is vital for their business that they do so. To understand why, let’s look at some of the numbers.

From published academic studies measuring a search user’s behavior and even how their eye moves across the search results page and other industry data, we know that websites that show up on the first page of a search engine will get slightly less than 90% of the clicks. The listings on page 2 account for nearly 10% of the remaining total clicks, leaving less than 1% for pages 3 and beyond. In other words, most of the action is on page 1. Over 60% of the action is in the top 3 listings. 42% goes to the #1 spot alone.

While companies that earn all or a significant portion of their revenue from the web understand the benefits of SEO, most small businesses fail to utilize this tool to promote their business. You don’t have to be a big national company or be an e-commerce company to benefit from an SEO effort. For a modest cost, small businesses can conduct their own SEO campaigns which will reap a positive Return On their Investment. To understand how small business can benefit, let’s go through a real world example:

Doing The Math

Example: A small business selling pipe fittings optimized for the keyword “Steel Pipe Fittings”.

Google tells us that on average there are 22,200 searches per month for the keyword “Steel Pipe Fittings”. Using the 42% figure for the #1 spot, the top site would expect around 9,324 visits to their web site each month.

(22,220 x 0.42) = 9,324. for this search term

Out of these 9,324 visitors, some number of these visitors will make a purchase. The rate at which a visit to a web site converts to a purchase is called the conversion rate. Conversion rates vary by industry, but on the low end of most industry conversion rates a 1.5% rate is safe assumption.

9,324 visitors converting at 1.5% will yield 140 new purchases from customers who just found your company and your product mostly likely for the first time. Why first time customers? If the customer was already aware of your business and has done business with you, they most likely would not be searching for you again on the web using “Steel Pipe Fittings” term. They will already know you.

A small business SEO campaign in the year 2011 will cost about $300/month to conduct. Some firms may charge less and some firms will charge more. But for $300/month, your company can receive competent SEO services that will positively affect your rankings in search engines and your bottom line.

Profit levels vary quite a bit from product to product and company to company so I can’t come up with a one size fits all ROI number in this article. However we can calculate at what profit does the SEO result above break even. For this example, $300 per month / 140 new customers = $2.14 per customer break even. In other words, if your average profit per new customer is $2.14 or above, you have a positive ROI on this SEO effort. Most businesses are likely to have a higher profit than this example, thus the ROI will be extremely higher.

Most likely the ROI on this example will be higher than calculated. Consider that once this customer has found you, purchased from you and is satisfied with this result, they may come back to you. Your SEO effort will result in future sales from this new customer. Add in the possibility that this customer may also give you word of mouth referrals as well and the ROI pushes higher.

The ROI will be even higher if you rank high on multiple keywords. Most small business SEO programs at the $300 level offer optimization for multiple keywords. Let’s further assume in this example the website also reached #1 rank for “Brass Pipe Fittings” and “Iron Pipe Fittings”:

“Brass Pipe Fittings” with 4,400 monthly searches would yield 28 more customers each month. Similarly “Iron Pipe Fittings” with 9,900 searches will add, using the same formula as above, 62 more customers. In total we get 230 new customers with these three keywords. Break even is now at $1.30. Add more keywords in top ranks and the ROI goes even higher.

To be fair, you will have to invest in the optimization of your website for several months before you attain high rankings for your keywords. Thus in the short run you may have zero ROI at the start, but as the campaign runs over time, the results will improve and will move the ROI up. In short you have to “invest” for the future results.

In the above analysis I used conservative numbers. For example I could have used the key word “Pipe Fittings” with 246,000 searches per month which yields over 1,500 new customers per the formula above. It may be possible to rank at #1 for “Pipe Fittings”, but this would be a more difficult task taking a longer time period to achieve. The 42% rate of clicks for the #1 position may be low. Some other studies say it is as high as 59% which would yield even higher ROI. The point is that even if you use conservative assumptions, it is easy to demonstrate a positive ROI on your SEO efforts.

The Bottom Line

SEO works for small businesses by bringing more visitors to your web site. Your results will vary based on the nature of your business and your industry, but in almost all cases there is a positive return on investment when the right keywords are chosen and your website contains content that is attractive to your potential buyers. To get a more detailed analysis of your situation, you can contact a SEO professional.