Tip: Track the ROI of any campaign with Google Analytics

January 29, 2009 in Analytics, SEO/SEM, Tips

Did you know that you can track any advertising or marketing campaign with Google Analytics, not just AdWords? Of course failure to track is the first (well, fifth actually) mistake entrepreneurs make. You shouldn’t just want to track things precisely, you must.

Here are some examples of what you might like to track with the same precision as an AdWords campaign:

  • Pay per click campaigns with Yahoo or MSN
  • A banner ad buy on another site
  • An email marketing campaign
  • An affiliate program
  • Any link you give out for which you want to track the effectiveness

For todays’ tip, let’s say you’re running a banner ad and you want to track how many clicks you get from that banner, where those visitors go on your site, how long they stay, how many of them convert to your goals, etc. (Incidentally, this works very nicely with your Google Analytics conversion goals.)

Campaign Report Example It’s actually easier than you think. The bonus is that you get a nice report inside of Google Analytics under Traffic Source > Campaigns.

This report provides you information on visitors, including:

  • pages per visit
  • average time on site
  • bounce rate
  • goal conversion
  • sales revenues
  • number of transactions
  • ecommerce conversion rate
  • value per visitor
  • and more

And actually, it so simple (bear with me), it would be ridiculous not to do it.

So here’s how:

Simply add the following to the end of the link back to your site from the campaign source:

utm_source=campaignname where campaignname is whatever you want to call the campaign.

For example, let’s say your site is www.mysite.com, and you are running a banner campaign on www.somesite.com.

The link you would provide to somesite.com would be www.mysite.com?utm_source=somesite

And you can do it to any URL, not just your homepage.

That’s the bare minimum, but you can just as easily pass in more information to make your reporting even richer. There are 5 name/value combinations you can use in all (called “tags”), and you really want to use at least the first three.

The five tags are:

  • Name  (utm_campaign) The name of your campaign. Example: Free Shipping Promotion. utm_campaign=Free+Shipping+Promotion
  • Source (utm_source) The source of your traffic. Example: SomeBigSite.com utm_source=SomeBigSite.com
  • Medium (utm_medium) This is the medium sending you traffic. Example: banner. utm_medium=banner
  • Term (utm_term) Mostly used by AdWords campaigns, Google will load it with the search term used when they saw (and clicked on) your ad. If you’re running a PPC campaign with Yahoo or MSN, you can add this one yourself but to do so, you’ll need to create a specific URL for each keyword. utm_term=my+keyword
  • Content (utm_content) Here you put any additional clues to help you determine the effectiveness of two otherwise similar things. Example – let’s say you’re running two banner ads, one in the header, one in the footer. You might put footer in one, and header in the other. utm_content=header.

So for our banner ad example, the full link might look like this now: http://www.mysite.com?utm_campaign=Free+Shipping+Promotion&utm_source=SomeBigSite.com&utm_medium=banner&utm_content=header

I know what you’re saying now – how the heck do you know how to get the link just right? Looks complicated right? Well it’s not, and to make it even easier to figure out how to properly format Google has given us an URL Builder to do the heavy lifting for you.

Google’s URL Builder

Hope this helps.

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Happy Links

January 28, 2009 in Happy Links

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January 27, 2009 in 4 out of 5 stars, e-Commerce Solutions

What is it?

Shopify: A hosted store/shopping cart solution which allows you to heavily (and easily) customize the design. You can have a professional-looking store, with a fairly modest investment. It’s aimed at helping folks who want more than a PayPal link off their site, but who can’t afford (or don’t need) a custom solution.


Who makes it?

jadedPixel Inc.

Why is it the killerest?

First - you have to understand that the options for robust hosted shopping cart solutions out there, which allow you to heavily customize the look of your store, are pretty dismal. Most force you into using their proprietary templates or severely limit your flexibility, and usually top it off with terrible customer support.

Shopify does a good job of addressing all of those issues.

I interviewed Scott Lake of Shopify back in 2006 as they were launching. I didn’t have an opportunity to really put Shopify through the paces until late last year, however, when a client of mine was a perfect fit for Shopify. So I finally took the plunge and helped them get everything set up, and I found the experience with Shopify to be just as good as I’d hoped. My client is now successfully processing sales, and I can comment on the whole process.

The first thing I needed was the flexibility to customize the look of the store to match my site.

On this front, Shopify gets an A+. I should note that fully customizing the look is not for the non-technical. If you’re not technical, you need to hire someone who is. To customize it, you need to know XHML, you need to know CSS, and you need to learn a little bit of their proprietary code for pulling in the store elements on a page. That said, the interface and system for working with all of that is just superb, and the support documents (via a wiki) are solid. I started with a little trepidation, and the usual fierce resistance to reading anything, and was quickly making very favorable progress.

So here’s a screenshot from a page on the site in question (www.madsencycles.com):

Madsen Cycles Website

And I wanted to bring a similar look into the store, creating a seamless experience for users from site to store, and back.

Here’s a screenshot from the store, hosted by Shopify (shop.madsencycles.com):

Madsen Cycles Store

By the time I was done, I didn’t feel like I had to make compromises on design. Shopify gave me the flexibility I needed to make the store look like I really wanted it to, and at a tiny fraction of what it would have cost to build a custom solution.

I should mention here that if you don’t need the look of your store customized, Shopify has a range of “themes” you can choose from – no deep technical expertise is required to set up a store using one of the themes.

Here’s what else I like:

  • Order management has all the features you would want for viewing, filtering, organizing and printing. You can get an RSS feed of your orders and email alerts. You can send out shipping notifications to customers include sending shipping tracking info. Plus you can download csv files of your orders for processing and reporting in your own system.
  • Product management has inventory management, variations on a single SKU (think: red/blue/pink shirts), multiple photos, flexible descriptions and pricing. You can also organize items into collections for easier display and cross-linking/up-selling.
  • You can add any additional pages you need that aren’t part of the product/checkout flow, for example your privacy or return policies.
  • While I haven’t used it, they have the ability to add a blog to your store.
  • They have an opt-in (or out) email list they’ll build as people buy, and you can download a list of those people to use in email marketing.
  • You can set up discount codes to provide either a percent, or a dollar amount off of orders that meet a certain criteria, and you can limit them by date, and number of uses. Very nice.
  • You can use virtually any payment processor if you already have one set up with your merchant account (I used this, and it works great), and/or you can use PayPal and Google Checkout, or even good old fashion Checks, Money Orders or COD.
  • You can have customized shipping prices provided by carriers, or come up with your own.
  • They’ve even got relationships with some of the large fulfillment service companies (like Amazon Services).
  • They also make it very easy to hook Shopify up to your Google Analytics.
  • If you’d like you can password protect access to your store (handy when you’re under construction).
  • Finally, they’ve made the checkout clean and simple. This increases conversions, and is a welcome difference from virtually every other hosted shopping cart solution.

What could be improved?

My list of complaints is short, but it’s strong. None of these are deal-breakers for me, but I hope they’ll be addressed soon.

Must haves:

The final payment and checkout pages do not retain the look and feel of your site. This is the #1 issue they should address. The jarring transition when customers may already be nervous about pulling out their credit cards is surely causing cart abandonment. The crown jewel of Shopify is the ability to customize your site look, and this shouldn’t stop on the most important page of the process. Fortunately, while they work on that feature, there is a little-publicized way you can at least update the look somewhat using CSS. See here for details.

Support responses are a bit lagged. I found it look a couple days for them to respond by email. I fortunately didn’t need support much, but I’d prefer a snappier response. I talked to them about this, and they said they’ve just started using a new system to help them improve on this.

Would be extra super nice to haves:

I would really like the ability to swap the main (large) product photo, as I swap the selected product variation. I could have hacked this together using javascript, but I’d prefer that functionality be available in the system.

A built-in custom affiliate program. In other words – an affiliate program I can offer to my customers, managed within Shopify. Clearly this is a beast of a job, but it would make Shopify a tremendous force in the marketplace.

More flexibility with promo codes. They’re pretty good as is, but I’d like to offer free shipping, or buy X get X free.

Gift certificates. I’d like the ability to sell gift certificates which generate a code my customers can enter at checkout. Again – a beast, I know, but a guy can want.

Better reporting on discount codes. Right now, I have to open an individual order to see which code was used. I’d like a report of all the codes used, how many times, and by date. This is partly to address the lack of an affiliate program, but would be a nice feature to have.

The ability to allow regular users to login so they don’t have to re-type their information. This should be unobtrusive, to be sure, and ideally it would be an option a store owner can enable or not – but it would be nice.

How much does it cost?

From $24/mo + 2.0% of transactions, to $299/mo + 0.5%



Reviewed by Carson McComas

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January 26, 2009 in 2 out of 5 stars, Business Intel, Twitter

What is it?

twtpoll: A simple poll service, primarily aimed at letting you use Twitter to ask a question and get responses from your followers. You can also embed the poll in your website, send it to Facebook, email it, etc.


Who makes it?

Felipe Coimbra

Why is it the killerest?

If you're using Twitter (as directed) then you'll be part of that powerful conversation we discussed. This little service is a way to harness that conversation and gain helpful information.

It's simple, it's free, no login, no fuss.

It allows you to block or allow multiple votes from a single IP (to control vote-stuffing).

Like with Twitter (and because you'll presumably be tweeting it, although that's not necessary) your questions are limited to 140 characters.

The results come back in a nifty little pie-chart. It's new and it's mostly just for fun, so I wouldn't throw anything too hefty at it, but it does fill a need, simply.

Give it a try here to let me know if you'd be interested in a WorkHappy.net podcast. 

What could be improved

A little info on customizing the look for design conscious webmasters might be nice. So would viewing the votes inline on the same page (i.e. not jumping to the twtpoll site). Hard to complain too loudly given the price, however. And the twtpoll page is clean, and ad-free.

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Tip: an undocumented secret in Google AdWords

January 23, 2009 in SEO/SEM, Tips

Note: old hands with AdWords already know this, but for those of you who are new to AdWords, or haven’t gotten that deep with it yet, I hope this tip helps you out.

First – when writing ads in AdWords, you should all know that the very first and most important rule is to use the keywords in your ad, preferably in your ad headline. This gives you the highest chance of getting clicks – in part because it bolds those words in the ad itself, but also because it’s a clear match for what the searcher is looking for.

Adwords-example Now, have you ever noticed how you can type some obscure term into Google, and ebay/Amazon/Target/Shopzilla have ads showing, with that term in the ad? Well here’s how they do that, and why you might care.

This tip is most useful for people who have many, many product offerings. The most effective thing to do is write specific ads for each of your keywords. If you want maximum success and click though rate – that’s the way to get it. But if the constraints of time, or budget, or practicality make that impossible, then this can be a good option.

Google has a syntax feature when writing ads where you can create a placeholder in your ad copy, then Google will dynamically flow a search term that matches one of your keywords into your ad, under certain conditions.

Here’s the syntax that you’d put in your ad. Note: the “default text” text is what shows if the term won’t fit or the quality score of the term is too low:

{Keyword: default text}

Example ad text using the technique:

{Keyword: Stuffed Bear}!
Get your {Keyword: Stuffed Bear} Here!
Free Shipping on all orders.

Here’s what happens – Google will use one of the keywords in your ad group that matches what the searcher typed in and put it where the placeholder is.

So if you have a keyword Pink Bear, and someone searched with the term Pink Bear, the ad would show thusly:

Pink Bear!
Get your Pink Bear Here!
Free Shipping on all orders.

All the same ad writing rules apply, of course. But when used properly, this can be a great help. Enjoy!

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Sorry about the website downtime…

January 22, 2009

So chalk this up to an additional benefit of Twitter. If you’re with me there, you may have followed the (boring) saga. Summary: My hosting company failed me, GoDaddy saved the day. (Now if only GoDaddy weren’t so cringe-inducingly lame with their marketing, logo, and website.)

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January 21, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, Hiring

What is it?

crowdSPRING: A marketplace where someone in need of creative services (say, a logo or website design – most requests appear to be for logos) can post what they need, when they need it and how much they want to pay. Once posted, designers (called “creatives”) from around the world (about half in the US, half outside the US) will submit actual work – not bids or proposals – for the buyer to review. As the submissions come in, buyers are able to review, sort, rate, provide feedback and collaborate with creatives until they find the "the one." The buyer then picks the winner, and the winner gets the project payment. 


Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

When I first heard about this service, my hackles went up. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that crowdSPRING fills a real need. There is a market of folks who think $500 is a lot to spend on a website. In my experience, these folks are not typically well-served. I can't afford to work with them, and they can't afford to work with me. So usually they end up hiring an amateur/hobbyist and the results they get are extremely hit and miss.

crowdSPRING seeks to fill that niche. As of this posting, there are 12,181 creatives registered on crowdSPRING. In looking through the next 20 project about to close, it looks like the average number of creative submissions per project is 55. That’s 55 different options to choose from. Compare that to the handful you get if you try one of the outfits buying ads on this page.

While this can be an attractive option for budget-conscious startups, crowdSPRING are careful to protect their providers/creatives as well. Each project is started with the project fee put in escrow and awarded without exception to one of the providers if the project gets at least 25 submissions. Both parties enter into a written legal contract (provided free and customized by crowdSPRING) with the intellectual property of the provider protected, and ownership transferring only from the winning provider when the project ends. Logo projects can be no less than $150 (most end up around $300), and website designs (uncoded), no less than $400.

They also have a “Pro” service for higher end work (projects starting at $1,000) which have constructs for privacy and include NDAs.

They’ve really done a great job of laying out all the necessary elements for this to be successful for both parties. The website is easy to use, and very well done. The whole process is carefully thought out and constructed.

As startups try to take advantage of the current economic conditions to get ahead, looking seriously at crowdSPRING for early creative work is an attractive option.

What could be improved?

Hard to find anything. These guys are hitting on some incendiary topics to be sure, but they appear to be forging these waters with careful thought and respect for all parties involved. I don’t personally think they’re hurting the mid or high-end design market – most of these buyers couldn’t afford it anyway, and most designers wouldn’t want them as clients. For a vigorous back-and-forth with the community on these issues, see this discussion on the 37signals blog with one of the co-founders.

How much does it cost?

They take another 15% of the project price from the buyer. So a $300 logo job costs you $345.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

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January 20, 2009 in 3 out of 5 stars, A service, Business Intel

What is it?

Poll Daddy: A service which allows you to put a poll or survey on your site. It then offers rich graphical reporting of the responses.


Who makes it?

Automattic, Inc.

Why is it the killerest?

Because it makes it simple to ascertain the opinions of your website/blog visitors.

As the website publisher, you fill out a simple form on the PollDaddy site indicating your question and the possible responses (including "other" where they can enter their own responses) and they provide you a snippet of code which you place on your website to display the poll/survey.

It has a user-friendly admin interface which makes it easy to quickly create a poll and view the results.

All plans (free included) offer the ability to customize the look of the poll to match your site, if you don’t like one of their preset looks (they’re not too bad). They’ve got a nifty editor to make customizing easy-ish, but if you want to edit your design once it’s changed, you need to know CSS. The upside is that if you do know CSS, you can make a very customized poll.

You can add youtube video, or images as your question, or answers.

There’s pretty good logic and constructs in place to help you prevent and manage multiple votes by the same person.

And you can close the poll after a certain date.

They’ve done a nice job of making a fairly easy-to-use site and service. The reports are pretty neat as well, and the poll and survey setup (when they work) are pretty straightforward and easy.

What could be improved?

I ran into numerous bugs using the service. Nothing I wasn’t able to work around, but it was a mess. I had pages error out, and when I generated my first poll, the code (to paste) was wrong and didn't work. I had to go back through the site and load the code page again to get the right code. It had several problem that I assume are probably related to the a heavy load today? Things did eventually work after I re-tried them so I assume they'll get these cleared up, and when they do – this is a great offering.

How much does it cost?

Free for a basic version, then $200/yr or $900/yr to allow more than 1,000 responses per poll.


Here’s an example of the poll (and I’d love to have your responses).

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Twitter (for entrepreneurs)

January 19, 2009 in 5 out of 5 stars, Twitter

What is it?

Twitter: A means of being part of The Conversation. The fourth leg on the internet communication stool (yes, the stool has four legs now). Email, Blogging, IM, Twitter. (I know, I know. Bear with me.)

A note: this post is for those of you who have never heard of Twitter, or who don’t “get it.” See the rest of you back here for tomorrow’s post!


Who makes it?

Those smarties who changed the world by creating Blogger – Evan Williams (@ev) and company. Could they really be responsible for pioneering two of the four most important internet communication methods? Turns out that yes, yes they could. And they have.

Hard to believe? Read on.

Why is it the killerest?

Well, let me start by saying that only because of the pedigree of this service, I reluctantly signed up back in 2006.

Then promptly rolled my eyes.

I figured it was one more shiny object the internet kids were chasing. So I largely ignored it. But instead of fading away like a fad, the noise only great louder, the adoption more widespread, and finally, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I think it was when Shaq  (@THE_REAL_SHAQ) started using Twitter seriously. I mean, if Shaq gets Twitter?

So I decided to invest a little time to see if I could “get it.” And get it, I did. Bear with me, and you might get it too. And yes, this is extremely relevant for entrepreneurs. Chances are, you want to get it.

First, a quick description. Twitter is about communication. It’s kind of like micro-blogging. You make a “post” (called a “tweet”), of 140 characters or less in length, and anyone who “follows” you, can see your post/tweet. Most will just see it, anyone can reply to it if they want, and you both move on. It’s that simple.

At first I thought: what do I care if someone just ate breakfast? I have to admit, that following someone you don’t know, or know of – and hearing about them eating breakfast has pretty limited personal appeal, at least for me. That said, one of the uses of Twitter, is to connect with your friends and family who do care that you just ate breakfast, and this is a way to share that, without sending out an email, or making a blog post, or saying something on IM which expects a response.

But Twitter is about more than that. And you as an entrepreneur need to know what that more is.

First step, you need a tool. Not the Twitter.com website. You go there to sign up, and you go there to find new people to follow, but you don’t go there to use Twitter to communicate. This is important to know. The moment that I “got” Twitter, was when I started using TweetDeck. Now, there are a couple bazillion similar products, I happened to choose this one first after a little research, and about 24 hours after starting to use it, I suddenly “got” Twitter. TweetDeck gave me an interface where I could easily watch, and be part of the conversation. This is key. I can’t imagine deriving the real value from Twitter just relying on the web site to stay connected to it.

For those of you who aren’t in front of your computers all day – Twitter was also (perhaps originally?) created for you. You can do everything I discuss via your phone with text messages and apps for your iPhone or similar phone. This is a whole huge aspect of Twitter that I haven’t dived into yet, but if you’ve got a phone with texting, you can be part of the The Conversation too.

Ok, so the key understanding Twitter, as I elude to in my intro, is to understand that Twitter helps you be part of The Conversation. What’s funny is that starting to use Twitter, was like putting on special hearing aids that allowed me to hear a new frequency. Suddenly I became aware that there is indeed a conversation going on that I had no idea about. Now that I’m using Twitter, I’m part of the conversation. I think for most entrepreneurs, being part of the conversation is exactly what you want to do. No matter what your market segment it, chances are that segment is having a conversation on Twitter. Do you want to be part of it?

So here’s how you get started:

  1. Go to Twitter and sign up. It’s quick, easy, secure, and they don’t spam.
  2. Download TweetDeck, or any number of the other options out there, or get it set up on your phone
  3. Find some people to follow. You can search for them, or everyone has a public list of the people they follow, look through a few of those lists and you’re sure to find someone that interests you.
  4. Sit back and watch the conversation.
  5. Jump in and participate.

It’s that easy, so give it a try.

Some ideas on how to be part of the conversation:

  1. Provide your followers what they are looking for. If you follow me, for example (@Carson), I’ll be posting ideas, stats, news bits, links, and other items of interest related to my interests (entrepreneurism, business, marketing, SEO/SEM, photography, etc.). Plus I do micro-reviews of everything I review here, with a link back to the full review. So it’s another way to keep up with WorkHappy.net.
  2. Use it to interact with your market.
    1. Chase Jarvis (@chasejarvis) uses it to connect to fellow photographers, clients, and prospects.
    2. Comcast (@comcastcares) uses it to (primarily) field gripes and respond to frustrated customer’s questions and comments.
    3. Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) uses it to spam his stuff, and offer interesting links and commentary, and communicate with his followers directly.
    4. The CEO of Zappos (@zappos) uses it to talk to customers and admirers of his company.
    5. Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) uses it to promote his work with charity, and keep fans updated on his training.
    6. Barack Obama (@BarackObama) used it to help campaign.
    7. Karl Rove (@KarlRove) uses it to bring balance to the force.
    8. Or maybe that’s just Darth Vader’s job (@darthvader).
    9. Twitter (@twitter) uses it to keep you updated on the news, health, and the status of Twitter.com.

      You get the idea.  
  3. Be real. Be human. It’s expected that Twitter is fairly personal. Use the common rules of decency and courtesy, of course. But telling us about what you had for breakfast on occasion, is probably ok. Let the real you come out. Part of the fun of Twitter is allowing us all to have a less formal conversation. So go ahead, let your hair down.
  4. Talk back. Part of the fun of Twitter is that it’s a one-to-many, “two-way” conversation. If someone says something you want to respond to, you can reply by starting your tweet with the at symbol (@) and their Twitter name, then post your tweet. The recipient will get a special notification in their “replies” area of what you said. For example, one of my favorites on Twitter is John Hodgman (@hodgman). He’s the comedian who plays “The PC” on the famous Apple Computer TV commercials.  John affectionately refers to his Twitter followers as “the hive mind.” And he regularly interacts with them. He’ll post a question. And his followers respond.
  5. Let people know they can find you on Twitter. Put a link on your site/blog (I have one on my sidebar). Depending on what your purpose is in using Twitter, you might want to somehow let your clients/prospects/customers know they can find you there. Don’t be obnoxious of course – but let anyone who cares know where to find you. The more people who follow you, the greater your ability to participate in The Conversation.

A few pitfalls to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t be overly commercial/spammy. This isn’t a marketing email. Save that stuff for your… well, marketing emails. I mean, if I’m following Adam Savage (@donttrythis) (he’s the guy on the US show Myth Busters who doesn’t wear the beret) I don’t want him jamming his show down my throat, telling me to watch, etc. What I want is the inside scoop, the personal connection – what he might share if we were buds. And that’s exactly what he gives. Perfect.
  2. Go easy on the volume. I love @guykawasaki, but he is so prolific I had to unfollow him and resolve to keep up with him by checking his Twitter page periodically instead. Because I like to actively monitor the conversation, I prefer not to have someone who dominates the conversation. 
  3. If you ask a question and get an answer – share the answer with everyone. Many times your followers will have a similar question, and be anxious to hear the response as well. Remember, your followers don't get the replies you get.

You can start slow – I am (I really only started a couple weeks go). Start by listening. Spend a few days observing, and picking up on the culture, the chatter, the general feel of the conversation – then when you feel comfortable, wade on in. 

Now that I understand Twitter, I have to tell you that I’m completely floored by it. And I was the biggest skeptic on earth. I made fun of it for years. Scoffed at my friends who used it. Invited them to get a life. Suggested they were probably real big fans of MySpace too. But I was wrong. First – it’s a whole lot of fun. But second – it’s useful. It’s a new way to communicate. It fills a gap that email and blogging and IM just don’t meet. You may not feel like you have that gap, but I invite you to give it a try for a week and then let me know where you stand.

What could be improved?

Frankly, I hope they don’t do much. They have an API which allows outside parties to extend them (like TweetDeck does), and I believe they should leave that to them. They’re more like a protocol at this point, and I think that’s exactly where they should be.

How much does it cost?

Just a whole lotta your time, if you're not careful.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

p.s. This presentation isn’t catered to how the entrepreneur might use Twitter, but it does describe how it works, and where it fits in communication picture.

p.p.s. Darren Rowse of Problogger fame (@problogger) has a site dedicated to Twitter Tips. It has some good ideas and things to think about as you're getting your feet wet.

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A tip for bloggers who care about SEO

January 16, 2009 in SEO/SEM, Tips

Did you know you can submit your RSS feed to Google as your "sitemap" in Google Webmaster Central? Remember that Google says submitting your sitemap lets them know "about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover." Which is a Good Thing. So take a couple minutes to make sure Google is up to speed.

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