Monday, September 26, 2005

Free Website Content - When Something is Free Online

What are consumer expectations when something is free?
Realistically, consumers subconsciously assume free means free, and while that might be the initial intent rarely is it the case.

What Exactly Does Free Mean?
Very few things these days are free in the real sense of the word. There are very few free items that do not have any strings attached.

Why do Companies Offer Things for Free?
Companies or individuals may promote a free offer or service for any number of reasons. From branding to ad revenue, companies often use "free" to attract attention or interest. As a consumer, it is important to realize what "free" might really mean.

Reasons Things Are Free:

Companies may offer something in exchange for a link back to their website. As the web becomes increasingly more competitive, linking can effect more than just search engine placement, and providing a product, service or information free of charge in exchange for a link can be a good business decision. Often, publishers will create articles like this one and make it available for syndication, with the stipulation being that the author resource box that follows the article remain intact, providing links back to the author's website. Bottom line, authors often make content available for syndication in exchange for links back to their websites, which they benefit from.

Ad Revenue
Some companies provide a product or service free of charge and generate money from advertising. Perhaps they sell banner advertising on their website. A free product draws web traffic so that the number of visitors seeing the advertisement increases. The more visitors a site attracts, typically the more revenue generated from the ad space. Perhaps a software application is free of charge, but has embedded advertisements. When ads are clicked, the software developer earns a percentage of the revenue paid for serving the advertisement.

Goodwill Branding / Public Relations
On occasion, companies will provide a product, service or information free of charge. If the offering is extremely magnanimous or socially sensitive, they will often receive significant press exposure, generating free publicity for their brand. Pepsi Cola sponsors a number of athletic events and generates enormous amounts of brand loyalty and positive PR with their target audience.

Contact Information
Sometimes companies or individuals will provide something free in exchange for contact information. Ebooks are often provided free of charge if you provide an email address. The contact information may be sold at a later time or be used to market related products. It is important to check website privacy policies to determine how personal information can be used.

Companies will often provide a light version to gain attention for fee-based products or services. This often allows potential customers to see a product's or services potential. The hope is that providing something free will generate both brand loyalty and interest in fee-based options or services.

The Problem with Free
If a business or individual is truly providing something for free, there is a cost involved. Whether time, resources or services are consumed to provide the free item or service there is an expense involved. If the cost is at any point greater than the benefit or perceived benefit of offering the free item or service, the business or individual will likely review options to better balance the cost-to-benefit ratio.

They may:

Discontinue support
Companies or individuals that provide a free product may continue to provide the item free of charge but discontinue the support. If the item is something like software, the expense has already occurred. By providing the item without technical support or customer service they can reduce their staffing costs. The only ongoing expense to provide the item free of charge would be ongoing hosting costs, which are usually relatively small. If the item is critical to a business or individual's operations, the value of the item will be lost if technical support or customer support is no longer available.

Businesses may simply discontinue offering the free item or service without notice.

Individuals or companies may begin requesting donations, compensation, volunteers or a benefit listed above in order to continue to provide the item or service free of charge.

Cut Corners
Often free items are of reduced or inferior quality. Cost-conscious businesses or individuals often try to minimize the expense associated with free items and will use less expensive materials for free items.

There is value to "free" just be sure that you know what it is. Next time something is offered for free, evaluate the quid pro quo and determine what you are giving in return, because very little is ever really free.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage a wireless text messaging software company.

Free Website Content - Finding Forums

The Value of Forums - Finding Forums
There are literally thousands of online forums that cover a wide range of topics. Forums provide individuals, who share a common interest, with a meeting place for open discussion, and a great gathering spot for "water cooler" talk. When used properly forums can be an excellent business tool and resource. By providing well thought out, helpful responses posters can develop a reputation as an industry expert. Establishing a reputation within forums will eventually lead to solid business contacts and relationships.

Forums, online discussion groups, can be found on many websites. Companies, individuals or groups often have their own web-based forums, which are a good source of technical information or just general discussions. They can be closed for private use only or open to anyone to post messages, which are usually sorted within different categories, or topics. Posting to forums is obviously effective when an immediate answer is not required. Forum can be found by searching for topic or subject with the word 'forum' or 'forums'. Forums are a great way to participate in a community that is discussing a particular topic, or communicate with a group of people interested in the same topic.

Rules & Regulations
Before you post to a forum its important that you read the Charter or description of the forum and determine what is appropriate. It is probably not a bad idea to monitor a newsgroup for a few days prior to posting. Understanding what is accepted or not accepted in each newsgroup will go a long way in befriending the participants.

Forum Etiquette
Spam is generally frowned upon, if you require information on general forum etiquette I'd encourage you to read the article at: . Rules and etiquette can vary from one group to another, so don't assume what is acceptable in one, is acceptable in another.

Some forums require that you register and provide contact information in order to post a message or respond to messages. The registration is typically simple and requires that you submit general information. An email confirmation is required in order to confirm the information; once the confirmation is responded to posting privileges are granted. Some forums do not require registration and you can post anonymously.

What to Look for In a Forum
Because time is valuable it is best to frequent forums that have a lot of traffic, this will ensure that any posts receive maximum exposure for little effort. The most recent posts should be have current dates and it should be clear that there is regular activity on the board.

Moderated Forums
Some forums are moderated, which means posts are approved prior to being made public. This means that if you post to a moderated forum, there will likely be a delay between the submission and the posts appearance in the forum. Moderated forums tend to have a lower 'noise' ratio and have less off-topic posts. The downside to moderated forums is that like moderated newsgroups they are usually less popular because of the lag time between posts.

Signature Line
Most newsgroups allow for posters to include a signature on any posts. This is your opportunity to mention your products and services. Use this as an opportunity to tell other forum visitors what you want them to know. Be sure to provide an url to your website, as the link will not only refer potential clients but it will help search engine ranking.

Finding Forums
Forums can contain generic information or be very topic specific. Try the following resources to find forums that meet your needs.
Forum Directory -
Forum Directory -
Forum Search -

About the Author -
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePage, Inc. a company specializing in alphanumeric paging, SMS and wireless messaging software solutions. Other sites by Sharon can be found at , and

Free Website Content - Webmaster Tools

With new technologies, algorithms and sources emerging on a daily basis, webmasters are constantly struggling to stay informed. The quality of content on the web and the number of products available to webmasters can seem overwhelming. The goal of creating a site that can be quickly found can be a struggle. Unless webmasters have a well-established brand, a great domain name and a huge marketing budget, it is important that they appear in search engines via specific keywords. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of resources and products that will benefit webmasters in their efforts to be found.

1.) Webmaster Articles & Tutorials -The Internet is rich with resources for webmasters who are developing and optimizing web content. The web hosts a vast variety of web design tutorials and articles. For the novice, sifting through these resources can be daunting and overwhelming.

Site Point - New Articles, Fresh Thinking for Web Developers and Designers - With a vast variety of web design tutorials and articles coupled with a vibrant and well informed community, SitePoint is the natural place to go to grow your online business.

WebProNews - WebProNews is an article portal for Internet and Technology professionals and has thousands of articles on web design and development. The articles are from iEntry's network of expert writers through hundreds of relationships with authors around the world.

2.) Webmaster Forums - Not only can participating in various forums and posting your various views and ideas potentially bring new growth and life to your online business, it can help you stay informed about industry news or changes. This is particularly important when working in a new, quickly advancing industry like web design and search engine optimization. The following forums are great places for webmasters to participate and monitor.

ThreadWatch - ThreadWatch is a nifty tool. The concept of Threadwatch is very simple: finding the signal amongst the noise of internet marketing media takes too much of what we all value most, time. cuts through the chatter and produces a clear signal for the time-starved professional Internet marketer.

Webmaster-Talk - The WebmasterTalk forum covers material related to Web Design, PHP Help, Coding, Hosting, Domain Names, graphic optimization and related webmaster topics. The forum is extremely popular and generally, posts will receive almost instant responses from knowledgeable professionals. Of course, like any forum, there are bound to be opposing views ensuring that all sides of every issue are raised.

3.) Website Submission Tools - According to research more then 90% of Internet traffic is generated by search engines. Submitting your website to all major search engines is the most effective way of promoting your website on the Internet. In order for web surfers to locate your site you must be included in all the major search engines. There are a number of tools available to assist with the submission process.

Internet Business Promoter - Internet Business Promoter is a suite of 10 professional web promotion tools in one software application. All of the tools are designed to assist web developers with all aspects of web site promotion and search engine optimization. We found that IBP's strength was in the website submission options. Once a site is created it must be submitted to search engines and directories. IBP streamlines and simplifies the submission process, saving significant amounts of time. - Free Web Submission is the source for free search engine submission. They provide webmasters and site owners with free manual and auto submission to the highest-rated, free internet search engines and directories.

AddMe - AddMe is a leading resource for webmasters and small-business owners specialized in website submission and promotion in the search engines. AddMe offers free online website submission to 14 major search engines in exchange for a reciprocal link. AddMe is well known and respected in the industry.

Many of the online submissions require an e-mail address. In order to limit excessive unwanted e-mail many webmasters will use a "throw-away" e-mail address that would allow them to initially receive notification that the site is submitted but is ultimately an e-mail account they can discontinue after the submission process. This practice is suggested for anyone using a free service for site submissions.

4.) Online Tools - A number of resource sites are available on the web to assist webmasters. The resources are generally free and contain useful analytical tools.

DigitalPoint - The DigitalPoint site contains a variety of tools specifically for webmasters. The tools are a collection of useful online tools, from a Google AdSense Sandbox that shows which Google AdSense ads will be displayed for any webpage on the Internet, to web ranking tools that track Yahoo's web rank.

SEO Survey - Tools to help SEO specialists and webmasters automate some of the important tasks involved in the routine of optimization.

5.) Webmaster Software - The aim of many applications is to save time, money or productivity. Webmsters can often use software to replace a task they do manually, freeing up their time to pursue other tasks.

FeedForAll - FeedForAll creates, edits, manages and publishes RSS feeds. As webmasters realize the benefits to RSS, software related to RSS is becoming an instrumental tool in their arsenal.

TNT Screen Capture - TNT captures everything with only 3 simple capture modes, from application windows to controls, to menus and popup windows. Many integrated unique features like shadow options, transparency, quick scaling and individual shapes make it quick and simple to create stunning screenshots at a mouse-click.

6.) Free Content - Free content comes in all shapes and sizes. Understanding who your target customer is and what appeals to them will go a long way in finding content that will increase your site's value.

GoArticles - Providing a fresh stream of content-specific articles is a great way to encourage visitors to return to your website on a regular basis. GoArticles is a directory of quality articles that is searchable based on keywords.

Small Business Software - Collection of small business and marketing-related articles available for republishing.
Articles - http://www.small-business-software/free-website-content.htm

FreeSticky - FreeSticky provides a directory of content available to webmasters free of charge. The available content is a variety of items including syndicated cartoons, games, horoscopes, photographs, forums and articles. The supplemental content is designed to encourage visitors to return to your website.

RSS - RSS stands for really simple syndication, RSS feeds generally contain content available for syndication. Meaning that you can often publish content contained in an RSS feeds to provide fresh website content. FeedForAll has a free PHP script available to display RSS feeds. Additional resources to learn more about using RSS as web content can be found at and

7.) Alerts - Using web alerts is becoming increasingly useful to webmasters interested in tracking their search engine position, trademarked terms, to monitor competitors and stay abreast of online occurrences.

Google Alerts - Google Alerts is a solution for monitoring your professional interests online. Track the entire web for your personalized topics and receive new results by daily e-mail. There are two companies doing this: Google Alerts, and

PubSub - PubSub is a matching service that instantly notifies you when new content is created that matches your subscription. Using a proprietary Matching Engine, PubSub is able to read millions of data sources on your behalf and notify you instantly whenever a match is made.

Tools for Online Tracking Alerts - Article detailing additional tools available for online tracking and alerts.

8.) Blacklist Checkers - E-mail delivery problems often occur when an IP address or domain is black-listed. The following tools will ensure that your IP address and domain will not have delivery issues.

DNS Stuff - DNSstuff: Free fast, advanced and comprehensive web-based DNS tools, going beyond just ping, tracert/traceroute, WHOIS and DNS lookups.

SpamNews - spamNEWS is a concise aggregation of vital information relevant to professionals in the anti-spam sector: Up-to-the-minute press coverage and topical editorials about e-mail abuse, related online security matters, legal and political issues, as well as articles on Internet marketing and privacy.

9.) Keyword Tools - Keywords to improve search engine placement and ranking. Finding top Internet marketing keywords is critical in the quest to be found. Choosing the right Internet marketing keywords will help your search engine placement and ranking. A little keyword research goes a long way in the search to be found.

WordTracker - WordTracker helps you choose the right Internet marketing keywords that will help your search engine placement and ranking. Use WordTracker for keyword research. Web marketing is all about search engine ranking, and that starts with the proper Internet marketing keywords. Get a free keyword report and web site promotion information!

10.) Newsletters - Email newsletters continue to be one of the most important ways to communicate and find information on the Internet. The following e-mail newsletters contain great information for webmasters.

SitePronews - A free newsletter and webmaster resource site for Webmasters focusing on web site promotion, submission, positioning, design and marketing. The newsletters and websites contain articles by noted web experts. The SiteProNews site was the first of more than 12 web sites that focused on niche areas of particular interest to webmasters, marketers, newsletter publishers, authors and entrepreneurs.

iEntry - The iEntry network has a really great collection of useful newsletters. iEntry publishes over 50 targeted e-mail newsletters that cover various aspects of the IT and Business industries.

Like most of the copious amounts of information on the Internet, it is a matter of sifting through to find relevant, accurate, helpful information. Occasionally we stumble across some little-known gems. As a result, we have compiled these webmaster tools.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing and publishing RSS feeds and NotePage a wireless text messaging software.