It's time to monetize the Web

Businesses need to adopt a "bold" approach when it comes to using their Web sites to attract new customers and increase sales, says a Net entrepreneur.

Businesses need to move beyond using their Web sites as a branding tool and focus instead on selling products and collecting customer information, according to an Internet entrepreneur.

"The average Web site is afraid to ask for an e-mail address, because they don't want to be seen as trying too hard," said Armand Morin, who specializes in Web traffic generation. He spoke to ZDNet Asia when he was in Singapore last week to conduct a seminar.

Taking a "bold approach" can pay off, claimed Morin. When it comes to getting visitors' e-mail addresses or enticing them to buy a product, he has experienced higher-than-average rates for Web sites he co-founded, such as Ask Database.

Another marketing mistake businesses make is the failure to "monetize" e-mail newsletters, noted Morin. "Every time you send a newsletter, there's no reason why you can't put offers in," he said.

However, e-mail has its limitations, said Morin. "One of the biggest issues for businesses today is making sure [the messages] get delivered to the intended recipients", he said.

That is where Web technologies such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication) come in, said Morin. RSS has proven to be a "universal tool that everybody can start utilizing", and once the technology becomes mainstream, it could overtake e-mail for marketing purposes in a matter of time, he predicted.

'Pop-ups' still relevant
Also close to the U.S.-based Morin's heart is the issue of 'pop-ups'. Morin, who developed software tools that can generate and block pop-up Web pages, said businesses should not underestimate the value of pop-up pages, even though many people associate them with spyware and adware. SiteAdvisor, for instance, relies on the number of pop-up ads as a gauge for determining if a Web site is dubious.

According to Morin, 'pop-ups' were created to present additional offers to the online shopper. Such offers were strictly for that particular Web site they appeared on, but over time, the use of 'pop-ups' was abused, he noted.

"Pop-ups can be effective; it depends on the use," he added. "It's like a gun--it's dangerous if it's in the hands of a bad person."

Businesses should be careful to only use one pop-up ad at any time, and its purpose should determine the duration on the Web site, said Morin. Efforts to grab attention, such as special-offer advertising, should only last for a short time. In some cases, the pop-up ad can be a permanent feature of the Web site--for example, a restaurant promoting its specials of the day.

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