Author: Wendy Montes de Oca
Aimed at: Wide audience of web entrepreneurs
Pros: Some good internet marketing ideas
Cons: Occationally repetitive and self-promotional
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
The subtitle "Leveraging Great Content and the Web for Increased Traffic, Sales, Leads and Buzz" promises a lot. Can it deliver?
Content is something that will interest a lot of people and Cash is of course of universal interest so the first question to ask about this book is "Who is it aimed at". Luckily the answer is provided in the Introduction - it has been written for:
marketers, editors, bloggers, online publishers, business owners, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, freelancers, consultants, copywriters, and webmasters
That's quite a wide audience and it gets wider in the next paragraph that suggests it's also ideal for companies of any size listing:
small, mid-size, Fortune 500, boutique firms, start-ups, home-based businesses, and info-publishers
The argument presented in this book can be stated quite simply as "Write content, put it into newsletters, white papers and emails and syndicate it with others". This book's author Wendy Montes de Oca has turned this principle into a systematic approach for online marketing distribution and and devised an acronym, SONAR, for it.
SONAR is the following strategy:
- S Syndicate partners, content syndication networks, and user-generated content sites
- O Online press releases
- N Network (social) communities and social bookmarking sites
- A Article directories
- R Relevant posts to blogs, forums, and message boards
and is briefly presented in the Introduction to this book.
While SONAR crops up again from Chapter 6 onwards the early chapters introduce the book's central premise in a more general way. Chapter 1 introduces the online business model that this book focuses on as "info-publishing" websites that "use free content to bring in leads (subscribers)" with the aim of then selling products such as e-books, DVDs. memberships and paid subscriptions. This does narrow the field from the all-encompassing one described in the introduction.
It then goes on to discuss sources of free content and a lot of this is re-cycling - old newsletters, article and blog posts and culling information from conferences, webinars and audio interview and even the existing content on your website.
How much of this is likely to still be fresh and relevant? It may be content you don't have to pay for, but then it isn't likely to be worth paying for.
Chapter Two is about content syndication and while it mentions RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds in its introduction it is mainly about finding publishing partners to get "interest-free exposure" - no monetary compensation but links back to your site.
In the context of Content Aggregators it mentions Google News and Yahoo News. It mentions that there are criteria to meet to get accepted, including being "timely" and must contain "true editorial content" - and so be a good few notches up the quality scaled from the content discussed in the previous chapter.
This chapter also discusses the line between content syndication and "content farming" a practice that will have adverse consequences. A later section looks at keyword selection. The website ranking company Alexa is mentioned several times in this chapter (without explaining how it works, if you want to know more see our article on Alexa) and where it uses Alexa Rankings, particularly in Top Six Social Bookmarking sites, its information is already outdated and possibly misleading.
Chapter 3 is a very short but useful one on search engine optimization. Then comes a discursive chapter on social marketing which has a helpful list for anyone new to the topic: 10 Rules of Social Marketing (Guerilla) Etiquette. Chapter 5 returns to the the core topic, asking in its title "What is Content?" and presenting the answer in bullet points and lists,
Chapter Six is where we get properly introduced to SONAR Marketing and after some pages on each of the five parts of the strategy has a example of it in action that takes an article which quoted in its entirety, followed by it was re-used on another site, how it was turned into a press release, how it was "repurposed" for social communities and social bookmarking sites, for a niche article directory, and for a forum. We are then shown how the content cropped up on the Internet and was found using search. The chapter concludes with a list of five aspects that contribute to SONAR success.
The next chapter, SEO for SONAR looks in more detail at how to write content so that it can be found by search engines and expands on the idea of keywords with examples. Chapter 8 on Sonar in Action has some results - in terms of visitor numbers, Alexa rank and other indicators from eight case studies - but with most of the details of the websites not disclosed for confidentiality this is not at all informative. The end of the chapter introduces the three Os - Outputs, Outcomes, and Objectives, and lists Google Analytics, Google Alerts and the back-link checkers in Google Webmaster Tools as free tools for monitoring your success.
Chapter 9, by far the longest in the book, should also be one of the most interesting, given its title "Monetize the Traffic". However I found the approach of concentrating on a single site that the author had worked on for a client very off putting. The final few pages show off a selection of her other successes - with screen dumps and few words. All-in-all this chapter felt both repetitive and self-promotional.
Of more interest is Chapter 10, which discusses how to use SONAR with other marketing tactics such as affiliate marketing and ad swaps. It also has nine tips for related to buying online advertising and a section on online polls.
In Chapter 11 we consider the art of writing good content again and after ten tips from Wendy Montes de Oca there are pointers from ten other online publishers. The final chapter is largely devoted to list of the authors favourite SONAR platforms. Its other topic is measuring success and it presents an empty Sample and Benchmark and Progression chart which would indeed be a good way to monitor progress. The glossary included as Appendix A is also helpful.
There really isn't any magic contained in this slim volume but there is a lot of method and if you want to use editorial rather than advertising to promote your products and services then following the ideas outlined here is likely to see some results - but it will entail effort and while much of it can be free in the sense of not spending money it certainly has an economic (opportunity) cost.