Dec 22, 2006

Fun Holiday Activities (for Web Nerds)

A lot of our customers are entrepreneurs and web nerds who maintain their own websites (like us!).

This is the time of year when the office is closed, and we’re all relaxing at home in our pajamas with family (and going stir crazy for some work!).

So we thought we’d put together this list of ideas that webmasters and geeks can try over the holidays (or add a few of them to your New Year’s Resolutions)…

  1. If you haven’t already, try pay-per-click advertising. Sign up for a Google Adwords or Overture account, and dabble with them. You only have to put a few bucks down to experiment. Set a monthly budget of 20 bucks and just do it.
  2. Already doing PPC advertising? Consider outsourcing it. If you’re like us, you started small, but then it got to be a burden to manage dozens (hundreds?) of keywords and campaigns. There are firms out there who will manage it all for you. They usually require that you spend a few grand every month on PPC, and they take a small commission off that amount.
  3. Place conversion-tracking code on your website. Are you measuring how many people who click on your banner ads, PPC ads, or links in email newsletters actually convert into paying customers? Do you know which keywords or ads bring you the most money? If not, you could be throwing money out the door. Use something like or Google’s built-in conversion tracker. It’s surprising to see which keywords or ads are really turning into money, while others might get tons of clicks, but lead to nothing but wasted bandwidth.
  4. Optimize your landing pages. If you’re running banner ads or PPC ads, you’re probably pointing them to special landing pages. When was the last time you analyzed the click-path of your prospects, and optimized those landing pages? Maybe some "Click here" buttons need to be bigger, or more beveled. Maybe some of your links need to be underlined, or moved up on the page. Maybe you need to re-write some headlines to include keywords that visitors used to find your page. Call To Action is a great book that’s full of tips for squeezing more conversions out of  your website.
  5. Try installing Live Chat on your website. We use Timpani at MailChimp, and we think they’re pretty good. We were scared at first, because we thought people would be chatting with us all day. But it’s not as bad as you’d think. And people love instant help—it’s great customer service. Google the term "Live Chat" and you’ll get lots of other vendors you can try.
  6. Update your META tags. Yeah, I know. We learned about META tags a looooong time ago. Chances are, you didn’t spend a ton of time on META tagging your pages when you first built your website. Now’s a good time to go back and put in some better, more relevant keywords and descriptions. Here are some modern-day tips from Clickz, and here’s a list of other search engine marketing related articles. When we first designed the MailChimp website, we placed a few META tags here and there. Over time, we replicated pages to make new ones, and forgot to update <TITLE> tags on a lot of them. A sharp MailChimp customer pointed that out to me, and mentioned how important TITLEs are, now that IE7 has tabbed browsing. I’ll definitely be spending a little time over the holidays on this.
  7. Check out Google’s Webmaster tools. Have you verified your site and submitted your sitemap yet?
  8. Figure out how to integrate digg and reddit and delicious links into your blog or website (this is one I’ve put off forever, and found out it was surprisingly easy).
  9. Write a whitepaper and post it in PDF format on your website. Our "HTML Email Design Guide" gets downloaded about 50,000 times a year, and sends a lot of customers our way (yes, people still like to print things on paper!).
  10. Send an online survey. Go build an online survey at (no relation to MailChimp). Then, send a link to the survey to your email list. Ask your members what features they want in your product next, or ask them how you can improve your company’s service. It’s a really quick, simple idea for staying in touch with your customers. 2nd tip: after you get your survey results, publish it in the next email newsletter!
  11. Send HTML email e-greetings. Got a web designer on staff? They’d probably *love* to spend some time designing something fun or kooky for the holidays. Ahem, use something like MailChimp to deliver it, and we’ll track your opens and clicks. You can send ’em for New Years day, instead of Christmahannukwanzaa
  12. Setup a store, and make your own company t-shirts. Send ’em to your favorite clients. Our parent company, The Rocket Science Group, gave these away one year.
  13. Write a press release and use an online distribution service like
  14. Make an online video demo of your website or online app. We use Adobe Captivate for our demo.
  15. Put together an end-of-year satisfaction or feedback survey. Use an online survey tool like and email a link to all your customers (using MailChimp of course!) If you tinker with SurveyMonkey for a while, you can actually do some pretty sophisticated surveys, and customize them pretty close to your brand.