OK, so you have a web site up. Chances are, your site is mute. You may have pretty graphics on it, but if there's no sound you're missing a lot. If you're a solopreneur, using audio will be one more way you can establish a personal connection in an effort to create a relationship with your audience (ie visitors to your web site).

What is streaming audio? This powerful technology is very simple to implement. If you know how to edit and update your own web pages, you will be able to add sound to them. The technology is based on Macromedia Flash, that is already installed on almost every computer. Flash provides the technology to play audio (and video), however you will need one of the tools discussed here to provide the missing link in the audio on the web puzzle.

Two kinds of solutions are available: simple, low-cost, stand-alone computer programs that record / convert to Flash format, and subscription-based online services that offer all the bells and whistles.

(NB The programs and services are listed in ascending order of cost and features)

Stand-alone solutions ("pay once, use forever")

If you are OK with updating your site yourself, or have a virtual assistant helping you, one of these two programs will be ideal for you. The benefit of using your own software is that you pay a small licensing fee once and you can use the software for as long as you like.

Impact Web Audio (PC only) This software for MS Windows provides an easy way to add new or existing audio recordings to your web pages. Feature highlights:

* record your web audio using a microphone;

* import an existing recording that you made elsewhere, for example, you could record and edit your tele-seminar;

* add a music background track to your audio (see and hear my home page);

* select the size, color and style of the player control buttons to match your web site;

* generates the code and a few files you need to upload to your web site.

SonicMemo (PC and Mac versions)

* Does not have recording capability, relays instead on you to provide your audio in MP3 format (this is not a deficiency because there are many free audio recording programs available);

* greater selection of player styles, such as one-, three- or five-button, and colors to match your style;

* ability to encrypt your recordings for protection;

* allows you to track your audio programs, eg if people listen to the complete recording or bail out after 10 seconds;

* send audio by email (call it audio emails, or audio postcard);

* redirect web visitors to a new page after the audio completes;

* uploads your audio to your site with built-in FTP.

Full-featured version for a small one-time fee, free version also available with basic functionality.

One last note on software solutions: Regardless of which program / service you use to prepare the audio for the web, once your recording is posted on your web pages it will play on any computer, PC or Mac.

Online Service Providers

There are two main players in this arena: Audio Acrobat and Audio Generator . These two service providers offer fairly similar features and benefits for those of you who are either too busy to tinker with your own solutions that the software programs provide, and do not mind paying a monthly service fee, or simply need the extra features that are available. You will still need to update your web site yourself, by inserting some code that is generated for you.

Both Audio Acrobat and Audio Generator offer a full spectrum of features that may be appealing to your particular line of business. Here's a quick list of the main features:

* record and store unlimited number of audio messages;

* record messages by phone, microphone, or upload existing recordings;

* record your tele-seminars or other conference-type calls (Audio Acrobat only);

* use audio on any number of web sites and web pages;

* send audio messages by email (audio postcards).

* record customer testimonials by phone, regardless of where they are located.

* powerful statistics on how your audio messages are played

* add video to your web pages and emails (included with Audio Acrobat, extra with Audio Generator)

I advise you to visit both web sites and compare the cost and features. Both Audio Acrobat and Audio Generator offer a trial period during which you can explore the system to see which one fits your needs and budget the best. If I were to choose between the two, I'd pick Audio Acrobat because it's cheaper and includes video. However, Audio Generator has a remarkable feature called "Super Testimonials" which you have to see in action to understand how powerful it is.

One last note: Since these are service providers, your audio messages will not be stored on your own server. Make sure you back up your recordings often in case you decide to cancel your account or your service provider encounters technical problems or goes out of business. This is especially critical with irreplaceable content such as live tele-seminars and client testimonials.

In conclusion Use audio (and video) to attract more clients and customers, describe your services or products, or in many other creative ways. Audio is so powerful, that one test shows that placing audio on an order page increased the conversion rate by more than 300% – this alone may be reason enough for you to consider using audio on you web site today!

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