Thursday, February 20, 2014

I'm Kinda Siding with Google on this One!

So, imagine someone tells you that you need to start showing your competitors products and services as alternatives to your own... on your own website!  You'd be like, "Ummm... I don't THINK so!" and so would I.

Now imagine that the "someone" was the European antitrust regulators and you are Google.  That's exactly what's being decided upon right now.  According to

"When a Google user searches for a product, for example, Google will now have to surface at least three alternatives next to where it displays its own Google Shopping results in a box. Same thing for flight results. The full text of the settlement explains how Google will decide which alternative results should be chosen and who’s eligible for such placements."

Now, I know it's technically no longer cool to root for the corporate giant that has a borderline "big brother" image, but in this case I really fail to see how this is right.

Ignoring the obvious, hugely-controversial issue surrounding the fact that Google will have to reveal how they "will decide which alternative results should be chosen and who was eligible for such placement" (which is proprietary information and is just WRONG), let's back up and take a look at the underlying issue here.

Google is being told they need to advertise their competitors' products on their own website or pay upwards of $5 Billion.  At the root, this is no different than if I were a distributor of machinery manufactured by other companies, and was being forced to show competitors' machinery that I don't carry.  That doesn't make any sense to me.

Here is a peek at how their current product search results are displayed and how they would need to change it:



Is anyone else even slightly disturbed by this?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Evolution of Google's Algorithmic Changes

SEOers all across the world closely follow news about Google's changes to their algorithms. It defines our job and, to a large extent, measures our success. But with literally thousands of changes, it's hard to keep track of them all.

Hubspot and Moz teamed up to assemble the following visual presentation of all these changes. As I looked over the list, it amazed me just how long ago some of these changes went into effect. For instance, who doesn't still to this day receive requests for reciprocal links in their email inbox each week.  Google cracked down on this in OCTOBER of 2005!

The fact is, if you optimize your site the right way, you don't have to worry about these algorithmic changes. They only weed out the spammy competition and serve to boost your own site's rankings.

What it boils down to is: create amazing content which answers questions that visitors to your site have in an organized and natural way and you'll rise in the rankings. Try to scam Google and you'll certainly lose rankings.

Incidentally, worth noting is that Google recently changed their Page Layout algorithm. As of Feb 6 2014, pages that bury their page content too far below ad placements will be punished in the search engines. If you recently noticed a drop in rankings, check how many ads push your page content down the page.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Health of Your Forest: Tracking Website Analytics without Going Grazy

Ok, so I admit it.  I'm a bean counter.  When I balance my checkbook, it has to balance out to the penny.  I'll spend more time than it's worth to find that single penny rather than just make an "adjustment to balance".  (Ugh, I shiver at the thought.)

But have you ever taken a good look at your analytics? The deeper you go, the more nerve racking inconsistencies you'll discover. 

Your blogger software, for instance, will tell you you've had 113 visits resulting from a particular link or email, whereas Google Analytics will tell you there were 128.  What the heck?  How can something so easy be so complicated? 

Well, actually, there are a thousand and one ways to track traffic.  Did one analytic program filter out your own IP traffic from its data? Did it track unique views or all page views?  Did it attribute the page view from the original source or from the last point of contact?  Think about it. 

Ma'am, Please...  Just Back Away from the Numbers!

But when it comes to website analytics, I take a more hands off approach and I believe it has allowed me to keep more of my sanity (an admittedly diminishing commodity these days).  The idea in tracking your analytics, be it page views, time on site or the all-important conversion, is to look at trends

As I explained it to one of my clients this year, look at the overall health of the forest; try not to count the individual trees.  How did one tweet compare to another in driving traffic to your site?  Does one page hold your visitors attention for an extra long amount of time?  Which sources are resulting in the most conversions?  These are far more interesting questions and the answers will allow you to make more educated decisions in the future about where to take your online marketing strategy.

So, stop pulling your hair out while pouring over your analytics.  Distance yourself from the nitty-gritty details and look at trending.  You'll end up with more valuable deductions, less gray hair and more time on your hands to balance that business checking account. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ditching the Corporate Facade

Remember a decade ago when all the small businesses of America tried to dress up like big businesses in attempts to compete with them.  With the recent demise of America's trust in corporate America, small businesses are now discovering what their power over "big business" has been all along.

What big business doesn't want you to know is that they secretly pine for the ability to serve their clients on a close, personal level in the same way that small businesses can.  But, up until recently, I watched time and again as small businesses ignored that asset and tried to replicate the success corporate America was experiencing.  They tried like hell to conceal the small number of employees in their business, used impressive titles and referred to non-existent internal departments to give the impression of an organization much larger than their own.

But corporate is now a four-letter word and small businesses are ditching their attempts to appear large.  In desperation to find a new marketing approach, they are capitalizing on what was their super-power all along: the ability to interact on a personal, one-on-one level with each of their customers in a non-intimidating manner.  This in turn builds into relationship marketing of which loyalty is a natural byproduct.

Yet, still I come across clients who blow up like a puffer fish in order to look larger than they really are and, you know what?  They stick out like a sore thumb.

Here are some ways to live in your own skin as a small business:
  1. Take it Personally - Get to know your clients and their businesses or lives.  Make a point of asking them how their daughter's sweet sixteen birthday went or how their newest employee is working out.  We all want to support our friends, so the friendlier you can make your interactions, the more your bottom line will grow.
  2. Go Social - Whether your business sells to consumers or other companies, you are going to want to spend some time experimenting with social media.  This is amazing when you figure out how to make it work for you. It's all about finding your "voice" and using that voice to build tight relationships with your clients.  Speak to them as though you really want to make their lives easier and they will inevitably develop a loyalty toward your business and your brand. Just avoid any efforts to sell on social media.  This is NOT the place to do that.
  3. Celebrate Milestones - Think about ways to celebrate the growth of your professional relationship. Keep close track of the number of times they've used your services or purchased your products and recognize when they reach milestones. This can be done with a simple "Happy Anniversary" or by offering an incentive.  Think about using this as a chance to introduce them to new products or services that you're offering. 
A final caveat: getting personal with your clients should never be done at the expense of looking like an expert.  Tweeting about a wild weekend binge or a less than desirable customer is never a good idea.  At all times, you want to remain positive, professional and proactive.  Get to know each of your customers' needs, then offer solutions to them as a friend and you'll experience what corporate America can only dream of - customer loyalty through repeat business and continuous referrals.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mobile Apps Fall Short on Delivering WII-fm Strategies

When I first launched into my foray into internet marketing and had to make a quick study on the "marketing" part of it, I picked up a bit of advice that I hold dearly and apply in every marketing effort I make.  It's simply the old WII-fm theory.  In other words, What's In It For Me?

As business owners, we tend to focus on "what we want from our customers" when designing our marketing campaigns.  "Come see...", "Come Buy...", "We're Offering...".  But an effective campaign takes a little practice in stepping into the customers' shoes and asking what they really want or need from US!  

Think postcard copy and website home pages are the only culprits of this neglect? Guess again!  As I The longer I work with mobile marketing, the more clear it's becoming that most mobile apps are forgetting to take a WII-fm approach, too.

Steve Smith writes about the brilliance of his wife who sees very little use for mobile apps.  She has yet to feel compelled to reach into her purse while grocery shopping to get her smart phone just so that she can see a digital form of the same circular that is in the front of the store.

When her app-addicted husband asks her what would compel her to use a mobile grocery store app, she very clearly lays out a phenomenal app idea - which no one seems to be picking up on yet!

Specifically, she wants to see an app that will tell her not only what is on sale that week, but what recipes she can make with that sale item, where in the store that item is, what the nutritional value of it is, and where in the store she can find the other ingredients.  SWEET, huh?

Perhaps it's because she's not wowed by mobile technology, but she has nailed right on the head the missing element of supermarket mobile apps: the good ol' WII-fm angle. So, it would appear that, while technologically, we're moving ahead at full-steam, we're forgetting to take into account what the user actually needs in an app. 

And how are YOUR marketing campaigns going?  Are you writing your copy and designing your loyalty programs around the WII-fm theory? Maybe now would be a good time to take a look at all of your collateral (digital, print, audio, video, etc.) and analyze how well it addresses your customers' needs. I'll bet you'll find a few places where there are too many mentions of "we", "us" and "our" and not enough "you" and "your" references!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Yahoo Needs a Turnaround Expert

Yahoo Needs to Grab the Mobile Bull by the You-Know-What!

Yahoo has an amazing opportunity to reinvent itself in the wake of firing Carol Bartz, former CEO. As of late, folks just don’t seem to use Yahoo as much as they used to.  I heard someone mention on National Public Radio (NPR) that they’d accidentally landed on Yahoo once or twice in the last year but otherwise had no clue what Yahoo was doing anymore.

1990’s Yahoo tv commercial
That’s tragic.  For a while, Yahoo was it!  Remember the 1990’s Yahoo tv commercials? They really did have great momentum prior to Google’s rise to glory.

But can Yahoo really hope to rise to the top again?  It’s highly unlikely that either Yahoo or Live will ever dominate, but they can certainly claim a larger slice of the pie.. and there’s LOTS of pie to go around!

What Yahoo needs now is a “turnaround specialist”, someone who can bring fresh perspective to digital information and think outside of the box.  For instance, for years now Yahoo has lagged behind in mobile marketing.

Look at what Google has done to make searching for things incredibly easy on mobile devices.  They took an aggressive stance, developing their own line of handhelds on which to use their mobile search.  Cause let’s face it – half the time we want to know something, we’re sitting around with our friends talking about favorite movies and wonder who that guy was that starred in that flick back in 1989.  We’re never in front of our computers!

And Facebook and Apple have charged into the mobile arena with great ideas (and dollar signs in their eyes), too!  Yahoo needs to do something a bit than release a digital new reader.   

So, maybe Yahoo can ask that nationally prominent executive search firm to find someone with some mobile experience.  Or… maybe they could just Google it.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Go Sprint!

As anyone who knows me knows can attest, I am in love with my Droid powered Evo phone from Sprint. I've been with Sprint for over a decade and, while we've had our arguments over the years, I am still happy with my cellular provider marriage, especially since they offer the coolest phone on the market today. So I'm all about this company's growth.

Well, now it looks like the Department of Justice may have just knocked the wind out of AT&T's sail as it tried to acquire T-Mobile. (Read the story.) Sprint lobbied and marketed hard against this acquisition stating that it would leave only two companies controlling 80% of the industry: AT&T and Verizon, both of whom are dominant in trying to control mobile internet accessibility.  AT&T is, of course, requesting an expedited hearing.

Incidentally, a new Yankee Group report suggests that Sprint is well positioned to take on its major carrier rivals by providing an unlimited mobile data plan and a high level of customer service. The study points out that the company's customer-satisfaction rating continues to rise each year, averaging 7.8 out of 10 this year, compared to 7.2 last year. That puts it second only to Verizon.

So, keep it up, Sprint! You've got a great product, above average customer support (which, granted, in the cellular industry isn't saying much!) and pretty decent coverage across the country. You'll catch up to the other giants soon!