Customer Service / Online Marketing – One Rock at a Time

How to move mountains – eCommerce & eMarketing strategy for success!

Always Postpone Meetings With Time Wasting Morons

This Is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value

Try Rebooting Yourself

Words You Don’t Want to Hear During Your Annual Review

Don’t Step In The Leadership

What Would Wally Do?

I’m Not Anti-Business, I’m Anti-Idiot

Thriving on Vague Objectives

When Body Language Goes Bad

Random Acts of Management

It’s Not Funny If I Have to Explain It

Don’t Stand Where The Comet Is Assumed To Strike Oil

Excuse Me While I Wag

When Did Ignorance Become A Point Of View

The Fluorescent Light Glistens Off Your Head

The Joy of Work: A Guide to Finding Happiness at the Expense of Your Co-Workers

Freedom Is Just Another Word for People Finding Out You’re Useless

Yes… Scott Adams is a genius.

I saw this article on a well-trafficked blog in regards to achieving high Google rankings.

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It’s a simple two-step process

Getting high rankings on Google is a simple two-step process:

  1. You must optimize your web page contents so that Google can find out what your website is about. Optimize your web pages for your keywords so that Google knows that your website is relevant to these keywords and your topic.

  2. Other websites must confirm that your website is about that topic. That’s what inbound links are for.

It’s as simple as that. If your website passes Google’s analysis of all ranking factors, it will get a top 10 ranking.

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The key here are the simplicity of the steps (I don’t think anyone experienced with SEO will say the process or expertise required makes them “simple” to execute) and the simplicity of the results “If your website passes Google’s analysis of all ranking factors, it will get a top 10 ranking.” (emphasis added by me)

I equate this simplistic statement of the simplicity of SEO as like me saying, “Winning the Indy Car championship requires two simple steps”

1. Get in

2. Put your foot on the gas

If you follow these steps you can win the Indy Car championship!

< Oh... and by the way, everyone else has to crash and burn for this to actually happen. >
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See, the problem is, is that SEO isn’t in a vacuum. There’s other smart people out there trying to optimize content, on page, off page factors and not everyone can get “top 10 ranking” – it’s logistically impossible and unrealistic to expect.

I would recommend everyone add to the top of their SEO list.

#1 Be unique, create unique content, be a subject expert.

It does make the other “simple two-steps” at least have some basis in reality.

I’m sitting in Borders trying not to discuss politics with a loud guy next to me.

I wish people would realize that evangelizing to me won’t affect my political leaning, in fact it infuriates me when I give my opinion and it’s completely ignored, mainly because they are opinionated to the point of exclusion of all other opinion.

I feel exactly the same with loud and singularly focused websites, emails and non targeted marketing communications.

Seth Godin calls it “interrupting marketing” I call it annoying.

If you want me as a discussion partner or customer, first understand my motivation, listen, then target your message to me.

You’ll have a better chance of me listening, acting and converting.

Make me feel special… I might even buy something from you.

What make a hobby into a business?

Is it the size of the market, the penetration of the market segment, or both?

I’m a big believer in the long tail of marketing, selling less to more – you can read more about it here or stick around for my thoughts 🙂

Although economies of scale help Amazon thrive as a long tail retailer (can I coin the phrase longtailer?) a smaller business needs focus and enough of a marketplace (or marketplaces) to be profitable.

This is where a good online marketing strategy can level the playing field and help find profitable fish without wasting too much ‘bait’ – in this case bait = $$$.

Creating custom landing pages or microsites is relatively inexpensive, it takes good copy / content and either distinct URLs or subdomains that target specific niches that may be close, but not exactly the same.

I’ll stress the obvious… content is king. In fact, content is king, queen, jack of hearts and every other picture card you can think of. I’m the first to admit it’s not easy to create niche and differentiated content. Copywriting is an art, and writing copy for the web that satisfies users and search engines (which is pretty much the same thing) is a Leonardo DaVinci kind of skill. The good news is, is that content doesn’t have to be perfect to be ideal.

Unique is key to niche marketing copy. Marketing to the niche of niches requires a good understanding of the subject, and a perceived or real expertise, opinion or concept that is unique within that subject.

For example, if you want to have a niche on the best bait for catching trout, can you provide expertise on the correct bait for trout? Can you provide a special kind of trout bait that no-one else has, or the insider knowledge to help people cultivate / build / capture / ferment their own?

BTW: Do I sound as if I know nothing about bait? The only time I went fishing was on the Canadian side of Lake Huron, didn’t catch a thing, and drank beaucoup beer we sneaked across the US/Canada border… I digress.

Once you have the content, building a strategy around ‘getting it out there’ is much easier, and something that has systematic (and fairly consistent) steps to follow.

Landing pages, microsites, Pay per Click, linking, on page / off page SEO, they’re all processes that build traffic, but without great, unique and valuable content, you’re leading that traffic up a dead end street.

Looking for niche profit? Find the content within, then get it out there.

Author is a better online marketeer than fisherman. No trout were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Lost my attempt to stay away from politics, as we approach the US elections, when I picked my son up from school this week.

I’m a big L Libertarian who believes the best government is a small government, so I follow elections with the hope that one or another of the candidates will actually deliver small to do big things. I remain hopeful.

Back to School

My son, who’s an apolitical 3rd grader, has been all abuzz with the elections. As it should, his class is learning about how the political process works (the “ideal” scenario!) and as part of their research they sent letters to both candidates for President with their comments in regards to the future of America, American education and American economy. These questions were simplistic in nature and each letter closed with wishing the candidates good luck.

None of these kids are of voting age. Yet. So the value of a response from either candidate couldn’t be perceived as being driven by immediate rewards (i.e. vote for me!).

This week my son came home proudly displaying his Obama button, and directed me to a letter his class had received from Obama himself (I’m not discounting or naive - relaying perception of the letter, personalized and signed by Obama.)

Of course I asked if a letter had been received from John McCain, the answer was ‘no’, so I asked again, “Why do you think that is?” – My 8 year old son replied, “I don’t know, but I think he’s mean for not writing back.”

What cost a letter and stamp?

It’s a documented fact that the Democrats have more campaign fund dollars than the Republicans as of October… BUT, realistically, what kind of time and money does it take to respond to a letter?

From a marketing standpoint, the Democrats have, from the start, taken a commanding position in everything from web to TV, to social media to print. My question is, why for the price of a stamp and 15 minutes of an aides time would they not respond to a letter?

My conclusion is they are focused on the immediate vote, not the long term mindset.

As kids, many of our brand favorites are indelibly etched into our memories and our preferences, for life.

I remember eating my Dads preferred brand of peanut butter far into my 30’s and listening to music preferred by my mum long after her parental influence had waned.

So whilst the Obama campaign is building mindshare and support for the Democrats’ 2020 election, the Republicans are losing potential voters by not making the emotional and physical connection.

What about 2008?

If we take this one step further and focus on the net affect for this election, it’s hard to imagine any downside to a written response to this group of 3rd graders (apart from the time and effort to do it.)

Obama’s letter was clearly posted on the wall. Parents saw. Parents discussed. And parents commented.

If my kid is saying McCain is rude (because he didn’t write back), I hear. It resonates. It’s an incremental brand message.

I hope McCain / Palin and all politicians hear and understand what has happened here.

Constituents have been ignored. A brand has been tarnished (whilst another has soared).

15 mins and a stamp could cost the Republicans an election in 2020

Now apply this same logic and missed opportunity to your business. Especially in tough economic times.

Is there something you can do, to reach out or respond to customers or prospects? Something that takes little more than 15 mins and the cost of a postage stamp (or a cheaper email!), but something that could endear your brand for a future sale?

Market for 2020 and you may just find profits in 2008

Banks are supposed to be safe. They even have a safe in them.

They look after my money, so they better often superior service to my ceramic piggy bank and mattress ’hiding spot’

And when they don’t. Oops!

All of a sudden, banks are scrambling, dealing with tarnished reputations and in some cases going out of business.

For those banks that remain, the quickest reaction they have, has been to reassure and reflect with online reputation management, mostly consisting of a couple of paragraphs of text recounting their strength and history.

Here in Nevada, banks aren’t immune from either the cause, problem and reputation solution.

But is it enough?

My recommendation would be to create a clearing house of information, supported by a regional initiative – a web presence – that puts competition aside and reassures consumers that (in this case) Nevada banks are safe.

Having that kind of niche, with a strong, focused message should ensure that folks looking for information on their local banks’ situation could find exactly that. (Isn’t that what search engine marketing is all about, finding information?)

Add to this a social component with user generated content such as ‘my bank’ ratings and comments on how the bank has been a part of their lives, work, play, support and growth.

Then add to this a future looking product that reinforces a forward facing belief in the strength and longevity of the institution, and suddenly reputation, trust, and (hopefully) business is created.

In the world of bank faux pas, those that actively communicate their strength and vision will be the ones that retain and attract customers – an online effort is key to survival and success.

In case any of you live in the middle of nowhere, with no television, radio, newspapers or, come to think of it, any people, there’s the run up to an election going on.

Republican, Democrat, Green or Independent, supporters of political parties are easy to spot.

The passion of politics drives bumper stickers, buttons, hats, stuffed animals, websites, videos, TV commentary and many other visual and aural communication. Although the actual items or mediums may cost money, the publicity given and passionate following is actually free.

When people are passionate they yell and scream in support (or recommend more quietly).

Online… support can take the form of a link to your site, a positive blog comment on your service, or independent site specifically developed to evangelize your product or service. (to name a few)

This type of promotion can grow organically if and when you deliver your product, service or promise.

Credibility, trust, value and hopefully longevity comes to brands that gain a passionate following.

Encourage it, support it and amplify it where possible.

Peter Blackshaw wrote a great book, ”Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000” – well worth a read.

With some poetic license I’d like to tweak and add to it.

“Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000, Passionate Customers Yell to Whoever, Whenever, Wherever and However.”

Ensure your customers are empowered and passionate to promote.

Before you spend too much time, effort, energy and money (after all time is money) on optimizing and search engine marketing for every search engine out there, ask yourself a few questions.

1) Do I have the time, effort, energy and money to submit to all the major search engines (Ask.com,, MSN, Yahoo)?

2) Should I focus effort on one or two niche search engines or directories specific to my market?

3) Should I just focus on Google and get exposure to over 60% of the searches conducted online?

For most campaign efforts, I recommend door #3 – it’s a big, valuable piece of the pie and normally more than most people can finish in one sitting.

Understanding and optimizing for your users and for Google is a tasty proposition (and a 5 course meal in itself!) Bon apetit!

Okay, I admit it. I’m an XGO!

What?

An ex Club Med “Gentil Organisateur” – a hospitable organizer of Club Med vacation memories.

In my almost 5 years with “The Club” I (and others) developed personal brands with various degrees of success. There were corporate metrics to measure how effective these branding initiatives were, which were part science, part human-dynamics and part ’clap-o-meter‘.

For those who remember the 80’s or have been to a Club Med resort, the clap-o-meter was a device that “measured” an audiences’ response with a Christmas tree of lights that progressively rose as the clapping, cheering or jeering increased in volume.

Of course the magic of the clap-o-meter was the little man at the back flicking switches based on how loud the clapping was. I’m certain more scientific methodologies could be used, but this was low budget, high return stuff!

Effective personal branding in Club Med was easily measured by applause, whether it was voting on an act (in the case of the ‘talent’ shows) or at shows’ end when GO’s were introduced.

This immediate feedback – how loud the audience cheered – demonstrated the visibility and popularity of the particular GO. This feedback over the course of a ‘season’ was a major contributing factor in determining a GOs worth, status, hierarchy and “perks” – whether it was a choice of resorts for the following season or choice of dinner date for that night 🙂

Your virtual clap-o-meter

Think about how you can improve interactivity and social mechanisms on (and off) your site, and allow people to cheer for your products or services. With many mediums to choose from, blogs, forums, video, review sites etc. there’s opportunity to give your customers a voice and platform to demonstrate why you deserve their (and other prospects’) trust and business.

What kind of clap-o-meter are you using in your website?

Can users give immediate feedback?

Can other users see, feel, experience that feedback?

Is there an opportunity to show your popularity and visibility?

And most importantly, is your audience cheering for you?

Leveraging your customers cheers may not lead to a romantic dinner on the beach in Cancun, but it’ll certainly drive more business and site conversions, and these day, that’s about as romantic as eCommerce gets!

Catching up on many blogs, comments and news from this week. Crazy days.

Doom and gloom hitting global markets. Local vendors going out of business. Dow Jones down.

Yep, financial armageddon appears to have begun.

Looking at some online statistics, one thing hasn’t appeared to have changed over the past week from financial hell. Site visits to many of the websites I own or monitor have held steady. Interesting.

Imagine if this scenario was taken offline. Doom, gloom, unemployment, the R-word… yet still people are out on the streets “looking” for something. Information? Opportunity? Something to buy?

I won’t be an Internet Chicken Little until I see a significant drop in business service searches and traffic to sites that offer business focused or consumer good for sale.

So I’m not kicking back, just lazing around, tweaking some sites and hoping to convert a few more to take up some slack of those that aren’t spending as much.

The virtual sky’s still looking pretty clear.

Organic’s good for you, right?

In the veggie isles at the market, organic is (now) easily available. And it’s good for you! Online, search engine optimization has always strived to position a site high in the organic results. And that’s good for you too, right?

Fact: There is no quick hit in getting good, consistent organic listings in Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

Over the past 2 years I have seen the value of organic listings (the ‘non sponsored’ part of the Search Engine Results Pages – for those grasshoppers out there) rise relative to the value of Pay Per Click (PPC) listings simply because educated consumers are clicking on them more frequently, whilst at the same time PPC costs have skyrocketed.

One recent example; I conducted a heatmap analysis using the excellent tools at Crazy Egg that showed one of my clients (who’s paying $2,500+ a month on Google PPC) as getting over 65% of their Google traffic from their organic listings.

Does this mean reigning in some of their (or your) PPC spend? It certainly could, but the truth in any competitive environment is sometimes you “have to be there” from a branding or positioning standpoint.

Fact: Competing for sponsored placing isn’t always the smart business option for Return on Investment but it is sometimes a necessity.

As searchers become more sophisticated in their understanding of value (greater relevance) of organic results over “sponsored” listings, I expect to see even less clicks on PPC ads.

To support ongoing business and growth, I anticipate Google allowing more or better differentiation of Adword ads (more copy?), integration of organic and sponsored into one list (with flags) and / or more stringent quality standards for paid ads (it’s already happening) to ensure less of a difference between the relevance – read value – of paid over organic results.

As long as there are trust issues with sponsored results, expect organic results and expertise in the ‘how to get great organic’ results to win the day.

After all, if organic better for your body, it’s got to be better for a healthy business.

🙂

Quickly… what’s the most important component of Search Engine Optimization.

psst. look in the post title while Alex Trebek isn’t looking!

Answer… content!

I just wrote a 9 page detailed site analysis report only to throw it away and draw up a one page recommendation. In fact it only had four sentences.

“To improve your search engine rankings I recommend you first empty your site of all content. Next, I recommend you find out what makes you special, your ‘secret sauce’. Next, I recommend you find a damn good copywriter to put it into words that educate and inspire. Finally, call me.”

Now this may seem a little harsh, I want the business after all, and to be 100% honest, I sent this cover note with the 9 page report attached (I’m not that crazy!)

The point I was making (and actually made – the prospect called me back) is that search engine optimization is not about putting lipstick on a pig and calling it Paris Hilton (although the resemblance is quite close), you have to communicate your message, your focus and your reason I, as a user, should care.

Content will always be king, not just for the search engines, but most importantly for your users, prospects and customers.

Remember not to build a virtual castle on virtual quicksand by spending time and money on something that will never work.

Finally… remember that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a pig with makeup.

Did I make my point?

Checking my referrer logs I found a Google referral from a somewhat strange (to me) search term.

“paint a vivid word picture disney ads”

The power of Google is that you can be found even if there’s no apparent relevance, at least initially – the listing has since dropped from Google’s #1 SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

[note: “painting a vivid picture” and “Disney” and “ads” were mentioned in two separate posts]

Remember everything you write and post out to the blogosphere has the potential to drive traffic (whether you want that traffic or not) so picking the right words to say is key – a better mousetrap for the mouse you want to catch.

Write well, write unique and write often… choose your words carefully… they count!

Tale, not tail. Though this has a lot to do with tails. The tale of tails.

I saw Beverly Hills Chihuahua with my kids yesterday. I knew how good it was going to be before I went. How you ask?

The long, long tale.

Movies are tested, just like package goods, websites and tag lines etc. should be, before they are released to the public. Sometimes the feedback during testing doesn’t go too well and the product needs to be refined or redefined. Sometimes the product tests so poorly that it gets thrown out. And sometimes… sometimes a decision is made where marketing becomes the flip of the coin for success (or return of some investment).

In the case of movies and / or TV shows, where a lot of money is invested in production (and development) marketing often takes the front seat to create demand for a series or film release. Generally, the worst the product has tested the more promotion and the longer out the promotion begins. The long tale.

In the case of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, the ‘teasers’ began 4 months ago, with cute, dancing, pyramid leaping chihuahuas (a clip that doesn’t appear in the movie.)

The long, long tale was augmented by a series of TV and pre movie ads, in cinema displays and Disney publication ads that generated enough interest for my kids to want (more like demand!) to see the movie.

My thought is that word of mouth will kill this movie within 4 weeks, but by that time Disney will have recouped a large part of production and marketing costs.

The moral to this story (if anyone needs one), is that marketing isn’t the cure for the common product.

A product (in this case a movie) needs to have an essence of remarkable to generate positive word of mouth, longevity and profitability.

In the case of a website, traditional marketing campaign, or online campaign, having a unique and valuable product is key to both short and long term success.

Forget the long, long tale… a compelling story supporting a differentiated and focused product is (mostly) all you need.

< tail wagging >

I admit it. I’m a twit.

Rather I’m a tweep or tweeper or something else that wasn’t a word when I was young.

The vernacular of “Twitter” a micro-blogging platform for people who have outgrown Facebook, yet still yearn for communication with a mix of international “tweeps” who appear to have way too much time on their hands.

Funny thing is, as I’ve got deeper into the “Twitterverse” I’ve discovered the group I’ve interacted and ‘conversed’ with includes CEOs and Industry innovators, top-notch brand leaders and successful marketing gurus.

Twitter actually seems to have real value in information and camaraderie.

Without espousing too much, Twitter is so much more than just posting small snippets of your thoughts and life. I’ve come to understand that it’s more of a social experiment in “NOW” – what you’re doing and what you’re thinking at a specific point in time.

It’s interesting, it’s amusing and, most importantly, 99% of the time it’s REAL.

If you haven’t tried it… sign up. If you want to learn more about it, here’s an excellent overview of Twitter from the smart folks at Commoncraft, in an easy to understand video format, watch below.

An 8 point lexicon

Fun with Tw words

Urban definition “Tweep” (not as endearing as I’d like)

One last thing… Follow me! @simmonet