Customer Service / Online Marketing – One Rock at a Time

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

They say what’s in a name? For Microsoft’s new search engine decision engine, dubbed ‘Bing’, a lot (read millions of dollars) is riding on the name and the whole premise of spoon-feeding search results to the masses.

Bing promises to interpret your search and deliver exactly what you’re looking for in small, easy-sized bites of information. Bing is from a company that has promised for over 20 years to deliver an operating system that is impervious to viruses and doesn’t freeze up your PC. Hmmm.

The name itself, “Bing” is a marketers dream. Short. Easy to remember. The domain was available (for sale). And it rhymes with lots of things.

In fact ‘Bing’ actually rhymes with ‘thing’. Who’d have thunk?

And who’d have thought the leading online search company would be called ‘Google,’ dominating the market over a company called ‘Yahoo’? I didn’t.

I couldn’t predict a company named Amazon would become the world’s biggest bookstore either. Or that a tweet would be anything more than the sound a bird makes. And though my skills as a modern day Nostradamus may be somewhat limited, there is one thing I know;

Bing is a silly name for a product.

I Google, you Google, everyone Googles, but I can’t imagine anyone admitting that they ‘Bing’ to find something online.

“Dear… I’m just Binging for our vacation information”

“John, did you Bing that camera review?”

It just sounds silly.

The original Bing

And it’s not new or cool. It’s Bing Crosby (who was pretty cool) and Chandler Bing (the not cool one on Friends). It’s not unique. It’s not hip. And it just sounds silly. [Authors note: There is a very sexy model called Anine Bing]

I will be road-testing Bing when the beta launches on June 3rd, and I will be honest about how and how well it divines my every desire. (PG-13 desires, obviously)

I doubt that I will become a Bing believer. Bing booster or even a Billabong (which doesn’t have the word Bing in it, but sounds eerily similar.)

I will be following the adoption of Binging and will tweet my Bing experiences as they happen. Maybe I’ll be found on Bing. You never know.

And that, how they say in Little Italy New York, is “badda boom, badda bing.

[updated] I’d like to thanks Seth Godin who noted that BING actually stands for “But Its Not Google” in his excellent shared viewpoint of Bing’s ultimate failure. 

For those of my readers ‘lucky’ enough to live in the Golden State of California, today marks a milestone in sales tax, when the CA state tax rate breaks the 10% ‘double digit’ boundary, to bring California near to the, or at the top of the ‘most taxed in the US’ list.

Part of the state revenue shortfall ‘rescue package’, the tax hike means many businesses in CA face more struggles in getting customers through their doors and spending money.

But all is not lost!

Some assistance is coming from a (relatively) small Federal government tax break affecting online marketing companies in the form of the Freedom of Optimization legislation contained within the Governments’ landmark stimulus package passed earlier this year.

In essence the legislation, introduced by Martin Dunlap, (R) IL, gives small businesses up to $20,000 in tax credit toward website optimization services – a boon for SEO companies everywhere. 

According to the Kentucky Legislature sponsored Bill Watch site “promoting transparency in government“, the laws’ goals are 4-fold:

  • Help US small / medium business (SMB) compete in the global marketplace

  • Reduce load on Internet infrastructure – through better optimized sites

  • Healthcare savings – By giving US citizens more relevant results a Government research group estimated a 4.1% reduction in stress-related psychological issues.

  • Reduce energy consumption (Alliance to Save Energy study) by up to 24% – through less computer usage (less searches necessary to find results)

For SEO companies across the country this means a windfall at a time when many business organizations are cutting back on their marketing spends.

As a Search Engine Optimization proponent working in a medium sized business, I can only hope the tax breaks contained in the Freedom of Optimization legislation trickle down sooner than later. Not only will it mean more, and consistent business over the next 18 months (legislation earmarks 257 million dollars in tax breaks available until December 31st 2010) for our company, it also means that many of my business colleagues will finally have some justification for optimizing their sites “no more excuses!”

What does this mean to Google?

With a rise in spending and website optimization on the SEO side, I can imagine two scenarios.

  1. A decrease in Search Engine Marketing / Adwords spend, as businesses replace paid ads with better and more quality organic traffic

  2. An increase in SEM / Adwords spend, as companies struggle to compete with better optimized organic Search Engine Result Pages (SERP).

I don’t think Google is, or should be worried (in fact, they’re noted as one of the contributors to Representative Dunlaps’ campaign and lobby group.) More relevant results for search consumers is their ultimate goal and value, this legislation will certainly accomplish that.

Though a ‘small g government’ Libertarian, this time, I think Government got it right. Great news for SEO companies & Internet users everywhere!

More information is available at the Governments’ small business website

Gmail was down this morning, and the end of world is obviously near.

It’s good to finally have the “Gmasses” realize that Google is like any other company, prone to outages, failures as well as amazing success.

Interesting note on human nature.

People are protesting, tearing their hair out, and (as said in Australia) whinging over a FREE SERVICE.

Yep, you get what you pay for and if a free service doesn’t cut it, you pay for one with a little more fiscal accountability.

Hate to harp on the “you get what you pay for”, but Google can’t be taken to task for giving away something that breaks.

Google is human, after all.

My 8-year old son asked me one of his ‘out of the blue’ questions this week as we drove to his school in Las Vegas.

“Why are there so many gas stations?”

I put on my marketing cap and told him that more places to buy gas, gives us more choice and competition gives us lower prices. (Supply and demand theory coupled with some branding concepts.)

I felt quite proud of my response until he asked “Why is there the same gas station on two opposite sidesof the street then?”

The obvious answer was “easier for people driving in different directions.” And this is in fact the case for both gas stations and Starbucks coffee houses. They sometimes place them close together (on opposite sides of intersections) due to traffic patterns and drivers inherent laziness!

‘Nuff said, but it got me thinking about the same scenario on the Internet.

There’s no apparent ‘closeness’ of websites in cyberspace. Sites, offering similar content, similar tools, or similar products may be located on servers on the other side of the world.

Where their worlds touch are on the search results pages where their relevance (as viewed by the search engines) is seen as similar or close to the search terms used.

Whether a user clicks on one link or another isn’t affected by laziness or traffic patterns, at that point the user is solely interested in finding information that is relevant to them and their needs. Search engines have done a great job of lining up all gas stations along our side of the road and letting us stop and fill up at any one of them. So what do we choose?

Gas stations pitch brand and price. I’ll stop at a Rebel or Arco station that’s cheap, rather than a brand that is more expensive. I am price driven (gas is gas, unless someone can tell me different).

Online the title and ‘snippet’ (at least on Google) may be all the user sees and makes their ‘click decision’ on.

Brand-driven decisions can be the result of including a brand name in your web page title. Cost-driven decisions can be the result of including the words ‘cheap’, ‘low cost’ or ‘economical’. Whatever the motivation may be, you have some control over what appears by creating solid content and by following basic on-page SEO techniques.

Attracting and converting ‘traffic’ depends on providing information of interest, following SEO best-practices, writing for your audience and then being able to make conversion paths easy to find and follow to goals (fill up the tank).

Constructing titles, descriptions and logical URL links makes sense in accurately describing what people should expect when they click.

Gas stations may be just about everywhere in Vegas, but your site only exists in search results pages that fit searchers’ queries. Make sure your provide enough to get the click, then the right octane gas to fill the tank and get those users to stop by again.

The current price of gas may be falling rapidly, but your information, products, tools? Priceless.

Search engines are no more!

As the algorithms and personalization through technology improves, “search engines” is no longer a term one can use to adequately explain what feeds our quest for information and content.

As of today (make a note in your calendars) I hereby announce the death of search engines as we know it. From now on Google, Live, Ask, Yahoo and the slew of other ‘information funnels’ shall be known as “Found Engines

After all, it’s not the search that’s important, it’s what’s found and presented that is key to their success and our (as seekers of knowledge) satisfaction.

From my agency days springs the expression “Garbage in, garbage out” used in video and audio production meaning essentially, the best (audio / video product) quality comes from the best quality source material.

Sure, you could hide the occasional aircraft noise in a perfect 20 minute interview, but you couldn’t get pristine out of an interview at Grand Central Station with system announcements every 3 minutes.

Problems in post production were almost always solvable by exact and precise preparation before a shoot or audio session.

Same goes for web analytics.

Using Google Analytics as an example, having distinct goals and pathways defined to measure success will always give better and more actionable results than poorly planned goal implementation (or not doing it at all!)

Clients without transactional (i.e. purchase) goals on their sites often omit goal setting as they only believe the relevance is to dollars and cents results. Goals can be as simple as ensuring certain content is reviewed, or comment is left, or a click through is obtained (it could be between pages or sites or specific exit points.)

Data is the most valuable aspect of web analytics, setting real and relevant goals is a necessity in any search engine optimization campaign.

Dirty data in = dirty data out = waste (garbage or rubbish) of time.

Take out the garbage and benefit from the clean, fresh (and valuable) data!

“Daddy?” Big 8-year old brown eyes accompany an innocent question, “What did you do before the Internet?”

How do you answer such a straight forward question?

Personally I lived, breathed, worked and generally did most of what I do now, with one big difference… far more of my day 15 years ago was spent in research; library, dictionary, newspapers, books, the Yellow Pages – mediums and information resources that I used on a daily basis in the early 90’s at the Agency where I worked have become relics as the Internet – with Google leading the charge – replaces most ‘non digital’ ways of research.

For those with internet-savvy children, try explaining why it’s better to use a paper dictionary to look up a word as opposed to where the word is pronounced for you, and one click away from synonyms, rhymes, etc.


Another key difference between then and now is where the availability of information is found.

Whereas research in the ‘old days’ meant a trip to the library, a meeting / event or being tied to your desk flipping through books or catalogs, the availability of portable handhelds or kiosk devices in many different venues gives research more of a relevance to location, situation and need. e.g. we were discussing Greek Gods at dinner last night and could instantly search for and review a website on an iPhone to compare Greek vs Roman gods (who knew that Cupid was actually a god!)

This kind of relevance to purpose at the point of need means capable users can research quicker and in more depth to gain information and opinion that much easier, with far less expertise than days of yore.

So when my son asks me again, “Dad, what did you do before the Internet?”, I’ll probably answer;

“Hold on a minute, son… I’ll have to look that up on Google!”