Web Design and SEO

Category: Marketing

An Introduction to Twitter

About a year ago I was sitting in a stupid dinner meeting with the executives of a big hotel in Vegas and the whole “I don’t get this Twitter” thing came up.  The one exec that seemed to be the most adept explained what he had read. I’m going to try to sum it all up because I tried it and it totally worked for me.

First thing – Stop bagging on things you don’t understand just because you don’t understand them.

Second – Sign up and pick a few (5 to 10) well-known people to follow.

Third – Watch. And learn. Don’t start tweeting yet, other than maybe that first “well- I’m-new-to-twitter-and-trying-to-figure-this-thing-out” tweet.  Do this for about 4 to 6 weeks.  By this time you will have figured out that you are following mostly the wrong people.  And you’ll figure out how you want to use Twitter.  Twitter isn’t for everyone.  And there is more than 1 way to use Twitter.

Fourth – Start tweeting.  Emulate the people whose tweet style you agree with but don’t be afraid to follow a few.  Use Twitter for conversations that you don’t mind being public.  Use Twitter to speak your mind about things that you want associated with your personality. Don’t spam Twitter. If you aren’t providing something either useful or entertaining don’t tweet it. No one wants to know what you ate for breakfast. Unless you just tried out a new coffee shop and want to recommend them.

Things you need to know:

Hashtags. A hashtag is a work preceeded by the # symbol.  This is used to attach your tweet to a specific topic. Don’t just do this on every tweet. This is used at events and in discussions so that everyone participating can follow related tweets.

Replying. When you begin a tweet with by addressing someone by starting the tweet with “@user” it is only visible to people that follow that user.  Sometimes this is what you want. Sometimes not.  If you want other everyone to be able to see it put something before the @ in their username. I’ll try to work their name into the middle of a sentence or sometimes I’ll just add a “.” in front of it, like so; “.@myfavoriteuser that was a good point, here’s another thing to think about”

This should be enough to get you started.  Ok, now go give it a try.

Have a tip? post it below in the comments.

Over-Optimization Penalties.

I told you so I told you so.

I don’t really like to rub it in when I’m right but this one is just begging for it.  I’ve been preaching this for the last 5 years.  My first rule of SEO is to “Keep It Real”. Keeping it real means building your links and content so that REAL users will be able to find the information that they really want. It means providing value. Make it worthwhile for the user to come to your site.

Recently Google announced that they will soon be penalizing sites that appear to have been over-optimized.  What does this mean? It means that if you have done things to make your site appear higher than it should in search results you are in for some changes.

Rand Fishkin discusses what SEO’s need to do to prepare for Google’s big over-optimization penalties that are coming up in his weekly Whiteboard Friday.  He’s dead on here. (Just as he usually is)  The word Rand likes to use to describe the right way to optimize your site is to keep it “natural”. This means doing things for the benefit of your users and not solely for the Google Bot.  Eventually the Google Bot will be smart enough to tell, and it looks like it’s not too far off.

For ethical SEO’s out there things are getting better.  You should see some good improvements over the coming weeks.

For the unethical spammy lot out there that are just about to lose all their rankings I just have one thing to say; I told you so.

Social Media – Is it Dead? Really?

Rogers' bell curve

We're in the late majority section of this curve.

So the AntiPR Guy wrote a post a few weeks ago about social media being dead.

He brings up some really good points about Social media being to the point where it will not be growing any more.  We’re past the top of the marketing bell curve.  While I agree with this I don’t agree that it is dead by any means.  To me this sounds a lot like the people who said that TV was done growing in popularity in the 60’s.

Social media is here to stay.

Social media has only helped communication evolve.  AntiPR Guy says that the next generation will not have a blog or a podcast, they will simply text.  I don’t see it.  My son for example is definitely part of that generation. He’s 10 and he has just launched his own blog where he posts chapters from the books he is writing.  As this next generation grows up I think much of their communication will be via texting but to say they won’t blog or podcast is just silly.  Social Media isn’t dead. It’s evolving.  Who can say what will be the next big thing in social media?

Social Media Landscape

Now don’t get me wrong.  Social media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be by many of today’s marketing analysts.  It never has been.  Sure it’s all the rage in marketing.  “Does your new product have a Facebook fan page?”  Social media is just the shiny new toy.  It’s like when any new medium comes along, marketing types jump all over it because they don’t want to miss the gold rush if it just so happens that this is the thing that is going to replace the horribly unquantifiable advertising practices of the past.  People are always looking for a magic bullet.  They thought banner ads were it, and they thought spam was it, and they thought TV advertising was it.

Social media however is an effective tool when used right.  It’s social.  People are social, products are not social.  But people like to socialize with other people who enjoy the sames things, including the same products.  And when they feel that a certain brand connects with them, they share it with their “friends”.  That’s when social media works for advertising,  When it’s not really the social media doing the advertising it’s the users using social media to do what they would have done via a different medium in a different age.

What Social media really has going for it will still be here for quite a while.  It’s the ability for something to spread very far, very fast.  To go viral if you will in the true sense of the word, not the buzzword meaning but like Old Spice really did with their Old Spice Man earlier this year.

So here’s the way I see it in a nutshell.  Social media is just another tool in available to advertiser and marketers.  Potentially it’s a very powerful tool. And like I always tell my kids, “Use the right tool for the right job”.   But just like any other tool, if you don’t know how to use it you’ll just look like an idiot.  Kinda like when you see a guy trying to change his tire with a hammer.

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An SEO Experiment – What Is Mesothelioma?

Someone asked me not long ago what would be a really good strategy for building an MFA site.  Personally I have never liked them. I think they make the Internet a NOT-better place.  But I knew this was someone who wasn’t planning on launching thousands of lame sites so I indulged.

Me: What is your domain that you want to do adsense on?

Them: Oh, I don’t have one yet. I was wondering what domain I should go get.

Me: Ok, do you care what subject your site is on?

Them: No, not really. I mean as long as it’s not porn or illegal or something like that.

Me: Ok, I would start out by researching the value of the ads that your site will be placing.  You need your site to naturally rank for the keywords that your advertisers will be targeting.  Let’s do a quick search.  (searching…) Ok, here’s a good list.  Number 1 keyword: Mesothelioma.  Do you know what mesothelioma is?

Them: No idea.

Me: Mesothelioma is a cancer that is caused by asbestos.  There was a few big class action lawsuits a while back and basically if you come down with mesothelioma you can get a big chunk of this money.  Lawyers are dying to get in front of you if you have mesothelioma so they are paying big bucks to get that keyword.  See, look at this. Keyword number 3 “What is Mesothelioma” They’re spending $50 a click to get that keyword.  Now keep in mind, they are probably not paying for non-Google domain searches.  That means that your won’t be getting the $50 clicks on your site. But that’s still a pretty good indicator.

Them: So let’s say I want to have my site be about mesothelioma.

Me: Ok, so next thing you want is to see if you can get a domain with one of these keywords in the domain.  So let’s see what’s available… wow, look at that! is available.  A .biz is no .com but still, that’s a pretty good domain.

Them: Ok register it right now before someone steals it.

Me: Oh you must have done this before on GoDaddy and come back the next day to get the domain that you wanted just to see that someone else had registered it hours after you had looked it up.

Them: Yeah. How did you know?

Me: I’ve heard that story many times.  That’s why I don’t use GoDaddy. (typing and clicking…)  Ok, so now it’s registered.  You have two choices at this point.  You can either develop your own unique content (which is better) or you can just put up a page with links and some easy copied mesothelioma stuff and not worry about it any more.

Them: I think I’ll develop my own content.  How do I do that?

Me: First, go research Mesothelioma.  Make a list of sites you want to link to.  Make your own notes and write some unique content about it.  I’ll setup a WordPress blog and you can just come add content when ever you want.

So the story doesn’t end there.  The site cleared the sandbox in less than 2 weeks.  It got its first real visitor about 3 weeks later.  And finally 2 months later it’s ranking for the keyword “What is Mesothelioma”.  Granted, it’s on page 31 but it’s still ranking.  With less than a total of 5 hours of work on it.  And it’s getting clicks.  It’s best click so far has been $2.94. That’s not too bad but you can’t make a living on it without traffic.  Now we’ll just see how much it really gets.

**Note: I also recommend going through the process of measuring potential traffic. We just didn’t happen to do it on this experement.

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Naming Conventions as a Marketing Tool

No, I’m not talking about including your keywords in your files names, though that is a worthy subject for a blog post.  I’m talking about the designer being organized enough for someone else to make sense of their photoshop layers.  How is that marketing you say? Let me explain.

Shawn Borsky recently wrote a really good article covering the basics of design that help the designer excel and shine.  One of his suggestions is that we stay organized in our naming conventions and organization.

Stop and think about this for a minute.  Who is ever going to see your PSDs?  You typically send a flattened jpg or png to the client or if you are really serious about your image you present it to your client in person printed in high res and mounted on mat board.  You don’t show them your PSDs.  You will see your own files again some day down the road when you need to make a design change but don’t remember what you named the layer containing the clients logo.  Quite possibly the developer who takes your design and HTMLizes it will see the PSD but the client’s decision maker isn’t going to see them.  Or will they?

I’ve spent a lot of time working in both roles, designer and developer.  As a developer there have been numerous occasions where the decision maker has come to me and asked “What do you think of these guys?”  And usually I just answer without giving it much thought.  I base my answer not on how the designer has been able to handle them self in meetings and conversations, I judge by how easy they are to work with and how well they get the job done.  I have received PSDs with 20MB of layers that aren’t even being used.  That’s not saving me any time because it’s hard to tell at a glance which layers are really needed because they are named “layer 57” and “copy of vector smart object”.   The time spent sorting out the layers and figuring out what is supposed to be there can really add up if the designer hasn’t taken the time.  No one knows the file like the original designer so it takes the designer a fraction of the time it would take the developer just to figure it out.  I have also received files where the layers are organized into folders and cleanly labeled. It’s rare, but where it happens it’s a breath of fresh air.

So I respond to the decision maker, “Oh, these guys over at this agency really have their act together.  They are worth twice what we are paying them.”  And typically I have worked with decision makers that know when to take the developers advice.  They base 80% of their decision on my advice.  The organized designer gets the job, the raise, the additional contract.

Then in the last few years there have been the times that I have been the decision maker.  I always ask for the PSDs because I am looking for good designers with which to form long lasting relationships.  There’s a lot more to it than just having your files organized.  Organizing bad work doesn’t make for a good designer. But a good designer can often lose the bid if I can find one that is almost as good but keeps things organized.

So in a way, your organization skills are your marketing.  Any time you create an advocate within your client’s organization you have your marketing taken care of for you. It’s word of mouth, only better.

Push Marketing is on Its Way Out, Welcome to Pull Marketing

Push marketing is where a company pushes it’s products to it’s consumers.  Since the beginning of marketing, push marketing has been the vehicle that has dominated the marketing landscape. With push marketing, you don’t know who exactly who your customers are so you have to shotgun your advertising, TV, magazines, billboards.

With social networking sites, that is starting to change.  The companies that understand will not be the only ones to survive but I dare say that they will be the ones that will thrive.

Yesterday I passed a house in a newer neighborhood where someone understands pull marketing.  In front of their newly prepared landscaping was a big piece of plywood with a sign painted in bright orange “Need Sprinklers”.  Using pull marketing to make the sprinkler providers/contracters come to them.  I would wager that they are also using social networking sites to find things get found online.

My wife and I decided that we need a new family doctor that is closer to home.  Immediately my wife turned to Facebook.  In less than a day we not only had a lot of referrals to choose from, we had a competition going on.  It’s basically down to 2 family practices and we’re letting our Facebook friends fight out which one  is the better choice.  If one of those practices were to join the conversation they would no doubt win my vote.

I’ve seen the same thing on Twitter, someone looking for a cloud based PBX system for personal use, someone looking for a flexible enterprise CMS, someone looking for the best WordPress plugin for this or that.

Only once have I seen a company that is capitalizing on the new mentality.  Someone complained about the speed of an internet service she uses on twitter and within an hour she had a response back from a support person at said company saying that he was addressing her issue.  It wasn’t a big enough issue for her to talk to tech support but it was enough of an issue to tell her friends.  And now we all know about this cool new service with awesome customer service.

That’s what pull marketing is all about.

This company is monitoring the networks for mentions of their brand and products and when something pops up that could do damage, or when an opportunity arises they jump on it,  turning negative press into positive press.  Right there, that is enough reason for me to check these guys out. I probably never would have paid enough attention to them but now I have and now I know that they would be a perfect thing for us to use.  In fact, they could solve one of our biggest problems in online reputation management for a specific client.

Effective marketing? Yes.  Expensive advertising? No.  Am I already sold? Yes. And have they ever talked to me? No.

Tell me what marketing or sales department wouldn’t like to experience that.

Old Technologies

I predict that by 2020 we won’t have printed phone books. Or newspapers for that matter but this post isn’t about newspapers. It’s about phone books.

We had a new phone book delivered to the house yesterday.  My 10-year-old son who loves books and has read over 1000 pages in a single weekend picked it up and gaped at it huge size. “What’s this? he asked with eyes big as saucers. I know he has seen them before.  I think so anyway. Pretty sure…

Then I started thinking about it, when is the last time I picked up a phone book with the intention of finding a phone number?  I honestly can’t remember but I’m sure it was years ago.  And then I got to thinking about how digital technology is killing many aspects of the print industry.  Newspaper, magazines, and phone books… the list goes on. Phone book companies for the most part have done a good job transitioning to the digital age.  I can’t wait until you only see phone books in museums and movies.

Having once managed the Internet department for Phone Directories Company, I know a little more about phone books than most people.  And it’s interesting to watch a company whose medium is passing try to figure out how to convert their old model to a new model. Some make it, some don’t.

And of course this just ties in with SEO.  It’s just not enough to call up your phone book company and buy a $3000 listing and expect to see some traffic to your business from it.  Now you have to optimize, localize, fine tune, design, redesign, maintain, and regularly update your digital presence.  And it’s funny, you find a company who used to spend anywhere from $5000-$15000 every year for their half page ad and they can’t justify spending the same for someone to manage their digital presence.  Then at the same time, they still pump that budget into the old dying medium knowing that it’s dying and not expecting but somehow hoping that they’ll continue to see an ROI like they would have 10 years ago.  It just doesn’t happen.

There are a few that get it.  They’re exploring new media and trying new things.  These will be the companies that grow and dominate the local markets over the next 10 years.  I went to a social networking event called a swarm last week organized by a little Hawaiian BBQ place that I never would have heard of.  If you’re on foursquare you probably know what a swarm is.  We tried for it but fell short of the required 50 attendees to get our badge. But it was a great experience for me as an internet professional.  It was an even better experience for Pounders Hawaiin Grill.  The place was packed.  I don’t think they could have handled the 50 people we were hoping for.

Now how much did they spend on this marketing? Nothing. Except for the time of one employee to get on Foursquare and do a little networking.  Now it might be a little more complicated than a traditional phone book ad. But not much.  And then let’s talk about the ROI.  How could the phone book ever compete?