72 posts categorized "Marketing"

March 03, 2014

Google & SEO | This dog finally has teeth


(Guest post by Brandon Wentland.  Image courtesy of Prashant_sh)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a complicated, technical, and sometimes shady practice of massaging Google’s search algorithm in your favor.  It is a big deal because top ranking for key terms can mean hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars of revenue gained.

SEO has evolved through the years, but the last two have been the most volatile.  Some are calling it it the SEO apocalypse.  It has been a rough ride, but it is all for the better.

Google’s algorithm changes are a good thing

Google’s goal is to serve the best, most relevant results to you (in .2 seconds or less!).  Spammy SEO hijacks this by oftentimes getting undeserving sites in top results.  Google has FINALLY cracked down on this in a couple key ways: links and anchor text.

How Google’s crackdown affects you

You might not even know Google thinks your website is spammy.  Some big brands have been badly hurt by Google: Expedia and Rap Genius, just to name just a few.  These penalties are a big deal because you can often disappear from search results.  This is bad for business.  Lost visibility directly affects ROI, brand recognition, and more.

Even if you just have a passing knowledge of SEO, you can protect your site.  Though Google has cracked down on links and anchor text, with the right tools you can find what Google calls, “unnatural link profiles.”  

Links, links, links

Google is a link-based search engine.  Links are at its core and in its DNA.  The amount and types of links you have make up your link profile.  Having a diverse, healthy, and natural link profile will help you rank well and protect you from penalties.

Anchor text

The word(s) or phrase linked to a site is called anchor text.  In the past, you could rank well for “cheap cars” if you had tons and tons of links with that wording.  Now this is seen as unnatural and spammy.  Nobody links to you like that!  Most of the time they will use “click here,” “learn more,” or your brand name.

Low Quality Links

A few years ago the more links you had, the better.  Their source didn’t matter.  I have seen links from Malaysian flower shops and deodorant websites linking to local companies.  You can be 99% sure that such links are irrelevant for most websites.

Tools of the trade

Your linking information is not publicly available, so you will need to use a tool to gather it.  Our personal favorite is Link Research Tools.  Using one of their quick audit tools, I can see a word cloud for python.org that shows distribution of anchor text:


(This is healthy anchor text. See how the biggest terms are all branded and not commercial in nature.)

I can also see the distribution of the links for any site.  The lower quality links are on the far left. If you see a spike, it’s a good indicator of suspicious link building.

  Link profile

Take action!

If your word cloud shows a lot of “money” terms (i.e. - your service or product) and not your brand, change the anchor text to a branded term or disavow them completely.  Do the same with your low quality links.  Remove them if you can.  If not, disavow them.  Doing so will help you prevent your site from a painful Google penalty.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me on Twitter or comment below, thanks!


Brandon Wentland is the President of Optimal Digital Marketing, a digital marketing and SEO agency based out of Appleton, WI.  You can follow him on Twitter or Google+.


June 17, 2013

Delight Your Customers By Texting Them (really)

Up until recently, I would have told you that texting did not create much of an opportunity for businesses as it might be considered obtrusive.  Of course, for critical communications like flight delay info, I've given out my text for a notification to airlines.  A few friends of mine, have their bank balance texted to them to avoid over drawing their account.  Other than that, it seemed like most consumers only want to receive person-to-person texts (and not to often!).  

As a result, most companies don't integrate text notification into their customer relationships.  They gather physical mail addresses, email addresses and phone number (without validating that they are mobile or home phone numbers for text notification purposes).  If they gathered a text number, along with "would you prefer text notifications?," they could leverage it to save or make more money.  

I recently shred this advice to the owner of a chain of dry cleaners, and to him, it was an unproven concept.  He needed a case study where it could actually save or make him money, otherwise "why recreate the it's-ready wheel?" 

Mobile1 Lube Express offers an example of how retail businesses can leverage text notifications, an offshoot of the same technology that drives social media, to drive customer engagement and loyalty. Their results likely scale to the general population, beyond their category. 

In 2012, the Willow Grove Pennsylvania location created a program where customers were offered an oil-change reminder via direct mail, email or text message.  Surprisingly, 32% of all participants requested text notifications.  When they received a text notification, 35% of them came into the shop for service within 45 days.  In sharp contrast only 21% of those who were sent a reminder in the mail came in for service during the same period.  Text driven customers spent almost 15% more than the average, proving that not only is digital communication a great way to connect, it often reaches the most lucrative customer segments.

The company will replace their print mail notifications with digital ones to both increase marketing effectiveness as well as reducing costs.  This is the true promise of connecting with customers where they are, as opposed to continuing to use legacy ways of communicating.  In any event, Mobile1 Lube Express learned that keeping in touch with customers pays off...it's just a matter of how much.

Read more about this case study here.  And don't forget to get permission first before you text! Slide1

June 14, 2013

How Do You Define Innovation? (You could win!)

This week, I've been tweeting and writing about innovation.  We all know it's the prescription for sustainable success in a constantly changing world.  But what exactly is innovation?  I've played around with several definitions over my consulting and speaking career - and each one is helpful to those trying to harness it's power.

So, I've created a Facebook Page contest, inviting all my friends and followers to submit their definition of innovation.  Next week, I'll pick the most helpful submission and mail the winner a nifty Intel titanium removable drive (8 gigs). It's my way of saying "Thanks" for contributing to the conversation.  

Take a minute to check out the video I made that explains the rules, the prize and my motivation for launching it. Make sure your submissions are in the comments to the video on the Facebook Page and not here.

April 26, 2013

Social Media Lessons Learned From The Audience

Last night I attended a fireside chat where Vince Thompson interviewed The Audience founder Oliver Luckett.  His company manages social media from major brands including artists, athletes, entertainers and super-cool companies.  (His co-founders are none other than Ari Emmanuel and Sean Parker).  

Every month, The Audience reaches between 600million and a billion people with their branded content.  He thinks of the company as a modern day Factory (think Warhol, not Demand media) that produces objects for brands to publish for their followers and key stakeholders.  During his comments, a few nuggets of gold came out for any person, company or entity that wants to leverage social media to build deep and profitable relationships.  

1.  Marketers Should Think Like Publishers - His point is that marketers need to feed their followers content that resonates with them, so they will embrace/share it.  They should not think of social platforms as a bullhorn to make announcements.  Sure, at some point when you've fed your followers enough great stuff, you can interupt the content-banquet to let them know about an opportunity to interact with the brand (concert tickets for his musician clients, movie release dates for actor clients and so on.)  Takeaway:  Develop a content schedule that's consistent, well times, contains objects (pictures, videos, essays) that enrich the life of the follower.  

2.  Measure Everything - Oliver was a key member of the Disney marketing team, helping to launch movies like Toy Story 3 and building brands like Dory, who is now even more popular than Nemo! He learned that if you measure the effectiveness of each object you publish, you can improve future effectiveness by "orders of magnitude." For example, he learned that if you post a picture of rapper Pit Bull in a pink shirt, it gets shared by followers exponentially  more than if you posted a picture of him in any other colored shirt.  (Apparently, pink makes Pit Bull come off more sensitive and improves his carriage with female followers.)  Takeaway: Test different versions of content, and mesure the results.  It's not just about measuring likes, it about optimizing your content strategy! 

3. Don't Tell Your Followers What To Think - When working on Toy Story 3 at Disney, Oliver noticed that declarations like "Isn't this great!" (captioning a movie poster) were often met with comments like, "No, it sucks!"  When the content was reposted without a declaration, it was met with enthusiasm.  While this was targeted at teens and young adults, the point is obvious: Don't sell people, serve them and let them sell you.  Takeaway: Content doesn't need to have a call to action, it needs to resonate, excite and delight followers.  You need to trust that they will reward you with loyalty and consideration. 

February 04, 2013

So God Made A Farmer, Then Dodge Made An Ad

Last night, Dodge's "God Made A Farmer" Super Bowl ad rocked me, and likely, millions of other people with its poignant message and eloquent deliver by Paul Harvey.  

Today, according the Hulu, it's the highest rated ad that ran last night.  Why?  The ad was stunningly effective because it was authentic, pulled on our values and deceptively simple.  The grainy sound was from a tape (yes, a cassette recording) of Paul Harvey's keynote address at the 1978 Future Farmers of America annual convention.  No clean up, you can hear the hiss and the echo that comes with a tape deck setup at the back of the room (and not being directly fed from a mixing board.) 

Instead of fancy effects, the ad features high quality pictures, to keep us tracking with Paul's narrative.  The ad also works because, much like last year's "It's Halftime America" ad, it speaks to a crisis in our country that an underdog is facing.  For farmers, they face less resources to do their job, at a time we need them more than ever.  In the 4-Hour Work Week culture our kids live in, farmers work around the clock and are proud of it.  

Former Coke CMO Sergio Zyman once wrote that "good advertising is a service.  It adds value when you consider, purchase or use the product." In this case Dodge hit a home run, even though I'll never likely buy one of their trucks.  Even in non-consideration, my affinity to the brand increased, which likely has it's own long term value to Dodge.  

Hulu's Ranking of Top Super Bowl Ads of 2013 

And God Made A Farmer (ad) 

December 12, 2012

The Cold Call Is Dead: Long Live the Social Hat Tip

Why do we use social media, be it personally or professionaly?  To be heard.  

This was my takeaway from the recent Edison Research survey, which indicated that 25% of Facebook users visit the network five times or more a day.  And when they visit, they pay more attention to interactions with their posts than the content others are putting up.  

This is a remarkable insight for insightful marketers, entrepreneurs and businesses.  When we first start using social media, we likely reconnect with old friends and curiousity drives our usage.  Then, after the new wears off, we begin to use these platforms to express ourself or be a maven. 

This jives with Dan Zarella's findings at Hubspot, where he indicates that the top reasons we share content are to be "in the know" or to "warn/recommend" to our friends.  Again, it's all about expression.  The psychic currency, then, is for their posts to in turn be liked, shared, commented on, etc. 

So here's the takeaway:  If you want to connect with media, influeners, prospects or your customers, don't interrupt them with a cold call or spam them with a press release or "what's up?" email.  Give them what they want: Attention.  Create lists (Twitter) or preferred feed (Get Notifications/FB) for those you want to build a relationship with.  When they post content that should be shared, share it or comment.  Be additive, though, because it's all about authenticity. 

They will reciprocate by paying more attention to you, and who knows, your hat tip could lead to opporutnities to interact.  In a world where your calls don't get returned and your emails are never opened, the hat tip may be the only way to become signal, instead of noise.  

Case study: Desk Elf and Carol Roth - Edison Research Link 

Watch: Video clip from one of my keynotes on "How To Win Business Using Social Media." 

Connect With Your Prospects Using Social Media (instead of spamming or cold calling them) from Tim Sanders on Vimeo.

June 13, 2012

Business Lessons From Gotye

Gotye's smash hit, "Somebody That I Used To Know" is everywhere I go. 

Jacqueline introduced it to me months ago, when its stunning video made it's way around the web, and I knew it was going to be the song-of-the-year.  At this point, you might be getting tired of it, like you did with James Blunt's "Beatiful" or the last four hits from Coldplay. 

But, there's great marketing and product development learnings that can come from super smashes, and why they happen.  I guess that's why I love music and entertainment culture so much.  Putting my bizcap on, here's what we can learn from Gotye: 

1. Be Emotionally Relevent To Many. - The product story (lyrics) appeal to two big groups: Those who've lost love, then contact and those who have been 'screwed over.'  That's a big market.  Think the Alannis Morrisette song with even bigger reach.  Green Day has often used a 'life-situation' wheel when writing songs for an album.  

2. Whittle The Product Down To Perfection. - The key was the song structure (no real break, quiet verse, tense bridge, rewarding chorus).  The production was sparse, but novel.  The build of the song is done as much with packaging (think fading, effects) as by design. 

3. Remember to include Old/New/Borrowed/Blue. - The song makes you think Sting, vibe like Andrew Bird, remember Peter Gabriel and most of all...feel emotionally down a little.  That's the secret to building product drama. 

4. Promote The Product Sight, Sound & Motion. - Many people discovered Gotye through the video his team produced for the single. It was produced for YouTube, and has by far gotten more views (a quarter of a billion) than MTV could deliver in its heyday.  We saw him, his special guest Kimbra, and a neat visual concept that was worth sharing (and talking about).  In the Pinterest economy, you need to be Pinteresting! 

5. Apologize For Succes, Then Monetize. - When I saw Gotye at Coachella, this song was the highlight, and the crowd went berzerk.  Afterwards, he said, "well, now that we have that out-of-the-way," and went on to sell us a second single with a passionate performance.  His shoe-gazing approach to such a smash allows even the tastemakers to continue to enjoy the song, and maybe, his next product. 



May 23, 2012

Want To Extend Your Reach? Don't Hire A Babysitter!

I assume that most of you who read my blog or subscribe to my newsletter are those who have something to say or sell, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. We’re all trying to be seen or heard and that’s increasingly complicated in a noisy world. 

Wouldn’t you agree?

The problem is that to be successful in the market today, you must possess two strategic assets: a compelling product and a meaningful platform. 

Platform is key. 

Most of us know it and it’s why we spend time networking, developing social media, writing emails and blogs, speaking, trying to connect with potential customers, etc. 

But here’s the issue, simply being on Facebook or Twitter, simply writing a book or newsletter, simply opening the doors of your business… doesn’t matter (unless others know about you and follow). 

That’s why I am excited about a new book from my good friend Michael Hyatt, one of the top bloggers in the world and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  It’s called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the waters so that you can do what works in order to be seen and heard. 

Special: To celebrate the launch of the book this week, Michael is giving away $375.98 worth of free Platform bonus content for those who purchase the book between May 21 and May 25. Complete details are available at http://michaelhyatt.com/platform

As I was chatting with Mike he mentioned something that really stood out to me about building a platform. He said… 

Accept Personal Responsibility - If you’re thinking of hiring a babysitter for your platform, think again. It is critical that you be 100% committed and the driving force behind its creation and growth. Think about it. Does anyone know your mission, product or service better than you do? Is anyone more passionate about it than you are? Does anyone have as much skin in the game as you do? Expertise, passion, and, frankly, the fate of your career will drive you to create something greater than anything a hired-out marketing team could imagine.” 

Basically he’s saying don’t phone it in and try to pass it off to someone else. If you want to be heard, you have to speak up and be the driver. 

In my years of being an author and speaker I have found that to be very true. Yes, you need to hire a great team and utilize great resources but don’t expect someone else to do all of the work that you too must be active in doing. 

If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse. 

I have two three copies of the book to give away - all you have to do is hit the retweet button and make a comment to this post.  


February 09, 2012

Rehearse Before You Create

On Tuesday, I spoke to a group of creatives in Nashville (Twitter Stream).  One point that stuck with them was this simple thought, a quote from fellow creative David Lynch: "It takes four hours to get one hour of creative work done." 

After my talk, a great deal of the Q/A explored that mind blowing observation.  Why does it take so long, distraction? Nope.  Editing?  Nope, that's not part of creation.  

I recollected my application of this idea when writing Today We Are Rich.  After studying Lynch, I discovered one of his secret weapons: Rehearsing the act of creating. 

So, before I would start a writing session, I would go outside and putt the ball around the side yard - and rehearse writing.  I would speak it out loud (I'd outlined it prior), record it on my phone, then listen to my rehearsal on playback.  Then I delete it.  At some point, I'd visualized or audiblized it enough, then I'd drop my putter, run down to the studio and furiously type for an hour.  And 3000 words were born.  (I wrote Feed Your Mind Good Stuff in less than two hours, read it and see how it isn't over-edited or stilted.) 

Here's the takeaway.  You can't schedule time to be creative.  That's like scheduling time with your partner for sex.  It's an in-the-moment experience.  If you sit down to 'wham it out', you'll end up polishing a turd.  You'll spew, edit, delete, fix, re-edit and sqeeze the life out of your 'baby.' 

Most of us reserve rehearsal for life's big performances, but think about it: Creating is the ultimate performance and shouldn't be taken for granted.  Creativity is a burst of structured insanity, followed by a factory-line set of steps to deliver it to its intended target.  If you rehearse, even in your mind, what you are about to create, you'll likely induce that moment of birth.  See the photo shoot before doing it.  Visualize the Power Point or Photoshop session before sitting down to do it. Do the work!  

December 07, 2011

Do you really want to bet your business on Facebook?

Today's article (Facebook: Zynga's #1 Frenemie) prompted this blog post. 

While Zynga stands as a multi-billion dollar example of the dangers of platform squatting, many of you might be doing in a smaller but still deadly way.  Examples: you don't have a website anymore, you build a big Facebook Page following instead.  You don't build a web property to sell your products (see this a lot now in books), you rely on Facebook instead - thinking, "everyone is here, why not build it into their stream?  You base your real estate, insurance or home repair sales on your Page, leaving your older properties abandoned to wither.

Startups from Color to Spotify bet-the-farm on a long and cozy relationship with Facebook - who could turn all of them off with the flip of a switch.  Retailers, small business owners and even public figures are all provisioning the Facebook closed platform (emphasis on closed) to reduce costs and presumably fish where the fish are hooked.  

But here's the rub: Facebook will eventually have to eat their babies to grow into their valuation. Still private, Zuckerberg gets to report vanity numbers only, playing with Eric Ries calls "success theatre" with it's investors and employees.  Time spent, number of active users, etc., all dominate the Facebook story.  That will change quickly when they go public and New York analysts descend on them to question their revenue-valuation multiple.  If the social-bubble breaks (and it's being poked right now in the cases of LinkedIn and Groupon), who knows what Facebook's leadership team will resort to?

Look at Google, seven years post-IPO. Steve Jobs can testify: You can't trust a company that's on fire to triple their top line quickly.  Thus andriod.  Now, Google+ is tied to employee compensation and the sacred search algorithm, protected for users, is now biased to reward websites that include +, Places or Circles. Anyone in the valley will warn to avoid getting close to them early, because big and hungry companies "may accidently kill you." 

Back to Facebook.  If you are using a Page to market your products or services, it's pretty clunky to say the least.  You can't conduct giveaways or polls, lest they shut down your account (which is based on your personal account, which also goes away).  The apps they require you to use require too many steps and in our privacy-centric world, result in less conversion.  So now, you lose all the web-innovations that power super sites like Zappos, Amazon, etc.  

At Yahoo, I've seen this first hand.  When I joined, we had dozens of dotcom partners in areas where eventually we decided to 'get into their space' to justify our lofty valuation.  We were, by 2004, competitors with everyone who made money.  Facebook will be the same.  

I understand the business logic of being in the app business, making your ultimate bet on Apple. As a mature company, they aren't likely to flip a swtich and get into the app development game, killing all the Fred-In-the-Sheds to make a few more bucks.  But, Facebook is likely doing skunkworkss right now to build their own social games, daily deals redux, publicity services, banking and loan services, mobile devices and for all we now VOIP telco services.  If you currently make money via them, exclusively, you want want to diversify your business web outreach.  What if they turn on a pay-for service for Page owners who want to have ANY links to purchase or generate leads?  

Consider what happens when you rely on Google, yet somehow are in their business development plans.  When they tweak their search formulas, big changes happen to your business. What if they tweak search to devalue links to Facebook pages, like they've toyed with in the case of Wikipedia and Flickr? Ask LA startup Mahalo, where they had to layoff employees after a regular Google update.  First they were a human-search company, then after the Google thrashing of their business, they settled into a video-help resrouce.  They didn't have an option.  Keep your options open begins to make sense again - instead of cozying up exclusively with a cub company that's got paws bigger than Alaska. 


Next »