The Importance of Encouragement

Hello dear readers,

discouragedBeen super duper busy (nothing seems to change), but I feel I just have to throw something out – if no other reason than to get myself back on track here. By the way, I’m in the final stages of preparing my self hosted blog, more on that soon. Enough blabber, let’s get on with it.

We Work Hard.

While I certainly don’t speak for everyone, I’d like to think that most of us in this industry work pretty darn hard for our clients – often times going above and beyond scope to make sure our client’s campaigns are as successful as possible. I know for myself, a 50-60+ hour work week is the norm, and my wife has to tell me to stop working more than she should. Even still, I love what I do so much that I find myself researching blogs, reading marketing, copywriting or programming books and running experiments even during my free time. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting, or rewarding career.

Enter: The Jerk.

These people live to ruin your day. They show up around every corner – and their words or actions can cut deeper than any knife. One of the most telling examples of the power that ‘the jerk’ has was described by Muzz Skillings from the band Living Color. After being asked what it felt like to perform in front of 60,000+ screaming concertgoers as the opening act for the Rolling Stones, Muzz said (paraphrased):

All I remember was running across the stage from side to side, taking it all in while we played our songs – it was the greatest feeling in the world – until my eyes landed on someone 10-15 rows out on the stadium floor. He stood there unmoving, his hand raised, with his middle finger pointing straight up at me. Out of all those screaming fans, that’s what’s stuck in my head…

I’m wagering that you’ve been there before, also. Maybe you created a design that you were really proud of, only to have someone tell you it’s crap. Perhaps, despite your best efforts and hard work,  you failed – and then you were told how worthless you are. (geesh, that WOULD suck…I’m getting depressed here.) What I’m trying to say is this: negative comments can consume you and prevent you from trying to be great – if you let them.

What if…

But what if someone you respected came up to you today and told you how much you were appreciated – that they really like what you do, and said keep it up – how would that make you feel? The point is, even though most of us know that we can’t win every battle or please every person, we still WANT to know that someone appreciates us. I don’t care who you are, or what you do – everyone likes to hear some encouraging words. If you’ve ever had someone come along and say just the right thing at exactly the right time, you know exactly what I mean.

So here’s the skinny:

Today, this week, heck – even this month – try and encourage someone. If it’s a design you like, email the designer personally and let them know how great you think it is – if it’s a blogger you read a lot, or maybe just found – let them know something they said helped you, or that you think they’re really great and you just thought you’d tell them.  Even if don’t agree with what they say, instead of putting them down – provide some positive feedback and maybe direct them to some additional resources if their information is wrong. (note: stalking someone and showing up at their home to give them a hug may be going a bit too far, so try and use your best judgement.)

I’ll leave this post with a rather excellent quote from Jesse Jackson – “Never look down on somebody unless you’re helping them up.”

Now go do something wonderful today – I know you’ve got it in you.

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All Your Marketing Belongs to Us

ftc_advertising_guidelinesThe new FTC ‘guidelines’ aren’t about consumer protection.


They’re about SELECTIVE discrimination by a government authority, and you DEFINITELY shouldn’t expect anything good to come from it.

Before I get into this, let me say that I 100% whole-heartedly agree with WOMMA’s code of ethics, even though I’m not an official member, and I don’t get paid to write about anything for this blog (not that I think there’s anything wrong with that). All thoughts are purely my own, except where I’ve linked to external sites, and I receive no revenue from adsense or other ads on this blog.  By the way, fruity pebbles is probably the BEST cereal ever. And nothing tastes better on EGGO waffles than JIF peanut butter. Suck on that FTC.

If the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines went into affect today, this is what would happen:

  • affiliate marketing will virtually die.
  • if you sell ads on your website, everything you say about everybody and everything will be analyzed – even if no one reads it.
  • if you blog about or recommend a product, you’d better make damn sure you have NO association with it – or be able to sufficiently document your substantiation for your claim.
  • word of mouth marketing (read:social media) will either be dominated by spam, or suck. probably both.
  • you’ll no longer get away with adding = ‘results not typical’ -type disclaimers anymore. Get used to ‘generally-expected-results”.
  • testimonials will virtually disappear
  • celebrities can be made liable for endorsements, so they’ll simply stop doing them.
  • web copy will SUCK – companies will be forced to sell on ‘features’ not ‘benefits’.
  • Even with a proper disclaimer, advertisers must have documented PROOF of what consumers can generally expect from their product.
  • Advertisers will be required to perform research to KNOW what consumers actually think after reading an ad – regardless of what the ad says.
  • Endorsements from Organizations will require ‘collective judgment of the organization.’
  • Traditional media reviews are somehow exempt from having to make disclosures for sponsored advertising messages. WTF?!!
  • If your company engages in ‘social media participation’ and an employee goes ‘rogue’ – law enforcement action may be considered.
  • Promoting your company’s or client’s products in forums without disclosure will be deemed deceptive and possibly warrant law enforcement action.

After reading the actual FTC guideline, it became pretty apparent to me that they couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the problems this causes for the majority of honest, hard-working marketers. Comment after comment from major advertising and marketing associations disputing sections of the guide are summarily rejected throughout the Commission’s guide. (Read pages 22-24 of the guidelines to understand how bad this will be.)

Here’s some particularly BAD guidelines:

Thus, when the ad just features “before” and “after” pictures with the caption “I lost 50
pounds in 6 months with WeightAway,” the ad is likely to convey that her experience is
representative of what consumers will generally achieve.  Therefore, if consumers cannot36
generally expect to achieve such results, the ad should clearly and conspicuously disclose what
they can expect to lose in the depicted circumstances (e.g., “most women who use WeightAway
for 6 months lose at least 15 pounds”).  Similarly, if the testimonialist in an ad with those two
pictures simply says, “I lost 50 pounds with WeightAway” without any mention of how long it
took to achieve those results, and WeightAway users generally do not lose 50 pounds, the ad
should disclose what results they do generally achieve (e.g., “most women who use WeightAway
lose 15 pounds”).

Pop Question!

Can I also say “most women who only lost 15 pounds using WeightAway didn’t follow our recommended program, which included a diet and exercise plan. Those who did lost an average of 50 pounds during that same time period!!” ?

Answer: Nope – diet and exercise is too vague. geesh.

There are SOME things in the new FTC guidelines that do make sense, though.

Expert endorsements – where some weight loss (or similar product) finds a ‘doctor’ (who’s really a veteranarian or something like that) to endorse their product will be regulated by these endorsements as well. No problem, that’s what the FTC is supposed to do.

Disclosure from individuals engaged in blogging or product marketing who receive free products from advertisers. Again, I have no problem here- openess and honesty is the name of the game. Just because someone receives money or products for review doesn’t mean I won’t value their opinion. That’s what review sites are about – oh wait, I forgot that they’ll be disappearing.

Movie commercials that show film critics review excerpts like – “It’ll knock your socks off!” won’t fly anymore if the original review said “It’ll knock your socks off and you’ll vomit all over yourself because this movie is so bad.”  It’ll be interesting to see how they handle this – guess it’ll just be ‘thumbs up or down’ or ‘4 out of 5 stars’.

Final Thoughts:

All in all, these guidelines are a joke. Endorsements in particular are very confusing – Tiger Woods hitting a Titleist golf ball, but never holds one up or talks about it  – is an endorser. Star Jones picks up a bottle of diet coke and says she drinks it because it has fewer calories than regular coke – is not.  huh?

Companies that come out with a ‘new and improved version’ or a different formula for a product that’s already been endorsed will be required to contact anyone who endorses their product in an advertisement and make sure that they still agree to the claims they made about their product now that it’s changed. – seriously?!

By the way, what is a NET IMPRESSION CONSUMER?

How to Sell Your Boss (or Clients) on Social Media

This is the best presentation on Social Media buy-in I’ve seen yet.

I don’t typically just repost other people’s content, but in this case, I don’t really have anything else to add.
I think these excellent presentation slides on Social Media ROI speak for themselves.

Here’s the link to Olivier’s actual video presentation on Social Media ROI.

SEO help using Google Local Business Center

Aw man, I feel like such a jerk.

I haven’t posted on here in almost a month because I’ve been SLAMMED busy, which I guess is good. Feel free to throw eggs or tomatoes at your monitor, if it makes you feel better. Just clean up your mess when you’re done, children.

On with the goodies :

You may have already heard about Google’s new features in their local business center, but just in case you’ve been as busy as I have, I’m going to show off a little of what I think is pretty darn cool about these new dashboard features.

For the sake of this post, I’m going to ass|u|me that you’ve already claimed or registered your site with Google LBC (if not, please finish reading this post, then go here and do that.)

Before I show you the cool dashboard stuff, I should also give you some tips in the event your client (or you) are not showing up in the google 10-pack (organic search map listings) even though your site is listed in google local business center. I just went through this situation with a client recently, so I might as well share the experience with you…

1. check for multiple listings – remove any listings you won’t be able to verify (old address locations, different business names, etc), making sure to explain in the comments that you’re trying to make everything better – I can’t guarantee this will help, but things went pretty smooth for me, all things considered (I had to eliminate 6 additional listings). As a side note, it may serve you well to identify WHICH remaining identical listings has the best reviews associated with them – before you dump it.

2. make sure you know who your competition is and what you want to rank for BEFORE creating your map listing title – if you change it after verification, you’re going to have to revalidate the listing. If you’re not sure how to optimize your lbc content, or any local search content,  you should also check out this must read post on local search ranking factors by David Mihm.

3. wait it out – It took almost a month from start to finish for me to get everything fixed up for this client; 1 day to fix all the issues, 3-4 weeks waiting time for verification. Within one day of verification, they started popping up for a myriad of search queries related to their business. Way, way more than I had anticipated at the start – which leads me back into the point of this post, how using LBC can also help your SEO efforts.

The first thing I noticed when going back into local business center after they made their updates was this bad boy: (click image to view full)

dashboard_chart

That’s pretty cool right?

Much like Google’s Webmaster Tools service, LBC provides helpful feedback on what search queries your website is showing up in the map section of organic search results. I love that it breaks it down between impression data (which you’ll never know about unless you’re running adwords) and action data. The only bummer there is that you don’t which click-throughs to your site actually came from your lbc listing – unless you’re smart and tagged the url when you created your listing. Of course you’ll need some type of analytics to review that, but I KNOW you’re already doing that, right?

But that’s not all!

search_queryInfo

Aside from the great search query data Google tells you, it also lets you know where requests for driving directions came from, aggregated by zip code for your viewing ease. This could be handy for a variety of marketing purposes – great info prior to sending out a direct mail campaign, or tv ad, etc…of course the data will probably suck if you haven’t optimized your site or listing correctly in the first place. But we’ll save that for another time.

Anyway, get busy with optimizing your local listings people! You’re doing yourself and your client a dis-service if you don’t! And don’t neglect Bing!

Simple but Useful Calculators for SEOs, Internet Marketers

marketing number crunchingIt’s Wednesday calling. I need a miracle.

How often does this happen?….You’ve got 50 things that need to get done today and now you’ve got : (pick one or many)

  1. a meeting with the CEO in 10 min. to discuss trimming back your traditional marketing dept.
  2. a big potential SEO client that’s interested but is coming in so that you can seal the deal.
  3. an existing client calling to let you know they “think” their new site design is ineffective, even though it JUST went live.
  4. to show the estimated value of all your social media efforts.

What do you do?

No, no, no – even though it sounds bad, you can’t just off yourself.

If you had asked me this question 5 years back though, I would’ve suggested you simply walk out to your car to get something you forgot – and then told you to either trip in the parking lot, making sure to hit your face on the asphalt,  or throw yourself down the escalator – anywhere a good number of people can vouch for the severity of the incident, since you won’t be able to talk, or see straight- hopefully earning you a few days off. Lucky for you, it’s 5 years later, and there are some really helpful tools that can accomplish (or at least assist) many of the above tasks without eating up your entire day.

And you didn’t even have to get out of your chair – or maim yourself – to find them. Let’s get started by listing the appropriate calculator for the job:

Meeting with the CEO in 10 min. to discuss trimming back our marketing dept.

marketing_staff_calc

marketing_staff_results

Marketsmith’s Marketing Staff Calculator will help you determine the number of staff members you need in your marketing department (excluding web-related functions & print buying).

big potential SEO client that’s interested but is coming in so that you can seal the deal

roi_caclulator

Siteposition’s Conversion Rate Calculators lead costs, figures in management and setup costs for SEO and PPC, and provides quick and dirty ROI numbers for those times when you just need some rough numbers to know whether or not going further is even worth the effort.

an existing client calling to let you know they “think” their new site design is ineffective, even though it JUST went live

landingpage_calclandingpage_test

Marketo’s Landing Page Testing Calculator is really handy, offering the “say what?” options as default. In less than 1 minute, it’ll return the recommended testing time and number of versions to test to ensure valid results.Resist the urge to get defensive and argue with them – just say “no problem, let’s test that theory” – and then rip out these numbers off the cuff, making sure to ask them what  confidence level % they require from you to minimize false positives and negatives.  They’ll leave the conversation reassured and smiling. hopefully.

show the estimated value of all your social media efforts.

social_media_calculatorsocial_media_calculator1

Oh crap. If you knew the answer to this, your trouble’s would be over. After all, isn’t it “impossible” to gauge the value of social media efforts, since there are so many unknown, untrackable variables?

Probably, but fortunately for you Dragonsearch created a social networking media ROI calculator anyway. Does it work accurately? I have no idea – but something is better than nothing, which is what you’ve got right now. It does factor in social network account setup time, # of posts, hourly monitoring and activity time – but also leaves it up to you to assign values to fields such as “word of  mouth” and “story value”, so don’t expect your CFO to fall for these numbers. But hey, you’re in marketing – you should be good at making stuff up and getting people to buy in. That’s what you do.

Google Squared Hates Conservatives

This is sad.Does google hate conservatives?

If I had to answer that based on what I’ve seen over the last year, and especially today – I would have to say……YES.

Before I get into what I perceive as blatant bias from Google against certain political views, I want to let you know that I didn’t plan on writing a post about this topic.   I had originally thought that I would do some weird searches on google squared to see if I could get any whacked out or interesting results that I could share  – well, to that end, I guess they ARE interesting. And disturbing.

I’m just going to cut to the chase.

After running a bunch of different names and topics through squared (type in google, keep adding the recommendation squares and you get back hilltop algorithm, for example), I was actually having fun, and thinking how great this would be for doing school reports, or discovering hot topics related to my clients’ service offerings.

I wanted to see how good squared was at grabbing recent events, so I typed in Obama – which presented this (click each image to view larger):

I'm sure they would have wrapped this square in a heart if they could.

I'm sure Google would have wrapped this square in a heart if they could.

Pretty cool. It includes members of his cabinet and campaign committee. Not bad.

Then I typed in George Bush and got this:

I'm sure they didn't MEAN to put a disrespectful picture here. yeah, right.

I'm sure they didn't MEAN to put a disrespectful picture here. yeah, right.

You’re kidding me, right? THAT’s the picture that google returns for George Bush? It doesn’t even SAY George Bush next to it, and it’s the 1st square on the page! I’m not a huge fan of George Bush, but I think he deserves a bit more respect than that. It’s got to be a fluke, so I move on – to Bill Clinton. If someone’s going to have interesting pictures associated with a president, I can’t think of a better choice….

Gotta love the unbiased description

Gotta love the unbiased description

Well hang on. It looks like an actual presidential photo. And nothing on Monica? hmph. What about his VP, Al Gore…..

they inconveniently left out his creation of the internet.

they inconveniently left out his creation of the internet.

Besides the fact that I had to MANUALLY put Al Gore into a square at the bottom, since Google has a tough time when you include first and last name sometimes, this is pretty much what I think most people would expect. To see how Squared treats Bush’s VP, Dick Cheney – just look at the image at the beginning of this post.

I’m not one to just immediately jump to conclusions though, so I go for one more – this time, Ronald Reagan.

This makes me want to throw up, it's so disrespectful.

This makes me want to throw up, it's so disrespectful.

Ok, it’s pretty hard NOT to think they’re being deliberately biased when you see results like that. Still, there’s always a chance that the “secret google algorithm” is pulling the most popular results from image search, so I go ahead and check to see….

Think the image is retreived by most popular result? think again.

Think the image is retreived by most popular result? think again.

Guess we can mark that as a big NO.

To sum things up – I really could care less what side of the political fence you’re on, and I think Google does 80-90% of everything right. But, with each year, Google grows a bit larger and a bit more powerful – so we need to keep things in check.  I’ll let Mr. Reagan end this post with a couple of very pertinent quotes…

Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.

To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right
is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will.

Think I’m way off base? Have examples that show bias towards liberals? Let me know by leaving a comment!- I’m open to discussion!

*disclaimer: the thoughts and views represented in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of my company or clients. 🙂

Ranking Factors for Local Search – All You Need to Know

Talk about choice paralysis.

Talk about choice paralysis.

Local Search Is Hot.

…which may suck for you, depending on where your or your client’s business is located. We all know by know that Google is returning search results for many queries based on the searchers IP address, regardless of whether or not that search includes a geographic modifier – e.g. spicy pizza, brooklyn.

As diligent marketers or small business owners, we make sure to list our sites in the local business centers for Google, Yahoo and MSN, but is that ALL we need to do, or is there something we’re overlooking? No need to wonder anymore, as we know have an excellent resource to reference – Local Search Ranking Factors for 2009 – courtesy of David Mihm, and the 20 search marketing experts that participated in the report. Besides being beatiful, and very similar in presentation to Rand Fishkin’s Search Ranking Factors Report, it makes a strong case for – or against – all those rumors you constantly hear from different camps.

Without giving away much at all, some factors that most experts agree have positive affects on the “10-pack” of search results include:

  • making sure you only have ONE business listing per address or phone number.
  • associating local business listing with the proper categories
  • getting customer reviews!
  • citations from major data providers and Internet Yellow page-type sites
  • including your city, state in the title tags of your site

On the flip side, some possibly negative factors that won’t help, and may just hurt:

  • using an 800 number for your PRIMARY phone number
  • using a P.O. box for your business without a physical address
  • assuming local search doesn’t matter

This barely scratches the surface – I strongly encourage you to check the full list out, and bookmark it as a resource to reference whenever you start a new SEO/SEM campaign. Nice work guys!