Blinkyproducitons – Quick things that will help

Made a new friend on Twitter, who made a drink rooted in my geekiness.

In return, I offered some SEO suggestions for her site, blinkyproductions.com. Now, there’s a ton more that could be done for the site to help it get more traffic. But these are the really easy and highly effective first things you can do to get more search visibility. Really.

1) Move your site to a hosted version of WordPress instead of the free version. There are a ton of great apps that can help you optimize your pages there.

Bear in mind, I’m totally guilty of using the free WordPress solution for myself – but that’s only because I’m not really using this blog to run a business from. So I don’t need all the bells and whistles you get from the paid version.

2) Let pages break. If the page scrolls down and down and is one big, long page, you’re missing out on getting other pages indexed. The more pages you have, the more pages you can optimize.

3) Don’t mask the domain over every page. Right now, every page of the site is “www.blinyproductions.com.” If you let every page be found individually, like http://www.blinkyproductions.com/services, again, you’ll have more pages that can get indexed. The more pages indexed, the more potential searches people will do to get to your site.

4) Optimize your pages. Look at what they’re “about,” pick the keyword or keyphrase that represents that page, then use that word or phrase in the page’s Title, Description, URL, and a heading on the page – usually marked with an <H1> tag in the page’s code. Use that word or phrase to name and alt tag any images you use on that page. The idea is to think of how people do searches for the products or services you offer.

So for blinkyproductions.com/services, you might optimize for the phrase, “video production services.” In that case you’d change the title of the page to something like, “Video Production Services – BlinkyProductions.com,” the title to, “Binky Productions offers multiple services that are sure to satisfy your requirements as well as respect your budget’s needs,” and the URL to http://www.binkyproductions.com/video-production-services. And that bold “Services” on the page could just be changed to “Video Production Services.”

5) Set up an e-mail subscription services. This is crazy easy to do. You can go to Feedburner, which is free, or spend a couple of dollars for something like feedblitz.com, which gives you more options. Either way, sign up. Plug in the information from your RSS feed, and it will give you code to put on your site so people can sign up for e-mails whenever you post something new. Each time you get people to subscribe to your blog, that’s more people reading. You can actually get more Facebook “Likes” from your e-mails than you ever could from a Facebook business page, just because subscribers would share stuff on their own.

Your Business Needs a Blog

One Blog to Rule Them AllBlogging – the buzzword of… what, 2007? That thing people used to say was the, “next big thing?” It’s been years since anyone made a big deal out of blogging, right?

The truth is if you’re a small business owner, you need a blog. It’s more than some online chore you do because Business Week Magazine told you to, like text message or Facebook ads. Blogging can become the core of your business online, and convince visitors to become customers.

Three great reasons to start a blog:

Search engines love blogs
When Google and Bing go looking for pages to display in searches, they don’t just want pages that happen to have those search phrases in them. To them, searchers are their customers. They want to give their customers the freshest, most engaging content they can find. A blog post you write today about your industry stands a much better chance of getting found in search than that single paragraph on your, “About Us” page, written four years ago.

Blogs become the hub for your social media marketing
It’s likely you’ve already aware of the business value of social media to attract new customers and retain current ones. It’s more than just fashionable, it’s where all the people you want to reach are. A link to your latest post, complete with snappy title and/or engaging photograph, gives you something to offer them.

Granted, you could go on Twitter shouting, “Hey everybody! I sell stuff! Come see!” You could, but of course, you shouldn’t. Social media is full of people using posts like shotguns, hoping to splatter enough users with messages that someone clicks a link and buys from them. The truth is very few people ever click on these people’s links. The majority of people these businesses “message” to write them off, and forever go out of their way to avoid them.

If on the other hand you take the approach of saying, “I have information you might find interesting, come take a look,” you get a lot more people through the door – more receptive people at that.

Blogs can make you an authority
Take a second right now to think about what your business does. Think about what that involves, the misconceptions people might have, the different kinds of products… You absolutely know more about this than the average person.

You could teach them.

If someone wants to know more about why cell phones scratch so easily in dry weather, people will come from all around for the witty, insightful, well thought out explanation you posted to your site. If that site is for your cell phone repair shop, you become the expert people can hire.

Blogs are easy to set up, and there are a number of great providers to choose from. With enough discipline, and persistence, you’ll become a valued fount information. And your business will love you for it.

Talkin’ bout SEO again!

I’m back to doing SEO for a living, I am happy to report. After a few years chasing the dream of “social media,” it’s nice to be able to get back to real work: Getting online businesses to appear in search, and make money because of it.

Here’s the thing with social media: When it started to take the world by storm, marketing types decided this would be the best way to sell stuff. After all, if all the people were gathering at Facebook, then Facebook is where you need to go to bother people into buying whatever it was they were selling.

The problem is people don’t go to social media to buy things – they go there to talk to their friends and families. That doesn’t stop most online marketing people, of course, because the majority of them don’t own the businesses they promote. They can make all these tweets and posts and then say, “See? We’ve done something to promote the business! We’ve earned our pay!”

Search marketing’s a whole different beast. You can prove pretty easily that what you do to optimize a website for search is working – through the improved rankings, yes, but also through the increased traffic to a site, conversions from that traffic, sign-ups to e-mail lists… all that great stuff businesses got websites for in the first place. Unfortunately for most marketers, this requires actual work, and skill, and accountability.

So now I get to go back to the work that made me love online in the first place: Making content people want to read and link to, so it gets a really good Google SERP listing. (And oh how I’ve missed writing that acronym!)

Last year I said I would stop writing about social media in this blog, mostly because everyone else already does, and it bores me. Now that I have search to worry about – and all the new and exciting changes going on with it – I expect I’ll have more to write about here.

If you haven’t read any of this stuff in a long time and forgot you subscribed, I won’t be insulted if you unsubscribe now. After all, you must have forgotten about this site by now. I haven’t posted anything in what, five months?

If you stick around, I promise to have more interesting and insightful stuff about something that really can help your business succeed online. Because that’s what I’m good at. 🙂

Social Media Marketing World – Keynote

I’m not going to lie to you: I’m a tough audience. I’ve bee doing search and social media marketing for about 7 years now, and when I see presenters talking about either, I want to hear things I’ve never heard before.

An hour into SMMW, I have had no such luck.

Listened to Michael Stelzner give the keynote this morning. I really need to not be as negative on some of these speakers as I am feeling right now, I know.

But some of the gems he shared were, “podcasting is the next big thing,” “a lot of people use Facebook,” “social media isn’t that old,” and he’s starting a new network for parents to find things to do with their kids. I get that speakers do these gigs in exchange for a per diem and a plug, but as someone with no tolerance for children, I could have done without that.

Actually, the one really good piece of information so far was that recordings of the sessions are available for $97. Definitely need to pick that up. Once I do, I’ll definitely be in a better place to comment on what was said.

After Mr. Steltzner, there was a presentation on networking that I only lasted 5 minutes in. I was willing to hear what Larry Benet had to say on the subject of getting more out of other people who have what you want and therefore need to be sucked dry like a vampire on a virgin. Once he did the, “turn to the person next to you, tell them your name, where you’re from, and why you’re here,” frankly, I ran for the door. I think I managed to tweet out, “Oh no” before hustled out of that room. 😦

So I’ve been here for an hour on my first day – and I’ve learned to buy the recordings of the sessions.

I’m looking forward to Jay’s presentation today. Hopefully I can get in. If I can’t, though, it appears I’ll be able to see it later from the comfort of my office.

Social Media Marketing World – Day 0

It’s a weird thing, being at something like a social media conference, if you’ve never gone. You get a mix of two types of attendees: The needs who do this stuff for a living, and the non-needs who are their bosses. It’s a brilliant culture clash watching everyone trying to network in an environment like that. no one is sure in that situation who thecool kids are.

I’m insane Diego at the moment for Social Media Marketing World. While I’m looking forward to a number of panelists in the coming days, I do find it funny how often time has been set aside for “networking” in the schedule. In fact, there will be one panelist specifically telling the crowd how to network.

So a lot of this really is about meeting people, and not necessarily getting secret sauce on increasing engagement.

But so what? I’m not here to comment on the inner workings of your average social media trade show, I’m here to figure out what my team should be working on this year.

For tomorrow, I’m planning on hitting the following:

1) How to create customers for life by informing more and promoting less – Jay Baer

2) How to use YouTube to build an unstoppable brand – James Wedmore

(Though at the same time, “How to optimize your social channels for lead generation” will be going on as well. Hmm.)

3) Turn social advertising into leads and sales

(Something I’d think everyone would want to know.)

4) Social Media ROI: How to finally deliver measurable results.

(This one causes me concern, because I’m already pretty good at doing this. I want to hear things I’ve never thought of. I don’t want to realize I should be trying to get speaking gigs at conferences because it turns out I’m so much more The Man than I thought I was.)

After all of that,there’s a “networking cruise.” But I think I’ll take a pass.

Successful Ads Require Talent

It’s so silly, it almost doesn’t feel like it needs to be said – but to make an ad that works, one must have talent.

Over the last few years, marketers have gone insane trying to figure out how to make a video, “viral.” They look wistfully at the Old Spice ads, and say, “See? We need to do something like that!” Then they proceed to turn out commercials that look like commercials, which no one wanted to see in the first place.

Here’s a great example of the good and the bad: The first is the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that was in wide rotation last year:

This ad gets the product information across but in a stale way. It smacks of laziness. “We got the job done, now let us get back to figuring out our ad buy schedule so we can ruin people’s evenings by forcing them to watch it.” The only time I remember people talking about it was to express how bad those 5-Hour Energy ads were.

Here’s the commercial for 5-Hour Energy that is running now.

Can you spot the difference? Sure, the production value on the newer one is slightly better – if only because there were more edits, meaning more shooting days, and they took pictures of the actor jumping out of a plane.

That’s not it, of course. The difference is the new commercial is FUNNY. The one before that is NOT.

In fact, the first commercial looks exactly like how a commercial is supposed to look: Lame.

"Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit right up and listen to what he's saying," said no one ever.

“Oh look! Another uninspired pitch man! I better sit up and listen to what he’s saying,” said no one in the history of ever.

Like I said, the first commercial does what it is supposed to do: Inform you of the product, tell you what it does, and tell you why you need it. It also makes you hit the mute on your remote or go get a snack while you wait for “Big Bang Theory” to come back on, because you didn’t DVR it and so cannot get around this ridiculous commercial.

The newer one gets the same job done – but makes you want to watch it because it is funny. It might even make you share the commercial with your friends, increasing its audience.

Making a campaign or commercial viral isn’t something you get by reading enough blog posts (like this one) about it, or books by people who have declared themselves industry experts.

It is done by being talented – by knowing how to write something that is funny, or shoot something that is engaging. Selling the product isn’t forgotten, but it isn’t the most important aspect of the piece. Since no one wants to believe they aren’t talented, they write what they’ve always written – shrieking, intrusive ad copy – and hope for the best.

This can’t be that difficult of a concept to understand, can it? If you want to have content that sings, that makes people remember you, that gets shared far and wide, you need to hire writers and production staff with talent. Talented people can create something fun that still has the key message development and call to action required in a successful ad. This is true of all forms of advertising, mind you. Paid search ads, landing pages, radio spots, print ads… the level of impact is always increased dramatically when someone decides to significantly up their game.

The key is thinking of your content as something that should be entertaining. Otherwise you’re getting the work done of creating content, but you aren’t getting the job done.

By the way, that image I used above? I found that on Google. It had the title, “I want to punch the 5-hour energy guy in the throat.”

Yeah – I’m sure THAT’S the reaction the company was hoping for.

Google Gets Into the Hotel Business

I had an idea: Now that Google is expanding into non-Internet related businesses like self-driving cars and mining asteroids, something they might want to consider are hotels.

Why? Because they already don’t care about your privacy, and this could be a big advantage for a hotelier. Hear me out.

Every room is wired with microphones and cameras – everything you do and say is recorded. This way, if you’re hungry and you say so, you get a call from room service asking what you’d like to order. Granted, maybe you want to go out to eat, but Google needs your money so you’ll just have to get through them first.

When you do brush off room service because you want to go out, you get another call from the concierge. They heard what you said, and so they called you a cab from the company the hotel has partnered with.

If you come back later that night with someone you met, maybe you’ll have sex. That’s when the bellman will show up at your door with a selection of condoms from the gift shop you may be interested in purchasing.

Don’t worry about who is going to see and hear all of this information they’re recording, though. It’s all anonymous. So if that person you took back to your room isn’t your wife or husband, no one will ever know.

Unless your wife or husband is a law enforcement official. Then it will magically be pretty unanonymous.

After all, if you’re doing something in a hotel room you don’t want other people to know about, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it, right? Hey, if you don’t like it, you can always go to another hotel.

Unfortunately, in this scenario, Google Hotels controls 66.8% of the market, and it’s nearest competitor Bing is doing the exact same nefarious shit.

If all that sounds crazy, why are Google’s online policies not considered just as crazy?

All of this is just about exactly what they did when they decided all information would be shared across all of the platforms they own. On the surface, it never sounded too terrible: If you’re searching for an Adam Sandler movie, maybe later on YouTube will show you some more Adam Sandler movies since you showed an interest in it. So what?

The problem is if you don’t want that kind of help from Google, it’s damn hard to get out of it. The privacy policy may be shared, but there are a number of different avenues you have to take to opt out of them.

And in some cases you can’t. I own an Android phone – the OS created by Google. In order for it to function, I have to use a Google login. Once I do, Google records my name, address, phone number, and the serial number for my device – and adds it to my Google account record. I cannot tell Google to leave that information out, I cannot delete it once it has been added. I am locked into their idea of “convenience,” which does more for them to learn about me than it does to make their products function better.

Also, like in the metaphorical hotel, Google says their data collection is anonymous, that no one could determine who you are based on what they get. However, Google can easily give law enforcement officials your search records at the drop of a court order.

Now, I actually have no problem with law enforcement officials getting this kind of information with a valid court order. What I cannot understand is how something supposedly “anonymous” can tell the police anything about an individual user. If this data really didn’t point directly at me, police wouldn’t have any use for it. That the police keep subpoenaing this information shows Google can tell whose records are whose, and is telling its users a bald-faced lie.

The one way I’ve found around giving Google too much of what I think is too much, I use separate logins for all of their properties. I have one Google login for work, another for socializing on Google Plus, another for YouTube, and yet another for my phone. The idea is they cannot share between accounts because they don’t know each of these profiles is me. I can’t be sure this works, though. For all I know, they collate all this data into one profile for me, with the notation that I’m a smart ass. If they did, I certainly wouldn’t expect they’d tell me.

It also means, oddly, that I cannot use my G+ account on my phone for fear of Google. If they’re tapping my phone conversations, (which they are capable of doing,) it doesn’t matter to me because all they have to connect these to are the fake name I gave them when I created the phone’s Google account. If they tied it into my original Google login, the one I created back when they were still dedicated to not being evil, they would know EVERYTHING about me. And I’d have no way of stopping them.

I’ll leave you with this story, which is apocryphal but I hope true, because it’s brilliant: When Google Maps debuted Street View, a number of people complained because their homes, their cars parked outside, and the license plate numbers on those cars were all visible. These people said their privacy had been invaded. In response, Google’s resident cold, vicious demon – heretofore known as Eric Schmidt – again said that there is no more privacy; You know, that old chestnut.

In response to this, some enterprising bloggers got on Google Maps, and hunted down the view of Eric Schmidt’s house. Then they blogged about it, including the Street View picture, to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Shortly thereafter, Google started to blur the license plate numbers on vehicles it captured.

Whether this is true or not, it does illustrate that privacy isn’t just a concern for criminals or philanderers or people who do things they “maybe shouldn’t be doing in the first place.”

Google needs to fix the +1 idea

If I could change anything about Google Plus, I’d add tagging to the +1s.

Ciao Enrico - Google +1

Years ago delicio.us revolutionized bookmarking with the use of tags. For some reason, an idea this simple wasn’t adopted by Google when they developed the whole +1 philosophy. Which is too bad for +1s.

It’s POTENTIALLY a great bookmarking tool. Unfortunately, the way it works now, everything you +1 gets gunked together into one great big ball of weblink. If they were tagged, you could make a beeline to each link you saved there, anytime you needed it.

If a pop-out was added for anytime someone +1’d something, they could put in a few simple tags to denote why the link is important.

People could also share lists of content this way. It wouldn’t be unlike a collection of YouTube favorites, except I could do it with everything.

Also, advertisers could preload tags onto them, more as suggestions to anyone +1-ing, say, a paid search landing page. Include a “clear all” link so they can be wiped off the +1 if the user doesn’t like what the webmaster put on there, and it removes the impetus to spam.

Google, this should be an easy thing to implement! It’s the kind of product that would give people a reason to stay logged into Google, and using Google Plus.

Please, please, please update the +1 structure with tags. I’ll be your best friend, I swear. 🙂

Virgin Mobile iPhone vs Evo V

Pre-paid phones are a better deal than contract phones any way you look at it. $35 a month vs the $80-100 a month offered by AT&T, Verison, Sprint or T-Mobile should be a no-brainer.

Consider this: At $35 a month for service, that works out to $840 over two years. The cost for a Verizon device for the same period is $2640. So you pay more than three times as much for essentially the same service. With an $1800 savings, you could actually buy two iPhone 4S devices out of pocket, and you’d still save money over the Verizon plan. Sure, Verizon coverage is better than Virgin Mobile’s – but is it really $1800 better?

In the past, the only thing the four big contract carriers ever had going for them were better phones. That’s just not the case anymore.

This month Virgin Mobile annoucned they’d be selling the HTC Evo – the phone that was Sprint’s flagship device a year ago, back when they were dedicated to their whole WiMax solution for 4G.

The news was overshadowed a few days ago, however, by their second announcement, that they would be releasing the iPhone 4S. To be honest, I’d given up hope on a pre-paid iPhone, so this was a real shocker to me. I was already excited about the Evo – now this?

This means I have a tough choice, one probably a few other people have as well. Each device has a number of positives and negatives, no matter what any of us choose it’s going to cost a pretty penny, and we’ll be stuck with our decission for a while.

So I’m just going to go through my pros and cons here, and help everyone else out if I can.

EVO V 4G

PROS

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) – This is the newest version of Android available

1.2 Ghz processor – Faster than what’s available on most of VMA’s other smart phones.

4G speed – Well, sort of. More on this in the “cons” section…

Up-gradable internal storage to 32GB – This is good if you’re looking to just have a single device for photos, music and phone. Right now I have a phone AND an iPod, and 32GB would be just enough storage to hold everything.

CONS

WiMax 4G – This will use Sprint’s WiMax network for 4G, a solution they’re retiring in favor of their own LTE network – the standard AT&T and Verizon already use. They won’t be doing any further investment in WiMax, so if this isn’t available where you are, it never will be. Here in Phoenix, I understand there’s one intersection in town where you can get 4G speeds – hardly enough for me to jump up and down with joy at how fast the Internet will run on this thing.

$299 price tag – This isn’t a cheap phone, and without a contract there’s no help in paying for it. You’ll saddle the cost of the device on your own.

Bloatware – The phone hasn’t come out yet, so there’s no way to gauge how much of a problem this will be. But Virgin Mobile is known for installing too many apps you can’t remove, which eats up memory and slows the device down. It’s also an HTC phone, so they have their own garbage eating away at the memory. Unless both companies have come to their senses and either removed this or make it possible for owners to, this could be a big problem.

Android 5.0 Jellybean coming soon – Having a phone with Ice Cream Sandwich is nice, but it will be outdated in a few months. $299 is probably a lot of money to pay for something that is yesterday’s news. (The Evo’s already a dated handset.) That just gets worse when we look at the iPhone 4S.

IPhone 4S

Virgin Mobile will be selling the iPhone 4 ($550) and 4S ($650). I have no idea why – I will only say that the iPhone 4’s antenna problems are a definite con. I’m not going to consider it, and neither should you, honestly. If you are dead set on getting a Virgin Mobile iPhone, eat the extra $100 to keep it from cutting out.

So on to everything else…

PROS

It’s an iPhone – As much as Apple Neophytes annoy the hell out of me, Apple makes a damn good phone. It doesn’t need to be restarted with an occasional battery pull, (like an Andoid or Blackberry does,) and even if it does fail their support is phenomenal.

Updates – Apple is very good about making updates to iOS available on all devices. Manufacturers that use Android almost never update the OS. Why would they give you a new phone experience when they could just get more of your money next year to get the next Android operating system? They are, after all, evil.

App Development – Android’s no longer a slouch at developing apps, but they also don’t have any oversight. You could very easily give bad people access to your phone information just because you downloaded a Chinese version of Sudoku to your phone. On the other hand iTunes is very strict about what they’ll allow in their app store.

Despite this, they also have more apps to choose from.

CONS

IPhone 4S is on it’s way out – Even though this is the latest iPhone, in six months it will be old news. IPhone 5 is very likely to be a 4G device, and who-knows how many other improvents.

No 4G – Like I said, the Evo V doesn’t have great 4G availability, but the 4S will have none. Frankly, if my city had widespread WiMax coverage, that would be enough for me to go with the Evo instead of the iPhone.

If you thought $299 for an Evo was a lot… – The 4S will be $650, and that will all be on you to pay for. That’s a lot of money for a phone, but that’s REALLY a lot of money for something that will be outdated soon.

Conclusion

As much as I’ve hoped Virgin Mobile would eventually get an iPhone, I’m going with the HTC Evo V. Both phones are, frankly, halfway towards being outdated. As such, I’d rather pay $299 for outdated than $650 for it.

Also, with the most available storage space for the Virgin Mobile iPhone at 16GB, that will get used up fairly quickly. Since I already have an iPod Touch, I can run all the Apple apps I need to on that.

Either way, I still believe a pre-paid phone is the best solution for a smart phone, even if the devices aren’t top of the line.

The Real Problem with Facebook Ads isn’t the Ads, it’s the Advertisers

When GM pulled their Facebook ads last month, it caused a lot of talk about the lack of confidence people have in their platform. When you plunk down $10,000 a month, you expect to make back at least $10,000.

What advertisers STILL don’t seem to understand, after all these years of exposure to social networks, is that nobody goes on them to buy things. If anything, people go to Facebook and Twitter for “me time.” Few people are going to leave their “me time” to click on a link to Verizon just because the link is there.

It’s like if television never had commercials, but instead all commercials happened on their own channel. How many people would ever leave the show they were watching just to tune into the 24 Hour Commercial Channel? My guess is about as many people who click on ads on Facebook.

Since this is the case, trying to use the same conversion point on a Facebook ad as, say, a paid search ad, is ludicrous. People who perform a search are looking for something specific, some problem to be solved, and if the paid ad is relevant and brings people to a product or service that helps them, they will “convert” – that is, buy something.

Facebook Ad Revenues Worldwide, 2011-2014

People don’t go to Facebook with a need or problem, though. Ads trying to sell goods must count not only on reaching people who are their target market, but happen to catch them at just that moment the ad will appeal to them. For example, someone might be the right fit for buying a car this year, but for the ad to turn into a sale, it needs to be seen by that person during those few days they are actually looking at cars and car financing. Facebook still can’t target ads that well.

So really, the definition of what makes a successful social network ad needs to be changed. On Facebook, it is much easier to convince someone to Like your Fan Page than to get them to immediately part with their money. Using ads to increase fan count would be a much saner way to grade Facebook Advertising: How many new eyeballs does your content get as a result of your ads?

Then it’s up to your Fan Page to land the sales, or at least get traffic to your site. If your content is compelling enough, people will click through to see more. In that way, the Fan Page becomes what Facebook always intended it to be: A company landing page, on Facebook.

Paid seach ads work (or don’t) based on a number of factors: If the keywords for the campaign are relevant to the product, if the ad copy is compelling enough to get a click, if the landing page entices people to click on the “buy now” button, and if the user experience of the site’s store encourages people to complete a sale.

The rules for Facebook are very different, but people keep trying to apply the same rules: Impressions, clicks, conversions, sales. What’s different here aren’t the tools, it’s the audience.