Category Archives: Web Marketing

New ways to create and measure sites so they improve their ability to bring your best customers closer and attact other individuals just like them

Use your smallness to out-maneuver competitors in search engines

Many say our Founding Fathers won independence simply due to effective military strategy. They exploited their smallness — seemingly appearing out of nowhere and just as easily melting back into their surroundings. In this way the greatly out-gunned militia of George Washington prevailed over King George II and his army. This same approach helped the Viet Cong, keeping the Vietnam War in a stalemate until the U.S. withdrew. If you’re a small business, or a small competitor in a tough business segment, you can tear a page from these playbooks to win dominance on search engines.

But first, you need to understand which battles are worth winning. With modern search engines, the most important area to focus your efforts is backlinks. I’ve blogged before about their importance, offering seven types of backlinks to pursue.

Here are three ways to use smallness to your advantage in finding and exploiting search engine opportunities:

  1. Remind yourself that being great isn’t enough. You may build the best mousetrap ever. That doesn’t count. You have to also be strategic. In his book The Sirens Titan, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. writes, “There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.” Organize your search engine strategy “along the lines of the Mafia.”
  2. In keeping with Rule #1, look for vulnerabilities. Find the unique qualities of your product or service that cannot be reproduced by your competitors. Specifically, find how these unique characteristics can induce popular sites to link to you and no one else in your industry. As an example: Your company generates electricity, and does so in a way that is unmatched, in that it leaves a significantly smaller carbon footprint. That opens the door for backlinks from “green” directories and blog sites that your competitors cannot follow you onto. Each of these placements can be a huge win for your site.
  3. Be ready to turn on a dime. It’s something that smaller, more guerrilla-style fighters can do that their slower enemies cannot. Don’t look at your larger peers and mimic the pace with which they adapt to new market conditions. Instead, push your limits, and discover just how fast you can react. Then watch them struggle to keep up.

If you apply these three rules you’ll be well on your way to search engine victory. Often, your competitors won’t even know what hit them until it’s too late!

Online eye contact triggers altruism

This week I presented my C2 training course, Web Design & Content that Delivers ROI, at Proven Direct. One technique I discussed was the uncanny ability of a type of online graphic to attract attention (as measured by eye scan heatmaps) and move people to action. A lot of ads have used this technique, either intentionally or accidentally.

The technique: Have a person in your ad look directly at the user.

One example I gave was about a coffee station at a university with an “honors system” money collection jar. When the pricing sheet on the wall included the eyes of a person looking back out at the coffee drinkers, the money collected in the jar more than doubled, compared to weeks when the photo used was of a field of flowers. The photo could include any human, as long as the gaze was straight out.

What’s more, apparently the gaze does not necessarily have to be convincingly human — instead, just human-like. The graphic you see to the right depicts an application of this is fascinating technique described in New Scientist magazine. Here’s the account, as I described it to my class:

The researchers split the group into two. Half made their choices undisturbed at a computer screen, while the others were faced with a photo of Kismet — ostensibly not part of the experiment.

The players who gazed at the cute robot gave 30 per cent more to the pot than the others. (Investigators Terry) Burnham and (Brian) Hare believe that at some subconscious level they were aware of being watched. Being seen to be generous might mean an increased chance of receiving gifts in future or less chance of punishment …

Burnham believes that even though the parts of our brain that carry out decision-making know that the robot image is just that, Kismet’s eyes trigger something more deep-seated. We can manipulate altruistic behaviour with a pair of fake eyeballs because ancient parts of our brain fail to recognise them as fake, he says.

Keep this in mind where you are seeking to design an ad or interface that you don’t want overlooked.

If you’re in the Milwaukee or Madison areas, please be sure to attend my second course, presented by C2: Web Analytics That Clients Love. It will be held in Madison on April 27, and Milwaukee on May 11. Either of these presentations is just $69, but the Milwaukee course continues its $59 Early-Bird Pricing for another 12 days.

I hope to see you there!

Search conversion lift seen from social media

On Friday I gave a presentation in Chicago, at Loyola University, on social media and compliance. We covered many topics dear to the hearts of those who participate in social media and would prefer not to go to jail due to SEC or HIIPA violations. Left to other presenters was the topic of social media’s importance in today’s marketplace.

It’s just as well that I left the topic out. Since most of the attendees were bloggers themselves (yes, more than half of them — I counted hands!), covering the importance of social media would have been preaching to the converted. But recent research, by GroupM and comScore, helps remind us all that some of the strongest reasons to engage in social media aren’t readily apparent.

The study showed that people using search engines who also use social media are “more engaged consumers” and “more likely to be looking for places to buy and brands to consider.”

The research found that consumers using social media are “1.7 times more likely to search with the intention of making a list of brands or products to consider purchasing compared to the average internet user.”
Here are more findings from the study:

  • Consumers exposed to influenced social and paid search exhibit 223% heavier search behavior than consumers exposed to paid alone
  • Fifty percent of social media-exposed searchers search daily for product terms, compared to 33% of non-exposed searchers

And finally, this is the finding that I thought was most revealing: “In organic search, consumers searching on brand product terms who have been exposed to a brand’s social marketing campaign are 24 times more likely to click on organic links leading to the advertiser’s site than the average user seeing a brand’s paid search ad alone.”

How much do you spend on paid search ads? This finding suggests to me that whatever you invest in pay-per-click advertising, you can reduce that cost or improve its reach by combining it with a well-planned social media engagement.

Great post-presentation feedback

After the presentation I met a ton of the audience members through Twitter. This is a group who really understands how social media can extend the value of a presentation! One participant, David Kamerer, had a great suggestion for a way to improve my compliance presentation. He suggested I add some content on the CANN-SPAM email marketing law. Thanks, @DavidKamerer, and the other folks attending the talk. I had a blast!

How to get non-Twitter users to tweet

You’d think it would be impossible to get those who haven’t signed up for Twitter to get hooked on the immediacy and community of “tweeting.” You’d be wrong.

Just now I wanted to watch the statistics while I had the USA – Canada Olympic Gold Hockey Game on the television. I logged into the official Winter Olympics site. I found paydirt — and a surprising real-time Facebook status feed. You can click the image for one that’s easier to read:

What struck me about the Facebook feed is I didn’t have to log in. Since I already had Facebook loaded in another browser window, it immediately gave me the opportunity to add my own two cents to the cheering / jeering session. I didn’t, but I did find the flow of other people’s comments to be a fun addition to my solo enjoyment of the game.

I’ve written before about how Facebook is a perfect set of social media training wheels for the newbie. This is more evidence.

Why I joined HarQen

Today was my first day as a HarQen team member. Although my title is Director of Client Services, I’ll be wearing many hats. What, you haven’t heard of HarQen yet? You can be excused. During its young life, the members of this lean start-up have built from scratch a set of web-based services in an entirely new category: Voice Asset Management (VAM). It is ambitious in the extreme — and leaves little time for a focused PR effort.

That’s one place where I come in. I’ll be wearing many hats here, but two are social media “ambassador” and PR leader. I’ll be helping HarQen clients share their stories about these astounding services. Chief among those offerings is VoiceScreener, a way to vastly improve the quality and speed of hiring.

I know from personal experience the value of the VoiceScreener VAM system. (Yes, VAM. There’s that acronym again. Here’s another for you: VaaA, which stands for Voice as an Asset.)

In a previous life I was the defacto recruiter for the digital marketing team I led. One of the most grueling searches was when I was looking to hire a truly stellar project manager. VoiceScreener would have helped me, by inviting the dozens of applicants to answer a few guided questions over the phone — all at their convenience, talking to an automated “interviewer.” Answers are turned into the voice assets that can be quickly reviewed, sorted and forwarded — all as easily as processing emails.

One VoiceScreener client brags that the application dramatically accelerates the preliminary phone interview process. He contends it literally doubles the odds that any given applicant is going to be hired. He’s with a large recruiting firm, where twice as many high-quality applicants means, over time, twice as much revenue for him and his company.

Follow me and you’ll likely hear him tell you about it. All I’ll be doing is providing the megaphone.

I’ll be posting fewer entries here, at DigitalSolid, as I focus on the blog at VoiceScreener. I hope you follow me over there. The category of VAM is about to heat up and I’d love to share my experiences in this exciting new adventure.

Thriving in a hashtag economy

Kudos to photographer Matt Mason for providing these photos. Click to see the gallery

A question about using social media arose this morning — one that I only had time to half-answer. I was on a panel at a Milwaukee Social Media Breakfast (#SMBmke). The question (to paraphrase): “I don’t sell a sexy product. I’m a business that sells to other businesses something that they need. But they don’t necessarily blog about it or tweet about it. Can social media support my goal of lead generation?” I said yes. Below is the second half of my answer.

I did mention The Long Tail. Click through that link to learn what that is. And if you do, think about that link. Jeff Jarvis coined the phrase link economy. Chris Anderson coined the phrase the long tail. I propose a new coinage: the hashtag economy.

The long tail is the book, and the concept, about how niche markets find what they need in a world this isn’t hindered by the economics of brick-and-mortar. There are no carrying costs associated with iTunes offering one more song that just happens to be obscure. Their inventory is limited only by digital storage costs and the bandwidth necessary to deliver the song when someone buys it.

The link economy uses this free, or nearly free, paradigm. It cost me nothing to create the link that pointed readers to an explanation of The Long Tail. The link led to Wikipedia. There again, the power of almost-free. This crowd-sourced encyclopedia saw the most minuscule of incremental costs to provide you with that definition.

The upshot is this. Since we are rewarded nearly every time we click on a link, we do it more often. That generates something that very often can be monetized: Significant volumes of traffic.

Smart businesses — such as the publishers of Wired Magazine and Anderson’s book — leverage this link economy to sell more books. And they leverage The Long Tail Phenomenon in the very sale of a book about the long tail; Anderson’s book might never have become a best-seller if it hadn’t been offered in a virtual bookstore like Amazon first. His readers might have simply been just too darned “niche” to persuade bricks-and-mortar book stores to stock it in their shelves.

Scott Baitinger, co-owner of Streetza Pizza, and I were talking about niche marketing earlier this week. I complimented him on his use of Twitter Hashtags to find a narrow group and to market to them. That narrow group is @FitMKE. Scott has been peddling his pizzas to this group by tweeting to them with the #FitMKE hashtag.

Analog broadcast channels (those based on radio / television wave frequencies) are valuable enough that they are regulated by the government. There are rules about what businesses must do to earn their right to be there (e.g., public service announcements and public-oriented programming). Things that are scarce have value, and these channels are no exception. A recent auction of analog broadcast channels garnered bids in the many millions of dollars.

Twitter handles are not limited by the spectrum of a radio or television broadcast frequency. If I auctioned off my Twitter handle, I would get zero bids. Why? Everyone who knows anything about Twitter knows you can create accounts limited only by the nearly infinite combinations of letters and numbers.

This makes Twitter a spectrum of a nearly infinite number of nearly-free channels. It draws lots of people because it is so cheap and teeming with variety. It uses both the long tail and the link economy.

Increasingly, Twitter is also spawning communities of likeminded people around hashtags. One example of #SMBmke. Another, ironically, is #MKElikemind (another breakfast group — here’s the info on my blog). Scott, and @StreetzPizza, found #fitMKE to be a channel to narrow-cast his offer of healthy pizzas (and also indulgent pizzas, since — hey — you have to be getting fit to enjoy life, don’t you?).

The Hashtag Economy is one way smart marketers are finding their niche audience within the cacauphony of other channels. They’re tuning in, conversing, and doing business there.

Here’s a challenge, especially for my friends (old and new) who attended this morning’s breakfast: What hashtag conversations have you been a part of? And how have they improved your life and work? More important: What business relationships have formed from them?

Related posts:

Also mentioned:

Photo credit: Matt Mason, photographer

Milwaukee wants to know: Should you hire a social media expert?

Originally scheduled for December, the Social Media Breakfast panel discussion, Social Media Guru: Snake Oil Salesman or Expert?, will take place on Thursday, January 21, at The Moct. I’ll be one of the four panelists. The other panelists, and other details, are as follows (this information was originally posted last month):

Matthew Olson @_Signalfire_ – Owner and Creative Director of Signalfire, LLC

Sue Spaight @SueSpaightVP of Account Management and Digital Strategy at Meyer & Wallis

Kim Nielson @KnmuCommunications Project Manager at University School of Milwaukee

Here are the details:

January 21, 2010 – 7:30 am to 9:30 am

The Moct – 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

WiFi and Light Breakfast Provided

Twitter Hashtag: #SMBMke

It promises to be a spirited discussion on a timely topic. I look forward to seeing you there!

Brought exclusively to Milwaukee and Madison: Improve how you measure your site’s ROI

Start the new year right by resolving to better track the return on investment (ROI) of your web site. I’ve been hard at work with Milwaukee’s C2, planning my upcoming digital ROI workshops in Milwaukee and Madison. Here is the information as it is posted on the C2 site:

These half-day seminars are designed to expand your understanding and broaden your capabilities and confidence. You’ll work smarter, faster, stronger!

Each 3-hour seminar will be offered in Milwaukee and Madison.

Please click the date to register

Digital Content Development and Delivery That Maximizes ROI

Presented by Jeff Larche, Digital Solid

Measurement, benchmarking, comparative analysis and revision of content to best generate desired results can be a complex series of steps, each with its own challenges.  Jeff will show participants best practices for workflow management around digital content development and delivery that will maximize your return on your investment of time and resources.

Milwaukee: Tuesday, March 9

Madison: Tuesday, March 23

Realizing Results Demands Real Measurement: AIDA

Presented by Jeff Larche, Digital Solid

Jeff takes a deep dive into web page analytics to show participants specific measurement tools/methodologies designed to measure the sales cycle effectiveness of each page using metrics around AIDA: Attention, Interest, Decision and Action.

Milwaukee: Tuesday, April 13

Madison: Tuesday, April 27

These workshops are unique in the area and are reasonably priced, so they should fill up fast. I suggest you register right away.

They should also be a lot of fun. I hope to see you there!

Ambient awareness is to humans what coconut shells are to an octopus

Octopus using shells as toolsEleven months  to the day after David Pogue of the New York Times posted on being a newbie in the “Twitterverse,” I think his piece is still one of the best introductions to the platform. Here’s a sample:

I’ll admit that, for the longest time, I was exasperated by the Twitter hype. Like the world needs ANOTHER ego-massaging, social-networking time drain? Between e-mail and blogs and Web sites and Facebook and chat and text messages, who on earth has the bandwidth to keep interrupting the day to visit a Web site and type in, “I’m now having lunch”? And to read the same stuff being broadcast by a hundred other people?

Then my eyes were opened. A few months ago, I was one of 12 judges for a MacArthur grant program in Chicago. As we looked over one particular application, someone asked, “Hasn’t this project been tried before?”

Everyone looked blankly at each other.

Then the guy sitting next to me typed into the Twitter box. He posed the question to his followers. Within 30 seconds, two people replied, via Twitter, that it had been done before. And they provided links.

The fellow judge had just harnessed the wisdom of his followers in real time. No e-mail, chat, Web page, phone call or FedEx package could have achieved the same thing.

I was reminded of this again over lunch yesterday, when I was chatting with a couple of really smart tech types. My lunch companions were very Pogue-like in their misgivings about Twitter. One was even leery of Facebook. Both made points that sounded familiar to me.

I acknowledged that when Twitter first came out, I was the same way. This post from 30 months ago is an example of my ambivalence toward Twitter. I have since seen it work as a valuable way to connect and learn, for both me and many of my clients. Some business has come out of it as well.

I’m sold on Twitter. Besotted in fact. (See for yourself, at @TheLarch)

But its success could be fleeting. Twitter is white hot right now, but flash fires often burn out just as quickly.

Maybe I should revise my oath of undying love. Instead, how’s this? I’m sold on the emerging social dance called ambient awareness, a concept explained eloquently in this Clive Thompson article.

Pack up your coconuts and see the world

Ambient awareness is bigger than Twitter, and even bigger than Facebook (now at 350 million users worldwide). It’s like the coconut shells in the arms of an octopus. For those who didn’t see that story, here’s the gist: Biologists diving off the coasts of Indonesia have discovered a species of octopus that has evolved to use a novel tool. Scientific American describes the discovery:

The octopuses were found to occupy empty seashells, discarded coconut shell halves or manmade objects, and on several dives, the researchers saw them carrying coconut shell halves below their body and swimming away with them.

Sometimes, an octopus would carry two shell halves and then put them together to form a shelter, the scientists said…

“Using tools is something we think is very special about humans, but it also exists in other animal groups we’ve never considered before, a low life form, a relative of a snail. These octopuses, they’re not simple animals.”

I learned about that story through — what else? — Twitter. This platform, and the ambient awareness it harnesses, is literally a new tool for helping those who put it to use. It helps us work, play and generally be the social creatures that we are.

Meet me Dec. 10 for breakfast and truthiness

Stephen Colbert of The Colbert ReportTruthiness indeed. The occasion is Milwaukee’s next Social Media Breakfast, on Thursday, December 10. This just in: The snow storm has led to the cancellation of that breakfast meeting. The updated information is here, and the discussion will be on January 21, 2010. I’ll be one of four panelists discussing, Your Typical Social Media Consultant: Snake Oil Salesman or Expert? It reminds me of Stephen Colbert’s hilarious pairings of contradictory messages.

Me? I plan to open remarks by pronouncing that, on average, only one-out-of-four “social media experts” is really worth listening to — and since that’s all I have to say on the matter, everyone can go home.

Or maybe I won’t. You just have to attend to find out. Joining me will be the following:

Matthew Olson @_Signalfire_ – Owner and Creative Director of Signalfire, LLC

Sue Spaight @SueSpaightVP of Account Management and Digital Strategy at Meyer & Wallis

Kim Nielson @KnmuCommunications Project Manager at University School of Milwaukee

Here are the details:

December 10, 2009 – 7:30 am to 9:30 am
The Moct – 240 E. Pittsburgh Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
WiFi and Light Breakfast Provided

Twitter Hashtag: #SMBMke

Register today!

Measuring your business blog’s success

This afternoon I gave a presentation on business blogging, as part of’s The Draft, an all-day social media workshop.

The last part of the presentation was on my favorite tools for monitoring conversations, as well as the conversions that a business blog initiates. Here’s the list:

Google Analytics — This is still my favorite way to monitor all blog activity. It is fairly easy to configure, it provides a great way to measure conversation (Google calls them “Goals”) and offers benchmarking with other blogs. Price: Free

Technorati — This site provides simply but helpful ways to track the growth of your site, by comparing its “popularity” to others and showing all backlinks (also known as “pingbacks” to your blog from others. Price: Free

CrazyEgg — This is new to me, and admittedly untried. But I like their visualization tools. The one below is a heatmap showing likelihood to click (not to be mistaken for an eye-scanning heatmap). Price: Plans vary in cost Heatmap

Feedburner — This service, which was acquired two years ago by Google, is an industry favorite for monitoring how many people subscribe to you. It even has a badge, showing the number of subscribers you currently have. If you are reading this near the day it was published, you’ll see that the current theme of my blog displays the badge near the top of the righthand column of every page. (As of this morning, I had 365 subscribers. Thank you one-and-all!) Price: Free

There. That’s my list. What’s yours?

I had a great time talking to the group today, and invited them to post their questions about business blogging here in the comments section. I’m also inviting all of you to let me know what your favorite blog measurement tools are. I’m especially curious if you’ve used the CrazyEgg product line-up. If so, what do you think of it?

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