I walked into a coffee shop the other morning and witnessed a customer, the end user, giving the barista an incredibly difficult time.  I’ve observed such dynamics a lot in my life.  I waited on tables as a young adult.  Some people remember you are human too while serving them; others become detached from humanity and begin treating people…differently.

I think that’s a major error in logic and ethics.  It’s a slap in the face to ‘the golden rule.’  I felt like reminding the (gentleman?) that while he was a customer at that moment, he  is likely to be ‘on the other end’ of the dynamic in some shape or form.  We’re all consumers, and if we offer others something in the form of product/service, it’s very beneficial to never forget the former sentiment.

User experience is incredibly important.  Moreover, you don’t necessarily need a third party’s help to channel your inner ‘end user.’  You are one too.

 

Let Them Have Their Cake
When I was young, birthdays were huge to my grandmother.  Pretty much the entire day was all about ‘you.’  Furthermore, the party’s delectable treats were completely your choice.  That was great ‘customer’ service my grandmother was delivering.  She asked what we wanted first.  Wow.  Was it just due to a grandmother’s love or was grandma people-savvy?  I think both.

I read an article yesterday about a unique spin on 7-11 experiences in Jakarta.  If you read the story, you’ll discover a demand for ‘café-like’ internet hangouts.   A few, savvy franchisees are designing their stores to function less like mini marts and more like coffeehouses, with live bands, WiFi, a wider variety of fresh foods, etc.  Franchisees are directly asking locals of wants to design upcoming stores.

Ask your consumers what they want out of your goods/services.  Get a sense of the demand first, and then attempt to supply it.

 

How Am I Driving?
Do you ever notice those ‘how am I driving’ stickers on big trucks?  I’ll assume there is some sort of system of checks and balances in place, tracking the professionalism of workers.  It’s my hope that the system is utilized by owners and not just other drivers on the road.  Wouldn’t you truly want to know how well your product/service satisfies?  I would.

A lot of brands offer occasions for feedback; yet, I’ll be honest.  I kind of take most of the ‘options’ as visual lip service, kind of like the ‘how am I driving’ stickers.  A brand should want to know how well it’s driving customer satisfaction.

Be honest.  How many times has your brand enforced feedback?  How many times do you candidly ask social media followers?  Do you host a transparent page on your site hosting user feedback?  (That notion scares some of you, huh?)

Let consumers know you want their opinion and will indefinitely listen.  The notion needs enforcement just like other elements of marketing.  However, how far are you willing to push for your consumers’ true feedback?

I am friendly with a retail store owner.  It’s interesting to know how much thinking some implementations warrant.  Think of a store as a Web page, only larger and obviously more interactive.  Where should he place his goods to recruit attention and make conversions?

There’s a whole lot that goes into the process.  So much in fact, one can start to think about placement a lot; yet, mere thinking doesn’t garner results.  We must take action; so, those thoughts become compulsive actions.  He engages in the thinking/doing so much, one may wonder about his mental health.

Of course, I’m kidding.  His thinking, action, and rinse/repeat rituals are warranted.  It’s akin to online A/B testing.

Online readers are fickle; in some cases, we don’t even know if we can deem them ‘readers’; many are more like ‘browsers.’  Browsing can turn to reading when the level of interest is raised.  How can you rearrange some implements to possibly attract raised interest?

 

Graphics/Design
When was the last time you thought about your design?  Is it dated?  Do the colors, fonts, and images POP at readers?  A lot of people (including me at times) will write about producing great content.  Unfortunately, sometimes the content is good but the packaging is bad.  The latter spoils the chances of the former.

Take a look at some of your content pages’ bounce rates.  Readers must invest at least a few minutes to peruse content.  If not, they’re bouncing due to lost intrigue as a result of poor content or poor design.  Your design will host future content.  Why invest resources into great content when the ‘cover’ of the book is being poorly judged?

Reconsider your design.  Take a look at the Blue Glass design.  Fonts are large, colors are crisp, and the pages POP off the screen.

 

White Space
I think many Web masters do not consider the value of space.  I myself love reading; but, there is a difference regarding a page’s initial reception.  Accessing a page with blocks of text is intimidating.  It ‘tricks’ the brain into thinking the process requires more ‘work.’  A page, offering a good portion of white space and line breaks is not as intimidating. The line ‘breaks’ denote an intellectual ‘break’ as well.

Some people will encourage the use of multiple visual elements , like pictures to accompany written text.  Added implements are great (if they support learning or a message).  Otherwise, they are not needed, but white space is.

Let’s take a look at how Copyblogger formats posts.  You’ll notice it is all text with one, little picture at the beginning.  However, notice the liberal usage of white space throughout.  The information is segmented into ‘breaks’ or ‘chunks,’ which makes the post easy to initially engage and mentally grasp.

 

Author
Sometimes my retail-store friend gets tired of looking at the same mannequins.  He’ll dress them differently, rearrange their hand gesticulations, or put them ‘in the back’ for a bit of mannequin hibernation.  The hibernation is good for consumers too, the owner thinks.  “People respond to different whether they know it or not,” is one of his philosophies on the topic.

Regardless of the authority or popularity of your regularly-scheduled writers, think about giving your regular writers a rest and invite others to you write for your site.  It’s a beneficial process for several reasons:

-          It offers your readers a fresh, unique voice/perspective

-          Outside authors can bring their readers to your blog

-          The guest author may enjoy new ‘fans’ due to their guest appearance

-          The notion of ‘accepting guest writers’ intrigues more writers/industry people

-          IT IS NEW, DIFFERENT, AND USUALLY ELICITS A RESPONSE

 

 

Sometimes in business we have a vision; yet, in our quest to capture, to attain the image, we wrestle with the reality of the situation.  It happens.  Otherwise, every business that ever started would flourish.  That’s a beautiful vision, pile-driven by the reality of business.

 

How can you better gauge whether your vision is coming to fruition?  Admittedly, I’m not a numbers person.  I don’t like TI-80…anythings, and statistics was not one of my favorite classes in college.  However, I do respect and understand the importance of data.  The data is the wake-up call, allowing you to see how well reality superimposes itself on original vision.

 

Analytics
Many business owners don’t want to get their hands dirty with computers.  I understand. I had to catch-up myself in my college years.  I didn’t grow up with computers like the youth of today.  They’ll be in good shape regarding online business.  At present, many of you are a bit intimidated.  Additionally, if you can pay for someone to check analytics for you, then you don’t have to be bothered, right?

 

Sure, you can find marketing companies to track and make decisions based on your analytics; but, I really suggest the notion of stepping out of your comfort zone a bit; I know; it’s not an appealing notion; but, think about it.

 

I read a good post by a peer earlier today on the topic of putting in more time, going all the way when it comes to your passion and profession.  I really celebrate that.

 

Take a look at this Google support page.  Look at all the questions you should be asking regarding your site analytics and marketing campaign.  Wouldn’t you rather have a better understanding of analytics so you can answer those questions yourself?  Marketers know marketing, but who knows your business better than you?  If it’s not you, then maybe that person should steer the ship.

 

It’s time to stop being hands-off regarding your online marketing campaign.  Is your business your passion?  Have you decided to offer your business online?  Then you need to engage just as always.

 

It’s your business.  Start thinking analytically (yes, I choose the topic of ‘analytics’ to make you start thinking more practically, more analytically about your online efforts.  I enjoy punning.)  Don’t leave things ‘up to the experts.’  Be an expert regarding your business in all its facets offline and online.

 

With outsourcing comes deep responsibility.  The advantage of having others do something so you can focus on your business is understood; but, that by no means should give you license to take a hands-off approach to your business.  Get involved and stay involved.  It’s your vision quest; do your part in making it a reality.

 

So, you wanna successfully leverage online marketing.  How thick is your SEO skin?  Would you mind if I combed over your initiatives with a felt-tipped, red pen.  I used to get ‘my red on’ regarding student essays.  I wasn’t being malicious; as the song goes, ‘you gotta be cruel to be kind’ sometimes.

 

I’m going to go ahead and prescribe your medicine.  This may hurt (just) a little; but, it will make you better.  (Pops the top of the pen, stretches, and puts his kinder sentiments on Penguin ice.)

 

Your Social Media Participation is Awful
Are you Facebook fooling me?  Are you tweetin out of your mind?  The errors are so rampant, I can’t include them  in a flowing paragraph.  I need to resort to bullets.

-          You don’t engage.  You simply share.

-          You don’t share the content of others

-          You handle expresses zero personality, you know those things real people have

-          You follow people just to gain followers then un-follow them.

-          You share the most-popular content, that which everyone else shares

 

That’s a good place to start.  In short, use social media effectively; or, don’t use it at all; because, using it in a poor fashion is worsening your state, as if you were better off not engaging at all.  Wow, the irony…

 

Here are two good resources on how to use social media.  Read them.

The Right Way to Use Social Media for Outreach

The Grammar of Social Media

 

No One’s Reading That

I get it.  ‘Content is king.’  You need content on your site.  Let’s plan for good copy.  Nah.  On second thought, let’s just throw anything up on the site.  Readers can’t tell the difference, right?  (Sighs)  I need to go back to bullets.

-          Your content is incredibly basic, even for laypeople, offering little to no value

-          Your content does not link to other helpful resources

-          You’re focused on quantity rather than quality

-          Your site content reads like you’re just ‘going through the motions’ rather than using copy to connect with people

-          You don’t devote enough time to the process end-to-end (ideas, research, reflection, etc)

 

Content is king; but, yours is more like a jester.  Do you want to engage consumers or just host content?  I can tell the difference.  I’m not the only one.  Are you serious about improving your content?  Read the following.

Copywriting Tutorials

 

You Live in an Online World; But, Goods, Services, and Customers Reside Elsewhere

Don’t get too bogged down in search engine obfuscation.’  SEO is marketing using a search engine.  Is that so revolutionary of a concept?  It’s really not.  Perhaps it’s due to limited understanding, but many business owners have a fallacious understanding of SEO methinks.

 

In what reality does a platform afford the opportunity to discredit traditional marketing sympathies, ones that focus on people?  I’ll tell you right now; there’s no such SEO reality.  Maybe some providers have you ‘fooled.’  It’s time to wake up now.

 

-          SEO is not magic.  It is a form of marketing.

-          SEO does not compensate for a lack of brand quality, nothing can.

-          SEO is about engines.  Any business is about people.

-          Learn about SEO before you spend your money and your provider’s time

-          Stop chasing trends.  Start chasing your consumers’ interests.

 

This is one of the most recent, simplified, and succinct SEO posts I’ve seen in some time.  Read it.

7 Achievable Steps for Great SEO After the Penguin

 

Are you tired of hearing of Google pets?  I am too.  There are some SEO lessons to learn due to Penguin.  I’m sure you’ve seen a resource or two so far.  However, in this post, I would like to review some business insights to take away from the pet’s recent visit.

 

Google is not a Given
Google is a business just like yours.  Google has an idea of how it would like to offer its search engine service.  Sure, Google makes most of its money from advertising; so, it wants you to use its search engine; however, nothing is ‘given’ regarding Google, just as nothing is given regarding other forms of marketing.  The search engine is a platform your business can use to intrigue consumers.  Your brand must make the marketing channel ‘work’ just like other methods.  The Google search engine is not a revolutionary marketing exception; don’t think of it as such.

 

You Can’t Compensate for Quality
I say this a lot.  I hope some are reading and heeding the words.  You can’t compensate (EVER) for a lack of quality.  You could facilitate more exposure without providing quality; but, such an endeavor seems wasteful in itself.  Additionally, consumers have choices.  Just because your service/product ranks well, doesn’t secure an eventual purchase or ongoing appreciation.  You can’t compensate for quality no matter how you organize your online marketing campaign.

 

Don’t Chase Trends
It’s likely many affected webmasters did not directly have bad intentions; alternatively, many could have been chasing the ‘trend’ of achieving great rank.  Don’t chase trends; organize online marketing endeavors utilizing tools and initiatives which make sense.

 

Recently, we’ve seen information related to GM, America’s third-largest advertiser.  GM no longer uses Facebook for paid advertising.  Additionally, GM does not plan to invest in the upcoming Super Bowl advertising fiesta.  (To date, advertisers will be expected to invest over $3 million for 30 seconds!  Wow!)  GM is a perfect example of crafting marketing against brand intentions and markets, regardless of the most ‘popular’ social networks and sense of ‘tradition.’

 

Listen to Customers, Not SEOs
Every marketing campaign needs to devote unwavering attention to target markets.  You know your target market; SEOs do not.  SEOs know online marketing tools and platforms.  Marketing aligns targets with your brand.  SEOs can help from a third-party perspective; but, SEOs can’t do YOUR JOB for you.  In theory, such sentiments create potential for a bad relationship.  SEOs want to help; but, they can’t compensate for your lack of target-market understanding or quality of service/product.

 

I, for one, celebrate the recent updates.  It ushers a returned sentiment of ‘marketing.’  SEO is a tangent of marketing.  Marketing relies on understanding people.  When did so many  get led astray from the ‘people’ aspect of marketing?  SEO is not automated marketing; if you think it is, you need more than my words and a Penguin.

 

All’s fair in online marketing until zoo animals hurt someone… just a little online humor to open with.  Actually, all is not equal online.  There are too many factors to consider.  Dr. Pete made a good point earlier in a great ‘catchall’ online marketing post:

 

Search is algorithmic, so we assume it follows the same rules for everyone. In theory, it usually does, but those rules are incredibly complex and situational.”

 

Another post, catching my eye lately is GM’s decision to part advertising ways with Facebook.  Wait!  Isn’t Facebook like ‘the best social media site’ to use for your business? I’m sure you could find a post or two supporting the claim.  Yet, GM, America’s third-largest advertiser, doesn’t want to advertise with the Facebook?  You mean there are exceptions to online marketing!?  Whoa, watch your speed driving that SEO train, business owners.

 

‘SEO’ is Marketing
I don’t want to get heavily into defining or redefining SEO; some people don’t like that (more inside SEO humor).  Rather, for the purposes of business people, I’ll make it simplified.  SEO is a method of marketing.  Marketing is a method of drawing attention (to what’s offered).

 

Many peoples’ notions of ‘SEO’ are becoming more like traditional marketing, especially in the wake of stringent rules ushered by cute Pandas and Penguins.  Basically, ‘SEO’ is/was ‘search engine’ optimization, meaning live pages were ‘optimized’ so search engines could read them well; so, if I wrote a page focused on copywriting, a search engine, like Google, would understand the main focus of the article.  There are technical things I could do to the page to facilitate the engine’s understanding.

 

At some point, people went crazy, commercially abusing the engines…Then the Web blew up; the social and content aspect of the engines got more attention, leaving those outside of ‘SEO’ even more intrigued regarding its marketing capabilities.  And yet…these days, I think more business owners are realizing the more successful SEO campaigns are light on technical aspects (because ‘over doing it’ can get you penalized) and heavy on marketing sentiments, you know, those notions of intriguing markets to products/services.

 

GM – FB = WTF?
In the intro, I mention GM’s subtraction of FB paid advertising.  What gives?  I see it two ways; either Facebook didn’t make sense for GM (That could be well understood; not every ad platform is going to work for everyone.) or GM’s marketing team couldn’t make sense of digital marketing.  Are there any marketers out there who would like the opportunity to invest GM’s $10 million if given the chance?  I bet there would be some takers.

 

My point is that marketing is not black and white.  As Dr. Pete mentions in regard to SEO, there are a lot of factors to consider, making it highly difficult to produce ‘objectified’ results.  This means I could devise an online strategy for BMW and GM, which looks similar; but, due to the shades of differences regarding BMW, GM, and respective target markets, the endeavors could go very differently.

 

Let’s say BMW’s campaign goes well; but, I can’t say the same for GM.  Was I ‘off’ as a marketer?  Yes and no.  No in that maybe I find a good strategy (for BMW).  Yet, yes, I was off regarding the notion of not finding an ‘X factor’ of GM’s campaign, in finding the differentiation which would make GM’s campaign drive well.

 

Engage in practices that make sense for your brand; take the time to learn and execute well.  There is no grand solution; only solutions for single brands.  Let’s consider a real-life example.  Jason Acidre is an incredible link builder and marketer.  Link building helps pages achieve better rankings; yet, how did Jason achieve online traction thus far?  Was it by online ‘rank’?  Taken from Jason’s guestpost:

 

“I didn’t get clients because of search rankings. I got them through my blog posts.”

 

Yellow Money Light, Green Consumer Light
Jason found a way to intrigue his target market (which could differentiate considerably from the link-building suggestions relayed to his clients).  I’m urging you to slow down, business owners, in regard to your approach to online marketing and SEO.  I believe the notion of a ‘flourishing business’ is causing some brands to make hasty online decisions, believing SEO is a dismissal of or circumvention of traditional marketing.  It’s not.  It’s another method of marketing.  That goes for all the SEO-related initiatives too such as link building, social media participation, content orchestration, and so on.

 

Watch your speed.  Slow down when it comes to the initial investment; but, accelerate internal notions of marketing toward your target market.  It’s ALL ABOUT THE CONSUMER end to end.  There are no exceptions to that rule.  In theory, the product/service does all the heavy lifting.  The marketing is a matter of introducing the service/product to the market.  All the marketing in the world can’t put a magic spin on a wanting service or product, ask any consumer about that.