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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Beware of Bogus SEO Firms

September 12th, 2007

Have you ever received an unsolicited email like this:

Dear Website Owner,

If I could get you five times the RELEVANT traffic at a substantially reduced cost would you be interested? <company name> can place your website on top of the Natural Listings on Google, Yahoo and MSN. … We do not use “link farms” or “black hat” methods that Google and the other search engines frown upon and can use to de-list or ban your site. The techniques are proprietary, involving some valuable closely held trade secrets. Our prices are less than half of what other companies charge.

If you’re an owner of a business web site, chances are you’ve received quite a few. We get questions from clients about the validity of such companies on a pretty regular basis.

There are a lot of, maybe even most, SEO companies out there that are basically trying to work the system to create online spam. It might benefit you in the short run, but it breaks the whole legitimate ranking system and ultimately it can hurt a site more than it help. Just like how spam email marketing can produce some positive short-term results
but in the end runs the name of the offending individual/business to the ground (or even to criminal court in some cases).

SEO is simply creating value and relevance for your target clients and making it easy for them to find you. This does include some legitimate professional service roles like getting your site listed in as many relevant directories, esp. local

directories, as possible. However, what should make us leery of SEO firms is terminology like “proprietary closely held trade secrets”…big red flag, there is no secret to SEO, it’s actually quite simple as described by Google.  The real problem, like with so many other things, is that real SEO (aka building value) takes a lot of time and hard work. The temptation is great to want to believe that there is a “get search optimized quick” solution out there thus the proliferation of the SEO scam artists. I’ve blogged on this topic a number of times, the related posts are all on this SEO page.

Outside of the SEO involved in coding and developing a site (which actually is quite involved) we don’t provide ongoing SEO services of the type this company is advertising…we do provide some services to build long term value like blog writing services though. If you need help, we refer out to a few real SEO (value building) and Pay Per Click services companies
on a case-by-case basis…just let me know.

Unlike China, Westerners Have the Freedom to Blog

August 26th, 2007

Looking through the headlines today, I ran across an article that reminded me how blessed those of us who live in Western democracies are to have systems of government that allow citizens to share information. Whether it be instructional, humorous, entertaining, critical, or complimentary, the right to create and disseminate thought and opinion is a blessing we, or at least I, take for granted.

Conversely, citizens of China would not be able to have blog sites like Michelle Malkin’s or Michael Moore’s. Even for blogs of a non-political nature, China has tight restrictions on the content and distribution of blogs within its borders. Among other things, it is unlawful for Chinese bloggers to maintain anonymity, which has created international backlash from some of the world’s most prominent technology firms and media watchdogs.

Regardless of the various opinions on the effectiveness of blogging, most of us can agree that we’ve been blessed with systems of government that allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to collaborate and communicate without the fear of authoritative reprisal. To that end, I’m more thankful upon reflection as I exercise my freedom by publishing this message. You should be too.

Dancing Bologna

August 18th, 2007

I just ran across an article that I have to share, the Last Dance of the Web Bolognanew window. What is Web bologna you might ask? According to Dan Century, the name given for the witty young man who wrote this article, it’s “superfluous and garish web design elements that marketing departments love, but the average customer will ultimately loathe.”

Like spam, Web bologna is a different type of intellectually insulting processed product that we get served up on occasion whether we ask for it or not. But instead of coming through email it comes at us from the pages of web sites.

Now in Dan’s definition of Web bologna, he says that “marketing departments love” it. I’m not sure what marketing departments he’s talking about, but I can guarantee that this marketing department is top on the list of bologna loathers. As a matter of fact, I’ve recently vented my disgust of a newer evolution of Web bologna (the “Site Pal”) on this blog.

I think a key principle of life that applies to this topic is that just because something can be done, does not mean it should be done…e.g. if one can belch one’s name, that does not mean that it’s a good idea to do so when meeting potential customers.

So aside from just being plain cheesy, what’s so bad about bologna? It’s bad because it exists on the opposite side of the spectrum from good usability—the design principles that have been researched and proven to facilitate visitors to your site becoming customers. In other words, bologna takes away from the whole purpose for a business to have Web site. As a side note, to learn all you need to know about usability, pick up a copy of Steve Krug’s classic book, Don’t Make Me Think.

I encourage you to take a read through Dan’s humorous article. While much of the bologna Dan mentions in his article is extreme and from the past Internet era, the same misguided mindset of “this looks cool, we should put it on our Web page” still exists today with newer technology and tactics.

Why should I buy your product?

July 28th, 2007

This is a real email I just sent to a company today. It struck me, that the challenges I faced as a prospective customer with them are typical shortfalls that companies of all sizes make in their messaging. Read through this letter to see if yours shoes start pinching. Company names and identifying terms have been changed to protect the innocent (me).


My company has been using <a competitor’s software> but are in the process of exploring other alternatives. <Your company> was recommended to me…I’ve been poking around your site and forum for the last half hour but I’m having a hard time finding specific info on what makes <your company> different and better than <your specific competitors>. So far I’ve seen a lot of great features, but everything sounds pretty much the same as the aforementioned competitors.

I’m not suggesting that <your company> is the same, based on the referral I’m optimistic that you are better. I just asking if you can articulate to me the reasons why? Can you have one of your sales people contact me with this info?

I strongly suggest too, for your own marketing benefit, that you make a clear statement on your frontage answering the question “What features-benefits make <your company> totally unique and the best choice.”

You do have a generic value proposition stated that states: “We offer more flexibility, security, help, value, choices, stability, features and support. Get more with <our company>”….and that you’re technical
jargon> with more features than any other application in it’s [sic] class” This entire statement could be easily used by any of your competitors on their website…it would do you great benefit to call out the specific features and their benefits that are unique only to <your company>.

One last suggestion…your site is very feature heavy, I suggest you associate a clear benefit statement with each technical feature you list. The prominent feature button on your front page leads to your features page which lists a lot of technical features including multiple references to your “Hybrid X Core”.

Frankly, none of this means anything to me.

I am technically savvy on this topic so I understand much of what your saying but it really doesn’t mean much to me in terms of why I should go with <your company> … I covet finding out what the unique benefit that such features as the “Hybrid X Core” bring to me.

Please know, I am a legitimate prospect and all the above is intended as constructive advice. I suspect that I am a typical prospect for your product and I’m certain you could improve your sales conversion rate with more specific “why” info prominently displayed.

I’m looking forward to hearing from your sales dept.


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