Webconsuls Blog

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GOOGLE Wants Fresh Content So Think Like A Window Dresser

Window shopping at Simpsons department store. ...Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday there were a number of GOOGLE headlines that went something like this: "Ten Recent Algorithm Changes."(See links to other articles below) I don't know about you, but whenever I read the word 'algorithm' I start to shudder. So in order to calm myself I try to think of an analogy that I can relate to our clients and help put things into everyday language.

One of GOOGLE's changes is a new twist on fresh content. They believe that if you are searching for something on the web, then you probably want the "freshest" information. I could argue that a lot of my searches are for historical information, but we will talk about that another time.  The reason I want to talk to you about fresh content is that this is a guideline that Webconsuls' team discusses with their clients on a regular basis, so now GOOGLE is again validating what all of us have really known for a long, long time.

"If you are trying to sell something, goods or services, you need to think like a window dresser."
Do you know what a window dresser is? You don't have to live in New York City to understand the importance of the professional window dresser. I am going to venture a guess that in any city, town, village or hamlet the most interestingly dressed store windows get the best traffic and probably can boast the best sales.

Now let's think about window shopping. Old fashion window shopping is free! Do you see what I mean? The free part is you being able to take yourself or your whole family to a store…like Macys or to a mall and walk around and touch the items, try on the items, dream a little, put something on lay-away…and maybe, just maybe be so pleased by the user experience you will eventually make a purchase. Virtual window shopping is also free, but one can't "touch" or "try on the goods", so the content quality needs to be fresh and inviting.
"The success of window dressing and window shopping is dependent on fresh content."
This isn't rocket science. The word algorithm makes it seem so, but it is really social science. When a person is looking for information, goods, services, they now tend to look on-line. They can buy items from all over the country, continent, or world. So how do you get their attention?  Simple! Be clear about what you are selling (in every sense of the word) and keep your content current and relevant.  Let me tell you a story...
"Some 30+ years ago I lived and worked in Hollywood, CA area. My office was on Vermont Avenue and I lived on Barham Blvd.  There was a wonderful gentleman who lived in my complex and owned a sundry store near the corner of Sunset Blvd and Vermont Avenue. My employer sometimes would ask me to go to the bank to make the daily commercial deposit, so one day as I am walking down Sunset Blvd I notice Sanford's little store. The window dressings were so old and dusty that I almost didn't walk in, but I wanted to say hi to my friend. When I got in the store what I saw was more dust, shampoo bottles with contents that had already separated and then I spotted Sandy behind the counter. I started to giggle and picked up one of the shampoo bottles...I asked him who would buy this stuff. He laughed and said: 'Judy, I am not in the business of selling sundries; I offer a check cashing service for a fee!' "
There was no window dressing that said "Check Cashing Service", in fact you had to creep around the store to discern that this service was the primary business. Do you see the irony in this story? I know you do. You might call this the "sales prevention department!" Again, it isn't rocket science.

So what can you do to make sure your content is fresh and refreshing?
  1. Review your site for accuracy. Do this on a regular basis. Look for "dust"!
  2. Remember to keep your webmaster informed about new products, locations, staff members, sales. 
  3. Take new photos.
  4. Consider publishing press releases.
  5. If you have a blog, check to see when you last published a post.  Remember each post is considered fresh content by GOOGLE. 
  6. If you have a business Facebook page, be sure to have it linked to your business website.
  7. Link all of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn) to your website.
  8. Make sure your GOOGLE Places page is current. Read your reviews. Respond to your reviews.
And yes, there is this new thing called GOOGLE+ for business page.  I will be back in a few days to give you a primer in this latest way to keep your content fresh.

In the meantime...pretend you are a customer, go window shopping on your website, then pretend you are a window dresser. You may not care about fresh content, but GOOGLE does. What changes would you make? How would you freshen up your virtual storefront?



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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cheers to Blog World Expo Los Angeles 2011

"Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you wanna go..
Where everybody knows your name
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
the troubles are all the same.
you wanna be where everybody knows your name..."
Somewhere around 1982, Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo wrote these lyrics for the new sitcom "Cheers!" And for some strange reason when I think of Blog World Expo Los Angeles 2011(#BWELA) these lyrics just seem to fit. And yes I do know that many #BWELA attendees had not been born in 1982...but I am pretty sure they all know the lyrics and have felt the sentiment. Heck, I have even been to Boston's Bull & Finch Pub which served as the exterior for "Cheers!" To me the lyrics fit because while many people in the on-line world may know your name...there is a pretty good chance they can't pick you out in a crowd of 4000+, but it is a lot of fun trying and they really are glad you came. 

This was my third time attending Blog World Expo having participated in BWE09 and BWE10. Many bloggers have already posted their reviews and I am going to link to a number of those below, but I just wanted to take a few minutes to give you my overview.

Blog World Team

Judy with Rick Calvert- #BWELA


I must start by talking about the Blog World Team. If you have ever planned an event - tea party, wedding, golf tournament, business meeting, Thanksgiving dinner...then you know just a tiny bit of what goes into pulling off an event of this magnitude. I am pretty sure by next week Deb, Lara, Allison, Julie, Nikki, Dave and Rick will be laying the foundation for Blog World 2012. Really? I am sure the infrastructure is already in the works for 2012. So to the Blog World Team I say thank you for a job well done, seamlessly presented and for making all of us feel welcome.



 Exhibitors

We all like to go to conference exhibit halls. It really doesn't matter the nature of the conference, the exhibit hall is like trick or treating...you walk around meeting new people, getting a few gifts and if you are lucky you can learn about new software or hardware and take home something tangible to share with your co-workers or clients.  This year I met up again with Brett Wiltshire of BLOGGER. It was fun to reconnect with Brett and learn more about BLOGGER. I also stopped and talked to Tin Dizdarevic of ZEMANTA. I love Zemanta and have used it here on our blog and deployed it on client blogs for the last couple of years. It is just a great tool. My new find this year is POND5.  It will be my mission to share information about POND5 with my teammates and clients.  I don't know about you, but finding just the right photo/video/illustration for a website can be exhausting and I intend to really check out POND5.

Keynotes

I attended four Keynotes this year.
Jim Farley
  • Shani Higgins presenting Technorati's State of the Blogosphere was enlightening. Nice to know that 61% of bloggers are hobbyists! While Shani gave us a lot of statistics to chew on, it was Mikal Belicove of Entrepreneur Magazine that did as Jason Falls suggested in his session "asked better questions" of Shani. It was the exchange between Mikal and Shani that made the keynote powerful.
  • Brian Solis made us all feel welcome by offering us a free copy of his latest book "The End of Business as Usual" and Brian certainly did a great job of interviewing Jim Farley - Group Vice President, Global Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford Motor Company. Jim has a great story including the fact that his grandfather was the 389th employee hired by Ford Motor Company.  Jim's message: "Let people speak...listen...speak like them!" Enough said. I will make it a point to visit Ford Social and I will read Brian's book. 
  • Mitch Joel handily moderated the keynote session Building a New Media Empire with Lisa Stone, Deanna Brown and Michael Stelzner. A couple of great quotes from this session: "If you see a hole - you can build a business", "the most successful people write about what they love", and "provide service and band together!" 
  • Jordan Cooper is funny and I am glad I got to enjoy his comedy as he introduced the closing keynote. 

Sessions

When you purchase a two-day ticket, as opposed to the full conference - you risk missing meaningful and powerful sessions. Next year I will not make this mistake.  That is not to say that I did not enjoy the sessions I attended, but a number of people that I wanted to hear and meet spoke on Thursday and I arrived Friday morning.  In all I attended five sessions (there were hundreds!). Hmmm...
Jason Falls talking about B.S.
  • "The Use of Digital Application and Tools to Change Behaviors to Improve Health" was interesting, but probably would have been more so if I were in the medical field.  But still good to know that the health field is trying to make the most of social media. 
  • Jonathan Fields interviewed Chris Brogan and Leah Segedie in a "Lifestyle Makeover Roundtable". This was a very intimate (small group of people) and personal discussion about going through a lifestyle makeover.  There was great audience participation. 
  • Jason Falls' session "This Is All Such B.S.: How to tell and what to do when you're being had in blogging, social media and beyond..."  The title is enough to make you want to hear what Jason has to say.  Jason had a lot to say but the big take-away was: "Ask better questions and do your own work!"
  • I happened upon "How Dad Blogging Can Bust the Fatherhood Stereotypes" featuring Bruce Sallan, Jim Lin, Ron Mattocks and Kevin Metzger. And yes, I know, I am not a father...but I had a great father and I wanted to listen to what these Dad bloggers had to say. Sadly this session did not have a lot of participants.  It would have been better in a smaller room, but the content was over the top powerful.  Each gentleman offered such wonderful insights and they were well prepared...I became so involved with listening that I forgot to take copious notes.  But at the end Ron Mattocks gave me a gift of his book Sugar Milk and he signed my copy. I have started reading it...when a book can make you laugh out loud, then you know it is going to be great.
Live #blogchat

Mack Collier leading #blogchat at #BWELA
Live #blogchat was my fifth session. I have been participating in the on-line Twitter #blogchat for over a year. Every Sunday at 8:00PM Central time people get together on Twitter to chat about blogging. So to be part of Blog World's live #blogchat with Mack Collier was much anticipated and Mack did not disappoint his live audience. The topper was Mack's invitation for all of the live audience members to introduce themselves with their Twitter profile names. So much fun to meet @Sherree_W, @wordsdonewrite, @BruceSallan,  and @kikolani and to sit next to @allison_boyer in this live #blogchat.   Great event!


 Meeting People

My favorite part of Blog World Expo is meeting people who I have come to know through their blogs/websites or twitter.  For example, I have written about 501 Mission Place and finally I was able to meet Rob Hatch who is on the 501 Mission Place team. Also I was able to meet Chris BroganJacqueline Carly, Mack Collier, Julien Smith, Justin Levy and get re-acquainted with Darren Rowse.

So here's to Blog World Expo and stopping by the Sheraton Hotel's bar where many knew my name, but few knew my face!

Allison Boyer, Judy Helfand and Julie Bonner


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Monday, August 22, 2011

Webconsuls Recognized As Google AdWords Certified Partner

Webconsuls has recently been recognized as a Google AdWords Certified Partner.  This certification is given to companies with Pay-Per-Click managers who currently run successful Google AdWords marketing campaigns and have also demonstrated in-depth AdWords knowledge by passing multiple professionals exams created by Google.


Google has created the Certified Partners Program for businesses that are looking to use Google marketing as a business tool to create more business but don’t have the knowledge or time to successfully manage an AdWords campaign.  The Google stamp of approval lets potential businesses know about companies with a high level of expertise and a significant amount of history in the medium.



Our PPC Specialist Keith Hansen is our Certified Google Partner. Before joining our team over four  years ago, Keith was a Yahoo Search Marketing specialist.  He was trained from the inside of the industry, a real advantage in this very competitive marketplace.  As a result of this new certification, Webconsuls and Keith will have access to next-level Google training and resources, as well as $100 in promotional credits to new businesses who are interesting in trying Google AdWords to promote their business goals.



Let us create a PPC/Google AdWords marketing proposal customized to your business goals and web site so you can see how it works and what it brings to the table.  Here is some basics on the value AdWords provides, and why it is so successful:


  1. You set the cost- we can work with any budget.
  2. Reach 84% of internet users. 
  3. Track-able to the penny- ability to know what works and what doesn’t towards optimization. 
  4. Complete Control- come up on Google searches for the keywords your target audience is searching. 
  5. Find searchers looking for your service/product!
Read more about Pay Per Click campaigns here and feel free to leave a comment or question. Keith will be happy to join the conversation.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    GOOGLE Places Swept Clean of Reviews - Or Was It?

    The Allianz MX450 Mechanical Street SweeperImage via Wikipedia
    The street sweeper just drove through your GOOGLE Place page. And it might have been swept clean of reviews. Go ahead...mosey over to your GOOGLE Place page. You will notice a few changes. The most important visible change is, according to GOOGLE:
     
    "Based on careful thought about the future direction of Place pages, and feedback we’ve heard over the past few months, review snippets from other web sources have now been removed from Place pages. Rating and review counts reflect only those that’ve been written by fellow Google users, and as part of our continued commitment to helping you find what you want on the web, we’re continuing to provide links to other review sites so you can get a comprehensive view of locations across the globe."


    Ok, here is what GOOGLE is saying: Let's say that you own a country inn and you have a GOOGLE Place Page. Up until July 21, 2011, the number of reviews displayed to the right of your GOOGLE Place Page result on the search engine results page would have been the sum total of all reviews:  Google users + Trip Advisor + Bed and Breakfast + Yahoo users.  Now the number of reviews displayed will be the total of GOOGLE users, and if NO GOOGLE users have reviewed your property then it will just display the words Place Page. Now you really need to take the time to reach out to your customers, clients, guests, shoppers. If they are GOOGLE users encourage them to write a review. And should they write a review (good or bad) respond to the review.

    Like I said at the beginning of this post...the street sweeper went down your GOOGLE Place and if you are a business owner you might want to make sure the street sweeper didn't change the look of your property too much.  You know what I mean.  Think back to where ever you have physically lived before. Did the street sweeper come by once a week, maybe every month? Remember the street signs that would say "No Parking 9:00AM-Noon TUESDAY STREET CLEANING"?  Did you ever forget to move your car?

    The GOOGLE Places update that took place last Thursday happened quickly and without warning. It might have been nice to know the street sweeper was coming.  What do you think?


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    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Places, Everyone! GOOGLE Places, That Is

    Image representing Google Places as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase
    Were you ever in a school play, pageant, band, or orchestra? It could have been grammar school, middle school, college, Summer Stock, regional community theatre, or Broadway...do you remember the "director" calling out: "Places, everyone!"  In grammar school it was the Benedictine (O.S.B.) nuns who tried to control me and in high school it was Mr. Van Vleck who taught drama.  I am pretty sure I annoyed him.

    Today I saw a Tweet that said something like this: "Google Places just got better!" I was intrigued and I thought I need to write a post about whatever is new at GOOGLE Places, because I keep trying to stress to our clients the importance of GOOGLE Places.  Suddenly, I thought maybe I can get everyone's attention by calling out "Places, Everyone!" GOOGLE Places, that is. 

    This is what is new with GOOGLE Places.
    'Starting today [June 13, 2011], Google Maps search results in the U.S. and Great Britain will include some of the phrases which are most frequently used to describe those places. These phrases come from sources all across the web, such as reviews, web pages and other online references, and they can help people quickly identify the characteristics that make a particular place unique. It’s like an opportunity to ask the business owner or its patrons “What’s good here?” or “What do most people get here?” '
    I also learned that if you want to stay on top of all things about GOOGLE Places, then you can:

    1. Subscribe to the GOOGLE Places Blog
    2. Follow GOOGLE Places on Twitter @GooglePlaces
    3. And if you have even more free time you can review GOOGLES' Blog Directory and subscribe to other GOOGLE Blogs.
    Have you claimed your GOOGLE place? If so, do you update it regularly to keep it interesting?

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    Monday, May 2, 2011

    A Thank You Makes You Smile

    Do you send thank you notes?  Not email thank yous, not thank you phone calls, I am talking about old-fashioned thank you notes or letters. Here at Webconsuls we often receive phone calls or emails thanking us for a job well done. It is great to feel appreciated. Most recently we received a unique thank you card that I want to share with all of you. It was the kind of thank you that makes you smile.

    The hand-made card came by U. S. Mail from our client Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Mid-Coast Maine. Take a look, a thank you from some of their "littles" - the children.
    Click on the photo - it will get larger!

    Sending a thank you or receiving a thank you will always put a smile on your face. Years ago I saw a Marx Brother's movie A Day at the Races. There is a funny scene filled with thank yous. Enjoy!



    So tell me...do you send thank you notes?


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    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    BING Business Portal - It Is Time To Claim Your Listing

    Bing_Brand_Logo,MicrosoftImage via Wikipedia
    It has been a while since we talked about BING.  Lately clients have been asking more questions about BING. Sometimes they think it is an entirely new search engine and then they realize that prior to two years ago they knew BING as Live Search, Windows Live Search or MSN Search. In July 2009, Keith Hansen wrote a post about Microsoft & Yahoo agreeing to a search partnership. In the last few months a few clients called to verify why their Pay Per Click charges referenced BING, instead of YAHOO.  On April 11, 2011, BING launched their Business Portal beta, which is:
    "a new service from Bing to help business owners create and control their online listing, making it easier for their customers to find them on Bing. With it, owners can even create deals and promote the offers on both the Bing desktop and mobile experience – for free. The BBP will replace the Bing Local Listing Center (LLC), and all existing listing on LLC have been seamlessly migrated to the Bing Business Portal."
    So now it is time for you to claim your listing(s). Don't worry, it is free; but it will take a few minutes. And BING wants you to know that by claiming your listing your business will have a better chance of being found on BING and you will be able to highlight your strengths and create campaigns that you can even publish to your FACEBOOK account. 

    OK, like I said: You need to claim your listing...so start by going here and See How the Bing Business Portal Can Help Your Business Grow.    Follow the step by step instructions and if you have more involved questions you can visit BING's Business Portal Frequently Asked Questions.



    Let me know how you do or feel free to contact me if you have more questions.
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    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Search Engine Marketing Newsletter Spring 2011

    In this Newsletter we discuss two recent Google news stories and also something that may be coming down the road from Google.

    Google made the news recently with two stories – a change to its algorithm and also an explicit penalty imposed on the rankings of two large retailers. Judy Helfand has written an excellent piece on the Webconsuls' blog that provides more information about Google, algorithms, and the penalties. The information given by Google about this change could be helpful to you for improving your rankings.

    In its official blog, Google states that its goal – “to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible.” Last week’s change is intended to reduce the rankings for what Google considers to be low quality sites – sites with low valued added, sites that have copied content from other sites, and sites that just don’t provide useful information. As low quality sites are reduced in ranking, then higher quality sites should improve.

    Webconsuls avoids the tactics that Google is trying to penalize. We have found that our clients have not been negatively affected by the change, and many have benefited by the improvement given to higher quality sites.

    Google’s goal of providing relevant answers to queries is simple to state and helps provide a roadmap you can use to improve the results from your web site. First, and most importantly, is it clear that your web site provides content for relevant searches? Does your site accurately and fairly completely describe the products and/or services you offer and the geographical area you serve?

    Once you are confident that your site completely and accurately describes your business and its products and services, then how would you rate its quality? Does it provide useful information? Is the content original or merely copied from another site?

    In another story Google found that Overstock.com and J. C. Penney were using deceptive practices to boost their positioning and dropped their rankings. It is tempting for a small business to think that will not happen to them, but there is a Google experiment that may work its way into the actual rankings. Google’s web browser is called Chrome, and Chrome now has a feature that lets users block sites. Once a viewer block a site, then that viewer will not see it again. Google assumes that Chrome users are blocking low quality sites. While so far Google says that Chrome blocks are not in the rankings, it is something that could be used in the future.

    In summary, Google has made changes to its algorithms. These changes are designed to penalize low quality sites and reward sites with original valuable content. Google has also penalized major retailers who were deceiving its system to boost their rankings. Google is also experimenting with other ways to detect low value sites. Google’s goal is to provide relevant answers to search queries. You should make sure that your site has original content that fully describes your business.

    Dick, Dennis and Judy

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Google News: Algorithms, JCPenney and Overstock.com

    Image representing Google News as depicted in ...Image via CrunchBase
    GOOGLE makes news every day. If you don't see the headlines hot off the presses, you may catch them later via a TWITTER feed, a Nightly News program, a cable news program, a co-worker, a client, a FACEBOOK page, or even GOOGLE's Official Blog. February 2011 was flush with GOOGLE news. News about algorithms, JCPenney and Overstock.com. Each bit of news is vital for you to understand how it relates to your  business efforts regarding search engine optimization and your search results.

    Let's start with algorithms...

    Do you know what an algorithm is? According to Wikipedia: "In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning." All you really need to know for this conversation is that GOOGLE uses many algorithms to deliver SEARCH results to those that use the GOOGLE search engine. Oh, and one more thing:  GOOGLE is constantly reviewing and tweaking their SEARCH algorithms.

    Everyone dreams of being #1 out of 2 million+ results, or at least everyone dreams about being on page 1. Right?  I am not talking about being #1 for your business name, most businesses can accomplish that feat with a little time, good content and responsible search engine optimization. No, what I am talking about is being #1 or on page 1 for a really competitive, albeit generic, keyword or keyword phrase. The fact is there is a lot of competition for most businesses' wares and services, unless of course you have a very specific niche with no competition.  I will not belabor this, but instead invite you to read GOOGLE's entire announcement for their latest algorithm update, that really deals with what they call "content farms".  Here is an important highlight:
    "Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

    We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does."
    What about GOOGLE and JCPenney?

    We all know JCPenney, the store. Heck, I used to live in a town where the only "department store" was JCPenney. We didn't have a Macy's, SEARS, K-Mart, Walmart, Bloomingdales, Nordstroms...somehow we managed and what we couldn't find in the store itself we purchased from the JCPenney catalog. Did you know it was founded in 1902? That is a lot of merchandising.  But this month the New York Times reported to GOOGLE that JCPenney's website was violating GOOGLE's "link scheme" policy. GOOGLE investigated the claim and after finding the claim to be true, then took action against JCPenney.

    "On Wednesday evening[in early February], Google began what it calls a “manual action” against Penney, essentially demotions specifically aimed at the company.
    At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for 'Samsonite carry on luggage.'
    Two hours later, it was at No. 71.
    At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Penney was No. 1 in searches for 'living room furniture.'
    By 9 p.m., it had sunk to No. 68.
    In other words, one moment Penney was the most visible online destination for living room furniture in the country.
    The next it was essentially buried.
    PENNEY reacted to this instant reversal of fortune by, among other things, firing its search engine consulting firm."
    And now about Overstock.com...

    I have never bought anything from Overstock.com, but then I am not much of a shopper. How about you?  I see their television ads and I have visited their website a number of times when I was trying to find an obscure item.  This story also has to do with links, but particular link types and how GOOGLE's algorithm considers .edu links.  The fact is GOOGLE views both .edu and .gov sites as trusted and authoritative. Now it seems that Overstock.com was "gaming the system" and GOOGLE took action.
    "The incident, according to Overstock, stemmed in part from its practice of encouraging websites of colleges and universities to post links to Overstock pages so that students and faculty could receive discounts on the shopping site. Overstock said it discontinued the program on Feb. 10, before hearing from Google, but said some university webmasters have been slow to remove the links."
    The bottom line to all of these incidents is that we'd all like to think there was some fairness in the wide world of the World Wide Web. If you own a business it is natural that you want to do well and you probably want to be able to sleep at night. Right?  

    My thoughts about GOOGLE's actions are: A few years ago, I saw a movie, "The Winslow Boy", and in the closing scene a defense attorney states: "I wept today because right had been done." When questioned by the defendant's sister, "Not justice?" to this the attorney replied, "No, not justice. Right. Easy to do 'justice'. Very hard to do 'right'." GOOGLE tries to do right.

    My thoughts about businesses that attempt to game the systems:  Mark Twain said it best. "The glory which is built upon a lie soon becomes a most unpleasant encumbrance. How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again!" 

    It would be great to hear from you. What do you think about GOOGLE's attempt to level the playing field?

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    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Chris Brogan Wants A Pony Like Jack Snyder Wanted An Elephant!

    USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...Image via Wikipedia
    Do you wait for the mailman? I am talking about the US Postal Service employee. I think we all do this. We hope that the mail will include something more exciting than a bill. Today Chris Brogan published a video post "A Look In the Mail Bag."  Did you watch it? Chris shared what I guess is a typical day's mail, it included books to review, toys like a Carol Roth doll and an early edition of a Chevrolet Camaro model car...the list goes on, but he also received a toy pony from Jamie Eriksen of SEMA. Apparently Chris has a habit of telling people that if they ever get famous he would like a pony! As I watched Chris hold up the plastic toy pony I wondered what Chris would do if someday someone who became famous actually had a real live pony delivered to him.

    It could happen you know. Chris Brogan wants a pony, not unlike how Jack Snyder wanted a baby elephant. Sales contests are still popular in the business world. We have probably all been involved in a sales contest, it really starts in school when they ask you to sell magazines, or cookies, or wrapping paper.  It is for some good cause and if you sell the most you win a prize. From these we grow into sales jobs. Sooner or later all jobs are about sales. And sooner or later there will be a contest. Prizes vary for sure. I once had a friend who won an all expense paid trip to The Masters in Augusta. (He was delighted until he realized the income tax implication.)  Even Chris is part of a contest. He helps people "sell" their stuff...and I am willing to bet that someday the pony is going to arrive, just like Annabelle arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1966.

    It was 1966 Crown Zellerbach (CZ) sponsored a Chiffon Tissue sales contest. I think, as the story goes, a Crown Zellerbach employee who was in charge of the contest jokingly said the winning sales person had their choice between $3000 or a baby elephant!  Try to envision what went on at CZ headquarters when the winning sales man chose the baby elephant and to make matters worse that winning salesman, Jack Snyder lived in Anchorage, Alaska.

    Remember now, this is 1966. Alaska had only been granted U.S. Statehood in 1959. Even today many companies do not make their products available to be shipped to Alaska or Hawaii, so you can imagine what went on to get two year old Annabelle, an Asian Elephant, all the way to Anchorage. She made it, but the next problem is where she would live. She couldn't live with Jack Snyder and Anchorage did not have a zoo, so Sammye Seawell who owned the Diamond H Horse Ranch volunteered to house Annabelle in one of her heated horse stalls. Little 300 pound Annabelle arrived, Sammye fed her with a gallon bottle and for a while Jack Snyder would take Annabelle to his market everyday for his customers to enjoy.

    By August 1969 the Alaska Zoo opened and Annabelle had a great new home, with both a heated winterized building and a beautiful natural outdoor enclosure.  I met Annabelle when I moved to Anchorage in early 1983. She was delightful and she was a painter. She earned her keep as her paintings were sold in zoo's gift shop.

    Annabelle lived to be 33. Her story never fails to make me smile. So today when Chris said he jokes about getting a pony I naturally remembered the famous sales contest "$3000 or a Baby Elephant!"  I can't wait to see the pony!!!

    How about you? What is the most interesting item you won in a contest or that you joked about wanting and actually received? 



    Waiting to see Annabelle 1984
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    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Twitter Is My Virtual Birdfeeder

    Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
    I don't know how many times I have posted about Twitter on this blog. You can search our twitter label and read all of those posts and it will let you see the evolution of this social media tool and our/my approach to it. It is kind of interesting, but today I want to talk about how Twitter is my virtual birdfeeder.

    This morning I read a very simple Tweet from @lizstrauss How to change your Facebook Page's Category. See it explained here.

    This caught my interest and I quickly clicked on the link and realized that by "category" this news was about business Facebook pages. And that meant that I needed to really dig into this news. I tweeted back to Liz:
    "thank you. I luv twitter 4 items like this. I'm like a dove sitting below a birdfeeder waitin 4 seed droppings."
    From Liz's Tweet I went over to my personal Facebook page and saw an item from BlogWorld "Facebook Pages Get a Facelift."  If you have a business Facebook page I hope you will take the time to read this post, Nikki Katz did a great job of summarizing this Facebook news.

    In closing I would like to share a photo that I took today (from inside my house looking through a window). You can see our new bird feeder hanging from one of our Palo Verde trees. If you look closely you will see the small colorful wild birds taking seeds from the feeder, but just below you will see the doves and a squirrel enjoying the extra seeds that have fallen to the ground. It is a wonderful symbiotic relationship, not unlike what I enjoy with my Twitter friends.
    Bird feeder- click on the photo to enlarge
    I'd love to hear what you think about feeding the birds.  How often do you learn helpful hints from simple little tweets? 


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    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Remembering the Challenger 1986 and More

    The crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-51-L pos...Image via Wikipedia
    This past week has been filled with historic anniversaries like President John F. Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address and while this is a business blog, I think it is important to sometimes stop and remember the impact of these significant events. When I talk of impact I am not just talking about personal memories, but also how events shape our creativity and spark our willingness to take a chance. In today's world it appears we don't really have to rely on our personal memories or historical facts. Easy enough to "Google it" or search Wikipedia, as our brains have become cluttered with usernames and passwords.

    I have written previously about my memory of Man's Walk on the Moon. It was a great day for Americans, important for all mankind, but we should today stop to remember a cold winter day, January 28, 1986, when we watched live as the Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral.

    People of my generation were raised on the space program. It is our program. From the very early days families were committed to watching each endeavor on television. We were deeply saddened, horrified even, when on January 27, 1967 (44 years ago yesterday), the crew of Apollo 1 died in a cabin fire during a pre-launch test.

    So it was on January 28, 1986, I was living and working in Conway, New Hampshire, and we were all excited that Christa McAuliffe of Concord, NH, was chosen to be the NASA's Teacher in Space.  I for sure was going to watch the lift off.  It was a Tuesday; I believe NASA may have decided to plan this take-off to occur on a school day so that students throughout the nation could watch the event on live TV (CNN).  We had an old black and white television in our work lunch room. At about 11:00AM I walked downstairs and took a seat with my co-workers. There was a lot of excitement in the air. The news cameras actively panned the public observers at Cape Canaveral, including Christa's parents. And as we all watched the final countdown and lift-off the cameras panned back to the crowd and then we knew by the look on Christa's parents' faces something was terribly wrong. The trail in the sky was not normal...and they were gone.

    In shock, we continued to watch CNN for a while longer. I reached for the phone and called Dennis. He was watching at home. I went back to my office and throughout the day my co-workers and I took turns monitoring CNN's coverage. And so the day went.

    This February 1st we will stop to remember the 8th Anniversary of the Columbia disaster. Yes, I was watching live coverage on that Saturday morning, too. Like I said this is our program and it came to be because of a young president's challenge 50 years ago.

    25 years...hard to believe. Here's to the crew: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Resnik.

    I would love for you to share your memories...


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    Monday, January 24, 2011

    T-Shirt Memory Blankets - Why Didn't I Think of That?

    Aaron with his Disney t-shirt 1983
    We all have "aha" moments. Or better yet, we smack our forehead and say to our self "Why didn't I think of that?" This morning I had one of those moments. I passed by the television which at the time was tuned to MSNBC. A promo ad was playing for MSNBC's Sunday Morning show Your Business highlighting  uBlanket.  Take a minute and watch a video here.



    Ok, so now you have watched the video and I hope you have visited uBlanket's website. 'Remember...Reduce, Reuse, Rethread - All uBlankets are MADE IN THE USA!'

    It is such a wonderful idea, great gift for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, showers, retirements...the list is endless and it is a functional, cozy memory blanket - a keepsake that tells a story.

    I don't want you to think or assume that uBlanket is our client. They are not (yet), but I love what they do and I think they have a great business model. Plus, I get a kick out of how simple the idea is. Think about it, or better yet, get up from your computer right now and walk over to your clothes closet or dresser (I am assuming you are at home or imagine you are at home). How many of these "memory or souvenir t-shirts or sweatshirts" do you own? I am going to bet dozens to 100s.

    Here's the thing. Yes, this is a great idea, but it is not original. You know how I know?  As I wrote today to Brett Snowden, Co-founder uBlanket.com:
    "about six years ago I was sorting through "stuff" with my younger son and we came across a bag filled with little t-shirts that had belonged to my older son. You know the kind of souvenir t-shirts that you buy babies and children when you are traveling, etc? Well, the older son stopped by the house and the younger son handed him the bag and told him to "do something with these shirts!" About four months later I received a package in the mail, a t-shirt blanket quilt made with the little t-shirts! Aaron and a friend had created the blanket."

    But you see, an idea doesn't have to be original to be successful. It has to be acted upon. You have to think it through, plan it out, and do it!  In this case it really seems that Brett Snowden and John Murch are doing it right. They are doing it green and they are helping the homeless, too.  You can follow them on twitter @uBlanket and like them on Facebook.  

    Let me know what you think? Do you have an idea you have been thinking about?  Or did you have an idea that you wished you had developed?
    Do you see the Disney T-shirt on Aaron's Memory blanket?

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Reviewing 2010 and Ringing In 2011

    A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...Image via Wikipedia
    Webconsuls' 2010/2011 Winter Newsletter
    If 2010 was nothing else, it was a fast year. It seems only yesterday Dick Fay and I were working on our 2009 Winter Newsletter and now here we are writing our 2010/2011 Winter Newsletter. We want to take a few minutes to: Thank our Webconsuls' clients, introduce our newest clients, highlight some marketing and software ideas, suggest two resolutions for you and support our not-for-profit clients who assist children in need.

    Thanking our clients...
    Webconsuls and our team appreciates our clients. We learn from each and every client by optimizing their sites, designing new sites, building blogs, coaching our clients on new software and responding to their marketing needs. As you may know, we have clients across the United States (actually in 11 states) and in two foreign countries, representing industries from hospitality to law, health care to home maintenance, real estate to retail, sports and recreation to performing arts. There is never a dull day. 

    Introducing our clients who joined us in 2010...
    We invite you to meet our new clients and visit their websites.

    Highlighting some marketing and software suggestions...

    We know the internet is fluid. It changes daily. We try to keep our clients abreast of these changes by writing this blog, researching our clients' requests, providing news' feeds on our website, and publishing our newsletter. Over the past few years we have blogged a lot about social media/Google/Twitter. We have built blogs for our clients, we have worked with our clients to establish their Facebook business page.  Additionally, over the past year...
    • Dick has been particularly active assisting our clients by adding shopping carts with either PayPal or Authorize.net functionality.  
    • Dennis worked with clients to add a LIVEPerson feature for online customer engagement.
    • Malik, our lead designer and web developer, is also proficient in designing clients' e-newsletters using Constant Contact and Vertical Response.
    • Keith, our PPC specialist, works closely with several of our PPC clients to utilize phone conversion optimization software.  
    • Alycia, our branding expert, has been focused on improving Client Web 2.0 and specific SEO-related enhancements.
    • Daniel, our Social Media tech continues to sharpen his YOUTube video creation skills. We are sure you will enjoy the video he created for Seaward Inn to commemorate their 2010 Sunday Morning Live Series.


    Suggesting two resolutions for you...


    The first is to start reading our Webconsuls' blog on a regular basis.  As we said above, with our blog we communicate new information that we think is important to on-line marketing and social media.  

    The second is to start and maintain your own blog.  Our clients with blogs generally receive more traffic than clients in similar fields without them.  Blogger now allows you to easily monitor your blog stats.  A blog is easy and relatively inexpensive to create.  Routinely writing posts can be a challenge, but it can  be rewarding with more virtual exposure, traffic, and new business.  You might start by also reading some of our clients' blogs like -  Delytes - A 'green' fine foods company  or Attorney Carilyn Ibsen's blog  or Attorney Will Bruzzo's blog.

    Finally supporting our not-for-profit clients...

    This year, as in years past, Webconsuls made a donation in honor of our clients to those not-for- profit clients who work to support children and families in need.
    Olive Crest Homes and Services for Abused Children
    Since 1973, Olive Crest has transformed the lives of over 50,000 abused, neglected, and at-risk children and their families.

    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast MaineThe vision of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast Maine is successful mentoring relationships for youth in Knox, Lincoln and Waldo Counties, contributing to better schools, stronger communities and brighter future.

    The Promises Foundation Miriam's House
    The Promises Foundation is committed to restoring hope for families by creating a safe environment for mothers and their children to grow and develop the tools they require to live meaningful and self-sufficient lives.
    The Forrest General Healthcare Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Forrest General Hospital. The foundation helps ensure that the hospital's vision of C.A.R.E. becomes a reality for the 17 county region that the hospital serves. Initiatives include the Inpatient Hospice Home Project, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Renovation Project and the Spiritual Grounds at Pine Grove.

    We wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year. Let us know if 2011 is the year you want to add some new features to your on-line marketing. We will be happy to discuss these opportunities and plan a strategy with you. 



    Sincerely,
    Dennis, Dick and Judy
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