Sunday, March 20, 2011

Google's Panda Update, aka the Farmer Update

We are coming up on a month since Google's Panda update hit the internet. This update has also been called "The Farmer Update". It is estimated that this affected about 12% of all websites. Honestly, we have seen very little changes, and most changes did not last over two weeks.

One site that did take some hits is Merchant Circle. Merchant Circle's comments wer recently posted on the SearchEngineLand.com website and included the following:

Beyond the changes we’ve already made, here are the near-term actions we’re making in response to the “farmer” update:

•Re-doubling or efforts to fight spam and other low-quality content across our network (which is always a challenge in local
•Evaluating our site to determine where we can make improvements to site layout and topology with a goal of improving search experience
And here are the activities on which we will continue to focus to help local businesses:

•Educating our members about the importance of creating valuable local content about their businesses and their communities (see examples here of our merchant education webinar series here: http://www.youtube.com/user/MerchantCircle#p/c/16A06082C6D6A04A
•Serving as an objective voice for local business owners who are often under represented in local discussions (see: http://blog.merchantcircle.com/2011/02/q1-2011-merchant-circle-mci-survey.html)
•Building valuable new products to enable quality conversations between consumers and merchants (where else can merchants book online appointments, create online deals, send newsletters, meet other business owners all for free?)

If you have commenst on the recent Google updates, please post it here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Xemion Interviews E-Platform Marketing

Xemion, one of the best online directories for the internet marketing industry, recently interviewed Jim Hobson of E-Platform Marketing. The purpose of the interview is to provide prospective client's with valuable answers to common questions. Click the link to view the entire Xemion interview with Jim Hobson.

The interview addresses points ranging from how to select an internet marketing or web design company to thoughts on the future of internet marketing. I think that it is worth taking several minutes to read and consider. Feel free to leave comments on your thoughts!

Monday, March 7, 2011

What Did You Expect For $1.99 ???

We get quite a few calls from people who say how much they like our portfolio and the results that we deliver for our clients . . . and then they steer the conversation into how "their last guy" only charged (pick a low price here). They then say how much they liked the prices of "their last guy" but the work was not good, and he never did what he said he would do. So, what did you expect for $1.99?

Would you go to Ruth's Chris and tell them how you like the prices at Western Sizzlin' and they should match the price for their food? Of course not! So why do people do this when searching for a qualified internet marketing company?

When you contact a legitimate, licensed internet marketing company - with an office, a staff, insurance, advertising expenses, lots of equipment, licensed software and a desire to remain in business - you need to keep in mind that they are not the cheap guy on Craigslist. They have built their business on a certain level of quality and professionalism. They have overhead and do things properly. They are going to charge a fair rate for professional services.

If you choose the "Craigslister" or freelancer, bear in mind that they are probably a part-timer doing your work "when they feel like it" and just enough to ask you for money, and/or they are anti-social oddballs that can't hold a regular job and they WILL eventually crack up on you. They are probably working off of bootleg software, and violating every copyright law as they steal images and copy text from other websites for your website. Being cheap is always expensive in the long run.

Nobody likes to pay too much. This is why Walmart is successful. But "your last guy" is like the cheap Chinese goods sold by Walmart. Won't last, will disappoint you, and you'll need to replace it sooner than you think. After all, what did you expect for $1.99?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Video Marketing and Website Video Content

Video content has become extremely popular for internet marketing and for website content. Unfortunately any fool with a camera can make and post a video, often cluttering sites like Youtube with blithering nonsense. If people will take the time to understand some basics on how and WHY to create a video for online promotion they will d everyone a favor - especially themselves.

First and foremost, your video should not be a lengthy documentary unless you are a very well established authority such as Matt Cutts of Google. Cutts knows his facts versus some guy with a quest for fame espousing his hunches and perceptions. Generally speaking your video is better received if you focus on a single point and the content is concise and structured.

Second, don't try to be a creative director and add all sorts of flashy graphics and techno music. These things are distracting and usually make your video appear as very amateurish. Again, clean and simple makes for better communications.

Use decent equipment and a good setting for filming. You must have good equipment (not necessarily expensive), good lighting and an ability to manage good sound quality. We once had a client whose wife fancied herself as a video producer (among other fantasy creative skills). The videos produced had horrible sound quality which included overwhelming background noises from air conditioning units, vehicular traffic and more. A good video shoot needs to be planned and executed with a commitment to creating a high quality result - een if it means repetitive efforts to get it right.

Lastly, think about your subject and speak from the heart. Most people cannot read a script (or teleprompter, lol) and appear genuine. Study how to give a short, impromptu speech and you'll command a better appearance which means you'll make a better impression on your viewers.

If all else fails, hire a professional company like Fat Chimp Sudios in St. Louis to do your videos. The ultimate goal is to create a video that makes you appear confident, pleasant while you provide information of value for the viewer.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Choosing A Service Provider (part 3)

After you have completed your due diligence on the basic facts about a propspective provider of internet marketing services or website design (see part 2 of this series) it is time to move on to the subjective qualifiers.

You need to take a close look at what the vendor has done for their own business. If they have a ratty looking site then you should not expect much more than what you see. If their site has marginal organic rankings and poor local search rankings then you should expect that or less. The bottom line is that if they can't do it for themselves you can't expect them to do good things for you.

Look over the vendors portfolio to assess the range of their experience and see their work. Visit sites shown on their portfolio, go to the bottom of the referenced site and see if their name is showing in the credit line. Many subpar outfits claim work that is not theirs.

A good website company will have at least 20 example sites in their portfolio. Their portfolio should have represent a diverse client base and have sites that range from a simple brochure site to a complex e-commerce site. Remember that your internet needs will grow and that you want to partner with a company that can help you for years down the road.

Ask about the company's fulfillment process. Many companies outsource web design to India or piecemeal work out to a plethora of freelancers. We have personally caught web design firms in India and Canada having stolen website files and reproduced the sites after changing only the logo and contact information. Know who is doing your work and how it will be completed. If someone works alone and claims to be doing several sites a month you should be suspicious.

Ask about the company's full range of capabilities. Again, a one or two person outfit cannot possibly handle a book of business in a proper manner. If they cannot provide a full suite of services you will quickly outgrow them or suffer through being underserviced. Ask for examples of social media sites they manage, online reputation work, PPC management, etc.

Don't be bamboozled by a fast talking or aggressive salesman. Find a company that is willing to learn about your company, and that will take time to educate you on theirs. Ask to visit their office and see what they have to offer.

Following the tips we have provided here can save you from a lot of misery and help you to find great success in your online endeavors. Feel free to contact us with any questions. We're here to help!

Choosing A Service Provider (part 2)

Business people and companies that are seeking internet marketing and website design services frequently make bad choices on who to hire. This often happens becuase they are completely baffled about what to do and default to that "wonderful" choice of lowest price. Our industry is riddled with hacks and low-talent people that mislead clients on what they can do for their business and these are almost always the "low price guys".

I am a strong advocate for taking some time to qualify vendors at two levels. This posting will focus on the first level which are static facts to qualify a company. These are:

1) Does the company have a business license? Ask them for a copy of their license to verify that they are legitimate.
2) Do they have a Federal Tax ID number? If they don't they may be the kind of person or company that will disappear on you.
3) Do they have a regular business office, and/or personnel? Any company with their name on a lease and a support staff is poised to handle business. What you need to beware of are the folks that do this work part-time or "as they feel like it".
4) Do they have any credentials like a Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating, membership in industry associations or a long list of references?
5) How long have they been in business under their current name? Any business that changes names has something to hide. Ask to see copies of their business license for at least 3 years to verify.

These are simple FACTUAL things that you can check to do a preliminary evaluation on any potential vendor. In our next post we will discuss the subjective criteria such as qualifications, work quality and reputation. Check back soon for part 3 of our series on choosing a vendor.

Choosing A Vendor - A Client's Dilemma

Today I spoke with a potential client who is in the same position as many of the people that come to our company. They desperately need results, have a limited budget and are struggling with "making the right vendor choice" becuase they have been burned by inferior companies. Our goal is to lay all of the cards out on the table and help the prospect to choose the best company for their situation.

Most people who have been burned have an immediate tendancy to make a decision based on the best possible feeling of trust which all too often means turning to a relative or friend-of-a-friend. What they almost always get from this are more bad results and a damaged friendship.

Another route people often go when they have been burned is to question the entire value of internet marketing, especially SEO, and protect their money. They either totally withdraw from any efforts to market their site (a BIG mistake!), or they know that they need to do it and decide to go with the cheapest person they find. They have been conditioned to think that they are wasting money and they (naturally) want to stop wasting money.

One more bad choice in vendor selection can permanantly ruin this person's belief in internet marketing. We do our best to explain that in this business there are a LOT of hacks that chase "easy money" and then there are professionals that get results. Learning how to choose and SEO company, or how to choose a website designer in very important.

Our next post will walk you through some of the things to consider when choosing a website designer, an internet marketing company or SEO company. Stay tuned . . . .