Bees or flies?

“Search Engineering” by Jessica Tsai (CRM Magazine, July 2009). Beautiful. The theory is, why chase customers when they can find you? Yes, when done right it can work quite well. Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and online marketing in general continue to be hot topics. Ms. Tsai does the subject matter justice.

One essential factors that is too often “overlooked” comes in one of the article’s sidebars:

Bad and Ugly SEO
Click fraud in paid search. Some reports indicate that one-third of clicks on paid search are fraudulent—the result of developers creating bots to click on competitors’ ads, raising those competitors’ costs.

We’d also like to add an AU caveat. SEO / SEM is not a panacea. It will not make up for a visually dated web design or a marginal user experience (UX). Nor will it fix a shaky business model, poor customer service, or a second rate product / service. SEO / SEM is a way to attract customers. The question is — Is what your brand puts forward best suited for attracting bees or flys? If you need someone to be your trusted and objective mirror please give us a ring.

Lipstick isn’t enough

“Put Ad on Web. Count Clicks. Revise.” By Stephanie Cliford (New York Times, Sunday 31 May 2009). Let’s jump right to the AU caveats:

  • Yes, this approach is helpful but what the quants and the bean counters are not considering is that the ad with the most clicks does not necessarily make it the most effective. An ad can draw more clicks but ultimately lead to less satisfied guests. In other words, it totally discounts The Guest Experience and simplifies that relationship into one that based on the perspective of the companyand a single click and not the guest and their value over the long run. As we all agree by now, that’s a no-no.
  • Yes, if you’re a “little guy / gal” it’s smart to watch the big dogs and see how they’re running. However, in many cases resources might be better spend getting the house in order first. In other words, take a hard objective look at the design of your site (or better yet engage someone else to do so); strongly consider what the UX (i.e., user experience) is like and how that will lead guests to draw conclusions about your brand; also check the responsiveness and thoroughness of your guests services. Unfortunately, one of the current trends is “I just need SEO…” Well, you can SEO/SEM – yes, we just made it a verb – ’til the end of time but you can’t put lipstick on a (less than ideal web site) pig and expect stellar results. In fact,  driving traffic into a sub-par experience can do more harm than good.
  • For example, twice in the last two weeks we have used the contact form on the site of the MLS’ Philadelphia Union (www.PhildephiaUnion.com) and have not gotten so much as a auto-reply. It should be noted that this is an expansion team that has yet to play a match. It’s not a good sign when your number one focus is to energize supporters and there’s no response to the Contact Us form.

Let’s talk about the solutions

The latest issue (May 2009) of The New York Enterprise Report (NYReport.com) is bursting with must-reads. Below are the highlights with an essential pull quote from each, as well as a few caveats.

Enjoy! Pass it on…

“Marketing Matters More Than Ever” by Robert S. Levin

The reality is that marketing is on the back burner of most small businesses, but marketing is what puts your company on the front burner of your prospects.

AU caveat: As tbarriers to entry (read: costs) for marketing falls for the amount of clutter is going to increase. Now more than ever the quality and relevance of the impression is as important as the quantity.

“Levin’s Law on Cheap and Easy Marketing Mediums” by Robert S. Levin

There is no magic pill in marketing, regardless of the cost of the medium. Success in marketing depends, and always will, on hitting the right audience with a compelling message.

“Get The Right PR For Your Event In 8 Steps” by Beth Silver

Whether in magazines and newspapers, or on radio, TV, or the web, it’s vital to understand the different types of media and audiences that are available, and what is correct for your audience.

AU caveat: Where Step 4 speaks of focus we would use target, targeting, etc.

“Maximize Your Online Presence” by Tony Grass

SEO is not about chasing marginally interested traffic and then trying to sell everything to everybody, it’s about targeting and pulling in those customers who want to buy, and selling to them by featuring what they are searching for. To put it another way, traffic quality means more than quantity.

AU caveat 1: If it’s been three years since you’ve revisited the objectives of your web site – or any other part of your business for that matter – then it’s probably time for a redesign or at least a serious make over.

AU caveat 2: When done property SEO is all part of the up-front analysis / design / development process. Yes, there are adjustments that can be made after the fact but doing so once the site has been built is the less than ideal approach.

AU caveat 3: To paraphrase President Obama, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.” All the SEO / SEM in the world is not going to save an ugly site with a poor UX. Get your house in order before you decide to invite guests.

AU caveat 4: In 2009, if your designer / developer isn’t insisting on a content manamgent system (CMS) then engage someone else. ASAP!