21 Jul 2009

Facebook Ads New Targeting to Application Owners

No Comments facebook marketing and advertising, Guest Posts

Guest Post by Nicholas Abramovic. Nicholas helps singles meet new people at Zoosk – the largest dating application on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Hi5. Nick also covers affiliate marketing, advanced ppc tactics and other fun stuff at many body theory.

layout_logoFacebook’s self-serve advertising platform now allows advertisers to target whether users have already added your application or not yet added it. This is a huge play for companies such as Zoosk Online Dating, Zynga Games, and other application developers.

Why is this important?

A lot of companies use application networks such as SocialHour and RockYou to get users to click off of other applications and get them to view your application. This is pretty easy, and as we have all learned from the lessons of SocialHour getting banned by Facebook – these ads can be pretty deceptive and users sometimes have no idea that they have added your application.

facebook-small-logoBy allowing application developers to target new and existing users, you can setup different bids for what the value of a new customer from Facebook is worth, and what the value of someone returning to your application is worth (especially for companies such as Zoosk and Zynga which operate on a subscription/gifts currency where using the application is king).

You can find out more about this at Facebook’s official developers blog. A word of caution: I’ve noticed that this targeting is accurate about 15% of the time, so this new feature although very welcomed to the big players of Facebook applications, this is still very much a work in progress.

Official Story: http://developers.facebook.com/news.php?blog=1&story=263

18 Jul 2009

Don’t Let Social Media Hurt Your Business

1 Comment social media

This is a guest post by Eric Schechter, Social Media Manager at Clickbooth, an Exclusive CPA Network.

IMG_0188More and more businesses are jumping into the Social Media space for a variety of reasons. A lot of them are looking to increase their online presence, listen to what’s being said about their business or industry, and as a way to get to know their customers and potential customers on a much more personal level.

The problem is, many of these businesses enter the space (way too fast), download a bunch of new tools they read about online, and go right at it without doing their homework first. No goals are created, no thought as to how they will use those platforms is put in, and before they know it, their Social Media presence has hurt them more than it’s helped.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more common things I’ve been seeing lately…

We’re on Twitter?

I’ve come across a handful of small businesses (and a few franchises) that decided to jump on the bandwagon (not saying it’s a bad thing!) and create a Twitter account so they could interact with their customers, as well as use it to promote company news, specials, discounts etc. Then, they put one person in charge of it all, and leave it up to them to handle dead_twitter_birdeverything.

The next thing you know, a customer goes into their business and talks to one of their employees about their Twitter account (or a specific tweet they made), and they have no idea what Twitter is or that their company is even on it. BIG MISTAKE!

Not only does it show that their business lacks internal communication, it will also leave a sour taste in their customer’s mouth, because it shows that the personal connection they “thought” they made with the company, wasn’t important to them at all.

Before you know it, the word starts to spread online (e.g: negative tweets, bad reviews, facebook statuses, blog posts about their company etc…) and they immediately lose all credibility in the space. You’ll be surprised at the effect this can have on your bottom line. Remember, most consumers look companies up online before they use them, so any amount of bad press can make or break that sale. (Here’s a interesting study on that.) So if you are business using Twitter, Facebook, a blog etc..make sure you keep your employees (especially the ones that interact with customers) in the loop of your online efforts, or it could come back to bite you.

stop-yelling-at-meYou’ll love my product! Let me tell you why! A lot of businesses think that if they are going to see any sales/return from spending time on these social networking sites, they have to constantly promote their business any and every way they can. While I do agree that Social Media is a great way to promote your business/product/brand, your success lies in the approach. No one wants to hear you talk about how great your product is, or how awesome you are in every way possible. By doing this you are merely creating “noise”. Instead, use tools like Facebook and Twitter to develop and enhance relationships with people. Talk about stuff other than your business! Share useful information with them and create and add to conversations where you don’t talk just talk about your brand, but rather learn about your customers, followers, etc…Find out their likes, their dislikes, what they are up to this weekend. It’s developing those real relationships that will create loyal customers for life.

Is anybody there? Once you create your blog, Facebook and Twitter page don’t let those pages stay static. Start LISTENING to what’s being big-ear3said about your industry, company, brand and start contributing to the conversation. If someone leaves a comment on your blog post, respond back. Social Media is a two way street. It’s not just about throwing your message out there and leaving it at that. If you do, you will start to notice that fewer and fewer people will be visiting your site, listening to what you have to say, and most of all making that purchase. So start creating conversations about your posts and weigh in from you readers. It’s a collaborative medium, so treat it that way! This is the best way to build loyalty and relationships with your readers.

So for businesses that have recently implemented Social Media, or for ones that are thinking about doing it, I urge you to really take a look at what your goals are for this type of initiative, and to do your homework first, before you start participating in the space. Social Media can be great way to improve your online presence, personalize your company, and most of all create loyal customers for life. However, if you go about it the wrong way, it could do a lot more harm than good. (Some companies that are doing really well in the space are: Pancheros, Zappos, Whole Foods)

*Quick Tip* Use sites like su.pr or bit.ly to track Twitter posts and Lexicon to track Facebook. This will help you monitor engagement levels and will also show you how these platforms can bring in real $ business.

18 Jul 2009

Asian pottery culture and search algorithms

3 Comments local advertising

This is a guest post by David Gray of Analog.com, a leader in Electronic Components

I once heard a wise young American English teacher compare the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean national characters to ceramic pottery and tea cups they produce in particular.

A Japanese teacup is an extremely delicate, refined, and proportionately symmetrically formed china teacup. The cup’s edges are smooth and aesthetically pleasing. The cup might be so perfectly crafted that you’d almost not want to pick it up and drink out of it for fear of breaking it.

The Chinese teacup would be slightly different, aesthetically pleasing, almost as well-crafted, and there might be a hairline crack or chip in it.

The Korean teacup would not be a cup at all — it would be a roughly molded mug, but it would be the one you’d likely want to pick up and drink from.

So what does fine china have to do with search engine algorithms? In their pursuit of perfection my Asian friends express angst about optimizing their pages. They want their sites to be as symmetrical and as well crafted as their teacups and more important, they profess that Japanese/Chinese/Korean websites are different, therefore SEO tactics used must be different than Western ones.

“What is the most important tactic to focus on to rank well in search engines?”

“Is it most important to be able to write our own tags with the relevant keywords?”

“Is it getting good inbound links or meta descriptions?”

“Should we be writing blogs and participate in forums?”

My Asian colleagues, (not to mention western colleagues) want a precise answer, so that a set formula can be plugged into a template, implemented and measured. Google will never share its algorithm, so we need to test, refine, and test some more. This makes most of them feel very uncomfortable.

To set the record straight, I am in awe of and deeply respect Asian culture. I am married to an Asian. Are the Asian search engine algorithms vastly different than western algorithms? There is one big difference: Asian search engine algorithms are not influenced by keywords in the URL. Take that variable out of the equation Asian search engine algorithms are dependant on the exact same elements as Western ones. How unique can the Asian search engine algorithms be? Yes, Asian searcher behavior may be different, but I still think the algorithm reflects how double-byte character keywords are used in H1-6, meta description, meta keyword tags and link text.

So short of worrying about keywords in the URL, Asian search engine optimization should focus on the same things we worry about here. We all need to focus on providing users with good, fresh, accessible content, keywords in H1 – H-6, meta description, meta keyword tags and link text. What else can it be? As for social media, more time needs to be spent writing, linking to, and participating in Forums for sure. One of the best articles I’ve ever read is one on SEO Basics by Rand Fishkin.

Which culture do I like best? My English teacher buddy and I celebrate diversity. We both love different aspects of all the Asian cultures – from the politeness and meticulousness of the Japanese, to the assertive and friendly Chinese nature, to the aggressive and warm-hearted Korean culture. I could drink from any of their teacups.

15 Jul 2009

Target Facebook users on their birthdays!

5 Comments affiliate marketing, facebook marketing and advertising, promoting yourself, search engine marketing conferences

Facebook keeps releasing new features to their self-serve PPC platform. It feels like Google from 2003– are you keeping up?

Did you see that you can target people on their birthdays, in addition to your existing fans, as well as being able to select multiple countries?happy_birthday_cake

  • If you’re selling gifts of any type– this is your chance to do something.  Cards, flowers, T-shirts, silly items… Doesn’t even have to be birthday related– you could even promote a little cosmetic surgery to older women– Imagine this ad:FacebookAd
  • If you’re a brand, you can pay to hit your fans when they’re elsewhere on Facebook– think Generic_Cola_Cans_1980sof this like the old days of Paid Inclusion on Yahoo! or perhaps like today’s brand bidding.  The point is there is some level of cannibalization to pay for people that you already “have” as fans.  Yet if this drives incremental traffic, you can price in that overlap to make sure it backs out.  And if you have less than 100 fans, who cares.  But if you’re a brand like WWE and have over 250,000 fans, it would be a great way to drive marginal revenue. Now it’s too bad you can’t target OTHER people’s brands and fan pages.  That would be like Coke bidding on Pepsi.  What would you pay to be able to target your competitors?  Oh, wait– I forgot.  You can do that all day long on PPC.
  • pimp-c-715217If you just want to be a pimp: Some people just don’t have a good reason to market.  But maybe if you get to 100 fans on your page, you can then register your page’s vanity url here.  Even if you have no fans to start with, if you’re paying 30 cents a fan, it’s only $30 to get to 100 fans, and then you can grab a name like facebook.com/toiletpaper or whatever you fancy. Many generic names are still free.

If you’re making profits via these new tactics, however small, it’s time to scale them up. If you are a non-spammy growing_070813advertiser, then I welcome you to sign up for our automated Facebook ad posting platform, which automatically multiples variations of ad creatives and landing pages, then reports back with the best performers.  If you’re selling weight loss, get rich quick scams (also euphemistically called “BizOpps”) or products that auto-renew at insane rates (called “negative option”), then don’t bother, since your ads won’t get approved by us or by Facebook.

But maybe you’re a stay at home dad filming how to home school videos or perhaps reviewing top 10 kids movies, in preparation for the upcoming Christmas shopping season.  Don’t laugh– if you’re an affiliate and you aren’t starting now, you’re late to the game.  Then it makes sense to start promoting your wares.

I’m presenting on Facebook advertising at Affiliate Summit East in 2 weeks, and again, at HostingCon 2 days later.  Come join me!

13 Jul 2009

Landing Page Optimization and the ‘Middle Child Syndrome’

3 Comments Guest Posts

This article was written by Leigh Hanney of SEMSamurai.com

 

lhanneyIn any structured system the introduction of a new variable will have a lasting influence on that structure. In short, nothing will remain the same.

 

Take a typical family unit of two parents and one child… When a second child is born the dynamic shifts and sibling relationships become one of older versus younger. Parental influences and guidance may also differ and thus the potential for psychological differences between the siblings also emerges. Then however we have the appearance of a third child, and as a result the ensuing ‘middle child syndrome’ emerges. Now I‘m no psychologist, so that’s as deep as I’ll go, but I find it interesting to view the ‘landing page’ as the often ignored and over looked, ‘middle child’ in many online marketing campaigns.  

 

Too many marketers devote all their attention to the ‘first child’, the Campaign itself (PPC, SEO, CMP, Facebook Ads), and the remainder of their focus goes to third child, ‘the sale’. But   the third child is often looked at questioningly, asked ‘Why can’t you do The Middle Childmore?’ And the question that should be asked, ‘How can you do more?’ is never asked of the middle child – the landing page – at al l. Instead this key part of the structure and campaign is entirely ignored.  

 

As online marketers we cannot afford not to focus on the entire conversion funnel, and we must never underestimate the gains to be found in optimizing the landing pages used in our campaigns.

 

At no time is this more pertinent than now faced with the current economic crisis.  

What would the marketer who ignores the landing page do if her budget was cut in two? Panic certainly, knowing that her effectiveness will surely drop by 50% too. ‘I’ll lose my job!’  

 

Yet the marketer who understands the importance of the landing page and conversion optimization, should see this as yet another challenge. For now he can focus even more on how to squeeze additional conversions out of every 100 clicks.

 

In short, the marketer who understands the whole picture and the complete conversion funnel has many more levers to pull when the dynamic shifts.

 

Ignore your landing pages at your own peril.

12 Jul 2009

“Get Found” on Facebook

3 Comments promoting yourself, social media

getfound

Remember a few weeks ago when Facebook allowed everyone to grab their own vanity url? Now they’ve just opened up the ability for you to choose a name for your pages, too.  You just need 100 fans to be eligible.  Just like you’d see in the domain grabbing world, the same thing is happening on Facebook.

dennisnotyu

Wow, someone created “Dennis NotYu” under our company name.  I’ll take that as a compliment!  At the same time, you can report folks who infringe on your brand or company name.

funerals

We were too late to get this for a client that did funeral planning.  Morbid that this girl’s personal profile name is “funerals”– I would have expected her to dress in all black.

So get your fan pages each up to 100 fans and start grabbing names– there are a ton still available.  Go to facebook.com/usernames.

07 Jul 2009

Michael Jackson’s will and funeral arrangements– don’t make his mistake

2 Comments local advertising, social media

Michael Jackson’s estate management challenge.

michael_jackson

What Would the King of Pop Want?

The will itself is rather straightforward; the estate, however, is already proving to be a nightmare. A complex labyrinth of assets, music royalty rights, custody arrangements, creditors, lawsuits, and beneficiaries must be negotiated and it may be several years before the estate is settled. While the will is pretty specific (last wife is out; Mom is in as guardian of the kids), so far, little is known about Jackson’s precise wishes for his funeral arrangements, other than the fact he wished to be buried at Neverland. (What to wear: Swarovski crystal-encrusted glove or red leather Thriller-era jacket?).
As the family takes control of the details, it appears that his beloved ranch could become the next Graceland, with Jackson undergoing a double burial; first at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, (in a funeral that will probably be the biggest in entertainment history) and then (after a probable legal battle with California state law) at the now dilapidated residence.
His own parents didn’t even know that Jackson had a will. Given the star’s eccentricities, this is perhaps not unusual, but it’s more common that you might think. According to some statistics, less than 15% of parents have discussed with their heirs how the estate should be divided or what they prefer in their funeral arrangements. This year alone, over 2 million American families will face losing a loved one. Few will actually know what needs to be done after they have received the devastating news.
To date, there have been scant online resources that could fully assist a family in administering the estate of a loved one. But when funeral sites launched in early summer 2009, families, as well as the entire Baby Boomer generation (aging steadily at an alarming rate) were suddenly given the tools not only to plan their own estate and funeral arrangements down to the most minute details, but the ability to spare their loved ones the trauma and stress involved in administering their estate after they shuffle off this mortal coil.
Contemplating what our loved ones must deal with when we’re (hopefully) in the sweet Hereafter may not be pleasant, but if you want the sendoff of your dreams, you want to be clear about what goes to whom and you want to make that transition easier on them, then the new funeral sites are the places to go and start planning—now.

03 Jul 2009

Famous or Infamous? Shoemoney and strip clubs

9 Comments affiliate marketing, promoting yourself

img_0975A couple weeks ago, Jeremy Shoemoneycame to visit BlitzLocal and we headed to a Denver strip club with Scott Richter and other folks in tow.  Here’s the shot we took outside the club which you can also see in today’s shoemoney.com post.  Tell me, is that a good or a bad thing to be seen outside a strip club, even though we’re there to play the awesome beer pong, for which they have tournaments on Tuesday and Thursday nights?

Will this help or hurt our image with our Fortune 500 clients or professional service firms looking for small business advertising or social ad serving on Facebook?

30 Jun 2009

Hooked on Phonics– errr… I mean profits

6 Comments promoting yourself

L11048286Do a search for “hooked on phonics” and you’ll see 869,000 results on Google.  If you’re an affiliate pushing this program, you know how much it costs per click on paid search, plus what the payouts are if you promote via Commission Junction or Amazon.com (if you’re not in certain states)– generally 15% or around $20 a sale.  As an affiliate, you’re not allowed to bid on the term “hooked on phonics”, “hooked on fonics”, “hooked on phonix” or related terms– they’re branded terms reserved for the advertiser. So the most popular search is off limits to you if you are just a PPC affiliate.

Incidentally, I think it’s hilarious that so many people who want to learn how to read are misspelling the brand like crazy.  It’s like those people who bought time management books, but never had the time to get around to reading them.

Now consider my friend Keith Wilcox who bought Hooked on Phonics for his kids.  He’s been blogging for 3 weeks now– never blogged before– and his site is now Google PR2 and is starting to rank for commercial terms. The site gets only a few hundred hits a day– but not bad for a site only a month old and with less than 50 posts.

The key point here is that he’s blogging about what he likes and knows a lot about– how to home school kids.  You can see his video, where his 5 year old is reading at the 2nd grade level and is a month away from starting 3rd grade.  The post has 923 words and doesn’t use any formulas for keyword density, page title stuffing, hidden divs, cloaking, or any SEO tricks to get traffic.  Rather, he’s just writing passionately about homeschooling his two children.  I’ll bet you could come up with some ways that he could get more traffic and make more money here.  I’ll list a couple:

  • keithreadingTitle his youtube video: “hooked on phonics: teaching my kids instead of “reading 06292009″.  Also add a description that says something like “Actual lesson with Hooked on Phonics. My 5 year old is reading at the second grade level. I am proud to home school my two boys.”  YouTube is the 4th largest search engine on the planet, based on a recent Google seminar we attended, but there are only 320 videos competing on “hooked on phonics”.
  • Link to the Hooked on Phonics site with your affiliate code: No tracking code, no commission earned.  Name a product you like– odds are there’s an affiliate program for it.
  • Mix up the keywords: Jam in too many reading related terms and it won’t sound natural. googlesuggest_phonics Use Google Suggest and Wonder Wheel to see what the popular terms are.

All this to show that a person who is not an affiliate by any stretch can get traffic from just writing good content and getting a couple good links here and there.

//

Update: He now has a top Daddy Bloggers list, with 115 sites carefully chosen and reviewed.  Already, he is building links from sites that are topically relevant and already trusted by Google.

29 Jun 2009

The most common way to fail

12 Comments people management, Stand Up for the Little Guy

I’m not talking acai, crush, or consumer scams. This post is about how to avoid the most common form of business failure. The moral of the story- “In God we trust… All others pay cash.

A designer I know is a nice fellow. Great design skills, great intentions. Yet we paid him $6,000 cash up-front and he has yet to return a dime of it, despite promises over the last year. Initially, we paid him a few thousand dollars, against which he did decent work, but was slow in responding. Joel was busy trying to build a big company- hiring lots of people, big office, and big expenses. If you ever read the E-Myth, by Michael Gerber, you know of the girl who was an excellent baker, opened a bakery,  and was soon out of business. Great at baking cakes, but absolutely zero business sense.

This fellow was the same way. As a one person firm, he could easily keep track of his projects and he only had to worry about himself. But with no project management in place or any kind of structure, he soon found himself pursued by a number of angry clients- all wondering what when project deadlines came and went. He tried to hold them off by making assurances and then personally working harder on the weekends to catch up. But he was trying to do the work of a full team- and soon went out of business in the fall of 2008. He brought in new business partners and tried again- with the same results.

We worked with Joel on a payment plan, in the hopes that our investment in Pixel Envy wouldn’t be a total loss. I believe he paid us back about $200 of the $6,000 over the last 8 months. Since then, he has disappeared, ignoring our messages, in the hopes that this is one of many problems that would magically go away. Instead, that got him in more trouble, as it damages his personal credit, puts him in the hands of a collection agency, and tarnishes his reputation. He signed contracts that commit Pixel Envy to design projects with BlitzLocal and there is a paper trail where he acknowledges the debt.

What can you learn from his situation?

Self Portrait Starving ArtistJust because you do what you love doesn’t guarantee success. If you want to grow beyond yourself- and form a team- then you need to know how to run a business. That skill has nothing to do with how well you know PhotoShop, Google Adwords, or PHP. It has everything to do with being able to organize projects for bulletproof delivery- making sure you have the right people in place and a system that has built in checks to prevent failure from happening. It means breaking down projects into concrete tasks that are assigned to people with due dates. We use basecamp for project management, but there are a dozen other tools that will track tasks and “whine” when someone is behind on something.

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Rob Hayes of First Round Capital at the TechStars office. They invest in seed stage startups. He said that the CEO has just 2 responsibilities- hiring the right people and making sure the company doesn’t run out of money. Two weeks ago, we had dinner with Dwayne Nesmith, who founded Viant- a web agency back in the boom days that grew to $100 million in sales. He laid out 3 types of companies that work in the agency space:

  • Consulting companies that follow a cookie-cutter process. They do it the exact same way every time- a more sophisticated and expensive form of McDonalds. Should one person get run over by a bus, the project should be able to recover by putting another person of that function in. Easy to scale- look at Accenture or PWC or Iprospect.
  • The high end consultant- The McKinsey model. You have a team of ultra high IQ folks who can be green berets. Not easy to scale, since there aren’t enough of these sorts of people out there.
  • Finally, the franchise model, where each region operates independently of one another, but share in the name. Look at the Virgin group of companies started by Richard Branson. He doesn’t run any of these companies. Rather, he licenses his Virgin name out to a company and gets a cut of whatever they make. It’s a win for everyone, since Branson is a master salesperson, not a detailed company operator.

So look at the example of this designer who loved design, but failed at business. He jumped into business with a great attitude and great individual design skills- yet ended up broke with a bunch of unhappy clients chasing him. He didn’t decide up front which of these 3 models he’d choose to scale on. The choice for you might not be to hire other people. I know a lot of folks who make a lot of money by themselves without having to deal with the hassle of managing other people, projects, and partners. Just look at Markus Frind, who built Plentyoffish.com into a top 100 web property single-handedly.

If you decide to hire others, make sure you budget enough money knowing that about half of the contractors you hire probably won’t work out- it’s just human nature. We have lost a few hundred thousand dollars over the last 2 years from these types of incidents- most all of them good, well-meaning people.

Best ways to increase your success rate? Ask your friends who they use. Have a friend who is already skilled in what you are looking for interview candidates- if you want heart surgery, ask another heart surgeon, not a patient. Find folks who already have something going on and who would have to take a risk to join you (have skin in the game)

Best ways to increase your chance of failing? Hire kids who are in high school or college still- they don’t have professional level experience and will often flake on you. School competes for their time, too. Look at folks who have been at a big company for a long time- odds are that their edge died years ago. Hire folks who you can’t physically meet- offshoring can work, but this post is not about what could work, but where you are least likely to fail.

In case you are wondering, all the examples given are real mistakes I have made. I hope you can benefit from our losses.

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Update: We have heard back from this designer and a year plus later, he’s agreed to start repaying back the money we advanced him.  This is an encouraging sign of how people can perhaps change for good.

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