CDLLC

CDLLC

helping your presence work for your business

The Current State of Popular-Inquiry According to Google

A recent study of Google’s suggestions for questions of the “WH” variety (who, what, when, where, why, how, which) revealed the following top themes (after normalization for celebrity a television media):

  1. Pregnancy, Marriage, Love, and Kissing Skills
  2. Weight Loss
  3. Poop

The original study can be found here.

This is the study.
How:

 Why:

What:

When:

Where:

Who:

Which:

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

Feeding Froogle: Search Engine Marketing for E-Commerce

Remember when the Internet was simple?

The all-important e-commerce beast Google Products was originally known as Froogle. Froogle was a pioneer in compiling products from many online stores and websites into one big “store front.”

This idea we call “The Dog Pile” approach (by the way, dogpile.com was a pioneer in multi-engine key phrase searching, way back before Google was . . . Google) to product searching, has resulted in new opportunities for marketing discreet products.

Products are listed in Google Product Search by name, category, description, price, original website, and other attributes—sometimes, even a picture is used and indexed by Google.  The result?  A giant storefront you can be a part of.

Presumably, you want ALL of the information about your products to show up in search engines. And this is in addition to the traditional marketing of key phrases!

Why does this matter? Because, there are OPPORTUNITIES out there you don’t want to miss. Opportunities for not just a second or a third, but many additional store fronts.

Now add this: there’s a synergy to be created between your product search results and your key phrase results. Done right, this causes dramatically higher search engine listings for both!

In e-commerce, there are other places to rank high. We don’t usually recommend putting a great deal of effort into the “other” search engines, but in e-commerce you create traction for your brands by paying attention to several commerce tracking and promotional engines. These include Amazon, Google Products, Yahoo Shopping, eBay, Bing Shopping, Nextag, Shopzilla, and more!

Getting listed on some of these are free. Others have payment structures similar to Google AdWords and Pay-Per-Click, where you pay for views and clicks, or bid and pay a market-established rate for views and clicks.

To take advantage of these opportunities, you need to know how to feed them. Grossly over-simplified, that means you setup an account, then either manually enter your product data or feed a specially structured data file to each service.

Not a big deal, until you realize that to maintain ranking you need to monitor each service for changes in product listing requirements, or resubmit data after specified expiration periods, which may vary from one service to the next.

Of course, this is one of our areas of expertise. We’ve been feeding Froogle hundreds of thousands of products since it was a fledgling Google Labs pre-beta product. We’ve created top ranking for large sites and small, trained clients to manage their own data entry, and done it for them (when they realized that programmatically extracting thousands of products and attributes into specially structured files according to the requirements of each product listing service was something we could do better and more cost-effectively).

We often say that much of what we do isn’t rocket science; if feeding the e-commerce search stream is something you’re interested in doing yourself, good news: there are volumes of information available online on the topic.

But just because you can do it doesn’t always mean you should. If you want someone to get you up to speed, or skip the learning curve and outsource it altogether, give us a call.

Happy Search Engine Marketing.

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

Albert Einstein On Experimentation, Investigation, and Internet Technology

Albert Einstein didn’t just pioneer modern physics with his enduring and revolutionary theory of General Relativity, he also said some smart stuff about the value of independent curiosity and experimentation. Let’s apply some of this to how you can use the internet to help your business.

Words of Wisdom
  1. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
  2. “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

If Al’s second quote scares you, fear not; we’re talking about research on our dime, not making mistakes with clients’ time and money. Here’s what it all boils down to:

  • Ask, ask, ask, inquire, question, and ask some more.  Then experiment, test and do some more experimenting.
  • Investigate and Innovate—don’t be afraid to lead rather than follow. Then when you’ve got it all figured out, be sure to keep testing—and verifying results.
  • Never settle into a finalized “method,” because the only constant in the internet world is the light-speed change (get it, physics people? light speed… constant?). Yesterday’s thinking never works for today’s internet.

At CDLLC: we’ve already done the research. The experimentation, the investigation, the trial and error for you, on our dime. We’ve got close to fifty combined years of experience with this stuff. And we keep doing the research. It’s part of our business.

Tested results are what matter, not just copying what you read in an instruction manual, or delivering the status quo, or doing what everyone else is talking about and doing. With the internet, any documentation on the right way to do something, especially SEM and SEO, is outdated by the time it’s published.

And Google’s “what matters and what doesn’t” rules aren’t published at all; experimentation and ongoing research are the only way to ensure the great results we deliver.

We’re fond of saying that most of what we do isn’t rocket science. Dr. Einstein, tongue planted firmly in cheek, would have said the same about his work. And he’s still the guy we all go to when it comes to relativity… and space… and time.

It’s time for your business to get serious about its Internet Presence. We’re here to help.

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President, Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

SEO/SEM: Are People Searching For the Words You’re Paying For?

Business owners generally have a pretty good idea about what to say to their customers and what’s important to them. Why? Because they know them.

But what about web-based, potential customers? Can you know customers you don’t have yet, can’t identify, and even once you acquire them might never meet?

Internet search-engine-based marketing (or SEM, of which SEO is a part) is different than making yourself available to people on terra firma. You need to know what people are looking for and how that relates to your business. It’s not for the faint of heart, either.  You almost certainly want to hire an experienced, expert SEO/SEM consultant (and yes, that’s us)

We could turn this post into an advertisement for what we do, but let’s instead point you at a freebie: here is some information on “choosing key phrases“. Go ahead and read it; we’ll wait . . .

Head spinning? Asking yourself how you can check all that stuff? Let us explain the process:

When you hire CDLLC to do your SEO, the first thing that we do is look at the key phrases you’re thinking about marketing. We look at your site, your industry, and similar or competitive businesses, and we create a list of keywords that we know we can use to boost your presence.

Why? because if you’re an obstetrician (for example) and want to rank high for the phrase OB/GYN, OB-GYN, OB GYN, or OBGYN you’ll find three problems:

  1. competition for high rankings on generic phrases is tremendous
  2. most people who search on any of those phrases are not really the people who are seeking your services
  3. the four phrases look the same to humans, but are all different to Google.

We address these issues by gathering information on the words that you believe are important. We tell you how many people are searching for these words, and how competitive the fight for each word is.

Here is a simplified version of what it looks like:

Top of the list (competitive, popular phrases):

Bottom of list (unpopular, noncompetitive phrases):

And then the fun begins: we make sure you’re spending your money going after the right traffic, in the right way. Which is fun for you because we do it for free, and fun for us because we understand and like this SEO stuff.

It’s only after you have a good strategy and can spend your money wisely that we go to work. Yes, that’s right; the research phase is on us. Contact us now if you like. We love working this magic.

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

Avoiding the 6 Hour Windows 7 Hunker-Down, or, “Zen and the Art of Restoring your Work Enviromnent.”

BEWARE (see below)*

This month, many power users found their pre-release copies of Windows 7 expiring. As with many software pre-release-becomes-the-real-thing software events, a smooth upgrade (you know—so you keep your apps and settings?), was not an option.

Time for the dreaded custom/advanced installation. The “clean install.”

Let’s step back a moment and begin to look at this Zen view of upgrading one’s OS and restoring one’s work environment.  Over the years we’ve done hundreds of OS installs for ourselves, and hundreds more for clients. So, yeah, we’re qualified to speak a little on the topic. Here goes:

Change is painful. We all like to be settled. We have routines we’re comfortable with, we like knowing where things are, how things work, to whom what responsibilities apply, and when things happen. This applies in both our “real” and virtual worlds. (And of course, telling those apart seems to get harder every day.)

So when you boot up your computer after a clean operating system installation and see a blank slate (no email, apps, bookmarks, memorized passwords… none of your precious “stuff!”), it can be a little overwhelming. And the temptation is to hunker down and reinstall everything just exactly perfectly right back where it should be.

This is what we call, “The  6 Hour Hunker-Down.”

RESIST! Yes it may seem like the right thing to do, but if you can tolerate a little discomfort (that which does not kill us . . . ), you will be rewarded.

Take it easy, one step at a time. If you have planned properly (see below*), there is no rush.

Here’s the big secret to keeping your sanity and not withdrawing from the world for hours, maybe days.  This is the trick to a Zen method of reinstalling your work environment:
 
REINSTALL YOUR STUFF ON AN AS-NEEDED BASIS.

Seriously: you will save a lot of time, and likely some misery. And you will have avoided the all-too-common mistake of copying all of your old garbage (you know the stuff you have been meaning to “clean up” on your hard drive, in your bookmarks/favorites, on your email system?) to your new work environment.

Quick case study:

Installed Windows 7. Everything is different; all my stuff is missing. Most of my day is spent in a web browser (hosted software services are no longer just a VC buzz-word and a promise), but there are some things I don’t use the web for.  Some desktop apps I depend on.  For example, I still use MS Office, Adobe Photoshop, and a handful of other programs that don’t have web-based alternatives I like (hey that’s just me).

So this afternoon I reinstalled my favorite business tool, MS Outlook. I configured my email accounts, restored/configured my primary and archive PST files, and then I stopped.  Seriously I just stopped and resumed my business as usual.

There’s lots more to do, but none of it is immediately critical. For example, my email handling “rules” included a lot of outdated, no-longer-necessary stuff, so I chose to trash them all and rebuild each rule AS NEEDED, when I see emails come in that would have previously been sorted, moved, or whatever.

This time I even trashed my web bookmarks/favorites and re-built those as I went about my real business (of course I have an emergency backup). Seriously: why carry with you hundreds of links you’ve long forgotten about, and may even point to resources that no longer exist?  In the physical world, that would be considered a borderline mental disorder.  Compulsive hoarding I think it’s called.

Web development software? Graphic design apps? I’ll install these when I next use them. And it’ll happen, but . . . I don’t need everything today.
Back to hoarding.  That’s what this all boils down to.  The human desire to hang on to attachments and not lose anything— that’s what keeps us stuck and creates a lot of problems.  And letting go of attachments?  That is the key to, “Zen and the Art of Restoring a Work Environment.”

That’s my $0.02 on reinstalling a work environment. Now please read the fine print that follows.

*Although this article talks about a philosophy for reinstalling one’s work environment after a clean OS install, it DOES NOT cover process specifics. Always back up everything on your computer and work with a consultant before performing any software upgrade.

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

Two Cures for Boring Website Syndrome. Part 2: Content & Function

This is part two of our two part series on Boring Website Syndrome.. Part one can be found here, http://cdl.lc/two-cures-for-boring-website-syndrome-part-1-fashion/

When approached by new clients, there are a few common opening statements, requests, and complaints we hear, such as:

  • I need “Help” with my website.
  • I need a complete “Redesign” (which a lot of the time has more to do with engineering than design).
  • I need “something more ‘current.'”

But our favorite opening statement—and perhaps the most honest—is this one:

“My Website is Boring.”

The Boring Website Syndrome is our favorite because it presents an opportunity for further diagnosis. We have the opportunity to get to know our client better and probe for unique needs relative to the business they’re in.

15+ years experience in internet consulting have taught us that Boring Website Syndrome breaks down into one of the following two categories, and often both:

1) The website looks old.
2) The website doesn’t offer or do anything . . . it doesn’t engage visitors.

Today we will look at #2 My Website Doesn’t Engage My Visitors.

Have you ever thrown a party, only to see your guests milling around for just as long as they felt necessary to appear polite—and then bolt for the exit? More than likely, these people didn’t feel engaged.

On the Internet, failing to engage your visitors means they’ll be leaving . . . immediately. Let’s look at what it takes to keep your visitors hanging around longer:

The first issue is content.  It’s possible to have an incredibly ugly website that offers good enough content or functionality that the bad design does not interfere with its popularity. Some long-tail blogs are like this [“long tail,” is a term coined by the book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.].

Want examples?  Click this link to see who carries Google’s #2 ranking for “growing habenaro“. Or look at Authorize.net’s members’ section. Although slightly updated in past years, the Internet’s most prominent credit card processor has lived through poor organization and design inconsistencies, but it always “did the job”.

The point? With incredibly valuable content (here content refers to words and functionality), it is actually possible to overcome poor website design (outdated fashion). However, it is the rare & very fortunate company that can simply say, “Click here to buy my stuff, and that’s all you need to know,” or, “Your eyes will just have to tolerate the pain of horribly designed site if you want my brilliant information.” 

The point is, to attract and keep visitors you must offer something valuable, words or tools, and in return they give something; their time.

It can be as simple as offering specific, detailed information about your offerings, or as advanced as leveraging your hard-earned, de-facto, “expert blogger,” position on a topic.

Everything above discussed the “words” or “content” part of what a website offers.  Now let us look at functionality.

All of the “stuff” that can be done on a website is a comprehensive enough topic for a week of articles. So for now, let’s just list a few website functionality ideas than will engage your visitors, and maybe even get them to return.  Consider:

  1. How easy is it to give you money? Do you take credit cards? E-checks? Does your business accept these 24x7x365, from any computer or mobile phone, via an automated, no-staff-intervention-required method?
  2. Do you accept reservations and appointments via an online scheduling system? Make it fast and easy for people to schedule with you from anywhere/anytime!
  3. Are you taking advantage of an online store front?
  4. Are you collecting inquiries from your website? This is the easiest way to convert curious visitors into customers.
  5. Does your website include a Help or FAQ section? This brings customers back to your site, helps them solve problems, and converts them into repeat customers.

There are even more advanced offerings that are surprisingly easy to add to your web site, like live, online support, incident tracking/trouble-ticketing, optimizing your products into search-engine specific feeds, and creating password protected areas for “special people.”  And people love when you make them feel special.

“Boring Web Site” means out-of-fashion, out-of-date, and/or non-engaging.  The solution?  Consult with a web firm about content, functionality, and style overhaul, using the above list to beging the brainstorming process over what your website should offer visitors.

You can even use CDLLC if you like . . .

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC


-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

Two Cures for Boring Website Syndrome. Part 1: Fashion

This is part one of our two part series on Boring Website Syndrome.. Part two can be found here, http://cdl.lc/two-cures-for-boring-website-syndrome-part-2-content-function/

We were recently referred to a new client who asked us to make their website more engaging.

The simplicity of the word, “engaging” is terrific. It’s more personal than interactive. More descriptive than customer-oriented or useful.

And so the thinking began . . .

Generally, we’re approached about existing sites with a variety of opening requests, including:

  • People need “Help” with their website.
  • Companies want a “Redesign” (which a lot of the time has more to do with engineering than design).
  • A request for “something more ‘current.'”

But our favorite opening statement—and perhaps the most honest—is this one:

“My Website is Boring.”

The Boring Website Syndrome is our favorite because it presents an opportunity for further diagnosis. We have the opportunity to get to know our client better and probe for unique needs relative to the business they’re in.

15+ years experience in internet consulting have taught us that Boring Website Syndrome breaks down into one of the following two categories, and often both:

1) The website looks old.
2) The website doesn’t offer or do anything . . . it doesn’t engage visitors.

Today, let’s explore number 1, the Old Website.

This is the easiest one to qualify, but hardest to quantify.  It’s very subjective. Website old-lookingness is a function of fashion. There were technologies in style 5-10 years ago that have gone the way of leisure suits and bell bottoms, and these technologies resulted in a distinct look, or “fashion,” in the sites that employed them.

Some “old-fashioned” items:

* The gray-background, center-aligned website.
* Embedded background music.
* The 3 resizeable, big-bordered frames/panels.

. . . we could go on and on.

And there are technologies available today that weren’t options 5-10 years ago. Some will stand the test of time, while others will go away. And this is one of the many areas in which we can help you. After so much time in the web world, we’re pretty good at separating the passing, frilly technologies from the solid, lasting ones.

And, of course, we’re well-versed in the latest design fashion—this includes the layout of your website container, global elements like navigation and search, the look of your deeper menus and navigation elements, and the division/layout of the primary page content inside each page container.

All of these, geeky as they sound, come back to the very practical issues of both the way your site looks and its function.

We’ve pointed out before that getting you set up on a Content Management System (CMS) creates drastic time and money savings by making redesigns and content publication a snap. Now let’s add to that:

Making your web site look good, act the way you need, and easy to administer all go together. And we want that to be as simple for you as possible.

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

Luddites: How May We Be of Service?

Years ago Dad came home from his business and informed us, “They took away my calculator and replaced it with a computer.” Like so many others during this time, he was pushed into accepting technology change.

Just last month, Dad-in-law announced something similar. “I got a computer so I could look up specs on our website.  It’s quicker and easier than the paper catalog.”  Slightly different from the above case, he was responding to the reality that technology makes a lot of things easier.

Do you know the word Luddite? Today its most-used form is to refer to a slow adopter of technology. But historically the term’s roots are a reference to the anti-industrial revolution movement in the early 1800’s. British textile artisans rebelled against wide-framed looms, fearing for their livelihoods in the face of technological advancement. They took their name from the fictional textile rebel Ned Ludd, and acted out by destroying mills and factory equipment.

Everyone resists change. Answer Guy Central is a whole business devoted to addressing this.

Evolution made us naturally conservative. But with virtually all of our evolving happening before technology we’re stuck with this cool but hard-to-understand stuff and a fast-moving economy— and we have built-in aversions to both.

This aversion is no illusion. An interview with the authors of TechnoStress reveals that EIGHTY-FIVE PERCENT of the population feels uncomfortable with technology. And there are real and measurable physiological stress responses to technology: sweating, increased blood pressure, elevated heart rate, and dry mouth!

Why is an internet company talking about Luddites and TechnoStress? Because we can help. There are all sorts of stress coping mechanisms, but let’s take a lesson from the industrial revolution—outsource difficult change to the specialists (that’s us).

Both of the Dads above had the same great reason for being late technology adopters, personally. They each run highly specialized businesses . . . so why be an expert in something else when you can rely on outsourced expert IT support to take care of everything for you?

That’s what we do with websites, search engines, e-commerce, back-end business/database systems, document management, forms, online payment… whatever you need chances are we do it.

Anything that makes money, saves money, and/or increases efficiency . . . call us.

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results,” or, Winston Churchill & Search Engine Marketing IV: Conversion Analysis

If you enjoyed our riffing on Confucius, you’ll love what’s next. Ladies and Gentlemen, Sir Winston Churchill will now address your needs for Search Engine Marketing!

Amazed that a man whose heyday was several decades before there was an Internet has so much to say on the topic? This will take four installments:

  1. “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
  2. Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.
  3. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
  4. “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Today, #4:

We know a guy who works in the restaurant business whose entire strategy comes down to one phrase: “Inspect, don’t expect.” There’s an SEM equivalent: Check Your Results.

Traffic comes from many sources. Don’t you want to know from where, and which of your efforts are paying off (the question was rhetorical; of course you do!)? Think for a moment about the many ways site promotion happens. Here’s a quick list:

  • Websites
  • SEO
  • Off-page factors (linking strategies)
  • More comprehensive SEM activities (Adwords, Pay-Per-Click, etc.)
  • Blogging
  • Newsletters and direct email
  • Other offline marketing

We have techniques to measure ALL of these—yes, there are even tricks to measure your web traffic from offline marketing!

Beyond measuring where your website traffic originates, you’ll want to keep track of a few important things:

Conversion: What’s conversion? Conversion is when a visitor is CONVERTED into something more. It could be a direct sale, a viable lead, a client, an appointment, or even something as simple as an entry on your mailing list.

Aggregation: A fancy word that in SEM terms means traffic origination measurement combined with and compared against conversions to figure out what return you get from each source of traffic.

Fine Tuning: The complexity of what we do at CDLLC starts to creep in here, but here’s one simple concept —SEM takes time, both because it’s a cumulative process and because you need to resist the temptation to cut corners by altering many variables simultaneously. Change one variable at a time and wait for results. Changing too many things at once as you pursue SEM Nirvana removes your ability to identify the changes that lead to positive results.

And you thought this was easy. It is: Just contact us, and we’ll do the rest . . .

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” or, Winston Chrchill & Search Engine Marketing III

Enjoyed our riffing on Confucius? You’ll love this: Ladies and Gentlemen, Sir Winston Churchill will now address your needs for Search Engine Marketing!

Amazed that a man whose heyday was several decades before there was an Internet has so much to say on the topic? This will take four installments:

  1. “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
  2. Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.
  3. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
  4. “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Today, #3:

At CDLLC we’ve been building web sites for a long time- since the WWW was just a little baby. And we’re proud of our work. Some of our clients have sites designed with very simple purposes in mind, while others are quite complex, and broad in their scope. But one thing they all have in common is that they look good . . . to the person or company they represent.

Hopefully, of course, they also look go to the people who stumble upon them.  And people that we drive there with SEM efforts. But since others’ reactions are tricky to gauge, the way a web site looks really does have to reflect the personality of the party displaying their corporate personality before anything else.

The problem with this is the potential for your web site to become a vanity project.

How do you create a web site without it becoming just an advertisement?  How do you create a website that attracts people rather than talking at them?

The answer is simple.  Be honest.  Share information.  Just like life, you gotta give to get.

So whether it’s a newsletter, website, or blog, share, share, SHARE knowledge and information.  Similar to this new world community and global economy we are living in, the days of business information protectionism are limited.

Offer something to your prospective target.  In doing so, you get to prove your expertise while increasing the likelihood of winning business… and loyalty.

To echo what we said in our previous post. Publish, publish, publish. Tell people what you know about the things they’re interested in, and keep your target audience in mind, rather than writing to existing customers and vendors already in your industry.

People will notice.

-Crockett Dunn
Owner CDLLC

-Jeff Yablon
Chief Operating Office, CDLLC
President
Answer Guy Central Business Support Services