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Kitchener-Waterloo and Digital Marketing

November 2nd, 2012 1 comment

Digital marketing by Kitchener-Waterloo Companies is as, um… lacking as it is anywhere. While it’s true that an experienced digital marketer looking at any website or company can see areas where there is room for improvement, I’m a bit surprised that many websites in KW don’t have some essential aspects of SEO. KW is supposedly a technology mecca; we’re supposed to be way ahead of the game. It’s a fact, though, that most companies in the Waterloo Region are software-oriented and online marketing is all about creating meaningful content on your website and establishing worthwhile relationships with customers and potential customers, no matter if you are in B2B or B2C.

There are many examples of what I’m talking about. Some may have a reason to feel exempt, notably the most notable company in this region, Research in Motion. A company as big as RIM does not really need to worry about SEO such as being found for keywords like “smartphone” and they can easily create a vast social network through their customers. However, even Blackberry has missed opportunities such as the way a site like BBGeeks.com (run by some people I know well) filled in as a Blackberry applications support site. RIM may not have cared at one time – but at this point, it looks like they should have. By showing all along that they care about every aspect of the Blackberry world, they could have leveraged this good faith when things went sideways. They missed an opportunity and now, things like that look like complacency. And you cannot be complacent in marketing of any kind.

Digital marketing basics missed by many companies in KW

Other companies that I have looked at in this region don’t even seem to know what a title tag is for. This is the essence of marketing and branding online and you need to know what to tell people about your site though your titles. Most companies (not just in Kitchener-Waterloo… okay) are still telling people that their site is about themselves. To put it in marketing language they tell people what’s in it for me instead of telling potential customers what’s in it for them. This is classic poor marketing, whether we are talking about online presence or not.

I’m currently looking at recruitment sites in this area (consulting as I do was always only a temporary idea). Some local recruitment sites are savvy but many still miss opportunities. At least one website looks like it has not been updated in ten years or so. Kitchener-Waterloo SEO is still a very lacking thing, after all these years, for everything from FOB startups to retirement homes in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Out of the box SEO is never true SEO

Many local design companies claim to offer some SEO services.  There is a significant difference between search engine friendly website development and true digital marketing (or inbound marketing or internet marketing, whatever you call it where you are). Digital marketing, which ought to be a solid mix of search engine optimization, paid advertising and social media marketing goes well beyond an SEO design. I’ve spoken to many design companies in Kitchener-Waterloo lately and they do not do SEO. Companies in KW can see the results for themselves, though, when they launch a new site (that they probably paid thousands of dollars for) and they only get nominal search traffic.

What do you have to do to reach a broad online market? You have to have content: content provided by people who are aware of the market, aware of the latest changes at Google and aware of the best strategy that will last into the future. Content has to include heavy written content as well as graphics, video and more. You have to engage people with social media, listen to questions they have and answer them. You have to create your own online community. It’s expensive, it’s difficult to keep up, but you have to do it in today’s world. Everything is online and online is everything.

There are other things wrong here in Kitchener-Waterloo that I haven’t even touched on. A short list includes: startup companies that feel they do not need marketing (“We’ll just go viral!” Do people still say that?); sites that raise security issues due to their being client-focused (and thus marketing-deprived); small businesses that are satisified with their word of mouth business and are always in danger of suffering for their own complacency (maybe they’ve been burned by online marketing in the past. Tough, the world is still changing).

So here’s the pitch. Check out my long history of helping people succeed online.

 

Shareaholic Inadvertently Demonstrates the Value of Search Marketing

September 8th, 2012 No comments

Shareaholic released a report this week that was ostensively focused on the fact that Pinterest was continuing to rise as a traffic driver. Pinterest, the current “it” site of social media is closing in on a 2% share of traffic sources for sites using Shareaholic. Wow, we obviously need to be spending more of our marketing budget on this traffic-driving behemoth.*

The writer for Shareaholic also notes that there was  a drop in organic traffic that “does not mean the death of search engines.” This is the typical astute analysis you get from a blog promoting a social media app. The writer fails to note that there was actually an overall drop since January of social media sites. Add up the market share from social media sites and they fall from ~9.9% in January to ~9.5% this past month. Nobody’s saying that social media is dead, though… at least, not “social media experts.”

What’s missing from the chart is paid search traffic to the sites that Shareaholic is tracking. Any site that uses Shareaholic is likely a commercial site using a variety of strategies that will often include blackhat (or at least grey hat) SEO tactics and Adwords.

As has been well-covered in the search marketing industry this year, Penguin and Panda updates have reduced organic traffic to commercial sites in a big way through the deinidexing of link networks and reduction of other spam and blackhat tactics. That’s the real story here isn’t it?  Add up the totals for all of search engines or all of social sites and both numbers have dropped. So where did the market share go? I find myself siding with all the cynics, that this is what it is all about for the web’s biggest money-printing machine.

Image courtesy of shareaholic.com

*Let me recant. Pinterest is a great traffic driver for certain kinds of websites. Pinterest is known to heavily appeal to women, and some sites see Pinterest traffic in the range of 20% and higher. Certainly, though, not every site is suited to Pinterest.

Categories: search marketing, SEO, social media Tags:

My wife, the social media star

October 15th, 2010 No comments

My wife, Shirley, started a Facebook group that now has over 1900 fans, over 1000 photo uploads and rising all the time. The group is called “My Border Collie is smarter than most of the people I know.” In contrast, I’ve seen many other people try to start Facebook fan pages for their companies or sites with far worse results, while spending a lot more time and resources as well. The difference is that my wife’s group is fun and interesting and creates a community of people who can easily communicate about a subject they love. It’s definitely ‘social’ first, definitely ‘media’ last. She affectionately calls it “my border collie group” but it obviously belongs to a lot of people.

“My border collie group” is smarter than a lot of people I know
Companies I’ve seen will try sending some “social media expert” or a young person (because they “understand” Facebook) to try and set up a Facebook group and get people to join without any idea whatsoever why people would join or like their page, group or company.

BCGroup-Facebook
And they have little foresight about what might be the effect of people liking the group or becoming a fan. More often than not those people will never ever give the fan page another thought in their lives and will likely delete it if they ever get around to cleaning up their Facebook accounts. This is usually much worse than just a me-too mentality; it’s more like “let’s force this on people and on ourselves regardless of any sense of relevance.”

Social media has to be fun. People get together to have fun. They hardly ever get together to be bored and do nothing together. You need to give people a fun reason to join your group and come to your party.

My wife didn’t set out to create a huge Facebook group. She didn’t even know how much activity would be possible on it when she started it years ago. She just set out to have some fun. Sure enough, people wanted to join in.

Social media “experts” & business
Companies getting involved in social media need to put people first and fun first. There’s very likely something immediately wrong when a bunch of people sit around a boardroom talking about how to get involved in social media. In fact, I can vouchsafe for the fact that there has definitely been something wrong every time I’ve had the misfortune to actually be one of those people.

If you are interested in hiring my wife as a social media person with a good track record of success, don’t bother, I’ve got my eye on her. But I know she has no interest in ever sitting in on one of your boardroom meetings focused on “how to leverage our position in social media.” She’d rather be having fun, I think.

Just to close, here’s an awesome video I once posted to my wife’s group. Why say goodbye when you can say hello. After all, social media is all about being friendly.

added later: There’s a good final pun to be made about old dogs (even though my dog was not that old at the time of this video) and new tricks – but I’m not sure I want to make it. Comment below to add your pun?

added later still: Sadly, Samson (featured below) passed away suddenly in his own home, November 16th. 🙁

Categories: social media Tags: ,

My social media websites

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

On a bit of a lark last week, I bought bigola.com, a social media search engine. You can use it to search for your friends to see where they are on some social media sites or you can use it to find out how some trending topics are doing on a variety of social media websites. I also had a designer setup and very simply skin socialmediation.com. If anyone has any great ideas about what to do with this domain, contact me.

Twitter Flatlining?

October 13th, 2009 No comments

I’ve said before who I like best between Facebook and Twitter. It seems I’m not alone in admitting that I don’t really ‘get’ Twitter. TechCrunch is reporting that comScore does not have great news for followers of Twitter.

Read the original.

Frank Furillo

Good Lessons for the RIAA (+ Review of Matthew Good’s Vancouver)

September 18th, 2009 No comments

To me, free music on demand has always been one of the very best things about the Internet.

In fact, I would have to admit that downloadable and freely listenable music was a definite turning point in my relationship to the Internet. For one reason, in one word: Napster. (I’ll get back to Napster, later.) The music industry and its relationship to the Internet has been old news for ten years now, but we still hear too much about the RIAA, if you ask me.

A while ago, recording artist Mathew Good began a campaign to maximize the sales of his next album, Vancouver, to be released in a month. Aside from blogging about the process and tweeting about things going on during production, he began streaming the album a month before its official release. I’ll get into musical reasons that make this an album everyone should buy in my review of Vancouver below.

I want to point out what Good does that the RIAA does not seem to understand. His process goes like this: make a really good CD of music that you think people will like. Give it to them in a way that they can’t steal. Use this whole scenario to build and strengthen your fanbase so they will be on your side when the album is released and they will go out and buy the album, already certain they will like it. This is the same strategy he used last time to sell Hospital Music. As he boasts in the link, he understands “the reality of what can be accomplished through unconventional means utilizing new technologies without having to endure the resistance of those that haven’t the foresight to realize their importance.” Well, that’s pretty much everything I want to say in this blog post: “those that haven’t the foresight to realize their importance” being the RIAA, etc.

I suspect that we will see once again that Good is right about how to get a musical message to the masses. I am sick and tired of the Metallicas and the Offsprings of this world worried about a few albums being downloaded. Try showing some loyalty to your fans and they might have some loyalty to you. Radiohead has it right. Even Coldplay has some things right. As of today, Pearl Jam has it right (as we might expect). Lots of artists have it right, and Matt Good is definitely one of them. I am preordering or certainly picking up Vancouver the day it comes out. Because I’m a loyal fan who feels that his loyalty is repaid in kind.

To go back to Napster, for a second, I want to say that I am one of many people who think that Napster was critical to the success of the PC and Internet revolution in the late 1990’s. Until Napster, I was content to have a three year old machine and the slowest Internet connection I could get; never since then. And I know I’m not alone in that. I knew so many people who upgraded or bought more disc space or bought several computers, so they could download and hold more music. That doesn’t help the music industry to know that, but if everything was fair, they would have gotten some royalties for all the computer equipment sold during that time.

But alas, the RIAA and its minions are picking the wrong battle, one they will fight to the death. (Which they almost certainly are facing.)

I know that many people will also point out that this (allowing free music) is easy for an established artist to do and new artists may not have the resources or the buzz-building ability to let people listen for free then try to sell albums later. But everyone is going to have to adapt to the new reality. Fighting it is definitely the wrong thing to do but that is still the RIAA’s one-note strategy, one they presumably pass on to young, recently signed bands.

van-digi

CD Review of Matthew Good Vancouver

Now, after a few listens to the album online, let me offer a review of Matthew Good’s new album, Vancouver. I’m not going to confess to being a fanboy – but that’s because I think that’s irrelevant. I’m a fan because I like good music, and Matthew Good has made a lot of really good music.

Matthew Good’s latest album is one in a series of his sonic-pleasure old-fashioned “music albums”… you know, a disc of music whose existence is not predicated on one song that “kids’ll go for.” Personally, I think his best album is the last one he put out, Hospital Music, one of my favourite albums of the decade, certainly. Among his other great albums, Good has produced Avalanche in his solo career and mammoth ’90’s rock albums Underdogs and Beautiful Midnight.

There are highlights on this album certainly, but on the whole there is no bad track here, nothing I would have thought about erasing. Good’s tendency to sample is kept to a minimum here and used very judiciously on the unsettling rock track “Fought to Fight It.” After a couple of listens, I wonder if this song is up there with some of the best rock tracks he’s ever done. As with Avalanche, Good employs strings and orchestral arrangements throughout the tracks here and often this is really pleasant stuff, especially on the closer “Empty’s Theme Park.”

Other highlights? “Great Whales of the Sea” really grabs, a paean to Vancouver’s national animal. “The Vancouver National Anthem” is a seven minute epic that fans of later Good have come to expect. It’s full of timing changes as any song this length must be. The “we all live downtown…step over ourselves” chorus, backed by a violin and Good’s friend Pete Yorn, is definitely haunting. Then they extend this for a good two minutes. The song winds around here and there, too, a kind of microcosm for the sound of the entire CD.

“Us Remains Impossible” has a great loping guitar riff that pulls you into every verse (and that you will find hard to get out of your head) even if the chorus is a bit too low key for me. “Nights Like Tonight” rises early in the first verse then goes into some odd directions before dropping back to a listenable acoustic riff. Like all great bands, Good is very good at playing with song structures and listener expectations just enough to intrigue on all his original material.

Throughout this album, you have to marvel at Good’s ability to know what sounds are worth drawing on, to make a song truly worth playing and listening to. That he has so many weapons in his arsenal – a great voice, great song subjects and some true talent on the guitar – only makes this so much easier to do.

There are aspects of Matthew Good’s music to detract. Occasionally he does seem to have been influenced a little by fellow Vancouverite Bryan Adams – just ever so much, in very small corners. The only time I hear bit of that on his new material is on the song “Bad Pennies” which is left off the final track list; it’s a tiny bit Bryan Adams and a whole lotta Good.

Still, some might dismiss Matt Good’s music as “ordinary.” I am certain that not one of these people has ever listened to one of Matthew Good’s five best albums from start to finish, though. Vancouver is certainly one of those five.

Categories: social media Tags: ,

Twitter is 90% Crap

September 10th, 2009 No comments

Here we go with another acerbic-sounding title. But bear with me. I allude here, as some people may recognize,  to Theodore Sturgeon’s assertion that “90% of science fiction is crap, but then again, 90% of everything is crap.” The last part of that sentence has since become known as Sturgeon’s Law.  Let’s note that Sturgeon was in fact defending science fiction (and I love science fiction, of course), so maybe this is not all bad for Twitter, to be 90% crap.

Twitter is 90% overratedTwitter is a phenomenon, there can be little doubt. As we all know , though, the short history of the web is already full of fantastic shooting stars that have long-since passed into complete irrelevance.

There are many people who hate Twitter, think it is overrated and overhyped or who simply ignore it. It has a fail rate of 60% or more, in percentage of users who never use it again. Failwhale goes up often, as we all know.

One thing I definitely do not like about my Twitter friend feed is that many of the people who use it only use it for marketing; I know, maybe I know the wrong people or at least I think I should be following people I really don’t like a whole lot. I hate the whole, “Let me be the first to tweet this” mentality that is a byproduct of Twitter’s immediacy.  Twitter would do well to start figuring out ways to get rid of commercial interests who are only interested in promoting themselves. Should Twitter ideally only be used to share thoughts, ideas  – and links – that are valid, then? I have an okay-hate relationship with that concept. I find it very annoying to read tweets about nothing. I.e.  Please don’t tweet that you are just stepping into the shower, especially if you are not terribly attractive. But actually, I find links most annoying. I have followed some people who do nothing but post links to news items or blog entries in their industry, all day long it seems. My impression of you, ex-following people, is that you do not have an original idea in your head.

I haven’t quite covered the 90% crap of Twitter… but there are some things about Twitter that could make it last.  It provides acces to some celebrity news that is unavailable elsewhere, for one example. Although I really could care less about Liz Taylor tweeting from her hospital bed, my fifteen year old says she uses Twitter to keep up on her favourite bands.

I don’t think I will ever really like Twitter. I do not feel, though, that this is necessarily because I don’t ‘get’ Twitter. I think the real problem with Twitter is that it is just far too thin a concept to really have any legs.  I think Facebook still has far more potential because it is so much more robust and I think Zuckerberg’s concept of a social graph will still be developed into something with massive enough revenue to rival Google’s, someday. As was shown today, Facebook could very well have the means to completely swallow Twitter (its lamprey, of sorts). I still love wasting time on Facebook far more than I ever will on Twitter.

But let’s never forget Twitter’s (difficult-to-understand, for us detractors) popularity and its still untapped potential. Twitter’s suggested feeds is one way in which Twitter might be able to leverage itself into generating revenue. There are rumours that Twitter is developing something that will generate significant revenue before the end of next year. So the jury is still really out on whether Twitter will really ever matter for any length of time.

But really, if you ask me, Twitter is 90% crap.