Saturday, December 01, 2007

Google Will Dominate Mobile Like it Does Search

I think Google will dominate mobile phones like it does search, in just the same way that Microsoft dominates PCs.

Google announced, at the beginning of this month, their play in the mobile phone market - Android. This anticipated "Gphone" is not a phone at all - but an operating system. An open source operating system based on Linux. And they didn't announce this alone, they announced it alongside over 30 organizations all forming the open handset alliance - an alliance formed to develop free, open standards for mobile phones.

This alone may be a bigger play than the iPhone simply because any phone can be a Gphone.

Now if this isn't big enough - let's tale this a step further:

The connection of Google's open platform for mobile devices and their announcement of an open platform for social networking, opensocial, creates speculation about a combination of the two creating a massive mobile open social network that will help catapult the android phone platform into the same position in mobile as Google currently holds in search.

Networks already supporting opensocial, MySpace, Linked in, Salesforce, Hi5, Ning, Plaxo and Friendster to name a few, are already bringing well over 200 million registered users.

The potential for this mobile social network is clear once you've seen the incredible applications developed for android that are just waiting for the phones to be available.

Heck you'd think Google invented social networking on the web in this 57 minute campfire video on the announcement of OpenSocial.

Overall, I see the new mobile standardized OS battle playing out very similarly to the original Apple and Microsoft battles... you know, back in the day, when Apple made a beautiful operating system and sold it bundled with perfectly designed hardware, while Microsoft "just" made an almost as good operating system that ran on any hardware. Microsoft's OS approach proved to be the clear winner in the market. It created an almost universal platform for application development, and spawned an era of incredible pace and volume of application development and adoption.

This time around it's Google and Apple instead of Microsoft and Apple. Google takes the place of Microsoft this time, except with an open operating system - and the incredibly compelling advantage of built in, GPS enabled mobile social networking that's already well past critical mass.

Combine Android and open handset alliance with opensocial, and it's clear that Google is positioned well to make a play to combine and dominate the mobile phone market through an open standards operating system a mobile social network with critical network mass.

Google may well dominate the mobile audience as it does the search audience today.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Facebook Ads Launched, Google, Myspace also Launch New Initiatives

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg, the 23 year old CEO of Facebook announced his new advertising platform called Facebook Ads, a new way to for advertisers to target Facebook's 50 Million users.

The new program has three components, advertisers can:

  1. create branded pages
  2. run targeted advertisements
  3. gain access to intelligence and analytics pertaining to the site's more than 50 million users.
The ability to create the branded pages and for users to become "fans" of products is particularly interesting. Here is the first coverage of the Facebook Ads launch.

Also this week, Google launched it's own new initiative, OpenSocial. While MySpace also launched it's own new advertising platform called HyperTargeting.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

ConstantContact Goes Public and the Changes Begin

Just last week Constant Contact went public and, as suspected, the changes are problems with this are already beginning. The first major fallout seems to be a quick change to their acceptable usage policy which now prohibits using the service for any communications related to gambling. was informed by ConstantContact yesterday that they would no longer be able to use the service. This started a flurry of blog posting from other people that are frustrated because of the number of telemarketing calls they receive from ConstantContact, or believe ConstantContact employees are masquerading themselves as happy customers on blogs. The latter does seem a little crazy to me... I can't image why a company with so much to lose would engage in such bad behavior purposely.

Anyways, for anyone looking for an alternative service to ConstantContact, we run a Canadian email marketing service called that you may want to check out.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

B2B Presentation on B2B Lead Generation

So I just sat through the new webinar from Bulldog Solutions on "The Four Costliest Mistakes Marketers Make in Support of Sales". Presenters included Bill Golder from Miller Heiman, Rob Soloman from bulldog, and Ellis Brooker from

The one thing about these presentations is that it takes so long to develop context for the "meat" of the presentations that sometimes you wish you would have a Coles notes version so you could get the point quicker. This is actually the point of this post - a short version for you...

To achieve stellar sales results, Sales and Marketing need greater integration in their efforts. Companies are focusing so much on lead generation these days - but many of the leads are being wasted for many reasons. Some of these problems can be solved through better communication between sales and marketing.


It was said that typically about half of the leads handed over to the sales department can't be followed up on by sales people. At its worst, this causes sales people to view the marketing department as wasting money on lead generation that is useless, and marketing looks at the the sales department as not following up on leads.

Sales is from Mars, Marketing is from Venus
The reason, it was suggested, that sales and marketing speak different languages. There is no cross accountability, and the hand off is clumsy. The CRM system belongs to the sales department and the marketing department doesn't have access to it. The sales department, on the other hand, has little or nothing to do with the lead generation campaigns. The sales department wants hot leads, and the marketing department wants volume.

A SiriusDecisions report (March 2007) showed that lead generation is the number one marketing priority (and biggest spend) within US companies today. If half of the leads are being wasted - this is a huge problem!

Driving Better Alignment between Marketing and Sales
These are the four solutions presented:

  1. Define organization goals. You should define what is a win for every body. How many leads does sales need? What are the attributes they need? What makes a good prospect? What is the call to action?
  2. Define Measurements. What are the industry groups, the job titles, the problems they have? On the other hand, what geographies can't you support? What industries do not work? What companies are too small? Bill Golder added that this was key to the Miller Heiman strategy. This point helps move part of sales (qualification) more towards marketing. And perhaps most importantly, this allows sales and marketing to develop benchmarks.
  3. Prepare for Sales Engagement. This point deals with the hand off from sales to marketing. One major point was dealing with the timing of the hand-off. In some cases it is taking 4-6 weeks from a new lead to get to the CRM so the sales person can follow up on it! For the poor sales person following up on leads that are this stale, they might as well be making a cold call.
  4. Assess Results and Focus on Improvement. The numbers seldom lie. To me, this step is the most important in almost any marketing process. They discussed "shooting the losers" is as important as keeping the winners.
For the complete details on this webinar, they were nice enough to let us download the PPT file as a PDF. I did it and uploaded it here.

Overall I thought this was an excellent presentation, ideal for heads of sales and marketing departments. For more info on this topic, I have written about these issues before here, and here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Beautiful Visual Link Exploration Tool

Neato. I am not sure where I can across this but it is really cool to play with.

Just type in a URL and it will give you a visual map of 6 related links. Incoming links are green, outgoing links are blue. Just click on any of those links and it will map the 6 inbound/outbound links for that page. Any links on that page that link back to previous pages will be mapped too.

What a cool way to visualize how neighborhoods are linked together. You could spend hours on this.

You can change the number and ratio of links if you want. I think I'll continue to play with this for a white to see if any real useful process can come out of it. Maybe not, but it is fun anyways.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Top Ranks for $10/Click Keywords Going to Doorway Pages

I just did a random search for a top three word phrase for a client to see where they stand organically - and keep an eye on the competition. My client currently bids around $8.00 to be #3 for this phrase in the sponsored results, and is ranked #7 organically. The top bid for top position in Adwords is well over $10.

The top organic result for this phrase is extremely keyword rich to say the least. The three word phrase is repeated twice as the first six words of the title, once at the beginning of the snippet, and once in the page url.

The landing page is rather ridiculously over-optimized for the phrase; it begins the headline, begins the first paragraph, is repeated again in the first paragraph, and is the start of the next five paragraphs.

No legitimate business would ever want to do this because it kills your credibility, would destroy your brand, and cannot possibly convert very well anyways. You've to hand it to them though - they do rank #1 - so if that is the extent of their short-sighted goal then they have certainly achieved it.

Still, I can't believe that it is as simple as over optimizing a single page to end up number one for a phrase that costs $10 - $15 a click for the equivalent in Adwords. This position is literally worth thousands of dollars per day.

So at the very least, this deserves a deeper look:

At the bottom of the page there are links to dozens of similar sounding pages, under the heading "other articles". These pages are comprised of several groups of extremely similar variations of related high value phrases. Only one of the three words in the phrase are different in most of these phrases.

Each of these pages leads you to a unique page of content that is super optimized for that phrase. They've created a matrix of very similar, but unique, super optimized pages. They've created one page for each variation of their targeted phrases, and each of the pages are linked from every other page using the appropriate link anchor text.

It's classic, beautiful search optimized content and architecture, but one problem I see is that all of these links are buried at the bottom of the page, and therefore shouldn't be considered to point to pages as important as the links in the main navigation on the top of the page. So why is all this working so well?

A quick check of the source code reveals that those links on the bottom are very near the beginning of the HTML - Only a tiny amount of code and and text content of the page is before them. These links are also placed in a way that they appear to the search engine to be embedded in the copy, which will make them appear to be very important links.

The most unusual thing about about all of this is how close to the beginning that main text area is. It starts right at the beginning of the body! Where is the header and the main navigation area? The main navigation has dozens of links and sub links that should come before this. These links aren't even on the page anywhere! A few searches of the source code for URL's and visible phrases in the main navigation turn up totally blank.

Hmmm. Where are these visible links, where is the header?

Aha, the entire header, navigation and links are all hidden in 3 javascript files included in the head tag. Cunningly, the entire main web site main structure (this section is only the tip of the iceberg) is hidden from Google on this page, and all of the super optimized content and links have become the new site to Google. The visible navigation, which takes visitors to the main site, is quite prominent on the visible page. Their strategy, it appears, is to get visitors to this page and hope that they'll click any main navigation item to get into the "real" site - never to find their way back to this over optimized page again.

A lot of work has gone into this, but I couldn't see how anyone could allow their whole web site to look like this. It's a step above the old auto-generated doorway pages from the nineties, because each of these pages had to be written by a human, but I still couldn't see them as a serious business so far.

So then I go to the home page, and I see that the copy is written quite well, and they seem to have a lot going on. This company has actually been in business since the 80's selling packaged software. Clicking around I noticed that all of the very similar links found on the original Google optimized page were nowhere to be found. I looked at the site map, thinking that surely they would use this page to link to their optimized page section, but I can't even find the links there.

Going back to the optimized page reveals a clue, the breadcrumbs show that I am in a section titled "articles". Looking at the footer on the home page reveals a link to "articles" that is not even in the site map.

Except for the over optimized content, it's quite cleverly done. If they were a little less aggressive with the keyword stuffing in the content they could easily argue that these pages were all legitimate articles about key phrases that their customers were searching for. They would be "legal search landing pages" instead of the much feared "illegal doorway pages". Yes, it is a fine line, and one that they still walk very carefully even if they are stumbling over the edge.

Each of their optimized pages truly are a unique article written by a real human being. It may not be auto generated, but any sane human being would agree that they must be written for something other than intelligent humans. The search engines wouldn't know this, of course, because the content won't be picked up by a filter that is searching for extremely similar pages, for too many similar phrases, or even a filter to detect randomly generated content - so they get away with it.

I wouldn't recommend some of these tactics, because they could easily land you with an over optimization penalty and get you kicked out out of the the index all together for a while. I do , however, think it is a very good illustration how aggressive you have to be to rank well these days.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

NY Times Explains the Google Search Engine

If you are not in the Internet marketing industry, and want to get a feel for what exactly is all the fuss about search engine marketing, there is a good article on Google in New York Times last month that I just found, ironically, while searching for references to the Google search quality team: New York Times on Google

Friday, July 27, 2007

Keyword Research Secrets Revealed from SEO Book

Aaron Wall provided some of his "secrets" to keyword research on the WordTracker blog. It's about ensuring you have developed the best possible seed list - because the final list is only as good as the seed list you start with. This goes pretty deep, so it is a good read for ideas on your next keyword research project.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Search Optimized Online Press Release Case Study

Here's how online media releases (press releases) help your search engine optimization program:

We just completed a project for Wild Apricot redeveloping and relaunching their Membership Management Software web site. As part of a larger search marketing program we planned and wrote a media release announcing the re-launch of their site. We planned and optimized the content and links in the release for their ideal key phrases and distributed it through PR Web.

The goal of a search optimized online media release is a little different from a traditional media release. Traditional releases are intended solely to get the attention of journalists who might be able to write or air a story related to the release. Internet distributed releases can do that, too, but are also intended to be indexed and rank in the popular online news search engines (Google News, Yahoo News) so that consumers searching for news on the topic will find and read the releases directly. The other benefit of online distributed releases - the benefit that helps your search engine optimization program - are the links generated from the release.

Online media releases are generally made available through RSS feeds. There are thousands of web sites that filter and re-publish these feeds on their web site, frequently with the original links intact.

At the highest level of payment through PR Web, it is possible to insert many links into the content and control the link anchor text of each link. If you have well defined key phrases for your search marketing program, this is an ideal opportunity to get links out there on the net that point back to your site with the words you choose.

The final release targeted several high value phrases. The most important phrases to our search optimization campaign, such as membership database management, event management, and association management were linked to appropriate sections of the site using the link anchor text we wanted.

The results? A quick search in Google for a unique phrase in the release shows 350+ pages displaying the press release. A few examples can be found here, here, and here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Search Engine Site Maps Inclusion

Google, Yahoo and Ask have come together to embrace a site map standard effective immediately. Microsoft promises to start using the standard later this year. Enhancements to the protocol were announced at Search Engine Strategies New York last week.

Information on the new XML protocol is available at

Search Engine Watch has a good article covering the announcement.

Since the major engines are going to use this to assist in crawling the web, it makes sense to add this XML site map on your domain to help them index your content. We'll be adding it to all of our clients that contract us for search engine optimization.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Search Engine Strategies Discount

If you are thinking of attending Search Engine Strategies New York, there is now a 20% discount coupon offered by Incisive Media. I will be using this next week to book my ticket. Check it out on the Google analytics blog here:

Monday, March 12, 2007

Email Marketing: Microsoft becoming an EMSP?

Microsoft Outlook 2007 has a new feature called business contact manager, that among other things, allows you to send and track email marketing campaigns.

The obvious question for me, as the founder of an email marketing service, is will this enable users to do their own email marketing without using an outside EMSP (Email Marketing Service Provider)?

At closer inspection it appears to be a good solutions for salespeople sending small group messages to their clients, but is not something that a marketing department would want to be using, or even a small business managing their entire customer list.

In the demo section about email tracking it shows only unsubscribed, bounce or delivered. There is no display of open, click, or forward. On the specifications page, it says that tracking requires a separate subscription to the listbuilder service. I am currently not aware of whether the list builder service is required to handle the unsubscribes and delivery tracking, whether it adds the open and click tracking, or whether tracking opens and clicks are even possible.

To get the basic email marketing features, you require Office Small Business 2007 or Office Professional 2007, not Office Standard 2007. Small business will run you $395 and 425 USD respectively at

There is no mention of cost of the list builder subscription, and list builder stopped taking signups as of November 15th, 2006.

You may also need exchange server 2007. Here's what they do together.

Bandwidth and Processing Power
As soon as you start sending tens of thousands emails you are still going to run into the bandwidth and server processing issues that email marketing service providers take away for you. Many of our customers started with an in-house solution for marketing and moved away from it to use an outsourced EMSP because their in-house servers could not take the load. Once an email campaign went out, their server slowed to the point where office staff could no longer send and receive emails at an acceptable speed.

Graphical emails will be created using the new Microsoft Word 2007 rendering engine, which I have previously posted about. Presumably this will render fine in other Outlook 2007 clients, but how the emails will look in webmail clients like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo, and in other popular mail clients like Mozilla Thunderbird is your guess against mine.

Images have to be added as attachments, since there is apparently no way to edit the source code to add an image that is hosted on an outside server. This is going to be a certain flag for spam filters reducing the deliverability of messages. Another problem with sending images as attachments is that the file size of each message will increase enormously. Multiply this by thousands of messages and the bandwidth and processing problems I mentioned previously are that much worse. Both the sending of the messages, and the receiving on the other end will take far longer.

Not a solution for Marketing
Forbes magazine recently published a article on the Outlook bulk email solution, and said:

From an e-mail marketing perspective, Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager effectively solves yesterday's challenge: How to create and send bulk e-mails.

But today's e-mail marketing challenge encompasses much more: Cutting through the clutter, crafting a legal and effective message, managing subscribe and unsubscribe requests and tracking statistics.

Sending mass emails also requires ensuring that messages look like they should across a wide variety of platforms, which should still be left to professionals that know HTML and the idiosyncrasies of each platform.

You can find another opinion on the Outlook Solution from the folks at email-marketing-reports.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

SEM, Email and SEO # 1, 2 and 3 in Online Marketing

As a wrap up on 2006 marketing, MarketingSherpa and ad:tech created a survey to ask online marketers what worked in 2006 and where they expected to spend their time, efforts and dollars in 2007:

What I find really interesting is that Email is both on the top of the list - and the bottom. House lists rank #2 in effectiveness, while rented lists are on the bottom. Our email marketing business is reflecting that trend, with more and interest being shown every day - in an industry that I was thinking was starting to mature.

Another business I thought was starting to mature was search engine optimization - yet SEO showed the biggest jump this year.

SEM (PPC) slipped slightly, surely due to increased click costs and the increasing fear of click-fraud. I believe staying away from the content network in Google is your biggest hedge against this. All of the recent interest in PPC is most likely what's driving the growing interest in SEO. Now that marketers see that search marketing really works, they want to find new ways of getting that golden targeted traffic from search engines without paying the crazy costs per click.

Overall, It's nice to be validated in that the three main focuses of our company line up perfectly with what works in online marketing. And, yes, that's by design.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Microsoft To Mess with Email Marketing...

I can't believe my ears. I am hopping mad!

Can it really be true? Microsoft - in the release of the new Outlook 2007 - has apparently decided to mess with Internet standards as only they can...

Ask yourself: What is the WORST possible thing Microsoft could do to make a mess of HTML email and ruin how it is going to look and work inside of email?

Answer: They could change the rendering engine to the most notoriously bad HTML tool on the planet - Microsoft Word.

As an email marketing service provider, all I can think about is the problems that this is going to cause our customers. We are going to have to figure out what this means to the hundreds - if not thousands - of email newsletter templates that have been tweaked to work well in different email clients, and then help people make changes to them to work in the new email environment. Just think of the millions of people in corporations that will naturally upgrade to the newest version, and then the follow up movement of all computer users to the new environment as they purchase new computers with the latest software built in.

If this is an important issue to you, CampaignMonitor has an excellent post on what these changes will mean to you.

If you want to see what this means to your email campaigns, Microsoft has an HTML validator for their new email client.

What are they thinking? The only thing that makes sense is that instead of supporting standards, they want to MAKE the standards. From a business perspective - with their monopolistic market share - it's a logical move to gain more control of the Internet.

Does that make them ... evil? I think that is an ethical/moral question that is up to each individual to decide for themselves.