Focus On The Things You Can Control

Twice in the past month I’ve had long conversations with clients about their concerns for the activities of certain competitors.  Specifically, they were worried about the fact that some of the sites who are trying to compete in the same online space are engaging in some unscrupulous SEO and other marketing tactics, such as purchasing links and redirecting blind links from PPC campaigns.

These activities cause concern because I always preach the importance of ‘white-hat‘ marketing tactics, with integrity being paramount.  There are shortcuts that can be taken in order to potentially achieve favorable search engine rankings faster, and there is a degree of ‘success’ than can be had going this route.  But the reality is that ‘black-hat‘ SEO activities have a major downside.  If you get caught – and the probability of getting caught is substantial – you run the risk of being blacklisted by Google and other search engines.  Getting de-indexed is about the worst thing that can happen to your site if you are relying on search engine traffic as the main traffic source for your business.

In both instances, my clients are in exponentially better shape in their respective online spaces than the competing sites they’re worried about.  One client in particular has received organic search engine traffic from over 4500 different search phrases on Google since the first of the year, while the competitor in question only ranks organically for a couple dozen keywords according to the tool  And this is in spite of the fact that the competing site has about 30 times as many inbound links to their site because they bought them.  They had clearly subscribed to ‘link farms‘ and other unscrupulous black-hat link-building entities in order to get so many links but that hasn’t helped their site rank organically for the keywords relevant to their business.

Both my clients expressed similar sentiments when referring to their competitors’ shady efforts.  They wanted to undermine them by reporting their activities to Google, to discredit them in blogs and forums, etc.  And while it is admirable to want everyone to play by the same rules, one has to only look to the steroid scandals that Major League baseball has endured for the past decade or more.  The players who were caught cheating suffered irreparable damage to their reputations, the careers and their legacies – not to mention their overall physical well being.  And who came out of it smelling like a rose?  The players who took the high road.  They saw what what was going on and while they knew it was wrong, it only served to make them be the best they could be through hard work and determination.

The advice that I gave to my clients was simple: Focus on the things they can control and the rest will take care of itself. Google consistently makes improvements to their search algorithms and subsequent ranking systems to reward the sites with the best content.  They also take notice of the tactics that are solely intended to game the system and take measures to ‘punish’ those sites.  It is an ongoing cat and mouse game between the search engines and the people trying to manipulate their rankings.

As a webmaster, you can’t control what other sites are up to, but you can certainly spy on them.  You can keep an eye on their activities by simply using a variety of tools such as and the Yahoo Site Explorer.  You also can’t control how the search engines respond to their marketing efforts, but you can monitor it.  If your competitor’s site isn’t ranking as highly in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) as you are, then why bother worrying about it?  You have a finite number of brain power that you can dedicate to thinking about your web presence – spend it wisely.

So You’re Already an Expert. Now What?

Whether you’re an master auto mechanic, a leading .net programmer or simply a stay at home mom whose raised four kids, you have some area of knowledge that would be valuable to others in some capacity or another.  If you’re looking to establish a presence online in order to share what you know, there are a few things you’re going to need to get lined up before you can jump in cyberspace.  The good news is that the most difficult task has already been completed.

If you’re already an expert at whatever it is that you do, you have already done the hardest part.

Think about it.  Ever see someone in a Youtube video or read someone’s blog and say to yourself ‘I know more than this guy’, or ‘this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about’?  I know you have.  Everyone has encountered a site or a know-it-all person who is all style and no substance.  Those people tend to crack and back-peddle as soon as they’re challenged and their knowledge base is questioned or contradicted.  You know why?  Because bullshit is obvious.

But you’re an expert in your vocation.  You have the knowledge and experience to provide a quality learning experience for anyone who wants to learn what you know.  You don’t have to fake it ’til you make it; you’re the real deal.  All you need to do is get started.

But before you jump in with both feet, there are a few things you should establish in order to manage your online endeavors as swiftly as possible.  Expect one of the most intense learning experiences of your life; the world of the Web is an ever changing organism and many aspects of the online space in which you wish to compete make for a very dynamic environment.  What’s popular today may be an e-wasteland tomorrow.  So for that reason you won’t find any specific advice here – just a simple list of guidelines for establishing yourself as an expert in cyberspace.

  • Choose your medium.  You need to decide the best method for sharing your knowledge.  Writing.  Video.  Podcasting.  Take inventory of what suits you best and go for it.
  • You need a blog (Here is a basic tutorial on how to get yourself a free or paid blogging service).  Even if you don’t consider yourself a ‘blogger’, you still need a central point to showcase your stuff.  Your blog is the central focal point and is your brand.  You need a hub, and a blog is the best medium for that.
  • Begin creating content.  Shoot three or four videos or write a few blog posts and publish them on your blog.  After that you’ll need to establish a blogging schedule to consistently provide new content.
  • After you have a little content, it is now time to begin to create a presence and network with people in your industry who are already prominent.  Identify the influential people by performing searches on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn, as well as the various blogs and forums that are relevant to what you’re trying to do.  Create accounts on the relevant Social Media accounts and reach out.  Participate in the forum discussions and leave meaningful blog comments where appropriate.  This accomplishes two things:  For one, it allows you to see where your target audience is hanging out online.  This also provides successful case studies for you to learn from and reach out to.

Once you’ve been rolling along for a while, you’ll build momentum and establish a following which will snowball – provided you are able to produce great information that is engaging and valuable to your readers.

You Know More Than You Think You Do

Anytime you’re looking at a career change, or a new course of study, or just looking to start a new activity that looks like fun such as learning to play the guitar or piano, the hardest part is often getting started.  After all, if you’ve never done something, even the fundamentals look complicated as hell.  But as I’ve noted before, it feels impossible only until you do it.

The best piece of advice I received when I transitioned from brick and mortar retail management to Internet Marketing and Web Strategy Development was to take inventory of the marketable skills and experiences you already have, and find ways to apply them to a new line of work.

Once I got started – and shortly after I was committed to pursuing my online endeavors I realized that I knew a helluva lot more than I had given myself credit for.  Every day I found myself more and more confident talking the talk and walking the walk with people who’ve been in this game for years.  Even though I am a pretty quick study and tend to pick things up rather quickly, at first I was apprehensive and slightly intimidated when it came talking about what it is that I do.  It wasn’t until I explained my occupation to a relative with almost no knowledge of the Internet or how it functions that I realized that I was much further along.

The fact of all of this is pretty similar, if you’ve been even moderately successful in one line of work, you can succeed in another.  I am not saying there won’t be rough patches, but in the overall scheme of things, you know way more than you think you do.

Don’t believe me?  Think your base of knowledge is common and unremarkable?  Take a minute and think about a topic you know a fair amount about but don’t consider yourself to be an expert in, like a hobby or general interest you’ve had for a while.  Maybe you’re a history buff or a baseball fan.  It doesn’t matter.

Now find someone who knows nothing about the subject at hand and teach them what you know.  Let’s take baseball for example.  I played baseball for several years when I was growing up and I’ve watched the game my whole life so I know quite a bit about it, but I am by no means an expert.  Now when I imagine myself trying to teach someone the game, I get lost in the complexity of everything I know to the point where I wouldn’t know where to start.  When I think about balls and strikes and runs and hits and errors and home runs and the difference between force outs and tagged outs and the difference between called strikes and swinging strikes and stolen bases and ground rule doubles and knuckleballs and fastballs and suicide squeezes… I could literally go on and on and on about the things I know about baseball – but even then what I possess in terms of knowledge only firmly qualifies as a fundamental understanding of the game.  In no way am I qualified to manage a Big League team.

But, to someone who knows little to nothing about baseball I can literally answer every single one of their questions confidently and authoritatively, which will position me in the mind of the other person as a solid resource for baseball information.

Another example of someone making a living off of their hobbying experience is video games.  I know of a few people who are very good at a popular online computer game, take screen capture videos of them playing and create tutorial videos to help others.  These videos get hundreds of thousands of views, which opened doors to advertising opportunities.  Another gamer created a membership site where people could get help from a community for a monthly enrollment fee.

You know more than you think you do.  Give yourself credit for what you know, learn a little bit more to feel more confident about yourself and go for it!  As I’ve said numerous times, it’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do.

It’s Not Too Late to Get Started in Social Media

Whenever you hear about Social Media, does it sound like a passing fad to you?  Does it seem, as the ageless Betty White eloquently put it, “Like a huge waste of time”?  When you think of all the time you’d have to put into it to be successful, can you imagine about 500 other things you’d much rather be doing with your day?

Well if your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you’re not alone.  There are many individuals and businesses alike that are not on Facebook, or Twitter, or any other Social Media medium, yet their lives go on.  The world does not pass you by just because you don’t announce your exact location to the universe by way of foursquare.

That said, by continuing to ignore Social Media, there is an amazing opportunity that you are missing out on, whether your aspirations to connect with people are personal or professional.  Keeping your head firmly buried in the sand in an attempt to pretend that it doesn’t exist doesn’t keep the conversation from taking place; it simply means that you are choosing to be irrelevant.

Social Media has been around for a while.  Network websites such as Friendster, Myspace, Bebo, LinkedIn, etc. have been around since the early days of the internet.  Today there are hundreds of Social Media platforms that are of varying degrees of relevance.  And, while there are established major players who got into it early on and are revered and admired in their niche, that doesn’t mean that the Social Media landscape is competitive to the point of saturation.

The thing that is great about Twitter, Facebook and the like is the fact that there is, and always will be room for more.  Not only is there plenty of room at the top, but they want you there.  The top Social Media users such as Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) are always looking to connect to relevant people who are going to provide value to them.

So if you’re hesitant to get involved, relieve yourself of your prejudices and jump in with both feet.  Here are a few tips to get you going:

  1. If you haven’t already, create accounts at and
  2. Announce to the world by whatever medium you have that you now have accounts on these sites.  This can be a blog post, or by going through your email contacts, or by simply telling them.  Maybe you operate a retail counter – put your username on display in a conspicuous place, or on your receipt.  If you’ve created a fan page on Facebook, encourage them to ‘like’ your page in order to stay in contact – give them an incentive for doing so.
  3. Once you have a few friends or followers, engage them and watch what they do.  If they seem to be prominent in their respective online communities, participate in the discussions and provide value to them while expecting nothing in return.  This will help you grow your own network one you establish yourself as a valuable resource.
  4. Establish a schedule for the amount of time you’ll dedicate to Social Media participation.  Five minutes a couple times a day should be plenty to get started.  The idea is to accumulate people to connect with.  You don’t have to burn hours a day in front of your laptop in order to be successful in Social Media.

The goal of Social Media isn’t to become a guru with 50,000 followers.  If that happens, great – so long as all of your connections are meaningful.  A friends list that contains nothing but a bunch of arbitrary people that you don’t care about and that doesn’t care about you isn’t doing you any favors.  It may be a relatively slow process, but as long as you’re honest in your approach, and you conduct yourself in such a manner that encourages the organic growth of your network, you’ll do just fine.

Transparency is the Key to Doing Business in the Digital Age

I was in a casual conversation recently with a friend/business colleague of mine who asked me point blank why I have my toll free number dial directly to my cell phone.  His tone wasn’t necessarily critical per se – but more of an overt type of concerned observation as to why I would go to the trouble and additional expense to set up an ’866′ number, just to have it ring straight to my hip pocket.  He implied that employing an additional service directing the caller through a series of prompts would be a much better implication that I am a large successful entity.

At first, I was a little annoyed at this suggestion, but it occurred to me that my friend wasn’t wrong in the traditional sense; it’s that his sense of how small business is conducted has shifted dramatically in recent years.

The advent of blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting and the overall unprecedented access that the everyday person has to virtually everything they could ever want to find out has remove the facade of businesses small and big alike.  The old days of the mystique that businesses were afforded have been replaced with an age of complete transparency.  The internet has placed everyone in a glass house.   Those who accept and embrace this new shift in culture have thrived; those who’ve rejected or ignored it have paid a price.

The reality about transparency is that this is not a bad thing at all.  Is it really unfavorable that your clients are able to verify almost every claim you make?   Not if you’re genuine.  However, if you didn’t really manufacture all of the products on your site like your ‘about’ page says you have, then you’re probably going to have a huge PR problem sooner or later.

So why do I have a toll free number at all?  The reason is simple:  Professionalism.  Even though all calls ring straight to my cell, my email is, I work out of my home office and I seldom delegate, it’s still important for me to be a professional – and to promote an image that instills confidence that I am someone who can and will deliver what I say that I will.  That said, it’s not my position to try to appear to be something I’m not.

I am not a corporation, and when you call my number you’re not going to have to press ‘one‘ for English.  What would be the point?  So you can momentarily get the impression that there are other people here?  Why would I want to waste peoples’ time?  Why should I run the additional risk that they will hang up just to give off a falsehood such as portraying myself as bigger than I actually am?  Is this going to boost confidence?  Maybe, but only until they find out the truth.  And it isn’t a question of if, but WHEN they realize I was lying, how is that going to look?  That I was so insecure about what people would think about my operation that I had to put on a mask?  I don’t know about you, but if I encountered someone like that, I would pretty much irrevocably label them as a huge douche and swear off any chance of ever doing business with them.

The Internet has leveled the playing field in the sense that you can tell the frauds from the real deal pretty swiftly.  Pulling the wool over the eyes of the entire public is a daunting task in and of itself.  Think about it.  Remember that old adage your dad used to say that went something like “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”?  Well this is more true today by a factor of 100.  If even one person sees through your bullshit, the connected nature of the Internet means that information literally travels at the speed of light.  The viral nature of the web, combined with the almost scary  amount of influence that blogs such as The Huffington Post and TechCrunch possess means you’ll be dead in the water faster than you can imagine.  And chances are, the cat will be out of the bag before before you even know it – and by then damage control will be a pipe dream.

Six Principles I’ve learned After One Year of Internet Marketing

The beginning of the second half of the year Twenty-Ten marks the one-year anniversary of my first paying job in this ever changing industry.

That first job was a simple research project that was completed in less than a weeks time, but it opened the door to a wide variety of new tasks and challenges over the past 12 months that have rocked my world in every conceivable way … OK not every conceivable way ;)

1 year in internet marketing


One of the things that I really loved about this industry that was a complete 180 from the world of retail management is the fact that no two jobs are alike.  I’ve had projects that revolved around computer server repair, sunscreen, local restaurants, online auctions, etc.; every single project presents a different set of objectives to achieve and challenges to overcome.  Even multiple tasks for the same client are often very different in scope.

Along the way I’ve learned millions of things – way too many to fit into a single blog post.  But there are a few things that I’d like to share – you may not find this groundbreaking or life-altering but hopefully they’ll at least provide a fundamental reiteration of some basic principles if nothing else.

It’s not who you are.  It’s not even who you know.  It’s who knows you that’s important.

To put it another way, the number of people I know far exceeds the number of people who know me.   I know a lot of business people in this area in the sense that I know what they can do for me with respect to their business.   I know what line of work they’re in and who they’re connected to.  While this is important, saying that I know the Pete Brands (@petebrand) and Rich Apps of the local business scene is only marginally useful unless these people know what I can do for them and others.  To achieve this, you have to give before you get.  Provide true value in any way that you can while expecting nothing in return.

There are no little people.

I say this from the perspective of a ‘little person’.  What I mean by that is although I’ve made a lot of progress in the past 12 months, I’ve by no means arrived.  There are plenty of people around here and beyond who have accomplished a helluva lot more than I have, and are highly regarded in the community.  But what I’ve learned is that despite this fact, they were once little people too.  And furthermore, even though they are more successful than they once were, there were prominent people who helped them get to where they are now when.  And on top of all that, they know that without the little people, there’d be no big people.  It’s like the old adage goes – if there were no ugly girls, there’d be no pretty ones either.

But what I’ve really learned is that no one is really on a pedestal.  Just because someone is on TV a lot or has a nice office and drives a Porsche doesn’t mean that that person should be regarded any differently than anyone else – it just means that they’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish a few things.  But even they know that they didn’t get there without help.

Name dropping is highly underrated.

This is one I just picked up recently.  I was at a recruiting event for a club in downtown GR – they were courting new members to join in order to continue growth and keep the club open.  It was by invite only.  Pete invited me so I decided to go check it out.

There were obviously many members there meeting and greeting prospective newcomers.  I met a gentleman who I knew of prior – he asked me who I knew and when I told him who’d invited me, his face went from the doldrums of a five-minute conversation with someone he never intended to remember to genuine interest.  Now, it wasn’t my intention to drop a name or anything like that – I wasn’t trying to impress this guy and I had been succeeding admirable to this point.  The thing is, I wasn’t trying to win favor with anyone – nor was I trying to work this little bombshell into the conversation.  I just answered his question.  The funny thing is, Pete is pretty highly regarded around these parts – I don’t know if you’ve ever had a friend get famous or have significant success, but this is a new experience for me.  The thing is, Pete is still just Pete to me.  He’s the same guy I’ve always talked shit to at the poker table and on the golf course.

Always strive to be an expert knowing all along you’ll never reach that status… it is OK to not correct people who mistakenly label you as such however :)

Have you ever noticed that the moniker ‘Expert’ is never self applied?  You know why?  Because it’s a myth.  The true experts are labeled by others.  And even if you are considered by your peers to be highly regarded in your field, it isn’t something you should let go to your head.  There is always more to learn, new techniques to develop, new discoveries to be made.  The moment you decide that you’ve learned enough, you’re toast.

There is no guarantee that you’ll be relevant tomorrow, no matter how huge you are today.

If you don’t believe me just ask Myspace.

When it comes to Social Media activities, if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

Social Media participation is pretty crucial to the transparency that is required to succeed in today’s business world.  It allows so many opportunities to connect with so many different people that you’re crazy not to engage in these activities.  That said, this is not a tactic or a chore.  If you don’t enjoy sharing and connecting with people, then you shouldn’t participate.

The thing about SM and the like is the fact that if you’re not into it, it will show and the last thing you want is to be labeled a phony.  There are too many choices for consumers today for them to waste their time with someone who doesn’t want to be there.

And a few other nuggets:

If you don’t have time to do it right, you’ll never find time to do it over.

Being self employed does not mean that you are your own boss.  If you have 100 clients, then you have 100 bosses.

You have to be yourself.

You’re Never Too Busy for Social Media

By now there’s no excuse for not taking advantage of the amazing amount of opportunity that effective participation in Social Media can offer.  SM can and will provide a benefit to your life or business whether it’s connecting with someone who knows someone who needs a service you provide, or if it simply offers a way to hook up with a handful of new people to play poker with on Thursday evenings.  There is quite literally something in it for everyone.

But, when talking amongst colleagues, clients and prospective clients who may be a little late to the party about the benefits of Social Media, the single most common point of resistance is that participating in Facebook, Twitter and the like is an unproductive use of their time – especially when they consider all of the other ‘real world’ obligations they have pulling them in 100 different directions.  The truth is that although there is a little bit of a schedule commitment to Social Media, it isn’t nearly as much of a time-sucker as it is often perceived to be.

We all know someone who spends hours a day on Facebook.  They seemingly update their status hourly with all sorts of useless and uninteresting tidbits ranging from announcing that they are home from taking their kids to school to complaining about the old lady driving 20 miles per hour under the speed limit on a two-lane country road making them late to whatever destination they were headed for.  These types of stories – while always related in a mocking tone, are not the best use of Social Media, and this brand of obsessive behavior is the exception, not the norm.

The cool thing about Social Media is that while you choose your own level of involvement, the success you’ll derive is not proportional to the amount of time and resources you dedicate to the activity.  As I was explaining to a client during a presentation just the other day, Social Media is the type of endeavor that shows a lot of back end benefits that you don’t always see right away – and it isn’t something you can force.  Successful participation in the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube is a very organic, genuine process.  The cream rises to the top and the pretenders and offenders are very easily and swiftly weeded out.

The trick to finding time for Social Media is to remove the idea that the activity as a whole is a task or a chore.  You’re using it to connect with people.  If you’re a business looking to get new clients or customers, use it to add an element of humanity to your business.  Engage people and provide value by way of free information, or simply join or start a conversation.  It’s called Social Media for a reason.

Twitter and Facebook are set up so that you can conveniently receive an email anytime you’re mentioned or something of interest comes to light – and there are external tools like TweetDeck that also make using the sites a more efficient undertaking.

When you’re starting out, plan to spend five minute, three or four times a day playing with your Social Media accounts.  Find people to follow or friend up, retweet interesting stuff you find, post interesting questions to garner responses, or respond to the posts of others.  There are many ways to use these tools – but the trick is to have fun with it.  If you don’t enjoy yourself, then don’t participate, because it will be obvious if you aren’t into it or you are only in it for self-serving reasons.  Value the experience and value the connections you’ll make and relationships you’ll create, and you’ll reap the rewards for a long time to come.

The Internet is not a Small Town in Indiana

If you’ve ever lived or owned a business in Small Town USA, you know all too well the element of community that makes small businesses go.  The patrons of the locally owned restaurants and grocery stores and auto repair shops are all very well familiar with the owners of these businesses, as they usually live in the area and it’s not uncommon for their businesses to have been around for generations.

So it’s only natural instinct to apply this same principle when your business ambitions expand into cyberspace.  The first thing you’re naturally inclined to do is fill the homepage of your new website with a bunch of warm and fuzzy text telling the visitor about how your business was founded by your great-grandaddy Jebediah and has been in the Podunk community for 700 years and on and on.  The problem is, we’re not in Kansas anymore.The element of community is strengthened by the fact that more often than not, the owner of the business is also the same guy who operates the register.  Loyalty to the local economy feels good knowing their hard earned dollars are going into the pockets of another hard working man or woman that they’ve known and trusted for years.  Business owners know that these relationships are built one at a time and are the core of their survival.


The Internet has earned several monikers over the years, from ‘Information SuperHighway’ to ‘Global Village’.  And, while these superlatives do have a fundamental level of accuracy to them, the fact is the Internet has both connected people and divided them at the same time.

The small town appeal of your business no longer applies when it comes to operating in an online space.  Visitors to your site are there for a specific purpose – they’re looking to solve a problem.  If your site solves that problem quickly and effectively without forcing the user to jump through a whole bunch of hoops, you’ll likely earn their business in the future.  But, if you bombard them with a bunch of crap they don’t care about, they’ll probably click the ‘back’ button on their browser before the page even finishes loading.

In today’s world of e-commerce, visitors to your site don’t care about you.  They only care about what’s in it for them.  The reason is that there are so many different competing sites in most niches that it simplifies the equation to this: Your potential customers or clients will do business with whomever makes it the most convenient to do so. Period.  No one is going to buy from you just because you’re a nice guy, or because your shop has been family owned and operated since the Civil War.

So when you’re planning the navigation of your site (you do have a plan for this, right?), take yourself out of the equation for a minute and consider how your users are going to interact with the site.  Give them what they want, as conveniently as possible and you’ll be successful.  Because in today’s world, the sites who provide the best user experience are the ones who win. I guess the old saying still applies; nice guys really do finish last.

Social Media Tip for Business: Treat Facebook like an Online Rolodex

I received an email last week from a gentleman seeking advice on escaping the worker-bee lifestyle that is traditional gainful employment to pursue a more fulfilling career path.

I wrote a short response and encouraged him to friend me up on any of the social media accounts linked in my email.  His remark was one I’ve heard all too many times:

“I have been resistant to the social media sites (which I know needs to change) but I have a minimal presence on Linked-In so I can connect there.”

I don’t want to be too hard on my new friend, as this is a very common attitude amongst people who on the surface see no legitimate reason to spend a bunch of time connecting with strangers.  I understand the mindset 100% – as many people who know me will gladly point out my stubborn unwillingness to conform to the activities of Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and the like.  But, I eventually realized that the ROI for time spent online is not always quantifiable in the traditional ways of thinking.

If you are finding yourself questioning the need to participate in Social Media, consider looking at it from a different perspective.  The next time you’re at a party, or a networking event, or even simply in a social setting where you know less than half the people there (like a wedding reception), think of how many people you’d remember if 1/3 of the people you didn’t know handed you a business card.  Would you remember who gave you what?  Maybe, but if you’re like me, chances are the conversations will begin to run together and putting a face to a business card you find in your shirt pocket on laundry day will be about as likely as Kate Gosselin remembering all of her kids’ names at first glance.

And that’s where Facebook comes in.  Think of Facebook as a Rolodex on steroids.

Rolodexes – remember them silly little things?  They are filled with neat little 2″x3″ notecards (3″x4″ if you had the deluxe model) for you to write anything and everything you could cram onto that tiny white canvas about your contact – and they were even tabbed alphabetically!  What could possibly be better?

Well, 30 years ago the answer to that question is probably nothing.  But times have changed.  Remember those business cards you collected at that meeting?  With Facebook, you can look them up and become their friend, whether they are a business or an individual – and learn all about them.  Instead of a stale notecard in a Rolodex, you get a whole bunch of information about their work, their family, their interests, hobbies – all kinds of stuff that you can use to connect with them on a personal level.  Furthermore, you can also follow the people that they already connect with and meet those with similar interests and/or needs.

And not only will you learn all about them, they’ll learn all about you. Furthermore, they’re going to remember that you were the one out of all the people they handed business cards to that night to follow up.

I know what you’re thinking, that this sounds all well and good, but isn’t it more than a tad presumptuous to assume that someone wants to be your friend after one meeting?  While this might be closer to reality in social circles, it’s different online.  On the Internet, people are on there to make connections.  While it’s true that there are some that only friend up people they know in real life, the majority of people will be happy to make a new friend.  I know I always am.  I’ve met a ton of cool people through Facebook and Twitter that I’d never have had the chance to encounter otherwise.

In fact, if you enjoyed reading this or any of my other work, why not take a second and friend me up.

Search Engine Optimization is No Longer Enough

It doesn’t matter what type of business you run, if you’ve checked your email in the last five years, you’ve undoubtedly received spam from the so-called SEO experts who promise to get you to the number one spot on Google for your keyword of choice – all for the low low price of just $39.99.

While this practice (ahem scam) has faded away significantly in the past 12 months, it still has left an fallacious perception in its wake that SEO – or Search Engine Optimization is the be-all-end-all of your online marketing efforts.  Get to the front page of Google and those 20,000 people a month who search for your particular phrase will come banging down the virtual door to your website automatically.  The problem is that not only is this not the case, it never was.

Another byproduct of the race to be number one on Google phenomenon is that it spawned a whole new group of people who call themselves SEO specialists, whose sole function was to implement as many of the known SEO techniques as they could for a sizable fee – with varying results.  The demand for this type of service flooded the marketplace with talentless hacks and wannabes – often charging thousands of dollars in return for very little.  As more and more companies got burned, they became leery of the industry as a whole, and legitimate web development firms were hurt as a result of this negative perception.

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a web development partner of mine who mentioned that, while pitching my services to a client of his, referred to me as his SEO Specialist.

At first, I thought he was simply referring to what I do in terms that his client was familiar with, and I didn’t think much of it.  In many ways, calling me an SEO Specialist isn’t the most inaccurate or unflattering way to describe what it is that I do.  But when it came up again in a subsequent conversation, it made me a little uncomfortable with the possible connotations and limitations that this type of label could imply.

The problem I had is that I do so much more than simply implementing SEO tactics to on-page elements.  SEO, while it’s very important in the overall scheme of things, is only a small part of what a web strategy is all about.  Which brings me to the point of all of this, and saying this publicly isn’t going to make me very popular with certain ‘peers’ in this business, but it’s time to call a spade a spade:

Search Engine Optimization, as a discipline of Internet Marketing, is all but dead. SEO is now (and really always was) a fundamental aspect of the bigger picture, which is to determine who your customers are, what problems they’re looking to solve, how they are searching, what (if any) competition is already in the marketplace, etc.; then develop a strategy to attract targeted visitors, determine what actions you want them to take on your site, design/optimize your site with the right layouts and calls to actions, etc.  SEO is only one piece of that grand puzzle, and it is as fundamental as even having a website in the first place.