Learning and Teaching: Do Both for a Dynamic Career

Posted on July 27, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Communications, Education, Inbound Marketing, Online Marketing, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Learning and Teaching a Dynamic Lifelong Cycle

Both learning and teaching contribute to a dynamic career

I’ve been thinking about the learning and teaching cycle.

When I first started this blog, I was an inbound marketing neophyte, just starting to transition my communications practice from traditional PR to an array of online services. At the time I was acutely aware of being a student and sought teachers and mentors.

Ironically, I was moving from a place where I was highly competent and knowledgeable and where I was teacher and mentor to interns who sought me out and went on to make it in the business. Stepping into their shoes turned out to be an exciting and energizing experience.

Today, I’m still a student because there’s always something new to learn. And I love being engaged in learning. It’s stimulating. But almost three years into this transition, with a body of good work to point to in my new service areas, I’ve begun to feel credible as a teacher again – even moreso with my new knowledge and skills integrated into my earlier experience.

It’s a good thing, too, because businesses still need a great deal of education in order to begin taking advantage of the powerful marketing tools available to them. Teaching is so gratifying because it reveals to us just how much we’ve learned and can apply to helping our clients. It also clearly points the direction to our next student stint.

The cycle of knowing and needing to learn keeps us moving productively into the future. What are you learning and teaching?

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Inbound Marketing Education is in Middle School

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Content, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

HubSpot Inbound Marketing System

HubSpot Developed an Efficient System for Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing has been around for several years now. It’s the subject of bestselling books by David Meerman Scott and HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. In fact, HubSpot has surpassed the 5000-customer mark for the Internet-based content management system they invented to put all of the pieces of inbound marketing together.

Yet, when I sit in a roomful of business owners and ask how many people know what inbound marketing is, frequently all hands stay down. Or a hand will shoot up and the eager contributor will say, “Social Media.”

It’s clear to me that we inbound marketers have a lot more work to do educating the marketplace about the approach. Yes, social media is a component of inbound marketing, but it’s only one.

There seems to be pretty widespread awareness of other inbound marketing components, too, like SEO, blogging and email marketing. Yet there’s little awareness of how all of these efforts can coalesce in an effective and measurable process. This post is one of a number I’ve written to help flesh out the process in a way that’s meaningful to business people.

At heart, inbound marketing is just marketing updated to reach our potential customers where they are – online – then to get their interest and win their trust so that when they buy, they buy from us. These days, it’s harder, if not impossible, to find our prospects by advertising in newspapers (why they’re shrinking), by telemarketing (think voicemail), on TV (thanks to TiVo and DVR) and other traditional channels. But future buyers are almost all online – at least enough of them to keep our businesses growing.

Business owners and managers I speak with will often say, “Well, we’re driving lots of traffic to our website, but we’re not sure what it’s getting us.” Then I ask, “What’s your bounce rate? And what are you doing to convert traffic to leads?”

They begin to understand inbound marketing when I explain how it serves as a lead generation and lead nurturing system. When they realize that inbound marketing can be planned and implemented with the objective of helping them reach revenue goals, it becomes a much more interesting idea to explore. It becomes a compelling idea when they recognize that analytics can be integrated and success measured.

There are a lot of steps to inbound marketing. It can seem daunting at first. It does take some re-thinking about how you do marketing. And it does take an investment of time, staff resources and budget. But, properly done, it works and pays big dividends.

I use HubSpot’s content management system for my own company’s inbound marketing. There are other ways to approach and handle inbound marketing using multiple sources. But for me, HubSpot offers the best system, education and support – especially for small to mid-sized companies I work with.

As the product matures, there’s now a developer’s marketplace growing up around HubSpot that’s yielding and will continue to produce plug-ins, variations and customization for the original software, similar to WordPress. They’ve also made some recent acquisitions that will beef up various aspects of the product – including middle-of-the-funnel and larger enterprise functionality.

At minimum, HubSpot walks the walk regarding sharing useful information. The company is a virtual content factory and you can immerse in free educational downloads, blogs and other information, free webinars and a free trial to get a good feel for how inbound marketing works.

In the interest of disclosure, I’m a HubSpot Value Added Reseller in addition to being a user. But I don’t mean this post to be a commercial. I became a VAR because HubSpot is the most intelligent and efficient inbound marketing system I’ve found. It can help my clients to grow their businesses and I can help clients to better utilize the system from the VAR position.

Have you learned enough about inbound marketing to begin implementing it in some form?

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Online Lessons from My Offline Networking Group

Posted on July 14, 2011. Filed under: Blogs, Business Management, Communications, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I belong to a networking group that I experience as exceptional. We’re all in service businesses. Some of us are business owners. Some of us work for companies. But we’re all entrepreneurial at heart.

Business Networking

Not! Networking Takes Time!!

We’re all competent at our businesses. We share high ethical standards and values. We found each other in the wider world through introductions, networking events introductions from other trusted connections. We identified each other as people that we want to ‘follow’ – to borrow the online concept.

Our group is not about trading leads. It’s a longer term play. It’s about getting to know one another. It’s about building confidence and trust. It’s about learning enough about each other that we can recognize good opportunities for other group members when confronted with them.

We span demographics of age and gender. We maintain decorum but are comfortable enough with one another that we can let down our guard and be human. We exist to help one another, understanding that the sharing will help our individual businesses.

When I build online communities for myself and for my clients, I think about the principles behind my offline network and try to approach online community building with the same sense of shared interest and generosity.

You can learn more about our group model at www.ctconnected.org. Feel free to borrow. It works.

Do you have an offline networking group? Tell us about it and how it helps you to build your business.

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Online Marketing for Small Business: Helping a Diverse, Ill-Defined Group

Posted on July 13, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Communications, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Nonprofit, Not-for-profit, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Online Marketing for Small Business

Regardless of definition, small businesses need help putting it all together online.

Because I write for this blog for small businesses – a very ill-defined segment –I’ve decided to talk today about who you are from my perspective. You’re a group that ‘s quite misunderstood in terms of your diverse human characteristics – everywhere from government statistics to media coverage. Truth is, you’re not a monolithic group, but you do face similar marketing issues.

Although I keep up with the latest advances in web technology on your behalf, as I speak with you, I know that’s not necessarily what’s top of mind for you. Most of the companies I’m working with – or who are calling me in to help them get to the next level online — are very savvy. They have an earlier generation website, they have social media channels going, they’ve set up an ecommerce store, they’re doing email campaigns, have attended LinkedIn seminars. They know that online is where the world is and will continue to go. They’ve done the best they can.

But they need help figuring out how to make it all pay off for their businesses and how to organize online marketing into a manageable system. Time and limited resources are the enemy.

I can also tell you that small businesses defy easy categorization. We all see references to SMSB – Small to Mid-Sized Businesses. But the definitions of who they are and how small/large these companies are is all over the map. Attempts are made to define them by revenue, number of employees and other metrics. But in my experience, that’s not enough. So who are they?

Here are some of the varied characteristics of small businesses I’ve worked with:

  • Main Street mom-and-pop bricks-and-mortar stores marketing locally.
  • Start-ups with great ideas or products and bootstrap budgets.
  • Established businesses with a few employees that market nationally or even globally.
  • Growing regional companies building infrastructure.
  • Exciting businesses – and nonprofits, too — transitioning from the original entrepreneurial founders to management with next-stage experience.
  • Established bricks-and-mortars launching ecommerce divisions.
  • Start-ups with angel funding.
  • Divisions of larger companies with Round ‘A’ venture funding.
  • Entrepreneurships with varying levels of experience and previous success.
  • Billion dollar enterprises with three employees looking for the right kind of strategic marketing help.
  • Manufacturing and service companies with revenues up to 150 million dollars.
  • Established innovators ripe for acquisition with the right positioning and visibility.
  • Any and all of the above trying to gain recognition for any number of strategic and tactical reasons.

What you and the aforementioned small business types share is that you need scalable help making the web work for you. Regardless of revenues or budgets, you have limited time, staff and/or budget resources and need to get effective and efficient outside advice and/or implementation help.

The objective of this blog is to help you understand the current and emerging environment, for sure, but at a level that does not forsake the practical advice that will help you make the best use of what you have available.

Conversation is part of the equation, so please continue to send your comments, questions and ideas.

Image from deanmeyersnet under Creative Commons license.

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Short Post on Facebook vs Google+: Is the new solving old problems?

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: Facebook, Google, Inbound Marketing, Marketing, Small Business, Social Media, Twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Old vs New

Does the New Solve Old Problems?

Sometimes having a new online marketing tool gets us thinking about what it is about the old tool that we’ve just been putting up with because we had no good options. Until today, I wasn’t that focused on Google+, the new social media service from Google.

If you’ve read – or go back and read – my last few posts, you’ll see that I’ve used the launch of Google+ to focus on the fact that most businesses haven’t yet nailed online marketing basics – let alone what’s new coming down the pike.

But today I realized that Facebook would be much more helpful if we could attach other info than video and image files and outside links. I was posting basic info about an event being put on by an account I administer. It would have been helpful to attach a copy of the flyer or press release to give more details. No dice.

I searched around and came up with a Facebook-centric posting service called PosterWall.com that didn’t seem to intuitively solve the problem – although if I play around with it I might figure it out. But at least in the process I learned that lots of other people are frustrated by the file sharing limitations of Facebook.

To make matters worse today, in the process of playing around with various ways I might share the desired files, I accidentally deleted a previous post and there’s no way to undelete it.

As a subscriber to daily emails of Chris Brogan’s blog, I’ve been following his excellent and ongoing reviews of Google+. As a non-invitation-holder to the current field trial, I have to rely on trusted others to get me up to speed. Chris’ explorations have been very practical and give a visual peek into the Google+ world. You can see for yourself at www.chrisbrogan.com. No need for me to re-invent the wheel here.

But as I watched a very helpful ‘screen cast’ Chris put out today of the Google+ environment, it looked to me that in the area that corresponds to the Facebook Wall, there was no option for posting, say, a Word file. I left a comment to that effect and will let you know if I get a response. Plus I will do additional research.

Looking at the idea of Google+ Circles (different groups and communities that you can define for purposes of what to share with whom) I’m wondering what the difference is from the Lists in Twitter. I started making lists when Lists was first introduced, but as my Twitter followers have increased and people follow me from various arenas, I’ve stopped taking the time to figure out what lists they belong on.  Will that be the same with Circles?

I guess the point of this post is that what gets us interested in the new is when the old doesn’t meet our needs. If the new doesn’t meet them either, then it won’t surpass the old.

Image is from Mrs Logic Under Creative Commons License.

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Getting Started With Inbound Marketing: Take Small Bites of the Basics

Posted on July 8, 2011. Filed under: Blogging, Blogs, Business Management, Communications, Content, Facebook, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Marketing, SEO, Small Business, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

New Orleans Music - Inbound Marketing Basics

New Orleans Music - Inbound Marketing Basics

Today I’m blogging to music provided in the latest post of a very interesting person and ethnomusicologist (Google it. I did.) whose blog is called SocioSound. We ‘met’ through our blogs. Anyhow – SocioSound just shared five favorite New Orleans tunes. Two of them are also faves of mine by the Rebirth Brass Band.

I happen to have the album in my collection. So I’m going to share one of the tunes – Feel Like Funkin’ It Up — here and pass along an upbeat experience to boost you into the weekend. Of course, you control the play button so only listen if you want to.

All week I’ve been thinking that although social media and other online and inbound marketing techniques have been widely accepted and as they say, “…are here to stay,” there’s still a lot of learning to be done about the basics.

This morning I read a really interesting post about how people are using QR (Quick Response) codes in their marketing. I agree that the ability to help people connect with your website and various marketing offers by scanning QR codes with their mobile phones is very cool. But, for many, that would be running before walking.

Case in point: A bit later I had lunch with a newspaper editor friend of mine who scheduled a Twitter tutorial with me because she still hasn’t gotten up to speed. And Twitter is a particularly good tool for journalists. Plenty of people are still catching up with basic tools that have been around for awhile.

As I started to explore in yesterday’s post, there’s something new to learn virtually every day in online marketing and it’s truly difficult to keep up, even if it’s your profession. That’s why I’m recommending to many companies that they not worry about every new thing coming down the pike until they get the basics in place.

To me, the basics still begin with figuring out what you want to accomplish in your business. How many new customers to generate how much new revenue in what period of time? Once you know that, there’s existing technology to help you build and utilize a web presence to achieve at least some, if not all, of your objectives.

From what I can see, among smaller and mid-sized companies, very few are really using the web effectively for business development. Even though some studies show smaller businesses building Facebook pages at a pretty impressive clip, that’s only one small piece of a well-constructed online marketing program. And if you sell B2B, you may not want to be on Facebook at all.

It helps to take a look at the big picture first and then determine a logical plan for your company. If there’s a move afoot to update your website, you’ll get more bang for the buck if you take the opportunity to review your overall marketing.

Yes, your site is a central focus of online marketing. So explore what kind of site with what capabilities will contribute to success of the overall plan. Have the plan first. I still see lots of new sites with no SEO and people are till putting up sites built all in Flash, which search engines simply don’t see. So they can’t accomplish even the first step in inbound marketing – getting found.

Recently, I was speaking to a marketing director for an area business about inbound marketing and how it could be used in his industry. He was interested and requested that I get back in touch in a month. They were redoing their website, he said, and couldn’t undertake any other marketing until that was complete.

I suggested that a great time to begin developing an effective online plan is during the website redesign process. It would be unfortunate to invest in a website and then learn a month later that you should have gone in a different direction.

If you have a small company, invest an hour or two with a consultant who can give you a clear overview of the inbound marketing process — from making sure you can be found online right through closed loop analytics to assess the ROI of your efforts and improve where necessary.

Then you can begin to identify effective steps that are realistic for your company to accomplish. You don’t have to have the whole meal at one swallow. It may go down easier with everyone in your company if you take it one bite, then one course at a time, finally enjoying the fruits of your labors for dessert.

It must be the New Orleans music that made me finish with food metaphors. Have a tasty weekend!

Poster image by dingler1109 under Creative Commons license. I chose this image because it’s about a fundraiser to help the reconstruction of New Orleans and it also supported childhood learning – a concept not at odds with our learning the basics of Inbound Marketing.

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Ignore Google vs Facebook Battle of the Titans. Keep Your Eye on Your Plan

Posted on July 7, 2011. Filed under: Business Management, Content, Facebook, Google, Marketing, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Facebook vs Google

Don't be Distracted from Your Online Marketing Plan by the Facebook vs Google Battle of the Titans

Anymore when I read my morning feeds, I feel like I always do when the local news gives the Monday morning movie box office scores. Why??

The online ‘movie of the month’ — Facebook & Google: Titans’ Battle to Destiny — is making my head spin. I’m used to things rolling fast in the technology world, but do you get the sense that at this moment the game has ramped up for some reason?

I’ve spent a good deal of time reading reviews of the Google+ field test. The arc that reviews have followed is similar to what I’ve experienced with other emerging tools and online phenomena.

  • The brush off (we’ll have to see what this is all about).
  • The immersions (Just spent several hours on whatever the new thing and here are my initial reactions).
  • The instant embraces and rejections depending on guru.
  • The reality of whether everyone other than the insiders actually adopts the new thing in time.

Now today, the news breaks about the Facebook/Skype collaboration on video chat within Facebook. I read the news right after reading Chris Brogan’s positive review of the Hangout feature in Google+ that allows up to 10 people to video-chat at the same time.

Apparently Facebook video chat is a one-to-one deal. I read several blog posts this afternoon that offer mixed reviews of Facebook’s new video venture. But does any of this really matter to you right now?

Readers, please know that I keep up on this stuff. But I don’t necessarily jump in and start blogging about the next great thing online. I’m working with small to mid-sized companies that are still trying to get their next generation websites up, figure out why they need to blog – and how can we ever find the time to do it – and a lot of other things that they need to understand and embrace to use the Web to grow their businesses.

So I say, WHOA!!!! Don’t pay attention to all the buzz and the battle of the titans going on among the huge players whose future lies in trying to control what the future will be.

Let’s not get distracted, my small to mid-sized business friends. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball and implement a rational online marketing plan, based on real objectives, using the proven tools of today.

Promise. When the new stuff is really meaningful to your business, I’ll help get you up to speed.

Is your head spinning with daily Google-Facebook news? What are you doing to keep your online marketing plan on track?

Image by Jason Barles Under Creative Commons License

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My Contrarian Google Post: Something New But Not Google+

Posted on June 30, 2011. Filed under: Content, Google, Search, Semantic Web, Small Business | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Another Google Launch

Another Google Launch

Yesterday and today many of my fellow bloggers in the social media/online marketing space were abuzz about Google+. I was contemplating whether to add my slightly informed two cents to the discussion when I opened my browser. The home page is the New York Times and there, in a banner ad, one day after Google+ launched, was an invitation to demo the also new Google Voice for the desktop.

Google Voice

Get Google Voice!

I was so excited! Google Voice on my Droid is a great fave. It’s so much easier to speak my queries than to try to type them into the tiny browser pane on a phone – especially sitting at red lights. Granted voice search on mobile can be tricky at times, but what the mike hears – compared to what you’re actually searching for can be amusing – if not downright laugh-worthy.

Thinking about it for a moment, I wasn’t sure that voice search would be as valuable at my desk, since the typing thing isn’t as challenging as on mobile. It probably won’t help in multi-tasking as I can’t interrupt a phone call to speak search terms into a mike, but nonetheless I decided to give it a try right away.

All I needed for my demo was the latest version of the Google Chrome browser, which I already have downloaded and which I use sometimes – not always. When I do use it, I’m always bemused by the fact that the Start Internet button on Chrome has the MSN butterfly logo and when you click it, it brings up a big Bing search window. Is this Google generosity? I don’t know.

Anyhow, the instructions for demo-ing Google Voice were to go to Google.com, make sure your microphone is on and click on the microphone icon in the search pane.

I decided to test drive voice search with a search for the restaurant where I’m meeting a friend later. I didn’t remember the full name but we call it by the abbreviation, Sails. It’s named for the boating community of RowaytonConnecticutwhere it’s located. Can you see what’s coming??

After I clicked the mike icon, the ‘Speak Now’ thingy (the high tech name for it of course) activated and I said “Sails Rowayton.”

The results came up with variations on: Sales in Rowayton andNorwalk.

OK. Time to adjust. So I tried again with ‘Sails Restaurant Rowayton.”

Again I got a lot of stuff around Sales and some restaurant related results.

Then I thought that maybe it’s ‘Sails Grille’ so I tried that and Bingo! (not Bing Oh) I got results for “Sails American Grille Rowayton CT”

How funny that my first experience with Google Voice involved homonyms – sound alike/different meanings for the non-English majors. That’s trial by fire in my book. So I decided to try a less challenging search: “Norwalk Movies.”

A second after the sounds left my throat, there were the times of all the movies we might want to see after dinner at Sails. My typing-weary fingers said ‘Thank You” and fortunately Google Voice didn’t hear them and start a new search.

I don’t how useful it will ultimately be, but I kind of like speaking to the voice searcher at my desk – more than I like speaking to the devil women in voicemail menu hell. I have to admit that I actually yell at them sometimes.

I experience the voice searcher as a more generous entity, trying to help me find what I want without controlling me. We’ll get to know each other better and I’ll get better at figuring out how to get what I need from our ‘conversation.’ Maybe I’ll stick a note in Google’s suggestion box that they should hire Watson for the job. He’ll get the context and nuance. That’ll probably be the new Google launch next week.

Stay tuned. What’s your favorite new Google release?

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Writing as Conversation: 7 Do’s and 7 Don’ts to Find Your Voice

Posted on June 27, 2011. Filed under: Blogging, Blogs, Communications, Content, Human Business, Inbound Marketing, Reputation Management, Small Business, Social Media, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

In previous posts I’ve mentioned my daily email vocabulary builder, A Word A Day (www.wordsmith.org). It’s free and if you’re blogging and trying to spiff up your writing, I recommend you sign up. A Word A Day also includes a Thought for Today, a wise quote from a variety of sources. This morning’s quote inspired this post.

“Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.” -Laurence Sterne, novelist and clergyman (1713-1768) 

Age of Conversation

Writing as Conversation

I love the idea of writing as conversation. Straight from the 18th century comes a concept as fresh as though it were communicated for the first time in 2011. Contrary to the sales-y communications of traditional advertising, or the corporate-speak of the last generation (and in some cases the current generation) of company websites, or the overly-nuanced language of press releases, writing in a social, Web 2.0 world calls for a different – and conversational — style.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about you and wondering what you might have to contribute on this topic. Also, I’m hoping that you will add to it. We’re all learning new tools and new tactics everyday. So conversing to pool our knowledge, experience and wisdom is a very good thing.

 When we communicate verbally, though, it’s easier to have our personalities come through. In addition to the visual cues in-person talk provides, it’s somehow more spontaneous when words spill from our lips and don’t require fingers on keyboards lagging behind a thought process.

Nonetheless, we’re all communicating in writing all the time these days – especially in emails, on blogs and on social media sites. So please allow me to offer a few thoughts about finding an authentic voice for written conversation.

  • Do write as though you were speaking.
  • Don’t over think the first draft. You can – and should – always go back and edit.
  • Do share occasional personal thoughts, perceptions and experiences when they serve to illustrate a point.
  • Don’t go overboard with personal info. Learn to walk a line that offers an authentic peek at who you are, while retaining a business-like decorum.
  • Do use interesting words and turns of phrase.
  • Don’t use industry jargon — and no off-color language.
  • Do try for humor at moments that can benefit from a bit of lightening up or to poke fun at yourself for some human foible that anyone can relate to.
  • Don’t make jokes at someone’s expense – including your own. Leave sarcasm and snark out of the equation. It’s not attractive.
  • Do be polite. Welcome your readers, acknowledge them and thank them.
  • Don’t be overly-solicitous; it’s not credible. Invite disagreement.
  • Do be a cheerleader for others. Use your content to include their ideas and praise their achievements.
  • Don’t promote your own stuff exclusively
  • Do listen for what’s important to your audience/s.
  • Don’t assume you know what’s important to others. Asking questions is divine.

And so I’ll conclude with this question…

How have you found your conversational writing voice?

 

Photo by Kris Hoet Under Creative Commons License

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Small Businesses: Beware of Online Marketing Offers from Your Local Paper

Posted on April 28, 2011. Filed under: Advertising, Blogs, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Newspapers, SEO | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is longer than most of my posts. But I’m really het up! Music-wise, no relevance. I just picked something that always makes me feel happy and relaxed – Flor de Lis by Djavan.

These days, when you’re convinced you should be advertising in your local paper, your newspaper ad rep will likely be trying to sell you an array of online services. Some – like Hearst Media CT — will even offer you a dollar for dollar match of print advertising for every dollar you spend in online advertising. Sounds great, right? Now my $10,000 budget just became worth $20,000. Yes, but by what metrics do you determine the value of this offer. Right off the bat, the offer implies that the print publications are worth zero.

I am all for effective integration of online/offline marketing. However I’m finding that as traditional media – especially newspapers – transition their businesses online, there are some big pitfalls for unwary advertisers.

Case in point: I recently launched a new medical practice that draws from a pretty local market. We built a website and carefully optimized it for organic search. We registered the site in the key local search directories – Google, Yahoo! And Bing and quickly began coming up #1 on page 1 for our important terms.

The partners in the practice wanted to launch with some local traditional advertising as well. We canvassed the local media for print and online ad rates. In our area – Fairfield County, Connecticut — Hearst Media now owns four daily papers in all but one of the biggest cities and a time-honored chain of weeklies that covers some of the key smaller towns.

Hearst said to us: Whatever your ad spend online and in a targeted bi-monthly health/lifestyle magazine, we’ll give you a 100%, dollar for dollar match in print advertising in our other publications.

Here’s the rub. What is the online ad spend really worth. The promise is that there’s lots of analytic data to evaluate the online ROI, but the reports are a real disappointment. We bought visibility on three daily paper websites with geo-targeting to three local weeklies. The problem is that Hearst can’t break out the geo-targeting.

The rates are based on CPM – how many impressions – not click throughs. Unfortunately the sales staff is not well-informed and the analytics not precise enough to offer any advice on placement, aggregate analysis of what constitutes a good CTR, or anything that can be helpful to a marketer trying to get value for a client.

Then there are deceptive ‘SEO’ programs that are sold as collaborations with Google and other search engines to get you to come up higher in search rankings. No one at Hearst could really explain the program to us. The best we got was that you get a landing page on the back end of their site. Does it have a backlink to our site? I asked. Yes I think so.

Here’s what the SEO program turned out to be.

Hearst set up a landing page optimized with the same search terms we used on our site. They grabbed copy from our website, cobbled it together, wrote and added some factually incorrect copy that they never submitted for approval. They established a tracking phone number that pointed to the client’s phone number. The tracking number’s reason for existence was to prove to us that Hearst had pointed calls to us from this landing page. A visitor who was interested but not ready to call might write this number down and if they called it two months later when we were no longer advertising with Hearst, they would certainly think we were no longer in business.

The more agregious thing that Hearst did was to steal our entire website code and recreate the site under a new url – the same as my client’s but with a 1 added to it. They changed the phone number on every page of that site to their tracking number. The bogus site was optimized with the same search terms as our original site to drive traffic for our terms to the Hearst websites. So basically, they put us in competition with ourselves in organic search. They took the video we supplied them for the landing page and uploaded it to a YouTube account that used the client’s name and again pointed those who clicked to their site – not ours.

Worse yet they were charging us to put us in a situation where Google could demote our legitimate search engine rankings for duplicate content.

Who are they designing this for? Maybe if you’re a very small local business and you have no website or web presence, Hearst and others providing similar products – the other daily in our area The Hour has something similar – might help you establish some online reach that you wouldn’t otherwise have. But if you’re a small business that has invested in your own website, SEO and online reach – do not, I repeat DO NOT buy such a service. Take the money and create a blog, hire a good, local SEO consultant to optimize your site. (BTW – you can’t come up on page one for $35 per month for any really meaningful search terms.)

Maybe you’d be better off buying a banner ad on the newspaper’s site with a link to your site or see if you can get them to give you a direct back link from their site via some content you provide – which could be worth a lot to you. But in my experience you can’t really get meaningful reporting to help justify the investment in these programs. These new newspaper offerings are not malicious, just part of an evolution in marketing. But they are potentially damaging, nonetheless. Get yourself up to speed and be part of moving media toward truly mutually beneficial solutions.

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