Which Home Page Title Tag Looks Like Yours?

You are trying to capture search traffic. You rely on SEO. Does your Home Page title tag look more like Option 1 or Option 2?

For the Option 1 site, and assuming you have little brand awareness (hence your need to rely on SEO), are you expecting any Page 1 SERP listings? I wouldnt either.

In 80 characters or less, my suggested title tag revision would be: TopKeyword City State CompanyURL

Speak with you soon. DC


5 SEO Tips - you have your robots.txt so now what?

Now that the spiders can crawl your site (see my most recent post on creating a robots.txt file), where should you focus your SEO energy to get the most impact? My five suggested areas are:
I will try to blog individually about each area in my next several posts, but for now, if you can focus on these five areas, you may reduce your dependency on your SEO consultant and actually improve your page ranks in a fairly short period of time! And remember, Google owns all this stuff so if anyone tells you they truly know how to crack the SEO code, use caution...unless their names are either Larry or Sergey.

Speak with you soon. DC


Your SEO Library Card - robots.txt

As I’m working on resetting a new site to be compliant with the latest SEO strategies, I’m reminded of an analogy I’ve used to describe the importance of the robots.txt file. In the world of Googlebot and other bots/spiders, who are like patrons visiting a library full of information contained in books on shelves, they can’t enter your domain effectively without the robots.txt file – much like a patron can’t effectively enter a library without a library card. Sure, patrons can enter the building, they can read, but they cant check out anything. But they may go to the wrong shelves a few times. And its difficult to use the information more than one time.

How to improve the performance of your site? Create a regular text file called robots.txt. This file must be uploaded to the root accessible directory of your site, not a subdirectory (ie: http://www.domain.com/ but NOT http://www.domain.com/folder/) -- anything else and its just another text file.

Next? Unless you are a webmaster, I’d suggest you call yours :). They can help you format the file and actually write valuable commands for the search engines (formally known as the "Robots Exclusion Protocol"). The format is simple enough for most intents and purposes: a USERAGENT line to identify the crawler in question followed by one or more DISALLOW: lines to disallow it from crawling certain parts of your site. But again, because it’s so simple, it’s just as easy to screw things up.

When finished your file can be as simple as this, which allows all spiders to
index everything:

User-agent: *

Or this,
which prevents all spiders from indexing any part of your

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

A single keystroke separates the files, but it also determines who will have the higher page rank, and ultimately determine the traffic flow.

Good luck and may the spiders infest your site! Speak with you soon. DC


Dont Underestimate the Power of Team

In business, its very difficult to compete with the rest of the market. Others are bigger, with more resources, and they have better processes and products. So how to keep up? Hire smart people (not sure Ballmer gets this one). Hire people who can work well with others. If they have relevant experience in your vertical market, hire them, but dont wait for that.

Ive learned over the years that the best Teammates are smart and personable. Why? Two simple reasons: 1) they are smart enough to solve difficult business problems and 2) they are able to work cross functionally to accomplish difficult tasks.

But what about the vertical market expertise? Its less important compared to items #1 and #2 above. Why? Smart, personable people are easy to train and play nicely in the sand box. No question about it.

What do you look for when hiring talent? What skills/competencies do you try to develop in your people? Let me know.

Speak with you soon. DC


I'm back

It's been a long few weeks, but suffice to say I've learned a lot. And it has nothing to do with professional development, but instead, it's all about life management and glorifying God. The power of His hand is humbling, as is His reminder of the importance of fellowship and good works.

Speak with you soon. DC


Remarkable Rays

So much of it started back in June. And as I watch tonight the final game of the Rays-Sox 2008 regular season series, Im reminded that the Rays ARE one team.

Go Rays!

Speak with you soon. DC


The Summer Olympics 2008

NBC had some great videos. As a former swimmer, I speak emphatically when I say that Phelps is a freak -- here's his capstone 4x100 relay video that showcases VICTORY.

And here's a video that shows a ROBBERY of the women's vault bronze medal. Hope you enjoyed the rest of the events as much as I did.

By the way, I didn't see much of the Lenovo logo?

Speak with you soon. DC


Peace Be With You, Professor

Dr. Pausch passed away today. If you haven't seen his "Last Lecture," please watch it. And hug your kids.

Speak with you soon. DC


Yahoo WTF?

Whatever. From Marketing Vox, Google takes share but drops in value. Yahoo gets hammered in the market, yet its value increases 2%. Based on what? A better loss than expected? Huh? As I stated in an earlier post, I really hope Jerry Y & Sue D figure this out quickly.

Speak with you soon. DC


Positioning (and Messaging): Part 1 of 3

In this first of a three part series, I'm providng my insight into one of the fundamentals of Marketing: positioning. In my opinion, effective positioning makes and breaks firms of all sizes; the ability to position products and services in the market effectively is one of the most important skills needed by any Marketer.

Wikipedia defines positioning as:

"The process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for its products, services, or for the organization. It is the 'relative competitive comparison' their product occupies in a given market as perceived by the target market."
The standard working definition of positioning (from Geoffrey A. Moore) is:

For [target end user]
Who wants/needs [compelling reason to buy]
The [product name] is a [product category]
That provides [key benefit].
Unlike [main competitor],
The [product name] [key differentiation]

And the takeaway I want to leave with you regarding positioning is: get it right, do it first, and dont cut corners, because nothing else really matters if you get your positioning wrong. Positioning is grounded in market research - how many firms still invest in research now that Google exists - which forces you to understand the problems of your target customers and provides you a brutal assessment of whether your products and services address the problems facing your customers. If you pass this test, the second step is messaging, which forces you (and your Teams) to crystallize the benefits of your products and services into short summary statements -- these form the core go-to-market messages for your entire organization (and your strategic go-to-market partners). Lastly, effective positioning includes a thorough assessment of your product vis-a-vis the competitive landscape, which highlights (or lowlights) the differentiating value of your product and service FROM your competitors. Believe me, if your product is any more complex than a toothpick, your potential customers WILL ask you how your product is different from ABC Company's product, so you better be ready.

It should be no surprise then, to even the entry-level Marketer, that your positioning statement MUST precede your brand building and awareness creation activities. And effective positioning certainly makes lead generation much eaiser! It would be colossally difficult to build a brand (or prove any value) if you can't articulate your value to the market or if you can't distinguish your value offer from others. Too many firms build a product and then search for a problem to solve. Too many others try to build a brand without using careful consideration of how the market will receive their product.

The best firms launch successful products over and over (such as Apple, BMW, and Corning) because they follow the simple approach in the first stage of Marketing by talking with the market, determing the core issues (and hence, the key opportunity), assessing the players, and then presenting the appropriate solution with clarity, brevity, and conviction. Wouldn't you like to be the next Apple?

Next - Building Awareness (Branding) Part 2 of 3.

Speak with you soon. DC


Talk About Blue

It was an amazing day in Tampa today. As Kronk says, "Hey d'ya see that sky today? Talk about blue." On the day before Fathers Day, I once again enjoyed being a husband and a father. The rest of the world seemed a million miles away and it was a wonderful thing. God is so good and Im so grateful. John 4:14

Speak with you soon. DC


Social Marketing

Duct Tape has a nice summary on this topic. And no, its not just because I like funnels :) With blogs at the bottom of the social pyramid, the progression to microsocial (or 1:1) is a straighforward (yet not simple???) progression. Easy, right?

But I ask -- for small businesses and enterprises alike, the key "top of the funnel" or base of the pyramid activity requires input, er blogging, so how do you persuade your key leadership to join the discussion if they dont WANT to? Expect internal debates, despite the fact that your customers and competitors are doing it (which isnt enough to coax your thought leaders, not to mention that they ignore the fact that its maximum reach for minimum effort and cost). Blogging is personality. Blogging is raw. Blogging can be very uncomfortable because blogging is full disclosure. And sometimes your most valuable leaders simply dont want to be exposed. So you better have a Plan B to reach your social marketing goals. And you better have a response to counter the obvious negative impact of NOT being in the blogsphere.

Does anyone disagree?

Speak with you soon. DC


What is the role of Marketing?

This is a fundamental question for any Marketer. You better have a good answer. I work at a startup ISV and I have a good answer because I'm asked the question on a weekly basis. My biggest challenges? How to retain the best talent to implement the Marketing strategy and how to align my business to achieve optimal results, oftentimes on a shoestring budget. It forces managerial discipline and it requires ongoing research to stay in tune with the latest tools, trends, and techniques.

I think I'll start a series of posts on this very important topic. And I'll share my answer to this post question in my next posting (hint: imagine the guy in this photo is an Inside Sales Rep at any company or see my winter post). Let me know if you have any preliminary thoughts before I get started.

Speak with you soon. DC


$25,000 Contest

My employer, Skyway Software, launched a $25,000 developer contest. It's called the Skyway Cup. I'm not a software developer, and it's unfortunatate (for me) that I'm not, because that is a lot of money, especially when I'm paying $4 for a gallon of gas and $4 for a gallon of milk. If you want to check out the contest, please visit the Skyway developer community site located here. And good luck.

Speak with you soon. DC


Embrace Competition...or Disappear

Where better to test your marketing messages and the positioning of your products and services? If they don't hold up after your objective (it has to be an honest assessment) competitive evaluation, why would your customer care about you? If it isn't distinguishing from your competition, then why would your customer switch? Seth Godin (again) writes a very short, but impactful, post and it reminded me that there are few things more important than a comprehensive market anlaysis or an effective product positioning. If these aren't completed correctly or often enough, then it doesn't really matter how strong the Exec Team is, how many features release x.y has, or what the name of the latest strategic partner is.

Don't let the speed of the market distract you from the marketing fundamentals and don't forget to look around every so often to see who is driving beside you (or in front of you) -- your brand will thank you.

Speak with you soon. DC


Trade Shows CAN Work

Yeah, I know, trade shows are so non-digital. Web 0.0, I've been told. But like most things, a good show requires clear goals, a competent team, a sound plan, and crisp execution; if done right, a trade show can be used as a successful tactic in a well-balanced marketing portfolio. Really. No, seriously, we just pulled one off. How?
We used a four-point recipe:

  1. Define the Goals - We learned a lot from a "test show" we participated in only 60 days prior to our most recent show. We knew our messages weren't as interesting (or differentiating), so we missed our goals. But we knew we could do better, so we set even more aggressive targets for our upcoming show.

  2. Assign the Team - We doubled down and brought our best developers to the show. And we redeployed Sales Engineers to create a kick-a** online tutorial in advance of the show. We hired a former PR Rep to help us pitch the company, as well as tie up loose ends logistically.

  3. Develop the Plan - We wrote it down. We bought legos and tshirts to drive traffic to our booth. We comarketed with two key industry heavy hitters -- and we launched a contest. We held weekly progress meetings.

  4. Implement the Activities - We followed the plan, we acted professionally, and we presented confidently, so we represented ourselves as a much bigger company, which helped us tremendously.

Without sharing too many company secrets, I can say comfortably that we drove 10% of the attendees to our booth. 10% of those folks viewed our product demo and more than 50% of them downloaded our product. 10% joined our online community and "a bunch more" agreed to be beta testers of our next release and several (!!!) even agreed to meet with our Sales Team.

If I told you we presented at the largest software show of the year, then you can get a feel for the numbers and quickly see how this performance helped us strengthen our brand and develop qualified leads for our Sales organization. And isnt that the primary goal of the Marketing Department?

But with that said, I'm not signing up for monthly shows, but I will consider doing another show in the very near future.

Let me know what you think?

Speak with you soon. DC


What is Yahoo DOING???

I am disappointed that MSFT walked away from the YHOO table over the weekend. I don't own a single share of either company so its not a financial issue to me, per se. But I buy AdWords and as a digital marketer, I go where the market is. As a buyer of search capability, I really like to have options and choices -- I've been very excited that YHOO has spent so much time on its new version of Panama AMP and Search Monkey to compete directly with GOOG. Seeing that the deal (at least at this point) is done at the $33/sh offer price, well it just doesn't bode well for my marketing portfolio. The last thing I want is YHOO to be working sideway deals to outsource its capability back to its biggest search competitor. If GOOG can't figure out how to capture 100% share (and why can't they?), then the best thing for me about YHOO is that its NOT GOOG!

I guess Ill have to keep a very close eye on Jerry to see how he markets his way out of this mess. If he would just listen to us, his customers, who long for an alternative to GOOG, I think he has the right offering; if only he could find a way to get it to us more effectively. If only I had as many customers as YHOO who actually (and honestly) say what they need and why they need it. Wow, what a problem to have for a startup company like mine! Yahoo's engineers are just as talented as anyone anywhere (really!), so I can't help but wonder how much truth there is in the stories I read and hear that perhaps Jerry and the Yahoo BOD are listening to internal "demons" rather than to us? But then again, I've never batteled directly with MSFT and come to think of it, maybe I do understand a bit more of what Jerry did and why he did. But it's no less disappointing. Do you agree?

Speak with you soon. DC


What if the NFL Draft was More Like Grade School Kickball

I get it. I played high school football in Penna. And in western PA, to add emphasis. The NFL draft is a chance for teams to reload -- pick the best player on your board, regardless of need. Owners need a return on their investment. And fans want to watch winning teams. But at what cost? Don't we want the wins to occur the right way? Aren't we using some of these games to teach our kids how to play the game?

In my new version of the NFL draft (I haven't really thought it out and I'm not sure what the new rules should be, how to implement them, or if they would materially affect the games), some of the marginal players with "character issues" would be ineligible to participate. Much like in 1st grade when the bad kids got detention and the really bad kids got kicked out, regardless of their kickball ability, the real "bad" college football guys would simply be removed from draft eligibility. Sometimes, your first offence eliminates your opportunity for a second chance. And a slide from the first round to the fifth round isn't the same as detention (obviously a hit to the pocketbook isn't enough of a deterrent) so other "lesser" players would rise in the rankings.

Would it be so bad for the game to get more hardworkers who happen to think of others? In 1st grade, we also wanted the best kids to be on our team, but they couldnt be inside cleaning blackboards or clapping erasers because of "character issues" and they couldnt be jerks either. Do you remember those days? It was pretty fun, wasnt it?

Speak with you soon. DC


Home Run Physics

Lately I've been focused on transferring an important piece of knowledge to a group of 6 year olds: how to hit a baseball. Finding the sweet spot. To those who don't know what I'm talking about, there are few greater joys in baseball than seeing a boy (or girl) hit their first ball without the use of a tee; to those of you who know, enough said.

One of the wonderful things about Florida is 12 months of baseball. I could do this every day. And while Alan Nathan continues to inspire me (even though he's a Princeton guy AND a RedSox fan) with his practical application of research to America's pastime, the simple fact that a 6 year old CAN hit a 25 mph baseball pitch is nothing short of amazing. Yeah, it's all physics, I know. But it is so fun to watch some of these kids hit the fence (ie, good bat speed, optimal takeoff angle, and maximum backspin, right Dr. Nathan?). And being a witness to this marvel of children, many times I've found myself a million miles away from performance reviews, goal tracking, marketing, shipping deadlines, and the daily drudgery of the office, which is not a bad thing. It helps to not only keep me sane, but also stay grounded.

Speaking of fielding grounders, uh, that's a bit more difficult of a task for these 6 year olds! What keeps you grounded? And when was the last time you hit a baseball?

Speak with you soon. DC


Just Try to Hit 50% of Your Free Throws

I'm not even really a basketball fan (probably has a lot to do with my very limited vertical reach) but its a shame to end a terrific season by failing to make a 15-foot shot that they learned when they were 8. I congratulate Memphis and Kansas for making it all the way to the end. But as with so many things in life, the importance of teaching (and learning) the fundamentals cannot be overemphasized.

Speak with you soon. DC


Do You Know Your IQ?

I still dont. But I've been spending a lot of time on the IQ subject nonetheless, and lets just say that God once again reveals how good He is. And once again I'm reminded that standard deviations are EVERYWHERE! Check out a short test at Tickle and see how close you get to 140. Or to Einstein or vos Savant!

Speak with you soon. DC



Spitzer. Why? I'm not a fan b/c I don't believe his mantra that the end always justifies the means, not to mention that I happen to vote for the elephants and not the, well, the asses. And it's not b/c he's a Harvard guy either. I'm also pretty sure that I don't even want to know the answer, either. But according to the AP, I guess at least I wasn't the only one asking the question. Talk about destroying the Spitzer brand in a single moment. I've said a prayer for his wife and kids. And I'm glad that Charlie is keeping an eye on Florida's store. Go Quakers.

Speak with you soon. DC


What Do You Think Software Will Look Like in 2017?

Ben Worthen at the WSJ posted a very interesting survey asking for predictions of the future of software. Is the evolution from proprietary client-server architecture underway to a more open-source, highly distributed, and web-server-script-enabled replacement? Im not a developer, but I am a marketer and its my opinion that the market seeks three things today offered only by open-source software: access; trust; and value.

  1. Access. It's widely available. There are tools and solutions for everything.

  2. Trust. The communities are large and growing. New users can sit on the sideline and read forums and message boards anonymously, but still get valuable, trustworthy information. It's self-policing and even the largest enterprises now include open source as part of thier IT stack.

  3. Value. Its free. And developers love to build better widgets, so its all cutting-edge stuff, too.
An interesting question also is what will the large, packaged application ISVs, such as Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and SAP do in the long run? What do you think?

Speak with you soon. DC


Basic Math and Customer LTV

I actually stumbled on this and it reminded me how simple the math is to calculate LTV. This isn't even algebra; it's adding/subtracting and division. Sure, their are more complex financial calcs available, too, but let's remember one of the cornerstones of Marketing: KISS.

So the point of this post is to remind any readers of a huge consulting opportunity. As an experienced Exec in Fortune 100 and startup firms, there just is no one doing this type of analysis. Despite my attempts to pitch the value of the exercise to the higherups, it just didnt have much legs. Not to mention that most ERP and even COTS vendors don't package it and it's really hard to customize at this level, so IT threw up on it in my lap more than once. Going rate should be $200/hr. Really.

Speak with you soon. DC


Dont Try to Fool Google

A recent blog by Naomi Grossman highlights how smart the Google Ph.D. Team truly is. In the new world of search marketing, paid search is king. But natural search is queen. And both rely on black-box (really) technology. So a recent "gaming Google" case, highlighted by Robin Goad, is probably an exception rather than the rule. When a marketing Team (presumably) tried to increase page ranks for their site by paying for "independent evaluations" from the blogsphere, Google caught them, and slapped them hard. To see their rapid fall from grace is nothing short of shocking. How did Google catch them? Does it matter? I'm speculating but I'm probably close based on what I've heard and what I've read. And more importantly, it's an obvious rule (obvious to some of us!) not to try and game Google...they are everywhere and they know everything. It's their game. Their rules. Their field. Their ball. But they do provide the rule book (except for those pesky algorithms). We all get an equal chance to play and most of us even have a good time, but at the end of the day, they are responsible for grooming the infield, sweeping the stands, and getting the ballpark ready for the next game on the following day. If they have to get rid of a few broken bats, too, I'm ok with that.

Speak with you soon. DC


Wharton Chimes in on the Power of Digital Marketing

I'm excited to read that my former bschool Profs are seeing what I'm seeing! And to realize that I've put in to practice, with effectiveness I might add, the theories I learned a few years ago is an exciting thing -- so exciting in fact that I commented (see Digital is More Value-Adding...) back to them. As I mentioned in my comment to the recent K@W article (and recently in this blog, too), digital marketing tools level the playing field in such a way that small startups can build brands quickly and generate high quality, predictable leads at low costs.
The net result? Small firms can truly compete with much larger, entrenched competitors. The impact of these digital tools and processes is dramatic, particuarly in the IT subsegments, as customers still look for new ways to maintain the pace of innovation and receive value from a wide variety of suppliers in a era of market consolidation.

Speak with you soon. DC



Budweiser marketers at Anheuser-Busch are amazing product performers in their consistent ability to develop and control the brand. If brand=proof of value, is there no better example? While the quality or quantinty of value may be debatable, to those who derive value from the products unquestionably receive their level of perceived (or real) value from Bud time after time. And we could discuss positioning and loyalty effects here, too. Yeah, a billion dollar ad budget helps, but the core question remains: how is your brand performing for you? Would your customers agree?

Speak with you soon. DC


The Fed and Marketing?

It is arguably the most important "P" of the four Ps – pricing. While the Fed jumped in today to fend off what many of us have felt personally for the past couple of months, it’s so interesting to see how Marketing pops up everywhere. At any time. Prices rise to offset higher costs of raw materials (and to hedge against uncertainty in global liquidity), and Marketeers should take notice, regardless of their markets or products. By the way, has anyone seen how fast the prices of milk and eggs have risen compared to our paychecks??? Throw out the focus group results, tear up the usability metrics, and archive the elasticity curve data because in times of FUD, the data just don’t matter. If only I could mobilize and launch my FUD plan, I’d go directly after the consumers most susceptible to FUD – you and me.

So who wins in this crisis? OPEC, of course, by holding supply tight and/or raising prices. What a model. Google, too. Who else? The print and electronic media. Everyone is reading the WSJ and watching CNN.com for the latest news. Want to bet that ad prices arent falling? But honestly, I’m hopeful that Congress can agree on a stimulus package so that I can go out and buy something to do my part, all while considering the other three Ps (namely product, place, and promotion) as I do.

Speak with you soon. DC.


Digital Marketing Trends for 2008

A recent post by Heidi Cohen prompts this entry. While the source of her research isn’t exactly what I'd call Tier 1, the fact that she provided her opinion on the Top Online Marketing Trends for this year is interesting nonetheless. I’ll limit my comments primarily to the “stable” commercial market rather than try to offer an opinion on the ever-changing retail market. To me, the action is in B2B anyways with a need for highly controlled metrics and a keen focus on search marketing and custom emails.

Clearly, the best marketers will drive products and services into the most valuable markets using metrics-based, digital marketing techniques. In my opinion, 2008 will be the year search marketing finally makes it to the masses (ie, small and medium sized businesses). Glad to see I'm not the only one with this view -- for example Ann All thinks:
"Search is the next killer app for the Enterprise."
The tools provided by Google at no cost (combined with a wider distribution of available “Google-savvy” marketers) will once and for all enable SMB to maintain pace with their larger Enterprise competitors. The impact could be dramatic. Especially for Google.

On the search marketing front, it’s also my opinion that one day they will find a way to expand their PPC model into the SEO world. The traffic is 2x the paid traffic in the SEM world, and I can't believe the huge volume of Google Ph.D. talent is oblivious to that fact. Anyone still trying to sort out their SEO plan better move to launch status quickly because the Google cookbook is probably going to change soon. And quite dramatically, I'd imagine.

As for email communication marketing techniques, who could argue that it’s not a core capability of any good marketeer's toolkit? It's easy to do but its hard to do it well; the key to success is message relevancy. Clear. Concise. Compelling. All the rest is SPAM. Sure, you can follow Heidi’s approach and do all the behavioral evaluations and focus grouping if you have time and budget, but the most nimble, and ultimately the most effective, firms already know their customer pain points (as a result of their back-to-basics approach of segmenting and targeting) and already position their products and services with real value propositions to address these concerns. As such, they deliver 10-12 highly relevant emails with subtly modified messages in 90 days with real calls to action that actually make it to inboxes. The predictable flow of qualified leads delivered in return delights their Sales team. And their shareholders.

Go to market and I hope your digital marketing activities provide you results that exceed your 2008 goals!

Speak with you soon. DC


Crazy Joe Davola

I still laugh out loud when I hear Kramer's outburst of "Yo Yo Ma" in one of the best Seinfelds ever. Here's to a happy, prosperous, and safe new year -- market well and sell more. And hopefully your Crazy Joe Davola wont kick you in the head and catch you without your crash helmet on.

Speak with you soon. DC