Category Archives: Search marketing

Your Website – To Rent or To Own

Today’s marketplace has undergone so many changes in the last ten years that the pace of that change can at times seem breathtaking. Strategies for marketing your company and its products and services, while having similarities to the past, require a different approach, an online approach. You still must identify and quantify your target market. You still need to build trust. And the concept of a Unique Selling Proposition (or USP) still applies as it is imperative that you are able to convince people of the “why you.”

What has changed is the how.

Websites have been around for a long time. I remember talking with business owners who said the only reason they built a website was because everyone was doing it and you just had to have one to be legit.

While having to have a website is still the case, its function as a key weapon in your marketing arsenal has grown dramatically, so much so that it is the most important marketing investment that you can make.

Almost every purchase decision, whether an individual consumer, or the purchasing manager of a major corporation, begins with a search online. Whether that search is using the name of a business that you learned of through a referral, or whether you are simply trying to find companies that provide what you’re looking for, it begins by doing a search. Google, having become one of the largest U.S. companies in capitalization, dominates this area of marketing, and it is estimated that there are as many as 4 million searches per second around the globe!

So, when you’re building a website, to forget to take into account its ability to be found by people searching online, is basically throwing your money away.

You have two choices when building a website, you can rent your website or you can own it. Just as any other business asset you invest in, it is important to determine which is best for the future of your company.

Examples of website platforms that you rent are SquareSpace, WIX, Weebly, GoDaddy and others. These offer you the ability to create your own website and have the following features: (this is based on conversations with many entrepreneurs who went this route)

  • Up-front investment is little or nothing
  • There are many templates to choose from
  • Can customize within the template’s framework
  • Monthly hosting fees are generally much higher
  • Must continue to host with them or the site is taken down
  • Shopping cart and e-commerce is available
  • Can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself, through the dashboard
  • The focus is on making it fast and easy to build a website, not on whether the website can be found in an online search
  • Lead generation is also not the most important aspect of these alternatives

Examples of website platforms that you own are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and others. These typically require the expertise of a professional developer as there are many options, and hence flexibility, in the design and functionality of the website. The following are the features of these options:

  • The up-front investment can be sizeable
  • Just about anything can be done with respect to design
  • There are hundreds of applications that have been developed to work with these platforms, making website customization easier and with a higher level of functionality
  • Monthly hosting fees are much lower
  • You have the option to host your website wherever you wish because you own your site
  • You can make changes, add pages and upload images yourself without being a programmer. This is done through the dashboard
  • If the template is built correctly, the website should be able to be found in online searches
  • The website should be able to pay for itself through the leads that are generated from it
  • You can actually build “equity” in your website, by adding original and valuable content, and since you own the website, that content remains yours, not your hosting company’s.
  • Social media can be seamlessly integrated into the site
  • You are in charge of your own destiny

The bottom line is, what do you want your website to do? If it is just to be an online brochure, then certainly renting a website can work. If however, you want it to be an asset that provides a return on the investment, to be a key component in your overall marketing, then owning your website is really the only way to go.

Remember this: You can build a beautiful website, but if no one can find it, it’s like having the most impressive billboard in the middle of a desert, it sure looks nice but nobody sees it.

How Mobile Is Your Website?

Our mobile society always on the goYou’ve been there. You’re searching on your mobile phone for a store that has a particular brand of caulk that works well on concrete. You find a website on Google and you click on the link. What comes up is a very tiny version of the store’s regular website, which is impossible to read, let alone click on the Contact Us page to inquire whether they have the caulk you need in stock. So, what do you do? You expand the page to blow it up to where it is legible and then you find yourself scrolling left, right, up, down only to realize that you’re lost on the page. What’s left is to shrink it back down to locate that darned Contact Us link. And, hopefully you haven’t been doing all this while driving.

This is a plain lousy experience and one that makes you want to find somewhere else to shop.

So, does this happen when prospective customers come to your website on their smartphones? Do they have this same kind of bad experience? Are you losing sales because your website is not mobile ready? Did you realize that Google will now start ranking your website lower than your competitors’ sites if it is not mobile ready?

Let’s look at some research from Media Post:

What does this mean today, and what could it mean in six to twelve months?

  • “mobile commerce has surged ahead of desktop in terms of time spent shopping, with mobile accounting for 59% of online shopping time in the first quarter of 2015…”
  • “In the first quarter of this year, mobile’s share of retail spending growth increased 53% year over year, compared with increases of 9% for desktop retail e-commerce…”
  • And according to James Printing of Kansas City (, 42% of brand research is conducted on phones and tablets

The use of smartphones and tablets for shopping and research is expected to grow dramatically in the next year. Although purchases on smartphones and tablets still lags behind desktops, with the primary reasons being security concerns and the ability to see the products in detail, those issues will be resolved quickly with larger phone screens and enhanced mobile security.

Any website development company worth their stripes is creating new sites that are what’s called “mobile responsive.” This means that your site will render differently on mobile devices than it does on desktops, making the experience much better for visitors coming to see what you are all about.

What’s more, you will not be penalized by the major search engines for having a non-responsive website, and all the hard work you’ve done to maintain that search visibility will still be in place.

I would love to know your thoughts, or if you just have questions, let me know.



“Everything is On Its Way to Somewhere”

John Travolta says this in the 1996 movie “Phenomenon” when he realizes he has a very short time to live but is not afraid of what the future will bring.

This got me thinking about some of the amazing changes I have seen in my very short time on this planet. I was watching the 1988 movie “Big” with Tom Hanks. At one point, he is working on a computer, putting together a new product launch and marketing plan. He pulls out a 5.25 inch floppy disk and inserts it into the computer, providing the computer with the necessary program to execute the file he is working on. Wow, that seems so long ago, when computers didn’t have a means of permanently storing programs on a hard drive, no point and click, no color displays!

I love predictions about what the future may bring. Maybe that’s why I was always a “Star Trek” fan, because that show was all about predicting what future technology would be like.

We are moving so quickly into the future. Mobile devices, and for that matter, all devices we use daily, will have more capabilities than we can imagine.

Aaron Goldman, writing for “Search Insider” predicts what our world could look like in his article 2022: A Search Odyssey” as he quotes from Peter Morville’s concept of Ambient Findability. Here is an excerpt from that article.

“…as Morville surmises, it won’t be long before RFID allows ‘products, possessions, pets, and people [to be] all rendered into findable objects.’

Consider what happens when objects are not only findable but can communicate with each other…

…As an example, he cites a scenario in which the phone ringing alerts the stereo to lower the volume so that a man can take a call from his sister about their mom’s recent health issues. The man’s Web ‘agent’ (i.e. Siri) then looks up a treatment, identifies a local specialist, cross-references the doctor’s ratings and acceptable insurance plans, and books an appointment.”

Isn’t it fun to imagine that world, where so many interconnections our brains process now, almost without us thinking about it, will be handled for us. This will leave us free to focus energies on that next step, because, everything is on its way to somewhere.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Live by the Data or Die by the Data


I know that there are hardly enough hours in the day to take care of your customers and run the business, let alone, study and correlate all the customer-centric information which is now available at your fingertips. But, it’s never been more important than now. As Mr. Dave Frankland, an analyst with Forrester espoused, 2010 and beyond is the “age of the customer.” Customers are in more control than ever, and they are wielding that power by responding to companies that understand them and their needs.


Natalie Zmuda, with Ad Age talks about the obsession with “understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers,” as the only real differentiator that many companies have. I would add to that, the intelligence to predict behavior as well.


Never in history have business owners had such a vast amount of information available to them about their customers’ behavior, which can be a strong predictor of a “potential” customer’s behavior.


Facebook can tell you how many people in your area have expressed interest in what you do based upon specific terms? Google has reams of information available on what people are searching for. There are software companies that have created social media dashboards that provide the ability to see what conversations are taking place about you, whether you “follow” them or not. And just as important, there are your own sales statistics that you keep.


It is not only important to track sales, but also to be able to know the source of the sales lead. Those lead sources should be broken down sufficiently to understand what action the interested party initially took to become a lead. What products were purchased from what lead sources? As an example, if you only track that a sale of product A came from the Internet, what you don’t know is what action was taken. Did the lead fill out a “contact me” form or did they pick up the phone and call you? Did they ask a question through Facebook or were they referred by one of their LinkedIn contacts? Did they click on a QR code that you had on a print advertisement or did they come to you from your YouTube video?


Being able to tie sales back to a very specific lead source allows you to calculate which kind of lead results in the highest likelihood of a sale. Where should you spend precious sales resources to get the highest return? Where should marketing dollars go to stimulate these high value leads? What kind of message is successful in generating quality leads? Would extending that message to other sources for leads generate the same kind of quality lead there? Would it be better to focus on those products that generate the highest margins?


So, your business can prosper by paying attention to the data that’s available or not, it’s up to you. And, if you need some help with this, let us know.


All my best in your “data mining”




How to Use Storytelling in Your Marketing Message


Over the holidays we had relatives stay with us that live in France and as such, we don’t see them very often.  It was a relaxing time which gave ample opportunities to talk and share memorable events in our lives.  As we sipped hot tea (some of us having a nice malted beverage) and munched down fudge and party mix, the remembrances of the past came flowing out one after the other.  I was struck by how Tony related his experiences.  Every time he talked of an experience, he made the event into a story and I found myself being pulled into what had happened.  The mental images that he helped me visualize through his storytelling were so vivid that I felt I had lived the same experience.  I was captivated by the word pictures he painted and on a very emotional level, I could connect to what he felt at the time.  We laughed and enjoyed these stories well into the wee hours of the night.

We humans are a very relational species.  When other humans have an experience that is similar to one we have had, there is a bond created; an emotional connection that brings relevance and social camaraderie.  There is solidarity in our mutual experiences. Even if we do not know the other person, this solidarity enhances trust and brings forth from our subconscious memories, both remembered and forgotten, that are the foundation for the preferences and attitudes we now have.  Those very preferences and attitudes have strong effects on our buying decisions.

This is why it is imperative that you tell a story when communicating with prospective buyers, whether on the Internet, in a print ad, in a press release or even in your corporate mission statement.  You must be able to tap into that emotional connection that will take a buyer from being just interested through consideration to the decision to purchase.  And this is true whether you offer a product or service as well as whether your customers are individual consumers or other businesses.  It’s all about people relating to people.

As you know, most stories have basic building blocks:

  • A story has a plot that can be followed from beginning to end
  • A story has a hero (maybe your company, right?)
  • A story has a villain (not necessarily another person as it could be circumstances or inanimate objects that are villains)
  • A story has a problem that must be solved
  • A story has a transformational moment, when the problem is solved

In her book entitled “The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling,” Annette Simmons says there are six kinds of stories that can be used in building a brand:

  1. Origin – formation and background of the company
  2. Purpose – shows why your company is in existence
  3. Vision – where your company is going
  4. Education – so people can put your product in context
  5. Ethics – what you’re doing right
  6. Connection – with the company

So, what story can you tell about your company or product?  How can you use storytelling to make that all important emotional connection?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.