SEOdamian's Blog

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Do You Think Auto-Responders Suck?

While reading a discussion on using auto-responders for visitors to church congregation websites, I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

The ideas apply not only in email relationship building, but also in all online relationship building. The core is building trust.

As was stated, the concept of auto-responder email is good. It has been proven effective repeatedly in the for-profit world, because it can build trust. However, most implementation in secular and non-secular of auto-responders is terrible.  Just as a greeter at a store can totally change the experience for the better or sink the relationship with the whole chain, so can poorly written email generic auto-responders. A poorly written email auto-responder can seem like a chain letter or worse.

There is a reason why communications professionals will write 50 drafts. They are working  to get the best chance to communicate the intended tone and message to their audience. Just like a minister will often spend all day or all week writing a sermon to get it ‘correct’, and it still evolves through multiple services on a Sunday (or Friday or Saturday).   Even the Bible has gone through a few revisions of the centuries to make sure its message and tone is unmistakable (perhaps it may not be done being revised to tell its story based on the number of interpretations of its messages in different denominations across the country and world).

More Recent Data – Direct Marketing

I would recommend that we look at what has a longer history then email auto-responders for how to most effectively communicate with new relationships. While still much newer then the Bible, direct marketing or direct mail has a much longer history then email. Direct marketing studies performed decades ago realized that it took seven (from letters, TV spots, Radio or in-store visits) ‘touches’ to get the optimum amount of interaction with a perspective person to solidify the relationship (relative to invested cost of each piece). New studies increase that to 9 or 11 touches with the increased onslaught of communications and greater sensitivity to building trust.

That is much of what is at issue here – trust. Does the new guest trust that you understand them? And do they trust they understand the ‘real’ congregation you represent? It becomes hard to trust that you understand someone who may not understand themselves (as may often be the case of shoppers/searchers). It becomes hard to trust, if they only meet a few people in a congregation. It becomes hard to trust if they don’t have a solid referral from someone they trust (especially if they are coming from a place that did have solid referrals and it did not work out). A congregation is where many people put more trust then most any other relationship they have (including family or spouses). Visitors may not know they are looking for a place to put that much trust, but often they are.

Trust must often be earned, over multiple interactions

Have you earned that trust?

Look at how would you build trust with a new relationship in an off-line manner and consider how to translate it to written form. That may include some disclosure yourself and the congregation (when the annual meeting is, how the board is elected), but often not on the 1st touch. It may include offers to be inclusive, but just as you would not propose on the 1st date, you may not invite someone to lead a group in the 2nd email. The building of trust is based on a mutual exchange of signals that show commitment on both sides. If you don’t properly respond to a visitors signals you are being as rude as kissing someone who shows no interest in a physical relationship.

Of course in the age of digital tools like Constant Contact, iContact, HubSpot, InfusionSoft and many others, the best practice is to consider not creating a single one size fits all approach. Again the lessons and proof go back to the early days of direct marketing and have shown a segmented approach is best.  Send a different series of letters to parents then young adults (possibly both if they are indeed young adult parents). The relationship of an empty nester will be different then many 30 year old divorcee’s.

Consider an Email Service Provider for your auto responder needs

If they overlap, consider staggering your send times. Don’t send them all on Mondays, send the parent letters/auto-responders on Wednesday, Young adults on Friday, etc.

Look at the rules of etiquette in similar online venues (online dating is probably the most clearly documented) and use them to create an appropriate method to build trust with new visitors and you will create many new relationships.

Auto-responders (multiple with proper spacing) can be a great tool in developing mutual trust in a new congregant, especially if it is integrated with personal touches along the way. Especially if it is show ing of the care you would take for a new parishioner. This is your chance to show you care. Does that not deserve a little more effort then 10 minutes for a one size fits all generic letter.

How much time and effort do you typically spend on your auto responder emails? How many do you use? Join the conversation below and share your wisdom.

May 1, 2012 Posted by | copywriting, local marketing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Looking at Your Website from Your Cusomers Perspective?

Do you understand specifically what your website visitors are looking for or do you only have a generic idea? If you understand what they are specifically looking for to meet their needs, you have a much greater chance of true engagement. When you have true engagement, your odds of a sale increase dramatically, if not today, then on the next visit.

But if you don’t understand how to look at the trends and numbers, you will have a challenging time understanding what your visitors are really looking for.

That’s why retailers count how many people are coming in and how many people are coming out there also counting how many of them are actually purchasing. I have worked with over 100 different retail chains from single store retailer to office supply big box stores. They are counting by the month, day of the week, hour of the day (I know, I installed the counters that go back to the corporate databases with these body counts). They are counting how many of purchasing customers are actually signing up for the e-mail list. They’re counting how many of purchasers are return customers from previous orders. There also counting what is the average amount of each visitor’s spending. Retail stores count the numbers in so many ways you would be amazed. Just like you need to on your website. Your website is not a black box. You need to be paying attention to what’s happening.

If these types of customer engagement don’t make absolute clear sense to you, then I would suggest you go and spend some time and with brick and mortar retailers. Consider even working as a retailer. Learn how retailers convert the looky loo’s into true engagements. Yes we have all been shopping, but look at how retailers work with other customers not just yourself. Learn how retailers try to customize to the needs of each person, not a one size fits all. It is important that you learn how to look through a store or website through the eyes of a customer. It is important that you understand that the customer is always right in their perspective, and how they are looking at the world. And if you don’t understand their perspective, it will be very hard to understand why they’re not buying from you. If that same attitude of understanding is what a potential customer or visitor is looking at when they see a store and their perspective also becomes very useful.

This attitude of looking at your website comes into play in how you design your SEO and SEM. Did you need to present the right kind of signage from the street to get the customer to pull into the parking lot? Once they get inside the store, they need to see what the sign promised is fulfilled. SEO and SEM is about creating it signage from the street. You can fake a man once or twice, but once you do, they will ignore your sign for the rest of their life, because you made them cut across left-hand lane and pull into your parking lot. And they will tell their friends to ignore you or worse. You need to create a good ‘sign’ in your SEO/SEM to attract your visitors into your store. But you also need the sign to be a good indicator of what is in the store.

Just as stores don’t (at least those that survive long term) have the same layout year after year, websites also must evolve and continue to improve based on what works and what does not. This should be done as measured experiments. You can follow the models used in Lean Start-up (Eric Ries) and E-Myth Revisited (Micheal Gerber).  Those experiments need tools like Google Analytics and other tools like ChartBeat. Topics of other blog posts.

Oh, not selling products on your site?  I would place heavy odds that you are selling your ideas – be they the idea that your service is better then someone elses, or your idea is more important then the next bloggers. Remember to look at the website through your visitor’s eyes in the path they took to get to your website, and your pages.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | E-Myth, How To, local marketing, SEO tools, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New World order – customer perspective 1st, Company perspective 2nd

Next Door Chicago

Who do you think the business is behind this site?

Check out this website and their whole approach to marketing. Let me know how long it is before you figure out who’s actually the big company behind the totally different approach to marketing.

Here is what stands out in looking at this as an effective marketing tool:

  • it is fun and colorful
  • it has movement – both in the rotating graphics as well as in the variable typefaces being used.
  • It is inviting,  both from its graphics and it’s ability to share with others, and the ability to easily find information
  • it states what it can do for me in a non-sales format way before I ever can get to the point of finding out what I can buy from them.
  • It focuses on community and how we can interact locally, rather than with a big mega Corporation.
  • It’s quick, concise, clear, and the messaging text is easy to figure out what it’s about, then get on,  get off, and move on to my next task at hand.
  • the navigation is easy to follow. While I usually don’t like the drop downs and chase the cursor type websites, this one is easy, because the targeted areas are large,  and easy to click on, with a single layer drop-down.

I think the key here is that they are starting from a customer perspective, rather than from a corporate perspective, which is very key for any business these days, especially in working with the younger generation.

https://www.nextdoorchi.com/The owner of Next Door Chicago website.

This site may or may not be the best for search engine optimization. Although it really is not clear exactly what terms they would be trying to optimize for anyways. They do rank at the top for “next door Chicago”. Which if that is their brand focus here, it is a good approach. But I imagine in the list of site objectives, SEO was lower on the list, and they are more successful in other site objectives.

I would love to have your perspectives on this.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, Community, How To, local marketing, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Types of Traffic – It is all the same, right?

A customer is a customer is a customer, right?  No, there is the customer that asks 200 questions and buys your loss leader, returning it used and unresellable. There is the customer who comes in, asks can you ship 200 of your most profitable item? Oh, and can you autoship if they pay in advance for the next 5 years?  Who would you prefer more of?

Visitor traffic is similar, not all traffic is the same value to your organization today or tomorrow. There are different types of traffic to look at when trying to create a successful site.  There are different dimmensions of traffic – what type of traffic, what quality of traffic, what the cost it was to get the traffic and others. But lets just look at one dimension, where is the traffic coming from:

Referral Traffic

This is the traffic created by other sites referring / linking to your site, or your emails driving traffic to your site.  This is great ‘free’ traffic.  Referrals from other websites also supports your SEO traffic and rankings, because the search engines (SE) respect other sites sending traffic to your site. The more you are listed on other sites, the better your SE (search engine) ranking.  The more related the sites, the better your SE ranking. For example a site about guns referring to your site on trees is not as helpful as a referral from a site about arboretums referring to your tree site.

A way to quantify your ranking is to look at your Page Rank (named after Google Founder Larry Page). There are a number of tools including add-ons to your browser that will automatically let you know your PR (Page Rank) on a 0-8 (higher is better) score. Here is one – http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php

SEO – Seach Engine Optimization or Natural Traffic

This is the traffic that comes from your site ranking well in the search engines, and the traffic coming from others looking for answers to their searches.  The 1st key to creating this traffic is to create content that answers your visitors questions. The key here is to look at your site from the perspective of your visitors. What are they looking for? Not what do you want to tell them. You may shift the answers to be what you want to share, but 1st look at what would be the perfect answer to a visitor coming the site.

Of course, if you collect the most common questions you can create a FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page or better yet section of pages (depending on your answers, it may be appropriate to have a single page for each question).  The challenge is to come up with the best answer to meet everyone’s needs. But like all good communications, allow the reader to choose how much they want to read by putting the most important/simplest information first. DO NOT follow the mystery novel format and keep the best for the last.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is when you pay to get traffic to your site.  This can include a variety of different strategies such as:

  • Banner Ads on other sites – here you can pay per image shown (maybe or maybe not registered in the viewers mind), or per click thru to your site.
  • Email marketing like Constant Contact or iContact (a whole other post) to someone else’s email list (make sure you are not spamming) or to your own list.
  • Google AdWords (buying ads on the search engine)
  • Google AdSense (buying text ads on different websites) – this is an overlap of banner ads, but through the 600 pound gorilla Google that acts as the ad-man for you.
  • Ads on other search engines
This traffic can be very profitable or a total waste of money. The great part of this type of traffic is it is easier to test. Testing is a big part of what you need to do to be successful. Consider it the equivalent of practice in sports, music or dating.  You don’t expect to get it perfect the 1st time, and you need to keep improving as your competition keeps getting better.

LMT – Local market traffic

Local market traffic is when visitors are looking for the types of businesses and solutions that used to be  typically found in a yellow pages directory.  They are usually the local businesses like restaurants, and cleaners.  These are businesses that are not trying to market across the country, but only the local community. This traffic is in some ways easier to get, because there is less competition (only a few real estate agents in Downers Grove, compared to million in the whole country). You don’t have to rank higher than the real estate broker in Texas, if you are Wisconsin. But you need to have people looking for Wisconsin real estate.  That is where focus is important.  This also requires looking outside the ‘normal’ spots.  Don’t try to rank high in ‘real estate’ on the search engine.  Instead try to rank in ‘Bloomington real estate’ or even better ‘Bloomington vacation real estate’. But also look at other sites than the big 3 search engines.  Look at local sites like the different yellow pages or Yelp.com.

What kind of traffic you want will determine what kind of strategies you should follow.

SEO is more on content.

SEM is more on converting the visitorOf course you have to define what conversion is. It may be a sale. It may be a signup for a newsletter. It may be a request for a consultation and setting an appointment. Or it may be requesting a free report. You need to define what your conversion funnel is (most businesses have multiple conversions in the process of a lifetime of a customer.

LMT is about converting and getting them to call or use traditional business channels. That may be getting them to drive to your store. That may be getting them to call and set an appointment. It may still be just calling or emailing for a report or other trust building step.

Understand that just like traditional sales takes on average 7 touches to convert to a sale (after having built up enough trust), online channels can take multiple steps to build the trust required for your final conversion.  Make sure you design your website presence to convey that.

What about you? Take our long poll – 1 question –

March 15, 2012 Posted by | Definitions, How To, local marketing, SEO tools | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Facebook Edits Your World

This is an interesting article that is key for those marketing on Facebook. Is is in the Atlantic Magazine

How the Facebook News Feed Algorithm Shapes Your Friendships

I find it interesting to see how Facebook’s evolving editing becomes significant so quickly. On the other hand Google has been shifting our perspectives for a decade and newspapers and TV Networks have been skewing our view of the world for hundreds of years (and clergy before that). What has changed though is how covertly it can happen, and how close to our world it happens. It is one thing to shade what the president did or did not do. But helping to edit (by showing or not showing) what friends and family do and say is a different level of ‘control’. Of course it is not all Facebooks fault, but it is something to keep in mind as we look at how we communicate both as individuals as well as how we communicate as businesses.

The full story from the Daily Beast has the breakdown of more specifics:

Cracking the Facebook Code

Here are the top discoveries:

The Daily Beast’s one-month experiment into Facebook’s news feed yielded the following discoveries:

  •  A bias against newcomers
  •  “Most Recent” doesn’t tell the whole story.
  •  Links are favored over status updates, and photos and videos trump links.
  •  “Stalking” your friends won’t get you noticed.
  •  Raise your visibility by getting people to comment.
  •  It’s hard to get the attention of “popular kids.”

Looking over these 10 ‘discoveries’ starts to create ideas as to how to capitalize on them for your social media strategy. Notice I did not say Facebook strategy, for a couple of reasons. First, what Facebook does, others are sure to follow as they have become the 800 pound gorilla on the web. Second, look to align with Facebook both on and off their site. They are not just simple posts, but a whole universe on and off the site. Third, don’t look to go very black hat or even grey hat. The web means anyone can change what is happening or even what is shared about what has happened with a few changes to code. There is no need to recall the history books anymore. Play honest, if for no other reason then it will be easier in the future.

As you can see there is a need to start as soon as possible and start to build your network actively. We are past the point of the Field of Dreams ‘Build it and they will come’.  But as a tradeoff, you can see what has and has not worked for others before you. So getting traction will be easier in some ways if you can build a community and work in partnership with them. As usual it is about looking at your audience from their perspective. Think about what they want to hear, not what you want to share first.

How will you change your Facebook Marketing Strategy now that you know how Facebook edits the world? Share your experiences below.

October 24, 2010 Posted by | local marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Integrating all the tools of Keeping Current – Part 1

There are a wide variety of blogs, sites, magazines, books, podcasts and more for learning and keeping up to date with how to market your online presence. One of the challenges is what to pay attention to, and what to ignore.

With that as a need, I am going to start posting what resources I find helpful and try to point out how I look at them for understanding how best to develop an integrated marketing strategy. These tools may have direct information on what to do, but more often they provide a framework for what not to do (such as Black hat SEO – best case a short term strategy, worst case can kill a business) as well as what creative solutions to look for to improve business.

These are just some of the tools and resources I am using today. Having ‘learned’ many industries over the decades, I have learned that trade magazines and newspapers were the best way to quickly see what was coming to ‘mainstream’ business, as well as how to read between the lines as to what are the best practices for today.  I am forever thankful for one of my mentors showing me the subscription cards in most trade magazines. I also curse him every time I move, and I am not current, and need to toss my piles. There is so much changing in every industry, and marketing is no different.  The underlying principles are often the same over the decades (ever notice how similar website marketing is to direct mail marketing), but the nuances evolve (7 touches is now 9 or 12 depending on your study and costs).

All of this leads me to ask you – what tools do you use to stay current?

August 14, 2010 Posted by | local marketing, Reference books, SEO tools, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Looking at Your Visitors All the Same, or in Small Groups?

Poll –

Have you  heard about the long tail by Chris Anderson? Briefly his book is the ‘discovery’ that there is more ‘action’ in the rest of a market (in terms of total dollars or total number sold or total people involved or…) then the ‘top 10’ best sellers.  He spends a lot of time doing lots of analysis that proves that there is more ‘area’ under the curve in the long tail or the ‘rest of the market’ or the top 1,000,000 less the top 10, then there is in the top 10 of most categories.  Of course, top 40 radio stations do not want you to know this. Nor do Budweiser, Miller, Coke and Pepsi – they only feel the top 5 is all that counts.

What does this have to do with your website? Mostly that you do not have to be ‘the top 10’ of a ‘short tail term’ to be someone.  You can be very successful by focusing on your niche.  The key for success is to define multiple niches and excel at a niche rather then trying to be everything to everyone. You still have to rank high for your term, but it does not have to be a short tail term, it can be a long tail term (shoes vs. New Balance 531 AA Blue shoes).

This is born out by reviewing how searches are done on the Internet. The trend continues to be more and longer keyword phrases month after month as people continue to not find what they are looking for on short tail searches. Every go into a car dealer with the answer of ‘A Car’ to the ‘how can I help you?’. You frustrate most salespeople, they don’t want short tail answers, they want long tail answers – ‘I want a blue 2009 H2 with all the accessories’. Search engines are not (usually) smarter then even a car salesperson. They want you to identify what your interests are, what your desires are and how you will use the car – your

Psychographic modeling

Look at your psychographic in smaller chunks of the long tail and put the ‘chunks’ together. Look at the casual buyer, the passionate collector, the person who only uses it once, the family that only buys from a recommendation.

The point is concentrate on behavioral targeting. Of course, this can get creepy if you go too far, but being perceptive is a benefit. So understanding that collectors what good shipping and wrappers is good. Knowing your customer’s bra size (especially if they have never ordered from you) is usually creepy. The key is to look at it through the eyes of your potential customer.


Just like you should not prejudge all blue people as cold and distant, you should not prejudge all your visitors as meeting just one standard way of behaving.

  • Define different groups of visitors
  • look at how they would prefer to interact with your business
  • what should you do to most accommodate their preferences
  • how will they be looking to find you
  • what terms do each group use (surfboard vs. board vs. ) – need 4 examples of different terms that could be culturally or generationally different …Rad idea dude! Cool man! (when did cool get to mean hot?)
  • create extra pages that are focused on each psychograpic to cater to the needs of each group
  • look at what the overlaps are of the different groups this is what you should consider emphasizing in your main pages.
  • look at and map (MS VISIO is good for this or mind map software) your potential target group. Look at where they overlap and where they don’t.

When you start designing your marketing campaigns, it is important to look at the long tail of your market. What do the different niches want? What are the solutions they are looking for? The different answers to these questions will help you identify the correct strategies for marketing effectively to the long tail. That will allow you to create effective keyword lists that are far easier to rank well in then the ‘short tail’ terms that ‘everyone else’ is battling for.

Rather then fighting for top 10 place for the term  ‘Beer’ on Google, go after ‘Western Wisconsin’s best wheat ale’, your audience will be more dedicated, less price sensitive and  easier to reach. In other words more profitable.

August 2, 2010 Posted by | copywriting, How To, Large SKU site, local marketing, SEM Industry | , , , , | Leave a comment

When is the best time to call a lead?

Bill asked the question in his blog http://blog.marketo.com/blog/2010/07/perfect-timing-%E2%80%93-when-to-call-a-prospect.html/comment-page-1#comment-5180

Here is my response to his discussion:

To me the answer was ASK. Before I scrolled down to your recommendations, that what was screaming in my mind. More and more the trying to parse someones specific needs based on all sorts of psycographic indicators is like trying to fish without radar. It may work in the aggregate, but if you are concerned about the individual day’s catch, it is a poor strategy. An individual purchaser’s will be different at different times. I was thinking how I purchase, and more and more, when I find a potential solution resource is varied from where I am in the sales cycle. I may find a new solution as I am checking the references of a final candidate, and having legal reviewing the contract, or I may find a resource as I am considering the category.

Besides, if you ask, it builds relationship and shows that you are more concerned about the clients needs rather then your own. And that will certainly help improve the sales cycle.

What are your thoughts?

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Community, local marketing | , , , , | Leave a comment

I Ranked Well in Google, Where Are My Sales?

A client asked ‘I am ranked well on my keyword search term, but I am not getting many calls for my service – what gives?’

In the years of working with businesses even before the Internet, one of the biggest issue I have found, is that many businesses do not understand their solutions from their customers perspective. They look at their business from the supplier/seller side. They try to sell the best drill, forgetting that customers want to buy holes.  They sell the best shoes, forgetting that customers are buying a fun run, or how to win the marathon, or how to get a date. It has been a problem for so many businesses that 95% will never celebrate their 5th birthday  So how to translate this wisdom into Internet sales?

Create a more complete keyword list

Understand your ranking well may be in the wrong category. The customer IS searching for the right term, if you are not ranked well in that term it is your issue, not the customer’s. This is another place where the customer is always right. So a few questions and suggestions:

  • Make a list of all the different keyword search terms your perspective customers would be searching for you .
  • Then take some time, ask some friends and double your list of keyword phrases.
  • Now call your best 2 customers, ask them how they would search for your product or service.
  • Then feed it into Google’s keyword suggestion tool – https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

Now you have a list of keywords phrases. This usually is a much longer list than most businesses start with. This is part of what you hire experts for – to develop this list. The trend is to use longer phrases, as the shorter ones are usually more generic as each year passes. The short ones are more competitive, even if they get more traffic. But start with the longer ones, as they are usually easier to rank higher on, and also often incorporate the shorter phrases.

Now optimize each page of your site for a different phrase.

Are there any geographical indicators in your keyword phrases? If so, then think like your customers and consider that they consider themselves the center of the universe, not you and your business. They are probably searching from their home, not your business as the center. If your business is technically located in Warrenville, then cover the surrounding area. This is especially important if you are located in a suburban area where one town blends into the next town at the end of a strip mall and many customers many not even know where the town lines are. If you are in a larger city, don’t forget to refer to the city and the neighborhood names. Again focus on your customers location, more then yours. So optimize or add text that indicates you serve them –

Serving the Western DuPage lllinois area including: Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville, and Boilingbrook for dental patients like you for over 10 years. Supporting the Lisle Lions Football team and the Naperville Hockey Booster club.

Change this up on the different pages (but be truthful of course – lies will kill you more then poor rankings). You can put a tag line at the bottom of each page, you can have different descriptions in your description and TITLE tags, you can describe your location with ALT tags on the photos of your location, you can talk about your staff and the towns they live in. All of these help Google and your clients understand that your business is in their neighborhood.

Of course you need to optimize your titles to include your keyword search phrases in a way that attracts your customers to want to click on your site. If you were looking at these page titles on a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page), which would you click on?

  • About Us
  • About Joe’s Lawn Service
  • Joe’s Lawn Service
  • Joe’s Lawn, Kingwood
  • Kingwood TX’s best Lawn and Garden Maintenance service keeping your yard sharp, and your pocket book full since 1998.

Who are you more interested in considering – you or your customers?

Once you have these in place, make sure you have Google Analytics or some way to measure your traffic to determine if the problem is – not enough people getting to your site, or not enough people taking action on your site. Without numbers, it becomes very easy to solve the wrong problem. Especially if the real problem is harder to solve.

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Community, copywriting, local marketing, SEO tools, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment