evil-lurksApparently I’ve been under a rock this last week. I just learned that on October 5, 2009 the FTC has new guidelines for advertising, blog endorsements, and testimonials.

The biggest target of these new guidelines is going to be faux viral marketing efforts in my opinion. An example would be when a company recruits bloggers/3rd parties of any sort (even celebrities) to talk about their products/services in exchange for a free product, cash, or other service.

Most viral marketing efforts online are done using social media. It has been growing rapidly. Social Media spending has reached $1.35 Billion in 2007 and is expected to reach $3.7 Billion by 2011 according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.

The big social media platforms look like they are going to be monitored. Look for FTC agents to “friend” you on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter (LOL).

I believe though, these new guidelines are going to also affect those advertisement website (web page really) whose scrolling down never ends, with countless of fake testimonials from individuals that are not really credential. And at the end, they have a ridiculous price, or no price at all until you click on payment to get you to sign up. I mean, it’s just a single webpage, but yet people still signup and fall for it every time. Usually the main products they are selling are e-books, or SEO Expert tools of some sort.

Actually, now that I think about it, every industry, every niche, online and offline is going to be affected. In the guidelines it also specifies that “extraordinary results” can no longer be used, but only on average results/testimonials; so no more “results may vary”, or “these results are not common” practice.

In a nutshell a blogger or celebrity must now disclose their endorsement properly and also the payments that where made to them in detail (cash, goods, freebies, etc.)

Read the full FTC guideline.

I believe this will eliminate a lot of bad apples online, but only in the United States. So, it comes down to bloggers/celebrities around the world can say whatever they want, but not in the USA. The real problem here is that the FTC doesn’t really have control over the Internet. It’s not in “US territory”. The Internet is worldwide, and there is really no “Internet Police”.

The Internet is still like the Wild Wild West, and its evolution will continue. These bad apples can simply “move” to another country, and start making the claims again. There will always be scammers that slip through the cracks, and now policing the whole internet, and attempt to make sure no one lies seems too big of a task for even the FTC. What has happened in the past will continue to happen, the bad apples will continue pushing the limit, and the FTC will step in on the major ones they can find, but catching them all? It’s impossible.

One thing I am thankful for is that companies who are doing the right thing and not attempting to sneak around with deceptive practices will slightly have a better chance of getting their voices heard over the would be scammers.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what do you think about the FTC new guidelines, and some of the gray areas that have been left for interpretation? Do you think that the FTC can police the Internet? Successfully?

It’s All About Data – SEO Expert Advice

On October 9, 2009, in Expert Advice, by Adelard

data-seo-expertData, data, data, all the answers lay within the data. Today I learned quite a number of things looking over all the data of all my clients. It’s game time for many of my clients going into the holiday season, and understanding what current rankings they hold and have achieve in the last week gave me profound awakening about most businesses.

Being a new business owner I find there are not enough hours in the day to simply get the major work done for the core business to help it grow. There can never be enough marketing, enough data analysis, or enough creative ideas. I sometimes wish I could spend whole weeks just analysis data streams with my team because the answers to all marketing campaigns lie there.

Search Engine Optimization has evolved a lot in the last several years, but it’s still not mainstream. SEO Experts and Gurus all agree the power that search engines have can literally bankrupt or make a shooting star out of a website. Search engines know this, and every website dominating a particular niche knows this.

One thing a lot of lower ranking “SEO 7 optimum” companies offering $99 SEO realize though is the power of the data they have.

I’m a firm believe in data analysis, at Karma Snack we have a dedicated team of data analysts on staff just to discover new keywords, trends, and shifts in client’s industries. Their job it to find the information, quickly process it, and at the end of the day have a working marketing campaign that is geared towards the new mini-strategy. I love them, especially the ones that are up till 4 o’clock in the morning with me instant messaging me back and forth about why this new marketing campaign will or will not work.

What I realized though is that most businesses simply do not have people sitting around analyzing data. I mean the big companies like Humana, American Express, etc. do, and some will say “Well they can afford to”. I believe that any expert in their field, whether it is Internet marketing for my company, or selling uniforms for a client, or international commercial loans for another client, needs to sit down one a week or once a month to really look at the data. Can you really afford not do? Who are you best customers, who are worst customers, what initiative this month/week have you done to promote your company? What promotions are working, and what aren’t and why? What is all the data telling you?

Lucky for my clients they have my team of expert analysts and me, and lucky for me we have tracking analytics tools installed, heat-maps, custom visitor behavior models, customized in-house SEO tools, and really top of the line business metrics available to us.

But even if you have a simply website with Google Analytics or Awstats, oh yeah I remember those days, looking and finding trends can be easy. Analyze where you where a month ago, 3 months ago, 1 year ago in terms of data, and compare it to the industry. Are you doing better or worst than every one else?

Strange things you find in the data can be either a gold mine waiting to be discovered or can alert you of future potential problems.

In my business I always have clients telling me they want to rank for this or that keyword, with no data to back it up on why. They just want to rank so they can be number one. Usually it’s an obscure keyword that I can get rankings for within a week. So I end up doing 30 minutes or so of work on this particular keyword, and get them the rankings in a week or so. The client is happy at first, but then realize the keyword is not bringing enough traffic because it is not popular or it’s bring in the wrong traffic, cause it’s not targeted. This is where I have to then go back and explain about data and why understanding the data is important. Data is so important, you should look at your stats at least once a week, if not every day.

A perfect example is today I found about a minimum of 20 new keywords for each clients that they where not ranking a week ago for before, and we where not targeted. These keywords have already started to bring in good traffic, but most important GREAT sales. So now come tomorrow morning, my staff and me are going to be at work getting rankings for these as well. Keywords I would have not discover until maybe Monday, if I hadn’t decided to randomly check all the stats on a Friday afternoon. That equates to an extra 2 days worth of sales, and in this economy every sale counts, and I believe my clients appreciate it.

One thing I will always love about data is it is never wrong.

If you are ever in South Beach Miami and want to talk give me a ring. Till next time, see on the beach!

Targeting Your Online Brand's Audience Correctly For any web marketing and online website owner, you have to realize the reality of branding. There are going to be an audience you will not be able to gain with your specific brand. There are cases when it is necessary to create a 2nd or 3rd brand, if you have the resource, to target different segments of an audience. Fact is that some people won’t like your message one way, but offering the same product/services under a different brand and message might get them.

Getting Traffic
Getting the traffic and prospective customers is the first step. Go after everyone you possible can, and watch what type of client responds positively and what type respond negatively. You should always try to generate proactive leads in any business, reach out to prospects to get their business. You need to concentrate on proactively driving the sales on one end, and also attracting sales/leads on your website’s end. It’s a 2-pronged approach. Time is a factor in life; so knowing what to focus on in the very beginning of a new business is important.

For a NEW online website there should be a focus on increasing leads and increase sales for the first several months until you can get things off the ground and come back and fix the brand image, and refocus IF necessary. During this time you will truly begin to understand what type of audience your brand attracts and how you should focus your brand’s image going forward.

In the early stages of any business you have to be aware that you are not going to get the brand perfect the first time. If the design and layout doesn’t work after a given period of time like 3 to 6 months then change it. But that doesn’t mean just run with the layout you got, always be testing. Use a/b split testing methods; Google has a Website Optimizer program that helps to increase leads and revenue by focusing the traffic you have. Every website can use improvements, so testing should go on forever. After 3 to 6 months if review everything in the brand and refocus your message to your target audience. You might find out that the target audience might not even be the most profitable one, and can re-convey your message towards the new one.

I’ve been in the lead generating game for a long time as well; I’ve worked in boiler room situations as well. Did I do great cold calling? NO! But when the leads were warm, fresh, or even hot leads generated from an online website, they were more likely to close. That’s where I realized to really engage users I had to go back to what I new best the Internet. That’s why I’m in Internet marketing. I’ve had first hand experience in the mortgage, health care, and entertainment industry. I have noticed in all lead generating scenarios the majority of leads being generating are going to be shitty leads. That’s a fact.

It is simply human psychology that people don’t like change, they fear it. That’s why there is “tire kicking” in every lead generation niche.

Your Brand
Your brands’ website and it’s design/layout is a big part of the message conveyed to visitors. Like I said before there is always room to improve everything, that’s why I concentrate on doing split tests with all my clients’ website and my own sites. I’ve even experimented with creating dynamic SEO programs for website to “self improve” over time as new keywords are found.

In the early stage of a business I recommend not sit around talking about brand image for weeks on end, cause the business will be completely broke cause there are no sales. You don’t have time for that.

Online Branding doesn’t mean anything to a site with no traffic. AND traffic to a bland site does mean anything when your audience is not excited, attentive, or interested in your offer. You have to really understand the mentality of individuals online.

People Want Information Quickly
I will again state this because I have the number to back it up; PEOPLE DON”T READ EVERYTHING YOU WRITE ONLINE. It’s all about their experience. There are too many distractions when visitors are on their computer to read any and everything you have written. Most people are not going to get past the 4 or 5 page without being distracted with emails, instant message, and the ADHD that our society has. This scenario is only hyper inflated when it comes to online. People want you to get to the point they are here for quickly.

Different Types of People
There is a great article at WickedFire.com that everyone should read -
http://www.wickedfire.com/affiliate-marketing/35927-howto-create-ultra-targeted-ads-get-highly-converting-campaigns.html

It talks about demographics and how to create better AD for them. The demographics is divided into roughly 4 categories online:

———- Excerpt ———-
The 4 classic types of buyers’ personalities are described as:

-Methodical. Very thorough and slow-paced in researching a purchase. May be skeptical of contests, free shipping and returns – what’s the catch? Likes side-by-side product comparison to make a rational decision. They want to know: How this product/service will help them. They want accuracy, details, features, hard evidence, superior service, proof, etc.

-Spontaneous. Why should I or should I not order this now? They are spontaneous, appreciate a personal touch, and prefer quick decisions. Responds to sales, discounts, limited stock and time-limited offers. Responds to free overnight shipping (I can have it tomorrow!). Interested in “how many” reviews there are, not necessarily reading them.

-Humanistic. They are slower-paced, have no rush, and might ask, ”Who else has used this product to solve my problem?” They enjoy getting to know other users, enjoy real testimonials, shared experiences. Looks for the perfect gift, use gift finders and wish lists. Cares what others have to say. Appreciates live support and human interaction.

-Competitive. Logical, but faster-minded. Likes to be the first to own a product – responds to new items, featured or best sellers. Doesn’t want to dig for information. He or she is into facts, summaries and some detail‚ but rather not spend too much time on research.
———- Excerpt ———-

For a discount brand, it would be looking at the “Spontaneous” and “Competitive” target audience as customers.

For a high-end brand, you are most likely looking for the “Methodical” and “Humanistic” target audience.
But most people are mixed examples of the demographic. They all have a little of each in them, and depending on what their current mentality is and what they are looking searching for, they can completely switch demographic.

For example a customer might be in the “Methodical” and “Spontaneous” targeted audience, with coverage in the “Competitive” since they talked about how much money the competition is constantly doing.

The wickedfire article is a small piece of the research I have used to understand who and what I am targeting for my Karma Snack clients. This understanding of how to gauge a consumer and gain their trust to have them become a client is a part of the research I do.

This understanding goes into all of my Karma Snack client’s marketing efforts, and into my own. That’s why at times I suggest a 2nd brand to use for marketing. You can also have plans down the road to acquire/buy other brands that appeal better to a particular audience that your current brands do. In the end the only thing that matters in increasing leads and increasing sales, bottom line. That’s where the “brand value” really occurs.

Everything I try to do is extraordinary and that is why I left previous companies cause they where bland, boring, and not getting the job done even though the traffic was there. They failed because they couldn’t understand how the Internet works, even though for years I kept explaining to them that trying to please everyone in one brand was completely wrong.

Branding all comes down to an old saying:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

If you have any questions about anything I wrote, or comments please feel free to comment or even contact me directly. Thanks for reading my blog/rant.