Provide a less attractive option to close on your preferred sale

You must watch the following video from Ted Talks. It is incredibly informative and humorous. When dealing with your sales funnel, it will make you realize that you can caress a visitor in a particular (and more profitable) direction by simply making an offer appear more attractive with the inclusion of a less attractive version of the same. Watch the video to understand completely.

This is how Google is conditioning us to click on Ads!

Today, I felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs. It was an odd experience. It was one of the moments when the light bulb suddenly went off.

I had a package to track. As a user of Google Chrome, I simply highlighted my UPS tracking number and right clicked to do a Google search for the tracking link. For those who don’t know, Google recognizes a lot of numbers, codes, etc. Enter a tracking number from any of the major shipping companies and Google is likely to place a simple link to the tracking page for the carrier. In this case it was UPS. Google makes things easier for me by knowing. In fact, you can find a cheat sheet that includes many of the functions recognized by the Google search box.

Google is doing a better job than anyone else at determining my intent. They knew that I wanted to track a package, so when I searched on a UPS tracking number they returned a result that linked directly to the UPS tracking page. If I were to head to UPS directly, I would have had to type UPS.com into the browser, select my location/country, paste my tracking code into the box and click track. Not a big deal, but a simple copy, click, click, click from Google has become much easier, faster, and pleasing to me.

Back to the conditioning to click on ads part. When I select the tracking code and then conduct my search, I then see the following page (blacked out tracking number for privacy)

Google conditions users to click in ad space

Google conditions users to click in ad space

The result of my search displayed in the same format as a text ad from Google. This convenience search (using a UPS tracking number directly) is part of a grand plan to condition me to click in that ad space with those familiar colors and format.

Take a look at a typical search result page.  You can see that the primary difference between the convenience result (tracking link) is formatted in the same way as an ad result (below).

Google conditioning me SERP

Google conditioning me SERP

Genius, Google.  I love it and hate it at the very same time!
Link to Video: Google Conditioning Users
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On Site SEO – 12 Rules to Follow

As with many endeavors, the devil is in the details. Small things make a difference, large things matter. Stack them up and you are suddenly carrying some weight. Let me explain. As someone who has been involved in marketing and online since 1996, I probably take a lot of practices for granted. It isn’t until I am having discussions with others who are managing their own web sites and asking a few questions that some of the best practices come out.  There may be hundreds of factors that can have an impact on a pages rank and applying the best practices at the time the page is built should help in the short and long term. For those who are new to managing their own web site, or are new to the concept of search optimization and search marketing, you will soon learn that a pile of small details make a huge difference in your web site ranking results.

  1. Name pages in a logical way When naming a page you should use the content of the page to determine the page name. When you are viewing search results at Google, your eye will catch the URL.  If the URL reinforces the focus of the page you will be drawn to it visually. In addition to that, a logical page name will tell a search engine what that page is about. If I am writing a page about Buffalo SEO, I am not going to name my page page3.htm.  Instead, I will name the page buffalo-seo.htm.  The reason is two-fold.  Higher click through rate (CTR) when listed in the search results and adds weight to the keyword or phrase you are optimizing for on that page.
  2. Separate page names with hyphens rather than underscores This was debated for quite some time a number of years back. Search marketers would try to get an answer from the search engines regarding what the best separator to use between words when naming a web page. Well, a few years back, Google chimed in and said hyphens are better.  That became the standard once Google indicated a preferred separator.  It always seemed logical to me that the hyphen was a more natural word separator, but the underscore/hyphen separator debate went on for a number of years.
  3. Never use a space when naming a file Have you ever seen a page that included %20 in the name?  That would be due to the fact that the person naming the file had a space in their file name. When naming a local file (one sitting on your own PC) a space has always been fine. However, as everything moves online (to the cloud) spaces should be set aside. A separator should be used. As discussed above, use a hyphen. It is a natural separator that tells the search engine that these are separate words. A page on search marketing might be named search-marketing.htm.  This will help the engine (and your site) much more than search_marketing.htm or searchmarketing.htm.  In fact, in the past, certain browsers couldn’t even render files with spaces in the name.
  4. Name your images based on what is in the image For example: If I have a picture of Matt Cutts, I am not going to stick with an image name that was assigned by my camera.  P102314.jpg doesn’t do much for me. matt-cutts.jpg just might.  The more you can do to help the search engines deliver a result that their visitor expects to see, the better off things will be. Don’t try to game it. Name things logically.
  5. Alt tags When you have an image on your web site, you should include a value for the “Alt” tag of the image. Alt tags also help the search engine (and users such as those with image display turned off) to discover what an image is about. As with the image name, your Alt tag should describe the image. Rather than just the name, you could expand slightly. For example, for the image matt-cutts.jpg, your alt tag might be “Matt Cutts from Google” or “Matt Cutts Google engineer”.
  6. Title The title of your page is one of the more important elements to focus on.   When I refer to the “title” of your page, I don’t mean the name, or a visible portion of the page that your visitor will see, but rather the title that is encoded in the page.  Look to the bar (or tab) at the top of your browser. Do you see the words in the bar (or tab)?  That is the title.  This should be the area where you focus on what the page is about. If you are writing a page about Search Marketing, your title should reflect that. Your title should be descriptive without excessive use of “stop words“.  Many people, and companies, make the mistake of simply including their company name as the title.  It is the easy way out and doesn’t do much for boosting your ranking for a targeted search term.  Be descriptive in the title and be sure to stay on focus with the content of the page.
  7. H1 Tag (Heading) The H1 tag is often misused.  Often times, folks will use the tag to markup text because they want it to be BIG.  The real function that the H1 tag serves is to tell the search engines what the most important topic on your page is.  This topic should echo (but not duplicate) the topic used in your page Title tag.  H tags are H1 through H6.  They are sized based upon the number. 1 is the largest and carries the most weight. The main thing to remember is to hit your main page topic in this page
  8. Paragraph Content Your opening paragraph on a web page should be the area where you pick up on the topic of the page. Remember, we hit the topic in the “title” and in the “H1″, now we are going to reinforce that topic with our paragraph content.  Your writing should be as natural as can be for your first draft. Be sure you are writing for the user when you create the copy for your page.
  9. Canonical (non www) This may be an issue that eventually goes away but, for now, we still recommend that you redirect all visits to either the www version of your site (http://www.venturen.net) or the non-www version of your site (http://venturen.net). I have always been a proponent of the www version (dub-dub-dub / triple dub for short). You can also utilize tools such as Google’s webmaster tools to let them know that you prefer a particular version.  There is even a MAJOR sin with regard to the www issue.  There are still sites that exist in which there is no redirect to the www version if you go to the non-www version.  You are giving up a lot of traffic by being lazy and changing a simple setting with your host (or on your own server) to be sure that both versions resolve to the same site.  One thing to keep in mind is that you must do your redirects to the preferred version of your site via a 301 redirect. Any other is frowned upon and might hurt more than helping.  Here are a couple of resources regarding the 301 redirect.
  10. Related words (lexical) Google suggest | Keyword sandbox There are some who believe that supporting your content with words that are related to your core word, or phrase, will help support the topic of the page. I am a firm believer of this idea.  An example that I always use is one where I describe an article about car insurance.  I might include other words related to car or insurance. However, you should do so naturally. If I am writing the car insurance article, I might include phrases such as “it is our policy to allow for…”.  In this case, the word “policy” might add some “insurance” related weight to the page with an entirely different meaning. Don’t force it though. It still must be natural and the copy must be written for the user.  One of the best methods that I find to allow for the natural inclusion of related words is to read a list of the related words prior to writing my copy.  I typically use a site like LexFN.com to find a list of related words.
  11. Misspellings Done properly, not to deceive.  One of the more common methods that I can recommend to help capture a bit of the misspelling traffic is to make it clear that this is the misspelling. When referencing a name, I might state some of the more common misspellings are…  This one is a bit of a reach, but it can help to capture a visitor who is looking for something in particular and would be assisted by your reference.  Remember, at the end of the day, it MUST provide a better user experience and not try to “trick” the visitor or the engines.
  12. Pages supporting pages In my opinion, this is the one area where you can take a term up the search result page. Supportive content can do a lot to move a page up the rankings.  One of the ways that I will consult clients to understand when a supporting page fits is when they are writing copy and they don’t feel like something was described thoroughly enough, or that a section was to wordy for the page it was on.  This is a flag to create an entirely new page based on that sub topic.  This sub page will support the primary keyword or phrase and will provide a better informational source for your visitor.

The above list simply scratches the surface of optimizing a page. However, they are rules that you should put into practice on your web site anytime you are adding content to your site or revising existing content.  Following these basic rules will start you down the correct path and will do so in a way that will provide the best result for the visitor and will help a search engine to easily determine what your page/site is about.

What’s up Apples Sleeve at WWDC. More pain for Adobe?

There is a lot of chatter about Apples’s WWDC on 6/7/2010-6/11/2010. Most in the tech crowd feel that there won’t be much new news announced. An iPhone 4G was lost/leaked/stolen, etc. and a 2nd version turned up overseas giving us a little more insight into the case (perhaps).

One of the more interesting bits of speculation that has come out in the last couple of days is that a Microsoft presentation may be in the works. In fact, it may be part of the keynote. What I am hearing is that it has to do with Microsoft Visual Studio and would be considered pretty big news. According to the news, VisualStudio will allow developers to write native applications for the iPhone, iPad and Mac OS. This could be great for Microsoft and bad for… Adobe

A Slap in the Face to Adobe (ADBE)

My take on the backing of the VisualStudio platform has a lot to do with the battle with Adobe. Apple and Adobe aren’t exactly getting along. Steve Jobs has gone out of his way to disparage Flash and Adobe and even went so far as to call them ‘lazy’ for not working to improve Flash. For those who don’t know, it is a resource hog. By enlisting Microsoft to work on tools to develop for Apple’s platforms they are needling the current leader in the development space.

Adobe owns a couple of markets right now and one way to put another dagger in their heart (or back) would be to push into their market. The fact that Apple would consider doing this with Microsoft is a surprise. Imagine if Microsoft is able to move Visual Studio (or some variation of) toward becoming a product that web developers would consider in lieu of Adobe’s Creative Suite (Dreamweaver). That would put them back on their heels a bit more. As a developer, I would have to look long and hard (and probably wouldn’t waste the time to do so) after Microsoft’s past attempts to build tools for the web space. Microsoft’s Frontpage was an early leader in this area and lost the game due to the horrific code output and some of the non-standards compliant touches that Microsoft allowed in the product.

In the end, there is a chance that Apple is simply using Microsoft to tighten the screws on Adobe. After all, the cultures at Adobe and Apple are much closer than those at Apple and Microsoft.

Apple’s WWDC could be a big event, or it could simply be another one of their events that make you say “That is about what we thought they would come out with…”.

As always, time will tell!

The power of COOL! iPad, or these 7 alternatives?

Apple iPad and the 7 rivals

Apple iPad and the 7 rivals

In marketing and advertising, you need to hook somene emotionally to get a strong response. Google proved that with a simple yet effective Superbowl Ad.  I must admit, it gave me chills the first time that I saw it.  I showed my wife and found her headed for the tissues after viewing.  The picture that they painted, the story, etc. They hooked people with emotion about a story.  Apple uses their marketing and brand to convey cool and uses that hook.

Apple does cool better than anyone RIGHT NOW.   There can be a shift from time to time, but if you want a fantastic gadget or device that will tell others “I’m Cool”, or I care about great products, an Apple device accomplishes that in one fell swoop.

Will the desire to be part of the “IN” crowd with an iPad be too much for people to avoid?  Prior to the product launch, I convinced myself that this device would be $899 and I wouldn’t need to touch it at that price.  Well, Apple hit a price point where I am saying that I have to have one.  Now I ask myself the question… is it a desire to be “cool” or a desire to have a product that has all of the functions that I want, and does them well?

Here is what Apple does.

  1. Their products convey cool.
  2. They make the best stuff! Hands down. Simple to use out of the box. Well thought design and interface.

Forget the fact that some of the rival “pads” or “slates” will have more features.  What Apple is doing is providing a terrific price point and what is likely to be a terrific product.  I can say that since the iPhone is a terrific product and this is essentially a larger take on the iPhone…for now.

Will you buy just for the cool factor?  We always have choices.  Gmail or Hotmail, iPod or Zune, Tivo or DVR, Nike or Adidas, Coke or Pepsi… you get the picture.  One interesting factor is whether the product used to convey who and what you are is in public view, or just in view of a select group of friends (private view).

  • Public View Example: iPod vs. Zune. Both very nice products.
    Winner: iPod (cool)
    Loser:  Zune (not so much)
  • Private View Example: Tivo vs. cable co. DVR.  Tivo is head and shoulders above the DVR’s provide by your cable company, however, it is in private view and cool is not one of the deciding factors. Cost and function are enough.
    Winner: Any old DVR
    Loser: Tivo

If you are considering a rival to the iPad, for price, OS, or functions you need, consider the list put together by TechCrunch.com.  My hunch is that Apple will have another winner on their hands.  At least in terms of market share.  How big the ‘Pad’ market is has yet to be determined.

Google is VERY Involved in Our Lives

There is no doubt that Google has become the go-to for many things. Think about it.. “would your lives be affected if Google went away tomorrow?”  My life would be affected.  I could scramble and replace many of the services that I rely on Google for, but they make many things easier for me.

The following is a terrific video that plays on the “Don’t be Evil” mantra.  It is very well done and certainly worth a view.

Wow! Google is Pitching Nexus One in Maps

I know that Google wants to get the Nexus one out to the masses, but this surprised me.  They are pitching the Nexus one from within a map search in my browser.  Nothing wrong with using your real estate wisely, but this is a bit aggressive for Google.

Nexus One pitched in Google Maps

It isn’t often that you see Google pitch a product as much as they are with the Nexus One.  In fact they are using home page ad space that they don’t often touch. In fact, Eric Schmidt believes they are giving up billions by not doing so.  I wonder if he had to twist Marissa Mayer’s arm to push the Nexus One on the home page and in the slots within other Google products.

Think we will see a pitch within Adsense or Adwords soon?

Operating Virtually

If you don’t already know it, an 800 number is not an expensive proposition.  I have used a site for a few years that costs $2 per month for a standard 888, 877, or 866 number plus usage rates of 6.9 cents per minute.  An 800 number increases your base rate to $5 per month.  There are also vanity phone numbers available.

You can also use a service such as RingCentral.com to manage multiple numbers including fax lines and employee extensions.   Ring Central is a better choice if you plan on a decent volume of calls or plan to add numbers for additional employees or services.

Kall8 is a good choice if you don’t anticipate much activity, but have a need for a number at a very low cost.

If you are a company who is trying to project a presence beyond your local area, an 800 number is good idea. It isn’t always the cost to your consumer, it is really the perception that you are a larger company.

If you need to project a different story to a consumer, well, you can do that too.  Are you located in Orlando, but want the customer to assume that you are in Chicago? I said assume.  You can obtain a local number much the way you would an 800 number.  This might be the item that pushes your consumer to purchase something from you rather than from a competitor.  If you have a customer who wants an item fast, and you can provide that, he or she might have the impression that it takes longer for the item to reach them from Florida rather than Illinois.

Along with an inexpensive toll free number, or local number, you could consider a Virtual Office.  With a virtual office, you can project an image that will win you customers simply due to the image that you project.  I am not suggesting that you are dishonest with anyone.  If asked, make it clear that your business address is a shared executive office facility and that you are not there on a daily basis.  As a growing company, it is not a surprise to move once or twice in the first year or two. A virtual office address will not only provide a better image than using your home address, or a foreign address, but it will allow you to keep a single address during your growth phase.  This will save you some time and money in updating letterhead, business cards, web sites, directory site listings, map listings, local business listings, and more (in the event that you move your physical location).

Consider a virtual office with a local number.  It can help your business to grow.

Resources:
RingCentral.com (Affiliate relationship)
WaldenVirtual.com (My virtual office solution)