Style Over Substance – Your BS is Working

I’ve been noticing a disturbing phenomenon in client SEO land.  Now, I’m not going to call out any Phoenix SEO companies specifically, but if you’re reading this, you probably know who you are.

Some of the people in the industry that I pegged as pure BS artists are landing clients faster than those with the skills that SHOULD pay the bills.  And it is not by virtue of their ability to rank a site or run an advertising campaign, it’s their ability to BS clients that’s getting them the work.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect your hustle Mr. Snake Oil.  You make more calls, kiss more ass, go to more “networking” events, and hand out more business cards.  You work for yours.  But where are your clients’ sites when you’re done with them?

I’ve been on the frontlines recently.  Pushing out proposals like a madman, researching people’s sites, and checking out the work left behind by previous SEO firms.  What I see, quite frankly, embarasses me.  Mostly because I am getting lumped in with these guys.  Then I get the client’s sob story about their previous experience.  It usually sounds something like this:

They were great.  We had bi-weekly phone meetings, we used this neat little tool to track our progress, I got reports with graphs in them, and I even rank number one for “Arizona Mortgage Refinancing Specialist Ahwatukee AZ”.  But I just can’t afford the 8k a month retainer anymore“.

Or worse, this:

They were terrible.  I had a really bad experience with [insert well known company] who promised me rankings.  They charged my 8k a month, and even had the gall to send more invoices when I asked for even the smallest changes“.

My interpretation of both scenarios leads to the same conclusion.

Scenario 1 – You’re a  good bullshitter.  You made your client believe they were getting a value from your shoddy service, overcharged, and dried up the well.

Scenario 2 – You’re a good bullshitter. You made your client believe they were going to get a value for your shoddy service, overcharged, and scared a client from using a better company’s web marketing services down the road.

You’re Doing It Wrong

Either way, I am seeing shoddy work from previous firms and agencies. They’re leaving huge holes in their campaigns.  I’m proposing lower prices than companies were used to paying their old crappy vendors.  I’m seeing low hanging fruit and easy wins for my potential clients.  And I am still having to hustle way more than I ever thought I would have to, just to save a potential client back to the good side of the force.  The fish that normally would be jumping in the boat, are still on the edge.

In cases like these, where clients have been burned, it doesn’t matter that I have rankings and case studies to prove my ability.  It doesn’t matter that I have ringing endorsements from referrals.  It doesn’t matter that I have no problem contracting out clauses or adding performance clauses to mitigate cost risk.  People just have a harder time trusting SEO companies in general, because of the BS artists who left trash in their wake.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em?

Part of me wishes I had a better line of BS. Maybe I should have gone to more events to glad hand realtors, lawyers, and loan sharks.  Or maybe worked on my fake smiles a little more.  Tried to kiss more ass…

But that part of me IS BS.  I’m actually happy with the being a “no bullshit” kind of guy, even if I am not getting as many clients as more polished sales persons with less skill.  It’s just a shame that the pool of potential clients out there has been tarnished by slicksters who are all style, and little substance.

Running a Mini-Call Center From My Living Room

This is intense.  The feel of a new start up is exciting.  A good friend of mine is taking calls, literally from my living room. I’m  spending quite a bit of my own money to advertise a new product.  I’m rolling the dice.

Wish me luck, I am glued to analytics and my heart is pumping.  I hope this works!

It has to.  Failure is not an option.

Is the Affiliate Marketplace Counter-Cyclical?

As more and more Americans lose their jobs, many will turn to the web to try and generate income. Using the web as a revenue stream to many of us may seem like a mature marketplace, and maybe in some ways it is, but the fact remains that the web as a whole is still pretty new. We just don’t have that much trend data mapping online commerce to financial cycles. So with this post, I’m shooting from the hip. I’m going to use mostly logic, guestimates, and assumptions. Hopefully my logic is challenged and my point of view is broadened.  So please participate if you can open me up a little. :-)

Unemployment rates in America are steadily increasing.  Over 6.5% of America is unemployed.  Logic dictates that as people lose their jobs, job marketplace websites should see increased interest.  But what I am seeing, is a decline in interest for job marketplace websites.  Seasonality aside (the Holiday season is a down market for most sectors outside of retail) the decline in traffic seen for Career Builder and looks pretty dramatic.

Part of this could be because ad budgets are slowing down.  Many of those sites were fueled by advertising revenue from financial products like credit cards, mortgages, insurance, and student loans.  And we all know what happened to American finance.  Finance tanked.  (I know this first hand, because I specialized in marketing financial products for the past 6 years… and the once stable company I worked for is now all-but-out-of-business.)  But even if the advertising engines for the job marketplace sites are slowing, both Monster and CareerBuilder have reached critical mass. Most people already know where to go when searching for jobs online.  And people are not searching for jobs as much.

So what are Americans doing to feed their families?  Searches on affiliate marketing are getting hotter. The amount of people looking to make money online has skyrocketed in the last quarter of this year.  A friend from CJ says their publisher side is booming and the advertiser side is slowing to a crawl.

Money being spent by advertisers online is decreasing.  Online advertising is following the expected path, and is currently off cycle.  But the amount of people looking to get a piece of that pie is increasing fast.  So the moral of the story is, there is less money being spent by advertisers during the recession, and we’re looking at a potential flood of new affiliates who will further dilute the potential profitability for this type of marketing.

So hold on folks.  2009 might be even harder at the bread line as the “new recruits” of recently unemployed affiliate marketers flood the web.

For those more opportunistics types, it might be a good time to launch another affiliate marketplace if you have the money to squat on it for a while.  There will certainly be a lot of CJ rejects looking for a channel.  Growing your publisher base will probably be easier than normal during this time.  But don’t expect the advertisers to bite right away.  If you have the patience to wait through this down cycle in our economy, having a big publisher base ready for the next financial cycle will be key.

Micro-Blogging; Come Follow Me on Twitter!

If you’re like me (a completely A.D.D. web geek) your attention span is probably really shor..

So short I couldn’t even finish writing that sentence…

So let’s get to the point then.  Come follow me on Twitter.  Micro-blogging.  Fast.   Click here and win fabulous prizes!

NextStudent’s Web Marketing Team

Web Marketing at NextStudent. For those who don’t already know, I am Chris Hooley, Corporate SEO, and the guy who runs the NextStudent Web Marketing Department. Just thought I’d get that part out of the way so this post didn’t seem so random…

It’s been a crazy year in Student Loan Land, with the big banks and federal government putting the shake down on student lenders (at the expense of students, and much to the chagrin of financial aid officers). Kids are going to have a tough time finding money to pay for school this upcoming semester because of the perfect storm of bad legislation, tough credit markets, and a virtually lifeless capital market. Big banks are looking at this as a boon, a perfect opportunity to swallow up market share. So they are spending MORE despite the fact that the loans are losing them lots of money right now. I’m even watching them trying to work their SEO, and (cough! choke) get social.

Imagine that, fighting off the big banks with deep pockets every day… Feels like Rocky vs. the steroid guy from Russia.

Well fortunately for NextStudent (and all borrowers who find out how great we are!) the Web Marketing Team is holding it down. We’re the big guys around here on the interwebs! We’ve been training like Sly Stallone and we’ll never give up! Get off my Google B of A. Keep up the Chase, Wells F. The web is My Citi!

Ok enough of the bad plays on words. It’s Saturday Night, I should save the bad jokes for my attempt at getting social (aka going to Santisi Bros. with some buddies).

The deal is, the webmarketing team at NextStudent is a powerhouse. We’re more than strong at all of our core competencies, we’re a collective ROCKY. You might be able to get some licks in, but we never give up and we are always on the top. The people I work with are some of the slickest, smartest, and most motivated people I’ve ever met. All aspects of our web marketing repertoire are handled by the best and the brightest. We’re corporate, we’re out there, and we’re helping define the edge that bigger guys can hardly even fathom. Good luck monetary monoliths. BRING IT ON!!!

Rocky – OUT!


After getting back the SES New York, I realized something huge. Last week was probably one of the best weeks of my entire life. The SEO industry is amazing; so many cool people who genuinely want to help each other succeed. I’m still gathering all the pics from the craziness, and a long awesome update complete with pics, links, stories, and other awesome shizzle is on it’s way.

Props to NYC for being so dope.

The New Face of Corporate America: KISS MY CORPORATE ASS!

Fast paced change has been the M.O. of the past few decades. As the internet expands and practically consumes media markets, those who once were the undercurrent have become the drivers.

Corporate PunkThe MTV generation is taking over. Major corporations are now being infiltrated by a nihilistic, voyeuristic, and sometimes brash new breed of executive management. Hackers, crackers, punks, and rappers are growing their roots into Corporate America, and it’s a hostile takeover.

Collecting CoinsApproaching life and business like a video game, Generation XY was programmed to collect coins. Arbitrage and market imbalances are no different than cracks or exploits in old school Nintendo and Atari games to these new execs. Movers and shakers in their mid to late 20’s liken replacing the old regime of Corporate America to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s just another cultural shift to desensitized YTMs (Young Tech Males).

But this point of view isn’t just for the boys.

“It’s gone from ass kissing, to kiss my ass.” says Rae Hoffman, a well known Internet marketing consultant. “If you’re good at what you do, you can play by your own rules and not those set up by a prehistoric establishment. The teenager who spent ten hours a day trying to beat Bowser to save the princess is the same adult who will spend ten hours a day finding ways to beat a search engine. As a teenager, they were called a slacker. In today’s technology ruled world, they’re called your boss.”

Corporate PunkWearing a suit is the new punk” said a Business Development Director for a multi-billion dollar corporation who chose to remain anonymous.

Anybody can grab a skateboard, get some tats and a mohawk or die their hair black and pretend they are a rebel, but this takes balls. It’s the ultimate middle finger.

Conservative old money entrepreneurs have been eyeing up this generation with envy for years. Initially considered a fad (see Hackers, 1995), the trend of leveraging technology by “power users” has turned into somewhat of a corporate shenanigan. In the late 90s, Corporate America began invading places like defcon to find the best and brightest “network security experts”. Many cyberpunks quickly found themselves at high paying corporate jobs, others saw jail time, while others faded into obscurity.

Rage Against the MachineEmbracing change and pushing that envelope is the core of the “Cold War Baby” generation. It’s no surprise that they are currently shaking up most formal institutions, especially Corporate America. Social activism and dark overtones powered much of the media they grew up consuming. Music like Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, and Gangsta Rap was the soundtrack, while movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Gleaming the Cube, Revenge of the Nerds, Boys N the Hood and The ‘Burbs were popular favorites.

It’s no wonder why this new type of executive has their middle finger up while creating the next neologisms.

The social and economic impact of “corporate punk” hasn’t been determined. At best, the rebellion is just social expression and their forward thinking nature will carry us past our predecessors. At worst, we will have a coup de tats of major distribution channels by 21st century digital graffiti writers.

At this point, all we can do is speculate, but we must embrace the change in the business world or we’ll end up dinosaurs losing ground to a possibly more evolved breed: The Corporate Punk.

The Reptilian Buy Button

Being a marketer essentially means you are a public persuader. It doesn’t matter what you are marketing. Buy this product, click this link, link to this blog, etc. You have a goal. To make your market take action, you must gently, but effectively persuade individuals, one by one.

But how?

According to The Persuaders, a PBS piece on marketing, the answer sometimes it is so deep that it’s simple. People are motivated for different reasons. To market your product, service, or brand to people, you need to find what motivates them to take the action you desire. A quick look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can give you an idea of different levels of needs that humans connect on. But this is just an abstract. A marketer can get much more human than philosophical graphical representations of our wants and needs.

Get primal.

By dealing with your end users on a primal level, you can evoke something much stronger than a quick hit desired action. You can create a cult of users loyal to your brand or your image, and you can persuade that market quite easily after they love you. Just think of the community surrounding Mac and Ipod etc. Think BMW, Mercedes, Ford. Think Coke, Mountain Dew, Rockstar. Think Guinness. Think of who consumes these products loyally, and the people they are associated with. That community might be a part of you, and can be tapped into.

Marketers often waste their time by dealing in the frontal lobe of their consumers, where complex thought takes place. Deduction, reasoning, doubt, affirmation, math- you can drive customers to buy on these points, but it takes a salesman to win an argument there. We are being marketed to so often that we’re becoming numb to the clutter. People are automatically suspicious of messages now.

Just ask a Digg user about SEO. “Red alert, spammers with bad intentions are infiltrating our community!” Ok so that one is partially true, but not entirely. Some of us are trying to break through the clutter, and by this process we are creating heaps and heaps of more useless garbage that clutter the web, the media, and the world.

How do YOU break through the clutter?

Be primal. Be reptilian. Enter the reptilian buy button.

If you appeal to a user on a level that they WANT you to connect with, you have them at your beckoning call. If you are selling a luxury item, you need to unlock the code of luxury to find out what is truly motivating top dollar buyers to buy your product. Here’s a hint, it isn’t price for that one.

Again, think of what Maslow says drives a human. For a luxury item, it’s probably sexual intimacy, respect, esteem, security of the body or something else that is much deeper than complex thought. More than human, these needs are the same things that drive reptiles with their minuscule brains.

How Can YOU Create a Reptilian Buy Button?

It is both easy and hard. It is simple, and complex. You need a mind shift. Think like a 5 year old alien kid who has never been on Planet Earth for a second. Think like your kids. Now think about your product, your company, your blog, etc. How can you be driven to take action?

You can’t convince a kid to click your ad with well thought out text, but you might with an image that they connect with. Instant gratification is not always the key here, but often is. If you hit them with a primal, instinctive emotion, they may connect with you deeper than just the initial click. They make fall in love with your brand, your image, or your culture and you might have just convince a new person to join your cult and buy every new product you launch.

That’s the Reptilian Buy Button. You press it once, and you might have a customer, reader, follower, or a fan for life.

What a Multimillion Dollar Web Advertiser Gets for Christmas

There are lots of posts about the neat schwag that web advertising venues have been sending to their clients this year.  Wanna know what an 8 figure + spender got this year for Christmas?  Here’s the list (which will be updated as things arrive)

  • From Google: nothing (yet?)
  • From Yahoo!: a $50 dollar donation to some charity on our behalf
  • From Kanoodle: a card (so far, but my rep says cool stuff is coming- and they killed it last year)
  • From 50% of our affiliate networks: a “customized” email, but one of them sent fairy tale brownies
  • From our analytics companies: one card from one vendor and 3 no shows
  • From our affiliates: nothing, but in their defense we didn’t send out stuff either and I think we really should have
  • From our ESPs: nada. 
  • From 6 other vendors: a card

This could mean a few different things.  Maybe I’m a dick?  Maybe since we are really low maintenance for most channels our reps forget about us?  (I don’t even have a Google or Yahoo! rep, and we spend millions a year on each… weird eh?)  Maybe tons of stuff is on it’s way?  Maybe they ALL didn’t know we had a new address since February of last year? 

Who knows.  All I know is I want some cool schwag tho.  Maybe I should train my team to dumb it down around the holidays so even us low maintenance multimillion dollar ad spenders can get some neat schwag for Christmas too!

I Wanna 301 Redirect a Big Digger’s Profile Bad

Imagine that.  My digg profile with 936 stories submitted to the home page.  Everything I say gets at least 10k hits a day and 2k backlinks.  My job is to hang out and read cool stuff and decide if I like it, while people try to please me all day.

A 301 redirect in the SEO world means that a site’s theme, backlinks, juice, and most other ranking factors are automatically assigned to the new domain.  The new domain can be anything, even a new one. 

Instant sandbox breaker.

If I could do this in social networking sites, I would be digitalgopher on digg and me and all my friends would have more links than they can handle.  I would also no longer be digg user # 49950.  Man I bet I would get so many chicks.

Imagine that.  Digg user number one.

The SEO / Affiliate Marketer Code of Ethics

SEOs and affiliate marketers are basically all competing for the same thing(s). With that said, I bring you the official SEO / Affiliate Marketer Code of Ethics.

  • Take the money, let somebody else take the credit (unless you make a living speaking or writing books, in which case do the opposite)
  • Your friend’s niche is like their ex and should be treated the same way. If you know about it, you can only get involved with his permission first, and you can’t ask for permission either.  You are, however, allowed to eye the niche up with longing and think about how great it would be if it was yours
  • If you are blackhatting, you can’t blow the whistle on other blackhatters. Only white hats who are 100% spam free are allowed to submit SERP spam reports (which means I will be reporting ALL your silly websites in the morning)
  • Don’t submit a SERP spam report unless the site you are reporting is either doing something A) illegal B) malicious, or C) if the site sucks so bad it is impossible not to try and get the person who created it banned and cut off from their income flow
  • Getting a site banned is like burning down a building. There are very few times when it is OK.
  • You can blog about your own new techniques / exploits, but cannot blog about other people’s unless it is already public knowledge or unless you have permission
  • If you found an exploit, no matter how much I want to read your blog on it… Keep it to yourself, milk it, then right when it starts getting noticed THAT’s when you claim it
  • Ideas are also like ex-girlfriends. You can’t steal an idea from a friend, but it is OK to work an “idea” if you don’t know her “ex-boyfriend”

Props to Sugarrae for helping me to focus this a bit.  We both may add a point or two after the fact.  Do you have any other “rules of engagement” or “laws of honor” for our industry that are missing?

DrinkBait Recap: a Drunken Buzz Marketing Experience

DrinkBait: I Did It For The Buzz.

Here’s a little story of how one crazy web guy tripled the traffic to his personal blog simply by trying to jam as much fun into a 36 hour period as possible. For less then the price of a single Yahoo! directory submission or one hour for a high traffic phrase on Adwords, I became pseudo-famous for at least one day in the SEO world.

A wise man once said: “The trick to SEO is finding out what the search engines want, then giving it to them til they bleed”. The question is, what DO the search engines want? Do they want anchor text links on tons of external domains? Link exchanges? Div positioning and table tricks? Probably not. I think they want to know where the buzz is at.

The BackGround

Before PubCon 2006, a guy named Nathaniel Broughton and his buddies came up with a brilliant idea which they thought would make great “LinkBait”. (more on that term later) By developing an SEO Drinking Contest, they combined the power of the blogging SEO community with the social aspects of a major web conference and the party atmosphere of Las Vegas.

Brilliant idea to get people buzzing. Everybody knows that any conference like this has it’s fair share of social climbers begging to get a picture with a semi-famous SEO personality. The root of the contest was a no brainer. People where already going to buy drinks and get pics with these luminaries of search listed within the contest.

To seal the deal and insure that the blogosphere would participate, they offered a cash prize of up to $1300 to the winner of their contest. This was a no brainer. Who WOULDN’T submit their pics to the contest and who WOULDN’T link to such a neat, buzzworthy blog post if they might be featured as winners or shown next to their favorite SEO Rockstar on a highly trafficked blog, and even potentially earn a nice little cash prize?

Somebody is already catching a buzz. Google better find them if they want to stay relevant.

How To Make Your Viral Marketing Monster Work For You

Viruses by nature only need to be introduced to one person, at one opportune time, to spread like wildfire. Back in the 80s a man named Gaeten Dugas, who had contracted a relatively unknown virus, almost single handedly helped kickstart an epidemic in our country. For politic reasons this may be a bad example to use on how to positively spread a viral campaign, but it illustrates an important point. One person can multiply the results of a virus or viral campaign by moving quickly at the very beginning. If the virus hits the right person at the right time, it will spread exponentially faster.

When I first caught wind of this campaign, I was already excited to get to Vegas. I love the fun, the action, the free drinks and pretty girls, and I love marketing. Can’t get much better than a company sponsored trip to Sin City to attend a web marketing convention with most of my favorite speakers. All I need now is a little motivation to get my bags packed and stop playing “bicycle” with my daughter. So I hopped on Technorati to find out who’s blogging about the upcoming conference to see if there was anything I should know about such as parties I wasn’t invited to or things I can expect when I get there.

That’s when I found it. My excuse to mingle, my reason for going to the conference (aside from the potential nuggets of knowledge and possible contacts), my favorite new idea. PubCon Drinking Game.

Right place, right time, I was infected with the viral and they made a monster out of me.

Working the Angles

Now I’m in Vegas and rolling into the conference. I did my research and I was ready to mix it up. I immediately was greeted with like minded people who were equally as motivated as I was to engage in conversation. Being outwardly social and sincere with the nearest stranger can often kill the awkardness of a new crowd and can sometimes have long term benefits. I was feeling OK and getting into and out of sessions, but I was mostly obsessed with the contest. How am I going to win if I have no idea where all the rockstars of my industry are going to be?

That night I went out with my little brother and a friend from work and just did the typical Vegas gambling, drinking, flirting.. it was normal Vegas fun. Then out of nowhere at Nine Fine Irishmen in New York New York I saw one of my bloggers. (I call them “my bloggers” because I’ve been reading their blogs for quite some time and felt like I already knew them)

Greg Boser and Oilman Todd Friesian where surrounded by a bunch of women (and guys but I was mostly blind to them) and having a great time, probably reveling in their coolness. I asked for Greg if I could get a pic for that drinking game, and he laughed and said “Only if you buy me a beer” with perfect timing. He chuckled to Todd and said “Hey this is the first guy buying drinks for that drinking game” who immediately stepped and and mentioned he was also worth big points. (note: this was not condescending, he was totally digging the fun)

So I got my pics and left wondering where the other SEOs are, and how on earth can I possibly find them? I just chatted it up with two big guys and made them both chuckle a bit. I want to duplicate that with every big shot in the search industry. But how.

That’s when it hit me. Marketing 101. Deliver the message to the target audience WHERE the audience is. Target. Path of least resistance. Make noise where it is heard.

Hit Them Where They Are

I needed to find out where they would ALL be. Quick, think, they are all at the conference during the day, but where else… where else would they all be at the same time? Nowhere else, that’s where. It’s Vegas and at night people will scatter and do whatever they fancy. Now at least I know I need to use the conference itself as the time / place to deliver “the campaign” (or up until this point, drinks). Now I need to figure out how.

I spent the night thinking about it, do I buy a bunch of beers and put them in a back pack? Do I buy a bottle and some Red Bull? with cups? Is that even legal? That’s when it hit me. Nips. I fell asleep happy, knowing I can technically buy drinks for people without being at a bar and somehow get some pics the easy way. I found a loophole.

Kick It Up a Notch!

On day 2, knowing I would be waiting til the 3rd day of a 4 day conference to hand out the drinks (so nobody could steal my idea) I took a break from the conference to hit that SEO Thursday blog. That’s when I saw a person named markus941’s comment left at 10:04 AM.

Oooooh, I want to play.I’ll be staying at Harrah’s so a Bass Ale, but if you see me @ New York New York it’s an Irish bomb all the way.Nice “drinkbait” post by the way.”

DrinkBait! That is just too funny. One of the hottest topics in SEO lately is LinkBait, because it is not trying to fool Google or fake popularity… it is creating content with the purpose of making it “link worthy” to HELP search engines find cool new relevant content. The idea is brilliant. DrinkBait is obviously a funny little shtick, a play on words, and also very relevant for an SEO convention in Vegas since both are prone to high levels of alcohol consumption. Double meaning- both funny, both relevant.

Perfect. I need to find out NOW if that domain exists. Might be worth some links, might be worth some buzz- worst case I meet everybody and they all know my name, which in itself holds value. Within 5 minutes, I bought the domain name from Moniker and put together the plan of attack.

Tying It All In Together

In order to be successful, a good marketing campaign needs an implementation plan. So I planned out my day accordingly. Wake up, buy nips, write blog, print labels, tape labels to bottles, search for web gurus and snap pics.

Within 30 seconds of getting off of the monorail, I spotted one of those SEO consultant rockstars and ran up with the bag of drinks. Great ice breaker, good shtick. “Hey Todd, you rock man! What’s your favorite drink?”

He laughed, about seven times actually, and was basically speechless. (which is the exact opposite of what would normally occur when you run up and meet somebody who has no idea who you are, but who you respect immensely)

It was too easy. One by one I found industry experts and delivered the DrinkBait. Every time it was received with the same enthusiastic laughter and appreciation. Hell, it’s a free drink that has a few side jokes attached- who could resist? (well one person did actually resist, but more on that later).

Then, I saw The KingPin of the Search Industry. Standing right there talking to a guy next to me.. I waited as patiently as I could when I finally blurted my shpeel about the contest and the drinks and the whole shebang. I sat like a little kid who just gave his dad his first Christmas present that he bought with his own money.  It seemed like it took an eternity to gage his response, and then I was met with a warm inviting smile and a chuckle. “Oh now THIS is great! I love the idea! I gotta to let a few people know about this!”

I was floored! The top guy in our industry giving ME props? I felt like a million bucks. The rest of the drinkbaiting seemed easy. IN fact, I even approached the almighty Matt Cutts ON STAGE to give him his bottle… and here’s the kicker- he already knew about me and was excited to let me get my picture taken with him! I felt like I had arrived.

Taking it to the Next Level

It worked. Everybody loved the silly buzz marketing stunt. Now comes phase II- making it bigger and better. Just like any marketing campaign: you start with a smaller test and based on the results, you either turn it up, turn it down, or turn it off.

After a day to think about it I had the perfect slogan for my campaign. “DrinkBait: DOING IT FOR THE BUZZ”. I went and bought a shot glass necklace, more nips, more labels, a label for my back and picked out my silliest most buzz worthy shirt out of my suitcase. Today was the “networking session”, AKA: DrinkFest. If I was going to make noise, this was the time and place.

I met almost everyone, and they all knew I was coming. I was being waived at and big industry experts where waving yelling out “DRINK BAIT!”. I got a bunch of pics, drank a lot, and even got interviewed by WebProNews. It definitely made a lot of buzz, and now when I go to conferences things will probably be a little different. The people I felt like I have known for so long will mostly know me now too. Good or bad (mostly good) this campaign created exactly what I think the search engines, and people want. They want the buzz.

The Results

It took exactly one day for all search engines to find my site and rank me #1 for the term DrinkBait. Now, this term is not competitive, but you gotta admit that’s still pretty quick. I did not try to build one single link. No link exchanges, no self linking from other sites, no text link ads, no link whoring. I just got some links because others picked up on the buzz and because my site was optimized for it (don’t mind you that the term was practically non existant to this point, just re-read that last sentence again and LOVE it!).

You can’t get banned from a search engine if people link at you because your topic is interesting. So if there is any takeaway for an SEO to get out of this, it is make something buzz worthy and you assume no risk. You’ll probably get some links because it is good, interesting content.

Takeaways for marketers: give new things a try, don’t be shy, go with your gut but let logic guide you as you go, and watch CLOSELY for opportunity.

Hopefully I can expand on this lesson and learn how to be the best viral buzz marketing SEO out there. Maybe I’ll end up on one of those lists where people should buy ME drinks just for being known for doing what I do best. Catching a buzz!

Loving Publicity III – THERE’s the Link!

Too bad it’s not A) my publicity -or B) my link. NY Times, how you torture me with your fickle linking ways! For a little backgrounder on why I am both proud and in complete agony at the same time, read on.

I woke up to read the following instant message waiting for me from Liana:

Liana says:

i really don’t know if you are awake or not…… but i have to share this with someone who would have a inkling as to WHY …. i’m like giddy….. the New York Time just quoted my post from SMG!!!!!

Liana says:

Click HERE!!

Chris H says:


The only word I could think of that could express my excitement… “Dude!!!”

That’s a pretty sweet reference there! I dealt with a reporter from the NY Times once, and after a week of getting information back and forth, phone interviews, and even getting pics taken from a photographer they sent out… they finally published our story. Still no link love! For those who know me, you know I’m a publicity junkie too. The evidence is even in the title of this blog (notice the “III” next to Loving Publicity).

My entire NY Times experience was blogafied here.

The SEO Gods must be smiling down atcha Li! That domain / site RARELY EVER links out and has a TON of authority, usually only referencing publically traded companies.

Way to go Search Marketing Guru Liana!

New Tools For Competitive Online Research (Thanks SEObook)

A recent post on Aaron Wall’s blog had me toying with a few services I had never thought to mess with before. Recently there has been an introduction of website services which are adding competition to Alexa’s research tools. Most feel these newer sites provide data that is not as skewed as Alexa’s results. I thought it would be interesting to share the results here. For this blog I chose to use NextStudent’s corporate website as the focus of my tests.

Check it out: provides a snapshot of your website showing everything from the amount of traffic your website receives to the average minutes a person spends on your website during each visit. Interesting seasonal traffic trends plotted there eh? is a site resource composed of web analytic experts that give users a picture of their website, providing valuable demographic information. Quantcast includes a break down of your site visitors and traffic volumes.

There are also some neat tools that have been introduced that show which keywords your competitors are ranking for.

For tough keywords such as student loan consolidation (score!), a website called SpyFu shows adword, organic, and related term results. SpyFu also displays your competitors organic and advertisement results when entering your website. Our competitors would have a field day with this info if it where more accurate! (not to say his site / service is bad, it can easily do the trick to give you some rough ideas on what is going on in a certain vertical) provides a trend report for your domain as well as your current rankings on the major search engines. Very cool graphs and data.

At a glimpse, it seems all of these tools can be valuable resources for tracking your competition in the online market. Compare with Alexa and with each other and see if you notice differences.

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Review: Google’s Free Multivariate Testing Platform

For those who skim blog posts, here’s the one word review:  AWESOME.

For those who like to read and research, here’s the skinny:

This week we were lucky enough to be chosen to participate in Google’s new Website Optimizer.  I need to preface this: It’s scary when a company as big as Google decides to unveil free products that normally cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Second, I need to state that it is awesome when a company as big as Google decides to unveil free products that normally cost tens of thousands of dollars.

I’ve had some experiences with other service providers in this field (it’s the usual suspects for those more savvy web marketers).  Although the results have been mostly outstanding, the process of getting tests going has been labor intensive, time consuming, and oft cumbersome.

Not with Google. 

Within one day of getting accepted as a beta tester, my team has already produced a few live tests on some key pages.  In the past, getting tests up and running has taken as long as a few months.

The reports the system produces are a typical Google product- intuitive, to the point, and easy to understand.  It is also completely integrated with our existing adwords campaign!

The implementation is probably exactly what any adwords advertiser or adsense publisher would expect.  The trick is, having your test copy and creative ready to go in advance.  If you have an idea of what you need to test and you are proficient with HTML, then setting tests up is going to be somewhat painless for you.

I’m not sure when Google plans on releasing this to the general public, but I can say with confidence that I’ve quickly become a big fan of Google’s new page testing platform.  If you have any questions about it from a user’s perspective, feel free to contact me.  In the meantime, stay tuned and I’ll have more specific feedback as I become more accustomed to this neat new tool!

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My First “Panel of Experts” Speaking Thingy!

Exciting! One of the largest local news channel here is the valley, 3TV, had an internet luncheon at the studio and I was asked to speak on a panel of experts during the event. What a great time it was! Those 3TV folks are quite the fun bunch.

It started off with a boom. They converted the front lobby to a studio to do a cooking segment. I opened the door (which I didn’t even realize was blacked out til after the fact) and almost tripped into what looked like to be a very expensive camera.

THAT made me kinda nervous! I am not the guy who often gets nervous in front of people, but something about the studio equipment and newscasters in their pajamas put a knot in my stomach.

Anyway… back to the event. It was called “Nothing but Net” and had a Phoenix Suns theme. They are rolling out 3 new sites, and wanted unbiased interenet experts to explain web advertising to 50-60 of their TV advertisers during this event. They started the lunch off with a DJ and a cool BBQ set with all kinds of food…. by this time I was so nervous I didn’t even want to eat.

When they started the presentation, they turned out the lights, blasted the colored lights and fogger, and had the announcer belt out the names of each of the executives just like they do in the beginning of Suns Games! (don’t mind the fans booing at the beginning of this clip, it was the best I could find) It was a little over the top, a little hokey, but a lotta fun.

Still, I sat there very nervous (but surrounded by beautiful people who look very TV friendly)

After they presented their sites, they sent me, a very smart dude named Ben from Lavidge (a company with very large clients including McDonalds) and Chris Bell from Very smart people, both with different perspectives from my own.

The questions where mostly asked by a moderator, and they where mostly layups, but it was still fun to sit on a panel of exerts in front of a bunch of big budget advertisers. I think I did OK… I could have stayed up there for days teaching the ways of the web, but my part only lasted a half hour to 45 minutes.

I could get used to the “speaking on panels” thing. It is a lot of fun…. I get a little nervous, but I don’t think I sound too dumb or look too nervous.

Artificially Inflated Search Traffic- I Want a Million Dollars!

100 times the traffic?  It’s just not possible. 

While browsing some PPC campaign reports, I noticed some of my keyphrases in my Google and Yahoo! accounts are showing dramatic spikes in impression volume, and dramatic plunges in CTR.  Meanwhile other phrases are following normal market related curves.

I spoke with our Google rep, and got the typical answers. “Your quality score blah blah”, “Your duplication of broad and exact match blah blah”, “This looks sort of normal blah blah”.

With some gentle persistence, I was finally able to convince my wonderful rep that this was far from normal and that it should be investigated.  I theorized that the crazy search spam terrorists seem to be up to no good, and although we have not seen an up tick in costs or clicks, they are able to slip impressions past their filters.  This means that they could easily alter their bots to click ads too, and Google better get on it. 

Then I told her if I was correct that Google should just send me a million dollars for the help.  She kinda almost agreed but not quite…

After researching the weird spikes in search volume, their tech team confirmed that Google has been seeing a lot more artificial traffic since mid May, with a huge aggressive increase on 9-11-06.  (note Yahoo! is showing the same thing)

My rep apologized for the run-around and she said she’s  going to dig up some Google schwag for me and my team. 

Well, I didn’t get a million dollars, but at least something good came out of it!

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