Sunday, December 8, 2013

Internet Marketing and the Motivational Divide

Thomas Friedman, who is one of my favorite New York Times columnists, writes that the "digital divide" is disappearing: soon everyone (or nearly everyone) across the world will have a computer screen and Internet access...  So the real divide will become the "motivational divide." Those who are motivated to continually learn, to continually push themselves, to take advantage of new opportunities and build new skills - these people will be the winners.  He takes all of this from futurist, Marina Gorbis, by the way.

Says Friedman:

Internet Marketing and the Motivational Divide
In that world, argues futurist Marina Gorbis, the big divide will be “the motivational divide” — who has the self-motivation, grit and persistence to take advantage of all the free or cheap online tools to create, collaborate and learn. (

Internet Marketing and the Motivational Divide

Much of what I teach about SEO, Social Media, and even AdWords is technical: how to do this, how not to do that, how to optimize a page to show up on Google for a keyword, how to think about an effective landing page. Yet once you've learned the rules there are two big obstacles:

  1. Implementation. Will you? Can you? Implement what you have learned? So many people take the classes yet fail to implement, yet knowledge without practical implementation is worthless. What is your implementation strategy?
  2. Motivation. Life-long learning, never-stop-learning and all that jazz.  Google, Facebook, YouTube... they are constantly tweaking the rules, and users are also ever-evolving. Three years ago who had heard of Pinterest? Of rich snippets? Microdata? What is your strategy to stay motivated as a life-long learning.

 Knowledge, Implementation, Motivation

Knowing what to do: the first step. Implementing it: the second step. Staying motivated: the never-ending step. In life, yes. In SEO, yes. In social media marketing, yes. In AdWords, yes. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Amazon Drone, The Purple Cow, and Marketing

Jeff Bezos of Amazon demonstrated a masterful control of public relations by appearing on "60 Minutes" and announcing Amazon's intent to create delivery drones. Couch potatoes of the world immediately leaned forward at their TV's or streaming Internet devices in cheers: now, popcorn and candy bars could be delivered via the air, in mere hours... Making it every more unnecessary to get up off the coach.

Amazon Drones and Purple Cows

Marketing Guru Seth Godin in his book, Purple Cow, argues that the ordinary is risky, but the extraordinary - the Purple Cow - at the edge of the road is not only the thing that will make you stop but the thing that will sell more...  What?  Stuff.
Amazon Drones, Purple Cows, and Marketing

Amazon's drones may make it to the real world, or not. But in the day before "Cyber Monday" to be featured on "60 Minutes" and to be able to garner massive FREE public relations' buzz about delivery drones...  That was priceless (to use another marketing slogan).

Why Care?

But who cares? You do.  Why? Because Amazon drones and Purple Cows teach you something about marketing your own stuff.  What is your "Purple Cow?" What is your over-the-top excuse for massive publicity and buzz... What is your "Amazon Drone" that can get them talking, even if it isn't a real product, even if it never will be, but even if your Cyber Monday is tomorrow?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review Marketing: You Don't Ask, You Don't Get

Reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, Urban Spoon and even are incredibly important to many businesses. If you have a restaurant, you probably already get this. But even if you are a DUI attorney, a divorce attorney, a hair salon, or even a product that isn't local but sells on Amazon, reviews matter. More than ever.

Review Marketing and Yelp
Every businessperson who needs reviews realizes that reviews are hard to get.  

Why? Because, first and foremost, if you do nothing, the most likely people to review your product will be the angry consumer. For example, I have had a terrible customer service experience with Verizon, and I hate that company so much that during my copious spare time... I am thinking: angry blog post. 

Contrast that with some very tasty local restaurants here in Fremont: I had dinner, it was excellent, I went home.  Little emotional energy to induce me to write a review.

Angry people often write reviews.  Happy people not so much.

As a business marketer, you need to change that equation.

You Don't Ask, You Don't Get: Review Marketing

So if reviews matter to you, first and foremost: ASK FOR REVIEWS. When a customers is happy (face to face), ask him or her if they would do you a HUGE FAVOR and go online to Yelp, Google+ Local, Amazon, fill-in-the-blank website, and WRITE A REVIEW. 

It's like baseball: you can't get hits if you don't swing.

Other Review Ideas

  • Email reminders. Email those happy customers, after the fact, and ask for a review.
  • Review swaps. A little on the gray side, but actively review other businesses in your community (we are talking honest reviews here), but then mention it would be nice if they would reciprocate.
  • Friends and family. Also a little gray, but perhaps your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues might review you.
  • Philanthropy. Think of giving out something free (a "free" haircut for boys under 10, or girls under 10) and that positive energy gives you a little quid pro quo to ask for a positive review.
  • Cheap Stuff. Think of having a very cheap product that you provide that is over the top in terms of service or quality...  Again: review opportunity.

Brainstorm Review Ideas

There are many ways to nudge, cajole, beg, please, induce, incent customers to give you reviews without crossing the line to payment or buying reviews.  Brainstorm a few of them, and think of those that are easiest, and most likely to get you some real reviews.

Take moment, create a list. Think out of the box: how to incent customers to review you without crossing the dark line into paid review territory.

You don't ask. You don't get.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Twitter Marketing and the Wall of Worry: The Twitter IPO

I am not an expert on picking stocks, though I do dabble in the stock market. One of my favorite ideas is that "Stocks climb a wall of worry." As someone who teaches social media marketing, consults on it, and has many, many inside connections to real small business marketers "in the trenches" struggling with how to spend their ad dollars, I wanted to share some thoughts about my "wall of worry" about Twitter, Twitter Marketing, and the Twitter IPO.

The Wall of Worry About Twitter and its IPO

  1. ROI. The ROI (return on investment) for nearly everyone I deal with is always the best for SEO. SEO, of course, is getting to the top of Google or Bing for free, and the reality is that generally speaking when people are ready to buy something they go to Google (or perhaps Amazon) but not Twitter. The ROI on time on Twitter marketing is weak, at best, for more companies. Wall of worry #2: A worrisome sign if there ever was one: who will advertise when the ROI is so poor on the free stuff?
  2. Twitter and Users. Every time I teach a class in the San Francisco Bay Area, I ask my participants - do you use Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Google? etc. Overwhelmingly the least used: Twitter.  No contest.  Highest use: Google. 2nd highest: Facebook. 3rd highest: LinkedIn. Wall of worry #2: how can Twitter succeed when so few "real people" use it?
  3. Brand identity. Small business people hate Yelp the most.  I cringe when I mention Yelp and social media, as I have to get ready for some rotten tomatoes at me.  Yelp is the most hated site among small business marketers, based on my anecdotal surveys. No. 2? Twitter.  People do not hate Twitter but they find it silly, or irrelevant Wall of worry #3: marketers find the brand silly or irrelevant.
  4. Fake or passive users. I have a Twitter account (@jasoneg3). I use it to a) check BART schedules, and b) read jokes.  Every once in a while, I use it to watch TV in real-time (e.g., American Idol or the Presidential Debates).  It is not something I find particularly useful.  So I "exist" on Twitter but am far from a power user. Similarly, there are oodles of passive users on Twitter who check it rarely, if at all, and there are oodles of fake users. Wall of worry #4: there's no there there behind the hype.
Twitter IPO and the Wall of Worry
Beyond those worrisome factors, there is just the plain hype of Twitter.  Twitter has done an amazing job of hyping itself, especially via its use by high-profile celebrities like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.  Also the use of Twitter by politicians (e.g., Obama), and on TV shows has contributed to its sex appeal.  Twitter clearly works for those groups, but for most real businesses this is a Red Herring. Its use by Obama does not mean that the local hair salon can use Twitter in any serious marketing way.

Twitter seems to be very overhyped, so my expectation as it goes public is for a slow (or perhaps rapid) crash in value as people "look under the hood" and see the a lot (80% ? 90%? ) of Twitter use is fake, or hyped, or just nonsense.

Twitter Works

But then again Twitter clearly works. For these clear uses:

  • Movie stars and celebrities. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry. Ashton Kutcher (I have never understood why he is as famous as he is.  #overfamous).
  • Politicans and news junkies.  The Tea Party.  The Heritage Foundation. Obama.
  • Coupons and discounts.  WOOT, REI, and others that use Twitter to share coupons and discounts.
  • Insider deals.  Juicy Couture and others that Tweet "insider" deals to their craziest and most loyal fans.
  • Taco Trucks and Food for Lunch.  Kogi BBQ and all that.
  • Big brands like Ford, Toyota, Geico. These are folks that just have a huge marketing budget to keep pounding their brand image into the heads of consumers.  I am not sure if they really use metrics or just have such enormous budgets that they try anything, do anything.  They are sort of the Red Herrings of Twitter.  It "works" for Ford because Ford doesn't measure anything real (?)
Beyond that, do you see any real marketing uses for Twitter for real businesses?  Twitter IPO - is it or 

(Share in comments below)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bounce Rates and Web Landings: Think Like a Guppy

It's the 1st of the month, and time for monthly reports on SEO, AdWords, and Social Media for me and my clients. What is always incredibly striking is the bounce rate. Even a bounce rate of 50% is considered spectacular: which means half the people land and leave in one instant. Many sites run bounce rates in the 70%, 80% or even 90%.

Landings and Bounce Rate
Is a high bounce rate necessarily bad? Not necessarily. Many sites are first optimized only on their branded searches - searches that include the company, product or service name. So they have a low bounce rate because they are speaking to friends, family, customers. Then, once they begin to SEO optimize, they get many "new" prospects and these "new" prospects often bounce. They say it takes ten touches to convert a customers; so you may have many customers that bounce ten times before they convert.

Thinking Beyond the Bounce Rate

Beyond the bounce rate, you want to think about the landing experience. I follow a CEA model: Confirmation / Engagement / Action.

  1. Confirmation - they need to see the same words that they just typed into Google, plus pictures that instantly convey that they are "in the right place."
  2. Engage - they need to be persuaded that you are important, cool, an expert, worth looking in to.
  3. Act - you need a defined action such as buy your product or register for something free.
Reducing the bounce rate isn't easy, but it is incredibly important. All of us get a lot of traffic that just bounces. It's frustrating to see, but over time you can reduce the bounce rate and increase the conversion rate. 

To Do: Reevaluate Your Landing Pages

Your "homework" is to look at your landing pages, and be critical! Imagine you are that proverbial harried customer, just doing a Google search. What do you see? Would you stay? Would you investigate further? Customers on the Internet, Howie Jacobson once said, are like guppies: easy to scare, and nervous nervous nervous. Evaluate your landing page "as if" you were a guppy: it has one second to get them to stay, two seconds to engage, and one second to convert.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hummingbird Hype and the Google Algorithm

Oh the SEO world is abuzz with Hummingbird hype. Allegedly, Google has made a major, incredible, catastrophic, complete overhaul of their (magical) algorithm. Many are freaking out, quite a few are concerned, and of course every serious Google-watcher like myself must pay attention.

Google's Hummingbird Algorithm
We've been through this before. Sometimes the hype is understated, as when Penguin rolled out and at first it did not seem like a big deal. Now it's clear Penguin is a very big deal with many severe penalties for naughty link-building. Panda, in contrast, doesn't seem to be nearly the problem.

Hummingbird and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

Hummingbird seems to be mainly about latent semantic indexing, which is a fancy word for:

  • Google being smarter about what words go with what words, and thereby to infer meaning. So many words and phrases are ambiguous and only with "context" can a "machine" interpret what you truly mean.
  • Moving to a more Siri-like user experience. Allowing users to "talk" to their computers and get responses.
But keywords still drive queries - not at a Google level, but at a human level. If I ask you:

Do you know the best Pizza restaurant in Palo Alto?

The relevant words are: best, pizza, restaurant, Palo Alto.

No amount of Hummingbird technology can "change" the fact that speech queries are driven by keywords. At its best Hummingbird will be about inferences, such as:

Do you know a pizza restaurant?

With the inference being you want a) the best, b) someone near you, and c) I know you are in Palo Alto.

Is Hummingbird important? It's too early to tell. Can Google or Will Google change the fundamentals of human speech and queries? No: at best they are going to try to be more intelligent about adapting to the ambiguities of human speech, and better at inferring what a query means.

From the SEO perspective, it all still implies that we should:

  • Know our keywords.
  • Write strong keyword-heavy copy, that is good both for humans and for Google.
  • Build links, social mentions, and all that external stuff that confirms we are an "expert" on the topic.
Keep calm and carry on.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Keyword Planner - The Buzz Continues

This is just a quick post about the infamous Google Keyword Planner tool. If you haven't heard, Google has killed the old keyword tool and replaced it with the Keyword Planner.  I have had nothing but a stream of questions, frustrations, and negative feedback from my students since it's launch.

My video on the keyword planner explains how to use it, and I have just uploaded a completely up-to-date list of all known free keyword tools, many Google-based and many not. So I am doing my utmost to help people out who need keyword tools and are struggling with the new keyword planner.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Duane Forrester, Matt Cutts, and the Most Important SEO Ranking Factors

Duane Forrester, who is the "Matt Cutts" of Bing (meaning he is the liason between the Webmaster / SEO community and Bing), is out with a new blog post called , "The Single Biggest Ranking Factor." A little tongue-in-cheek, Forrester makes fun of so-called SEO experts (including yours truly) who seek to leverage knowledge of the Google and Bing search algorithms to propel specific companies to the top.

Despite the title of the blog post, Forrester doesn't really explain what factors in the Bing algorithm are most important and why. Instead, he focuses on the "user experience" of a website and implies that if you just focus on the "user experience" everything will be fine.

Search Engine Algorithm Factors: Forrester and Cutts
I can't disagree more. The "user experience" happens AFTER you get to the top of Google or Bing, AFTER you get the click. So to say that "user experience" is the No. 1 SEO factor is to really mislead people. Let's investigate!

Duane Forrester, Matt Cutts and Possibilities

My question when reading this sort of post is always which possibility is correct?

  • Forrester truly does not know that the algorithms clearly rank specific factors (e.g., inbound links, keyword in Title tags) etc., and that SEO is a game of "putting one's best foot forward" vis-a-vis Google or Bing; or
  • Forrester truly does know what factors matter (and in what proportions) but sees his job as one of disinformation - just confusing everyone, muddling the matter, and just getting us all to "give up" on SEO.

Matt Cutts and Duane Forrester: the Press Secretaries of Google and Bing

Whenever you read something by either of these two guys, please please take it tongue-in-check. They get their salaries from Google and Bing, respectively, and those companies make their money off of paid search advertising. There is a huge conflict of interest inside these companies: they do NOT want people to understand or succeed at SEO, largely because the money resides in paid advertising.  Please please please "follow the money" and be skeptical about what they write, say, do. They are great guys - I am sure - but their paychecks ultimately come from advertising. And where one's money is, so is one's heart!

I lean, therefore, at option #2. Both have a good knowledge of what factors can propel you company to the top of Google or Bing, but they do not see their job as imparting this knowledge to the rest of us. In fact, I think it's fair to say a good part of their job is to "spin" the latest information to keep us all confused.

Ranking Factors and SEO

Beyond Matt and Duane, be aware that there are many lists of ranking factors that can propel your company to the top of Google. They do not all agree on everything, but the big general picture is pretty clear:

  • On Page SEO - things like getting your keywords in the TITLE tags of web pages, using tags such as header, image ALT, cross links, and writing strong keyword-heavy but natural syntax prose.
  • Off Page SEO - things like inbound links, social mentions, and the freshness of references on and about your website.
Below are some links to articles on ranking factors and SEO - my apologies to Forrester in advance. Yes, there are indeed factors that make a huge difference, and yes indeed by "putting one's best foot forward" you can get to the top. As for "user experience," that matters a great deal as well - but it occurs AFTER you get the click from Google / Bing not before. The chain of events is:

  1. Know your keywords
  2. Do great SEO to "get to the top" of those keyword queries.
  3. Get the click with awesome HEADLINE (TITLE tags) and awesome META DESCRIPTIONS.
  4. Get the landing experience with an awesome USER EXPERIENCE that ends in a conversion.
Forrester, like many out there, is confusing step #4 with steps 1, 2, and 3.

Links to Resources on Search Engine Algorithmic Factors

Final important thought: SEO is a multicausal effort. There is no "single" factor at work here, but rather "multiple factors." So when you think about your SEO efforts, think about getting "everything to work together" rather than finding a "single bullet."

~ Jason McDonald, September 19, 2013


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Growth Hacking: Buzz, Buzz, Buzz - A Reading List

I love words! Especially new words, buzz words, words that convey something different and unusual. In one of those marketing books, I think it was the $50 Startup, the author said something to the effect that advertising is like sex: only losers pay for it. (I know, NSFW).

Enter Growth Hacking: Endogenous Growth

Growth Hacking: A Reading List
Growth Hacking is a new, or relatively new Silicon Valley buzzword for eWOM (electronic word-of-mouth), endogenous buzz, getting customers to share your story vs. having to pay for it. Google had it (originally): remember when your friend told you about Google? Facebook has it for sure: the more people are on Facebook, the more they drag everyone else onto Facebook. Dropbox has it. Another, older word for this is 'network effect.' That means: the more people are on something, the more they get onto it. Think fax machines. (I like how at Chipotle, they have an announcement that says, "The 1980s called and they want their fax machine back: email us your orders").

At any rate growth hacking refers to - 

  • Endogenous growth rather than growth from without.
  • Growth driven by eWOM (electronic word of mouth)
  • Growth driving by anything that's cheaper than advertising.
  • Growth that creates network effects and virtuous circles.

Do You Have Growth Hacking in You?

Every company has some level of word-of-mouth, but the question is can you a) measure it, and b) refine it, so that it generates a 'virtuous circle,' wherein the more you grow the more you grow?

A Reading List on Growth Hacking

Here are some quick reads on 'Growth Hacking':

Question is is this really something new, or is this just "applied marketing" in the digital age: measuring what's measurable, and trying to nurture "network effects" and "viral spreading" in ways that are not really new but just new in an Internet sort of way? What do you think (comment please below):

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 2013 MOZ Top Ten is Out - Top SEO Articles

I love Moz! But sometimes it's just too much information. :-(

They provide a wonderful "TOP TEN" report each week. Here's a link to the latest Moz Top 10.  Among the articles for this week, here is my more focused list.

Those are just my favorites!  I recommend you sign up for the MOZ alerts yourself.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Overoptimized Links and Press Release SEO: A New Controversy

Everyone who takes my classes on SEO understands that I am quite a proponent of SEO-friendly press releases using either a free service like or a paid service like (Vocus). Issuing frequent press releases can help your site climb to the top of Google in these ways:

  • Fresh Content. Press releases create "fresh content" on your site, thereby signalling Google that your site is alive and well. It's akin to the sign on the door of a restaurant saying, "Here are today's specials!" Press releases and blog content create fresh, new content that tells Google (and humans) that you have new and exciting information to share.
  • Inbound Links. In many cases, you can "embed" an "optimized link" into your press release, and many additional sites will run your press release exactly as it is written, including not using the "nofollow" attribute to Google... In SEO lingo, what this means is that many of your press releases will generate links to your site, thereby helping with link building and SEO. (Impacting what Google calls your PageRank, or Web Authority).  (This is the controversial aspect).
  • Social Mentions. Many press releases are picked up by Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ often automatically generating social buzz, something effective for both search engines and humans.

Post Penguin: The Controversy over Press Release SEO

Overoptimized Links and Press Releases
Google's Matt Cutts and others have indicated that they are unhappy with the SEO use of press releases, specifically the use of overoptimized links.  (For an interesting article about whether Google does, or does not, value press release links (do what they say or watch what they do), click here.)

Optimized Links: Explained
What is an optimized link? Let's assume, for example, that you want to be the No. 1 vendor for agricultural fans, and so you release a press release that has a sentence like:

Jason's Fan Company, the top industrial fan for agriculture vendor, is proud to announce some shameless news.

And the text in blue is an HTML link from the press release (and all the syndication sites) back to your website. That strategy generates inbound links to your site, Google counts those as votes, and your site rises to the top of the Google search for "industrial fans for agriculture." That's Press Release SEO in a nutshell.

However, Google sees this as manipulative and is threatening to penalize websites that enjoys these "optimized" links from Google. It's another salvo in the post-Penguin war on link manipulation by Google.  Or is it?  It's not clear how aggressively Google will, or can, go after this strategy.

Responses to Google's Anti-Press Release Initiative

There is a lot of complexity in SEO, not the least of which distinguishing between what Google threatens it might do, what it actually is capable of doing, and what it actually does. It's not at all clear that Google can effectively combat Press Release SEO in the same way that it has combated more clumsy tactics such as article spinning.  The jury's still out on this one.

I'll leave aside the reasons why I think that they may have a lot more trouble than people believe in combating press release SEO, and just give some recommendations.

If you generate press releases and if you want to use them for link building:

  1. Quality over quantity. Don't overdo it!  Don't generate thirty press releases per month and overoptimize again and again and again over the same keyword phrase.  The clearest signal to Google and easiest for them to penalize is if your site has hundreds of press release links (and other links) around the same, unnatural phrase (e.g., industrial fans for agriculture).  This unnatural, overoptimized link profile is the easiest target for Google.
  2. Writing quality. Write good quality English, write for both humans and Google in your press releases.  Subject, verb, object.  Stay on topic - all the things your High School English teach taught.  Don't outsource your writing to non-native English speakers!  Don't article spin!
  3. Be careful with overoptimized links. This is the No. 1 No-No that occurs many times in the Google information on this: they are sensitive to (over)optimized links (links that contain your keyword), so I recommend -
    1. 1/3 of your press releases link to your branded keyword (company name)
    2. 1/3 of your press releases link to just http:// links ("naked links")
    3. Only (!) 1/3 of your press releases contain optimized links, and vary these across your keyword targets.

Don't Overdo Press Release SEO!

As is so often true in SEO, the main people who will get slammed here are people who OVERDO it.  The art of SEO is staying a bit under the radar here, creating content that is truly useful for humans and yet still talks to Google.

The optimized link has always been a vulnerability in Google's algorithm as it is an unnatural way of building Web content.  Most people simply do not write clear HTML / keyword heavy links but rather prefer to link to things like images, http:// links, or even the dreaded "click here." The fact that Google pays so much attention to optimized link is a legacy of 1999 when the Web was run by Webmasters. It's time for Google to update this part of the algorithm, and where this is all going is going to be LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), meaning the keywords BEFORE and AFTER a link may become increasingly important.

In sum, I still think press releases have their place in SEO as a link building tactic, and I still believe that they are legitimate. Just be judicious!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Is Your Billboard? Thoughts on SEO Title and Meta Description Tags

Driving into San Francisco, today, to teach my class on Search Engine Optimization I noticed the billboards along the freeway.  Some big, some small.  Some familiar (McDonald's, Chevron), some not so much. There's an art to a good billboard.

  • Catch their attention. Motorists are speeding by...  Busy, lost in their own thoughts.  You must catch their attention.
  • Convey your value proposition. In an instant. Hungry? Here's McDonald's.  Need gas? Here's Chevron?
  • Be memorable. A logo (McDonald's golden arches), a phrase (Alaska Airlines: You Just Get More).
Search Engine Optimization and Billboards
On the Internet highway - a.k.a. Google Search - your billboard is your SERP result.

  • Your TITLE tag should catch their attention. Hey! Look at me!
  • Your META DESCRIPTION (visible underneath your TITLE / HEADLINE on Google) should convey your value proposition. If you click here, you'll get {THIS}.  So please click!
  • And then if / once they LAND you need to be memorable. Why should I remember you?
Why should they click? What's your billboard on Google?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Custom URL on YouTube: How to Create One

Having a custom URL on YouTube like is an important part of marketing. It makes your YouTube page easy-to-remember and find, and makes your brand look cool.

But how do you create a custom URL on YouTube?

YouTube has a nifty help file, here. It says:
How To Create CUSTOM URL On YouTube
  1. Make sure you're signed into YouTube, and go to your advanced account settings.
  2. Under Channel Settings, click Create custom URL.
  3. You'll then be able to choose the URL you want. Note that you can't choose a URL that someone's already chosen. Once you've chosen your custom URL, it will appear like this:
But oops.  It ain't always so.  In many situations you will NOT see the "create custom URL" feature!  How do you then create a custom URL for your YouTube channel?

I'm not completely sure, but here's one work-around I have created if you are creating a NEW YouTube channel.  I'm not sure if it will work if you have an existing channel without a custom URL.

Steps to Creating a YouTube Channel Custom URL

  1. Log into your personal Google+ profile, via Gmail.
  2. Go to
  3. Create a "page" for your business.  Log into that page.
  4. Open up a new browser, and go to
  5. Select to use YouTube as that new page.
  6. Go to your channel settings.  Log in / make sure you are "logged in" to YouTube as that new page.
  7. Then go to and you should see the ability to create a custom URL.

But What If You Already Have a YouTube Channel But With a Crazy URL?

Now if you already have a YouTube channel, I'm not sure how you can create a custom URL if you already have a YouTube channel but do not see the "create custom URL" feature on advanced settings.  Individuals do not seem to see this feature.  Any suggestions or tips from the studio audience?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sales Funnel vs. Sales Ladder: Why I Hate The Concept of a 'Sales Funnel'

Marketers love lingo, and one of the phrases marketers really like is this: the "sales funnel." Aristotle taught us long ago that metaphors matter... How we think about a problem conceptually will guide our actions.

Sales Ladder vs. Sales Funnel - See Them Jump
So think about the concept of a "sales funnel." What does it imply? It implies that your customers are passive little marbles that can be "driven" down the "sales funnel" as if the "gravity" of your marketing pushed them along. So we start thinking about customers as "passive" rather than "active" and we act accordingly.  

Lazy: as if we can "drive traffic" to our website (another phrase I really hate).

Are customers really passive? Can you "drive traffic?"

So think about yourself on the Web for a moment.  Are you passive? Are you "driven" to a website "as if" you were a marble?  Or are you active: reading, scanning, clicking, thinking, clicking back when you find something you do not like... being skeptical before you fill in that feedback form to get that free download?

Which is it: passive or active?  Are you (or your customers) stupid or smart?

Sales Ladder is a Better Metaphor

That's why I like to think of my customers as pro-active participants in the Web endeavor. They actively scan. They actively search. They actively share (on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). And they are skeptical.

Like salmon swimming upstream, they have a goal in mind. They want to find something, buy something, learn something. But they are anything but passive!  Anything but stupid!

And if the sales ladder I build is too steep (just as if the fish ladder is too steep), they can't (or won't) jump up. So I think of something interesting (and free) for step one, something interesting (and non-threatening) for step two and so on and so forth.

A sales ladder is a better way to think than a sales funnel.

Stop that Sloppy Marketer

Next time a marketer says "sales funnel," please stop them and ask them if they think customers are truly passive like marbles. Sloppy thinking creates sloppy marketing.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Viral Marketing 101: Geraldo Rivera Shirtless or Nude

Geraldo Rivera, that shameless publicity monger, has done it again! And, not in a good way. Last night, he tweeted a picture of himself shirtless. (He can teach us marketers a thing or two about viral marketing).  Now, the tabloids of the Internet (e.g., Huffington Post and the like) are picking up on it like wildfire, and it even shows as top trending search on Google:

If that doesn't work, just Google 'Geraldo Shirtless' to "see" what the fuss is all about: a 70 year old man, shirtless.


What's Going On, Geraldo? Teach us to Viral Market.

See Geraldo Rivera Shirtless
As marketers...  we want to look behind the scenes as to who is creating publicity, why and how. 

#1 - Geraldo is "stupid like a Fox." Here's a guy who's campy self-image is a man-on-the-street yet he seems to hang in there, year after year as someone on the publicity circuit. So he tweets a semi-obscene photo of him (Reminds you of Anthony Weiner, the New York congressman and his issues, no?).

Geraldo's possible goal: stay visible, get buzz going around you. Get 'em talking!

#2 - the public. Everyone loves a scandal.  People love shocking, gross, offensive.  (Just pay attention to what trends on YouTube or what trends on Google searches!). This viral photo is leveraging that hunger for scandal we all share, and the Huffington Post and the other blogloids are picking up on that trend to "sell more ink" and "get more ad views."

#3 - the blogloids. HuffPost and the like are in the business of promoting scandal, so they are the viral video / photo's best friends.  What Seth Godin calls the "sneezers" - the ones who take an idea and spread it to the winds.

So take Geraldo's shameless hunger for publicity, the public's appetite for a little sexy scandal, and the blogloids = viral on the Internet.

What Geraldo Doesn't Teach Us: Brand Image

So Geraldo is "going viral" with his semi-nude photo....  But...  What does this mean for his brand image? He stays campy, a bit gross, off-kilter, and just weird.  So he doesn't make the leap to respectable journalist but rather stays more like weird, sometimes funny, off-kilter Uncle who does inappropriate things.

Learning from Geraldo: Going Viral in a Good Way

So Geraldo's latest escapade teaches us something about "going viral" but in a bad way. Weiner of New York did it worse, but we (as marketers) want to a) go viral, and b) preserve our brand image.

Will it blend anyone? What are your thoughts on the "Geraldo Shirtless Scandal?"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Organizing Your Share Life & Review of Feedly

Sometimes when I go to church... people have this funny phrase: their "Prayer Life." What they mean is that they have an organized ritual of praying and being spiritual much as many of us have an organized ritual of going to the gym, or to Starbucks, or watching Mad Men. So by "Prayer Life," they mean a systematic rigorous method of connecting with God or being spiritual.

Your Share Life

Your Share Life & Review of Feedly
Whatever your religious inclinations might be, you can learn from this idea. For example, what is your "Share life?" Sharing is huge on Social Media; no one can be an expert on everything.

Most of us "share" cool stuff with our followers... But do we do this in a systematic way?

I am an expert on SEO, for example, and on Social Media, but not on WordPress, not on taxes, not on politics, and not on pop culture. But I follow others on those topics, and I share myself on SEO, Social Media and AdWords.

Having an Organized Share Life

Each morning, I boot up my trusty computer and do the following:

  • Check New York Times headlines.
  • Check Gmail News
  • Check Feedly for top news, especially "official" posts by Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the gang.
I also have a built out "dashboard" with direct links to Search Engine Journal, SEOMoz Blog, Search Engine Land, etc. Everything is just one click. By the way, now that Google Reader has died, I highly recommend Feedly as an RSS reader - it's a quick, easy way to "subscribe" to content on the Web.
Then if I find something interesting, I read it. If it's really interesting and topical, I share it - usually on Google+.

Feedly: an Awesome Replacement for Google Reader

If you haven't heard of Feedly, check it out. It's amazing, it's free, and it replaces Google Reader pretty much instantly.  It's also available on your phone. Identify your top resources, subscribe to them, and then you have a new way to systematically find cool stuff.  I love Feedly!  Check it out!

What's Your Share Life?

I have an organized share life for my clients, friends, and followers. It's a daily ritual and it keeps me informed. What's yours for your clients, friends, and followers?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Metrics, Goals, and Transactional Keywords: Define Them!

Goals matter! Not just on websites, but in life itself. Remember that annoying question: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Adults were asking you then about your goals. Now, there are many twists and turns on this road of life, but still goals matter. The same goes for SEO and Social Media: what are your goals?

Are they:

  • Brand buzz - generating positive buzz about your business or organization?
  • Direct sales - do you sell something on your website?
  • Sales leads - is your sales process necessarily complex, and therefore your sales staff "follows up" with prospects by email or phone?  Perhaps even in person?
And then how does your website, Facebook page, Twitter page, YouTube channel... you name it impact your goal(s)? If you rank on Google do you rank for the "right" keywords? And are you getting traffic from Google, and is that traffic converting?

Or, looking at the issue in terms of social media marketing, do you have many "likes" on Facebook? If so, do they "matter"? Will they "buy your stuff" eventually if not now? Or are they just fake friends, who "liked" your page because you gave something away, but ultimately won't ever really convert into anything serious?

Metrics Matter: Rankings on Google, Likes on Facebook, Landings on Web Pages, and Ultimately Conversions

Have you thought through your metrics?  If not, why not? Get started!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mike Tompkins and Video Marketing Tactics: Go Viral On YouTube

"Going viral" on YouTube is the ultimate "holy grail" of YouTube marketing. A viral video, of course, is a video that gets shared at a factor high enough to replicate ( > 1, so to speak). Let's take a look at one of my favorites on YouTube: Mike Tompkins, and reverse engineer some of his YouTube promotion strategies.

Step 1: Identify a Video Theme Already "Going Viral" Such as a New Pop Song

Tompkin's third video is a "cover" of Miley Cyrus' pop song, "Party in the USA." If you've never heard it, you can read about it on Wikipedia, here.  "Party in the USA" was released on August 11, 2009 and was a huge hit.

Tompkins released his cover on December 2009, about three months after Miley Cyrus.  (Timing, as they say, is everything!).  This video currently shows 3,462,470 views - not bad, Mike Tompkins, for your third video!

Step 2: "Hijack" YouTube Searches

So how does this work? People are searching YouTube for Miley Cyrus, Party in the USA. Below is a screenshot of the YouTube suggest for Party in the USA.  Notice #8 - Party in the USA cover. 

Notice how Tompkins titles his YouTube "Party in the USA Cover".  So as they search, he hijacks them with his interesting cover. Not to mention that people actively search for "covers" on YouTube, knowing that covers are commonly made and can be very good.

His video is currently #4 on YouTube search for "Party in the USA Cover"

Step 3: Produce an Amazing Video

His video is amazing (especially given how low budget it must have been at that time; his videos have gotten much, much better as he has grown smarter and gotten a bigger budget). And the video promotes his music and his channel; it's sticky!  So he grows his subscriber base by "hijacking" successful videos - that's the core of his YouTube strategy!

Step 4: Rinse and Repeat

Much of his channel is built on this same strategy over and over again: identifying trending music videos on YouTube and rushing out covers. Tompkins is like a stock picker, picking the "winning stocks" and piggy-backing on them to ride to the top of YouTube

Learning from Mike Tompkins

If you are into video and video marketing, are there ways you can replicate Mike Tompkins strategy in your own industry? Namely: a) identifying trending videos, and b) hijacking / mashing up / creating covers of these videos?  If video matters to you - it could be worth a try. Oh, and he also does a great job with partnering; witness his collaboration with Pitchperfect, here.

Shout Out To VideoTov

A shout out to my friends at VideoTov, a top video editing platform.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Google Penguin, Meet Panda: A Quick Negative SEO Primer

What is negative SEO? I am getting this question more and more. So here's a quick primer on Negative SEO.

Google has launched two big "updates" to the Google algorithm of late: Panda (focusing mainly on 'keyword stuffing' and low quality content) and Penguin (focusing mainly on low quality inbound links, especially the overuse of embedded phrases). Along with this, Google seems to have increased its awareness of manual spam complaints. All of this is creating some unintended consequences.

Unintended Consequences of Panda and Penguin

Negative SEO: Penguin, Panda and More
I doubt that Google meant to increase the availability of negative SEO tactics. Negative SEO is the use of faked or aggressive tactics by your competitors to make your own site look "as if" it is doing something against Google's terms of service, or just as bad, to call Google's attention to something you are doing that many other competitors are doing as well.

So think about it this way:

  • Panda = low quality content.
  • Penguin = low quality inbound links
Negative SEO = Hey Google, Website such-and-such is doing either Panda or Penguin, or both!

How Do Competitors Create Negative SEO Campaigns

There are a number of ways.  The easiest way is to file a "spam complaint" with Google about your website. That can be done here, but you must be "signed in" to Webmaster tools.  Another way is to complain directly via Penguin, here.

More aggressively, competitors can create "fake" inbound link schemes and then complain to Google via one of the above forms. It's really a lot like calling the IRS hotline, or tattling to the teacher in second grade. Just that the teacher is Google, and you and your competitor are the second graders.

Matt Cutts (Google's Web spam guru) just released a video on negative links which touches on the topic, here.

Negative SEO and Branding

Finally, some competitors are launching "fake review" sites that complain about a competitors product or name. These sites then climb to the top of Google searches and introduce FUD (Fear / Uncertainty / Doubt) that your products or services are worthwhile or honest.  Creating fake reviews on Yelp, Amazon, or Google+ Local would also fall into this category.

Your To-Do

Are you vulnerable to negative SEO? Inventory what you are doing on your website vs. Penguin / Panda. Inventory which competitors might be motivated and able to create a negative SEO campaign against you. And pay attention to your corporate or personal branding. Engage in reputation management, policing your searches to make sure that you "look good" when someone Google's you.

Welcome to the new world of negative SEO!  Have fun!

Monday, July 15, 2013

AMA (Ask Me Anything) via Reddit and John Malkovich: Marketing Authenticity

Reddit, of course, is one of the original social news sites. People vote "up" articles and Reddit acts as a sort of crowdsourced news reader.  Much of Reddit can be very dumb, and very pop culture-ish but sometimes it is amazing. For example, their: Ask Me Anything series.

Ask Me Anything is an example of marketing authenticity. Authentic, interesting interactions between people of all types. It's becoming very popular among actors and pop stars, and can teach us a thing or two about marketing buzz and about how authentic sells in the new world of Internet marketing.

Ask Me Anything on Reddit

Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit and Internet Marketing
The AMA series gets real people to ask usually famous people, anything. What's cool is that it often creates an authentic dialogue between a famous person and real folk like you and me. Here's an example from John Malkovich, who has to be one of my favorite actors. Being John Malkovich is an awesome movie BTW.

  • Read the AMA by John Malkovich, here.
  • View his "Proof in Advance," here.
  • Watch his YouTube Thank You, here.
You can view a list of all the AMA's on Reddit here.

What Reddit's AMA's Teach Marketers

Reddit and John Malkovich are teaming up to create buzz for their brand and create an authentic interchange with fans. You and your brand may not be quite so famous, but it's certainly instructive to think about how you can nurture real, authentic dialogue between you and fans whether via a Reddit AMA or some other technique.

Postscript - John Malkovich is Just Cool

Malkovich ends his AMA this way:

ok everyone. i have to take off now. it was very enjoyable not having the media filter. thank you for your questions and comments. funny or bright or sincere and even hateful. take care. maybe see you someday. 

I love his thick skin.  He's just cool, which makes him authentic and interesting as an actor.

What can you do that's authentic and interesting for your own brand?

- Jason McDonald
Jason McDonald is director of the JM Internet Group, a leader in online SEO and Social Media training. Reach out to Jason via the links at the top of this blog.

The Travails of Review Marketing and Social Media

Review Marketing is All About Reviews. Most of  us worry (a lot) about reviews - reviews on blog sites, reviews on social media sites like, and of course reviews on sites such as Yelp or Google+. What are the issues?

Review Quantity and Review Quality

Google+ Local and Yelp Review Marketing
First, you just need quantity. Does anyone care enough to review you at all? Usually you have to encourage, solicit, cajole, beg, prod... your customers to review you. Just getting a few reviews on a site like Google+ and/or Yelp will make a huge positive difference in your SEO performance. Not to mention whether you show up on an internal search engine like that of Yelp or Amazon. Get reviews!

Second, you need to worry about quality. You can have reviews that are poorly written, or reviews from people whose profiles are so weak that they get filtered out. Even worse, you can have negative reviews.

Bad Reviews!  Uh-oh!

Bad reviews can come in a number of ways. First and foremost, the very unhappy customer.  So here you need to try to a) prevent any bad reviews by checking in with customers. If there is a problem, try to fix it before they "go negative" on you. Or b) crowd out negative reviews with positive reviews.

A New Type of Bad Reviews

To add some worries there is a new type of Bad Review.  The New York Times reports in an article entitled,  Why Web Reviewers Make Up Bad Things:

  • Until now. A fascinating new academic study sheds light on the fake negative review, finding not only that the source is totally unexpected but also that the problem is much bigger than a few malicious operators. It turns out that competitors are not necessarily the ones giving one miserable star to products they did not buy or experiences they did not have. Customers do it — in fact, devoted customers.
Read the article to learn more!

Testing Blogger and Google+: Will This Work?

One of my frustrations with Google+ has been the (ironic) lack of visibility of Google+ posts on search results. So after some investigation, I found out that you can link your Google+ account to your blogger blog.
Benefits of a Blogger Blog for Google+ (and SEO!)

My experiment is to create a blog for my Google+ postings, and then post directly to this new blog rather than directly to Google+. Then with a little help from SEO, get the new blog (which will be populated with Google+ postings) to show up on Google.


Benefits of Blogger and Google+ Integration

  • Ease-of-use. Using the blogger platform will give me lots of flexibility in posting, and the ability to have longer posts.
  • Integration with Google+. The new posts will appear both on my Google+ feed and on my blogger blog - so the "short read" will exist on Google+ and the "long read" will appear on the blog.
  • SEO Visibility - posts will appear in Google search and therefore pull in some new people who will find me not through Google+ directly but through search.

Registering a Domain Via Blogger

Next up - registering a domain via blogger.  Yee gads, Google does not make this easy!