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The Jerry Maguire Syndrome

Or: How I Got on the Road to Entrepreneurship

The SEM Jerry Maguire SyndromeThis is a bit of departure from the normal SEO/SEM talk I usually have here. But a topic that’s equally important, perhaps even more so, when you’ve mastered your craft and have to decide which way to turn.

Search engine marketing didn’t start in an agency setting. It wasn’t created in a board room of an agency/firm; it just got incorporated that way when people started needing the service. That’s how a lot careers start; the marketing department of an agency that focused on websites.

If you’re lucky, you always love the shop life. And the shop life will always love you too. Or, you can be like a few SEOs/SEMs I know, wake up one morning, find yourself in a place, and not be entirely sure how or why you got there. Take a few minutes and see if this mission statement scene from Jerry Maguire rings true to you.

Everyone Goes Through Tough Times in Shop-Life

Maybe you’ve never reached that point. Maybe you have. Maybe you’re even there right now. The fact is, everyone goes through something in agency/shop/firm life. It’s just a part of the game; people leave, new people arrive: dynamics change. The question is do you work through it and try to implement changes, put your head down and barrel onward, or do you find the nearest exit and bolt? Every situation is going to be different. Different variables and factors.

Let’s be clear for a moment. Putting your head down and barreling through a rough time does not make a person of gelatinous nature. I’d argue that it takes a hell of a lot more spine to stay in an untenable situation and work toward making changes that make your job easier. And, yet even as I say that, there’s a point where spine turns to stupid and thick-headed.  So how do you know if you’re there?

Phases of Entrepreneurial Decisions The Phases of “Dealing With It”

This is a collection from my own personal experience over the years, and I’m sure there are some that I’m missing so feel to let me know.

  1. Anger

  2. You’ve been pissed for a weeks. For no reason at all: on weekdays you wake up depressed and angry. You drive/bike/commute to work and you’re pissed. Your day is a swirl of annoyance. You get home and it melts away until you go to bed.

  3. Working on Changing the System

  4. After a certain amount of time, a month or two, you realize being angry just sucks. People think you’re an asshole and it’s not making you situation any better. So you decide if you want change, you have to change yourself and the system. You bend the ears of co-workers, you bend the ears of management. They love your ideas, they want to implement them. You make your list of things to improve and how to achieve it.

  5. Defeat

  6. Months later you’re still getting the run-around. Phrases like: “It takes time”, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and “We’re working on it” seem to be all you hear. Meanwhile, the anger backfills. You’re getting the picture: this place is the Hindenburg and we’re all going down in flames.

  7. Apathy

  8. Fuck it. Why care about it? No one else does. Everyone is perfectly happy to sit and wallow in the doom they’ve created. They’re screwing themselves and their clients. You just want to be left alone, collect paychecks, and stay off the radar. No hassles, no problems.

  9. The Breakthrough Change

  10. One day you wake up, and it hits you; I’m going out on my own. Your skill set is in high-demand, you are damn good at what you do, and you know for certain there are a lot of people who need (really need) what you do.

Your Personal Manifesto

This is that Jerry Maguire moment. Standing on your ethical and moral high-ground you march out into the forest. You know how you want to conduct business, you know the clients you want to work with, you know how to charge and how to produce meaningful results. And, as Dicky Fox said, “It’s all about personal relationships.”

For me, that is my manifesto. I want partnerships. I want clients that are serious about marketing themselves online and believe and trust I have the toolbox to make it happen. It’s why I created my company. It’s why I have the utmost respect for the Danny Sullivan’s, Rae Hoffman’s, Aaron Wall’sAndy Beal’s, Janet Driscoll-Miller’s, and David Harry’s of the SEM world.

What’s your manifesto?

It’s Scary Out There. It’s Exciting Out There Too.

I’ll be the first to tell anyone that going out on your own isn’t easy. It’s downright scary.  There’s no safety net. You walk the tightrope or you fall. You’ve got to bring your game-face out every day. The struggle is real.  Especially with the veritable flood of SEM agencies, traditional agencies going “digital”, and hack-freelancers crowding the market. You’ll fight for every inch you get.

But, it’s exciting too. You call the shots. You make the rules. You get to name success. There’s a real satisfaction from helping a small business or the person going at it alone, and making their business grow. It’s a great reward.

Or maybe you’re taking small steps; keeping your full-time gig and working projects on the side. It’s a great way to build your reputation and keep security. But you’ll be burning the candle at both ends and soon you’ll have to make a choice. Hopefully this post gets you pointed in the right direction and helps you make the right choice.


7 Links Down Memory Lane

The Milwaukee SEO Memory Lane ArchivesI’ve been doing a lot of heavy SEM lifting lately; a couple of intensive posts on The Firehorse Trail, an SEO Dojo radio interview, publishing a C-Level SEM guidebook, and SEM reporting post. Whew. I’m bit tired just listing them.

So, I thought I’d ease off the throttle a bit this time out, take a play from Lisa Barone and the Outspoken blog, and delve into a creative exercise. Spending much of my academic career analyzing, studying, reading, and writing poetry and fiction, I’m no stranger to word-play and thought-exercises, and have trained myself to spark creativity. But now and then, everyone needs a kick in the ass.

This is that kick. I think this is a really great exercise, in part because most bloggers rarely link back to archive posts. Bloggers rely mainly on in-site search and calendar functionality for people to find those old posts. It’s akin to dumper-diving; you’ll have to dig through miles of crap before you find those valuable items someone was crazy enough to ditch.

Blogs are no different than “corporate” sites. Internal linking structure and great anchor-text is just as much a life-blood to relevance as external linking, and it’s great thing to get in the habit of doing. (There I go again, talking SEO; you can take the SEO off the topic, but you can’t take the topic out of the SEO.) Without further ado, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

  1. Your first post: wasn’t much of anything. I was driving to work, listening to the local public radio station, and heard a very quick piece of news that Google and Microsoft were opening up shop in Madison. I thought, “Wow. I bet only a handful people know about and even heard it.” That’s what started my professional blogging career. NPR. I reached out to Danny Sullivan, asking if there was anything unique, and my first real blogging research was complete. *Google never responded to me. Typical.*
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most: I love a good rant. Blasting big news corps for trying to leverage top placement in the SERPs just because they are who they are, and blowing off a little steam in the process, was by far my favorite. I still feel the exact same way about that post’s message today as I did then: tough shit, do some SEO.
  3. A post which had a great discussion: RE: Most of SEO Just A Boondoggle? Just Hullabaloo. Admittedly, this blog isn’t set up for tremendous discussion. And, it’s been only within the last six months that I’m actively responding to comments (Right. Community lessons learned the hard way). So this post stands out to me because not only was it a extra hot/heated topic around the community, and still is today, but there were some really thoughtful comments from Halfdeck.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written: This was a tough one for me. There are a lot of tremendous industry bloggers that I respect and admire. Each with their own style and panache that make their writing so easy and delightful to relish. But Outspoken’s It’s Not the Recession, You Just Suck is one I wish I wrote. I mean, damn, it was flawless, ballsy, and so honest. It was that post alone that convinced me to read Outspoken any time they posted and turned me into a huge Lisa Barone fan.
  5. A post with a title that you are proud of: I hate headlines. It’s always been the hardest part for me. I can kick the ass off content; write it, polish it, and make it gleam. But you always need a great headline to tie it all together; the lynch pin. I like this one: Deserving to Fail: The Fortune 500. It’s short, sweet, and to the point.
  6. A post that you wish more people had read: Create Your Social Media Attack Strategy. I really like this post, and think it offers a really solid strategy and methodology for cranking up and planning your social marketing strategy. Just fell flat, I guess.
  7. Your most visited post ever: Terminal Wave: The Google Wave Failure I seriously doubt that I will ever top this post. Unless I spontaneously combust and live to tell about it.

So that’s the trip. Let’s see what you can come up with for your trip down memory lane.


Search Marketing Reporting for Pros

Search Marketing Reporting for Pros

On the blog I talk a lot about techniques, theories, and applications in SEM that can help you maximize your client’s ROI and increase th

eir profitability. With the launch of our new book eProfitability, we spent the majority of it simply helping C-Level and upper management folks get their arms around the search marketing landscape and how to apply the years of experience we have to engineer a solid campaign.

But we didn’t spend much time on reporting, admittedly. And, when I think about it, there’s definitely a gap within the SEM industry as to what a “report” should be and should contain. There is no standardized reporting method for SEMs and SEOs. The aim here is not to suggest there be one, but to show how I create full-scale reports, and through this create some continuity for SEOs and SEMs to prove just how much we are worth to a company.

The “What Has Search Done For Me Lately” Argument

We’ve all heard the following statement: “the results are really good, and we’ve definitely moved up in rank, but for the amount of money we spend, we’re just not seeing the return.”  And, if your reporting isn’t set up to show that ROI, the profitability, then you have no way to prove it.  When you meet with your clients, 9 time out of 10, you’re meeting with your primary contact and the budget shot-callers. Your primary knows what you’ve done and what profitability you’ve brought them through your efforts, the shot-callers don’t.

Reports for Pros

You’ve got to have a blend of 30,000 ft data for the budget-makers and ground-level data for the grunts. As SEOs and SEMs we tend to think the nitty-gritty details carry the most weight, are the most insightful, and help to generate strategies going forward. Budget-makers could give a rat’s ass about those details. Everyone’s got some to report, and upper-level management and CEOs, the only thing they’re going to care about is profitability. “How many leads and how much money are you making us?”

KPI (Key Performace Indicators)

KPIs do exactly that (albeit from a search perspective).  This is a custom report I create to give the CEO/upper-level folks their profitability data. If you have a site w/ e-comm, then you’ll most certainly want to include a couple of those metrics in KPI report as well.  I use Source/Medium as the dimension. Essentially, this is a very high-level overview to give any executive concerned with the bottom-line: are we generating more leads/sales, and is the search strategy working?

Key Performance Indicator Report

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Keyword Report (with Filtering and Pivot)

If your an SEO, you’re probably already using this report (at least you should be). This keyword report (below) has a little twist to it; I filter out brand and website mentions and use the pivot option to compare across engines by visits and goal conversion rate. Quick lesson how to filter:

  1. Filter Keyword = Excluding
  2. use “^” in front of brand keywords and website (i.e. ^[company name]|^www|^http|^[brand misspellings])

This report, in my estimation, is the heart of every SEO strategy report. It shows the increase/decrease of non-brand related keywords in conjunction with conversion rates across major sources of traffic. Right here is where great SEO Strategy is borne from.

Organic Keyword Report with Filter and Pivot

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Top Landing Pages (with Pivot)

Landing pages are, for most young SEOs and SEMs, are constantly overlooked and hardly thought about. Why is this report important? Two reasons:

  1. As an SEO/SEM you have to know your top entrance points in the site. That is, what pages users find directly, are referred to from external sources, and through the search engines
  2. And, most importantly, how are the users reacting to those pages when they get there? Has the bounce rate increased or decreased?

Knowing these two things, we can then assess what the search engines are finding relevant to show users for queries and, if you’re bounce rate is up drastically because of the new targeting, what measures you could implement to make sure users find the most useful, pertinent information to stick around and convert. It most likely involves tweaking the onsite targeting and keyword choices.

Top Landing Pages Report with Pivot

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Map to Keyword Report (with Pivot)

This is another custom report for international clients. Many times CEOs/upper-level management want to know where, globally, traffic is coming from. More than that, they want to know about the keywords these visitors used to find the site. The Map Overlay to Keyword report does just that. It’s not as pretty as the Map Overlay report, but the data there is invaluable.  Once again, using the Pivot function, we change pivot from “source” to “medium” and we can tell how international versions of search engines (most likely Google everywhere but China) are treating your site organically.

Map Locations to Organic Keyword Usage Report with Pivot

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Answering the Question: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

So there you have it. Four search marketing PRO reports that will help answer that question and continue to prove to clients the value you’re bringing to the table.

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