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Posts from the ‘Business Philosophy’ Category

19
Jul

The Commoditization of SEO

No one who’s watching wants to see it. No one who’s listening wants to hear it. Anyone who’s just starting out in SEO or anyone who’s been in SEO for years isn’t going to want to hear it or even agree. SEO is a commodity. It’s been commoditized.

Deep down, it’s something I’ve known for a year or so now, but two recent posts have solidified this viewpoint for me: Rand Fishkin’s The Responsibilities of SEO Have Been Upgraded and Alan Blieweiss’ Why I Joined Click2Rank. Each has a unique subject, each has unique vantage point, but the end result of both articles brought me to “commodity”. Neither are prerequisite reading, but I would recommend them both.

Here’s the definition of commoditization from InvestoPedia:

1) While many consider this sort of adjustment worthwhile, some view commoditization as a cause of price fluctuations. 2) When a product becomes indistinguishable from others like it and consumers buy on price alone, it becomes a commodity.[emphasis mine]

The New Used Car Dealerships of the Web

Between the rapid globalization (read outsource) and higher levels of saturation in the market place today, SEO services are the newest used carSEO is the New Used Car Dealerships Model dealerships on the web. The same knowledge resource [the product] possessed by many in a space dominated by price [consumers looking for the service]. The industry is about cheap quality. If the consumer doesn’t find SEO Company X’s price palatable, he/she can walk down the street and haggle with SEO Company Y’s people. Because in the end, all a client/consumer wants is a vehicle that gets done what it has to at the least expense to them.

Some will argue that this simply isn’t the case. And, I’ll listen to those arguments because I still want to believe it isn’t the case either. But let’s take this metaphor a bit further.

Ferrari’s and Yugo’s and Everything in Between

Like automobiles, SEO and SEM skill sets come in varying degrees. Some of us are highly-tuned, highly-functional Ferrari’s: clients know it’s expensive (and have a hard time justifying the cost), but also know (we hope they do) they’ll be getting precision, speed, luxury, and an unparalleled level of craftsmanship. Some of us out there are Yugo’s: clients know (again, we hope they do) all they’re getting is four tires and an engine. It gets you mobile, it’s A to B, it’s not the safest or the best, but it’s cheap training wheels. And then there is everyone in between these two poles; it’s a grab-bag of skill sets and you [the client] never know what you’re going to get.

A Second Depression

This is where it gets a bit political, so if you’d rather not, no hard feelings. We’ll catch up on the net another time.

It’s no big secret, the global economy is in trouble. From dollar-deflation issues and Euro troubles, to crashing double-dip housing market complete with derivatives [read a crippled banking and finance industry], crushed consumer spending, every company is watching their marketing budget with an extra layer of scrutiny. It was lean before, it’s lean now, and it’ll be leaner into the distant future. The Second Depression isn’t letting them off the hook, and in turn, they won’t be letting us off the hook.

SEO is less about experience, knowledge, and proven ability these days, even taking into account Rand’s accurate depiction of what SEO is today. It’s a numbers game for companies. They recognize the need for SEO and SEM services in order to be competitive, in order to still have footholds in the market place. However, since SEO services have been commoditized, it’s no longer advantage SEO.

SEO Prices Are Not Yours to DictateThe Game is Not Yours to Dictate Anymore

Companies know the score now. They no longer feel compelled to be held over the fire singularly based on an SEO’s knowledge, experience, and skill set. Thus, leading to higher costs. Prospective clients can send you packing and opt for cheaper(est) services thanks to a saturated marketplace, thanks to globalization. Current clients can spend half what they do now by pulling resources in-house. Couple that with ultra-frugal mindsets and heavily slashed budgets. Hopefully you can see where this is heading.

This doesn’t mean that Ferrari-esque SEOs are destined to find agency/in-house gigs (but that is one possible outcome). It doesn’t mean that Yugo SEOs and Middle SEOs will rule the market. It simply means that the game is no longer yours to dictate. And, as such, expect less. Even in destroyed economies, performance has a place. You can still keep the same prices, but expect that even less people will seek you out for that rate.

You can tell me that “quality” still means something to some. You can tell me that “results and proven track records” still hold water. I won’t disagree with that. But what I will tell you is that those things are “nice to haves” in a world where the guy next door does the same thing for half the price, even though he/she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Because it’s about dollar-dollar bills y’all.

29
Jun

Google’s Go-To-Market Strategy: Horrible

Sometimes having too many smart people with a singular focus in a room can hurt you. I’m beginning to believe this is the case at Google; too many PhD’s in mathematics and computer science, not enough marketers in the room who don’t have any skin in the game. Someone who can be objective about what they see and the best way to capitalize it. It seems that Google just never gets it.

Enter the + (And Everything Else Google Launched Yesterday)

Google + made its appearance to the world yesterday. I haven’t used it and can’t speak to it. What I can speak to is the unveiling strategy of Google+ and how oddly familiar it is to Google Wave’s introduction. And, if we’re keeping score on this one, I was right about Google Wave in the end. As Danny Sullivan said yesterday:

Google's End of Quarter Product Launch Madness

Product List and Reading Materials from 6-28-2011

Because Google pushed so much out the door yesterday, it’s hard to keep track of everything that surfaced. I’m not even sure this is a complete list, but there are some very interesting things that happened yesterday.

  1. Google+
  2. Google Swiffy
  3. Google What Do You Love (WDYL) Search
  4. Google’s Aesthetic New Black Toolbar
  5. Google Places New Look

Whew. That’s an awful lot of stuff to throw at the wall, especially in one day. While everyone is phreaking on Google+, quietly Google put out an awesome resource of Swiffy, converting SWF files to HTML 5. And the changes to the Google Places page is very interesting too, along with the toolbar change.

Throwing Crap Against the Wall

I think even hack, unseasoned marketers know that’s probably not the best way to introduce products to market place or the public. It’s the, forgive the language here, “Shit Stick” method. You throw as much shit at the wall as you can, and see what sticks and holds. For company that has, what seems to be, an unlimited marketing and product development budget, I guess this can be successful.

I’d argue that it makes more fiscal sense, as well as marketing sense, to develop one or two great ideas and create an intriguing, solid go-to-market strategy. But, you say, that’s what Google did with Google Wave.

Google Can't Market Worth a DamnGoogle Can’t Market Worth a Damn

Say “STOP” when this sounds familiar: groundbreaking product, huge hype (over-hype), limited admission (huge bottleneck) in order to create the appearance of exclusivity disguised as “slow testing”, and little to no mention from anyone outside the tech and search industry. Wow, that’s exactly what Google Wave was. But, it’s also Google+’s entry into the market place. It has the same scent as Google Wave, same short-sidedness as Google Wave, and nearly the same go-to-market strategy as Google Wave.

Marketing to the Technological Elite Isn’t a Great General Marketing Strategy

Can Google please hire just one marketer to sit in these “product launch” meetings? You know, someone who knows a little bit of something about the general populous, societal behavior, and how to get people into using a product? Because Google hasn’t done it right, again. Unless of course, they only want the tech and search community to use the tool?

What Google is trying to do is get people who don’t need Google+ to use it. And the best way to do that is to explain the benefit and the need to general populous. Not to the people who will use it anyway. They market this product to the people who, for the most part, are fluent in technology and not to folks that aren’t. And that, people, is how scores are kept: can you make this product attractive to someone who doesn’t need it (right now) and make them use it? That is where market saturation is reached. They’ve got it backwards: Google markets to the technological elite and savvy and hopes it filters down to the general public.

And, if Google ties employee bonuses to social product success, as reported by Geekosystem, then their products will consistently fail. Yes, that’s an attractive carrot to dangle; however, in my opinion, people only work just hard enough to achieve bonus levels. Meaning, the initial push should secure the bonus and then no one has to care.

Sacrificing Your Core for Frills?Sacrificing the Core for The Next Big Thing?

Dave Winer’s post “Google Yawn” is an interesting one, and I think it hits home the point: killing who you are and what you do to be everything to everyone. I don’t know how Google+ will shake out because I haven’t used it. I hope it succeeds, I really do. But, if you’re asking me based on the go-to-market strategy, then I say it has a very slim chance of survival past 9 months. Google product launches are nothing more, to me, than a big, expensive firework: huge explosion, flashy presentation, loud noises, and they fizzle away into oblivion.

23
May

The Center of the Corporate Galaxy is not Facebook

Wrong. Facebook is not the center of your online universeI don’t know how it happened. I don’t know why it happened. And, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea. I do know, however, that your corporate Facebook page should not be a substitute for your website. And, yet for some reason, major brands insist that interested consumers go to their Facebook page from expensive television ads and paper ads. Let me start out by saying, that it’s commendable that big brands are attempting to integrate social media into their repertoire. But to use Facebook, and other social media sites, as the central hub of how consumers get to know your brand, and interact with your brand, is simply wrong.

Your Website is the Center of Your Galaxy

Your website is, and will always be, the center of your corporate galaxy. It retains the most gravity (in a sense) with major search engines, it’s what brand-loyalists will know first, and it’s what prospective consumers of the brand will run across first.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc are satellites in the corporate galaxy, and are of varying size like the planets in our galaxy.  For example, your Facebook page can be the Jupiter of your corporate online universe: a hefty gravity of its own, numerous moons, but still bound to the gravitational pull of the Sun (your website).

Put it in Perspective

How Your Corporate Online Universe Really Functions

Satellite Brand Extensions

Social sites are satellite extensions of your brand, they were never meant to be the spokesperson for your brand, but rather a liaison or a networking mercenary. A lot will argue that point because they think that’s exactly what social is intended for: spokesperson-dom. But, it shouldn’t be the authority on your brand. That’s your website’s job. It’s where the information is (or at least should be). It’s where consumers find out what you offer, what you do, and how you do it. And, yet, big brands are continually positioning Facebook as the destination.

Everything Facebook Can Do, Your Website Can Do

Even those brands using Facebook successfully are still driving consumers back to their website to engage the content, tacking some identifiers into the URL string so they know the came from Facebook. Let’s look at a cross-section of several industries:

All the contests you promote, all the special content you promote, and all the slick, time-saving apps are already on your website. Why aren’t you driving engagement there? Why not advertise specially created landing pages from costly TV ads and print buys? Why are you driving already-loyal consumers, and those you hope to persuade, to the Facebook walled-garden? Moreover, why are you sending them to place where your competitor’s ads are and can roam freely, defeating the purpose? That’s why there’s Facebook Connect, allowing people to “like”, share, and interact with your Facebook wall directly from your website.

Don’t Tell Me It’s About SERPs & Engagement

Even though Bing will be using Facebook “Like” data in the SERPs, it’s still not very prevalent. Here’s one example query, signed in with Facebook credentials: “milwaukee bucks” – Bing http://binged.it/jgfs2z . It’s no different than what you would find in Google’s SERP, signed in, with +1 and social connections promoting things via Twitter. Beyond that, just how influential are these social “vouches”, the “likes”, in the search results? Are they really that jam-packed with influence as to alter a searcher’s decision? In my opinion, no, not in the least. But that won’t stop SEMs and Social gurus from pushing it down everyone’s throat to justify their existence.

Engagement? Is the engagement that much better or more meaningful on Facebook? Is a “like” really that significant on a macro or micro strategy level? All these big corporations, and mid-sized businesses, are doing is creating an extra step to get to the information. If you want to get people to enter your contest, or look at specials you’re running, or engage some nifty application that might make their lives easier, why not send them to unique landing pages on your site? It stands to reason there would be some incredibly valuable consumer engagement when they don’t have extra barriers to plow through, right?

Keep your corporate website the focus of your online universeHere Comes the Sun

Stop treating your website as superfluous. It is your online brand. It is the center of your corporate universe and all your social satellites revolve in its orbit, not the other way around. Your website shows up in search results first; I’ve seen corporate pages take up to as many as the first 5 spots. And, what’s never on the first page of results in both Bing and Google? Your Facebook page.

Your social media efforts should serve to drive consumers, and links, back to the site where the engagement and experience is richer, more informative, and more data mine-able to help you make better decisions about your website and your social campaigns.

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