How to Answer Common Introductory Marketing Questions about your Agency’s Services

The Background

This article about common marketing questions people initially send to marketing agencies, was inspired by the sheer volume of similar questions our agency receives daily, yay, e’en on weekends and holidays.  Sidetrack Data Facts: After all, only about 1/3 of the world even celebrates Christmas.  And far fewer celebrate any other holiday. In fact, more people celebrate or watch the Soccer (Football) World Cup (3.2 Bn watched the one in Brazil in 2014) and the Olympics (3.5 Bn watched the one in Brazil in 2016). 

So with that in mind, it seemed logical to share some ideas about the types of questions we get, and how we very often respond to them.  When reading it, it’s impossible not to notice certain patterns, and develop certain efficiencies around the commonly asked questions.

OK that’s enough background on the article. Here it is, in all its glory. I hope you enjoy it, and share it with your peers and colleagues in the marketing world.

how to make sure answer marketing questions to get your leads get where they want to go

The Barrage of Questions & Answers

I get a nice, healthy amount of inquiries by email and on various websites, about new businesses seeking help with marketing.

The exchanges often go something like this:

“Hello! I have seen your profile and maybe you can help my start-up. I have a [product or service] that [has these differentiating features]. it’s a little like [the market leaders] and better [in these ways]. It should be a [product or service] for [business or consumer target audience segment] in the [target group, ie: age, business type] in [target geolocation].  Or so I believe :-)Can you help me with my new business? I need an online marketing strategy, a detailed plan of specific steps and tactics I have to do … to have success with this [product or service].


[Joe Smith]

To which a pretty typical initial response I send reads as follows:

“Hi [Joe],

Thanks for reaching out to me. I’ll be happy to create an online marketing strategy for your new [product or service] company.

To get this done, simply [place the order or request for further information] from [the relevant web page], and any [optional feature / extras] you want.

Or, if you prefer, i can send you a custom offer.

To do that, I need to know these basic questions:
1) What’s your company or product’s website address, (if you have one)?
2) Are you able to generate leads and traffic?
3) What’s your current monthly marketing budget?
4) What are your growth targets for the next year?


The inquiring person then usually follows-up with something in this direction:

1. [I don’t have a website right now, though I plan to have one soon.] or [My website is at http:/ /theproductorservicewebsite .com]
2. [YES, I can generate Traffic], or [NO, I am not able to generate traffic.]  Sometimes the respondent adds in things like, [“I am sure I can create traffic with google/facebook/instagram ads, if I can just target them properly.”]
3. [My budget is $XXXX / month].  Sometimes they add in info like, [“I cover all my own costs ‘out of pocket’, with the money I earn at my day job.”]
4. I want to [Sell X # of Products or Service contracts or Orders] This Year. That’s the minimum I have to sell to cover my costs. In the next year I want to sell minimum of [2X this year’s monthly average orders] every month. Do you think this is a realistic goal?

[Joe Smith]

To which, again, a pretty typical response I send reads as follows:

Great. Yes those are realistic targets. Sell them to [shops / websites] and try for a small [chain of stores or network of sites] or two.You could sell many more if your product is good and you can handle larger orders.

Go to one huge event, a festival or a huge sports game, and you could unload hundreds, even thousands.


What is your cost per unit [or case/crate/rental/lease or other metric]?
Really what I’m asking here is ‘What’s your cost per sale?’
factoid: More than 23% of inquirers we received just in the last two years, say they don’t know their cost per sale. Marketing Tip: KNOW YOUR DATA, OR ELSE!

The prospective client then usually replies with something that goes like this

“For the [YYYY number] of Units I pay USD [X.XX] per Unit.”

Knowing all of that very insightful data, I can then follow-up with an offer. So, for example, I’ll send a message that reads like this:


Here’s your custom offer.

COST: $2500

I will do strategic business consulting and marketing expertise
I will create an Online Marketing Strategy for your energy drink business.

As part of that Strategy, you will also receive a Big To Do List, and a Tailored Action Plan.

Your consultation sessions with me will help you crush your goals.

You will also get guidance to implement the high level business strategy, business policy, or more technical aspects / tactics in SEO, SEM, Social Media and other Growth / Acquisitions Channels (Email, Direct, Referral, etc).

Plus, you get a written summary of the key points discussed.

Ongoing work to implement, maintain and advance the strategy can be offered and ordered separately.

10 Day Delivery. Offer Expires [X days from the date this message is sent].

The person inquiring then usually writes me something like this

“Hello,Thank you for your offer. At the moment I’m considering a few other offers for my marketing.

Please make me an offer for “ongoing work to implement, maintain and advance the strategy”.

I need pay the costs myself for the first [X] months.

Also, would you please explain exactly how you can help me during the first [X] months, and how much time you have to invest?

I want to sell the first [YYYY Units] using only online marketing.

This is the main goal i am targeting: I want you to use your marketing service to help me to sell [YYYY Units] in [Target Geolocation(s)] [to Target Demographic(s)] via the internet within the next [X] months.

Can you do that for me? If you are able to get that done, then please send me an offer for that.”

Once I see that the company is a startup with very low budgets and is in need of immediate revenues, and keeping all costs in check, then I do something that is unusual. I tell them something like this:

If your goal is only for the next [X] months, then what you really need is a sales effort.

You can definitely sell online, but to sell [YYYY Units] online in [X] months, without any prior sales of the product, it will be harder to do that with just a website and online marketing, rather than with a basic site that can accept purchases, and a person to send sales emails and makes sales calls.

The marketing strategy I proposed was for your longer term (1 year, 2 year, etc) business goals.

If what you need are immediate sales and you are short on funds to invest in a sales person, then you should frankly hit the pavement yourself and start knocking on doors of every [website / shop] that [buys/sells] [Similar Products Or Services] in your [local area / online markets of influence].

Small and Medium sized shops are your best bet. Small shops are easiest but will pay the least, often, though they’ll still pay. Medium sized shops are your sweet spot because you’re more likely to close a deal with them than with a large [chain / network] (at first), and they usually can pay more than the little shops.

That said, if you live in an area with lots of “specialty” shops (small, medium or big), then those are another matter, as they often pride themselves on offering rare items and new items, as it gives them a certain “cachet” / flair / style / vibe / culture that appeals to a certain demographic, and it’s one that is usually willing to pay a slight premium for unusual [products / services] like yours, or cool looking branded [products / services] like yours, that they have never heard of or tried before.

Have you tested the branding of the [product / service]? If not, frankly, you should test, test, test, and then go sell like the rent’s due tonight. If that doesn’t motivate you to get sales, nothing will. I am confident that if you go that route, you’ll sell [YYYY Units], easily, within a month or two, let alone three. If you do it right, you might sell many more than [YYYY Units] … and then you’ll be experiencing what is known as “a good, high quality problem to have”.

So there’s some free marketing and sales advice for you. If you try it and it works (and i’m sure it can), then please be kind enough to let me know how it went, tell your friends, peers and colleagues about it, or better yet … order my marketing services to help you grow once you have an actual marketing budget of a few grand a month, which is what you’ll be looking at spending to take your brand to the next level.

Until that time, you really can and should DIY, and ask folks like (read: other marketing professionals) that you know or can reach ie: in marketing fora & groups.

Otherwise, you risk investing in something where any little thing that doesn’t go as planned will be too stressful to your business.

When you’re running a lean operation, you should not try to spend beyond your means. Otherwise, even a tiny tumble can be a bad crash.

OK, now that I’ve done my part to tell you why you should do it yourself at this stage …. If you STILL want me to help you at this stage, feel free to let me know. I’ll send you an offer for ongoing work. Just don’t be surprised by a monthly cost that’s somewhat in the [mid-to-high four] digits at first. Or, if you want to only spend that amount [or less] at the most, then I can send you such a plan, and just keep in mind that it will be, by definition, a smaller effort than I would normally offer.


Using efficiencies, we have seen this process of inquiries and responses, impact our business’ bottom line, with a 37% Growth Rate in First Time Buyers (FTBs), YoY. And for our clients, signing up with us has led to even higher yields of Growth Rates and Primary KPIs for our clients.

If this is of interest to you, you are welcome to visit our marketing agency website. We look forward to hearing from you … and replying to you in kind.

Web Marketing Lesson 4: Building A Site After Domain Name Registration

Web Marketing Lesson 4: Building A Site After Domain Name Registration.

This page contains an easy to use, step-by-step guide to help you build your website in the best, easiest, fastest way possible.

how to setup your website graphic by yasha harari

So, you want to set up your own website? And you don’t know exactly what to do, step-by-step?

Well, put aside your fears. This page explains what you can do to setup your site in 30 minutes or less. And you can use practically any decent web host to get it done.

OK, so let’s review really quickly what you should have done by now.

Step 1) Get your domain.

As explained in this web marketing tutorial’s first lesson, you should have registered a domain, using any of the registrars you prefer, that can register your chosen domain name(s).

Remember that while most registrars can register .com, .net, and .org domains, practically all other Top Level Domains, or TLDs, like .ca,,, .tv, .mobi, or .info all have a much smaller list of registrars to choose from. So make sure you look around and choose your registrar carefully, and remember that cheaper prices do not always mean a better deal.

Keep in mind that while a domain is a virtual piece of property, it’s still a form of electronic real estate. And just as with real estate in the real world, sometimes it’s worth paying a few extra bucks for a bunch of additional features and services, a big one of which is location location location — just like in the real world.

Domain Name Registration Recap:

Step 1 & 2: How To Get a Domain Name and Setup Your Web Hosting Account

Before you can start your your blog or other website, you first need to set up a domain name and find a website hosting service.

I prefer GoDaddy and JustHost because each of them is a well-known company with reliable uptime.

GoDaddy offers extremely affordable web hosting, email, and other services you may want.

JustHost offers a domain at no extra cost when you buy one of their web hosting packages.

In both cases, registration and web hosting account setup is easy and inexpensive.

Recommended Registrars:


Here’s what to do on JustHost:

Go to the home page and click the red button that says sign up now. It will ask you to enter a domain name. You may do so and then click ‘Next’.

Their system will then ask you for a bit more information. You should fill out the details properly. Then you will get to pick a internet hosting plan for your account. At first, a one year plan is okay.

Of course, if you have the beans to put into it, and if you see your new site as a long-term, multi-year effort, then bear in mind that the longer your register your domain for, ie: 3, 5, or 10 years, the stronger its initial presence will be in Google, Yahoo, Yandex, Bing, etc. The reason for this is that the search engines look at how long you have registered your domain for, as a sign of how serious you are about making it a real, long-lasting business.

Okay, so now you’ve chosen your domain name and your hosting package. So make sure you pick a good, strong password and keep it safe.

Here’s what to do on GoDaddy:

The procedure is very similar at GoDaddy. You just go to their site, search for the domain name you want, and after you’ve selected the one(s) you want, you add the internet hosting packages that you want to buy, to your shopping cart, and you can pay online using your credit card or paypal account.

It is worth noting that these days, you can do this procedure of domain name registration and web hosting setup at just about any of the best registrars and web hosts. So look around to find the registrar and host that best matches your needs. This should not take you a long time. You can do it in as little as 3 minutes. At the extreme end, you should not spend more than 60 minutes on this task. If it takes longer than that, it probably has to do with the TLD you have chosen. If not, and if it’s just a lame registrar and web host, then go get served somewhere else, by someone who actually wants your business and respects your time.

Finally, please note that if you want your website to be a WordPress site, then make sure that the web host your choose offers WordPress hosting. The best large commercial webhosts all offer WordPress, and they let you install it yourself, or you can also choose to install it automatically using their own backend account control panel. So you can choose to use the host’s customized installation version, or install a clean, default version yourself. Either way, this page lets you know what to do.

All right, now you’ve got your domain name and web hosting package selected.

Guess what? Now it’s time to setup your website or blog!

In the next step, we will review exactly how to setup a WordPress site. Even though there are an enormous variety of ways to build your website, we choose to use WordPress as our example. This is because it is easy to use, flexible, and incredibly powerful. Also, nearly one-fifth of all websites today are built with WordPress, and that number keeps growing, so it makes a lot of sense to familiarize yourself with one of the most popular ways to build a website. WordPress is a great solution for someone who does not know how to write code by hand, and for people who just want to be able to install a site simply and quickly, and have it ready to do whatever they need, very well.

WordPress is a marketer’s dream, increasing scalability and reducing cost and time to market, with just a few clicks. And there are so many ways to customize WordPress sites, that your creative juices won’t be very limited. This means that in most cases, you don’t have to worry about whether or not your desired outcome is possible, and you can remain focused on delivering your amazing content, products and services to your best business asset: The people who are your audience and your customers.

Step 3: Installing WordPress

Once your web hosting account is setup, you just log in to your account and go to your account’s Control Panel.

From inside of your control panel, you will typically see a graphical user interface, or GUI, where you can choose various Applications or Apps to install. One of those apps is WordPress. Most web hosts have a very easy installation wizard to install WordPress onto your hosting space. In the case of GoDaddy, it’s literally a few clicks, a few details it asks you to fill in, which you should write down in a safe file, and then your site is installed and ready to customize and fill up with your content.

If you’re on GoDaddy, for example, they add a little plugin that helps set up key details about the site. It’s helpful the first time you setup a site, but after that, you can pretty much remove it, unless you think it has some greater value. I like keeping my sites lighter, so I remove it. Besides, it does not do anything that you can not do without it. It just takes you on a kind of tour of important elements of your WordPress site’s Admin area, and familiarizes you with what is vital to customize, and what you can leave as-is for the time being.

If you’re on JustHost, you first need to login to your JustHost account (This you do with the domain and password you just created). After you access the administrator tools, click on websites.

Now do these next steps to complete installing WordPress:

  1) Click on the Install WordPress option.
  2) At the next step, leave Installation Preferences with the default settings, and also leave Advanced Options with the default settings.
  3) Unselect the recommended plugins and themes box — We’ll cover those things afterward, when you actually should do them.
  4) Click ‘Complete’ which you will see at the bottom of the page.

Congratulations! You have now installed your basic WordPress website.

And remember to be sure to write down and safely store your password and login.

All right. Nicely done. If you followed the instructions on this page step by step, you should have spend not more than 30 minutes registering your domain name, setting up your web hosting account, and installing WordPress.

Now it’s time to start contemplating the fun stuff, like customizing your website to make it as serious, sexy or silly as you like, and filling it with the best, hottest and richest content that you can put out there.

While you’re letting your imagination run wild, here are some fun, titilating banned GoDaddy TV commercials for you to enjoy.

In the next lesson, we will cover how to add critical Plugins, and how to make sure your new website is optimized for search platforms and different devices, right from the start.

And as always, if you read something you like here and want to help in our effort to test Google’s quality content claims, then I urge you to please share the link to this page on your social networks or any place where others might benefit from it.

Follow us: @yashaharari on Twitter

Previous Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 3: SEO Dos and Don’ts.
Next Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 5: Adding and setting up important Plugins. The super easy walkthrough to secure, enhance and optimize your customers’ user experience on your website, served best for any device, from the get-go.

Web Marketing Lesson 3: SEO Dos and Don’ts

SEO Lesson for Internet Marketers

Web. Social. Mobile. How do you dominate those fields with SEO in an age of smart search engines?

SEO Dos and Don'ts article graphic

First of all, know your SEO history, or be doomed to repeat its failures. Second, make sure you do good SEO and avoid bad SEO. Here’s how.

Good SEO

If you’re doing SEO, do:
1) White Hat SEO only.
2) Be intelligent, if you want to rank at the top of SERPs.
3) Produce the highest quality wherever and whenever possible.
4) Distribute organically on traditional websites, blogs, forums, and social networks, where you have verified or verifiable accounts and profiles.
5) Let the audience come to you.
6) Make sure you know and apply the 5 fundamentals of good on-site SEO (Title, Navigation, Sitemap, Content Hierarchy, and canonical, ahreflang / rel tags / geolocation-based data serving)
7) Use the rel=nofollow tag on most commercial links.
8) Use images, infographics and video more, with proper tags and microdataformat information.
9) Use microdataformats to include good information about non-text media objects like images, audio, video and PDF files, that Google and other engines can easily read and index accordingly.
10) Optimize your site for speed and different platforms (Desktop, laptop, mobile, etc).
11) Use Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and know them inside out as far as SEO is concerned.
12) Remove the worst bad old links you have, and Disavow those you can not otherwise take down.
13) Test, test, test … Apply best possible incremental changes. Rinse and repeat.

Remember that just as in any other form of good marketing, you should focus on giving, selling, renting, leasing or otherwise making attainable to the people what they actually want. The higher your quality of work, the stronger your relationship will be with the user. If you make great content, as I hope I do, then your first goal with a user should be that your work is so great that the user will do everything just to sign-up to the freebie email newsletter on your site.

Keep in mind that unless you’re publishing secrets for being successful in a particular field (as this site does often), you can almost count on your users to spread the word for you. And that kind of prosteletizing is the best kind of word of mouth marketing, or WOMM, you can hope for. This is because WOMM is real. It’s not paid for, and people, being social creatures, are more likely to click on a link from a trusted friend, then from a random marketer who somehow slipped into their stream of data.

Some people who have warnings or even penalties in their GWT, have reported that completely ignoring these warnings and just continuing to produce better content has resulted in the penalties going away. However, for most webmasters, this is simply not the case. Just by opening the message, they are in a way acknowledging that they know that Google thinks they have done something that is a no-no in Google’s SEO rulebook. So definitely open your messages from GWT and fix whatever problem Google has been kind enough to share with you. It may take a while to do, and it may be a month or more until Google decides to lessen or remove your penalty. Whatever it takes, it’s worth it in the long run.

Of course there are also commercial services like MajesticSEO, ScreamingFrog, SEMRush, LinkResearchTool, SEOMoz, SEOBook, QuickSprout, and tons of other SEO tools which can be of great help in finding and removing bad links. LRT is especially proud of their service in this area, marketing their “bad link juice” or toxic link removal feature as a selling-point for their paid service.

Recommended SEO Tools:

Checkout [button icon=heart]SEMRush[/button]
Know Who Is Your Competition.
Find out with [button icon=heart]WHORush[/button]

To date, reports from webmasters are that while LRT is comprehensive, it may also be a little too sensitive about what is and what is not a toxic link. My own experience with LRT is that roughly 20% – 40% of the links which it recommended to remove, were in fact perfectly fine, and that no removal was necessary. At the same time, about 60% – 80% of the links it recommended that I remove for one particular client, which had more than 435,000 backlinks from around the web, did need to be fixed, removed, and in a few cases, disavowed.


If you’re doing SEO, don’t:
1) Do Grey Hat or Black Hat SEO.
2) Produce a ton of web spam. In fact, don’t publish any webspam at all.
3) Create a ton of thin profiles and accounts to blast cheap-o links and barely legible comments on news sites, .edu sites, .gov sites, online fora, social media and other web sites.
4) Buy links.
5) Buy followers, friends, likes, shares or re-pins.
6) Try to outproduce the largest brands in your field.
7) Googlebomb irrelevant garbage with poor quality links and anchor text.
8) Make most of your links “follow” links.
9) Over-optimize.
10) Use non-readable technologies like Flash and iframes for displaying content on pages that you want to rank high.
11) Think you know everything and that you have nothing left to learn about improving your SEO.
12) Feign ignorance about the latest SEO tweaks, hoping Google will let you slide.
13) Ignore Yahoo!, Bing, Yandex, DuckDuckGo and other big search engines.

For better or for worse, Google actually believes that its bot is now smart enough to make most decisions about what is high quality content and what is webspam. Even if you know you’re doing everything by the book, you should probably incorporate a few things that de-optimize your SEO strategy a little. Otherwise, it will reek of manipulation, and that’s a no-no in today’s SEO reality.

Keep in mind that the days of owning the search results by tricks and shady ruses are long behind us. Yes, you can still get short term gains from those methods, but they will eventually come back to bite you in the backside. And if you make a bad mistake, you could even harm or kill a real, valuable brand.

Just look at what happened to JC Penney. Someone there doing shady SEO tricks tried to fool Google with paid backlinks in 2012 and got spanked hard by Google. It took them a long time (relatively) and a lot of headaches (and probably lots of money) to get back into google’s good graces.

Remember that those brands and marketers who have legitimate massive appeal will organically crush most of their small-time competition without even trying. Unless you’re selling cold-fusion in a cup for under a buck, or something as cool, useful and catchy as WhatsApp or SnapChat, there is just no way you’re going to have millions of users and genuine backlinks overnight, or even within years. That kind of popularity is usually grown slowly … repeat … s–l—o—-w——–l–y.

Staying on top of the lesser search engines is also key to SEO success, because, even though individually they may not add up to much, overall, they account for at least 25% of all searches, and even more if you also include social media search engines. This means that you should be sure to do some non-google optimization, lest you ignore those audiences, and lest you make googlebot think you are only targeting google for exploitative purposes.

And always remember that very often, the best SEO looks very much like organized chaos. Organized on the back end, and often chaotic-looking on the front end, with no single routine or format to encapsulate all of the work that goes into it. All the same, you should be more concerned with being organized. The organic nature and the benefits of what appear to be chaos will ensue, just by the very work that is done by you, and the audience with whom you have cultivated a relationship. Done right, they will eagerly look for ways to link to your site from at least one of their own sites or social profiles, if not more.

    Useful SEO Resources:

    The SEO Guide you must read:
Google’s official SEO Rules as a PDF document: [button icon=heart]Google Webmasters SEO Guide[/button]
    An SEO you can learn from:
Connect with [button icon=heart]Elazar Gilad[/button] an SEO Ninja
    SEO tools
Checkout [button icon=heart]Kiss Metrics[/button] SEO Resource
    Another great SEO tutorial
Read this [button icon=heart]QuickSprout[/button] Advanced SEO Guide

My independent social agreement with you: If you like what you saw on this page and want to help me in my quest to challenge Google’s public pronouncements on publishing great content, then please share the link to this page on your social network profiles and anywhere that you think it might help other people.

Previous Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 2.6: SEO Overview : A brief history of search engine optimization.
Next Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 4: Building A Site After Domain Name Registration. The best, easiest, fastest way to build your website, pre-optimized for search platforms and different devices, right from the start.

SEO Overview : A brief history of search engine optimization

seo history title graphic

The truth about SEO

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. It’s all about getting your pages and sites to the top of Google and other major engines, in order to gain a greater share of users, and ultimately it is used to drive people through your acquisition and conversion funnel, for commercial purposes.

To internet publishing insiders, the very concept of SEO reeks of Google hacking and tricksterism. But what is SEO? How did SEO come to be what it is today? Where is SEO going? Why do marketers love it and use it? Why is it so often reviled, and so rarely loved by the search engine operators of the world? And how can you make sure you’re doing good SEO that the search engines and real people at the other end of the search, will actually love and promote for you?

In a word, accountability.

Recommended SEO Tools:

Checkout [button icon=heart]SEMRush[/button]
Know Who Is Your Competition:
Find out with [button icon=heart]WHORush[/button]

You see, back in the early days of search engine development, people would search freely for all kinds of things, just as they do now, only to find a lot of searches have very thin search results come up. And then the keyword marketers came along. They (we) figured out very early on in the game, how to determine what people were searching for, how competitive those search terms were, and how to rank well for them.

Ranking well was easy, because a) there were not so many SEOs gaming the system, and b) it was all about the number of links pointing from servers around the web, to a target website being pushed up the rankings in an unnatural way.

It was easy, because there was no accountability. Anyone could be anyone, and the more accounts an SEO set up, the merrier. You could buy thousands or even millions of of links, follows, friends, likes, shares, and just about any other kind of semi-trackable and wholly valuable “link juice” from an army of websites willing to sell automatic links, real-human links, and more, for less than a pack of cigarettes.

Also, tons of content management systems, or CMSes, were maturing tyo the point were nearly anyone online could set up a site, or even a network of sites, easily and quickly. Quality be damned; the volume game was still on. Blogger and WordPress became the leading causes and sources of low and medium quality webspam.

People who built a single site with high quality information were screwed, left to dwell at the bottom of page 549 of a search result, unless they lucky enough to have tons of real followers who, through organic word of mouth and social media marketing, were happy to share their content.

This meant that the people calling themselves SEOs were growing rapidly, in large numbers, with high salaries for doing easy, low quality work. For those of us focused on quality, it was at times annoying and frustrating; at others, downright infuriating, and often a business-killer.

That meant of course that many great sites simply died on the vine, and not for lack of trying. They were just too ethical for their own short-term needs. However, in the long-run, those who stuck to playing by the rules, would get a better chance at success again, as long as they survived until the inevitable search engine evolutions that would change SEO forever.

And there was little to nothing that Google or other engines could do about it. Their algorithms were still just stupidly counting link volume and link velocity as the main ingredients for determining what made a site rank higher. This lack of accountability was terrible.

By allowing the system to be gamed for so long, many regular users started to understand that most of the links they actually wanted, were probably not on page 1 of their search results. In face, it was not surprising to see all commercial links on page 1, above even the wikipedia links for important or popular subject searches.

So the big search engines decided to get smarter. Doing so would not be impossible do to, as long as they could eliminate the gamers, or at least reduce their impact. One team, the Google web spam and web quality team, was led by a guy who seems to really communicate very well what google looks for. His name is Matt Cutts, and he is famous in the SEO industry.

Matt is the lead googler when it comes to figuring out who is trying to game the network, and who is an honest and accountable person or organization, trying to legitimately post interesting information for their target audiences. Matt frequently posts blog articles and videos, as do many of his colleagues, about what is good content, and what is shady, or outright spammy content.

Recommended SEO Video:

See Matt Cutts about producing high quality content:
Find out with [button icon=heart]Cutts On Content[/button]

Matt’s team was integral in helping Google improve its search algorithms, by removing the spammy links and lowering the rankings, or even removing tons of websites form the search engine’s index of search engine results pages, aka: SERPs. But they did not roll out this quality assurance protocol all at once. Instead, they let it trickle across the network, almost one category at a time, so that by the time it was noticed by most marketers, it had already done its job and would become harder and harder to outgame in the future.

Meanwhile, SEOs were busy trying to figure out how to game search by using social media. Given their popularity and contant connection to people’s smartphones, this seemed like a great goldrush again, and now easily dominating the relatively virgin mobile search entered the market as a tasty proposition for smart marketers. Thanks to iPhone, and then Android devices, hundreds of millions of smartphones appeared in people’s hands, and people were searching from the handsets as much or more than they were from their desktop computers and laptops.

So the SEOs were partly distracted by social and mobile while changes were happening behind the scenes in California.

And then the little engines that could, got smarter.

As I have suggested, from 1994 – 2009, SEOs had a very easy time, ranking just about any website for just about any keyword. All we had to do was pump up the link count and the diversity of those links across as many servers, subnets, IP numbers and C-Classes as possible. It was a period of netting fish in a barrel.

There was even great, cheap software that did this semi-automatically, if not fully automated. For less than the cost of dinner, you could own a range of keywords for any number of sites you wanted to push, and you could do it quickly, without too much competition. People on sites like WarriorForum and DigitalPoint Forum could semi-anonymously exchange information and trade links, or buy/sell links in massive numbers, and for very little money.

It seemed as if the heydey would last and create a second Internet marketing bubble. But those who held that view, and were clogging the Interwebz with garbage, were very narrow-minded, and were causing their brands more long-term damage than they imagined.

Around 2010, search engines started getting smart. Very smart. The algorithms were hitting hundreds, even thousands of calculations for every search a user made. They pulled results that included not just the number of links, or backlinks pointing to a target site, they also started being quite refined at pulling contextual search results, relating the actual search terms being looked up, against the anchor text of a link. They also started searching smarter for the words near the anchor text, or link.

Come 2011, and Google was not just the leading search engine on Earth, it was also quietly building itself up as one of the leading networks of verified users. Other massive networks, like Facebook, were also growing at a tremendous pace, with hundreds of millions of users signed up and at least partially verified. Yes, you could still create fake accounts (and people still do), but various steps were required to make multiple accounts on any single device.

Simultaneously, the searches on social sites were being logged, and fed into their own search engines. Twitter and facebook were then also mostly taken out of google’s search results, and as a result, you had a tumultuous period of finding and losing pages very quickly within a google search, and people started to rely more on searches directly on their favorite social networks.

Then, Google launched Google+, and it seemed like a godsend for SEOs who were looking to beat the system once again. They created tons of accounts as fast as they could, but they had to use names that seemed real to Google, and they have to give information that was a little more verifiable than ever before. Soon it seemed as if the only people really using Google+ very much were:
1) Google employees, and others who have a vested interest in seeing Google+ succeed.
2) Tech snobs or the so-called technorati, aka: elites, who just wanted to show the world that they were cooler than facebook, and they, as early adopters, would use google’s all-powerful social network to remain on the leading edge.
3) SEOs and SEMs who market brands for various products and services, using the power of the internet.

Meanwhile, the big change people were noticing was that on Google+, was that it was ripe for hacks. It was possible to rank on page 1 on the same day that an article was published, if Google+ was tricked into believing that it had received a number of +1s quickly, and given the still partly unverified Google accounts, it was easy to have bots or cheap labor in India and across Asia and Latin America, and even Eastern Europe, provide “real” people-generated profiles, that could then be used to pump up the link-juice of any target site. So even though Google’s web quality team was fighting the good fight, trying to deliver the best research for searches, they were also allowing themselves to be one of the leading causes of webspam. Give that a big +1 for irony.

And then came the Panda

Near the end of 2011, Google quietly started rolling out their first famous Panda update. It took effect by the end of January 2012, and hit hundreds of thousands, if not tens of millions of websites.

Panda basically counted not just the traditional algorithm, but also the freshness of content. Panda also was smart at making connections and bringing out into the daylight many link networks and shady link juice practices, which helped them cull millions of bad SEO pages from their index. Of course, this also hit many legit pages, which were maybe the unintended victimes of bad SEO from the old-school days of simple link-building techniques.

As SEOs took measures to defend themselves against the damage caused, or about to be caused by Panda, Google had more surprises in store. Just when everyone in the industry thought that they had applied the necessary changes to reduce the minimum possible amount of webspam published in their brand names, the GOOG went off and set up a rolling update strategy. This means that changes would take effect on an ongoing basis, and that they would not all be announced.

Now, SEOs were faced with updating their sites and pages every 90 days (maximum) or have those sites and pages fall out of google entirely.

Soon, Panda 2 and others in its wake would take hold and affect even more sites. So many changes came, in fact, that even leading search engine publications and analysts stopped trying to keep track or name every single change.

Then followed the Penguin

Penguin quickly followed Panda as the biggest change in the google algorithm in years. It counted not only freshness, but it also counted social signals much more.

Penguin caused more alarms to go off than any previous update, even though in theory, Google had long-since discounted and social search results. This major change meant that although links on social networks should not have accounted for much link juice, actual links, likes, shares, re-pins, and follows by real people were powerful indicator’s of a site’s real value, at least as far as the googlebot was concerned.

Now SEOs had to figure out how to publish all kinds of great content, in quick, regular succession, and get it shared socially, or ignore social media at their own peril.

The Penguin update, in line with the previous Google dictates about rolling updates, quickly had Penguin 2.0 and other udpates streaming out so fast, that people in the know stopped tracking every minute change.

The search engines were back on top … for a while. And it seemed they were gaining ground, wiping out zillions of pages of garbage. Yet plenty of junk remained, and much of it was still gaming the system. This was especially true in sectors which Google ignores, mostly because they don’t like them. And the acronym of these sectors is, ironically, PPC. And as we all know, PPC, or Pay-Per-Click advertising is the bread and butter of Google and other big engines.

Of course, the PPC I’m talking about here stands for something else entirely, although it is also the leading source of money spent in PPC ads. The PPC I’m talking about is Pills, Porn and Casino. Those three sectors are topics that Googlers would prefer just did not exist. And yet, they are by far three of the most popular search categories since the dawn of civilization, let alone the search engines.

So too came the Hummingbird

Come mid-2013, Google announced that its latest major overhaul was called Hummingbird. And by overhaul, we mean a complete reboot for the google machine.

You see, Hummingbird effectively replaced the entire google search engine. It left in place the different calculations that google makes for every search query it receives. And it made real-time, social and location-based search results stand out much more, especially for the majority of regular users, who are plugged in to their google accounts in one way or another, at just about any time that they’re googling.

So now Hummingbird delivered more search results that seemed to be relevant uniquely to the searcher, and it did so faster than ever before.

At this point, SEOs had to look at their strategies and techniques much closer than ever before. The notion that you could build a strong brand with grey hat and black hat SEO was dying quickly. White Hat SEO, the bane of lazy SEOs everywhere, was once again seen as the best of breed method of getting the best possible SEO results.

Of course, White Hat SEO is harder, more time consuming work, than the tricks and hacks of the lesser forms of SEO. Still, the merits of long-term value building with white hat SEO made the case clearer than ever. Just as you would not succeed long-term by tricking people to eat at your restaurant when you serve them garbage, you will no longer be able to succeed at building top ranked sites and pages by tricking users into visiting your site, or even putting up poor quality links to it from as many sites as possible.

Nowadays, in 2014, it is quite literally more beneficial to your SEO work and your page’s rank and targeted traffic, to have 1 link from a great website, than 1000 links from 1000 low quality sites. And while it will take you much more time to get that great link, the fact is, it’s worth it.

Don’t just believe that I write. Test against my theories, always.

If you’re not yet convinced, go ahead and try it on just one page, or one new site. Track that new content’s performance against the pages and sites you maintain with old techniques. If you do it right, you will see your better content with higher quality links shoot up quicker and for longer periods of time, than all of the lower quality pages you make in the next 30 – 90 days.

While you’re chewing your mind candy over what you’ve just learned here, watch this great video which goes in-depth about many instances of historical facts and sidenotes of the SEO industry, from 1994 until early 2014.

Post Lesson Note

My unofficial social contract with you: If you like what you learned in this article and care to help me in my challenge to test Google’s claims about publishing high quality content, then please share this page on your social network profiles and anywhere that you think it might help other people.

Previous Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 2: Branding 101: Build a Brand to Remember

Next Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 3: SEO Do’s and Don’ts The current best practices top SEO guide in 1 page.

Branding 101

Build A Brand To Remember

Brands come in all shapes and sizes. Successful brands come in a much more limited set, restricted by guidelines, business values, and investor concerns, among other things.

I have spent more than 20 years working on branding issues. It has been part of my work in creating and developing brands and their strategies for businesses around the world. One primary lesson I learned about branding is, it’s important to always be open to learning from experts who have plenty of experience in branding, even if you have a pure, raw, natural talent for it.

And while that is obviously true for just about any subject, it is even more so in branding, because branding involves making a connection between people, … not just yourself … and the ideas and messages communicated by the brand. And here’s why this lesson is so incredibly important: If you don’t make the emotional or mental connection with whoever sees the brand, then you probably won’t form any further relationship with that person, so you’ve already lost them before you ever had a chance to get to know them.

Branding pre-requisites

Understanding what makes brands succeed or fail is a preliminary requirement before you go about trying to grapple the process on your own. Normally, it involves more than one person to get the job done right.

Without being too metaphorical, a brand is a lot like a tattoo. It’s kind of permanent, if it’s done well, but even the best made brand will experience subtle changes over time. If not maintained properly, it will eventuall fade and become less appealing. If maintained well, it will become more beautiful over time, and can even be refreshed from time to time by great creative visionaries and artists.

Given this idea, it is important to spend some time considering the Pros and Cons of various color palettes and combinations. Test with your instincts, your feelings, your thoughts, and yes, with blind test groups where possible. If you’re a one-person show, then test with a professional graphic artist or brand designer. If you can’t afford to do that, then test with a trusted friend, or better yet, multiple friends, if you can’t afford to do a proper multi-panel test. You’ll be surprised how others perceive the greatness you have conceived.

Don’t just sit there. Decide.

Eventually, you will need to pick a set of colors that you think will work best.  Go ahead. Do it. Don’t be afraid. These colors can be changed .. even if only slowly .. later on.

As an example, here are the main colors I decided to go with for this site, when I got to this point in creating this lesson. They’re nice and richly saturated. They go together, complimenting each other with a strong enough contrast without blinding the eyes.

theme colors for from 2014 march 7

And here is the custom cartoon image I created and decided to use as my branded avatar for this website, once I arrived to this point in creating this lesson.

yamaha harari custom cartoon avatar

Then, I put down on paper my thoughts about what I communicate through the SEO and Marketing tutorials on this website. And I boiled it down, pretty quickly, to just three words. Marketing. Savvy. Shared.

Mixing those ideas with the colors and cartoon image of myself and my name, I came up with this branded header.

yasha harari website cartoony brand headingTotal time: 20 minutes, including 15 minutes for the graphics and 5 minutes to write about it here.

Note: If you can’t design well or make cool graphics quickly, hire a pro. It’s worth it. Go to odesk or fiverr or freelancer sites anywhere online and you can get graphics done … affordably.

    Useful Brand Builder Resource:

    Need a cool graphic done on time and under budget?
    Get what you need right now, at [button icon=heart]Freelancer[/button]

That site has been around many years, and has a network of over 10 Million users. I have used their services often, and I definitely recommend them.

By the way, here’s a great video about branding from a TEDx event, by a guy named Sasha, not to be confused with me, Yasha.

And here’s another clip, which you actually have to read, that explains pretty well (in 2011 terms) a big picture summary of the history of branding and how it has changed over the centuries.

And of course, if you enjoyed what you read in this article and want to help me in my effort to put Google to the test, then please share the link to this page on your social media profile or wherever else it could benefit others.

OK, that’s it for now. Good luck making your own kickass brand that’s memorable, and totally awesome, and stay tuned for the next lesson in building a top website.

Previous Lesson: 2014 Challenge 1 : Build a Top Website

Next Lesson: Web Marketing Lesson 2.6 : SEO Overview : A brief history of search engine optimization