Advise about hiring an SEO service

I recently received a request for help from a sister company about hiring an SEO contractor for the first time. I thought my advise was pretty useful 🙂 and generic enough to post here.

Thank you for asking about website rank improvement. I have been mostly lucky to have good rankings, but have experience and commentary to help you.

In general, I have avoided contract service for help with our website ranking. Whenever I have done so in the past, I have felt it is not a good value. However, as you may not have time or staff with expertise, it may be your best option.

1. Keywords

The listing of keywords on the reports you provided are poor choices for test chambers. On this basis alone, I don’t think you are ready to make a decision about contract.

2. Lack of detail

Besides noting that they will create a blog, there is no indication of how they will do the work. They only provide goals, which is helpful, but if it is for the keyword-phrases in the report, it isn’t too helpful. I would be more interested in targeting increase in traffic to certain product pages and home page, regardless of the terms. Traffic is more important than ranking of a search term. Also, I would concentrate only on Google, and assume that other search engines will have similar reaction to SEO. The report you have shows many search engines that are not popular at all.

3. Tracking

Do you currently have data about current traffic, such as Google Analytics? This tells you what keywords are working for your website and a lot of other detail. This is important information for you to understand, so that you know what your needs are to work with the contractor.

4. AdWords

Instead of their fee, you could spend the same using AdWords, which will guarantee ranking and traffic, plus allow you to target by certain countries. You could contract management of such an account as well, In general, our keywords for Adwords are very firmly established, so any improvement would be in modifying the advertisements.
The contractor will tell you that their service is a better investment than Adwords, as the changes are long-term and then additional traffic is free. But I think you need natural listings and Adwords.

I like AdWords because true ‘shoppers’ tend to use these ads more frequently, and often may be the first thing they click on, regardless of the regular listings. The first website a ‘shopper’ visits is very important.
5. Expense

Their contract amount is expensive, in my opinion. There is probably a lot of work for them to do because your site has not been optimized before. Without a good plan (traffic, conversions as goals, certain product pages), I think they are not offering a good value.

I strongly suggest considering Adwords account. Cost will probably be less and results will be very strong. You should do this even if you are working with an SEO contractor.

I’d have fun jumping in and going over their traffic, keywords, and website content. To see someone else charging heftily for the chance to do that hurts a bit, especially when they aren’t offering a modern SEO package.

BtoB Magazine fizzles, newsletter remains

Another trade pub doesn’t quite die, I’d say it fizzles:

BtoB will go digital-only beginning Jan. 1, featuring daily online b2b news and a dedicated e-newsletter as part of the previously announced merger of BtoB and Advertising Age.
— via BtoB to go all-digital as part of Ad Age | B2B Management Reorganization.

Is there much to say about this? Yea, there is:

1. First off, I’ve been throwing away the Advertising Age magazines they’ve been sending me. Absolutely not relevant to me.

2. Can we assume that as B2B marketers like myself have been able to get along without trade publication advertising, so to the coverage that BtoB used to offer isn’t as relevant. And their repeated features of listing top agencies, etc. aren’t that useful when you can Google around to find services if you need them.

3. BtoB tended to spend too much time covering high-end campaigns that are called business-to-business, but are advertised much like business-to-consumer, such as FedEx and UPS. But that’s where the action and money was.

4. There are just too many small operations like myself that find the content of BtoB Magazine interesting, but not spending enough money to entice the advertisers.

5. Look at that link, you’ll see no comments posted complaining of the loss of a, what, 75 year old publication.

I will say that the BtoB Newsletter seems pretty robust, and I am hopeful that it stays. Let’s see if Ad Age can stick with the B2B market coverage like they promised in the above news release.

Fun: Here is a post from the first year of B2Blog referencing an article from BtoB Magazine’s newsletter.

Tradeshow traffic getting leaner?

At EDN‘s blog, this picture and post about a recent trade show:

I heard a rumor about a customer wondering around somewhere, but nobody could confirm it. Ok, that’s an exaggeration….sort of.

Chicago show last week

Ouch! Luke Schreier at EDN goes on to ponder the fate of shows for his/our industry, along these lines:

Clearly, the way the average engineer finds out about a new multimeter or oscilloscope has changed since 1998 (to say the least). The parallel might be akin to how weird it’s always felt for me to watch the work environment outlined in the AMC television series Mad Men, which is set in the 1960s. Seeing a workspace without a computer on it blows my mind much more than the “three-martini” lunches in that show. In this day and age, who wouldn’t go directly to the internet and search for “multimeter” instead of waiting months for the next big vendor exhibition to kick the tires?

My sales guy for a show last week was a little more specific, sending me this picture and comment:

Bottom line is I doubt if we get any good leads and making a sale based on a lead I would give a less than 10% chance. But all of the competition is attending, so do we go just to show the company banner??

Note the guy to the right yawning.
Note the guy to the right yawning.

So what is the B2Blog wisdom on this? We may have a problem.

Once of my favorite shows last year underperformed. This is a show we did gang-busters in the pit of despair that was 2009. I thought maybe it was a fluke, maybe we didn’t bring our A game. But if I start looking for a trend, maybe shows are waning more than we’d like to think, faster than we’d expect so late in the information revolution.

Unfortunately, that may leave it up to us company marketing wonks to develop our own events, as the human connection is so hugely valuable to business. Ugh. Something else neither myself or my company do well, if at all. Sigh.

Is paperless B2B marketing possible?

B2B literature pile
A pile of opportunity … or a pile of waste?

I’ve invested a lot of work in the last five plus years developing quality brochures for our company and products. I have a fine appreciation now of how hard it is to concisely bring tons of information and messages into a complete whole. So while everyone has been charging forward with ‘the next thing’, I’ve been going old-school.

Can you call brochures old school, though? As PDFs they serve a functional purpose living online or as an email attachment, arguably more useful than any webpage could. PDFs have the additional value to us marketers as being easy to update.

With paper, literature is just a normal functional part of sales calls, prospecting, trade shows, and image building. Ubiquitous enough to be almost invisible. Useful despite a world of screens and intertubes.

We’ve kind of hit a tipping point, where the usage of PDFs seems more significant and dynamic than the printed version of the brochure. At least for marketers, anyway. What about the prospects and salespeople:

  • Do customers want PDFs, or printed literature, or both?
  • Do salespeople find handing literature out as a successful procedure?
  • Do the people who actually buy ever see the literature (in either form)?

The challenge

Our company president doesn’t like literature. If a visiting salesperson gives him literature, he will give it back. Or throw it away. He’s an engineer, and our customers are mostly engineers, so he ascribes his behavior with our customer’s behavior (or at least their desires).

I’ve faced this question from him before, but this time it was a challenge:

  • Why are you asking me to pay to print literature that the prospects are ultimately just going to throw away. Or it will be outdated before it is ever handed out.

Isn’t there a better way to spend the money that is going to be more useful and valuable for our marketing? Can PDFs (or other content) be a better substitute if salespeople are given the tools and training to present them to prospects correctly?

I’ve got a thick skin

I generally disagree with the idea of going paperless, it just seems crazy. Even at the suggestion of printing only our main brochure and going paperless otherwise, the president balked. I thought it sounded like a reasonable compromise.

At the very least, I’ve got to do my homework about alternative solutions and agree on a plan before we run off and print anything. I’ve got a thick skin, and after shaking it off, will agree that it is a worthwhile process to investigate and possibly rebuild how we make and distribute marketing materials.

So while everyone in the b2b-marketing-blogoshere is talking about the next thing, I’m going back even farther than being old-school … I’m starting from scratch. The good news is that it will get us ahead and into the future.

Comments and ideas, folks? I need your input on this, please.

Google figures out how to get even more money from me

My AdWords program has produced quality leads for my company for years … visitors who convert at more than twice  the rate of normal visitors.

My biggest challenges would be to increase the number of click-thrus, and especially the number of conversions.

I know it’s been around for a little while, but Google is now expanding ‘remarketing’ programs for AdWords, and make them easier to manage.

Remarketing with Google Analytics helps you create remarketing lists based on certain audiences who visit your website and show interest in your products, without having to tag your site twice. This can help you more easily create remarketing campaigns to show ads across the Google Display Network GDN.

via A simpler way to re-connect with your website visitors – Analytics Blog.

I can gently nag those non-converting visitors for days and weeks after they’ve visited our site. I haven’t tried this yet, but with streamlining like is promised by Google, it won’t be long.

Good source for that new Marketing management job you wanted …

I’m happy doing what I’m doing. But maybe you aren’t. Maybe your willing to move to a different city or state … I’m not.

But this job service seems to have some good openings. I’ve been getting their weekly alerts with about five strong opportunities listed. I’m not sure how good it is behind the paywall ($40/month or less).

“And no job postings are acquired via bots; positions listed are real jobs from real people searching for qualified executive candidates.”

If you have any experience, or comments, leave them here, of course!


B2B bulk email … don’t be the loser in my spam box

It’s always an interesting experience when I have to flip thru my spam box making sure I didn’t miss an important email. Besides all the usual seedy stuff, I saw several emails that were from publishers I already know I get stuff from. Newsletters, webinar invites, magazine or trade show bulletins. Nothing that I couldn’t live without, but why didn’t these emails get thru, while others did?

There were a some emails I recognize from previous trips to the spam box. Not v*iagra offers, but legitimate B2B email list stuff. Well, maybe not legitimate because I know that I never subscribed. So I’m happy to let these losers have their stuff go to spam (we use Google Apps for email). I’ll bet its been years like this. You’d think they’d not be so stupid to send multiple emails a week and not improve their deliverability.

After that experience, I jumped on Twitter and saw this tweet by Brian Reilly:

I normally wouldn’t click to the MarketingSherpa article, but I was inspired to learn more, it may help my measly little newsletter. I was struck by this basic fact that separates B2B email:

Deliverability is a complex topic that challenges every marketer using email. However, it is an even greater challenge for B2B marketers.

B2B marketers must meet unique deliverability rule sets for each individual domain in databases filled with hundreds or more.

Every company has their email filtered and managed differently. Throw on top of that the number of B2B recipients running Outlook with a likely customized spam filter set-up, and you have a HUGE challenge to get your messages thru.

Wow, I found something useful on Twitter. Who’da thunk?

You can follow me on Twitter at @b2btw

Retraction: a B2B lesson

One of the big buzzes this week is radio/podcast show This American Life’s episode Retraction, documenting the errors of their previous episode about China’s suppliers to Apple, called Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.

As I listened to Retraction, I couldn’t stop this feeling of deja vu … that I’ve seen these same mistakes made in B2B.

In essence, TAL took a story that was already being presented for monologue, and reproduced it for their show. Mistakes made include:

  • Working with someone outside their group
  • Not getting primary content or research
  • Assuming things that can’t be checked out are okay.
  • Relying on email communications

But their biggest failure was this:

  • Trying to fit a ‘theatrical’ story into a ‘journalistic’ story.
    • And not realizing how much more work (or what work) needed to be done to do this.

In B2B sales, we often have to fit our product to suit the customer’s need. That’s okay up to a point, and I’m sure you’ve been there. The company struggles a bit, the order runs late, but ultimately the customer gets what they wanted, and your company learns something new.

But sometimes the solution for the customer is outside what your company should be doing. The opportunity can overshodow your objective opinion of how your company can deliver on this order. It’s a big new customer, or a potential new market, or a potential huge margin.

You might not know it at the time you accepted the order, but as your ship time slips and rework cost accumulate, or your engineering manager is flying out to the job site, everyone at the company regrets accepting the order. (And yes, the salesperson is the one blamed.)

Dang it though, in business you can’t just issue a retraction and be done with it. The problem festers until it is resolved.

Hopefully, like Ira Glass, you learn something from this painful process. No, not hopefully. You must learn one of two things from such a poor decision:

  1. We now know how to handle orders like this
  2. We now know to avoid orders like this

This is how B2B companies grow. It is painful, but important.

I might even squeeze in a comment that Apple itself is probably so successful because it has gone thru this process so much, it becomes a habit. I’ll leave further commentary to the business pundits who always use Apple as case study. I’ll stick to using This American Life as my example.

The Groupon or Woot of B2B? Oh wait, not.

One of the trade pubs I get (online and off), sent me a new type of email at the beginning of the year, with this subject line:

Introducing TMWorld Deals:  Dell LED/LCD Monitor for Just $129

My first reaction: ‘Oh, they’re going to offer Groupon or Woot style deals from their advertisers.’ My second reaction: ‘Um, Dell monitors?’

Yep, they’re just posting deals from a third party, of no specific interest to the subscribers.

Maybe they plan on using this platform with their advertisers? Maybe they need the added revenue? As it stands, not a service to their subscribers, and a dilution of their brand authority.

The B2Blog that is B-to-Blah

Maybe its too obvious to me, but it bares repeating: is NOT a commercial venture. Not a blog to support an agency. Not a shill for links or outside interests.

It is a personal blog about marketing. Even more than B2B, it is about Industrial marketing.

The point is it is MINE. It is part of who I am. A hobby, and an outlet. Coming up on it’s tenth anniversary in 2012.


So last May, I flagged an incoming email announcing a different blog with the same name, albeit spelled differently: BtoBlog, an outpost created by the folks at BtoB Magazine.

I just took another look at that blog and found something quite different than B2Blog:

  • More than one author
  • Lots of ads & promotions (including interstitials)
  • No RSS feed, heck no main URL/domain
  • Comments are all spam (and not deleted)
  • Spotty content … well, maybe that is the same as B2Blog 😉

It’s a bit of a shame, you’d hope that this could be a cultural, viral blog (like FastCompany has become). Instead it is content-fodder to generate ad revenue.

I will say that BtoB does highlight the latest post on their homepage (which unfortunately swirls with headlines like any other magazine), and has recruited “client side” bloggers that can generate quality, first-person articles that are worth reading.

Maybe I’m being to cynical. Or maybe just protective of ‘my turf’. But for a Magazine that covers social media like it is hot stuff for B2B marketing, this blog leaves me feeling blah.