Understanding Your Customer

First Steps to Better Understanding Your Customer

As an Entrepreneur with a new idea, the number one thing you can do to increase your chances of success is to get a understanding your customer. It helps to know some personally, or to have come from amongst their ranks. Minus that personal connection, you are wise to dive in and get to know their frustrations, pain, joys, successes and daily routines. Anything that will give you an insight into an opportunity missed.

Understanding Your Customer - First 3 Steps:

What are the first steps to gaining the better understanding of your customer?

  1. Research - Google is your friend. I am often amazed at how much knowledge about a market can be assembled quite rapidly with appropriate use of Google Search. A few years back I compiled a comprehensive list of every retailer in the USA that carried a particular sports equipment category. It took me the better part of a day, however that list allowed me to develop the contacts necessary to build a decent sized wholesale business. Start out your research by determining who your customers might be. If retail, get an idea of forums, blogs and podcasts your consumers frequent. If B2B assemble your list.
  2. Interviews - Once I have a known list of potential customers it is time to locate a few who are willing to go out for lunch or coffee and talk about their hopes and dreams. What pain are they facing? What is hard to do? Are their tools or services they wish existed? Have a well thought out list of questions you want to answer. I find it is often easier to just get them talking about their business or if direct retail, then their daily lives, and then ask clarifying questions.
  3. Use the Competition - Find a way to get your hands on the competitions products or services. You need to understand their features, strengths and weaknesses and the best way to gain that is to actually use it.

As a future topic I will delve into the tricks I use to really leverage Google search to better understand customers. Each of these first 3 steps should be a full blown podcast or post, and I am all but certain you have questions. I would love to hear them, so leave a comment and I will do my best to answer.

Entrepreneur Reading List

Entrepreneur Reading List - Part 2

In part one of my Entrepreneur Reading List series I covered The Four Hour Work Week and The Lean Startup. In this installment I am going down a slightly different path, rather than focusing on efficiency these two are based around brand development, another critical skill for entrepreneurs.

Branding Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Entrepreneur reading list Brand Bible The Complete Guide to Building Designing & Sustaining Brands

I cannot overstate the importance of brand development, regardless of whether you are creating consumer facing products. The core principals are critical to your success. This book might have a grandiose title, but it is a very good guide to understanding brand development.

From the Publisher. A comprehensive resource on brand design fundamentals. It looks at the influences of modern design going back through time, delivering a short anatomical overview and examines brand treatments and movements in design. You'll learn the steps necessary to develop a successful brand system from defining the brand attributes and assessing the competition, to working with materials and vendors, and all the steps in between. The author, who is the president of the design group at Sterling Brands, has overseen the design/redesign of major brands including Pepsi, Burger King, Tropicana, Kleenex, and many more.
Entrepreneur reading list
Designing B2B Brands

As an Entrepreneur you need to understand the subtlety of branding and the biggest gap in knowledge for most people is around B2B brand development.

From the Publisher. Get tactical insight from the top business-to-business branding experts and gain a global presence This comprehensive manual lays out the steps necessary for creating an iconic global identity. It uses the lessons and inside knowledge of Deloitte, the world's largest professional services organization, to help other business-to-business operations deliver a high-impact, value-added brand experience. This book will illustrate all the components of an integrated brand identity system, and how they can be crafted and implemented for optimal effect. Here, the speculative is replaced by the proven: a seamless framework for global brand success, created and followed by an organization renowned for its consulting and advisory services. Features essential up-to-date strategies for keeping your brand fresh and enduring Addresses the role of designers; the marketing and communication function; human resources and talent teams; agencies and vendors; and more Considers the impact of digital and social media, two massive forces requiring new thinking for B2B brands Incorporates best practices for emerging markets With guidance that takes you on a clear, linear path toward achieving your brand objectives, this impressive single-source volume is the one book no business marketing professional should be without.

Entrepreneur reading list
How Brands Become Icons The Principles of Cultural Branding

This is my favorite of these books and one I find myself constantly referencing. The concept of the "identity myth" is a critical one to grasp. The most powerful brands on earth all have mastered this and it shows in their control of their respective markets.

From the Publisher. Coca-Cola. Harley-Davidson. Nike. Budweiser. Valued by customers more for what they symbolize than for what they do, products like these are more than brands--they are cultural icons. How do managers create brands that resonate so powerfully with consumers? Based on extensive historical analyses of some of America's most successful iconic brands, including ESPN, Mountain Dew, Volkswagen, Budweiser, and Harley-Davidson, this book presents the first systematic model to explain how brands become icons. Douglas B. Holt shows how iconic brands create "identity myths" that, through powerful symbolism, soothe collective anxieties resulting from acute social change. Holt warns that icons can't be built through conventional branding strategies, which focus on benefits, brand personalities, and emotional relationships. Instead, he calls for a deeper cultural perspective on traditional marketing themes like targeting, positioning, brand equity, and brand loyalty--and outlines a distinctive set of "cultural branding" principles that will radically alter how companies approach everything from marketing strategy to market research to hiring and training managers. Until now, Holt shows, even the most successful iconic brands have emerged more by intuition and serendipity than by design. With How Brands Become Icons, managers can leverage the principles behind some of the most successful brands of the last half-century to build their own iconic brands. Douglas B. Holt is associate professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School.

Notice that each of these three branding books is not design focused. Look and Feel effect the brand identity, however they do not define it. Just as how you dress affects how people perceive you but does not define you. Nurturing your brand identity as you develop your next project is one if not the most important part of being a successful entrepreneur. Hopefully this installment of the Entrepreneur Reading List helps you.

Top 5 Entrepreneur Podcasts for 2016

My Favorite Entrepreneur Podcasts

This site is largely dedicated to the Success U Entrepreneur Podcasts. In making that program, and generally, I listen to quite a few others, as well as read many books and blogs. Here is the list of my favorite entrepreneur podcasts in 2016 and a few other shows I enjoy and want to share.

The Top 5 Entrepreneur Podcasts

In no particular order here are the 5 top entrepreneur podcasts I am listening to in 2016

  • The Impact Entrepreneur - Host Mike Flynn engages in evocative conversations with entrepreneurs, going beyond success and failure and into the reasons behind the story. This is a very new, well produced and ambitious show. I have added it to my itunes subscriptions.
  • The School of Greatness is a must listen. The host, Lewis Howes is a New York Times Bestselling author, a lifestyle entrepreneur, high performance business coach and keynote speaker.  He was recognized by The White House and President Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30. He has accomplished greatness repeatedly and the show is very inspirational.
  • The Rv Entrepreneur I like the description by host Heath Padget: "Living and traveling in an RV used to be only for retirees or the occasional family vacation. But over the past few years there has been a new movement of young RVers who have intentionally chosen to live with less stuff, be mobile, and take their lives on the road. This podcast is for people who are interested in downsizing their life, creating remote income, and working from anywhere." There are great lessons to glean from this show. it is not the lifestyle I have chosen, and maybe not for you either, but many of the concepts are ones I agree with fully. And in most ways I think becoming a successful entrepreneur starts with cutting the necessities of your life down to the essentials.
  • Startup Podcast What it is really like to start a business. Currently in their third season, their is a treasure trove of great knowledge in their catalog. Turning your ideas into reality is the hardest part of business. it is what separates actual entrepreneurs from regular thinkers and this podcast goes deep into creating your business.

Other Podcasts related to Entrepreneurship

  • We Study Billionaires - The Investors Podcast - Hosts, Preston Pysh and Stig Brodersen, research and study the habits, traits and reading lists of billionaires. To use their own words: "We believe success leaves clues. Our job is to define the critical habits and elements that successful people share and bring them to our audience."
  • The Art of Charm - I only found this podcast recently, and have already found it to be worth the listen. They claim "You’ll learn our top strategies to improve your career, confidence, lifestyle and love-life from top experts like life and business-hackers Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi and Noah Kagan to Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, Olivia Fox, The Art of Charm team and more."

Not Entrepreneur Podcasts but worth listening

  • Faking it - The Podcasts? I am not entirely sure how to sum up this podcast other than to say it is based on the maker community... Other than that you'd just have to listen.
  • Stuff to Blow Your Mind - Futurism, transhumanism, mind blowing science and technology all brought to light in this podcast from Howstuffworks.com.
  • Still Untitled :the Adam Savage Project - One of my favorite shows of all time, Mythbusters, is no longer filming. Thankfully one of the hosts, Adam Savage, has not slowed down and this podcast is one of his current projects. It seems that nothing is off limits for this show, and that is one of the great things about it.

If there is an entrepreneur podcast or other show you think is great and want to share, post a comment and tell everyone about it.

Becoming and Entrepreneur – First Steps

Becoming an Entrepreneur

Becoming an entrepreneur is a perilous voyage, and the first motions in that direction are critical to arriving at your goal intact. The hardest step of any journey is often the first one.

I have spent the vast majority of my life traveling that road. Frequently I question the choices that lead to this course. Maybe there was a simpler, nicer, cleaner route through life. Might there be the possibility of joy and fulfillment down a route I passed by?

Questioned yes, but regretted never. It is a life not everyone is suited for, but most people can do it.

Being an entrepreneur - A warning

Being an entrepreneur, is not an easy journey. To succeed it takes dedication, commitment and a high tolerance for failure. Never should this direction be chosen on a whim. That hard step, turning the course of your entire life to a singular goal, is terrifying for most people. The serial entrepreneurs I know have never felt that fear. I am not sure if we choose to ignore it or lack the intelligence to understand the overwhelming odds and risks we face.  I don't remember any other choice. Opportunities present themselves if you know how to see them, and either you take them through, you half ass it (guaranteeing failure), or you skip it entirely.

My beginning has the air of legend, at least within my family. I was too young for me to trust my memory of the events, so I will tell it as has been reported to me.

My first ever 'business', a sign of the future course of my life, happened when I was in daycare. I had learned to make origami items, and other children were eager to obtain them, so I started selling them to the other kids for a quarter. Rapidly, the demand outpaced my ability to supply them, so I made the logical conclusion that I could pay some of the other youngsters to make them for less than I sold them to the others. I went so far as to create a catalog (pretty sure it was rendered with crayon). Evidently the overseers, frowned on me charging others for the items, and they talked my parents into helping end my fledgling operation. Undeterred, I pivoted to charging the kids to teach them how to do origami.

My next significant adventure in entrepreneurial pursuits, occurred only a few years after the first. I was at church camp that my grandparents ran. Following each camp group (roughly every week) they would have a end of term party, with balloons etc. Grandma paid my brother and I a few bucks to do clean up after the parties. As it turns out one of the items that was banned at camp, was water balloons. So, rather than popping them we untied and pocketed each of the balloons during cleanup. We'd fill the balloons and sell them to campers. As it turned out, contraband is lucrative. I used that knowledge to start a string of ventures during elementary and middle school. I bought candy in bulk and resold it by the individual piece. Occasionally some new fad would catch on and I'd repeat the process with that toy or item. Yo-Yo's, fireballs, even toothpicks soaked in cinnamon oil. At an early age I learned the value of the supply and demand curve, and developed a fairly keen sense of where the market was heading, and picking out opportunities early.

I am using my origin story to illustrate a few important lessons I learned early on.

  1. I never made a large bet, each attempt had minimal downside, and a low initial overhead. I was able to enter each market with a limited outlay, and my profit potential was high, but limited as well.
  2. I was always responding to an existing, unmet, market demand. Never did I rush in with an idea or product that was not already demonstrating a strong draw.
  3. I always knew my market and customers, never tried selling to someone outside of my peers and sphere of influence.
  4. Never, was I afraid of failing, not once did I put in place a fallback. If something disrupted the market, I adjusted to that new environment.

In very simple terms a successful entrepreneur needs to:

  1. Minimize risk
  2. Identify and respond to the market
  3. Know your customer
  4. Plan only for success but be willing and able to adapt

What should be your first steps as an entrepreneur? You should learn to identify problems that have not been solved. In my examples it was pent up demand with no outlet. Since then I have also learned that the problem can be summed up as friction in any market. Something that slows down transactions from happening at the speed of thought.

You rarely need to invent something new, often the best approach is improving an existing product. Knowing what defines an improvement means understanding the customers and the pain they have with the existing offering. To be successful, you only need to get this right, once, if it is the right opportunity. Everything else you need to learn can be developed on the fly. Chasing the wrong thing never works out, so developing the ability to identifying opportunity is a critical skill.

With my podcast coming back, the first episode of the new series will focus on the dissecting the success of the iPod and iPhone. That story is illustrative of how one brilliant entrepreneur was able to tweak an existing product and turn it into something revolutionary, and I think gives a great place to focus attention as you start your own journey as an entrepreneur.

Entreprenuer Homework and Reading Assignments | Entrepreneur Books

Recommended books for the Entrepreneur

In this first in the series, I am recommending two books that all aspiring entrepreneurs should read. Learning from the wins and losses of others can shortcut your path to success. And these two books in particular are ripe with suggestions and concepts you need to internalize.

Entrepreneur Books In his book The 4 Hour Workweek Tim Ferris guides us through the path he has taken to cut income production down to the bare essentials. This happens to be one of my all time favorite books dedicated to the life of an entrepreneur. You may not ever reach the goal of "freedom of time and location" but the principals that guided him should still be taken to heart. Read this book, I will talk about concepts from it on a quite regular basis in the entrepreneur podcast.

If you are not familiar with Tim Ferriss you should get to know him, frequent his blog and podcast. The 4-Hour Workweek has spent seven years on The New York Times bestseller list. Tim has been featured by more than 100 media outlets including The New York Times, The Economist, TIME, Forbes, Fortune, Outside, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and CNN. He has guest lectured in entrepreneurship at Princeton University since 2003. His popular blog www.fourhourblog.com has 1M+ monthly readers, and his Twitter account @tferriss was selected by Mashable as one of only five "Must-Follow" accounts for entrepreneurs.

 

Entrepreneur Books Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable.

Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty in his must read book, The Lean Startup. They have a mission to penetrate the fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.

The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

I love Powell's Books and will support them, you should too.
Entrepreneur Books

New Beginnings – Podcast, Entrepreneurship and Opportunities | entrepreneur podcast

Return of the Success U - Entrepreneur Podcast

Many years ago, I started this site, and the subsequent entrepreneur podcast, in association with a new business venture. Over time, success and opportunities overwhelmed my ability to stay on top of Success U, it fell to the wayside. I have always wanted to bring it back, but as weeks turned into months and months into years, the dream faded. It needed a spark, something to give reason to the desire. Recently, that spark has arrived.

The old show focused on telling the tales of veteran entrepreneurs. There was a lot to learn, and gain from their/our stories. For me, though, it was a story already told, the tales had run their course. I, always wanted to bring in the hope and desire that represents the beginning of the story instead of focusing on the conclusion. I didn't recognize it at the time, but it had a certain sense of finality. The new show will focus on the newest generation of entrepreneurs. Coaching and guiding ideas from the rough conception to a thriving (hopefully) business. I have my first mentee, who as it happens, will also help produce the show. I will be looking for others, who are looking to begin their own story, and are looking for a seasoned coach to help guide them along the path. If that is you, leave a comment with a little info on you and maybe we will work together to write your story.

Coming Soon

The podcast is coming back!

It will now be a daily 15-20 minute audio show devoted to new entrepreneurs. I will interview people who have built a solid business from a simple idea. I will share my own secrets to success and explain the failures I learned to avoid along the way.

But I need your help... Use the comment section below to share questions you want answered, ideas you have for a show and topics you would love for me to cover.

There will be video tutorials along the way if the topic needs a dedicated walk-through. The show will always be free and I do not ever share your information. By joining this site you obviously get the opportunity in joining the conversation, but I will also be posting content, I will be sharing solid business ideas and tutorials, templates and forms that will only be available to site members.

Article Automation Analyzed

Understanding Article Automation

Article Automation can drastically increase the amount of inbound links your website receives in a very short period of time. In my experience you can gain several thousand links to your page from a wide array of websites with just a few hours of work. It is without a doubt one of the most valuable tools, to the online entrepreneur.

Article Automation is possibly the easiest way of increasing your organic search traffic. But first you must first understand the basics of SEO, to really gain the benefit. If you have not already done so I recommend you read my earlier article on Search Engine Optimization. Most of the time people who are submitting articles do not appropriately develop their SEO strategy, and consequently their use of Article Automation ends up being a waste of effort. Don't make the same mistake. Make every effort count.

What is Article Automation?

In my Online Marketing Basics article I gave the following description of this topic:

Article Automation – This is a service that takes your content and distributes it to a wide range of other websites. You write an article, submit it, and other websites, potentially thousands of them, post it to their site.

Simple enough, right? Can't be... there must be more to it than that. Don't over-think, it really is as simple as that. Write an article, submit it and if it is approved it will posted onto tens, hundreds or even thousands of websites. Easy, Breezy.

However, to have a shot at actually getting your article approved there are quite a few considerations you must take into account when using an article automation service.

5 Fast and Easy Rules of Article Automation

  1. Google does not like duplicate content as much as it does unique information - Don't post the article on your own website.
  2. Most of the submission sites only allow 2-3 links - Only have 2 links that point to your website in your submission.
  3. Article Automation systems dislike both too long and too short articles - Write articles that are 350-750 words long.
  4. Include both a long tail and a fat belly keyword in the article.
  5. Article Automation sites post to a wide variety of websites, that are broken down by category. - Make sure you pick categories when submitting that are actually relevant to your article.

My Article Automation Plan

I always start with research. I try to find a few keywords, related to my website, that have either very low or very weak competition. I could go into a whole other post on just making this specific determination. basically look for keywords/terms that have search results that don't seem to actually relate to your search directly. This often ends up giving you Long Tail terms.

More often than not, these terms are the exact topic that I will write my article about. Being that my site is all about the topic and due to the fact that the keywords are directly relevant to my site, I am an obviously an expert in the topic and therefore my article will end up totally amazing and the definitive source for said topic... Right? It was worth a shot.

So, I write an outline. This starts as quick bullet points that touch on the all the important aspects of the subject that I am going to cover. With the outline in hand I flesh it out. It is common to realize in this process that I will be covering enough information to make several articles. GREAT, that is exactly what you want. My finished article should end up being at least a thousand words.

As you probably noticed from rule #3 above, this is too long for consideration on almost all Article Automation sites. Do not fret, all of this hard work will be worth it and you will not be editing it down to nothing. Just make sure you get everything down. It should end up as a very comprehensive document.

Editing is next. I clean up the mega post, fix errors, and add even more detail. This can often increase the word count considerably.

It is important that this article is quite thorough and very well thought out. It should also, where relevant, have links pointing to other parts of your website, and even outside content.

Regarding the links, I typically treat it them in the following way: if it points to an internal page I make sure the link text is a good keyword related to the referenced page. If the link is to an outside website I will make the link text the name of the website I am referring to.

Once this article is solid, and worthy of posting, I put it on my own website... That's right, this Uber Article is content for my site. It is the most exhaustive and well thought out article on the topic that i can produce. it is valuable content that I have poured my soul into, why would I give that away? These articles become what I call "Pillar Content". They are the structure that my entire SEO plan will be based around. This article in no way will be put on anyone else's site. The idea is to create the most valuable resource for the topic, and I want it on MY website.

So what about the Article Automation submissions? What will I send them? Glad you asked.

I  strip down my pillar content into a summary or primer. I take the time to rewrite the whole thing and I often find it best to break it up into several smaller articles. I also now include the two links, both of them pointing back to the Uber article that now resides on my website.

The reason for all of this comes down to how Google looks at the various links and articles. Your article automation post resides on hundreds of other websites with basically identical content. Because of that each individual post will not SEO all that well, even though you did an awesome job making sure the post is intelligent and useful. However all of them link back to your well SEO'd  "One of a Kind" article that is full of detail and valuable content. Further more your pillar content points to more information on your website and increases the importance of those posts as well as itself. Google loves all of this. Many keyword links, coming into the page that are directly relevant to the content on the page. If done right you should be able to get your Uber article/pillar content in the top 3 places of the google first page for the long tail and at least the first or second page for the fat belly within a few weeks.

The power of Article Automation is only as useful as your overall SEO strategy and implementation. Use it wisely and it will gain you organic traffic by the thousands. Abuse it and, well... expect to be slapped by Google.

Online Marketing – The Whole Enchilada

Online Marketing Basics

Here at Success U we talk incessantly about the importance of online marketing. As experts who have been involved with Online Marketing for the last 15 years, we have an almost intuitive understanding of the industry. This knowledge feels natural, like everyone should have it, and that is the danger we face. Familiarity breeds complacency. Staying on top of the ever changing and constantly evolving industry can be a challenge. The opposite is also true; we had the advantage of adapting as the industry grew up. We were able to adapt.

I see the online marketing wars as similar to an arms race. If you are early to the battle and have a stone hammer you can control your competition as long as they are unarmed. However when they show up with a flint tipped spear you are now at a serious disadvantage. As long as you keep up with the little adaptations you can absorb the technological shifts as they occur. We often find that our clients were involved in online marketing in its infancy and are armed with just a rock and now the industry is using muskets. Or worse they are only getting started today and are completely unarmed. This concept really hit home with me over the weekend.

I was sitting in a consultation meeting with a brand new client. They have been using online marketing since 1999, and thus they saw the industry in the stone age. Innovocus has been hired to fix a disturbing trend they have been dealing with for the last five years. Our client has had their online sales erode consistently over time. They are noticeably frustrated by this trend; after all they are doing exactly what they have always done.

Warning bells should be wringing. Online Marketing changes so rapidly, that what made an effective campaign 6 months ago, might not work today. Expecting 10 year old techniques to succeed is akin to fighting the British empire of the 1700’s with rocks and sticks. You can win, but the cost will be enormous. The battle field and the weapons are more complex now, and you need use different tactics than you once did.

Online Marketing History

Fifteen years ago, to be successful online, your really only needed to build a good website. There was very little or no competition in most markets. If you took the time to build a good site, customers would magically find you. It was easy, you were the only one offering a product or service online. No competition. If people wanted your product or service, you were successful.
This was only true for a few years. Starting roughly ten years ago the concept of Search Engine Optimization began to take center stage. This was a major new weapon in the growing online market. Every day there was a new competitor and hundreds of new websites. The internet was beginning to become too complex for any person to know all the important websites. Search engines such as Google allowed a user to find what they wanted. It became paramount that these search engines knew about your website. So the industry as a whole began to focus on SEO.

Over the years a wide array of new technologies and trends emerged. Most have become important tools in the development of a successful online marketing campaign. Our toolbox has grown substantially.

When you are only absorbing little bits of new information it is easy enough. However when you have to try and master a wide range of foreign concepts, ideas and tools it can be quite daunting. Imagine you are an amazon tribesman who stumbles across a modern laptop computer. Could you even understand what this new device does? How would you learn to use it? For those of us that have the benefit of growing up in a modern society we can at least recognize the laptop for what it is. For us we only have to learn the particular OS or some of the software. It is simple because we only have a small amount of new information to add to the our memory banks.

So there I was, talking with our new clients and listening to their current online marketing efforts, when it struck me. They did not even know the basics of online marketing. The next three hours were a marathon question and answer session. I would give them a tool or technique and then they asked for a complete description of why and how. For them it was a tremendous amount of information to absorb. For me it was an eye opening experience. As a consequence of this meeting I have decided to write this comprehensive guide to online marketing in a series of posts here at Success U.

Online Marketing Definitions

Before getting into the details it is important that we are all speaking the same language. If we see words as meaning different things then we will never come to the same understanding, as such here is our definition of the most important terms in online marketing:

SEOSearch Engine Optimization. This term is often misused and is almost universally misunderstood. Simply put SEO is getting the search engines such as Google to rank you site highly. There are many “Black Hat” methods. However as Google has become more advanced most of these “black hat” methods have been rendered obsolete and can actually get your site de-listed from Google.

What is “Black Hat” SEO? Any technique that tries to trick the search engines into ranking your website higher than it should for a particular keyword. Google’s goal is to give the user a list of websites that offer valuable content related to the keywords they are searching. As such they spend a considerable amount of time trying to find ways to return pages that have great content. Their “Algorithm” is constantly evolving, making most black hat methods short lived and rarely worth the effort.

In a future article of this series I will go into great detail over the “do’s and don’ts” regarding SEO. For now it is important to understand that your goal is to create great content that is valuable to the end consumer.

Article Automation – This is a service that takes your content and distributes it to a wide range of other websites. You write an article, submit it, and other websites, potentially thousands of them, post it to their site.

RSS and Feeds – Really Simple Syndication is a method for distributing the content of a blog, podcast or website that allows other websites and online services to share the content. There are many ways an RSS feed can be consumed. It is a way to syndicate your content to other websites and interested consumers via subscription. A great example is our Online Marketing RSS Feed. The difference between RSS and Article automation is that an RSS feed gives an excerpt that points back to your website where as in article automation the full content is displayed on outside websites.

Press Release – Closely related to Article Automation, when it comes to online press releases you are usually writing a brief description of why a news service or blog would care to write about you, your website, service or product. It is a teaser article meant to grab their attention. Most major news agencies accept Press Releases and there are many online services to distribute them widely.

Blog – Any website with regular updates in the form of a post that is centered on a topic. With a business based website these posts can be product release announcements, interesting facts and frequently asked questions. Most Blogs are little more than daily updates into some persons life, unless the person is famous or leads an otherwise interesting life, they have very few readers. Success U is a Blog, we choose to focus on helping our readers learn to be successful online.

Social Media – There are so many Social Media outlets it is hard to grasp the full width of this industry. The most important two are Twitter and Facebook. Social Media is any site or service that encourages interaction between all users. Most have the concept of a “friends” or “followers”. The idea behind social media is to use people as the ultimate filter for the value of content. If a friend recommends a particular website, then it might be interesting, if all my friends recommend it, then I know it is interesting.

CPC - Cost per Click. Google Adsense is probably the most widely known CPC system. You bid on a particular keyword where your advertisement will appear. You pay only when a user clicks on your ad.

CPA - Cost Per Action. This is an online marketing, pay per performance type of advertising system where you only pay when a certain action occurs. CPC is one type of CPA. Other types of actions include user registration, product purchase or a download.

CPM – Cost Per M or cost per thousand viewers. Rather than paying every time a person does a particular action you are paying for a certain number of viewers to see your advertisement. Banner Advertisements are often done on a CPM basis.

Banner Ad – There are in fact a wide variety of banner Ad formats. Typically it is meant to reference an advertisement that is placed in the “header’ or top of a website.

Landing Page – This is the specific page you have your online marketing efforts link to. Whether it is from a banner ad or a CPC campaign this is the URL your potential customer will first see when they come to your site. Ideally it is optimized to convert them into a customer and is directly relevant to the ad that drew them in. it is also wise to develop individual landing pages for your keywords.

Conversion Rate – Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who visit your site that complete the desired action. If you are trying to sell a product on a page, it is the percentage of people that go to the page and actually buy the product.

Keywords – The specific words or phrases that a person would type into a search engine and would find your website relevant. There are really two types of keywords, Fat Belly and Long Tail.

Search Volume – The number of times in a given month that a particular word or phrase is used in one of the major search engines.

Fat Belly – These are keywords that have a high search volume. They are often very short, one or two words, and highly competitive.

Long Tail – More often than not Long Tail keywords are longer phrases. They have a very small search volume and rarely have much competition.

Viral Marketing – An Online Marketing technique where you try to get your customers to spread the word. The most successful viral marketing campaigns encourage and help people share it with their friends. It can be as simple as a funny video. Social Media is often an integral component to viral marketing.

Vlog – A video blog. These are still pretty rare but are gaining in popularity. Rather than writing a post the Vlogger creates a video about their topic on regularly scheduled intervals.

Podcast – There are two types of podcasts, video and audio. A Vlog is actually just a video podcast. An audio podcast is a regularly scheduled audio show distributed via a blog or other online service such as iTunes. You should already know of our Online Marketing Podcast.

Affiliate Marketing – This type of online marketing uses affiliates to promote your site or product. These affiliates are paid only on commission, so you only pay them when a sale occurs. There are many affiliate marketing programs out there with Commission Junction being the most well known. Affiliate Marketing is often referred to as “Revenue Sharing”.

Mobile Marketing – Online marketing that is focused on cell phone and “smart phone” users. A Smart phone is any cell phone with web access, the most popular being the iPhone. Mobile marketing has many components and can be most simply thought of as simplified online marketing. The simplification is due to the limited bandwidth of the network and the size of the display.

Help Me Help You!

I am breaking this topic into digestible chunks for those of you who are just getting into online marketing. For those of you with some experience, did I miss anything? As part of Success U, I hope you will help me help you. For some of you this post is very remedial and for others it might be a lot of information to absorb. Either way if you have read this far, let me know what you think.
In the next article I will talk in great detail about SEO, what you should and should not do. Hopefully by the end of this series you will be an expert in all aspects of online marketing.

Search Engine Optimization – SEO All You Need to Know

SEO All You Need to Know

In part one of this Online Marketing series I touched briefly on SEO. I actually touched briefly on a great many subjects, and most of them are directly related to Search Engine Optimization. In this article I am going to try and explain the details of SEO that you need to know to be successful online.

In the Online Marketing the Whole Enchilada article, I gave you this short and somewhat cryptic explanation of SEO:

SEO – Search Engine Optimization. This term is often misused and is almost universally misunderstood. Simply put SEO is getting the search engines such as Google to rank you site highly. There are many “Black Hat” methods. However as Google has become more advanced most of these “black hat” methods have been rendered obsolete and can actually get your site de-listed from Google.

Black Hat SEO

I made a point of talking, briefly, about "Black Hat SEO" methods. Nothing that would be considered a cheat or a hack that is meant to trick the search engine's into ranking your site higher than the content dictates, are truly SEO. Eventually, and in the case of Google, quite rapidly, the black hat methods are discovered and circumvented. In fact many of the "Black Hat SEO" methods can get your site blacklisted by Google. I recommend you avoid any hacks or "tricks" to artificially rank you site higher in Google.

Google, Yahoo and the other search engines are predicated on their ability to find the valuable content that their users are looking for. So if you offer content that is relevant to the key words that you are optimizing for, you should rank high. Why this is not universally true is often due to poor SEO by the web site owner. This issue based on the fact that search engines use an algorithm to determine web pages relevance. Most people do not know how to show their content in a way that Google, Yahoo and the other major search engines can understand. The companies that have developed the search engines do not share their algorithm with the general public for good reason. Allowing wide access to them would allow mischievous folk to find loopholes and cheat the system. Not to mention that the algorithms are the most valuable Intellectual Property of the Search Engines.

The Algorithms are constantly changing, as they are made more effective daily. Google has a team of terribly smart individuals finding ways to make their searches more relevant and to bust the cheats. This evolution has created a sort of arms race between the black hatters and the search engines. In the end the search engines always win, they have more resources and ultimately a site ranked artificially high offers less value to a searcher and thus they won’t return to the site anyway.

Your goal when trying to SEO a site, then cannot be to try and circumvent or cheat the search engines. You cannot win this battle long term. You must focus your efforts on creating valuable content that a user would seek out, and then displaying it in a way that Google finds relevant to your keywords. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get to the true nitty gritty.

On page SEO

All SEO starts with the URL. As far as the search engines are concerned a page related to "Non Celebrity Endorsement" is more valuable to the user if the URL contains the term. So NonCelebrityEndorsement.com will naturally have a higher score for the term than something on SuccessU.com. However, by using appropriate Permalinks we can overcome this.

What is a Permalink? It is the full URL to your specific post or page. If I create a post here on Success U with the Title "Non Celebrity Endorsement", the permalink would be something like http://www.succesu.com/non-celebrity-endorsement/. As you can see the full URL contains the term. This is due to the fact that we use the title in our permalinks. Given that Google takes into account the location of the term in the URL, a site with the term earlier in the URL will have a higher value in terms of SEO. So with our example and all other things being equal, the site http://www.noncelebrityendorsement.com will outrank a post here with the url http://www.succesu.com/non-celebrity-endorsement/ for the term "Non Celebrity Endorsement". Logically this makes sense, an entire site devoted to a topic should rank higher than a page at a more broadly based site.

I already mentioned it, but now let us discuss the page title as it relates to SEO. For our sites the permalink contains the title, so having the title optimized is a double whammy. I highly recommend using your page titles in your Permalinks. The title tag is just another way the search engines determine what the heck your page is talking about. In the same way that a reference book needs to have the subject in the title, so that a viewer can know what it is all about, your page needs a title that represents the content. More importantly the search engines want this info, so you should give it to them. Simply put, good on page SEO, uses a title that includes your keyword phrase.

Header Tags in SEO

The Header tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> etc.) are a series, with h1 being the largest and h6 the smallest, of tags used to define a portion of text and act as a topic header. If your page was a book then the H1 might be the chapter heading while H6 might only represent the header of a quote within a block of text. If you imagine the header tags as the various chapter and section titles of your page then it should be clear to you why they are important to SEO. Each of these tags represents a “title” for the content that follows them.

The most important on page SEO tactics rely on the effective use of Header tags. I always recommend using your keyword in at least the h1-h3 tags. On this very page you will see the “Header Tags in SEO” used above is an h2 tag. I also recommend only using the h1 tag once per page. If your content requires any additional h1 tags you should split the additional information into a separate page.

Keywords in your Content

Keyword stuffing is a big “no-no”. Don’t do it. If the natural flow of the content does not include your keyword don’t try to force it in. Google only looks for the keyword to be on a particular page in 3-7% of the total on page content. That is a pretty low threshold so there is no need to push the keyword in any more than is natural.

You should include the keyword or phrase in your first and last sentence. If you are actually writing about the subject that your keyword is relevant to, then this should be really easy. As we all learned in high school English, when writing about a topic you want to begin and end with a brief explanation of the subject. Of course we all learned later in life to disregard that rule. With regards to on page SEO it is a great rule to follow.

Images and Media in Effective SEO

With the rise of podcasts and online video Google had to determine a way to value the content of a wide range of media for search results. What they learned in the process, is that video, audio, animation and even images are a great way of sharing information. Consequently they tend to give a higher rank to pages that contain media that is relevant to the search phrase.

Just like text based content the search engines cannot really know the subject without some help from us. The search engines cannot listen to podcasts or watch a video and make an effective judgment as to the value of the content. So what should you do to effectively SEO your media? Include title and alt tags that contain your keyword or phrase. I always encourage people to use at least one image related to the subject. It is of course better if it in some way illustrates the topic rather than being a total non sequitur.

Tune in to the Correct Frequency

The more you discuss a topic the more you obviously know about it. Whether true or not, this is the perception of the online community. As far as Google is concerned, this is all that matters. This is why I tend to suggest a blog for most clients. I said most, and I mean it. Many companies, in fact have no value to add to the world with a blog, but they are in the minority. The important task when setting up a blog for a business is understanding what valuable information they can share with their clients. For some I have recommended telling the funny stories they have, related to the work they do. For some it is only new features about their products. Others add value by telling the inside story on a campaign. Always ask “What is the compelling interest in this post?” Yes the search engines will rank your site higher if you post more often, but a bad post is far more damaging than just not posting. You cannot rescind bad content, so make it valuable.

Internal Links

Once you have a well written page with valuable content, you need to start telling the world about it. The first and often best place to start is on your own site. Start building links to your pages from your other pages. Every time you mention a topic that you have already covered create a link to it. The text of the link needs to be your keywords. A common mistake is doing something like ‘click here” rather than just creating a link out of the text itself.  A good link related to online marketing. A bad link about online marketing. Click Here. The same is true for links coming from other websites; you want the link text to contain your keywords. If the link is an image then make sure the title and alt tags contain your keywords.

Off-Site SEO

Now we are about to jump into a subject that is related to many of the future articles in this series. Off-Site SEO encompasses a broad swath of topics and techniques and is the part of SEO that is mostly out of your hands. I mentioned a great many of these techniques in “Online Marketing the Whole Enchilada”. Ideas like Article Automation and Link exchanges are two examples. Each of these techniques will require its own article, so I will not get into the details now. Instead I want to cover the ideas and general rules associated with off-site SEO.

Off Site SEO is primarily focused on creating valuable in bound links to your site. There is nearly a limitless array of ways to accomplish this goal. Broadly speaking this is online marketing. Whether a link comes from Adsense, a banner ad or a link from within page content, it will affect your search engine ranking.

The higher the site sending the link, the more value associated by the search engines for the link. This is actually compounding. A website with a high Google page rank sending a link to your site boosts your rank; it also generates some traffic to your site. This traffic also boosts your page rank. The more links the better. We tend to think of links in the thousands, not individually. However, a single link coming from a very popular site can be worth hundreds of links from low ranking sites.

Google gives a Page Rank (PR) of 0-10 to every page it has indexed. This is the value that Google associates with a link from that page. A PR1 is twice as valuable as a PR 0. A PR2 is twice as valuable as a PR1, etc. Thus a single link from a PR10 page is equivalent to 1024 links from a PR0 link. Obviously what you really want are many links from high PR sites. All of the online marketing techniques that I will talk about in future articles are devoted to doing exactly that.

Social Media and SEO

Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook utilizes a broad and active community to generate a tremendous amount of content. Most of it is worthless, but using these tools can add a huge amount of in-bound links and traffic to your page. What you should understand is that social media sites are no different than any other in regards to your SEO efforts. All you really want from them is links and traffic. The devil is in making that happen effectively.

When sitting down to write this article It was very difficult for me to decide which of the SEO strategies to talk about first. One that I really wanted to lead off with is the tactic of creating a unique page or post for every keyword or phrase you want your site to rank for. However it was necessary to talk about many other issues to fully give the value of this particular aspect of on page SEO.

Looking at the many things I covered in this article; try to imagine doing each of these things for a whole slew of keywords. Not only would the page be obscenely large, it would be hard to read. For this reason alone you should always create a unique page or post for each keyword/phrase you want your site to rank for.

Rather than leading off with it, I decided to end with this note to keep it fresh in your mind. Build each of the pages with all the other bits of advice and tactics I mentioned. Link back to each of these pages from within the others. If you do your research, and follow all of this advice, your pages and thus your site will rank higher for your keywords. This is all you really need to know about SEO.