Friday, 20 October 2017

Influencers: The Key to Content Marketing

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a B2B digital marketing forum hosted by The Conference Board and led by Mike Moran and Tim Peter. Mike invited me because of all the experience in B2B digital marketing I have accumulated at IBM, much of which we distilled into our book Outside-In Marketing: Using Big Data to Guide Your Content Marketing.

The lively discussion covered a lot of ground, reflecting the needs of marketing executives striving to do digital well. Digital is a different animal from traditional marketing. As expected, the executives in attendance asked frank questions about how to do the aspects of their mission they tend to struggle with. I prepared for a lot of questions on the prime topics in our book: digital transformation, content strategy, SEO, agile marketing, and digital design. Instead we got a lot of questions on influencer marketing. They all seemed to grasp the concept, but had difficulty putting it into practice.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at their interest in the topic. According to Forbes, influencer marketing is exploding in popularity. The article points to the the root cause of the growth of influencer marketing: waning consumer attention to generic brand messages. This makes sense. We tune out ads on TV and in digital. But we pay attention to messages delivered from people we know and trust. A typical question from the forum probed how to identify these influencers and help them market your products for you.

In B2C marketing, this is done by hiring popular people to subtly endorse your product, primarily in social media. But in B2B marketing, celebrity endorsements often appear like the hype in the ads audiences tune out. And brands that turn their social channels into faceless brand bullhorns often fail. What B2B buyers need is authentic voices from within the company, primarily from product managers and development leads. These are the people who know the most about the products and can give the “inside” information B2B buyers are hungry for.

As I said, the attendees seemed to grasp this concept, but they struggled to implement the approach. The challenges are considerable:

  • How do you teach development leads to write well enough to get their points across?

    Techies are not known for their ability to make complex technical information accessible to those unfamiliar with the products they build.

  • How do you give product managers the incentives to stretch beyond their “day jobs?”

    It’s not part of their job description and their incentives are typically about things like growing market share for their products against competitors. It’s really hard convincing them to invest considerable time and energy on a side interest, for any length of time.

  • Even if you manage to recruit and train subject matter experts (SMEs) to write regularly, how do you manage their work?

    If they’re already stretched for time, getting them on an editorial calendar and coordinating their efforts to optimize their collections of content for the audience is tough.

Fortunately, I had one ready answer in my work at IBM. In one of my first jobs at IBM, I was the editor of a team of SMEs who wrote for a very narrow audience–the independent software vendors (ISVs) who built products for our hardware platforms. Based on my research, what they wrote about was also highly relevant to clients and prospects. So we built a system to surface their content to the masses, strung the content together into typical user journeys, and optimized it for search engines.

The year before we did this, I edited 280 white papers (average length, 40 pages). After all that grueling work, I really wanted to know how many times those white papers were downloaded in that year. So I asked the analytics person.

The answer: “25.”

“25 a piece?” I asked.

“No, 25 total.”

Also, only five of the pieces had any downloads at all. Needless to say, this increased my desire to optimize the content so that clients and prospects could find it in the relevant steps on their buyer journeys. At the end of that year, I asked the analytics person again.

The answer: “150,000, total.” That’s more like it.

The message of for the Conference Board attendees was simple: chances are, you already have a lot of the content your clients and prospects are looking for. It’s just hidden from them. So job 1 is to find pockets of good content in your company and work on getting it shared in your social channels, and indexed and ranked by search engines.

How do do B2B influencer marketing

But that tactic still doesn’t answer their questions. They wanted to know how to identify, train, and manage SMEs for ongoing influencer marketing campaigns. For that, I am not an expert. But I promised I would get them the best answer I could. To do that, I called my colleague and friend Susan Emerick. She co-wrote the book The Most Powerful Brand on Earth, which is the definitive guide to influencer marketing.

Susan is a pioneer in this kind of influencer marketing. When I asked her how she did it, she told the story of Steve Will, one of her first influencers to really become a star for his brand—IBM i—for which he is the chief architect. (IBM i is formerly known as AS 400, iSeries, System i, i5 OS, and iSystem.)

Steve has been blogging and tweeting about his brand successfully since 2009. At first, he shared the You and i blog with his friend and colleague Craig Johnson. But Craig died in a car accident not long after the start of the blog. Steve’s tribute blog post about Craig topped out at 8000 views. That spurred him to keep the blog and its related Twitter handle growing in Craig’s absence. A typical announcement post gets about 5000 views. Between announcements, he averages about 3000 views and his average time on page is almost 7 minutes. Those numbers have been pretty consistent for eight years.

“Our customers and prospects were hungry for more information about our product roadmap,” Steve said in a recent interview. IBM doesn’t pre-announce features, and marketing is not allowed to do so. But Steve’s authority as the brand champion gives him a unique platform to publish this inside information.

“I was writing for a while when Susan approached me to help me do a better job on the blog and the Twitter handle,” Steve said in an interview. “She taught me to keep the posts under 1500 words to allow someone to get through each of them in a reasonable amount of time. Also, she taught me to avoid using clever blog titles but try to get the key themes of the blog in the title, to make searching easier.”

“The number 1 thing I do is to use the social avenues to tell my audience about what they need about the platform, and nothing extraneous,” Steve said. He created the Steve_Will_IBMi handle specifically for that, leaving his personal handle for extraneous things about his life and views.

“The second thing is to let my personality come through,” he added. That makes sense. So much branded content is written from the voice of the company rather than from its champions. The audience tends to tune that stuff out like advertising content.

“And, over the years, there have been a few periods when I was lax about getting new entries published. When my rate of writing dropped, the page views dropped—unsurprisingly. However, when I started publishing more regularly again, the numbers returned to what they are today.”

Steve also gets help from an agency—MSP TechMedia—which edits his work and helps to build collections of content that make sense to the audience. The Conference Board attendees should make particular note of that. Few companies have the ability to manage blog platforms and social influencer accounts in house. You might be able to identify your brand champions. But if you don’t do a lot of publishing, you should hire an agency for editing and publishing support, and channel management.

One other thing to note in Steve’s case, his manager built incentives into his job to reward him for things like blog views and Twitter followers. As I know in my own case, writing is hard work. It’s hard enough doing my day job, let alone maintain a blog for years at a time.

Source: B2C

Do You Need to Take A Break From Using Social Media For Business?

TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

As someone who has built a brand and business online, I often get asked about social media for business. While I love social media, lately I’ve been wondering if we should take a break from using it so much. And, if we do decide to take a break, how do we do it without stopping our marketing efforts?

The truth is that, like many of you, I also get overwhelmed by social media. With that being said, here are some signs that it may be time to take a break from using social media for business.

You’re exhausted.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed myself feeling exhausted by social media. Every time I look at my phone I have at least 10 new notifications for Facebook alone. Throughout the course of the day, I’m easily dealing with over 100 notifications.

Because I use social media for business, I sometimes feel obligated to hop on. Did someone post something in my free Facebook group? Is it one of my group coaching students asking me something? By the end of the day I’m exhausted.

Lately, I’ve noticed that – most of the time – the notifications can wait.

The lines are becoming blurred.

Another thing I’ve noticed recently is that my direct messages inbox are being solicited for business. Since I use social media for business, this isn’t necessarily a problem. The problem is the lines between personal and business are becoming very blurry.

A few weeks ago I had 15 unread messages in my personal Facebook inbox. They were all related to business. Some people I knew, others were just soliciting without knowing me.

As the lines become more blurry, I’m starting to wonder if taking a break or setting better boundaries is necessary.

It’s affecting your health.

In the past, I’ve been very open about the fact that I’ve suffered from panic attacks. Anxiety is always in the back of my mind. What I’ve noticed is that constantly being connected to social media – especially at night – heightens that anxiety.

I’ve had several friends and colleagues also say they are starting feel exhausted by social media. However, since we all use social media for business, it seems like it’s a necessary evil.

Or is it?

How to Take A Break When You Use Social Media For Business

The question really isn’t whether or not we need to take a break from social media for business. It’s really more about how to set boundaries.

In my case, I’ve realized my boundaries are incredibly loose. I noticed this after I saw one of my mentors post the following message:

“I understand that many of you have questions about what I offer in my business. Please understand that I do not always see your Facebook messages. My priorities also lie with my family so my phone is off at 8pm every night. As a result, if you have any questions or solicitations, please use email so that I see it.”

I paraphrased here, but I still think it was absolutely brilliant. She knew her priorities and set her boundaries accordingly. By setting boundaries such as this one, we can still use social media for business, but we don’t have to sacrifice our nervous system.

Source: B2C

6 Tips For Improving Your Page Speed Score For SEO and Conversions

We hear a lot about the importance of page load speed but what are the direct impacts on SEO and conversion? In this post, we will take a look at the key ramifications of having a slow loading site, the impact on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and CRO (conversion rate optimisation) and the common fixes for slow loading websites.

Identifying the page load speed on your site

There are a number of tools available to evaluate the speed of your website. These are some of the most popular (free) tools:

These three tools all provide slightly different metrics when it comes to site/page speed so we recommend using a combination of all three to assess the potential speed issues on your site/pages.

Google PageSpeed Insights

According to the PageSpeed Insights website, “PageSpeed Insights measures the performance of a page for mobile and desktop devices. It fetches the URL twice, once with a mobile user-agent, and once with a desktop user-agent.

PageSpeed Insights checks to see if a page has applied common performance best practices and provides a score, which ranges from 0 to 100 points.”

As well as providing you with an overall page speed score, the tool will also provide you with a handy list of potential issue on the site as well as suggestions for how to fix them. Common issues that we see on a wide range of sites include:

  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above the fold content

  • Optimise images

  • Reduce server response time

  • Leverage browser caching

  • Minify CSS

  • Minify JavaScript

  • Avoid landing page redirects

Web Page Test

Web Page Test works in a similar way to Page Speed Insights. You can choose any page on your website to test and you can also pick from a wide range of test locations, helping you to accurately test the speed of your pages in your target countries. We would also always recommend running a minimum of three tests (you can update this in the advanced settings) to gather a median score for your page speed metrics.

The results from Web Page Test are very different to PageSpeed Insights. One thing that Web Page Test is very good at measuring is the all-important ‘time to first byte’ metric. This is the time is takes to receive the first byte from the server. Google recommends this time should be less than 200 milliseconds.

GT Metrix

GT Metrix is the final tool we use when testing the page speed score. This again presents very similar results to PageSpeed Insights with actionable recommendations. It’s free to sign up and once you do, you have the ability to change the testing location and browser. You can also run tests on Android devices that are not run through an emulator so give you a really accurate picture of your performance on mobile.

These are some of the key features:

  • Analyse your page with Google PageSpeed and Yahoo! YSlow rulesets

  • Get your page’s Page Load Time, Total Page Size and Total number of Requests

  • See your page’s performance relative to the average of all sites analysed on GTmetrix

Like all of these tools, it’s important not to get hung up on achieving a 100% score. Optimising your page speed score relies on a wide range of factors and whilst you might score 100% on GT Metrix or hit the magic 85/100 score on PageSpeed Insights, if your server response time is slow, then you may still end up with a slow loading site.

6 tips for improving your page speed for SEO and conversions

When it comes to SEO and CRO, page speed is pretty crucial. Google announced way back in April 2010 that page speed was to be used as a ranking factor and as we move towards a mobile-first index in 2018, this will become increasingly important. From a conversion perspective, providing a site that is fast loading and allows for a speedy ‘conversion’ process helps to ensure that customers do not drop off your site at that all important conversion stage.

So, what can you do to speed up your site?

Well, we have already looked at some of the common issues that are thrown up by PageSpeed Insights, Web Page Test and GT Metrix so let’s take a closer look at how to tackle these issues with some actionable tips.

1. Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above the fold content

Before a browser can render a page it has to build the Document Object Model (DOM) tree by parsing the HTML markup. During this process, whenever the parser encounters a script it has to stop and execute it before it can continue parsing the HTML. You need to avoid (or certainly minimise) the use of this render blocking JavaScript, especially external scripts that must be fetched before they can be executed.

How to

There are three main ways you can manage this:

  1. Inline JavaScript

  2. Make JavaScript Asynchronous

  3. Defer loading of JavaScript

The loading and execution of scripts that are not necessary for the initial page render may be deferred until after the initial render or other critical parts of the page have finished loading.

Find out more here.

2. Optimise images

This is one of the most common issues we see on the PageSpeed Insights test as images often account for most of the download bytes on a page. Therefore, optimising your images can yield some of the biggest performance improvements on your page.

There are a number of ways to optimise your images. The best way is to do it before they are uploaded to your server. There are a number of third party tools available that will compress your images. There are factors to consider when compressing. Depending on how your images will be used will dictate the quality of the images you want to add to your website. We commonly use a free tool called Tiny Jpeg or Tiny PNG to compress our images before they are added to the server. Other tools are available to make sure you do your research and find a solution that works for you.

Top tip

If you have a large site with lots of images that are not optimised or compressed, we have found a good solution using a tool created by Google. Guetzli is an open source algorithm that creates high quality JPEG images with file sizes that are 35% smaller than currently available methods. You can simply pull down all your image files directly from your server, run them all through Guetzli and then re-upload the optimised files back to the server. Bingo. If you have a Mac download this – and let it run on all your images.

3. Reduce server response time

Whether you’re trying to improve your time to first byte for Web Page Test or you simply want to knock off valuable seconds from your overall page load time, reducing the server response time is a crucial part of that work for many sites.

There are dozens of potential factors that may slow down your server response time including:

  • Slow application logic

  • Slow database queries

  • Slow routing

  • Frameworks

  • Libraries

  • Resources CPU starvation

  • Memory starvation

It will be crucial for you to identify the issues that are impacting your website and work at prioritising the issues and fixing.


Put in place a three step process to tackle your server response time issues:

  1. Gather data and inspect – collect performance data (using the tools above)

  2. Identify and fix – once you have the data, prioritise fixing the top performance bottlenecks

  3. Monitor and alert – put automation in place to monitor and alert to any future issues

4. Leverage browser caching

Fetching resources over the network is both slow and expensive. All server responses should specify a caching policy to help the client determine if and when it can use a previously fetched response.

Top tip

Google recommends a minimum cache of one week and preferably up to one year for static assets or assets that change infrequently. Read more.

5. Minify HTML, CSS and JavaScript

Minification refers to the process of removing unnecessary or redundant data without affecting how the resource is processed by the browser. There are a number of tools out there to help with this process depending on which element you need to minify:

Minify HTMLHTMLMinifier
Minify CSSCSSNano


Minify JavaScriptUglifyJS

Closure Complier

6. Avoid landing page redirects

For some sites, landing page redirects are impossible to avoid. If you have a separate m. website for example, it is necessary for you to redirect users accessing your site on a mobile device to the m. version. You can ensure you minimise these redirects however:

  • uses responsive web design, no redirects are needed – fast and optimal!

  • → – multi-roundtrip penalty for mobile users.

  • → → – very slow mobile experience.

Cutting out unnecessary redirects, as shown above, can help to provide a better experience for mobile users. A responsive site is the best way of ensuring there are no redirects from your landing page as they are not required at all.


These are some great tips for improving the page load speed for pages on your website and will certainly help you to deliver a better user experience (UX) resulting in better rankings and more conversions.

There are of course other options available when it comes to speeding up your site. There are a number of new developments that are all designed to create a better mobile web experience and it could be that choosing one of these options is the most efficient and effective way of speeding up your website.

Whilst we don’t have the scope to go into depth on these initiatives, we recommend taking a look at the following resources and analysing the best and most cost effective way of speeding up your website:

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

PWAMP (Progressive Web Apps using Google AMP)

Thanks for reading.

Source: B2C

How To Protect Critical Business Data in the Cloud

kulinetto / Pixabay

In September, the credit reporting company, Equifax, admitted to a huge security breach that exposed the sensitive information, including name, social security numbers, birth dates, credit card information, and addresses of as many as 143 million Americans, along with an unspecified number in the UK and Canada. And the worst part of this breach is that many people don’t even know that they had a relationship with the company.

So how does such a breach happen?

According to Equifax, the breach occurred through a website app in the U.S., but has not elaborated further. Equifax maintains its data in the cloud, as most businesses do today. And yet, that did not protect this huge enterprise. It may not protect any business, actually, for there is always the type of risk that resulted in the Equifax breach.

Data Protection is Essential Today

In days gone by, companies maintained their data in-house, on their own systems. They assumed that their internal IT infrastructure, along with backups that were often stored off-site, would be sufficient.

So, if there was a “crash,” data would never be lost. These types of data security backup solutions were often expensive and complicated, and most lacked encryption.

Breaches can occur through something as simple as employee sloppiness. And then, of course, confidential data is exposed.

What Types of Data Need to Be Protected and Secured?

Depending on the business sector, there is a wide variety of data that should be protected and secured:

  • Obviously, e-commerce enterprises need to protect all of the personal and financial information of their customers

  • All businesses need to protect and secure personal information of their employees. This includes health information, according to HIPAA rules and regulations.

  • Health care providers must secure all patient information, again according to HIPPA regulations.

  • Often, companies have proprietary information that they must protect from breaches by competitors.

  • Contracts and financial/accounting data must often be kept confidential

Enter the cloud – a method of protecting company data in a digital environment, usually through a hosting Software as a Service (SaaS) enterprise that promises data protection for businesses through a variety of measures that result in “cloud security.”

There are variations of cloud computing, including Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), but the overall concept remains the same.

What is Cloud Security?

The basic concept behind cloud services and security is that a hosting entity has a certain amount of secure storage space, and organizations can backup their data or house all of their critical and confidential data in that space through a contractual arrangement with that host, eliminating on-site, less secure storage.

The host, in turn, is responsible for securing data in the cloud, based upon the details of that arrangement. In this respect, cloud computing is a more secure method of data storage and protection, at least in principle.

The question becomes, is data security in the cloud foolproof? And the answer in “no” given the data breaches that we have experienced in recent years. Protecting data in the cloud will mean that the CIO (Chief Information Officer) and/or the Chief Information Security Office (CISO) will have to actively research and pursue cloud data security that will be the best “fit” and meet their organization’s needs. It’s complicated.

Government Legislation and Regulation Further Complicate Security in Cloud Storage

Given the data breaches in recent years, governments have stepped in to set regulations for security and protection that impact cloud infrastructure and cloud applications.

The EU has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) providing a common set of rules for protecting personal data across the continent. Among some of its major provisions, the following are included:

  • Businesses must have privacy policies and the technology in place to protect personal and financial data of individuals with whom they do business

  • There are fines imposed for failure to comply with the regulations

  • There are provisions for compliance reviews

  • Companies must report data breaches within 72 hours of the event and then must notify all impacted individuals and develop plans to assist them should their information be compromised.

  • There are also regulations relating to the international transfers of personal data outside of the EU

The GDPR impact on business is this: they must demonstrate that they have the technology in place to protect personal information, whether that data is stored in-house or in the cloud. This obviously also impacts cloud storage providers who must also demonstrate that they have security and protection technology in place.

In the U.S., regulations have not been as forthcoming. While the Consumer Protection Agency does have some measures in place, Congressional support has been lacking. The response has been to hold hearings after a data breach has occurred and holding enterprises accountable has not been notable.

The one area of strict personal data protection regulation has related to healthcare providers, where HIPPA laws are strict and solidly enforced.

The onus and the responsibility for data protection lies squarely with businesses. Even if they do not face government compliance issues, they will face issues with their customers and clients. Once trust is lost, it is lost.

Best Practices/Strategies for Business to Protect Data in the Cloud

There are some key strategies that businesses can implement to ensure greater data security, as follows;

Carefully compare the differences between public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud storage. You will find that different types of data will be better stored in these different options. There is a lot of information out there on these options, so study them before you choose where to house different types of data.

Check Out Reputations. Before you choose any cloud service, make sure that you have researched their track record. While cloud services use much of the same technology, there are those that are not financially stable, and, if they go out of business, you could lose your data. It has happened back in 2014 when MegaCloud – an online storage solution – when out of business with no explanations.

Two-Step Authentication is Important. Most major cloud services offer this, and it does provide an additional layer of security. If hackers should get access to your password, they will not have the second layer to get in.

Always Use Third-Party Encryption for Transport. Data storage enterprises encrypt the data they store, but when your data is in transit to them, it is at risk. There are plenty of solid third-party encryption programs. It’s worth it.

Make Challenge Questions Unique and Uncommon. Do not pick generic challenge questions. They are too easy for hackers to breach. Choose obscure questions, or select nonsense answers to the generic questions.

Pick The Right Tools. In a recent survey of businesses that were using cloud storage, 60% stated they used VPN connections; only 34%, however, stated they were encrypting data at rest or cloud firewalls.

Control Devices. The increase in “bring-your-own-device” trend creates a real threat to data breaches. When individuals are allowed to access cloud storage with their own devices, the chances of hacking increase. There must be some procedures in place to limit and control this.

Cloud solutions for data storage represent a major improvement in security and protection of confidential data. Cloud security is essential to ensure business continuity and expansion.

But, ultimately, it is up to the individual enterprise to decide if such a deployment is right for them and, if so, partner with expert consultants on cloud security and implementation.

Source: B2C

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Iranian Man Arrested for Starting Devastating California Wildfires Is Fake News

skeeze / Pixabay

Reports that a 23-year-old Iranian man was arrested for starting the deadly California wildfires are false. Rumors that an “illegal Muslim” immigrant caused the devastating disaster stemmed from a self-described satire website.

According to Hoax Alert, the fake claim originated on Freedum Junkshun, a website that publishes fake news and political satire. The article claimed that a man named Muhammad Islam was responsible for starting the wildfires that have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of businesses in Northern California. It purported:

Islam was born in Tehran, Iran and came to the United States in 2015 on a student visa, which expired when he dropped out of Dartmouth in November 2016. Fox News reported Thursday:

It is unclear what he has been doing since last November. Islam has no social media presence, no phones in his name, no known addresses, and no known aliases.

“It’s like he’s a ghost,” a source at the California FBI told Fox. “The Obama administration just lost him.”

So far, Islam is being uncooperative with the FBI, refusing to answer questions.

According to law enforcement, he was seen exiting a wooded area along California’s Interstate 42. Investigators found a can of gasoline and a blowtorch discarded near the spot where witnesses and photographs place Islam. Fingerprints on the gas can match Islam’s.

The report, however, is entirely fabricated. There was no source from the FBI or any report from Fox News that claimed anyone had been arrested. The photo used in the article actually showsOmar al-Abed, a Palestinian terrorist who killed three people in August. He is in no way connected to the wildfires in California. Additionally, Freedum Junkshun states in their disclaimer that their articles are not meant to be taken seriously:

We believe that there is nothing more precious than the mind of an aging conservative. Here we gather a boatload of bullhonkey, works of pure satirical fiction, to give the fist-shakers of the world a reason to hate. Reality is often in the eye of the beholder. You won’t find any of it here.

Another false story claiming that an immigrant started the wildfires circulated social media this week after officials arrested a 29-year-old homeless man. At a press conference Tuesday, according to BuzzFeed News, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said of the fake report, “There’s no indication he’s related to these fires at all…I wanted to kill that speculation right now, so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.”

At least 42 people have been killed in the wildfires and more than 7,000 buildings have been destroyed. The devastating fires have caused more than $1 billion in damages, according to the Washington Post. Cal Fire continues to investigate the cause of the wildfires.

Here are some examples of people sharing the fake story on social media:

Social Media Shares Fake Story about “Illegal Muslim” Being Arrested for Starting Wildfire

Have you seen the fake story about an “illegal Muslim from Iran” being arrested for starting the California wildfire circulating social media? What are your thoughts on websites publishing fake news during tragedies? Sound off in the comments section below!

Source: B2C

Customer Service: Profit or Loss

I took a few minutes and googled Customer Service, and here are some of the definitions I found:

  • Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service [Investopedia].

  • Getting customer interactions right has never been more important, especially since social media has given unhappy customers a louder voice [HBR].

Makes sense, and I’m going to assume we all agree with the above statements. However, in practice, customer service is an area that can be taken for granted, overlooked, or considered a cost center and treated as such.

Customer Service “Death by a Thousand Cuts”

Here is a sad story of bizarro customer service actively undermining brand and customer satisfaction while wildly inflating the cost of delivery. I do not believe that lightning struck me, that I am the exception.

I have had a subscription to my hometown newspaper for about 30 years (and my hometown is among the largest on the planet). I decided to become a digital subscriber when the most recent cost of delivery was subtracted from my credit card. I called the same day and was assured that the switch to digital was immediate, that my checking account would be charged for the digital subscription, and the home delivery charge would be refunded.

The next day I looked at my online statement and the new charge was there but not the refund.

  • I went to chat under Contact Us and was assured that everything was fine and that someone from billing would call me that afternoon or the next day to straighten everything out.

  • No one called, so I did. I was told it takes 90 days to get a refund. I asked for a supervisor and was transferred to someone who identified as “an advocate.” They started to argue with me.

  • Next, I got a gentleman who apologized for the runaround. Since it was late on a Friday and the billing department was closed, he would call me back at 10am Monday morning, and we would both speak to billing “and find out what it will take to get your money back right now.”

  • On Monday, I waited until early afternoon, called, and asked to be transferred to him. I was told it was not possible, but they asked to help. I explained the situation and they said that someone from billing would call me back that afternoon.

I Saw This Play

I completed the email form on their website. The form said it would take two to three days to get a response. Sure enough. On the third day, I got an email that said it takes ten to fourteen business days to get a refund and that there was no way to make it happen quicker. Included was a GIF of an iron door clanging shut.

On the fifteenth business day, I called to inquire about my refund. I spoke to a supervisor who told me that the refund had been transferred to my account several days ago, but it would not appear on my online statement, and that I should call my bank.

I asked the supervisor if they really believed that answer. On a lark, I called the bank. They asked me if I really believed that answer.

On the seventeenth business day, I received a paper check in the mail.

Up Is Down

Since we started with definitions, let’s go to “bizarro,” which I believe was first introduced in Superman comics:

The opposite of the real world. Good is evil, round is square, hello is goodbye [Urban Dictionary].

Up Really Should Be Up

Many large organizations embrace the moment of customer interaction as a way to burnish their brand, to create happier customers that stay longer and buy more. There are others who do not, and this is one.

What’s the harm in having a supervisor authorize a clearly justified refund on the spot? Was this worth the expense?

The story above is chaotic and self-destructive. No company would knowingly design such a system. Fixing it begins by viewing customer service through the eyes of profit, not as a cost center.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

When the call ends, these CSRs say, “Thanks for being the best part of the (name of the publication).” What a bunch of hooey. Check clears and I’m gone. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, and everyone one loses.

Source: B2C

Why Site Owners Should Know How SEO Works

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Do you know how SEO works? While many site owners know that having a presence in search is important, most don’t know what it takes to increase search visibility. SEO has changed a lot over the years, but the basics and foundations of search have stayed relatively unchanged. It’s essential for all site owners to have a basic understanding of how SEO works to ensure that their site is optimized correctly.

Not all who claim to be experts in SEO are. In fact, a lot of the business we get is from site owners or companies that were unfortunately taken advantage of previously. But just because there are a few bad apples out there doesn’t mean the industry is corrupt. When done correctly, SEO can help website owners drive targeted visitors to their site who are looking to act.

Many have claimed over the years that SEO and search would soon be on their way out. But nothing could be further from the truth. Marketers see SEO as becoming more effective, with 82% reporting effectiveness is on the rise, and 42% of this group stating effectiveness is increasing significantly. (Source: MarketDive, 2016)

Search continues to be one of the top activities users do online. This means companies and site owners need to invest in SEO to increase the site’s organic visibility. While some will venture out and will optimize their website, most will hire out help. But just outsourcing your SEO without any understanding can lead to terrible results. Therefore, I firmly believe that all site owners should have a basic understanding of how search engines work and why SEO is important.

A Basic Understanding of Search

For this article, we are going to focus on Google. The reason is that Google is by far the most popular search engine in the U.S. and it’s where you will most likely generate a majority of your site’s organic traffic.

Search engines are very complex systems that are designed to index or store information hosted on the internet. Google has created a very nice site,, that talks about how their search engine works. It is broken down into three main categories; Crawling and Indexing, Algorithms and Responses.

Crawling and Indexing

Google and other major search engines have “spiders” that crawl the internet looking for sites and content. As the spiders crawl websites, the search engines are learning what content those sites contain. Then they save the information in the index. The index is very similar to a library, but instead of books, it is millions and millions of web pages.


Algorithms are complex programs that analyze the data in the search index to better understand the context. When you perform a search, multiple algorithms take your query and analyze the sites in the index to deliver the best possible answer in as few a clicks as possible.

Here are some of the ways Google uses Search algorithms to return useful information from the web:

  • Analyzing your words

  • Matching your search

  • Ranking useful pages

  • Considering context

  • Returning the best results


The goal of every search engine is to deliver the most relevant information to a user in the shortest amount of time possible. This is why Google changes their algorithm as well as the results page often. In the past, the typical search results page was just a few blue links. Today search results can have videos, images, maps, suggestions, pricing information and more. These elements have been added to enhance the end user’s experience. They can also greatly benefit the websites which are awarded these stand out listings.

Where SEO Fits In

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of making one’s website easy for both a user and a search engine to find and engage. Typically, SEO divides into two types of work, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO.

On-Site SEO

On-Site SEO deals with the elements that are within your website. This means optimizing your content, site structure, code, speed, user-experience and so on. On-Site SEO is an essential aspect of SEO because your website is the foundation for all of your other online marketing activities. Having a site that is easy for a search engine to crawl and understand is key to ensuring that it is indexed properly.

Off-Site SEO

Off-Site SEO refers to all the work you do “off” of your main website. This typically means any link building activities, directory listings, social accounts, and other publishing platforms. According to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, high-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search. (Source: Search Engine Watch, 2016)

A good SEO strategy includes an understanding of how search engines work and how to use both On-Site and Off-Site optimization to increase a site’s overall search visibility. SEO is a powerful long-term strategy that can lead to consistent growth over time if you know how to execute.

Source: B2C