Grow Your Business With Internet Marketing

The Internet has caused a massive change in the way all markets operate. Some entrepreneurs see major opportunities whilst others may find their companies are falling behind the competition. The Internet levels the playing-field for entrepreneurs. It also changes the balance of power between buyers and sellers. To see how you can profit from these new opportunities, you need to look for a marketing or advertising agency to leverage the power of internet marketing.

Your Lawyer Is In India, So Why Not Your Web Designer?

Legal issues web design

Your call is important to us. We hear it so often and many times question the sincerity with which a company spouts this line. Customer service in many cases seems to be done at minimum cost. That sometimes means that the customer service function is outsourced, perhaps to India.

That shouldn’t necessarily be a problem. After all, telecommunications and the Internet are shrinking the world. Aren’t we all one global village now? Our similarities are often much stronger than our differences. It shouldn’t be rocket science to make it all work well.

Although it can sometimes work well, in other cases it becomes a nightmare. For just one example, consider the case of Web.com that eventually decided Outsourcing Customer Service Doesn’t Make Business Sense. The case study is worth reading and there are a number of reasons why it did not work out:

The greatest problem we faced with outsourcing our customer service, however, was the cultural clash. More times than not in our business, there’s a communication gap between the support staff and customers; but take that misunderstanding and add to it a cultural gap, and you’ll start to see some serious problems – like we did. In addition to customer frustration, reduced sales and increased cancellations, we witnessed on-going technological gaffes.

If outsourcing a relatively simple function like customer service is risky, why would one think of outsourcing anything more complex. You might think that legal services would be a real challenge for outsourcing. However Legalwise, headquartered in Toronto, is now providing offshore legal services from Mumbai, India. (Note that their website has sound, which you may find objectionable and which can only be avoided by skipping their Flash introduction.) They claim that their experienced lawyers in India can become an extension of your North American legal team for a more efficient legal resource.

Since 1995, numerous law firms of varying sizes in the United States and the United Kingdom have been outsourcing some of their work to lawyers in India. For example in 2001, GE Plastics and GE Consumer Finance began outsourcing some of its legal compliance and research work to India. GE is reported to have saved about $2 million in one year by outsourcing legal work to India. DuPont has been an outspoken advocate of outsourcing a portion of its legal work to India. DuPont is reported to have saved about $8.8 million in legal fees in 2002 alone. Other companies such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Sun Microsystems are all said to be outsourcing legal work to India with very significant savings.

If it can work for legal services, then what other functions might be outsourced successfully? Obvious choices would be anything involving mathematics or programming since these follow universal standards that apply around the world. Web designing would seem to be a prime candidate. There are many success stories but not everyone is happy with the result. For example, Aaron Wall, a well-known SEO consultant in looking for Drupal developers made the following statement: We recently had another project outsourced to India and are not likely to go that route again soon, if ever.

That is of real concern to someone else well known in SEO circles by the name of Bob Massa, who opened his own outsourcing company in India in July of last year. Although Aaron Wall’s view is a concern to him, he knows the outsourcing experience can be different and he is intent on changing that perception. He is making the following offer:

We can develop php, .asp and are proficient in drupal, mambo, video applications and we can install and/or modify just about any open source scripts. There is no development job too big or too small. I can have my design people create a new, updated site including logos, banner ads and templates. We are fast and affordable and we will prove it BEFORE you have to pay a dime.If you know outsourcing would be better but didn’t want to take the chance of being ripped off, then just send me an email or call my people on live chat. Let us show you what we can do for you and only AFTER we prove you can trust us to do what we say we will do, will we expect you to pay us.

That would seem to be quite an offer. Provided the Techndu design team have the necessary skills, it would seem to be an offer that is difficult to refuse. Even in working with North American web designers, it is important to develop a strong team relationship and be assured that the web design will be done with flair, competency and according to applicable standards. Web designing is very complex and often requires a number of repetitions to get it right. I know many in North America who have not been happy with their onshore web designer experience. I suggest it is worth approaching this whole subject with an open mind. If you decide outsourcing is for you, you could be one of the real success stories.

Blogs Were Hot News In February

blogging-SMB
Sponsored by Search Studio. 
Blogs make the headlines

Welcome to the first post of The Other Bloke’s Blog in its new livery. This new version uses WordPress software rather than the Google Blogger software, which had been used to-date. All previous 272 blog posts were successfully transferred in a way which maintained their Google keyword visibility unchanged from the word Go. Details of this will be published in a subsequent post.

So why were blogs in the headlines in February? There were three principal reasons:

  • Some high visibility blogs were attacked by very skillful hackers
  • Google made blog posts much more visible in its keyword searches
  • Big business began to realize the power of blogs for marketing

Attacks By Hackers

Over the past three months, a number of high-traffic blogs have been hacked by skillful hackers. Some of these were well-known in the Internet marketing world including Small Business Trends (Anita Campbell) and Cornwall-SEO (Lyndon Antcliff) and also two of the SMM blogs. The most skillful hackers do it in such a way that it may be hidden from the website owner but is very visible to search engines, thus offering the possibility of rapid returns. If you want to learn more from our experiences, visit any one of the three part series:

The two key messages are:

  1. Keep a high level of security on your blog, particularly if it ranks well with the search engines.
  2. Be continually vigilant, particularly after weekends or statutory holidays.

One approach for the latter is outlined in Fast Alarm For Hidden WordPress Hackers.

Google Makes Blog Posts Much More Visible

As it happens, these attacks were happening as Google began to make blog posts much more visible in keyword searches. Blog posts can appear within a matter of hours at the top of the regular Web search results for appropriate keywords. Normal web pages may take days or weeks to appear. It’s a phenomenon that many have commented on as you can see in Blogs Take Center Stage For Marketers And For Google.

Paradoxically Google Blogsearch now may take days to list blog posts where once it would have displayed them within an hour or two. This may be caused by the large volume of spam websites that are now being created in the Google Blogger system. The resources do not seem to be applied to maintain the performance of Google Blogsearch. Perhaps this is because blogs are now so prominent in the regular Google Web search. It’s been clear for some time that Google BlogSearch Is Broken and there’s no sign of improvement at the moment.

Marketers See The Power Of Blogs

Although the search engine visibility of blogs had been increasing for some time, the latest boost is making them even more attractive. This is a current theme in marketing circles. Business Week had a long article extolling the virtue of blogs for large companies, Social Media Will Change Your Business. As the article points out:

Blogs could end up providing the perfect response to mass media’s core concern: the splintering of its audience. … In a world chock-full of citizen publishers, we mainstream types control an ever-smaller chunk of human knowledge. Some of us will work to draw in more of what the bloggers know, vetting it, editing it, and packaging it into our closed productions. But here’s betting that we also forge ahead in the open world. The measure of success in that world is not a finished product. The winners will be those who host the very best conversations.

For small and mid-sized businesses the message is even clearer. A blog will do much more for you on the Internet than a traditional website. That’s been apparent for some time.

Google and 301 Permanent Redirects – all you wanted to know and were afraid to ask

301-REDIRECT

For most blogs and websites, Google is one of the major sources of visitor traffic. That is why it is so important to ensure that, when any web page is moved, it retains its visibility in Google. What is involved in this is what is called a 301 Permanent Redirect. The References below give a good account of the many ways this can be done. This blog has just moved and the good news is that the move was done in such a way that the Google visibility was maintained unchanged throughout the move. The specifics involved will be discussed in a more detailed post in the near future.

The reason for this post is that by accident some interesting details have emerged about how Google currently handles these 301 Permanent Redirects. Whether this was done in previous versions of the algorithm or whether it will continue to be the way they are handled is entirely unknown.

The common wisdom is that all three major search engines handle 301 redirects the same, that is to say they ignore the original URL and instead index the destination URL. This may not be exactly the way things work.

The reason for suggesting this is that a visitor to the blog on March 2nd arrived by doing a Google search for ‘Frank and Gordon‘. Frank and Gordon are the names of the Canadian beavers used in the Bell Canada advertising. This is what that visitor would have seen as part of that Google Search Engine Report Page (SERP).

You may notice that the old address for the blog post is shown as entry #3 and the new address for the blog post is at entry #4. Clicking on either brings you to the same new blog post since the old address is redirected to the new address. However clearly both URLs are still maintained in the Google index.

The Old blog post cached version shows a cached date of February 18th. The New blog post cached version shows a cached date February 28th. The new version of the blog was put online on February 26th and the 301 Permanent Redirect from old to new was put in place at that time.

As of the time of posting on March 3, both versions are still featured in the SERP but now the New version is at #3 and the Old version at #4. Perhaps this indicates that the old version is never dropped from the index but merely gradually loses all its PageRank as this is transferred to the New Version and sinks without trace.

Sponsored by Search Studio.

Trial By Firefox

Here in Montreal, we are blessed with a large number of very talented web designers and games and software programmers. It’s one of the strengths of our city, as has been confirmed by a number of the world multimedia forces, who have set up shop here. A striking example of that is Ubisoft, the French games powerhouse, with a studio of over 1000 talented designers and support staff. There’s some really brilliant work being done here.

Designing effective websites is one of the toughest assignments of all. Most business websites are designed to be part of the selling process, either generating sales leads or in some cases taking the order. Selling effective websites require many more talents and skills than the web designer alone can bring to the table. However the web designer has enough challenges in his own area of expertise.

A little incident yesterday got me musing on that. It’s all concerned with what the technos call Cross-Browser Compatibility. Microsoft paid $ 1.1 billion US in stock when they bought Great Plains in March 2001. This is an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) suite of programmes that has now become an important part of Microsoft Business Solutions. I was looking with interest at the website of one of its principal local resellers. After the introductory “splash page”, I was shown a warning page, part of which I show below.

iewarning
What an irritating downer. I use Firefox as my default browser, so that is why I got the warning. I might have been a customer: what a way to welcome me.

Surprisingly Microsoft itself seems to run into the same problem. There’s no warning but if you try to watch their principal sales aid for the Great Plains software, you’ll have a problem with Firefox. The Demo video appears the right size in Internet Explorer but very small in Firefox. This is core business stuff we’re talking about here

Of course a good question is whether the non-Internet Explorer sector of the market is big enough to worry about. Actually there’s quite a trend here. Looking at the traffic for the SMM website, the share of visitors using Internet Explorer has been steadily dropping. This website may be typical of the manufacturing and service sector audience. During the last 30 days, there were 8,800 visitors and only 74% of them were using Internet Explorer in all its different versions. So 1 in 4 of the visitors to the Microsoft Business Solutions reseller website might see that warning sign.

For whatever reason, Microsoft is finally realizing that it must crunch this problem. It’s somewhat of a strategic hot potato. The several versions of Internet Explorer have not always embodied the latest web design standards. In order to ensure websites designed to work with older IE versions will continue to work, the same looseness in not observing standards must continue. There’s the dilemma. Stay with the legacy or cut loose and conform to current standards. Yesterday there was also good news. An article on CNET posed the question, Microsoft yielding to IE standards pressure? The answer seemed to be positive.

Go On. Be A Tiger. .. Or Should You Just Stop Being Sick

Go on. Be a Tiger. That’s the advice from Accenture, the global consultants promising High Performance. Delivered. It’s not a suggestion on how you should play golf. Rather it’s a suggestion on how you should run your company. Accenture features a picture of a cheeta, the fastest mammal, on its website, so it’s quite clear where they’re coming from.

Is that good advice? Either in golf or in running your company. The implication is that your performance is already pretty good and you should be looking for ways to fine-tune it so as to play golf like Tiger Woods. Well the majority of golf players know that really isn’t the nature of the problem. Equally in running a business most companies require something more basic than just tuning performance.

Another major consulting group, Booz Allen Hamilton, seems to have a more realistic picture (PDF file) of the state of affairs. Between December 2003 and November 2005, Booz Allen Hamilton surveyed over 30,000 individuals around the world about the organizations they work for. What did they find? Most organizations are “unhealthy,” meaning they cannot convert strategy into action. The most common impediment to execution is a “passive-aggressive” organization in which everyone says all the right things .. and does none of them.

Represented in the data set are 23 industries, 100 countries, and eight internal departments/functions. Respondents visited a website,www.orgdna.com, and answered 19 questions on decision rights, information, motivators, and organizational structure. In addition, nearly 20,000 more surveys were completed by individuals at Booz Allen Hamilton clients in the corporate, government, and not-for-profit sectors. Less than a third of the 30,000 respondents who filled out surveys on the Booz Allen Hamilton public website reported traits and behaviors consistent with a “healthy” organization. More than half the survey responses resulted in an “unhealthy” profile for their company. In other words, by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, respondents declare that their own organizations are sick.

Which approach is right for your organization: the Accenture way or the Booz Allen Hamilton way? Are you fit enough to need a professional coach or so sick that you need a doctor? Is your company one of the fewer “healthy” companies that can work on tuning its performance? .. or does your company, like many companies, first need to work on stopping being sick? You’ll need to follow very different approaches, depending on where you’re starting from.

Alice in InternetLand – A Holiday Fable

(loosely inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, commonly calledAlice in Wonderland. This was written by Lewis Carroll in 1865.)

Alice Liddell has now taken over as CEO of the mid-sized company her father founded over 25 years ago. The company is LewCar and it provides automobile leasing services for corporations. She’s still in the office on Friday evening. As is often the case, she’s the last to leave. The company’s sales are satisfactory but she feels they could do so much better. They now have a website, as was recommended by a consultant, Charles Lutwidge, but it still doesn’t seem to be doing much for them. What more can they do? She closes her eyes and tries to focus on the possibilities.

Down the Rabbit-Hole

Suddenly she feels as if she is LewCar, the virtual being of the website, and she is floating through space. She sees a distinguished business man who is struggling to see her clearly. Miraculously she expands without knowing quite how. She feels a little distorted but realizes that he can see her better. Hopefully, she has made a good impression.

Suddenly, she floats onward. Someone is looking at her through some small hand-held device, apparently called a Raspberry. She finds it tough to compress herself into that small screen but she somehow manages. The Raspberry’s owner seems to see her just fine and they seem to have communicated. This (cyber)space is very challenging with different folk wanting her to expand or contract. How can she handle these challenges? What else may be lurking in this unfamiliar space?

Advice from a Caterpillar

With no one to ask, she floats onwards, apparently at light speed. Suddenly she sees a huge caterpillar sitting on an enormous mushroom. The caterpillar asks, “Who are you?”
“LewCar”, Alice replies, “Who are you?”
The caterpillar says his name is Jakob.
“What’s the best way of communicating with people here?” asks Alice.
Jakob replies, “You’ve got to make sure that people find it easy to know what you’re about and then can easily find the information they’re looking for. It’s called being user-friendly.”
Alice wonders whether a caterpillar can really know anything about communication but she says thank-you anyway and zooms onwards.

Meet the White Rabbit

Suddenly she sees a White Rabbit moving at great speed and with great purpose. Alice catches up with the White Rabbit and asks him how she should meet people in this strange and immense space. The White Rabbit says that, unless the Queen knows her, it’s unlikely other people will find her.
“Which Queen is that?” asks Alice.
“Queen GOOG“, says the White Rabbit.
“Isn’t there a king? Wouldn’t he be important too?” says Alice.
“There is King MSFT” replies the White Rabbit. “He is important but the Queen is more important.”
“So where do I find the Queen?” asks Alice.
“You don’t.” replies the White Rabbit. “She finds you.”
“I can’t wait for that. Can you take me to where she lives?”
“She lives at the top of that mountain.” says the White Rabbit. “Follow me” .. and he races off.

The Queen’s Croquet-Ground

The White Rabbit and Alice dash to the top of the mountain. There is quite a view from here over the whole surrounding plains. Incredibly there are hosts of people involved in all sorts of interesting pastimes. They find Queen GOOG on a croquet-ground playing the strangest croquet-game imaginable. However what really gets Alice’s attention are the hundreds and hundreds of small furry animals rushing around.
“What are those furry animals?” asks Alice.
“They’re called BoTs.” replies the White Rabbit.
“That’s a funny name.”
“Well it’s short for Badgers of Text.” says the White Rabbit.
“So how can I get the Queen to notice me?” asks Alice.
“You don’t. That’s what the BoTs do. They’re quite amazing. They zoom around all over the place looking for websites like your LewCar website. When they find one, they badger it. They’re really looking for information so that’s why they’ve been specially bred to rapidly absorb any text that they see on a website. Surprisingly they ignore any images that may be there so their ‘view’ of a website is very different from how human beings would see it. However that’s how Queen GOOG likes it. If enough BoTs report back favourably on the LewCar website, then Queen GOOG will recognize LewCar. Once Queen GOOG knows about you, then she has ways of spreading the word. You’ll soon find that lots of other people feel that Queen GOOG knows what she’s talking about.”
“Well that’s all very well.” replies Alice. “However I don’t have time for that. Let’s go over and you can introduce me.”
As she heads towards Queen GOOG, suddenly everything goes black.

Back To Earth

Alice wakes with a start. Has she been asleep? Here she is: still at her desk. Has it all been a dream? Was cyberspace really like that? It was almost as crazy and unworldly as that Wonderland she once visited when she was a small girl.

Alice thinks again about the website they made. They had instructed the graphic designer to just make an electronic version of their attractive sales brochure. If cyberspace was really so different, how could she be sure that this sales brochure would work well.

Would it work with people viewing it in different ways? Would people easily find the information they were looking for? How would the BoTs view it? What would they take back to Queen GOOG? What would the Queen think? Would she let people know about it? Monday morning first thing, she’ll begin to get her people checking out all these questions. Perhaps this will be the way to get the sales growth she so much wants.

Footnotes: For those who may have missed the significance of some of the imagery. Jakob Nielsen is a renowned world expert on Usability. MSFT is the SEC symbol for Microsoft and GOOG is the symbol for Google. The Google Head Office is situated at Mountain View CA in the heart of Silicon Valley. Search engines use robots or spiders to collect information on websites and this name is sometimes shortened to bots.


Those who prefer the original version can find the full Alice In Wonderland book published as part of Project Gutenberg.

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was written by Lewis Carroll. This was the pen-name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote the book in 1865. He based the character, Alice, on Alice Liddell, one of the daughters of the Dean of Christchurch College, Oxford. Dodgson was a Mathematics Lecturer at this College.

May we wish Happy Holidays to all our readers and Best Wishes for 2006.

Sponsored by Search Studio, a mexican based marketing and design agency.

Mobile Web Canada

Data ratesMobile Web Canada should be a sector of the economy with massive potential. The Federal Government may proudly proclaim, “We’ve Gone Mobile!” Unfortunately it’s unlikely that any of the citizenry can afford to follow them.

As today’s Gazette headline points out: Prices Too High – Lack of competition in Canada threatens mobile Internet. The article byMichael Geist points out that Even Third World and Eastern European countries are more advanced than we are. Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa so he’s someone we all should be listening to.
As he points out, if the Apple iPhone was introduced in Canada, the rates would be prohibitive. Rogers – Canada’s sole GSM provider and therefore the only telecom company currently equipped to offer the iPhone – offers a starter data plan that provides 1.5 megabytes of data per month for $15 (each additional MB is $21). Since that is not even enough data to download a single high-resolution photograph, most consumers presumably choose more. The company’s biggest data plan provides 500 MB, yet costs $210 per month, far beyond the reach of most consumers. Compare that with the rates charged in other countries as shown in a table from the article. This pricing is comparable to plans found with Bell and Telus and destroys our international competitiveness.
This message is not new. Back in April ThomasPurves.com had a striking illustration of the cost differences.

thomaspurvesmobilerates

It would seem unlikely that this is the most sensible pricing policy for the telecom companies to reap the richest rewards. More importantly it shuts down this sector as an economic opportunity for Canada. It is no surprise that Alec Saunders finds that Really cool mobile data applications pop up all the time in Europe, the US, and Asia, yet Canadians are regrettably absent.

Contrast this with what is happening in the US. Google declares its commitment to open broadband platforms.

So today, we’re putting consumers’ interests first, and putting our money where our principles are — to the tune of $4.6 billion. Let me explain.

In the U.S., wireless spectrum for mobile phones and data is controlled by a small group of companies, leaving consumers with very few service providers from which to choose. With that in mind, last week, as the federal government prepares for what is arguably its most significant auction of wireless spectrum in history, we urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules to make sure that regardless of who wins the spectrum at auction, consumers’ interests are the top priority.

It’s not exactly the same theme but involves similar players and similar missed opportunities for consumers.

Since it is in all our interests to have vibrant Mobile Web opportunities in Canada, perhaps Google could put a little effort in here too.

This post was sponsored by Search Studio, a marketing and design agency.

Montreal Bagel Blog

Montreal Bagels are known world-wide. They’re also one of the food items on which there’s lots of debate. Who makes the best Montreal bagel? Is the Montreal bagel better than the New York bagel? Marketers like Search Studio know that to have such interest in a product is a critical step in making the sale. AIDA – Awareness > Interest > Desire > Action. That’s the recipe for success.

Blogging is a great medium to get such marketing dialogue going. The Internet is about making connections. That’s why Buzz marketing or viral marketing has become a hot topic in this digital world. Internet marketing strategy really needs to consider whether a blog can be a powerful support to other marketing efforts.

Which brings us to the reason for this post. Mike Boone in the Montreal Gazette hails the arrival of an ebakery in cyberspace. The St. Viateur Bagel Shop has opened an online bagel purchasing service on its website. That’s great to see another company realizing the power of the Internet. Even though you’ve got to order in lots of 6 dozen bagels, it will probably do well for them. However you could always do the same by phone before and have the bagels delivered to you. And you can do exactly the same with the other famous bagel maker in Montreal,Fairmount Bagel.

Selling via the Internet is not all that easy. Your web designer may be delighted to add a shopping cart to your website, but there are more who fail with this approach than succeed for a whole variety of reasons. Getting visible on the Internet is a much more do-able task. Making connections is what the Internet is good at. Perhaps a Montreal Bagel Blog is the way to go.

Pétromont Will Close Its Two Petrochemical Plants In Quebec

Petromont
The writing was on the wall.

As Robert Gibbens, seasoned observer of the Canadian industrial scene, reports today in the Montreal Gazette, Pétromont will be shuttering its Montreal East and South Shore Varennes plants indefinitely on April 30. About 300 will lose their jobs, including 176 unionized workers. The two key reasons are the Canadian dollar at par, up from 87 cents U.S. in a year, and feedstock prices based on oil at $91 U.S. a barrel, up from $54 U.S.

The threat of this happening has been there almost from the beginning. Pétromont and Co. LP was formed in 1980 when Gulf Canada, Union Carbide and SGF (Société générale de financement du Québec), the province’s equity investment arm, formed a limited partnership to operate certain petrochemical plants.

John Dinsmore was the founding president of Pétromont and I was the third employee as V.P. Marketing and Business Development. Given the economic pressures of running a modest-scale petrochemical plant on heavy naphtha and gas oil feedstocks from overseas, survival was a constant battle.

Gulf Canada, the original owner of the Varennes ethylene plant, almost immediately wanted to leave the partnership and very soon did so. Gulf Canada was acquired by Conoco and exists no longer. Union Carbide continued and brought in some of its other petrochemical activities. However Union Carbide eventually succumbed and was acquired by Dow. The limited partnership is now owned equally by Dow Canada, part of U.S. multinational Dow Chemical Co., and the SGF.

Pétromont had annual sales of about $750 million. The Montreal East plant makes polyethylene resins sold mainly in North America, while the Varennes plant produces basic petrochemicals. The headquarters, including marketing and administrative staff, is at Varennes. Another pressure on Pétromont’s continuing survival was Basell’s decision last year to close its polypropylene (PP) plant in Varennes (originally built by Hercules Inc.), which was supplied propylene feedstock via a pipeline.

Pétromont spokesperson Louis Rail said that both plants will be mothballed, in case market conditions change or there is serious outside interest, but with no dismantling of equipment. Hope springs eternal ..

Sponsored by webdesign company, Search Studio.

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