Category Archives: In General

Google Places, Pages, and Profiles (Just Shoot Me)

Google+ Local is merging with Google+ Pages and this is a critical change for your business. Learn how to transition your prior pages to Google’s new Google+ Business Pages.

What dealing with Google Places, Pages, and Profiles does to you.

Yep – that was me today. Full blown face slam into my desk after spending an eternity trying to figure out how to merge my Business Page with my existing GSD Google+ page I set up 2 years ago. As I was doing this, I thought some of you might appreciate the information I trudged through.

Thankfully, there were a ton of good articles written by good folks who served as ice packs when I was about to kick Google+ in the screen.

The basic jist is that back in May 2012, Google Places listings, those listings that appear in search engine results pages (SERPs) with the orange bubbles, became Google+ Local. The move was a good one and a lot of nice features were added for local businesses.

In the meantime, good businesses everywhere were listening to Google and other folks and started setting up Google+ accounts (profiles) for themselves and Google+ pages for their businesses. Google+ Pages are almost always associated with the account.

Fast forward to now, for the US. Google has been slowly auto-upgrading users Google+ Local listings to what they call Google+ Business Pages. This article from the Google Forum details the rollouts and answers many questions.

Admittedly and honestly, I have ignored, as deeply as I could, having to deal with a Google+ business page. I have a blog. I have a FB business page. I have a Google+ account that I set up for the business, under an email address, nearly 5 years ago, and all my circles and contacts are there. I have many customers I need to service and I just didn’t want to have to deal with yet another page. Oh boo-hoo. Right? Yeah, I know. Suck it up buttercup, it’s the way things are now….and that became clearer this week.

In addition to the Google+ Page you might have for your business, Google Local+ is now automatically creating yet another Google+ Page for your business that is different (and probably empty and dark, like mine was). This new Google+ Business Page is what Google is now using when people search for you locally. Your business hopefully pops up with a little orange map balloon, but guess what? The Google+ page link takes the visitor to an echo-ey, empty, boring Google+ page – NOT the one you’ve been building up for the past few years.

Lovely, yes? Thanks Google.

So I immediately had questions for my own business. How do I transfer over my circles? I didn’t have any posts or anything (because I had so dutifully been pretending it didn’t exist), but many of you have reviews, posts, comments. What about those? What about my other pages? I don’t want 3 other Google+ pages running around (Google+ pages are worse than rabbits…)

I spent a number of hours digging and searching for answers to these questions and I came upon a few good resources. No need to reinvent the blog-writing wheel here, so I will gratefully share these with you in the hopes that it helps. Thank you to the many folks who took time to write these articles.

That’s probably enough to make your head spin.

Here is Google’s support document on how to transfer Google+ circles and connections between accounts.

Here is Google’s Takeout Tool, which will allow you to make data transfers pretty easily.

And lastly, here is a good Google Takeout Tutorial.

So there you have it my friends. Like it or not, if you had a Google Places account, which is now Google+ Local, you also have, by default, a Google+ Business Page that Google lovingly created for you.

It behooves you to use that account, as it is tied to your local business listing, and the number of connections that you have there, as well as your routine posting activity, and the reviews you receive will impact your Google+ Local rank in organic listings.

And you know, all this change can be painful. Usually (optimist that I am) the change is for the better. I don’t necessarily like being shoved in any direction like Google seems to like to do. But I have hope that all this screen-kicking and head-banging is worth it.

Neon Tetra with Swim Bladder Disease

Poor neon tetra with swim bladder disease

I woke up this morning to find my little guy here swimming with his tail up, struggling to stay down in the water and gulping a lot. A quick Google on this behavior points to something called Swim Bladder Disease.

The cure, they say, is to do the following things:

  1. Move the fish to a “recovery tank” by himself to avoid other fish picking on him (other fish know when a fish is sick and they can become cannibalistic).
  2. Make sure the water is about 80°
  3. Leave 2-3 inches at the top of the tank to make it easier for the fish to move up and get air.
  4. Don’t feed for 3 days.
  5. When you do feed on the third day, give the fish a de-skinned pea to help flush out the digestive system

I’ve read quite a few articles at this point and they all seem to agree that if you catch it earlier enough and treat properly, most fish will recover.

The causes?

  1. [Rarely] – they are born with a defect
  2. They’ve been gulping air or eating too much too fast (You know, my neons like to play in the bubbler bubbles in the tank….hmmmmmm). A tip I read in a forum said that if you feed your fish only once a day and you notice a higher incidence of swim bladder going on – maybe they are just hungry and when they are fed, they gulp. The answer here is to try feeding lesser amounts 2-3 times a day (pinch here, pinch there – one flake feeds 1 fish) and see if that helps.
  3. Environmental conditions in the tank are poor or not consistent (like allowing the water temp to go down or letting nitrates build up to too high a level)
  4. And as you might expect, there are lots of other theories.

Keep your fingers crossed! I hope my little guy makes it. I’ll keep you posted!  Hey, now that was funny – posted on a blog 😉

Don’t know what to write about? Think you have nothing to share? Think again.

What To Write About

A great question from a client of mine promoted this post today. She owns a family business and is an expert at her craft – and she struggles with topics to write about for the new email program we have going.  I encouraged them to begin their emails with a small intro, written by the owner and signed with her signature that relates to the products they choose to highlight. Next week’s email is on seed starting, a topic certainly near and dear to my heart. She said to me “I need your guidance on what to write about.” Woooo! Let the thought-gates open!

Here is what I shared:

1. VALUE: You are selling something that a person could either find in duplicate on Amazon.com or find something very, very similar to what you sell that is cheaper and within driving distance. Why should they buy it from you and pay shipping to boot? Value, quality, expertise, relationship.  Speak about your experience. Speak about your passion.  Speak about the notion that your business was started with a desire to invest in the success of your customers. That’s why it’s worth buying from you versus a big box store or online-only entity. Anytime I think of value, I think of Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  They do an incredible job communicating what they bring to the table (other than great food from your garden) in all of their communications and their catalog.

2. HOW-TO: Anticipate your customers’ questions, concerns, fears. Yes, downright FEARS! The #1 reason I heard while working Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine why people didn’t bite on a seed starting email is because they were convinced they had a black thumb, kill everything they try to grow, and they didn’t want to be responsible for killing a living thing! The problem here isn’t a lack of potential skill. It’s a lack of current knowledge. You, the expert, can share your brain with your customers and share your experiences, hints, tips, tricks. You can educate them in a 1-2-3 way that’s easy to digest and not too scary to try. So think like your customer – and out yourself in their shoes at different levels of expertise or at different stages of a process (like growing plants). Heck, go to Google and try some keyword search that ask why, how, and when around your particular product or service and see what you come up with. The Tasteful Garden does an excellent job of this in their emails and they have a wonderful online resource center to back it up as well as a blog where they are active. They leverage their content in multiple places.

3. CURRENT EVENTS: Even if you sell seeds, there are events in the industry that affect your business, your relationships with others, news that sits in your customers’ minds that they wonder about. Do not be afraid to take a stand on an issue or respond to something happening in the environment. It shows you are aware. It shows you care. It shows your business has a plan for dealing with the ups and downs that can affect a business. Now, you may not want to necessarily email about this, especially if it happens sporadically, but you could certainly get it out on social media or blog about it. And once that content is created, you can leverage it in other spaces as you wish.

4. RELATIONSHIPS: You don’t always have to talk about you, you know :-) Sheesh! Talk about your customers. Talk about your vendors/suppliers. Encourage your customers to participate in surveys or contests (photo, video, etc.) (Hey – Facebook is a great place to do that!) and talk about your “customer of the month”, “retailer of the month”. Earthbox.com does an awesome job of this in their emails. I read every single one. I always learn something from them. Their monthly newsletters are a great combination of “you could buy this”, but they do a spectacular job of saying “and here is how you do this or can use this”. Priceless.

You have things to talk about.

Stop shaking your head. Yes, you do.

It just takes some thought about your business, what you sell and provide, getting it down on paper, and simply doing it. And it’s important to do write more personally, I believe. People gets thousands of marketing messages shoved at them every day – do this, buy that – order now…and particularly in emails, its all promotional. No personality really. No investment. Just shove products in  and get it out the door. I would encourage all of you to write a little more – an intro paragraph – doesn’t have to be long – but it’ll be all YOU. Connect with your customers. Share something of yourself and your business. Inform, guide and teach as well as sell. I bet you’ll find that your business thrives because of it. And so will you.

Launch of New Website!

I am proud to announce the official launch of the new Green Sky Development website! Many thanks to ParleeStumpf for a beautiful and spiritually satisfying new design.

Green Sky Development is a family-owned business specializing in progressive and results-driven internet marketing services: organic search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click management (AdWords and AdCenter PPC), email marketing campaigns, social media optimization and cross-channel marketing strategy and planning.

Thank you to our Mother – Dawn Sidders Muuss – for her unrelenting support, her boundless love, her incredible generosity, her unyielding strength, her poignant intelligence, her sound financial and business prowess and sturdy common sense logic.

Thank you to our Father – James Meggison – for his relentlessness passion and “you can do anything” faith.

Thank you to our beloved family and friends who have offered unshakeable trust, optimism, and belief – and for the ego-gratifying reassurances that we are the best at what we do.

And thank you to those “too many to be singled out” business partners, past and present, who have taught us those invaluable “smack your hand against your forehead” lessons and “told you so” mistakes that make us the strong, dependable company we are today.

Without each and every one of you, we’d not be where we are today.

THANK YOU!

 

“Phantom” AdWords Clicks – Number of Clicks for Keywords Doesn’t Match What AdWords is Reporting in the Total Search Line

Google’s products always amaze me. No matter how well I think I understand how the AdWords program works, there are yet more ways to discover information and features I didn’t know existed because I just hadn’t gotten to them yet. Necessity is the mother of invention and the need to explain data is the mother of discovering new things about AdWords.

In a number of the AdWords accounts I manage I have noticed that there area growing number of what folks call “phantom clicks” showing up in the “Total Search” line at the bottom of the keywords display screen within an AdGroup. In some cases, the amount of money being spent on these phantom clicks is substantial.

I did a search in Google for “keyword clicks in AdWords do not match total search clicks” and I came across an article that solved my problem. I also saw a goodly number of other forums where the same general question was being asked, so I thought I would take time to post a couple of solutions.

The first place to look is how you have your campaign set up with regard to keyword variants.

Google has changed the way the campaign settings work with regard to the search network features and keyword matching and they have recently changed the way that “phrase” and [exact] matching works. Phrase and exact matches can now be set to include plurals, variants (-ed, -ing, -tion, etc.) and even closely related words (for example, if you had an AdGroup targeting terms relating to “baseball caps”, your ad might also match for hats, fascinators, and such. Depending on the management strategy you aare using, this could be a good thing for your account, but for me, I don’t like it.

In the campaign settings area, under “General”, choose the “type” to be “Search Network Only – All Features”. Then scroll all the way down and under “Advanced settings”, open up “Keyword matching options” and choose “Do not include close variants”.

Essentially what this does is tells Google you want “phrase” and [exact] matching to work the way they traditionally did, which means that your ads will only be displayed when they match those words, in that order, respectfully. For me, this means a lot less time having to research negative keywords and I have observed that it keeps budget spend more steady and predictable.

The second place to look (the one that gave me the big “A-Ha! Gotcha!”) has to do with using AdWords Extensions, particularly the “Product Listings” extension. My clients, like most companies I think, participate in Google’s Merchant Feeds. They export all of their product data, in one big file, and feed it to Google for product display listings. If your client uploads one big, massive product file, and you set up this product file in product extensions and link it to your campaign, then essentially people can search for every product even though your specific campaign focuses on one product group. Let me give you an example.

One of my clients sells drought tolerant perennials. They have Salvia, Agastache, Gaillardia, Penstemon, Delosperma, Achillea, Echinacea, Lavender, and lots of other lovely things. I have campaigns set up around each one of these so that my AdGroups may then focus on species variations and specific cultivars that are popular. They participate in Google’s Merchant Feed and yep, you guessed it, all their products are dumped into one big file. I set up the product listings ad extension on Lavender and within a few days, i saw those phantom clicks start piling up (and it was costing a pretty penny and not converting…) I saw keywords like “yucca” and “buffalo grass” and “christmas cactus” showing up – in my Lavender campaign! I was scratching my head wondering where these were coming from. My campaign had none of these keywords in it and I was not using any broad matches and the variants option was turned off.

I learned today that it is the product listings ad extension that is doing this, because regardless of how I have my campaigns set up, the merchant fee product file does have all these products in it, and if people are searching for those things, my Lavender campaign (and every other campaign I attached the product listing feed to) could show up because it was matching on the product listings. A-Ha!

So, there are two ways to deal with this…

1. Ask the company you are managing PPC for to break out their product file into related groups. Most company database systems store the category level of their products. Instead of dumping one massive file to Google Merchant, break that file into smaller, more targeted pieces, then attach the smaller and more appropriately targeted product feed to the campaign it relates to. This will cut down on the number of clicks for products that are not related to your campaign. This take a little bit more work intially, but clearly it would be worth doing – it’ll save them lots of money and their ROI will increase.

2. The other thing you can do, and probably should do because #1 is not likely to be a 100% solution, is to go see what terms are being matched on with the product listings – and then exclude them at the camapign level (assuming your campaign is tightly focused around a single product group – otherwise, you’d probably have to exclude these terms over and over again at the AdGroup level).

Choose the AdGroup for which you are seeing a lot of phantom clicks. Click on the “Dimensions” tab and just under the row of light green tabs, on the left, click the little down-arrow and choose to view “search terms”. And Aoila! Those clicks are no longer phantom! Here is where you can see where all the clicks are coming from. Jot down all the words or phrases that do NOT apply to your AdGroup and then add them to your negative keyword lists at the AdGroup or Campaign level as is appropriate. This will eliminate these phantom clicks and get things back under control.

I hope this helps someone. If you find this posting and it did help, please post a comment and let me know. Thanks! And Happy Phantom Keyword hunting!

Google’s Changes to [Exact] & “Phrase” Match Types

In the last few days, I’ve seen a lot of negative response around the news that Google will be changing how it handles the exact and phrase keyword match types. Most people don’t like change, and as with other Google changes in the past, the two camps seem to be “I like it” or “I hate it”. I think this change actually makes some sense.

I have been working with AdWords since the platform launched in 2000 and over the last couple of years I have noticed a degradation in the performance of the [exact] match type, while the phrase match has always remained strong. One of the historic benefits of using the exact match type is that you don’t need to worry about related phrases, alternate endings such as “ing”, “ed” “est”, or misspellings. With the exact match type, the need to do copious amounts of negative keyword research is greatly reduced (and so is much of your traffic opportunity).

But I have learned over the last decade+ that exact match has its downfall, too, in that it tends to be too strict and doesn’t allow for the variation of thought and meaning behind someone’s search process. In my experience, early on, exact match phrases performed the best. These days, they often perform the worst. I would rather have someone who typed [perrenial plants] see my ad and not lose a potential sale because they spelled “prennial” wrong. This change to Google also means I don’t have to have 10 different kewyords in my AdGroup which target mispellings and word variants. It actually will make administration a bit easier.

I have always been a big user of negative keywords to refine performance, so Google’s change doesn’t bother me at all from that standpoint either. With broader matching algorithms, you have to be careful to exclude words and phrases that can be combined with your chosen keyword that make it irrelevant to your campaign. I have always also been a proponent for change, even when fear and dislike for that change run high, because without change, you will never know what opportunities you may have been missing and there is never a chance to improve upon what stood before. Change also challenges us to think in new and different ways – and if there is one thing that’s gospel about the internet marketing realm – as an internet marketer, you never want to be perceived as “out of date” or “irrelevant” in your thinking and approach.

So I say bring it on. Let’s test it. I’m eager to see what difference it may make in the performance of the campaigns I manage. And you know what? If you don’t like it, you can simply go into your Advanced Settings, go to the Keyword Matching section and choose not to include close variants.

First Garden Harvest Feast

Dinner on the Patio - Provided by the Garden!

Most of you know that I am a full service internet marketing professional who has a niche specialty in gardening and horticulture. What better way to share this expertise than blogging about the meal I made from my first garden harvest!

The salad is a slightly spicy red and green mix that I grew from seed. To this, I added some Genovese basil, freshly picked snap peas, and a few nasturtiums that are growing in a container on my patio!

I then used the rest of the snap peas and threw them into a garlic butter saute with some shrimp, added some pepper and salt, a little bit of lemon juice, and some basil – and aoila! Dinner!

I know I should have had a white German Reisling with this meal, but I didn’t have any on hand, so red wine it is! I had a lovely meal, that took me about 10 minutes to make, on my patio this afternoon here in Maine.

As I type, I am waiting for yellow crookneck squash, zucchini squash, heirloom tomatoes, sauce tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, eggplant, spaghetti squash, more salad greens, basil, bush beans, and onions to fully ripen. I should have another harvest of snap peas in about another week and I really should get my butt out there and sow another 2 rows of salad greens.

Gardening sure is a labor of love and it’s terrific when the first fruits of your labor begin to roll in!

Being Niche Means Being Noticed

This post is about being Niche and also engaging in internet marketing.

I had, for the umpteenth time today, heard that a company who is a bit niche in nature decided that engaging in SEO or SEM would be a waste of money because the “audience is so small”. The audience by the way, which is the medical field, is one of the largest business sectors in the U.S.

Being niche is actually an advantage to SEO and SEM. Where there is a need, there is a company that fills that need, and there are customers who will purchase from that company. What creates a difference is economy of scale. A company from Maine who sells double chocolate brownies with almonds and walnuts and embeds a cherry in the middle is just as niche as the company who sells data management software to the pharmaceutical industry.

Just because you aren’t Burpee Seed Company, who sells seeds and other products across the nation, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage in internet marketing. The decision to engage in internet marketing should based on the budget you allot to advertising expenses. That budget is in part determined by your expected sales goal, among other things. So whether your advertising budget is $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000, you should engage in internet marketing with a clear idea of what your conversion goals are.

Being niche actually gives you an advantage. You can’t be all things to everyone. Though I am an adept internet marketer who could serve any vertical I choose, I choose to concentrate on the gardening and horticultural market. It’s my love. It’s my passion. I love things that grow. I love things that help things grow. That doesn’t mean I don’t serve other businesses, for I do, it just means I position myself as an SEO and PPC expert for the gardening industry.

I am a search engine optimization professional, who is also a Google PPC expert (my campaigns would make King Arthur jealous), who also knows how to anticipate and calculate catalog circulation numbers, who can write copy for the gardening industry, who can progam an e-commerce website, who also knows how sedimentary budgets operate within barrier island system, that serves the gardening industry. That’s pretty niche. And I have plenty of customers and I am looking for more.

There are always people looking for what you have to offer. The key is finding them and ensuring that the amount you spend to find them doesn’t exceed the cost you are willing to pay to acquire them as a customer. Period.

If you are a niche company, do not tell yourself that organic search engine optimization or pay per click programs won’t work for you. They absolutely work for you; and while they may not generate as much revenue for you as a non-niche company, your customers will convert at a higher rate and remain customers for a longer time (LTV) than a “generalist” company. The end game is not about the total number of sales – it’s about the profit you make that you may then reinvest in your company.

You are what you decide to be. If you decide you are “too small”, then you will be too small, and your competitors will eat your dust.

Print Media: Postcards versus Emails

I recently read a printed newsletter that stated that postcard marketing is more permanent and tangible than email. I have to heartily disagree with my respected colleague.

I may be an anomaly, but most postcards that I receive wind up in the trash within 30 seconds of walking in my door from a trip to the mailbox.

Emails, however, are something I hang onto for quite a while before I “trash” them. I might not be in the mood to read an email advertisement – so I simply ignore it (as opposed to tossing in my tangible garbage can – after whence it gets covered with more garbage). I can go back to it when I am ready to read it and if it interests me, but I am not yet ready to act, I’ll save it. I won’t save a postcard, because if I’m not ready to act, I don’t want it cluttering up my counter or desk and I think, “Forget it, I’ll toss it and find it later on the web if I want it”.

And “tangibility” is a word that I think needs to be redefined in todays more virutal age. Just because I cannot “touch” an email doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact me in other ways. I do not have to “touch” something to be moved or affected by it. Email is as tangible to me as the memory of a warm summer day on the beach. I can see email. I can react to it. I can do something with it. It is certainly tangible.

Email is also much cheaper “per piece” than a postcard ever will. In addition, email is “by choice” where getting a postcard in the mail often is not. I have to give my permission for you to email me; but often companies assume by virute of a past purchase that they can mail me anything they wish atany time, even if I don’t really want it. And getting mail in my mailbox for things I didn’t ask for, as opposed to getting an email that I did ask for, impacts my loyalty to a company far more.

I am also an advocate for saving a tree when we can. Trees are wasted when they are cut down so companies can send essentially what is junk mail to people who never asked for it. Post cards are not “green”.

I think that print mail marketers need to be very careful about criticizing online forms of advertising and making, really, what I feel are ridiculous claims ; stated because they compete for those dollars.

Post cards, as the printed piece stated, can be used to deliver very specific and niche messages to existing customers; for it’s only in the extreme specificity that the cost pays for itself. Email, on the other hand, can go to existing and non-existing customers who have chosen to receive it, thereby increasing conversions at a much lower cost.

I would challenge the marketing community, in general, to get off the rickety, old hobby horse of “tangibility” and focus more on efficacy and efficiency of dollar spend to determine what method of marketing it will use.

Post cards, catalogs, print ads in glossy color magazines, and printed newsletters are, in my opinion, on the demise. They may never go away completely. Diehards will cling to the methods they are used to – but print media is more costly, reaches smaller audiences, and is not remotely as viral as online media forms of advertising are; especially when that online advertising is managed critically with an eye to ROI, cost per conversion, and targeted markets.

But, I have to admit, print material does have one markedly added benefit that email and other online marketing media will never have: I can use the printed material I get and burn them in my patio fire pit. Thanks for the free fuel!

Helpful Google Tools: Google Wonder Wheel

The Google Wonder Wheel is a tool that most search marketers, especially beginners in the field, will appreciate. It provides visual representation of search results that are relevant to the query you submitted. It’s a great way to quickly see related keyword phrases that might have escaped your view in a more traditional text listing of phrases.

It’s really very easy to use. In your browser, go to Google, and type in and submit a search query. Under the Google logo on the left, you’ll see a list of other options. Look under the header of “All Results” and you’ll see a link to “Wonder Wheel”. Click on it – and wonder at the wheel!

For example, I did a Google search for “Green Industry Marketing” and when I clicked on the Wonder Wheel link, it shows me this:

If I then click on “green industry marketing businesses”, I see this:

Using the Google Wonder Wheel is great for three reasons:

  • It makes keyword searching more fun – and things that make our work more fun are worth it!
  • It let’s you find other keyword phrases you might not have thought of, so it makes you a more thorough internet marketer – and your customers will swoon over your brilliance in finding those phrases no one else is using or paying for.
  • Google Wonder Wheel is a very user-friendly tool. As I said before, it would be great for “beginners” to perform keyword research that might otherwise feel overwhelming when presented in long text lists that don’t so easily reveal other opportunities at a click.

Try it out. As with any other tool, it’s results are not 100% perfect. You get out of it what you put into it. If your search is too general or broad, you might end up with an “endless wheel”, where the constant clicks you have to do to dig to anything relevant far outweigh the use of the tool. But it works wonders when you have a fairly targeted phrase you want to use and you’re looking for other relevant opportunities.