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Optimising ‘Awesome’

Your Customer is Not An Algorithm

Most of my business as the Mad Scientist comes from SEO so you’d expect me to say that SEO is the most important part of your Google presence, right? WRONG. The most important thing you can do to make Google love you is to make sure your site provides an excellent customer experience.

The way Google is ranking sites now means that if you are using best practice across brand, design, content, SEO, and social media, you’re heading in the right direction. What best practice is, well, that’s a bit up for debate depending on who you ask, but luckily all these areas of digital marketing are converging, which is as it should be.

Optimising your business for Google

With over 600 algorithm updates in the past year, Google is in full throttle, working to remove the crap from search results. I can’t believe that people are still buying shitty links from third parties and participating in link schemes. We found one a few months ago in Australia – a huge one, linking multiple accommodation sites to each other. It had been keeping them high in search engines for years and had gone undetected by Google. One of our clients had spent over 6 months trying to get ahead of some of these guys and out of frustration we went digging to find out what was really going on. Google’s algorithm hadn’t picked up on it at that stage, but it recently did and our client is finally ranking where they deserve to be.

 

Regardless of all this technical wrestling, and the struggle to prioritise where you actually invest your marketing dollar, the most important factor in this whole equation is your customer. I hear a lot of rhetoric from marketing professionals about how focused they are on this critical customer person. So often though, the customer is forgotten or temporarily pushed aside because a marketer or a creative or an ambitious and sometimes arrogant entrepreneur just wants to have an awesome-looking LinkedIn profile or website and impress people at parties talking about their smoke-and-mirrors business. Don’t chase the wrong thing.

How does UX impact SEO?

UX is actually quite straightforward to conceptualise but very hard to do well. In other words, it’s simple, but not easy. My advice on how you do it? Here you go:

Be awesome.

That’s it. I’m done.

Well, not quite. The practical on-site user experience should engage your customer. First, it should fit your brand vision and values, and be easy to navigate. A great mix of visuals – video and images – should be juxtaposed with some incredibly compelling and engaging information. Lead with your story and the needs of your customer, and they’ll hang around and come back often.

What does “be awesome” mean?

It starts from ground zero.

  • Your business must have a clearly defined purpose and vision
  • You should understand your customer inside out (demographics, psychographics, online platforms and behaviours)
  • You must have a meaningful and visually appropriate and appealing brand look and feel
  • Tell your story and relate to your customers through content
  • Help your customers make good decisions in their lives and connect/engage with them
  • Be transparent about how you run your business (e.g. supply chain, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, internal culture experience)
  • You should have a complete digital marketing strategy that is updated and executed often
  • You should have an awesome website with a great user experience
    • Good mix of images, video, and text
    • Answer your customers questions quickly
    • Make it easy for customers to contact you and/or make a purchase
  • Champion thought leaders within your business to have their own voice (providing it aligns with the company, of course)
  • Engage with your audience where they live (appropriate social channels and community events and sponsorship)
  • Have a consistent bricks and mortar branding experience
  • Deliver an exemplary product or service with every detail thought of and revised often
  • Have an ongoing PR strategy and traditional marketing outreach.

Told you it was simple.

Let’s optimise ‘awesome’

SEO can plug a few holes for you to start with but if you’re are not willing to execute the “Be awesome” directive, or at least start the journey, then you’ll be pushing shit uphill. And we all knows what happens when you push shit up hill long enough and then get tired. 

An SEO strategy is much more fun for everyone if we have something to optimise.

How to Avoid Digital Marketing and SEO Rip-Offs

As a business owner, digital marketing (and SEO) is maybe something you are very confused about. However, you may have found yourself to be a victim of some fast talking sales person’s pitch or an email which promised you ‘guaranteed number 1 rankings’ on Google  in a very short period of time. Needless to say, more than likely it never happened. All that did happen was that your bank account was a little less full.

In an attempt to clean up the industry which is full of con artists and snake oil merchants, we have put together a small series of Google Hangouts with a list of what to watch out for BEFORE you sign ANY contract with an SEO company.

In this video, Andrew Radics and Ian Hopkinson discuss how to avoid being ripped off when you engage the services of a digital marketing company.

expert seo services

“SEO Companies Robbed Me Blind…”

Ian Hopkinson - SEO Companies Robbed Me Blind

I’ve heard this a lot recently and it’s a frustrating start to any real conversation about SEO’s place in the marketing mix. It’s easy to blame the SEO company and a new and unruly industry where constant change is a given.  Yes, there are players who will take advantage of the complicated nature of the service they deliver. But it’s also about being an informed purchaser of one of today’s essential marketing services, so…

What do you need to know to buy SEO that works?

You need to know:

  1. What SEO is – and what it ISN’T
  2. How to choose a good SEO agency.

You don’t need to know the detailed technical side of SEO, any more than you need to understand how a clutch works to drive a car.  You do need to know enough to check the tyres, put petrol in the tank and get the vehicle you trust your life to serviced regularly.  You do need to know the environment you’re operating in – the road rules and what traffic signals mean.

What is SEO?

Search Engines such as Google are like the index of a cookbook.  They help you get found online under a particular set of categories.  Search Engine Optimisation is setting up your online presence to be found by Search Engine users as effectively as possible.

Unlike a fixed book index, the “index” or ranking a Search Engine gives a web page or a site changes all the time.  It changes because:

  • To try to add value, providers like Google continuously improve their indexing and evaluation processes.
  • Search Engines don’t just index, they also attempt to evaluate sites and pages for interest, quality, reliability, trust and expertise.
  • Millions of businesses are going on line, more every day.  The ones that are already there are constantly adding and changing their content.

The process of optimising your site for Search Engines is a process of making it as attractive as possible to:

  1. Search Engines; and
  2. The people that Search Engines bring to your site

 

What SEO ISN’T!

SEO is not a one-time or annual purchase.  The days of buying an annual Yellow Pages Ad are pretty much over.  With more content online every day and Search Engine criteria changing every day, SEO is like housework – it’s never “done”.

SEO is not a global process – it requires clarity and focus on who you want to find you and what you want to be found for.

SEO is like gardening – it requires time and a good gardener to deliver results.  Focussed SEO and quality content input will grow a better return on your investment.

Choosing your SEO supplier

To get the most out of your SEO dollar, you need to do the legwork to find a quality service provider.  Key questions to ask include:

  •       Is SEO your core business?

(If they’re a graphic designer, a developer or a hardware supplier, they’d have to be very good to be doing their day job AND keeping up with Google.)

  •       How long have you been doing SEO?

(Lots of people TRY and do SEO – not many are good enough to keep delivering value that their customers can measure)

  •       How do you keep up with SEO developments?

The other set of questions to consider is the questions that your SEO supplier is asking you – (or not asking).   SEO is one element of a targeted marketing strategy, so they should be asking:

  •       What is the value you deliver to your customers?
  •       What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
  •       What is your marketing strategy?
  •       Who is your ideal customer?
  •       What social media channels are you using to communicate your value?

If they’re not making SEO just one component of a full digital marketing strategy, the value you get will be limited.  If they just want to apply their toolkit, you’re at risk.

It’s a jungle out there

The Internet hasn’t been around all that long, and there are lots of risks in this new market place.  There are good digital marketing agencies out there – there are also lots of ill-informed amateurs and the usual sprinkling of crooks.  Choose your SEO supplier the way you choose your dentist – carefully.

 

Ian Hopkinson is the original “mad scientist” – a digital creative who is passionate about the online market place and its potential to enable businesses to compete on a global stage. He is the Founder & Principal Consultant at Mad Scientist Digital.

Great Expectations: Have you been sold Digital Bullshit?

Ian Hopkinson - Great Expectations Have you been sold Digital Bullshit

A lot of so-called internet “experts” are spruiking digital bullshit that’s creating a whopping pile of impossible expectations.

Picture this: the business owner or marketing manager is sitting in front of a digital strategist/marketing guru and listening to a barrage of technical information that is based on very little expertise or experience. It’s one thing knowing the technical side of things, it’s another  thing to have the deep understanding of marketing strategy along with the years of experience necessary to make the technical stuff deliver real business results.

Here’s the deal though (in my humble opinion) – if you don’t know how to give the client proper context and paint the right picture as to what they can realistically expect – you will have a room of people drinking the Kool-aid, handing over suitcases of cash, and loving the buzz of the journey they think they are about to embark on.

Later though, they end up hating you for smashing their dreams by selling them a bunch of high falootin’ digital bullshit.

Dicken’s novel Great Expectations is a long story but  a classic read. Even though it’s been over 20 years since I read it – I do remember how haunting it was when the main character Pip – after coming from great poverty and being supported by a mysterious benefactor into the life of a city gentleman  – found out that this secret investor was a criminal he stole food for from his crazy neighbours house when he was 6 years old.

His life changed for the better and he certainly found a new way of looking at the world – but when he found out it was all backed by a man of questionable ethics Pip felt like he’d been living a lie.

I’ve arrived at meetings with many businesses who are feeling like Pip did. Their original great expectations have been betrayed, and the reality in the end was cold. They’ve invested substantial time, energy and money – and they don’t have the results they were promised.  For example:

  • They paid a lot for “SEO” but their rankings haven’t increased.
  • Their website is getting more visits – but those visits aren’t converting into sales.
  • They’re paying a fortune for Adwords or Facebook Ads without getting sales.

The right person with the right expertise and education at the right time is of a high value. Finding a digital consultant that can be real with you and not under the pump to sell you the world may be difficult to find – but they do exist.

Here’s a few tips on what to look for:

  1. A technical person who can still explain things in plain english – and in terms of marketing strategy rather than programming
  2. A consultant who is not attached to a single product solution or service deliverable.  They will not just want to sell you on that marketing channel and apply their solution (but make sure they have a background with hands on experience in technical delivery and service)
  3. The right personality to fit your business – ready to collaborate with you and recommend and vet service providers that fit your needs

Jim Rohn said “We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.”

The right consultant will enable  you to move forward with good explanations and a clearly defined path. They’ll deliver tangible results and make sure you understand what will and won’t be possible. Hitting the right strategic marks in marketing your business can return exciting rewards.

Shopping for the right service provider can be frustrating – particularly if you’re starting from a desperate position.  But if you fall into making knee jerk decisions based on unrealistic promises, you may ultimately end up wandering longer in the dark while falling further and further behind.

Ian Hopkinson is the original “mad scientist” – a digital creative who is passionate about the online market place and its potential to enable businesses to compete on a global stage. He is the Founder & Principal Consultant at Mad Scientist Digital.

Your name is not Chris! (An email from an exotic land)

Ian Hopkinson - Your name is not Chris (An email from an exotic land)

Just to set the scene a little. We have all got spam emails from random SEO companies in our time.

Have you?

In fact, with all of our clients starting an SEO campaign with us, part of our process is to warn them that getting these emails is a sign of greater visibility and that the work that we are doing is already working. Once you get to Page 3 or Page 2 for your keywords or sign up to local directory listings, many of these spammy companies (who are monitoring the search results with automated software) drop you into their database and start emailing you. Here’s one of those emails I got recently from Chris Morris (an Indian gentleman?). I have put my thoughts in bold and in [brackets].

N.B – Please also know that this post is not meant to offend anyone, what I am laying out here is exactly what happens everyday.

Hi

I am, Chris Morris, SEO Consultant.

[Your name is not Chris]

Advertising in the online world is one of the most inexpensive and highly effective methods of promoting a business.

[Advertising online can be much more expensive then many digital mediums, but I thought you were emailing me about SEO – that is not advertising]

I was surfing through your website and analyze that despite having a great design;

[Our website is being redesigned at the moment, it’s launching in a few weeks because I think the design is outdated]

It was not ranking on any of the search engines (Google Yahoo and Bing) for most of the keywords relating to your business.

[Our website is ranking very well, after all we’re an SEO company, in fact we just got a phone call from a prospect who searched for a keyword and found us on page 1]

I am affiliated with an SEO company based in India that has helped over 200 businesses rank on the 1st Page of Google for even the most competitive Industries.

[Are you are actually telling me that you are based in India? Is your name really Chris Morris?]

We assure you that our SEO prices will give you good amount of margin in your pocket. Also, Your Company and your customer information will be confidential.

[How can you tell me what it will be, you have clearly not looked at my site or done an audit, you also haven’t told me your real name so how can I trust you]

Let me know if you are interested and I will send you our company details or create a proposal so you can see exactly where you rank compared to your Competitors.

[Up until now you haven’t told me who you work for!! Just that your name might be Chris? Also how desperate are you for business if you are emailing random people you don’t know lying to them and hiding behind a pseudonym]

I look forward to your mail.

[I look forward to your response too, as I will be publishing my journey through this process with all of my Linked-in followers]

Warm Regards

Chris

[I would like to conclude that my new friend Chris Morris emailed me from a gmail address and does not have a website].

 

Chasing Inbox Zero

Ian Hopkinson - Chasing Inbox Zero

I’m not a naturally organised person. I enjoy order when it’s there in front of me, when I’ve finally achieved it. I appreciate the freedom of clarity and space, but my mind also craves creativity and the messy wilderness from which come some of my best ideas.

I founded a digital company. Yep, I signed up for this, so I’d better embrace some useful ways to manage the 0’s and 1’s.

The inbox, it seems, needs a special approach and this year I’d say I have achieved Inbox Zero status about four times. This month is one of them. Now Inbox Zero is not an end goal, it’s a state of mind. And with all the myriads of expert opinions floating around on this subject, the answer is pretty simple:

Focus.

What’s scheduled and what’s intrusive?

What’s important right now and what can wait?

The concept of Inbox Zero was introduced by writer and speaker Merlin Mann. According to Mann, the zero is not a reference to the number of messages in an inbox; it is “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” Mann’s point is that time and attention are finite and when an inbox is confused with a “to do” list, productivity wanes.

Mann identifies five possible actions to take for each message:

delete, delegate, respond, defer and do.

Here are some of Mann’s tips for effective email management:

  • Only have your email client open when necessary.
  • Process email periodically throughout the day, perhaps at the top of each hour.
  • First delete or archive as many new messages as possible.
  • Then forward on messages to the people who are in a better position to respond. (I will often loop the appropriate party in via a cc or reply-to just to properly nurture the right outcome)
  • Quickly respond to new messages that can be answered in two minutes or less
  • New messages that require more than two minutes to answer and messages that can be answered later should be moved to a separate “requires response” folder.
  • Set aside time each day to respond to email in the “requires response” folder or chip away at mail in this folder throughout the day.

To me, as a business owner, the solution is a larger one. These habits might keep things at bay but the key question to ask yourself is

what are your key areas of focus for this year, month, week, and today?

Does your incoming and outgoing inbox traffic align with your personal goals and the goals of the overall business? Because if not, you’re actually swimming in a sea of futile bullshit.

It’s taken me awhile to realise that my inbox is a reflection of my focus. And without focus we do struggle to grow as individuals but also as leaders of growing businesses.

Ian Hopkinson is the original “mad scientist” – a digital creative who is passionate about the online market place and its potential to enable businesses to compete on a global stage. He is the Founder & Head of Results at Mad Scientist Digital.

Expert SEO

Episodes in this playlist:

Will the real expert SEO guy please stand up?

It’s so hard to tell who knows what they are talking about with SEO because it’s such a highly specialized area of Digital Marketing. Digital Marketing companies establish relationships of trust with clients yes that’s fine, but do they deliver results? and how do you go about finding one in the first place?

There is an expert SEO company out therefore you, don’t give up.

The search for an expert SEO company can be daunting for most people especially if they have been burned by an SEO company before. In this video, Andrew Radics and Ian Hopkinson share some useful tips on what to look for in an SEO company.

Questions you should be asking your expert SEO company

Before you hire a so-called Expert SEO Company, you should be asking some fundamental questions. In this short episode, we will recommend some basic questions you should be asking to see if the company is worth their weight in gold!

Expert SEO

Andrew Radics and Ian Hopkinson share some raw statistics and insights into why taking shortcuts or quick fixes with your SEO strategy just doesn’t work and is not worthwhile. Think long term, think smart.

Cheap SEO

Cheap SEO is generally a bad option. You get what you pay for with SEO, in some cases you end up paying a fortune for an expert SEO company fixing the problems a cheap SEO company has created. We’ve all got them, you know those annoying emails – offering you the world for $99/month. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is, delete delete delete.

Episodes in this playlist:

Why are we ranking on the first page for cheap SEO?

We’ve been talking about cheap SEO companies a lot lately. The plain truth is they can cost you an arm and a leg with their our of date tactics and strategies. We’re clearly not one of these companies, but why are we ranking on the first few pages for this in Google? Here’s why…

How effective is cheap SEO?

The cost of SEO services vary from SEO company to SEO company. But, if you have ever sat down and worked out what it costs a cheap SEO company per hour to perform the services they claim are being done on your website, most people will start wonder if they are being performed at all. The figures just do not add up!

What have the great SEO Companies allowed the cheap SEO guys to reposition themselves in the marketplace?

This question comes from an SEO buddy of mine in Texas. “Why have the great SEO Companies allowed the cheap SEO guys to reposition them in the market place?” In this video we discuss the role bigger SEO companies have played in the rise of spammy cheap SEO companies.

Cheap SEO companies WILL cost you a fortune

A client recently received an email from a cheap SEO company offering 17 or so different SEO tasks for $150/month. Half of it you don’t need, the other half will cost you a fortune if you lose your standing with Google and close traffic and revenue as a result! Here’s why cheap SEO companies will cost you a fortune.

Don’t get burned by cheap SEO

Don’t Get Burned By Cheap SEO sounds like a rather dramatic title, but very often we hear stories related to us about websites being dropped from the searches because of cheap and nasty SEO practices. The question you could ask is what are some of these cheap SEO tactics and how can you safeguard your web site against them?

Why cheap SEO companies are bad

Cheap SEO companies employ dirty tactics in attempt to increase rankings. In doing so your site may end up with thousands of irrelevant links that can damage both your rankings and your brand, all of which are costly to repair. Here, we highlight some of their nasty practices and the potential associated damages and costs.

Cheap SEO is bad for you site

Don’t get confused and ripped off by inefficient, inadequate, and untrustworthy SEO companies.The mysteries of getting on page 1 of Google are easily explained but when ‘experts’ throw in acronyms like SEM, SEO, SMM, & ORM – you can literally see the smoke coming out of people’s ears!

Cheap SEO clogs up Joe the plumber

Here’s a real example of what we’ve been preaching lately – cheap SEO will cost you a fortune! As Joe the plumber found out…

12 deadly sins or signs of cheap SEO

SEO (search engine optimisation) is much more than just naming pages and creating generic keyword phrases. Out of the hundreds if not thousands of people offering SEO services, a very small percentage have the real skills necessary to SEO a website. In this video, we present 12 ‘deadly signs’ of a cheap SEO company and the reasons to avoid them.

Cheap SEO and the bad alternatives to PPC ads

Not all web traffic is good traffic, especially when it’s 3000 visits generated by bots. This is just another dirty tactic practised by those cheap and nasty SEO companies.

The hidden cost of cheap SEO

Why do businesses take the cheap route with their online strategy and are then dumbfounded when they get spammed, receive poor results or get blocked by Google? Today we’re discussing SEO horror stories.

Digital Marketing – How Do I Make My Business Different From Others?

One of the most important aspects of making a business is learning how to differentiate. To understand a process, the way results are produced, it is primarily most important to understand outcomes — the actual results you would prefer to produce. These outcomes exist within every component of your company’s process, from the very first interaction with a prospective client, all along the value chain, to the last outcome you are determined to produce.

Remember: how you do it is what differentiates your company from everyone else in your industry. You succeed, or you don’t. But, success is only measured by the impact it has on your customer, the emotional impact, the visual impact, the functional impact. An impact your customer has never experienced before.

Your job is to design your company so that it has that impact, that successful emotional experience, that unanticipated result. Differentiation, in layman’s terms, is key. To attain a measure of differentiation that really works, how you do what you do is just as important, and in many cases more so, than the actual deliverable it produces. I know that sounds bizarre on the face of it, but think on it.

Imagine your first meeting with a potential client, where your sales guy, or your proposal expert, is to sit down with your prospective client to scope out what they want.

Imagine that you bring a notepad, to take notes on. Or, perhaps, if you’re a truly sophisticated gentleman, your laptop. (Just play along with me here; I know that what I’m about to posit would never happen in your company, but it does happen to most people in your business.) Imagine the pad of paper is like one your child might buy for school, lined pages, spiral notebook, inexpensive, nothing to write home about. Or, imagine that your laptop doesn’t have wireless, or maybe it does, but you failed to ask your client whether their home is configured for wireless, and, unfortunately, it isn’t.

To sum up, at the very outset of your interaction with a prospect you lost the opportunity to position your company in a way that establishes your authority. Your distinction. Your presence. Your influence. Your difference.

Then the question is, how do you establish your authority? Automatically, without hesitation, so that your prospective client thinks, automatically, without question, “Oh wow! These guys have really got their *$%& together!”

Every single step you take in your business process must be thought of like this. That’s right, every single one.

That’s what it means when we say working ON your business, rather to simply working IN it.
The most competitive companies do this without exception. Everyone else doesn’t. Everyone else simply works IN their business, doing it, always thinking that it’s the price, Jerry, it’s the price. We’ve got to get the price lower to get more business, when in fact, despite what you may think, it is not the price, never has been. The price only becomes significant when differentiation doesn’t exist.

So, a function does trump form. Every time. The way your handle functions, how it processes itself, is what makes your company unique, just as Steve Jobs did at Apple. Take a look at Apple, the most valuable company on the face of the planet. How on earth did Jobs do that?

In exactly the way I’m describing to you here. To accomplish that noble objective you have to go to work ON your company, as opposed to working IN it. Just like Steve Jobs did at Apple. Step by step by purpose, deliberate, highly differentiated step. When we think methodically, we think in two ways: over time, and in time. By ‘over time’, I mean that step-by-step process of completing a goal. A process is, after all, a system happening over time, each step is a system in itself, which is what I mean when I say, ‘in time’.

A white pad of paper is a system ‘in time’. What you do with that white pad of paper happens ‘over time’. In that respect, a script you use when positioning your company is a system ‘over time’ — which is a process through which identifiable objectives are completed, benchmark by benchmark.

A benchmark is an objective, or outcome, with luck reached as you utilize the script. For example, Benchmark One in a sales script might be the agreement attained with your prospective client that by the time the script is done, the both of you will come to an agreement about the scope of the assignment ahead. As you advance in the process, other objectives or benchmarks, or outcomes, will be fulfilled.
What are those objectives, those benchmarks? What choices does your prospective client need to make, in order for the impact you wish to have on him or her to be seen, felt, experienced?

For more information, click this Positioning and Differentiating worksheet done by Michael Gerber.

Virtual Tour Of Araluen Luxury Accommodation

Google is offering virtual tours of Araluen Luxury Accommodation through its Google Maps service.

The web giant in association with Mad Scientist Digital has documented some of Australia’s most picturesque locations using its Street View cameras, providing 360-degree views of the surrounding areas. In the Yarra Valley, Victoria – Araluen Luxury Accommodation and De Bortoli Wines are at the fore-front of this new and exciting technology.

You can read more about the benefits of Google Business Photos

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For more information on all things digital, you know the drill