The Busy Marketer’s Guide to Google’s Broad Core Algorithm Update of 8/1

Are you sitting down?

Good. Because Google just announced they made an algorithm update on August 1, 2018. They rarely confirm any kind of update let alone one having to do with their algorithm.

Still, the August announcement was made via the Twitter account from Google Search Liaison (@searchliaison).

Here is the tweet:

Google SearchLiaison on Twitter
Google SearchLiaison @searchliaison

When did the algorithm update happen?

Here’s what makes this Broad Core (BC) algorithm update special, 8/1 is the third iteration of a broad core update that’s been announced this year. Which means Google is actively communicating to webmasters about algorithm improvements.

Here’s a quick overview of the timeline from SEO industry heavyweights:

Per the Tweet above, these types of updates are done “routinely several times per year.”

More threads on Twitter expanded upon Google’s explanation around the latest 8/1 release:

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This part of the Tweet is interesting to note, “There is nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefitting pages that were previously under-rewarded…”

Marketers & SEO’s shouldn’t jump to make changes to pages that may have slipped in rankings. It might be prudent to check pages that were ranking in striking distance position to page 1 (positions 11-20) to see if those pages are now ranking higher.

The speculation continued last week all the while the BC algorithm continues to roll out into the second week of August.

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What is the Broad Core Update?

So there’s “no fix” only, get better. In my opinion, the takeaway around the BC algorithm is that it is related to the types of quality updates seen with Panda (maybe even to an extent Phantom) where pages with thin content did not rank well.

It seems like a re-evaluation of pages that have good content but have been underperforming. Meeting user intent (or relevancy) is a factor. Maybe searchers have been returning to the SERPS and clicking on what they feel to be better, more relevant results, further down the page?

All in all, Google wants to provide the best results to the searcher and better understanding the human intent behind the query or keyword search helps them refine their listings.

It would seem this BC update relates to Google’s core algorithm.

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The takeaway: “This is a broader general change to the core algorithm.”

What does Google want at its core? Quality. It wants to provide the best individual user experience possible to the person asking a question or typing in a noun into their search box.

Marie Haynes, a recognized industry authority figure on algorithms, shared a few insights from here client’s data and clues about potentially affected industries:

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What industries were affected? 

Furthermore, Haynes’ data indicated the 8/1 update strongly affected sites dealing with diet products, nutrition and medical products otherwise known as YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) sites.

  • “It is important to note that most sites that I monitor did not see any significant changes. However, the majority of those that did see changes were very strongly affected” Haynes said.
  • In her opinion, the update is primarily about trust. Many sites that were hit were sites that lacked author E-A-T, lacked reputation information, or were selling products that could be deemed untrustworthy.

I happen to agree with her completely, especially on the point of sites needing to invest in content that reflects Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.

Large service based businesses have been known to publish lots of pages that probably have little value (or content) on them simply because at one point, everyone thought more content translated into better rankings. But it doesn’t. It marginally increases the potential to have more pages ranking because you have a higher volume of pages in Google’s index. It doesn’t mean the content is of high quality.

Assuming this BC update is based on course correcting where Google is looking for more quality signals, it does not mean webmasters need more pages; it means they need to improve upon the pages that already exist.

Another trusted resource of the SEO community is Glenn Gabe. He has compiled two extensive blog posts detailing his data and the insights he is seeing thus far from this update. Here are a few of his highlights; clues to quality and relevance factors:

Gabe’s Clues:

  • March was a global update impacting domains across categories and countries.
  • The impact was site-wide rather than at the page level.
  • “In January of 2016, we found out that Panda became part of Google’s core ranking algorithm… Panda seemed to focus more on relevance rather than hammering sites that were low-quality.”
  • The March and April updates were big. Relevance AND quality stood out.
  • Make fixes and don’t roll them back. “Google’s John Mueller has explained several times that Google wants to see significant improvement over the long-term.”

Simply put, Relevance and Quality are the keys to these broad updates happening throughout this year. It’s very possible these two factors will continue to be at the forefront of future BC updates.

What should we do?

First things first 😉

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Now that we know there’s no quick fix (hint: there never really is). Marketers & SEO’s alike should “focus on building great content.” Here’s my caveat: remain focused on building great content by improving upon what you have and provide a great website experience for users and bots that’s technically sound. If we do that, we’ll weather the upcoming iterations of Google’s broad core algorithm updates.

Reversals in organic traffic can happen (meaning your traffic dips for a time then comes back up) but webmasters should not simply wait around and do nothing. This is an opportunity to improve the elements on our web domain that are within our control. Here are the top recommendations and action steps I compiled from Gabe and Haynes:

  1. Improve your website: add useful & helpful content, address any technical SEO issues, improve the user experience, cut down on pop-up ads and boxes “join-our-newsletter requests” that obstruct the visitor from seeing your content.
  2. Don’t revert changes – Keep the fixes in place for at least several months.
  3. Analyze queries and content that lost rankings – Check the queries the page was ranking for, evaluate the on-page content with an objective eye to see if the page is relevant to the search intent.
  4. Perform real user testing – Invest in asking a handful of people to navigate your site with a goal in mind. Have them narrate the experience, record it, and make changes based on the findings. A fresh pair of eyes can help you see where to make improvements.
  5. Read the QRT – Quality Rater Guidelines and have working review sections with your team. You can download the PDF of the general guidelines updated in July.
  6. Use the GSC Index Coverage Report – This is a newer section of Search Console that helps webmasters understand which pages Google is indexing and which pages it’s not. Gabe recommends keeping a close eye on the “Excluded,” reporting. That’s where you can often find serious problems. It contains pages that Google has crawled, but decided NOT to index for some reason.
    1. GSC Location: Status>>Index Coverage>>Excluded

Continue to monitor rankings for organic search traffic (especially on mobile!) from mid July through mid August since the update is still presumed to be rolling out this week.

Could your content and website use help identifying technical SEO improvements and specific quality and content areas to address during this update?

Contact me for an SEO Site Audit by emailing me at itsmillertime0baby (at) gmail.com. Subject line: SEO Site Audit – BC Update.

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Free Digital Marketing Advice: Why You Should Care About Search Engines

The short answer is, because search engines are the gateway to paying customers.

Aside from the glaring fact that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine and there are over two billion people online (that’s roughly 40% of the world’s population). The reality is, a majority of your customer base is hanging out online.

More to the point, I’ll answer that question with another question. Have you ever gotten lost in the woods?

Now, if you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. But if you have, you know the only thing in the world you want (aside from a cheeseburger) is to be found.

Picture yourself alone in the woods. Completely alone and lost. When it happens, you start doing everything in your power to make sure someone finds you.

You put on any bright clothing you have.

You waive your arms and shout at anything that even remotely resembles a human being.

You start trying to build a fire to make smoke signals.

You pull out something reflective from your bag to flash at airplanes.

You start building large man-made structures (AKA ducks) to attract attention.

You locate the highest point possible or try to find open space so you can be spotted.

The point is, you fight to be found.

You fight because your very life depends on it.

But it’s only when you’re in that kind of extreme situation that you fight. You’re trying to get someone—anyone’s—attention.

Attention is currency. Especially online.

Now, instead of you alone in the woods picture that it’s your business or your blog that’s trying to be found online. Your one job as a listing on the first page is to grab someone’s attention, hook them on your story, and sell to them.

The search engine results page (SERP) is your wilderness.

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search for “what is content marketing.”  What would you click on?

The simple fact is that search engines process questions posed by real people (who have real money too!). Google processes over 3.5 billion searches every day.

It’s time to realize what it takes to be found online. And the fight is already at your doorstep. Between Google’s Mobile First index initiative and smart, connected devices everywhere, getting found is only the beginning of surviving in the digital age.

The Secret to Great Content Marketing: Q&A with Scott Stratten

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That’s never been more true for content marketers than it is today. Thankfully, there are unconventional marketers living and speaking (read: ranting) among us to guide the way and keep us honest about what really matters in business and to people. Scott Stratten is one of them.  Scott is the author of “UnMarketing: Everything Has Changed and Nothing is Different.” He is also a dynamic speaker.

I first heard of Scott and his work when I was interviewing a number of speakers from Content Marketing World earlier this year.  I was curious to get his perspective on how he consistently creates quality content. While I wasn’t able to meet Scott in person, he very kindly responded to my interview questions via email.

His answers delighted and informed me. I hope you enjoy his wit and wisdom too:

(HM) What information does your audience most want to read about? And how do you deliver on that?

(SS) We’re pretty unique in that we focus mainly on bad business instead of good. The UnPodcast is “The Business Show For The Fed-Up”. We’ve become the magnet for when a brand does wrong, our army of followers send it to us. You never want to be the name in the message “Did you guys see this?”

We deliver it through our weekly UnPodcast, blog (rarely), 5 books and 60 keynote talks at conferences per year.

(HM) How do you know what to write about? 

(SS) If we find it interesting, then so does our audience. We’ve always put out content we enjoyed, and then the audience qualifies itself.

(HM) How do you say current with industry trends in content marketing?

(SS) Always be consuming. To be a good content marketer, you have to be an insatiable content consumer. I never stop reading/watching/listening. That’s my only job. Strong newsletter subscriptions, Google news alerts and even smarter friends/colleagues/fans that curate great content, both directly to us and in their own feeds.

(HM) What combination of platforms are you using to curate and create content?

(SS) Weekly UnPodcast, blog, 5 books and 60 keynote talks at conferences per year. Post weekly on UnMarketing Facebook page (on average, no set frequency), tweet when we feel like it and wonder weekly why we use LinkedIn.

(HM) What are some of the problems that aren’t being addressed by larger companies in the area of content marketing?

(SS) Content is contextual based on the platform it’s published on. We uploaded a video of one of my rants. It got 250k views, which is great but should have been better. Knowing the context of Facebook video (versus YouTube) that you have to catch a potential viewer in a scroll on their news feeds, we re-uploaded the same clip, with a letterboxed view, complete with an attention grabbing headline that stayed on the video. It received over 14,000,000 views. No changes except the words on it.

(HM) What’s a common question you get asked a lot from your clients relating to content?

(SS) No idea, we have no clients 🙂

(HM) In your opinion, what is the most important element of storytelling?

(SS) There’s a reason most great stories are from humans instead of brands: companies can’t get themselves away from the mirror and realize it’s about the person consuming the story, not the one telling it.

(HM) What is your biggest content related challenge?

(SS) The debate between frequency and quality. We send a newsletter out every 6 months, but we should do it a lot more.

(HM) What does your research process look like when you’re writing about a topic you don’t know anything about?

(SS) Google 🙂

(HM) How do you see content evolving over the next 3-5 years?

(SS) Not much. Most people are predicting we’ll consume everything in VR/AR have a vested interested in it.

Bio

Scott Stratten is the President of UnMarketing. He is an expert in Viral, Social, and Authentic Marketing which he calls UnMarketing. Formerly a music industry marketer, national sales training manager and a Professor at the Sheridan College School of Business, he ran his “UnAgency” for a nearly a decade before solely focusing on speaking at events for companies like PepsiCo, Adobe, Red Cross, Hard Rock Cafe, Cirque du Soleil, Saks Fifth Avenue, Deloitte and Fidelity Investments when they need help guiding their way through the viral/social media and relationship marketing landscape. He now has over 175,000 people follow his daily rantings on Twitter and was named one of the top 5 social media influencers in the world on Forbes.com.

He has written four best-selling business books, the newest being “UnSelling: The New Customer Experience” which was just named “Sales Book of the Year” by 1-800 CEOREAD.

His passion comes out most when speaking on stage, preaching engagement and becoming one of the most sought-out speakers on the subject. Along with Alison Kramer, their UnPodcast has been signed by the CBS network as their premier business podcast to launch their new digital network.

His clients’ viral marketing videos have been viewed over 60 million times and he’s recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, USA Today, Entrepreneur Magazine, CNN.com, Inc.com and Fast Company and was named one of “America’s 10 Marketing Gurus” by Business Review USA. That plus $5 gets him a coffee anywhere in the world.


Follow UnMarketing on Facebook  or on Twitter at @unmarketing.

The Best Marketing Advice From The Most Unlikely Source: Heist Movies

Admittedly, I’m a movie buff and one of my favorite genera’s are heist movies. I’m also a big fan of well-executed marketing campaigns. Based on my real-world experience as a modern marketer, I have a few parallels to draw between heist films and creating marketing strategies that work.

The heist film…focuses on the planning, execution, and aftermath of a theft. Versions with dominant or prominent comic elements are often called caper movies. They could be described as the analogues of caper stories in film history.  Wikipedia.org – “what is a heist movie”

Why am I telling you this? It’s not that I want you to become a thief of your customer’s money. But if you want to build a great brand, you will want to consider that you have to (figuratively) steal their hearts and minds.

Think about your favorite heist movie and why you like it. For me, it’s stories like Ocean’s Eleven, Inception, The Italian Job, The Inside Man and The Usual Suspects. Using this list of great heist films as my inspiration, here are the five things marketers can learn from the best heist movies.

1. Plan all the way through to the end

Plan everything. Even if your team or co-workers only see the high level points of your strategy, open up a bottle of red wine one quiet evening and plaaaaaaan. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Plan for failure too. What are some of the things that could go wrong with the campaign? Doing so can minimize setbacks along the way.

Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception (2010)
Eames: You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling. [Pulls out a grenade launcher]
Thinking through how you actually deliver a service to your customers is key. From their search needing a product or service to you fulfilling that need. I like to think about it in the sense of a treasure map. Marketer’s should make it stupid easy for people to find the treasure (i.e. your product). Savvy? Ok, sorry for the Pirates of the Caribbean reference but, planning really involves thinking through the content that’s relevant to the search your users are doing and creating content servicing that need.

2. Everyone has their own unique strengths

Combine them. That’s right, you heard me, combine them. As a marketer, it’s in your best interest to nurture a team leveraging the unique qualities of each person.  This is how you build productive teams. There’s no real process for operating a great team, the secret is letting each individual do what they do well. That’s how you win together.

Ocean's 11 (2001)
Turk Malloy: [intentionally arguing to each other extend the time needed for their balloons to block the security camera’s view] Watch it, bud. Virgil Malloy: Who you calling bud, pal? Turk Malloy: Who you calling pal, friend? Virgil Malloy: Who you calling friend, jackass? Turk Malloy: Don’t call me a jackass. Virgil Malloy: I just did call you a jackass.
3. Look out for one another

Teams are like family; they stick together and have each other’s backs. The lesson here for marketers is that brands that really care and demonstrate they understand their customers will win and retain their customer base much better than the typical “kthanksby” for your purchase experience.

Inside Man (2006)
Keith Frazier: Oh, please, do not say proposals… my girlfriend… she wants a proposal from me. Dalton Russell: You think you’re too young to get married? Keith Frazier: No, I’m not too young… too broke. Maybe I should rob a bank. Dalton Russell: Do you love each other? Keith Frazier: Yeah, yeah, we do. Dalton Russell: Then money shouldn’t really matter. Keith Frazier: Thank you, bank robber!

4. Ringleaders adapt to stay in control of the progression of events

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan (see the above section on planning for failure). And that’s OK. But the reason why we like Dominick Cobb or Danny Ocean is because they seem in control.

As marketers, we know it’s not possible to remain completely in control of the outcome with such a fragmented landscape. We have to contend with things like show-rooming where people try things in store then buy online, or worse yet they snag a discounted Groupon-type engagement with your product or service. Again, that’s why planning comes in handy. Stay in touch with the customer-facing teams, like sales and customer support, so that you can use all of the data input you have to build a story line of what’s happening. Where are your customers buying and how can you (the authentic brand) be there instead to earn the sale?

Inception (2010)

5. The masterminds always gets what they want

Don’t you just want to be that person too!? I mean, how is it that they always get what they want? Because it’s by design.

For modern marketers, this means finding your true customers and continuing to bring value to them. You can also pay it forward; doing the unexpected is…well unexpected. It can even be delightful.

But it’s all by design.

Inception (2010) directed by Christopher Nolen

The Usual Suspects (1995) - Kevin Spacey. Directed by Bryan Singer

Are Enterprise SEO’s a Dying Breed?

Imagine you’re a physician. You’re traveling home on a flight back from a week-long conference where you had to renew your certification. You met many new and old connections and came away knowing your industry is alive and well.  The plane loudly hums along through the air while you review your session notes. Then you begin to hear some commotion from the other passengers a few rows behind you.

One voice. “Can we get her some water?”

Another voice. “She’s having trouble breathing…”

The flight attendant call button sounds in the cabin “ding!” You remain seated. Ears pricked up but waiting.

Your eyes are just returning to your notes when the pilot comes over the loud speaker, “Sorry for the disturbance folks. If there is a doctor on board, please make yourself known to a flight attendant.”

Out of commitment to your field, you are obligated to get involved. Out of personal passion, you have chosen this field. Either way, you are required to help and try to restore that human being back to health. And because of this, people listen to you.

I often feel like I’m a doctor making as many helpful recommendations as I can when it comes to corporate SEO initiatives. But there are so many different parties involved; it can be hard to meet everyone’s needs equally – time involved, level of effort, impact on improving organic traffic, all while staying on top of industry fluctuations. For such improvements to make an impact site-wide, it takes a village.

My parents are both in the medical field. When I was young, I was actually dissuaded from becoming a doctor. But I still have this inherent desire to help and to fix things.

When I hear digital challenges like “why did organic traffic drop on this date,” or “why are these pages not converting” I like the investigation. I thrive on it.  I look at the symptoms the website or a page is exhibiting and I try to gauge that against what I know of Google’s standard for user experience and content that’s relevant to the intent behind the search query.

But I have to be careful not to go too deep down the rabbit hole on what factors might be the cause of the issue. Today, the algorithms are working in real time and we can never be fully confident in the knowledge that a single factor is the cause.

Which is why, we as SEO’s make recommendations to the best of our knowledge, we test and we watch. If the patient (website) improves, we know we addressed the right aspect of the problem. This is why SEO is a long term game. There are no shortcuts to quality. It’s an investment in the right things making sure you empower other teams to help you along the way.

“There is a new breed of SEO manager who is politically savvy and gifted at collaborating with and mobilizing non-SEO teams. If SEO-integration isn’t on your roadmap, you’d better hope it’s not on your competitors’ maps either–otherwise they’ll have gold, and you won’t.”  The Executive SEO Playbook, by Jessica Bowman

Why do doctors never give up? Because they care. And it might also have something to do with taking a Hippocratic Oath 😉

How can enterprise-level SEO’s be as effective? My prescription is the following:

  1. Have more productive SEO-based conversations with stakeholders.
  2. Make SEO easy to implement and actionable for each team.
  3. Foster connections with other trusted, in-house SEO’s and seek their advice regularly.
  4. Read Jessica’s book!

 

Email Marketing: A Little Known Way To Remain Relevant In Their Inbox

I thought this was a great and rather unique example of an email that aims to re-calibrate the level of engagement. Essentially proactively saying, we noticed you may need less communication: “We haven’t heard from you in a while, how can we adjust the frequency of our communication so you don’t unsubscribe completely.”

Ok, I’ll bite and open your email. I admit, I’ve been away from my personal inbox a bit more lately actively engaging in the physical world (#girlswhotrain). And also trying to be diligent about saving a bit of cash not buying every new Reebok shoe that comes on the market.

This email has a great approach because it taps into why I connect with the Spartan brand, reminding me of the mindset of never giving up. And the fact that they noticed I haven’t been clicking through to the website (clearly a diligent marketer leveraging their data & ESP). We, the brand, respect your training time and mental capacity so let’s actively provide you with a way to adjust the frequency of emails accordingly. I love how they use the illustration of buckets as a CTA to continue to engage with the brand at my own pace.

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How can you show your non-engaged consumers that you notice them? What can you do to ask them how they want to be communicated to or how often they want to hear from you?

4 Lessons In Online Marketing I Learned From Mom

In recent weeks, Google has officially begun phasing out the existence of its right-rail ads. As you can imagine, removing ads from one position means they’ll show up in another. Presently, this means up to four PPC ads can appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) thereby pushing the organic listings completely below the fold. The example below illustrates this point and shows how product listing ads (PLAs) occupy the right rail for transaction based queries.

Google removes right rail ads

While it’s not the case with this particular search above, the increase in page one real estate is very real!  In some cases, the number of organic listings on page one has decreased from ten listings to seven. That’s if users even scroll below the fold. As an SEO savvy to the consumer journey, I can’t stress how important it is to provide a seamless user experience that captures the transaction after the user moves from the SERP onto your site. Let me illustrate using my favorite, observable test subject; my mom.

It’s funny, marketers sometimes go to a lot of trouble organizing focus groups and selecting just the right individuals to represent their “target market.” But if you really want to know when and where customers are abandoning your site, watch your parents navigate the domain.

During a recent holiday with my parents, I watched my mom book tours and excursions online. The website (which will remain anonymous for this post) that my mom was attempting to book our tickets on using her tablet, provided such a poor user experience. She was unable to properly confirm the reservation had even been made (seriously, you don’t at least provide copy that says “Thank you for your reservation…”) that she proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes on the phone trying to reach a real person in the customer service department to confirm the reservation.

The frustration and confusion caused by this website’s booking design is completely unnecessary and very fixable. Here are the four highly frictional elements which nearly caused my mom not to compete the transaction:

  1. Required a login & password.
  2. Not providing the option to at least check out as a guest.
  3. Multiple information-requesting steps asking for the airline name, arrival and departure dates, even date of birth (seriously!?) prior to purchase.
  4. The website design was not formatted for a tablet device.

Don’t try be original, just be better.

As a consultant, I am constantly observing how elements on a page can help or hinder whether or not the consumer takes action. Simply doing the opposite of the four obstacles listed above will improve your user experience.  One-time visits to book tickets online or make a reservation should not require  a username/ password; it is literally too much for the customer to think about creating yet another username and password for your site that they’ll actually remember.  Which is why providing the option to check out as a “guest” is much more seamless and hassle free to the customer.

If the information requested during the time of checkout is not relevant to the actual tour, it should not be required. Ultimately, the number of steps towards completing a purchase should be as few as possible. If your business requires certain forms of information, indicate to the consumer what information is required versus what is optional. This at least ensures you get the necessary customer information all the while continuing to move them on their way towards their booking goal.

Lastly, website design should be formatted to the device (mobile, desktop or tablet). Otherwise, customers can quickly became frustrated at not being able to see how to successfully complete their transaction and may abandon the process without completing the sale.  Customer, gone.

With the increased competition for page one real estate in the Google SERP, it is imperative for e-commerce and service-oriented websites to provide an efficient online experience that quickly and securely ensures the transaction is complete and assures the customer of their purchase.

Anything less means your competitors will pick up the sale where your website left off.

The Alchemy of Silicon Valley

I had the good fortune of being introduced to Vito Brandle, Director of Finance at BrightRoll, and recently sat down with him to chat about the allure of startups and the collective growth-mindset of Silicon Valley tapping into the fundamental human desire for growth. Vito’s thoughts on the startup scene—how structure can be the foundation of spontaneity—was of particular interest to me.

There was no sugarcoating from Vito on the topic of mergers and navigating change in the corporate setting. But, I found his honesty to be compelling and his unique perspective as both participant and observer equally intriguing.

Design the life you want

In this town, one could argue there are more opportunities for new companies to acquire VC funding or get acquired than there are Tesla’s gliding around on the highway. There’s no shortage of opportunity in Silicon Valley and companies large and small get acquired all the time. While it can be difficult to remain positive in the face of a corporate merger, one of the choices Vito made early on was to consciously disengage from the personal aspect of the job.

“You have to be OK with putting a part of your work-self to bed” he said. “In a bigger company you have to remove that defense mechanism and let go of the fact that ‘it’s mine’.” This allows you to function without succumbing to the highs and lows of working through change.

I’m of the belief that the best parts of life are that way by our own design. They’re architected in such a way where we enjoy what we have yet we still strive to see how far things can go. “Every choice we look at should be a set of options,” Vito said “creating options allows us to optimize.” Once the track is set, then we just need to start the engine and accelerate down that path.”

What’s the best way to begin? Take action and course correct along the way? Or plan it all out in advance and then begin? There are merits to both but only one produces real results.

Structure allows for spontaneity

Just as there are certain types of people that operate better within a structured environment there are those that perform better when given more freedom. The same is true for the framework of corporations and startups where structured environments can be engineered to deliver growth and alternatively, autonomy fosters new developments. The great irony is that while it might not seem to be the case, companies both large and small rely on some form of structure to grow.

While structure provides a starting point, the inescapable fact of life is that there is ambiguity in almost everything we do. Even when developing structure itself. This is why taking action is so important. Actions produce results (or data), which can be mined for insights. It’s in the doing that there is refinement.

The upside to companies driven by large corporations, Vito noted, is that they can teach you about process and equip you with a more formalized method of operating. Vito had virtually made a mini career out of being at corporate giant, Yahoo!, over the course of four years. Albeit having a variety of jobs and the opportunity to “wear different hats” during that time helped to stave off boredom and career stagnation.

His advice, “Tell your manager up front what you want.” Be clear on your interests, inject variety into your work, and have challenges to work towards.

That’s not to say startups have all of the benefits and none of the drawbacks. But it’s the idea, Vito alluded to, of a collective acknowledgement that everyone in Silicon Valley is creating and playing and inventing in the same sandbox. Collectively, we’re making things better as a result of taking action.

Silicon Valley is one big sandbox

“My reason for coming out here was the tech space [because it offered] flexibility and optionality and the ability to pivot quickly. People have a desire to grow and change. There’s this cohesive mindset here—almost [like we’re in] a sandbox of sorts; there’s not that many obstacles here and you can build what you want.”

Indeed, it’s this consistency of mindset among the individuals in Silicon Valley, at large companies and startups alike, that makes this particular “sandbox” a unique playground. Startups may be the bedrock of Silicon Valley but the mindset of the individuals and their willingness to take action and architect a better way of doing something is what makes Silicon Valley attractive beyond measure. “Even if you’re not the one with the shovel, you’re getting your hands dirty,” Vito remarked.

So, get moving! I’ll leave you with a shortened list of Vito’s recent reads and a link to some great pod casts:

  1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by James C. Collins
  2. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt
  3. Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica
  4. http://venturebeat.com/2015/04/03/10-tech-podcasts-you-should-listen-to-now/

The Inversion Point is Coming – Is Your Mobile Site Ready To Handle Business?

As Joe DeMike, Principal Marketing Consultant at Google explained at IMPACT14 this September, there is an inversion point that’s coming with regard to mobile devices.  Simply put, there will come a point in the very near future where traffic from mobile devices to your company website will overtake that of traffic from desktop (and we’re talking organic traffic). Companies need to be ready and they need to be able to provide a seamless, frictionless experience on the customer path to purchase.

Case in point, I used two types of car services to get me to and from the airport while traveling to the Impact14 conference in Las Vegas this year. I booked an Uber from my office to the airport and I took a cab from LAX back to my office.

Here’s the key difference in my choice of words which, I’ll explain, simultaneously illustrates the difference between companies that are optimizing for mobile experiences versus those that are not: I booked the Uber—implying preference in my transportation arrangements whereas I had to “take” a cab from the airport because Uber drivers are no longer allowed to pick up from the airport…Lame.

Read on and see which seamless and frictionless experience you would prefer:

The Uber

  • Exiting my office building, I open the Uber app and use the pinpoint location to alert a nearby driver I would like to be picked up.
  • Moments later, I get a text message saying my driver is en route and the expected wait time is less than 5 minutes.
  • The driver pleasantly greeted me. He offered me bottled water and gum upon getting settled inside his clean, well-kept vehicle.
  • The driver used the company-provided smartphone to input my desired location.
  • We chatted back and forth during the entire ride to the airport.
  • Since my payment details are on file with Uber, there was no swiping of my credit card or fishing through my purse for cash—even tip is factored into the Uber rides.
  • In short, I arrived at my destination and left the car feeling happy and knowing that I would use Uber’s services again.

The Cab

  • Exited baggage claim at LAX and climbed into the cab giving the driver the exact office address for my destination. He did nothing with the information except nod, start the meter and shift the car into drive.
  • We spend the next minute debating the state of traffic conditions on the freeway versus side streets. When it becomes apparent to me that the cab driver does not know which route is faster, I pull out my smart phone. A quick look on sigalert.com ends the discussion; we will take the freeway (where is his smartphone?).
  • No conversation.
  • I advise the cab driver to exit the freeway and proceed to Pico to make a quick left and then right using back roads to the office (seriously, where is his smart phone?). He is flustered saying “but you said it was on Olympic?…” I say, “this method takes the back roads, it’s OK.”
  • The cab pulls up outside the office. This being the part where we exchange money for his service, I tell the cab driver I will be paying with a credit card and would like a receipt. His reaction is one of visible displeasure that I don’t have cash to give him.
  • I swipe my card into the machine and tip him 20% (since I’m such an inconvenience). The machine doesn’t work and I have to repeat the process again (seriously?!). Finally, receipt in hand, I silently vow not to take a cab again unless I absolutely have to.

These two experiences are night and day and, to a large degree, illuminate the disparity between companies that have optimized their websites to handle mobile engagement and transactions versus those that have yet to. A snippet from DeMike’s presentation, “mobile users will notice and be delighted by the small things you do for them to enhance their experience.” Some of the unique user needs (Read: mobile optimization principles) included:

  • Optimize your entire site for mobile
  • Don’t make users pinch-to-zoom
  • Make product images expandable
  • Tell users which screen orientation works best (if applicable)
  • Keep your user in a single browser window
  • Be clear why you need a user’s location

As it stands, there is a big disparity between the companies that are ahead of the game and those still thinking of getting on board the mobile bandwagon. The time for thinking has past. It’s time for action. I agree, the inversion point will happen and when it does, upon finishing an experience with a brand on a mobile device, marketers will want their customers feeling happy and knowing they’ll use the brand’s services again.

For your viewing pleasure, here are a few snapshots of what this years presenters had to say on mobile.  The IMPACT14 conference is an annual event hosted by the Internet Marketing Association.

Joe DeMike's technical check list
mobile commerce
build best in class experience
Cross device compatability
build app that enhances site

Please visit the event photo gallery for more photos of the event.

News Flash: 15 Year-olds Are Not Tweeting

For anyone reading this from a branding perspective and wondering, “where should I be?” or “what social networking site is best for my brand?” Think about your target market first. Think about why they would be on a particular social networking site (consider the values, activities and benefits offered) and then find a creative, constructive and intuitive way for consumers to interact with your brand. But don’t think you have to “tweet” just because everyone else is doing it. Because news flash: your target market may not even be participating in that space.

While having dinner a few nights ago with family friends, I took the golden opportunity to chat up their 15 year old son on his preference for social networking sites.  Sure, he has a MySpace and Facebook page.

“Do you tweet?” I asked him.  He stopped a moment, “do I what?”  Now I was puzzled and tried to explain the recent phenomenon (known as Twitter). “Do you, you know, ‘tweet’? It’s a micro blog on this site called Twitter…” I could see he had no clue as to what I was talking about.  His preference was, in fact, Facebook.

Moving up into the next target market, personal friends of mine roughly ages 24-29 who have otherwise abandoned their MySpace sites in favor of communicating on Facebook.  Is it for the cleaner interface?  Or the ability to network amongst a foundation of college-based individuals?  Whatever the reason, it seems the grass is looking greener on the other side.

As for me, I maintain a presence amongst these popular social sites, but have recently tailored my postings.  For example, I wiped out all profile information on my MySpace page in favor of creating a profile full of photos highlighting the places I’ve traveled and exciting things I’ve done.   I communicate with many of my real friends through Facebook where my profile page reflects a slightly more intimate “me” yet still simplified with pictures, info and posts on my wall. As for LinkedIn, I’m all about it.  I recently added my blog to my page and included a handful of great books I’ve read.

For anyone reading this from a branding perspective and wondering, “where should I be?” or “what social networking site is best for my brand?”  Think about your target market first.  Think about why they would be on a particular social networking site (consider the values, activities and benefits offered) and then find a creative, constructive and intuitive way for consumers to interact with your brand.  But don’t think you have to “tweet” just because everyone else is doing it.  Because news flash: your target market may not even be participating on that social platform!