There is only one interesting way to make money, in any field: develop and exploit a durable competitive advantage.1 Berkshire Hathaway wins because they are the buyer of first resort for good businesses that want to sell, and they can get cheap capital through superior underwriting; Facebook wins because to achieve parity with them, you have to recreate a 500 million-node social graph; the corner bodega turns a profit because that particular corner has a bodega and a half’s worth of foot traffic. In every one of these cases, it’s theoretically possible to compete with the incumbent, but there’s a better ROI in just letting them dominate the industry.
One thing these companies have in common is that their competitive advantage applies to the product or the process—either they can make the same thing for less money, or they can make something nobody else can make. What they don’t rely on is superior advertising. With good reason:
In the long term, the best advertising—the best creative, the best placement—will be sold to the high bidder. And the high bidder is whoever’s competitive advantage lets them earn more from a given customer. Read the rest of this entry »08.12.10
Demand Media is the biggest pure-play SEO company in existence. And SEO is one of the fastest-growing marketing channels. So if you want to know what the marketing industry as a whole will look like, the best way to do it would be to take a look at Demand Media’s financial data. That information was available to investors and executives at the firm, but not to everyone else—until now.11.30.09
“Well, I don’t know as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell how to do what I want to do.”
—J. P. Morgan (attributed)
SEO, copywriting, and web design are all service businesses. Nobody has ever hired me to tell them what they ought to want to do; I get hired to do what they’ve decided they want to do. And clients are experts at whatever it is they’ve been doing; if I do SEO for a clothing retailer, it’s a safe bet that he knows more about clothes than I do.
At the same time, I probably spend more time reading SEOMoz, running Rank Checker, or swiping from Info Marketing Blog than they do. Since clients write the checks, they call the shots—here are a few ways I’ve found to make sure that this works out well for both sides.10.7.09
One more day before the regular blog-posting schedule resumes. Meanwhile, I’ve written another SMX sum-up: Integrating SEO with PR, traditional marketing, IT, and more.
You may also want to check out some pieces by my fellow Blue Fountain Media SEO specialists, including Zack Sinkler’s SMX analytics session summary and Alhan Keser‘s “How to be successful on Youtube.”10.2.09
I’m tired of people who pitch social media marketing as a way to make sales. Either they aren’t measuring the results they get for clients, or they don’t care. Every good case study is either about how someone used a famous friend’s endorsement to make new sales, or how they made a tiny number of low-profit transactions they probably would have made anyway.
I hate pitching social media marketing—but I still do it, because it does serve a purpose. But the most important part of the pitch is the warning: if you follow the convention wisdom, your social media presence is almost certainly costing you sales.10.1.09
90% of your site’s success is determined by two things:
The first thing a visitor reads—the headline.
The last thing a visitor reads—the call to action.
Which might be why search engines treat these pieces of text as significant: it’s not that they tel you what a site is about, but that they’re the part of a page writers can least afford to write badly. That’s not a disadvantage. Your call to action can bring in more users and conversions, if you follow the rules.09.28.09
Four years ago—four years ago?—I got an email from a total stranger. He’d read my blog, and wanted to know if I was interested in an internship at a hedge fund company in New York. I didn’t get the internship, but I did decide to move to New York.
I got my first serious job from someone who liked my blog. And the internship that turned into my current position also got started when I submitted a writing sample, which I took straight from the blog.
So I know a thing or two about getting hired based on having a blog. I also know why writing a blog made me waste time, alienate customers, and feel the whole time like I was accomplishing something.09.24.09
I’ve already mentioned how Amazon and Wikipedia own most proper nouns, but there’s one category I ignored: full names. That’s currently a fight between LinkedIn and Facebook. Facebook has more links and more profiles, but LinkedIn has more tricks up their sleeve.
But first, an experiment: Google the full names of half a dozen of your coworkers. You may find personal sites. You may discover that some of them have the same names as famous foreign athletes. But you’ll mostly see their LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. How can it be that Facebook’s 464 million links can’t consistently beat LinkedIn’s 30 million links?09.11.09
There are two Typo Instincts.
On the one hand: Who cares about a single typo? If someone can’t spell (or run spellcheck), does that really mean they can’t do their job?
On the other hand: Who wants to work with someone who can’t even bother double-checking their first impressions?
I don’t know for sure if typos ruin online sales pitches, but I have a theory, and I’m going to test it.09.10.09
Paul Graham has some not-especially-kind things to say about the list of n things. Read his essay, and the next time you encounter a top-n list, you’ll have a bad taste in your mouth.
But it’s been a few days since that article came out, and if you read it then, you’ve noticed by now—for a “degenerate case of essay,” they’re pretty popular among readers and writers.
They’re popular because they work. And here’s how to make them work best. Read the rest of this entry »