Do what you do best

19 05 2011

As the Account Director of Formic Media my responsibilities include team management, partnership development, business development/sales, a sprinkle of account work and many other things. Throughout my day I speak with a lot of companies, some interested in our services, others interested in potential partnerships.

I was on the phone with a potential client, discussing their goals/objectives and how Formic might be able to help fill their void. The question came up about creating new, fresh content for the search engines and what our process was. I mentioned to the prospect that we don’t do copywriting in-house, which seemed to surprise them. I went on to explain that we have several partners we turn to for copywriting services, but don’t actually have anyone focusing solely on copywriting. I told them it comes down to our core services. We prefer to do what we’re good at, which is search engine and social media marketing, with a dab of web design/development in there as well. Copywriting is a big piece of SEO, and who knows, maybe someday we’ll bring in a copywriter. For now, however, we’re going to stick to what we’re good at, and leave the “words” to those who know how to write in an effective manner for SEO. Our team is excellent at working with copywriters and helping them write for the web, but none of us would fancy ourselves a copywriter.

I think this is where Formic differs from a lot of other agencies, especially the bigger ones. Many of these big agencies (I won’t name names), most of them more traditional in nature, have seen how effective digital agencies have become, and the need that we’re filling for clients. Clients are asking for services like SEO, PPC and social media marketing, and these bigger agencies, not wanting to lose the work/client, have started to provide these services. I think this is a mistake to a certain extent. I can understand if you plan to hire a search marketing manager/director to build a team, but what I don’t understand is an agency asking their employees to just “jump in because we now offer these services.” With traditional marketing seeing a steep decline, and online/digital marketing going in the opposite direction, some of these agencies think they don’t have a choice, but I think they do. Partnerships.

I know a lot of traditional agencies are already partnering with digital agencies, and that’s great. I’m speaking more to the traditional ad agencies that decide to test their hand at search and social. Everyone thinks they can do social. I mean, how hard is it? You post a few updates on Facebook and tweet to a few key folks and call it good, right? Um, no. I won’t go into it, but there’s so much that goes into a search and/or social campaign; it isn’t something you can pick up overnight and suddenly see great success. These agencies dabbling in search/social need to take a long look at what they’re good at. For example, if you have years of experience getting placements in magazines, stick to that, but be knowledgeable about how to track your efforts online. If anything, this is where the traditional agencies are falling short, they aren’t able to measure how effective their ad buy was by monitoring website visits. Encourage the client to build a landing page for your specific ad buy, create a vanity URL and ensure you can track the performance. This is how traditional agencies should be thinking, not trying to create a whole new side of the business that they have no experience in. There is room for both traditional and digital agencies, especially since we’re able to track nearly everything that happens online. Traditional agencies need to reach out and partner with digital agencies, or they at least need to ensure they are educated on how to track offline campaigns effectively.

The point I’m trying to make is do what you’re good at. Don’t cross over into an area where you aren’t the expert, there are too many things that could go wrong. Take your core services and be the absolute best, that’s how you’ll succeed. If there are other strategies you want to get into, reach out to folks to form partnerships, but don’t rush into something where you could produce more harm than good. I’ll also make the point that this isn’t just for marketing agencies, but for any business/industry. If you’re Nike, you’re great at making sports shoes/apparel, but that doesn’t mean you should start making suits. Sometimes I think companies are trying way too hard to reach too many people, and many times forget what they do best and spread themselves too thin. This hurts the brand more than anything, which would obviously lead to losses in revenue and the decline of the entire company. Be comfortable doing what you do best, and do it.


Focus on Increasing Customer Loyalty to Increase Small Business Revenue (Formic on iMedia Connection)

22 04 2011

Generating brand, product and service advocates is paramount for small businesses seeking to grow company revenue and meet long-term growth goals.  Working with small businesses on a daily basis has given me a deep appreciation for the impact that loyal customers and brand advocates can have on a business.  It is important for small businesses to use their resources and time to keep their loyal customers loyal.

A study conducted by Fred Reicheld of Bain & Company, Inc. stated that “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit”.  For many companies, this correlation between customer retention and profit could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue gained.  And, not only do loyal customers mean continual revenue, but they can become a powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing and promotion for a company or brand.

Read the full post on iMedia Connection.

Formic Media Seminar Series: Search Marketing for the Holidays

10 09 2010

The holidays are quickly approaching, and for many small business owners this time of year accounts for a significant slice in yearly revenue. In Q2, eMarketer showed ecommerce sales growing over 13% from Q2 ’09. Reports are saying that the 2010 holiday shopping season could be strong as well. Don’t be left in the cold (and rain) this holiday season; make sure you’re prepared and have obtained the knowledge necessary to ensure your online sales and marketing success. As part of the Formic Media Seminar Series, the team will present several strategies and tactics to ensure website visibility within the search engines, including website optimization, shopping feed optimization, PPC strategies, website usability tactics and more. Utilizing these strategies can help increase site traffic and revenue, which will lead to a happy holiday season.

Join us for this must attend event. Visit our website for more details, and sign up now as space is limited.

When: October 13th, 2010

Cost: FREE

Where: 300 NE Failing St., Portland, OR, 97212

Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance: What it Means for Small Business

28 07 2010

While the approaching merger between Yahoo! and Microsoft, officially known as the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance may not be news to many in the industry, there are several things small businesses should be aware of.  Fundamentally, the merger will not change how end users receive and employ organic and paid results, as Yahoo! and Bing will keep their unique, branded interfaces as separate entities.  Consumers will still perform search queries and utilize the results on the search engine of their choice, Yahoo! or Bing, and receive a differentiated consumer experience on each.  The main point of difference will be in the way organic and paid results are served.  Bing’s algorithmic technology will power both Yahoo! and Bing’s organic results, while Microsoft’s adCenter will generate the paid listings for both engines.

Overview: Elements of the Alliance

Yahoo! and Microsoft have been looking towards this transition as the key to solidifying a competitive future in search, predominantly paid search (against Google).  The algorithmic technology of Bing combined with the larger market reach of Yahoo! will provide consumers with sustainable search innovation and relevant, reliable results, while businesses can count on a more competitive advertising alternative (to Google AdWords).  This transition will primarily affect Yahoo! and Bing’s individual PPC programs by bringing them under one umbrella using Microsoft adCenter.

  • Essentially, SEO strategy will not change.  However, small businesses should expect to see variations in traffic and organic position as Bing’s algorithm is rolled out across Yahoo!.
  • What will change is how the  individual Yahoo! and Microsoft PPC advertising interfaces will become a unified advertising marketplace.  Ultimately, this consolidation will simplify the current PPC interfaces into one advertising program, powered by Microsoft adCenter.
  • Small businesses will be able to effectively distribute ads to Yahoo! and Bing through one platform.
  • To better compete with Google AdWords, Microsoft adCenter will be adding usability features and functionality similar to the AdWords platform and Editor product, to make the experience more intuitive for the majority of advertisers who are already familiar with the AdWords interface.

What’s Next

The timeline for the Search Alliance rollout is early fall, prior to the 2010 holiday advertising season.  Should there be any delay in the transition, Yahoo! and Microsoft will push the merger to the first quarter of 2011, to ensure holiday advertising is not affected.  To prepare for this initiative, small businesses should be aware of and ready for the transition to happen.

  • Existing Yahoo! accounts will need to be transitioned to Microsoft adCenter prior to the merger.
  • Start planning the transition now and get an expert involved (whether that be an agency or Yahoo!/Microsoft rep) to ensure accounts are properly transitioned, optimized and conversion tracking properly set-up.
  • As is the case with any PPC initiative, Formic will be carefully monitoring performance during this merge and helping clients make a smooth transition to adCenter.

With the Search Alliance transition slated to take place in a couple of months, Formic advises small businesses to gear up for new innovations to take place on the search front later this year.  Stay tuned as the Formic team provides updates and recommendations throughout the process.

We will touch on the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance in our upcoming Formic Media Seminar Series: PPC Fundamentals (register today as space is limited).

Forms: Making them Better

9 12 2009

More often than not, the form is overlooked and rushed; with the thought “as long as it’s in there, it’ll work.”  But why?  Why would you drag your customers through the mud to buy a product or contact you when instead you could send them through Disneyland for a magnificent experience!  As stated, the form can be many things, such as a buying or customer service experience.  So why not make that experience as good as it can be, so that they’ll look back on it and you positively!

Here are some simple steps to help you conquer forms:

  • Style your form!
    • CSS works on form elements, such as form, input, label, button, etc… you can fully customize these. Don’t overdo it, just aim for clean.  Clean = Professional, Professional = Trust.
  • Try not to use tables.
    • They’re detrimental to usability as screen readers cannot identify elements in them.  They really shouldn’t be used for layout purposes in this day and age, use them for tabular data as they were originally designed for.
  • If it’s huge, break it up.
    • Generally if you have more than 10 fields or are dropping below the fold, it is good practice to break this information up onto multiple pages or into steps.  This helps to avoid overwhelming a client, and can make for a less painful form experience.
    • Amazon’s buying process is a great example of this.
  • Validation is great.  Too much is annoying.
    • Definitely cover server side validation to avoid sql injection.  Don’t overdo field validation as it can impede people through your form process.
  • Use label tags.
    • Labels provide usability hinting for the browser, thus helping ease users through your form process.
  • Reassure your customers.
    • When you are collecting sensitive data, make it clear that you are using it explicitly for business purposes.  The internet can be a frightening place and it means a lot to customers.

Need a form with all these options fast?

Nothing beats a homemade customized form. But if you aren’t versed in web languages or are simply in a hurry Wufoo and jotform offer well made forms with a drag and drop interface, as well as hosting on their own servers(so you don’t have to get down and dirty with the backend).

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–> <!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportLists]–>· <!–[endif]–>Need a clean form fast and free?

Thoughts about Small Business and Web2.0

28 10 2009

 With the addition of Webmaster John to our team, that got us thinking about web development and small business.  “I got one, but now what do I do with it?“

 Some thought provoking statistics from Nielson Net Ratings and Foresee Result groups:

  • When shopping for a product or service, 73% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses from which to buy.
  • Search engines are the first source to which consumers turn to find local businesses (31%), ahead of even print yellow pages (30%).
  • Over 77% of people said they were more likely to make a purchase from an unfamiliar business with a quality Web site than a poor Web site from a known business
  • Nearly 40% of multi-channel shoppers prefer to use the web for browsing and researching their purchases. Of this group, 71% complete their purchase in the store.
  • On every key measure driving satisfaction, retailers’ websites are better at producing satisfied customers than traditional stores are.

Thought 1:  Poorly designed websites perform badly in search engines.  If 73% of potential customers are using search engines to find you, can your website be found?  Was SEO/SEM a consideration when the website was first conceived?

 Thought 2:  Is your site easily navigable.  Are your visitors vexed by unorganized pages and unfindable information?

  • Is the layout organized well?
  • Do pages load quickly?
  • Is the color scheme appealing, and does it suit your target market?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Are customers’ potential questions answered for them on the site?
  • Is your ordering process simple enough?
  • Can customers find your site with a simple keyword search?

Thought 3:  Who’s watching the “store”?   You’ve spent the time and money on your website.  Don’t leave it alone.  You need to understand your return on investment and understand if it was worth it.  Statistics help you understand your customers experience on your site.  Do your visitors look at a couple of pages, then get to “x” page and leave?  What does that mean to you?  Are they finding out that you aren’t offering what they need, or maybe there just isn’t enough information to push them further.  Watch for trends, and make changes as needed.  Keep track and keep your eye on the stats.

 A properly laid out web design plan that incorporates design and SEM is key to answering the thoughts above.

Localize your Google

16 09 2009

Last week we talked about Yahoo Neighbors, and how you can leverage it for local search.  Yahoo Neighbors can help local businesses in cities across the US to gain traction in local search results and potentially evolve into a default best practice for all small and local businesses.

 Today, let’s discuss the Google Local Business Center.

 If you’re a local business owner, it’s clear that Google helps customers find you. Not just by using Google search to find out about you, but Google Maps as well, so they can get to you in multiple different ways.  Now, imagine if there were a way for you to get a better understanding of how those customers are finding you.  What Keywords did they use to search for you?  Where are they coming from, did they drive across town just to try your huge selection of pasta dishes?  If you recently started offline advertising in a particular newspaper or coupon service, what happens to the traffic?  Was it successful, or perhaps didn’t quite meet your expectations?  If you had access to that kind of information, would it help you make better decisions in regards to how you apply your marketing dollars and how you would drive your traffic so you can attract more customers?

 ice cream



The Google LBC tool was launched back in June 2009,( The LBC is a free tool that enables business owners to control the content in their business listings as they appear in Google Search and Google Maps.

Once you sign up, Google populates a dashboard for claimed listings with data from the last 30 days.  New information is added every day, so make sure to check frequently. 

How is this different from my Google Analytics account (or other web tracking tool)?  Well, before now, you could track usage metrics on your website using a tool like Google Analytics, but data about how customers found you through your local listing never got back to you.  All you have to do is claim your listing in the LBC and go through a quick verification process to get access to the following kinds of data:

  • Impressions: The number of times the business listing appeared as a result on a search or Google Maps search in a given period.
  • Actions: The number of times people interacted with the listing; for example, the number of times they clicked through to the business’ website or requested driving directions to the business.
  • Top search queries: Which queries led customers to the business listing; for example, are they finding the listing for a cafe by searching for “tea” or “coffee”?
  • Zip codes where driving directions come from: Which zip codes customers are coming from when they request directions to your location.

The Google LBC dashboard:

 lbc dashboard

It’s just one more tool that can help you target local search data and make informed decisions on what is working for you, and what isn’t. 

And that’s good information to have.

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