I know this is way overdue, but I actually have to work sometimes. So apologies.I already wrote a general overview of SphinnCon Israel. The next four posts will cover the sessions, and the information that I thought was most interesting and useful.
Barry Schwartz from Rusty Brick and Search Engine Roundtable kicked off the event with an introductory presentation. He explained that he was here for his nephew’s bar mitzvah, and the event was planned around that. So a big thanks to his nephew for being born 13 years ago. Also, as I mentioned in my previous post on SphinnCon Israel, he is hoping to hold a much bigger event, on the scale of SMX, in Tel Aviv.
Here is a summary of Barry’s introduction. Scroll down to see it in video:
Google’s secret for good SEO: good content
As I mentioned in my previous post, an Israeli Google representative in Dublin sent a little video to us to wish us luck at the conference. He gave us the official Google “secret” for getting good search engine results
- Good content
- Use Google Webmaster Tools to make sure your site is running properly.
The people on the panels seemed to think there’s a bit more one can do to rank better in the SERPs.
Paid Text Links
Matt Cutts went on record for the first time in September 2005 saying that he doesn’t like text links. In October 2006, he warned about a possible penalty for text links. The penalty came in Oct. 2007, when many bloggers and sites saw their PageRank drop.
Barry said that the Google toolbar shows a different page rank than Google actually uses in their algorithms. So it’s possible that you see a public PageRank of 4, but in fact your value according to Google may be higher or lower. So in fact, we could just ignore PageRank, and go along doing our best to build up our sites with good content.
PPC and Adwords
PPC is seeing steady inflation. The cost per keyword increased 25% over the past six months. Why?
- Click fraud, which is increasing. Click fraud in content networks is higher.
- More competition, which means more people don’t know what they’re doing and are bidding too high.
- General economic factors – things cost more.
- New PPC algorithms
Barry spoke a bit about things going viral, and said that the first ever viral success was the The Hamster Dance, a little video of dancing hamsters that was sent around via email. This brought to mind the most watched video on YouTube: The Evolution of Dance, which currently has been viewed over 74 million times. I think these two examples of what humans are attracted to is an interesting (worrying?) commentary on human nature.
That’s all for now. I hope I’ll get the next part up next week. Here are the videos:
And…The Evolution of Dance (I couldn’t resist)
SphinnCon Israel is sold out! SphinnCon Israel is a SphinnCon networking event focused on search and internet marketing, and is taking place this coming Tuesday, February 5 at the Jerusalem College of Technology (also known as Machon Lev). This event is exciting thanks to the incredible lineup, with representatives from well-known international companies like Google, TechCrunch, Kenshoo and Yedda (see my previous interview with Yedda’s Lior Haner, who will be speaking at the conference), and thanks to the location: Jerusalem! For once I don’t have to schlep to Tel Aviv for a great event, and I am thrilled.
There are also some really interesting reps from lesser-known but really professional Israeli companies: Tzvika Avnery will be there from Tagadam; Tzvika is a pro in the social media sphere and his company develops apps for social networks, among other things. Eli Feldblum from RankAbove will be there too; Eli is actually pretty well-known in the SEO world for his expertise, and his company services clients from all over the world. I’m mentioning these guys because I know them, but I hope I’ll get to meet the others on the panels too.
The main guy behind the whole thing is Barry Schwartz, the Executive Editor at Search Engine Roundtable, and President of RustyBrick, “a Web services firm specializing in customized online technology that helps companies decrease costs and increase sales.”
Here is the speaker list as from Barry’s latest post on the event at Search Engine Roundtable:
Here’s what’s not cool: not a woman in sight on the speaker list. Not one. It’s a celebration of testosterone. I’m not against testosterone, but it would be nice if it was toned down a bit by at least one representative from the other 51% of the human race. And it’s not like there aren’t impressive women in the industry: how about Tamar Weinberg, who works at Rusty Brick and writes the amazing Techipedia blog? Or Tzvika Avnery’s partner at Tagadam, Orly Izhaki, who has a really impressive background in web-related ventures, and writes at smo.co.il (Hebrew)? Don’t tell me they were unavailable as an excuse. I’m sure there’s at least one woman in the web industry who could have been available.
Anyways, I’m really looking forward to this event, and I’ll hopefully fill you all in on how it goes. If they have internet access, I may even Twitter and live-blog the event like a good lil’ social media geek should.
Burger King has hit viral video payday with their new Whopper Freakout viral video. In the video, customers at Burger King in Las Vegas are told that the Whopper has been discontinued. They are shocked and even outraged, or as the website puts it – they “freaked out.”Viral video success is basically about getting lots of people to talk about your thing, whatever it is. In this case, Burger King has succeeded since their videos on YouTube have been viewed thousands of times, and many people, myself now included, have written about their stunt.However, it’s one thing to get people to talk about your viral thing; it’s another to leave them with a good taste in their mouth (no pun intended!). I personally found this video hard to watch and offensive, but I’ve never been a fan of blooper-type videos where we all get to laugh at the expense of someone else. I personally think this video’s success is precisely because it allows the viewer to feel so smart that he or she knows the truth, while the person in the video is the butt of a good joke, and I’m not sure that this is the most effective way to achieve viral fame.But maybe it is. And anyways, there is one really good marketing lesson here that was pointed out by Easy Street Marketing: If you want to create buzz for your product, don’t let anyone have it.Robert Gorell at Future Now says that the Whopper Freakout was one the best TV + Web viral campaigns for the following reasons:
- The reactions.
- It’s “flame broiled,” not fried.
- The Whopper isn’t a new product or promotion.
- The King is a man of few words; he’s a prankster, but ultimately, he saves the day.
- A short TV commercial serves as a teaser, while the real payoff happens online.
- Their custom video player is grainy, making it feel voyeuristic and, somehow, more trustworthy.
- Even though they built their own site, they still put it on YouTube.
- It’s brilliantly filmed and choreographed.
- You can share it (email it, embed it).
- They didn’t have to do it.
- They did it.
- Unless you’re vegan, it kinda makes you crave a Whopper.
- “From what I understand, they were too popular.”
- It’s actually not a ridiculous stunt, unlike this.
In any case, it’s an interesting study in viral marketing, and the efforts by big corporations to spread the word via the web and with social media.
Read an interview with the video’s director Henry-Alex Rubin to get a look at the inside story, and how they set the whole thing up.
And of course, in the tradition of all things viral, here is yet another embedded instance of the video:
This past Thursday, our new media site, israelplug, reached digg’s home page. As we watched in disbelief, tens of thousands of readers flooded our site (and brought it crashing down in the classic “digg effect”). This was both exciting and frustrating. We learned a lot from this experience, and I would like to share some of these lessons with you.
First, here’s some background: we started to officially launch our new site on Thursday. As part of our launch strategy, we began to bookmark articles on the major social media sites, including digg, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, and Facebook. Within minutes, one of our articles was picked up by diggers and the number of diggs began to rise.
At first we thought the diggs must be coming from friends. But the diggs kept rising, until they began to rise at a furious rate. The article landed on digg’s home page.
Now, for those of you who are not familiar with digg, here is a short explanation of its importance: digg is a site where people “vote” for articles. These votes are called “diggs,” and the more “diggs” an article gets, the higher its popularity rating. Articles that land on digg’s home page are exposed to zillions of digg readers, and this usually results in an onslaught of traffic to the article. And this, my friends, is what web site owners dream of.
This trip to digg’s home page has been an interesting learning experience, so I would like to share my lessons with you:
- If you want to build traffic to your site, bookmark your articles. By bookmarking your articles on digg, del.icio.us, and other community sites, you will make people aware of your article. Once they are aware, others may start bookmarking it too. You never know which of your articles will take off, so you might as well do this.
- Have your site on a serious dedicated or virtual private server. My sites are all on shared hosting. That’s ok on a usual day, but it can’t handle the “digg effect.” As soon as our site started rising up the home page, the servers crashed and the site went down. That means that at the greatest moment, nobody can see your site. I called our hosting provider and begged them to get it back up – I told them to name their price, just to get it up. They said “Sorry ma’am, there’s nothing we can do. You should consider a dedicated server.” (Which is a service that they don’t even provide!) Of course, they could have borrowed some server juice from someone else for that short time that I was exceeding my CPU, but they wouldn’t budge. Very bad service. So if you want to get to digg’s home page, and reap the benefits, make sure your site is on a server that can handle it and has decent service.
- Have a killer title. It seems that articles that make it to digg’s home page are those that are dugg by digg devotees. These are people who invest a lot of time and effort in digging articles that they deem worthy, and monitoring certain other key diggers to see what they digg. I think that a large percentage of them don’t even actually read the articles they are digging. They just look at the title, see who else has dugg it, and digg it too.
- digg devotees like science/tech/geeky articles. Articles on technology, science, and other “geeky” subjects are loved by digg devotees. They also seem to like American politics.
- diggers don’t like blog spam. Blog spam is when you write a short post about someone else’s article or post with the goal of gaining visitors off of the success of the blog/article you are writing about. If diggers suspect that this is what you are doing, you will be shunned. They want original content.
- digg comments are a culture unto themselves. People can comment under every link that is dugg. This becomes a whole conversation unto itself, but what’s even more amazing is that the commenters can digg up other comments up or down! This is like a rating system for the comments, and if a comment gets dugg up, it means people liked it, and if it gets dugg down, it means people think it sucks.
- To make money from ads, you need to monetize your site smartly. My site is monetized with Google Adsense. Although thousands of people clicked, I made something like $2. I made almost as much from two clicks on my other blog, WordPressGarage.com. I don’t know why the click rates were so cheap, but that really sucks. Your visitors will click on ads – just try to make sure you’re making money from those clicks.
The site is still getting traffic from digg, and the number of feed subscribers that shot up during the digg effect is now coming down. Therefore, I have yet to see whether this traffic can be maintained in some way, or if all those readers will disappear as quickly as they came.
Anyone have any other words of wisdom for those who aspire to achieve digg stardom?
Netvision apparently thinks that they are the rulers of all things Internet in Israel. They may have a large market share of Internet accounts, but their bravado with regards to Internet standards really takes the cake.
Background: Like many services or technologies that are used worldwide, such as telephones and electricity, the Internet has Standards. These standards ensure that websites are accessible to all in all places because they all follow certain rules related to domain names and the like. The organization that develops and enforces these standards is ISOC, which is short for The Internet Society.
ISOC has many branches all over the world, including ISOC-IL, the Israeli branch. It is from ISOC-IL that you buy domain names with .il suffix. It is also through ISOC-IL that you change nameservers for your domain name when necessary. (Nameservers are the codes that tell your domain to point to your correct hosting provider, thus making sure that when people type in your domain name, they see the files sitting on your preferred hosting provider’s servers.)
Apparently Netvision thinks that ISOC-IL does a shoddy job of managing domain nameservers, and has taken the job upon themselves as well. A client of ours with a .il domain name had decided to move hosting providers. We bought the new hosting package for him, and visited the ISOC-IL website to change the nameservers. Unlike with a .com domain, where you just go online and enter the new codes, with a .il domain name you first fill out an online form, then you wait a few days until you realize that nothing has happened, and then you call ISOC-IL who tells you that you have to have the domain owner fill out a printed form and fax it in to them! Yes, fax. The main Israeli Internet body thinks faxes rule. Irony, thy name is Israel.
Anyways, we did all that, and finally the new site started to appear under the domain name. Except that after a day we realized it wasn’t appearing everywhere. My worker deduced that the only computers that weren’t displaying the new site were those connected to Netvision. Every other service provider was showing the site. She called ISOC-IL to see what the story was, and they said…it’s out of their control – call Netvision!
So she did. Netvision said the site would come through in a few days. A few days passed and nada. She called again. Oh right, they said, the domain name owner needs to fill out a printed form and fax it in to us. What?! she said. But we spoke to you a few days ago, and you said no such thing. And anyways, isn’t that what ISOC is for? Well, they said, we’re worried that people are messing with ISOC. What?! she said again.
While this may not be on the level of terror and political corruption, I still think that this disdain and usurption of authority is a form of corruption. By messing with web standards in Israel, they are messing with all of us and our free access to the web. Netvision needs to be put in their place. Nobody should have to beg them to change nameservers once ISOC has already approved the change.
Like many people, I use more than one computer for my work. Some people use their computer in their home plus an office computer, and some like myself, have a desktop and a laptop. My laptop allows me to be mobile and work wherever I like and take my material to meetings with clients, but laptops have their drawbacks. First of all, their processing strength is almost always weaker than that of a desktop. Users of heavy graphic programs may be limited by their laptops. In addition, you can’t beat a 17 inch screen for readability and usability, and a real keyboard for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome â€“ two things laptops generally lack.
To ensure that the information on my computers was synchronized, I was constantly transferring my files back and forth between them over our wireless network. This was a time-consuming and annoying process, so now I just leave the files on my laptop and access them via the network from my desktop. This worked fine but I remained with one very annoying problem â€“ Outlook. My Outlook is critical to my work flow, but transferring the information back and forth between two computers is painful. To make matters worse, I use Outlook with Business Contact Manager, an excellent free tool which uses its own separate database file, making it even more difficult to synchronize Outlook data between computers. Aaargh.
LogMeIn to the rescue! LogMeIn has a free version that is simple to use, and allows you to access any computer via the web. All you need is any web browser and an Internet connection, and you can use your remote computer as if you were sitting in front of it.
To sign up:
- Go to LogMeIn and click on Create an account at the top of the screen.
- Create your account. Make sure to select LogMeIn Free as your service of choice. Of course, you can choose to use one of their paid services which include additional features if you find them useful. To see a comparison of the different LogMeIn products, click here.
- Once that is completed, you will be directed to download the LogMeIn software on to your computer. You only need to do this for PCs that you will want to access remotely. For example, if you have a desktop and laptop and you know you will want to access your desktop remotely via your laptop, only download the software to your desktop. If you have more than one computer that you want to access remotely, you can download the software to them too and choose which ones to access in each session.
To access your remote computer:
- Go to LogMeIn and log in to your account.
- Click on the computer that you want to access, and enter your computer access code that you defined during setup. A browser with three options appears.
- Click on Go in the Remote Control section.
Your remote desktop now appears in the browser window. You can work there as if you were sitting in front of that computer.
Good, Bad or Ugly
LogMeIn is good. It does what it’s supposed to do, and does it well. In general, I find that there is very little delay when I am accessing a remote PC, meaning that if I click on a file, it opens almost as quickly as if I was sitting in front of the computer. It is easy to install and easy to use.
No bad. The service works well, and doesn’t make any excuses due to its being free.
Ugly? Nope. The interface is simple and clean, and you can easily toggle your view of your remote PC from full screen to actual size.
In yesterday’s post, I argued that a business should have a website right from the start so that they look professional for the first potential client that they meet. There are more reasons that a business should have a site from the beginning, and all of them have to do with vision â€“ a big vision of where you want your business to go is an essential part of achieving your goals. Therefore, your first steps should take into account where you want to be in a year, or two or three from now. Unless you have venture capital funding or a PhD (Papa has Dough), your business can grow, but this growth will be slow. (This is not necessarily bad, but we will discuss business growth rate in another article.) In these cases, you need to start acting now to achieve your goals later on down the line.
Here are three reasons that your business needs a website now:
- It takes time for the search engines to find you: Your site will not appear on the search engines the day after you launch it. The search engines have to find you first, and crawl your site. You can submit your site to the search engines to speed this process up, but even so it may still take them some time to pay attention to your site.
- A good website makes you look like the business you wish you were: You may work out of your storage room, but the world doesn’t need to know that. A professional website with useful content can influence the way potential clients perceive you, and whether they choose to do business with you. You don’t have to look like a storage-room business just because you are â€“ dress your business up for success with an impressive corporate site.
- It takes time to spread the word about your site: Using your website on all marketing materials from the beginning is an effective way to increase the legitimacy of your business and spread the word. Marketing material does not only refer to expensive printed brochures and flyers; it also refers to any type of communication that leaves your office. This can include emails, invoices and bills, letters, blog and forum posts, and more. And of course this includes your handy, low-cost, most effective piece of marketing material you’ll ever own: your business card.
To build up your business, you need to have a long-term vision and always keep your sites on it. Yes, you may be a one man/woman show working out of your storage room today, but where do you want to be in a year? If you want to promote yourself from storage room to tiny rented office, take action now to work towards that goal, and let the world think that you already have that tiny rented office!
A friend is currently enrolled in the MATI Small Business Course, a comprehensive course designed to provide budding entrepreneurs with the basics needed to start their own business.
According to many of the lecturers at the current MATI course, it is not recommended for new businesses to invest in a website. These lecturers explained to the participants that first you need to have customers who will go to your website, so first get the customers and then get the site. They said the same applies to printing brochures.
I strongly disagree with this approach as far as websites go. I do agree with them on the brochure issue, since designing and printing a brochure is very expensive and inflexible â€“ once the brochure is printed, you can’t change anything in it without reprinting the whole batch. For a business in its infancy, flexibility in marketing and keeping costs low is very important, since many businesses change direction within their first months or years.
But the question regarding the website is really a chicken-or-egg type of question. According to MATI, you should first concentrate on getting the clients. But could it be that the clients will only come if you have a website?
I believe that for a business to succeed, the business owner must approach their organization from the very first day on a high professional level. A business looks much more professional if their business card advertises a website, and all email communication is conducted through a dedicated domain name, such as email@example.com. And a website does not demand a huge investment; a simple and professional site can be built for a low price, and for only a few dollars a month for hosting, a constant presence on the web is guaranteed.
A huge advantage of a website for any business is the ability to display testimonials and a portfolio. When you meet people and tell them what you do, they will want to know more about you â€“ how experienced you are, who your other clients are, what they thought of you, some work samples, etc. By handing them your business card, that is only the first step in your relationship. By visiting the website displayed on your card, potential clients can gain a better understanding of the quality of your service or product.
Yes, you may be able to gain clients without a domain name and site. But you will probably increase your chances if you look like a professional, established business from day one. You want every potential client to see how professional you are, even if they are the very first person that you meet in your new role as business owner.
A customer has walked into your store or has arrived at your web site. This person is interested in your product and plans to buy, whether from you or your competitor. Your price is reasonable and the quality of the product is good. But the person ends up leaving your store/site and buying the product elsewhere. Aaargh!
So where did you go wrong? It’s not always possible to say, but an important part of making a sale is erasing all your customer’s fears and insecurities about buying your product from you. How do you do that? Use the shoe-burning method!
Burn the Shoes
One summer I needed sandals, and I headed to Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem. Jaffa St. is lined with shoe stores whose claim to fame are their low prices. Every store owner wants to make the sale, and will search high and low in their stocks to find you the perfect style and fit, and if you are a good negotiator, you can even get a lower price.
I was not having luck finding that perfect pair of sandals. Either the styles weren’t suitable, or the shoes didn’t fit. Finally I entered one store, and found sandals that I really liked, and that fit too! But the price seemed too steep, and I hesitated.
“What’s wrong?” asked the shopkeeper.
“The price seems a bit high,” I answered.
“But the price is really reasonable for these leather sandals,” he replied.
“Leather?” I asked with a look that screamed “Yeah right!”
“Of course. You don’t believe me?” he asked.
I didn’t answer. I didn’t want to be rude.
At this point he pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit it.
“Look,” he said, “I’m going to burn the sandal. If it is leather, nothing will happen. If it is synthetic, it will melt.” And he burned the sandal. It didn’t melt. I made the purchase.
This technique may seem drastic, but it’s one that’s also used by a slightly bigger furniture business called Ikea. Ikea displays certain pieces of furniture in a special display case where it is repeatedly punched or its doors are open and shut all day long. This is to demonstrate to potential, interested clients that with Ikea, they need not fear â€“ their furniture will stand up to all manners of use and abuse for an extended period of time. Ikea customers are therefore fearless.
Brick and Mortar
How do you dispel the fears of customers in your store?
- Offer friendly, attentive service
- Discuss prices and quality
- Listen to the customer and guide them to a product that will make them happy. Don’t try to sell them something they don’t want.
- Do you see a hint of hesitation? Guarantee that if they are still hesitant in a week/month, they will receive all their money back
- Provide testimonials – talk about how happy others were with this product
Websites are even trickier because shoppers have little face-to-face contact with a real human being. If you have a site, try to provide answers to every conceivable question that a customer may have about your product. Here are some examples of things you might wish to clarify:
- Your price is reasonable â€“ show comparisons
- Your product is high quality â€“ provide testimonials from happy shoppers
- You provide good service and are reliable â€“ offer a money-back guarantee if the customer is not happy
- If you are selling software, provide a trial version. If you are selling a book, offer sample chapters.
- Provide complete contact information so everything is transparent and you look legitimate. No one wants to buy from some fly-by-night seller.
- FAQs – As teachers always say, if you have a question then chances are others do as well. So keep track of questions that customers ask about your product and service, and provide an easy to find FAQ list that addresses all of these issues.
Part of the Web 2.0 movement is the increasing ease of creating a web presence. Thanks to Blogs, Wikis, and other similar platforms, pretty much anyone can post content on the web.
Weebly is a free service that allows users to create a pretty decent looking site quickly and easily. The site can either be hosted with Weebly under a weebly subdomain (i.e. example.weebly.com), or you can download your completed site as a zip, giving you greater flexibility in terms of appearance and hosting.
Once you have registered with Weebly and chosen your subdomain, you can get to work. First, choose a theme for your site. This will determine the overall look and feel of your site. Weebly provides a range of attractive designs for your use. Some of the themes are customizable to a certain extent, and you may be able to upload your own header image to use in place of the image in the Weebly theme.
You can create as many pages for your site as you like, and Weebly provides ready-made components for you to add to your site. You can add titles, paragraphs, two columns of text, pictures, photos, videos, feeds and more.
See my example Weebly site to see a Weebly site in action.
Weebly Example Site
To sum up – Good, Bad, or Ugly?
Weebly is Good. It is a great tool for quickly and easily creating an online presence. Weebly provides a large amount of flexibility, and the downloadable zip file means that with some basic web design skills, you can customize even further and host your site on your own domain name.
But there is also some Bad. Weebly doesn’t seem to do so well with Hebrew. While their blog claims that Weebly supports international characters including Hebrew, my quick attempt at adding Hebrew resulted in a lot of gibberish characters appearing on the site. Maybe someone else will have better luck on that front.