Archive | Marketing

Drama Credit Card Processing

Look how happy the lady in this stock image is to buy something online!

I've been through my fair share of Credit Card Merchant providers. It's a mess of an industry. If you are new to e-commerce you may be scratching your head in frustration.

I'll first describe some of the common issues I've dealt with then I'll give you the solution.

Sorry, You Need Signatures

Yep, had a provider a few years ago start to hold back 20% of my money in a reserve account because I don't get customer signatures. Have you ever heard of the internet?

Sorry, We Don't Support Your Industry

Yep, I'm in the firearm industry and way too many hipster startups in silicone valley and most of the other moron credit card companies hate guns and anything associated with them. My industry isn't the only one on the no-charge list either.

Sorry, You Need To Connect The Processing Gateway to A Merchant Provider and Then Maintain PCI Compliance With This Other Provider

You would think the government runs this industry with the amount of confusing stuff you have to deal with. It's sometimes like trying to juggle 3 plates at the same time. Forget dropping them I can't even remember which plate does what.

Sorry, You Have To Respond To This Chargeback Via Fax

Sometimes customers don't recognize your company on their card statement or they hate you or you legitimately have been taken advantage of by a con artist who has used a stolen card to buy something on your site. When this happens the Card company sends you the Chargeback paperwork via snail mail and expects you to respond within 2 days explaining why you charged the person's credit card and include proof like signatures (remember it's the internet) and shipping tracking info etc. My last 2 providers gave me 2 days to respond and required I do so via fax. Follow up info about these chargebacks was also send via snail mail. I had spreadsheet just to keep track of this nightmare.

Sorry, You Have To Be Approved By The Underwriting Department

At the point of initial application merchant providers love to pretend they are considering giving you to secret clearance. The application process reminds me of getting a home loan. Recently our company changed company names and I was informed this required submitting a new application for which I was NOT approved.

Sorry, We Don't Work With / Connect With That Software

There are endless shopping cart applications and our company has 4 different systems that capture customer credit card information for purchases. There are only a few credit card gateways that work with ALL of those systems. This question of compatibility is sometimes more complex as a software system may show it works with your provider only to find out some features are not supported with your gateway.

Sorry, Your Charge Activity Has Grown Too Much/Too Fast

Remember these companies make money when you make money so you might think they would send me a bonus gift and lower my rates when my charge volume increases. I had one provider increase my reserve and make me get emails from customers confirming they did indeed authorize charges.

My Solution? Stripe

I opened a Stripe account about a year ago and at first I didn't think it could be legit because they didn't run be through any sort of complex approval process. Despite this we decided to use it for a few of the applications where it was the only option and it worked.

Further there is no question about gateways, merchants, and compliance partners. Its just Stripe.

When we did our company name change I contacted their support… and they changed it. End of story.

They connect with everything because one of their core company “dealios” is an awesome API. My developers LOVE Stripe and apparently every other application dev team does too.

Chargebacks? No more letters in the mail. They send an email and I respond online via an interface!

Life is good again. What are you using? Do you love or hate it?

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Has Amazon Ruined eCommerce For Everyone Else?

I operate an eCommerce website. We sell stuff… and while as a consumer I LOVE Amazon I can't help but wonder if, as a business owner, I should hate Amazon.

I'll get specific in a moment but the short story is that Amazon has raised the bar so high that the rest of us almost can't compete. If you are a consumer this is great news…. just get Amazon Prime and always check there first but as you will see below… don't assume Amazon always has the best deal either.

Amazon As A Marketplace Drives the Price Down on EVERYTHING

Imagine a world before Amazon.com. Imagine that there is a product that many different companies choose to stock and sell. As an example lets talk about a book. Before Amazon.com existed you would probably search for that book on Google and click through to about 10 different websites checking prices on each before you ultimately just got tired and bought. Most people will only check 3 sources before making a purchasing decision. All the different websites who sell that book are likely to list it at or near the MSRP price because there isn't a lot of reason to believe that customers are going to do a lot price comparison and even if they do it can't HURT you to be the same price as the next vendor.

Enter Amazon.com: Now consumers are likely to check Amazon first or at least last before making a decision so at least one vendor is going to make sure they list that book for sale on Amazon.com. The other vendors will follow. Now you have a dozen or more vendors that all sell the same book on Amazon.com. Now the vendors are far more likely to recognize the power of undercutting the competition. They all win the eyeball/attention game of getting the customer to look because they are all on Amazon in the same place. The ONLY way they can now compete is to lower price. This of course leads to the proverbial race to the bottom. Who is willing to make the least amount of money on the sale?

Amazon Won't Let Me Do Any Ongoing Marketing To Customers

Now, traditionally I wouldn't mind making little to no profit on acquiring a customer because once that customer has completed a transaction with my brand I can build a relationship with content, email, and social media which will eventually lead to additional sales from that customer.

Enter Amazon.com: Amazon is not incentivized to allow me the vendor to have an ongoing relationship with the customer because I might drive them to my own website to purchase more products. Amazon wouldn't like that. So they have policies that prevent me from sending the customer an email with anything other that current transaction related messaging. They also have policies that regulate what I can put into the packaging of the purchased product I ship to the customer.

Amazon's 2-Day Shipping Magic Creates Unrealistic Expectations For Normal Companies

Last week we had a customer place an order on Friday night after business hours. Between Sunday and Monday morning early he left us a voicemail, text message, and an email. Our customer service team doesn't currently work weekends (which it shows on our website next to the contact info) so we didn't get back to him until Monday late morning. At that point he was angry enough to berate us on YouTube and call us out as a SCAM.

Consistently we have customers who place orders on a Friday and wonder where there tracking number is on Sunday. The Amazon.com consumer expects not only for their order to be shipped 2-day delivery but it should be out the door within 12 hours and the app on your phone notifies you when it ships and when it is delivered. While there are a lot of great solutions out there for small businesses like us you need to understand that Amazon's execution in this arena is mind-blowing and not duplicable… which they of course love and their customers do too.

Amazon's Commission Forces Me To Charge More For Amazon Customers

Depending on the product category, Amazon.com will keep about 15% of the product purchase price for any sale. So if I sale a product via Amazon for $100 only $85 will get to my account. For a lot of small businesses operating on small margins this is an extreme challenge. One that could be overcome if it were not for Commodity Issue and Ongoing Marketing Issue referenced above. Given those challenges vendors are crippled and forced to take a hit or get out.

What Does This Mean To The eCommerce Company?

First, it means that exclusivity on products is critical. If you are a company that has products that are your own… meaning you are the manufacturer of the product you have the ability to create the rules to protect your business. Either not allowing dealers to sell your product online or forcing a MAP (Minimum Advertising Price) is SUPER IMPORTANT to prevent the race to the bottom that will otherwise destroy the value of your products and lead your dealers to hate selling your products. If you are selling your own products and don't have to worry about competition you may charge more on Amazon.com for the same product in order to offset the Amazon commission while giving the customer an incentive to buy direct from your own website where you can build a relationship in ongoing communication.

Second, it means you have to more carefully choose what products to stock in your own store. I have vendor's whose products I'm interested in selling on my site but effectively cannot because the products are marked down to cost or close to cost by the vendor or their dealers on Amazon. So while I may think I'm getting a great deal in sourcing the products at 50% below MSRP I may be buying them for about 2% under the Amazon Advertised Cost (AAC). This leads me to walk away from what could have been a great product to sell in my store… but gone are the days that I want my customers to have to overpay for a product in order to buy it from me.

Well Amazon… I love you when I need to buy stuff… but I hate what you do to me as a vendor.

And to you manufacturers of products…. set a MAP and enforce it. It may be the only thing that saves you from long term collapse from the Amazon Effect.

 

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Business Owner? Wondering What to Do About SEO?

I was in church and a man came up to me to ask me a business question. My friend is a local business owner and heard from someone that I know a thing or two about internet marketing. He then asked the question that I hate most of all. Why do I hate this question… because it makes me feel the most helpless…

What Do I Do About SEO?

Ask me anything else about internet marketing and I probably have a solid answer for you. I might be wrong and my advice is only as good as my own knowledge and experience but ask me what you should do about SEO and you may get a look on my face that probably communicates something to the effect of: I feel bad admitting this but honestly you are in big trouble. You are opening up a can of worms that you don't understand, that is super important to your business's long term success, but ultimately is going to cause you more frustration and expense than you would ever willingly take on.

Of all the internet marketing topics SEO is fully in my wheelhouse (currently my greatest endorsed skill on LinkedIn) but even if it is among the things I have the most experience with and among which I've had great success… I would still much rather talk about paid search, display ads, email marketing, or virtually anything else that has some ground of consistent and reliable best practices and immediately measurable results.

SO… next time someone asks me the question, “What Do I Do About SEO?” I'm going to direct them to this blog post. Here is what you need to know:

SEO IS MISSION CRITICAL BECAUSE

Search Engine Optimization is the coveted holy grail of internet marketing because obviously your customers are searching on Google (and other search engines) for your products and services and being among the top of the first page of results will bring you a ton of web traffic and customers forever. Sounds great right? Here is where the problems begin…

WHY IS SEO A HUGE PROBLEM FOR MOST BUSINESS OWNERS

  1. SEO is a long-term marketing plan. Unless your website already has a ton of internet traffic, content, and domain authority (more on this later) you should expect that it is going to take a LONG time to get enough organic traffic from search engines for it to make any substantial dent in your business's bottom line. It takes time.
  2. SEO is a moving target… or at very least its super hard. Search Engines have the job of making sure that customers (searchers) find the very best results for any given search but they have to use code, algorithms, and patterns to determine what makes one website better than another for the end customer/searcher. Marketers spend a lot of money and time trying to optimize websites to those patterns and algorithms used by search engines in order to get to the top of the results. As marketers figure it out, the search engines change it. Its a bit of a game…. until you realize that in order to win you have to care a little less about the algorithm and start just putting out amazing/awesome website content that is actually the best thing the searcher could find/want… and that can be even harder than trying to guess what Google is thinking this month.
  3. SEO is a chicken and egg problem. You need domain authority to get rankings and you need rankings to get domain authority…. (sort of). So, how do you get either? Well a little at a time… inch by inch… fighting for it with content over time. Sound fun?
  4. SEO requires something far more different and expensive than money. Time. Most advertising and marketing is simple. You just give money to a vendor and wait for the clicks, phone calls, or walk-ins. SEO doesn't work that way. If you do it yourself then you have to invest a lot of time. You have to create content and that content has to be awesome. Its consuming and even more challenging when you do it for months on end without knowing if it is working (see number 1). You can always hire someone else…. but…
  5. SEO Outsourced Is Mysterious. If you hire a 3rd party company to help with SEO you have a unique set of challenges. First they will rarely tell you what they are doing. If they told you, you would probably fire them and do it yourself. Second, you are going to spend money for weeks or months without results… and only if they do it right after time you start to see any results at all (see number 1). If they don't do a good job they can do long term damage that you can't even see or understand.

Now that I've thoroughly depressed you…

SO HOW DO YOU GET STARTED WITH SEO?

Here are suggestions that might take the sting out of all this doom and gloom:

Start With Paid Traffic

Your #1 Goal in any online advertising is to optimize your marketing funnel. It doesn't matter how much traffic you can drive if none of that traffic opts in, buys, or contacts you with interest in your service or product. In order for any marketer to optimize the sales/lead funnel they need to drive traffic into it. SEO just can't do that in the beginning. In addition having to pay for advertising will force you or your marketing agency to make the funnel as good as it can be… something you will be grateful for when your SEO work starts to pay off in the future.

Favor Quality Over Quantity

A big evolution of SEO is the move away from content for the sake of content toward content for the sake of a quality user experience. This favors a small business that is low on resources. Don't feel like you have to create a blog and post to it once a week. Instead carefully consider valuable content pieces and spend time and energy making them awesome… even if that means you only put out something once a month or less.

Get Obsessive With User Experience

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, user, or reader and ask yourself how your website makes it easy (or not) to find the right information, research products, and make buying decisions. How does it look on a mobile phone? What information is missing that would make the customer's experience better?

SEO OVERVIEW CONCLUSION

The objective of this article is to explain the complexity of SEO for the small business owner, while still giving you some clear and simple things you can do to start. This isn't the end-all but it should at least make you feel empowered to start somewhere. Until next time!

Some other things you may want to read next:

The 3 Ps of Getting Web Traffic

SEO or Paid Traffic? A Conversation About Priorities

Good Business Books for Startups?

The below first appeared on Quora as an answer to the question, “What are some awesome books to read for business startups?”

Naturally there are going to be some books that I would recommend for companies in certain industries and not others… but since your question is more generic… here is a generic list of books you should consider: (links will direct you to Amazon)

*NOTE: All of these are available in Audio from Amazon/Audible. Follow links to Amazon for all available versions.

The E-Myth Revisited: Explains the difference between entrepreneurs, mechanics, and managers and helps you understand how to find the right people to grow an organization by beginning with the end in mind.

The Lean Startup: The book that revolutioned the idea of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Explains the method for getting a product to market and developing a fast feedback loop so the product can evolve and you can win the market lighting fast.

The Personal MBA: The book is meant to be a crash course in everything you need to know about running a business from accounting to marketing. Its a great rough overview.

Start With Why: Helps you understand how to find purpose as an individual, organization, and product so as to allow one to find the right customers, develop the right products, and maximize profits.

If you want to clarify the type of business you are starting or specific concerns you have I could make more specific recommendations.

Here are a list of Business Books that I may not directly recommend for a “startup” but I would say anyone in any business who wants to succeed and grow the company should read regardless:

I could continue but the list would get long very quickly 🙂

SEO or Paid Traffic? A Conversation About Priorites

I was talking to a business owner this morning who is in this dilemma. The business is starting to become stable enough that they want to invest in advertising (we should talk later about why they should have been advertising since the beginning). Today, businesses hear all about how valuable and important SEO is but they are also being sold paid advertising by a variety of vendors. Trying to sort out where online to allocate a small budget is really challenging. Vendors are calling and talking about directories, SEO, social, search ads, social ads, banner ads, text messaging, and much much more. I get it… I spent years being one of those vendors.

For the purpose of today's article I'm going to simply lump all the PAID advertising into the category of Paid Traffic and compare that to SEO with an emphasis on where a new business should begin to invest.

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of TRYING to get one's website or web content to appear or rank high in organic search results. If I'm an attorney in Phoenix and people type “Phoenix Attorney” into Google I want my site to organically (not in the paid ads) be high in the search results. This is SEO.

Paid Traffic is any online advertising vehicle into which you insert a paid ad budget and expect to get some amount of qualified traffic to click through to your website.

Today's advertising community loves to talk about the benefits of SEO… and here is why:

  1. When done properly, work can pay off for years in the form of “free” traffic because you did the work to rank well
  2. Vendors who sell SEO services aren't held to a high standard because they are being paid to do something that is often unmeasurable and generally won't show any results for weeks, months, or years to come.

It is easy to see why some small business would be lured in by the idea of spending minimum amounts of money in advertising but getting super high on Google so that the leads and customers come in forever without any significant work. The pitch is however, a big fat lie. Here is how, as a vendor of SEO services, I would have to pitch you if I was being fully honest:

Mr Customer, being at the top of Google's organic search for your top search phrases will pay off endless future benefits but frankly, it often takes years to get into the top five results for competitive search terms unless your website already has a lot of traffic and domain authority from Google. Domain authority is built over time by showing Google and the other search engines that you can and do produce content that is relevant and valuable to an audience which brings me to my next point. The number one core activity in SEO work is content generation. Not junk content for the sake of having content… that stopped working in 2010. I mean legitimately valuable content that is better for the reader/consumer than your competitors content. Now, regardless of the work you are in; I suspect that in order to generate that type of content you will have to be involved. There is nobody at my agency/firm/office that produce content about your company and industry as well as you can so even though you are going to pay me to help you format it and train you to write it in the best way possible YOU are still going to have to write it. Lastly, you should know that because SEO benefits come so long after the work is done; if at all, we won't have enough traffic coming to the site in order to generate enough data to know if the lead/sales funnel is actually working. Meaning; the reason you want traffic to your site at all is because you have a service or product to sell. If we bring 100,000 new visitors to your website and zero of them contact your or buy your product then the work was for nothing. We need to optimize the marketing process and lead/sales funnel on your site in order to increase the CONVERSION RATE of that traffic to buyers/leads and in order to do that effectively we need a steady inflow of predicatable traffic… and SEO won't bring us that for a long time. So not only do you need to wait for any results at all but you also will waste a lot of eyeballs on your site because we won't have enough data in order to optimize the marketing funnel. You should also be aware that we do not own Google, Bing, or Yahoo and despite having some sense for what they are looking for in web content; we don't actually know for sure exactly how they choose to rank sites and they tend to change that criteria and methodology from time to time so its possible that our efforts even if successful could become worthless if the algorithm changes in a way that is negative to the work we've been performing at your cost. Lastly, please know that while we will do “stuff” for the money you pay us each month we won't be able to guarantee ANYTHING and may not have great answers about the impact that our work is having for at least 6 months until after we get started. Ok?

Would you Buy From Me????

Is this starting to make it clear why you need to prioritize Paid Traffic over SEO efforts?

Your #1 Goal in any online advertising is to optimize your marketing funnel. It doesn't matter how much traffic you can drive if none of that traffic opts in, buys, or contacts you with interest in your service or product. In order for any marketer to optimize the sales/lead funnel they need to drive traffic into it. SEO just can't do that in the beginning. In addition having to pay for advertising will force you or your marketing agency to make the funnel as good as it can be… something you will be grateful for when your SEO work starts to pay off in the future.

In addition, while paid traffic sources are sometimes finicky or can shut you down for misuse; they are still FAR more consistent and reliable a source of traffic than is SEO.

Now don't misunderstand me… I'm a big advocate for SEO. We take content creation and SEO ranking very seriously in our business. We set goals, and we work to achieve them… but SEO is our long game… Paid Traffic is our short game and it should be yours too.

Resource: Entrepreneurs You Are Machine Builders

Resource: Our Content Creation Formula for SEO

How We Approach Our Social Content Strategy

social-media-management

This article is meant to review our own company appraoch to dealing with social media and leveraging it as a platform. Not to suggest we have it all figured out but I think this may be helpful to a really small business who is feeling overwhelmed by the consumer expectation.

Objective

Our customers and members of our tribe/audience want to consume relevant content and engage us in a digital relationship. Our primary social objective is to facilitate that relationship and deepen the connection between brand and consumer while also providing quality service.

Primary Challenge

Time and Resources about sums it up. Big brands like Cabelas, Geico, and Pizza Hut have the resources to hire entire teams to manage a social strategy and conversation. This has raised the expectation in the mind of today's consumer.

If our brand doesn't come at least close to that Geico level of engagement consumers get angry and won't engage with the brand. It isn't entirely fair as most small businesses don't have the resources to hire dedicated staff to manage social profiles and content… but alas nobody ever said Capitalism was easy.

So, to the best of one's brand-ability, we have to take the resources we have and do the best we can to arrive at or beyond the consumer expectation… even though we know we will fall short of perfect until the business can scale big enough for us to dedicate the resources.

Approach

Given those constraints our company dedicates itself to three primary goals:

1: Publish relevant / valuable content on our social networks consistently even when it isn't our content or doesn't directly lead to a sales funnel

We schedule daily posts to publish to our social pages/profiles with content we think our audience would care about. While we certainly don't miss the opportunity to publish our own content and announcements we also fill the gaps with other industry relevant and quality content. For some of the social sites like Facebook and Twitter we can share the same content to both… but for other sites like Pinterest and Instagram we have to be more image than headline focused and it takes incremental effort to find the best content.

While there are some tools out there that one may be able to setup to automatically publish blog content to your social profiles my experience has been that these tools don't work really well or reliably. At the same token the burden that would come with manually publishing every content piece the same hour it is published on our site is very high and not something we are currently willing to deal with. So instead we publish our content to social about 3-5 days behind the publish date on our site.

So essentially about once or twice a week we go into Hootsuite (more details below) and we schedule the next 3-5 days worth of content to schedule. We currate this content from our own site and from other sites in our industry (using feedly also discussed below). This does mean there will be a delay between the publish date and the share date but that hasn't bugged me or our followers in the slightest and in fact I believe it has been good for our SEO rankings.

2: Listen to the social audience, reading and responding to messages and posts

It isn't easy but it is important that we listen to our tribe and respond. We leverage a few tools (mentioned below) to monitor the conversation and chime in as appropriate. We don't feel the need to have something to say about everything but people do need to know the brand is there and is available when a question is asked.

3: Optimize social channels as a monetizable property. This means finding ways to track the traffic from social and learn the best and appropriate ways to leverage that asset to sell products

We use the right tools to encode links we publish to social and we leverage Google Analytics to track the traffic that comes from different social platforms and this makes it much easier to assign a dollar figure to that traffic. We also carefully optimize content that we know can lead to sales. We write better headlines, carefully consider the image being shared and when necessary ask our audience very directly to take action.

Social Properties

Each brand has to prioritize social channels based on where your audience spends the greatest amount of time. For our primary brand we use the following channels in this order of priority:

  1. Facebook – still the behemoth and very relevant to our primary and secondary audiences.
  2. YouTube – Too big for us to ignore for our industry and audience… debatably more important than Facebook for us.
  3. Twitter – huge traffic and still relevant to most of our audiences although fairly static
  4. Instagram – The next upcoming massive giant and already critical for our secondary audience
  5. Pinterest – We can't neglect it and over time it is growing in importance for our audiences

You may also want to focus energy on LinkedIn or Tumblr or some other website where your tribe spends time.

Tools

Feedly

If we intend to have at our fingertips quality content that isn't our own that we can share with our followers we need to have a system in place by which we can currate and sift through that content. Setting bookmarks for 50 different industry websites and going through them once a week sounds painful enough to make me want to die… so we don't do that. Instead use a RSS reader like Feedly to subscribe to the feeds of those industry websites. The RSS Reader will pull in all the headlines from all the collective content. Then based on your own workflow you can login and very quickly scan for the best content for your tribe.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite performs several functions for us. The tool is advertised as a social media client. It allows you to manage, publish to, monitor, and respond to all your various feeds and profiles in one place. It doesn't connect to every social media site but it does help us manage Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

We use it to publish. When we identify a piece of content to publish now or later we use Hootsuite to schedule that content to publish to our profiles.

We use it to listen. When we get direct messages, mentions, or replies to our content we use Hootsuite to see all of that content in one place and quickly respond.

Zendesk

Our customer service team uses Zendesk and one of our favorite tools is the ability to import Facebook messages right into Zendesk and respond from within the Zendesk interface. It is a life saver.

The Online Content Creation Formula For Success

top blogging strategyToday I had a quick conversation with a member of our team that is going to start contributing content to our website. I was explaining our general internal process for producing awesome content on our sites and it occurred to me I've never published an article on my own site about how to write awesome articles.

First the Disclaimer: The site you are on right now… jacobspaulsen.com is where I rant and share about my life of marketing and personal development. Don't hold me accountable to doing all the stuff I preach on this site. The lessons I share here are things I apply on my businesses and the websites where I actually generate revenue… not here on my hobby/journal site.

Here is our process start to finish:

  1. Identify a topic worth producing content around
  2. Use Google and the Google Adwords Keyword tool to determine the top search phrases for that content topic. For example if I want to write an article about how to select the best toilet paper at the grocery store I might find out that the top related search phrase is actually: “Best Rated Toilet Paper.” The top search phrase should be a massive consideration in your articles headline.
  3. Finalize the article's headline considering both the top search phrase as well as what would actually be enticing to readers. It needs to have shock value or create significant curiosity to the relevant audience.
  4. Find the following three competitors:
    1. The #1 ranked content piece for your target search phrase
    2. The #1 top quality (based on your own opinion) article on the topic
    3. The #1 top quality or most popular YouTube video on the topic
  5. Ask yourself how are you going to improve on the three competitors outlined above. What can you add or better explain to make it better?
  6. Formulate an outline for your own content by first just listing out key points that you want to make. This generally just looks like a list of bullet points at first.
  7. Organize your list of key points into the best chronological order so as to help the reader flow through the content is such a way that is logical, emotional, or brings them to the conclusion you are trying to recommend.
  8. Ask one other person who is also very familiar with the topic to look at your outline and point out anything you have missed.
  9. Turn the key points into section headers and repeat step 3 for each section header to make sure those section titles keep the reader reading.
  10. Fill in the content for each section
  11. Review the content and work on gathering or creating the best supporting images or videos to accompany the content. You probably need more than you think.
  12. Have another person read through your final draft.

There is our full process that we try (try is a keyword here) to follow. When we do, it always leads to a source of strong and ongoing traffic.

Cheers,

Jacob

What You Need to Know About Affiliate Disclosures and Product Endorsements

FTC_logoThe FTC regulates the laws and rules surrounding how one has to disclose your relationship with a business, product, or organization. Advertisers have had to deal with this for decades when they pay celebrities to endorse their product in TV or radio commercials or magazine ads. The internet has changed the game because today anyone can create a blog for free and write about products and organizations. It no longer takes big money and time to become a media outlet. Everyone is a publisher.

Because of this sudden surge in this new form of media the FTC has had to craft rules specifically about how bloggers and other internet publishers have to disclose any relationship with an advertiser or company. A relationship can be defined as about anything. If a company gives or lends you a product to review that is a relationship that must be disclosed. If you stand to gain anything like a commission by reviewing or promoting a company or their product that is also a relationship that must be disclosed.

Optionally you can include a notice next to any product endorsement with your disclaimer. Most bloggers find that the easiest way to disclaim your relationship with an advertiser is to create a separate page on the site called “Affiliate Disclosure.” Disclaim on that page that any links to external pages could be affiliate links and make sure the Affiliate Disclosure is visible on the site without having to scroll down below any given product endorsement.

->Read more about the FTC Endorsement Guidelines

->Read the specific section about online affiliate endorsements

The Killing Paradigms or Lies of Entrepreneurship

Thinking back on my various failed ventures I can always identify one of the two paradigms below as being the driving factor in my failure. When I talk to would be or starting out entrepreneurs I now more easily recognize when they are equally stuck in one of these paradigms. The biggest issue is that all Entrepreneurs know these two paradigms (or lies) exist but somehow when we are caught up in the excitement of building a business we think we are exceptions to the lie.

Lie #1: If I Build It They Will Come

This is the product lie. Business owners are so in love with and emotionally attached to the product or service that is being built that we can't see past the most prevalent killer paradigm of all. We somehow believe that when we bring this thing to market everyone will show up to buy it and then they will tell all their friends who will be there the next day to buy it and within a few years we will be the next Starbucks. This so rarely happens and yet we attach ourselves to it. If I invent the new mouse trap, if I create a better Facebook, if I launch this new blog, if I provide this service far better than anyone else out there… then I will make millions.

This is a lie because it takes a lot of work to get humans to change their behavior. It requires awareness and desire. Creating both is expensive. So most entrepreneurs who live in this paradigm either give up or go broke when they realize how much money it is going to cost to actually acquire a customer or two.

To give one of my own examples I remember when I launched my first blog. The blog was ground breaking and addressed a topic that was growing and under served. I was convinced that visitors would stumble upon it in droves and the ad revenue would pay off my mortgage. They didn't and it didn't.

Lie #2: Right now I make a little money with this. Somehow I will one day make a lot of money with this

This is the scalability lie. This usually happens to entrepreneurs who have found a simple way to make a little money. Perhaps you figured out you can buy product x at wholesale and sell it on eBay at retail or you can provide a service to friends of doing X thing that you are really good at, or you are really good at making Xs and they sell fairly well on craigslist. Any of these things could be something that could in theory build a big business but not if you continue to do it the way you are doing it.

In order to create a big business and make good money you either have to work 100s of hours a week making or selling product x, OR you have to figure out how to get leverage and remove yourself from the business. Real entrepreneurs do what they do in order to achieve some level of freedom however they define that. Working endless hours is rarely a part of that definition of freedom.

The first example that comes to my mind was a promotional apparel business I started back in 2006 with a partner. We essentially resold apparel services from a local print shop. Profit margins were good enough to justify doing it at the time but not big enough to add middlemen (salesman) to what was already a middle man operation. The two of us only had so many hours in the day so eventually we folded it up frustrated that it never could grow beyond where it started.

This picture is appropriate for this blog post because its a screenshot of a video I made for the blog I mentioned above and in the video I'm wearing a tshirt with the logo of our old promotional apparel business at that time 🙂

entrepreneur mistakes

Three WordPress SEO Tricks You Are Likely Neglecting

You have a WordPress based website and you pride yourself on knowing the SEO basics but are you forgetting to do a few simple things that could make a big difference?

1: Category descriptions. Visit the Categories sub-menu under the Posts menu. Does it look like this?

category desctiptions seo

Its time to add descriptions for each category. Each category has it's own stand alone page called the category archive. Like any other page, you ideally want to have META title, description, and keyword tags on that page. You can find that page here www.yourdomain.com/category/categoryslug. Adding the description for these categories in WordPress will translate to the Description Meta tag on the archive page. Depending on your theme the description may also display at the top of the page.

2: Page specific Meta Tags. It isn't uncommon for me to sit down in a SEO consultation with someone who tells me they have worked long and hard to write awesome META tags for their website. I go deeper into an internal page and BAM… no meta tags at all. Are you so focused on the home page you forgot to write tags for all the internal pages and posts?

3: Bold, Underline, Italics. Another sometimes down played technique of SEO is to use Bold, Underline, and Italics to emphasize certain keywords on your website. Some SEO experts disagree on how effective this is but I've never heard anyone suggest it would hurt. Don't go over board but on each page/post be sure to emphasize at least one keyword you want the search engines to notice.