Sunday, February 05, 2017

SEO 2017

What are the shocking new realities in SEI?

1. Alexa & Home & other voice activated search are now returning one result. Forget getting on the first page, if you are not number one you are not in the game.

2. Schema are vital. Google wants structured data so they can feature and analyse.  If you are not implementing and updating schema, you are not in the game.

3. Local is now around half of the search results.  Search on many terms, like homeschooling, and over half of the first page are local results. And long gone are the days when you could build pages with regional info or be "nationwide" with clever tricks like fake addresses or PO boxes. Google with their manual reviewers, local post cards, and street view are finding fakers and delisting them.  Be there or not, don't fake it.

4.  There are less results. Now that Google is folding the ads into the same column as the organic results, the first page is a lot shorter.  Number 8 is just barely staying on the second page! Tough on many of us.

5. Mobile is big. Be mobile first or totally responsive. Did I mention blindingly fast? For us who care about elegant technology solutions, it's a vindication.

6. Semantics, not word matching or counting. There was a time when the site with "sex sex sex sex sex" would rate higher for the site that said "sex sex sex." I think that was over in its various forms by 2005. Optimal word density reigned for a half decade after that but still, around 2008-2010, I could see that Google would return different results for "3rd grade math lessons" than for "third grade math lessons."  By 2010, these results were converging.  But now it's 2017, Google has hired about a third of the graduates in computational linguistics, natural language processing, and semantic process engineering and they more often than not, have figured out what pages and queries are about and are matching much more intelligently.

7. Engagement. I'm pretty sure that Google is calculating the bounce rate on sites for different types of queries and using that as a significant input in the algorithm.

8. Unsure about social. Google still isn't clear to me on how they are taking social media input. Does a youtube video with a link to a site (in the description? in the video?) have any impact? What about Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I've lost track as to which of these have blocked the Google spiders these days.

What are the other megatrends that you see?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Snippets in Google Search Results

It's always a challenge to figure out how Google picks the snippets it puts into search results.  Of course, this isn't an academic exercise, the purpose is to build your pages and content and code so that the most user friendly snippets are chosen not in general, but for each specific search.

The reason that I'm interested in this right now is that I do NOT like seeing results which mess up a trademark.  The name of the site, a registered and valuable trademark, is "VocabularySpellingCity" Registered Trademark.  Why is Google often providing: "Spelling City" as a result? Where the heck are they getting this from?

I think the problem is that in grabbing text, there is a statement relating to a site wide logo which reads this way:

<div class='site-logo'><a href='/title='Vocabulary Spelling Cityrel='home'>

Somehow, Google grabs this code and uses it. And since the word "Spelling" appears separated from "VocabularySpellingCity", this opens the door to them grabbing it. BTW, I can't really seem to think through the logic that would have them grabbing that but since this is the only place where I can see that they can find: "Spelling City" written like that, it seems the easiest way forward is to fix this random poor use of our name and see if that ends the problem with the snippet that so annoys me.

BTW, I'm going to use figurative language as a test case.  This seems appropriate since we're looking for a needle in a haystack, it's like one of Hercules tasks. It's an endless battle to keep our site managed in a way that supports Google protocols for being a good white hat site.  Was that enough figurative language for you?


Search on "vocabulary spellingcity"

VocabularySpellingCity | Build Literacy Skills with Vocabulary and ...

build vocabulary, literacy, phonics, & spelling skills with VocabularySpellingCity. Improve vocabulary, a core reading skill, with gamified context-rich.

The homepage result is now 2nd but it appears to the user like this:

Spelling City

build vocabulary, literacy, phonics, & spelling skills with VocabularySpellingCity. Improve vocabulary, a core reading skill, with gamified context-rich.

A search on "figurative language spellingcity" produces:

Figurative Language - Spelling City

Figurative language can be part of reading, writing, comprehension, and vocabulary instruction. Grade-level teachers include similes, metaphors, personification, idioms, and hyperbole in their lesson plans.

A search on "figurative language" produces:

Figurative Language Overview | VocabularySpellingCity

A student who blurts out “I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse!” right before lunch may not realize he or she is using figurative languageFigurative language ...

Monday, June 06, 2016

Online subscription pricing and management

I write a lot so I really like to read books about writing, especially writing style guides. I like them because they need to be "self-exemplifying" - they need to demonstrate the principles that they expound otherwise they have no credibility. For instance, one of the most effective self-exemplifying edicts is: "Avoid unnecessary words!"  

Another might be (and this one is original): "Some repetition for effect is acceptable. Some."

I am far from the first to cite writing style guides as delightfully self-exemplifying.  Steven Pinker's book on writing talks about this in a wonderful way. However, I might be the first to write about whether online marketing service firms are effective at demonstrating the use of effective marketing for their own services. And I'm most likely the first to pursue this into the niche of online marketing firms specialized in pricing of subscription services.  So here goes some original content on subscription pricing services.

Why do I care? I care because  I run an online subscription service that charges $19.95 per month for the first child. The second child is discounted. It's only $14.95. Same for third or fourth or fifth children, their subscriptions are only $15.95 each per child.

We did some analysis. We found that we have a disproportionate number of single child families. Or at least, we don't have the statistically representative number of families with lots of kids. So now we are studying subscription pricing. Here's some potential help that we've discovered:

  1. Zuroa
  2. ConversionXL
  3. slides
  4. White paper on subscription pricing
  5. Google "subscription pricing strategy" for a gold mine of ideas...
  6. Price bee or something 

I Pop Up in Peace
I Pop Up in Peace

As best I can tell,, Zuroa has a subscription middleware platform that supports companies with subscription business models. It's a billing platform, an A:B multivariate testing technology, an integrated credit card processor, and a bunch of other things too...

Zuora is a subscription management platform that spans across commerce, billing, and finance. - See more at:

 Zuora has been enabling the Subscription Economy by building the next generation commerce platform. Zuora’s subscription management software has enabled 21st century businesses around the world from startups to enterprises in any industry to launch and monetize any subscription products and services.

There's also ConversionXL. They have articles like this: When it comes to subscription product pricing, you’re not just guessing…are you? A while ago, an HBR study famously claimed that a 1% improvement in price would increase operating profit by 11%, making it the most effective thing you can tweak for increased business performance. Pricing is important. It’s also one of the most difficult Ps of marketing for folks to wrap their heads around. It can be one of the more technical aspects of marketing. Then, when you bring subscription pricing models into the mix, things get even more complex. First Thing’s First: How Do You Determine Value and Price?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prefer to Suck at Optimization?

I thought this was a hysterical choice. Get free book to master the essentials. Or to suck at it.

Master the Essentials of Conversion Optimization

Learn how the pros do it. 
Get our ebook for free.

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I prefer to Suck at Optimization

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Relevant Selling

I had a small disagreement with my wife this morning which is why I'm doing something that I know will not be productive. I'm trying to
cull some books from my bookshelves. At least it's unlikely to be productive in the ways that she thinks it will be.

This is why I'm sitting on a bright Sunday morning on a stool in the corner browsing through Relevant Selling by Jaynie L. Smith. The inscription page has a handwritten note: "To John, Best Wishes, Jayne L. Smith."  I went to the back cover and stared at a picture hoping for a flash of recognition or remembrance.  But, my memory is now pretty reliable about dishing up...nothing. At least she is (are memories feminine?) when I'm trying to remember something.

Relevant Selling  makes the point that must of us in business sell somewhat blindly with little to no real understanding of what matters most to our customers. In fact, she states that most companies don't even have an internal consensus on what matters most to their target audience never mind having an internal hierarchy of customer concerns that aligns with customer reality.

This Relevant Selling book seems to me to be dead-on.  

There's one chapter that points out that prospects and customers have different criteria which I would also agree with. In our business where we sell  annual subscriptions to our website and app to elementary schools to help their students build vital vocabulary skills, the keys to retention are clearly different than the keys to acquiring customers.  

I guess my wife is going to get some success from this exercise after all. I'm going to take Relevant Selling to the office and pass it around. 

Bottom line: One book culled from the home library for my wife, one more post on one of my many blogs for me, and a new set of ideas to inject into the already overwhelmed set of priorities of my staff.  And since I'm so pleased with this little post, I'll probably now spend a few minutes giving it some social media attention.

Jaynie, you out there?  BTW, I have a 70 person company right here in Ft Lauderdale.

Perhaps she was the speaker who talked one evening at a alumni event about sales (and then management skills and personal issues) simplifying down all the four quadrant stuff down to a simple continuum which was was so powerful and relevant that about a third of the business audience had quivering voices as they gave personal testimonials about the insight that it was giving them on their own sales and professional persona?  If not, who was that speaker? I've been looking to find here and bring her into my office.

Or what she the Big Breakfast speaker who talked so effectively about getting us to get serious about understanding our customers. I suspect the latter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

SEO 2016: What's Hot?

These six points are worth remembering as we write for SEO on our resource and game pages:

I'll summarize;

1. Be thorough, write a lot. 1900 words is the average page winning on Google. Put lots of paragraphs on SEO pages, perhaps folded into open/closing paragraphs.

2. Links are key. Keep getting them.  I think anchor text pointing to the page matters a lot.

3.  Schema: minor, don't worry about it.

4.  Don't stuff. I'm adding: DO write with content vocabulary.

Bad description: "While sometimes confusing, figurative language can often be powerful and illustrative" - Google won't find much here to go on.

Good meta description: "Figurative language, such as metaphors and similes and personifications, can make your writing more powerful"  - Lots of contet vocabulary there and it starts with the keyword!

I'm also adding: each page gets a unique meta description and meta keywords

5. Site speed matters!!!!

6.  Reduce your bounce rate, increase time on site.

I'm adding:
- responsive matters
- local addresses matter
- social media matters
- grouping of pages into a cluster on a common topic matters. And google can think in n dimensions. A figurative language page can be part of multiple clusters by both linking and content such as:
    - literary writing: similes, metaphors, reading, writing, personification
     - education and standards, classes, schools, students, teachers, grades, educational standards, CCSS etc
   - grade level 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Facebook Shares: Strategically Done

Like many, I have sites cluttered up by social media icons. They don't give very impressive results.
I have long dreamed of doing this well.
Is this a good example of a well designed Facebook share following registration for an EventBrite event?

awesome Facebook Share
awesome Facebook Share

Monday, April 18, 2016

Surviving Termination

All provisions of this Agreement which, by their nature, should survive termination, shall survive termination, including, without limitation, ownership provisions, warranty disclaimers, and limitations of liability.

The above is an actual provision in the T&Cs (terms and conditions) of a Silicon Valley venture-backed company. Our experience with their customer support, their technology, and their communication is that they are all screwed up.  Noticing the details of their contract further confirms this view. As in, who is to decide if the nature of a provision is that it should survive termination. For example, does the  indemnity that they required of us survive termination? Of course, it doesn't, I think.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Regions Bank SEO

Really funny typo by the Regions Bank. Notice that it's important to pay attention to the Little. Sic.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Adwords Haiku

Many of in school learned about a type of poetry that comes out of Japan which is short and highly defined by number of syllables and lines.

The format of haiku is strict:

  1. Only three lines
  2. The first line is 5 syllables 
  3. The second line is 7 syllables 
  4. The third line is 5 syllables
And those are all the rules. Capitalization and rhyming are not required and are at the poet's discretion.

In the modern world, I think of writing Google Adwords copy as Haiku.

The format of Google Adwords text ads is strict:

  1. Only three lines of content plus one with a URL
  2. The first line has 25 characters (character count includes spaces)
  3. The second and third lines have 35 characters
  4. The URL line can be 35 visible characters. It doesn't need to exactly match the URL but does need to have the right domain name.  So it could be: whereas the underlying URL could be
For more info:

PS. Writing successful Adwords poetry is probably a lot more lucrative than writing great Haikus but in both cases, it's all about the user reaction, right?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

WordPress Site Traffic Statistics

I just looked at the stats on one of my WordPress blogs and I saw these unbelievable numbers. 

To be honest, I just don't believe them. There is just no way that I had 67K visits yesterday!  Anybody have any idea what might be causing these aberrant numbers? 

Also in the realm of unbelievable, there  seem to be seven thousand comments all  of which appear to be spam, all blocked by Anti-Spam by CleanTalk.

Traffic Statistics for one of my WordPress Blogs
The WordPress Site Statistics on one of my blogs, Unbelievable!
I got curious about this blog and decided to check out my Google Analytics which have also been set up for this blog. They're  a much more reasonable number. This is for the same period. What the heck is wrong then with the wordpress statistics? I would guess from the fact that some bots are spamming the site and the high Wordpress visitor traffic that the WordPress stats counts the spam bots as visitors whereas Google Analytics does not. This is only a guess, I have no idea how to research this.

Google Analytics for the WordPress Blog
Google Analytics for the WordPress Blog

BTW, I thought that I would peek at the statistics on this blog (ie Blorum.ifo, the blog that you are now reading). . It's of course a Google Blogger blog. Here's the Google blogger stats.

Blogger Blog Statistics
Blogger Blog Statistics

Monday, November 02, 2015

Hey SEOs, what do you bench(mark)? Great marketing writing

Hey SEOs, what do you bench(mark)?

I thought this was just a great example of a well used clever metaphor in marketing.

Here's why it works for me:

 It's clear, clever, and thoroughly worked.  The punchline at the bottom "Don't sweat the decision - listen to the webinar now!" made me smile. Well done.

I could also list some emails in which metaphors are used and the result is confusion, distraction, and a general annoyance at the use of cliches and at poor writing.

BTW, we are NOT looking for help with SEO. Thanks anyway.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lifetime Customer Value - LVC - Harder to Calculate that you'd think

I justt read an article on Lifetime Value of a Customer and agile marketing. Like so many articles, they make it sound so easy to calculate.  I'm so tired of hearing that. As far as I can tell, anyone who writes that article has never actually tried to figure out the lifetime value of a customer with real data...

We measure LVC and find it a very difficult exercise.  We tend to think others who measure it easily are either full of it or simpletons. Or maybe they have an easier exercise than we do.

If it were a question for a monthly subscription business of profit per month x average number of months, it would be easy.  If we could segment by marketing channel or another customer aspect, we could then compare  the segments. EZ peasy

Here's the problem. Our customers often sign up, try it, then quit and take their money back within the two weeks trial. But this same customer might sign up months later and stick around for a long period of time.

Our core service is an online subscription educational service for kids.  It turns out that the first sign up might have been just a trial for later.

Customers also quit after six months but come back six months later.

In both of these cases, they might come back through a marketing effort which means putting PPC ads in front of them. Do you assign the value of the second signup to the first case? Treat them separately?

Some customers add a child. Or remove a child.  Others refer friends. Others refer lots of friends.  It turns out that the arithmetic behind a meaningful calculation is tricky and involves lots of assumptions. Am I the only one with all these questions?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Domain Business - Want domain X Inquiries?

I have a few domains, maybe 500 to support the business. 

Most days, I get an inquiry like this one:


Tracy S****man tracy****

1:50 AM (12 hours ago)
to john

I think that you are the owner of a similar domain name and I am wondering if you would like
to obtain the mytime4learning dot net from me?

Thank you for your time and have a nice day.

What do I do with these emails?

I often ignore them but then they keep emailing for awhile.
I sometimes am interested and then my first step is to see if the domain that they are offering is available. Often it is. So I ignore the approach and go get the domain directly from a registrar for $7 per year.

In rare cases, I go back to the vendor and try to agree upon a price. In some cases, we've done a deal. But in most cases, they hold out for what I think are absurdly high valuations so we negotiate for awhile and then it falls apart. I try to NEVER talk to them on the phone or let them get my direct line since many of these people are like mosquitoes, once they find you, they just keep at it.

There's another email that I get less frequently (which I can't seem to find a copy of right now).Typically, it's from a major foreign country and they say that someone has tried to register a name like mine ( and to help me protect my copyright, they would offer it to me first. So for $xyz, I can have it but I need to act fast.

I've never ever answered any of those emails.

Your experiences with this?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Amateur Hour in Blogger Review Land

There's a brouhaha over in London Town that I read about where a blogger - Mehreen - apparently hit on a local bakery for some freebies for a review. She didn't get the freebies that she expected and she didn't  like the baked goods (macarons) that she tasted so, for one reason or the other, she wrote a negative review. (I think she might have taken the review down since I can't find it.)

The bakery was outraged and posted an article called BloggerBlackmail. (I haven't been able to chase down a copy of this either.  If someone could post a link to it or copy of it in the comments, I'd appreciate it)

The blogger responded with a self justifying article.  This is what I'm calling out as Amateur Hour.   

The blogger talks about her expectations. She expects a lot to be given to her. She talks about her investment in photography. She talks about her time as valuable and how it takes 8 hours to do a proper review. It's a self-absorbed rationalization.  Pathetic. The odd thing is that the blog itself is beautifully done with gorgeous photography which really is an interesting read about the highlights of luxury dining in London.  But, still, she is in business and it is the blogger's business practices that I'm writing about.

If she thinks she is the business of selling advertising, her thinking should be all about her customer.  How can she generate business for a restaurant or bakery or hotel?  What sort of investment is she asking for from a client and how much business does she feel that she can drive for them?  She should have a professional sales process that focuses on her advertiser's needs, investments, and the return that it provides. She should have a professional way of approaching, selling, and treating her clients.

If she feels that she is in the journalism or media business and her main focus is being a high integrity content producer, she should talk about her readers. For instance, how her readers are interested in knowing whether this restaurant is right for this sort of dinner. Or whether this high priced hotel provides the service, food, and ambiance that they would expect.  As a media content creator, she should have a focus on delivering entertainment and information to readers who rely on her for a specific type of information.

Of course, newspapers and radio stations and TV stations have for a century been aware that they are at the juncture of these two businesses: content and advertising.  It's a delicate position.

The media are definitely in the advertising business. Their money comes from advertisers who expect a high return on their investment in advertising. The advertisers expect clear business practices, a written deal, and an appropriate sales process. Walking in to a restaurant at a time convenient to a blogger, talking to a random employee, and trying to negotiate on the spot for more sweets... not professional.  The fact that she sent an email some period before-hand with a vague proposition and got an enthusiastic response to the concept followed by an unannounced walk-in is not a professional approach. There was no education of the client as to what would be involved or what the benefits might be.

Media are also in the content business of being a trusted source of news and information and reviews.  There are guidelines in most media that separate advertising from content.  Newspapers routinely disclose if the newspaper or journalist have any conflict of interest. The media business is about walking this fine line of aggregating an audience with quality info and entertainment and delivering to this audience, advertising which is not too disruptive.  The mixing of content and advertising is a fine line which all media need to carefully walk.

The idea of a blogger having only one bad review on her site and that one coinciding with the one that didn't give her the freebies that she wanted is appalling.  (Disclosure: I have glanced through her site but I have not read all of her site so maybe there are lots of bad reviews in there). Here's the blogger's big whine:

Writer's note. I put this up and then came back and edited it an hour later. I removed a number of adjectives and tried to become a little more balanced and less inflammatory and judgmental.  I'm aware that I'm on the verge of joining a mob that's publicly shaming someone who has stepped over a line that I consider the line of professionalism.  However, I think this is worth writing about since the rules on blogging and the professionalism of digital content is a hot issue and this is a good example of the pitfalls that await us if sites don't think deeply and adopt mature rules to guide how content and sponsorship can coexist.