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Author Archives: Josh

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Amazon – from books to groceries – and now plumbing?!?

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Twenty years ago no one would have imagined Amazon as the Sears of the internet.  Today Amazon sells everything from Protein Powder to Phones and Tattoo Kits to Toilet Seats.  Here they grow again into the home services market.  Amazon may not yet be ready to offer an in-home Dog Shampoo service but currently plumbing is just one of several offerings in their new Home and Business Services department.

Amazon: The Middleman

In this case Amazon became the digital middleman, brokering services and handling the financial transactions with the consumer.  Now anyone with plumbing skills and certifications can start their own business without the need to accept credit cards.  With Amazon superior shopping cart and amazing review engine, a home services offering would not only disrupt traditional plumbing and HVAC businesses but take a bite of out review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List.

The Amazon Tax

Amazon takes a 15-20% premium to broker services.   A big ask when the majority of home service businesses spend 5% and the recommended spend is 10%.  This makes fixed budgets for Pay-per-Click advertising, website hosting, and SEO much more appealing.

If you are interested in getting in the game you can visit:

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content SEO

Content Strategy Critical for SEO Health

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In the Emperor’s New Clothes, two tailors promise the emperor a new suit of clothes that they claim are invisible to people who are unfit, when in reality no clothes are made. Everyone, including the emperor, see the emperor naked and believe that they are unfit as the clothes are invisible to them. These sneaky tailors appear to have made a career change from making clothes to the SEO industry where much of the work being done is said to be invisible.

If the Emperor did his Homework

If the emperor had an adviser showing him the way, the This Emperor's SEO is Nakedtailors would have been exposed. In the same way we would love to be your adviser providing you a second opinion on your SEO strategies to make sure your SEO provider doesn’t leave you embarrassed and naked.

How can you tell if your SEO is leaving you naked? Just like your clothes must be made from linen and thread, the SEO work should include a content strategy on your website (Onsite) and marketing activities  out on the internet.  SEO services exclusively focused in just one of the two primary SEO categories are bound to leave you naked.

The Onsite work involves items such as blog articles, service descriptions, reviews and keeping your site up to date with fresh content, this is a focus on Content Strategy. Offsite marketing is the work you do to connect with your target market and local community including your digital presence such as your social media presence and maintaining business listing in business directories such as Google My Business and Yelp. These two categories together form a healthy SEO Plan.

We have had way too many conversations with clients where they reveal they have “an SEO guy” but it is obvious that their website has not been updated for months, and in some cases years. In this situation, the best case scenario is that they are only doing half of their job which raises the question of what are they doing offsite?

This makes me wonder about the quality of what they are doing offsite. Are they hurting your business by engaging in harmful SEO practices such as building low quality links? Are they damaging your reputation by writing fake reviews? Are they commenting on meaningless and irrelevant posts on Facebook?

You may be thinking to yourself “thank you for your concern but our SEO Company has been active on our site”. Even in this “best case scenario” things should be reviewed closely. We have seen many cases where keywords are overly used on the website.

Keyword Stuffing

Embarrassed Emperor realized he needs a Content StrategyWhile you may think it’s a good thing to have a specific keyword appear as frequently as possible, Google disagrees! They even have a phrase for it, “Keyword Stuffing”, and taken to the extreme, your website content can look like it was written by a 4-year old.

Unlike the stuffing you have on Thanksgiving, you and your potential customers will find keyword flavored stuffing to be unfulfilling. For website visitors, keyword stuffing leads to a robotic and mediocre website experience. For your SEO rankings, this can push you lower in the rankings and decrease traffic volume!

In Football, you need to play well on both sides of the ball. If you have a great offense but can’t stop the other team from scoring or vice versa, then you will lose. In SEO, going all in on Offsite without thinking about Onsite SEO (or vice versa) is not a winning strategy. In today’s world, you need an onsite content strategy that creates a balance between SEO, engaging content and measures how you stack up against the competition.

This is what Onsite SEO should be in theory but typical has not been in practice. Offsite SEO should be focused on building your reputation. While technology has substantially changed over the years, many methods of building your reputation (i.e. community engagement, public speaking, customer appreciation, support local little league team) still hold strong today and can play a pivotal role in getting attention to your brand name (and website)

Our Founder & Chief Data Scientist, Bob Dumouchel has written a detailed piece on the pitfalls of overly simplistic SEO and shares what he has learned from his research on how to apply an effective Content Strategy.

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Morality Tests and Marketing

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The year was 1994, Friends was invading tv screens everywhere while Forrest Gump and The Lion King were making millions at the box office, most importantly I was 18 and looking for a new job.

My friend had encouraged me to apply for a job at a retail box store in Fresno and on the surface this looked like a great opportunity.  After I applied, I was invited for an interview and finally someone from HR handed me what looked like a test. She explained “This is a morality test.  Just answer each question truthfully. We will contact you the following day with the results.”

I knew in my heart that this would be an easy test, as I was a humble sheltered kid raised in the country. The idea of doing anything immoral was repulsive to me.  I opened the booklet and dove in:

Test: “If you caught a fellow employee stealing a pair of jeans, would you report them to your manager? (Circle Yes or No)”

I circled yes of course.

Test: “If you caught a fellow employee stealing an ink pen, would you report them to your manager? (Circle Yes or No)” – I circled No – People walk away with pens all time and at least for myself it was always an accident.

Test: “If you just realized that you shortchanged a customer $5, would you chase them down?” – YES

Test: “If you just realized that you shortchanged a customer $0.05, would you chase them down?” – No, of course not.

I went home, sitting and waiting by the phone to learn the results of the morality test (this was before the internet & smartphones after all) and as expected, the HR team member called me the next day but my enthusiasm was deflated

“I’m sorry but we cannot offer you the position due to the results we found in your morality test.”

I failed the morality test!?!

I was crushed and quickly called my friend.   “How did you pass?” I asked.

“Oh, you can’t tell the truth on those things, you should only provide the answer they want to hear.”

I then had an epiphany about the unintended consequences of the morality test. It was in this moment I realized that this test is not helping the store hire honest people and instead leading them to hire a bunch of liars!

Similar to this, we find unintended consequences in sales strategies all the time, especially with discounts and coupons. Putting a deal in your sales strategy often creates a short term increase, but at what cost?  

  • Are you insulting your value (best) customers?
  • Are you attracting price-only customers?
  • Are you shifting future buyers into the current period and killing future full-margin sales?
  • Are you training your customers to delay future purchases waiting for the next deal?

We recently worked with a client that is coupon-centric and as a test they removed all the coupons from the market. The short term impact was a drop in sales. In the longer term margins went up and the volume metric went down. At the end of test the client was more profitable with lower unit volume. So the client was making more and doing less but could not stop focusing on the volume loss and went back to their comfort zone of coupons. We recommended that they stay the course.

Customers that come to your business for a pricing deal or discount will leave for the same reason. Also, if a competitor reacts to your deal this strategy can creates a pricing death spiral and pricing advantage is the most fleeting of all. So be careful when you pull the pin on this strategy.

In reflecting on this story, I did some searching and found an online quiz that had some similarities to the assessment I took so many years ago.

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The Honey Bear

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When Expectations Collide

When I was in college a local church put together a weekend retreat – for 3 days and 2 nights we were paired up and would even spend the night with volunteer host family.  There were great activities of fun and fellowship and engaging speakers each evening.  On our first night our hosts had to leave early the next morning so they showed around and welcomed us to the use of their kitchen in their absence.

As we were fixing ourselves cereal, only plain Cheerios were available and I needed some sugar.  No matter how hard I looked I couldn’t find the sugar; but I did find the honey-bear.  I poured on a liberal amount of honey, sat down in front of my college-mate,  and with a smile on my face I took a huge scoop of honey covered Cheerios!

Immediately I gagged and spit the cereal out!  My college-mate was quite alarmed and between spits and gags I choked out one word “Soap!” – The honey-bear was filled with yellow colored dish-soap! The honey-bear was certainly a cute accent near the kitchen sink but turned out to be my nightmare.

I’ve had my share of honey-bear experiences;  I would buy a service or package with one set of expectations only to face a very different reality.  Many businesses today, even with the best of intentions, continue to make honey-bear experiences for their customers.  At SMS, we design Sales Experiences Worth Talking About.  From Sales Automation and Drip Campaigns to Interactive Ads and Social Media Posts our focus is creating a meaningful relationship and building a bridge of trust.

I would love to hear about your Honey-Bear stories.

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Location, Location, Location

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Google’s landing page today looks nothing like what it did even 4 years ago.  The Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is full of information tiles and getting your business featured in these tiles will be the new play in the SEO game.

Google has always been the goto search engine, but look at how the Google SERP has evolved and also consider Google’s entry into the Digital Assistant arena. I propose that Google is evolving from a Search Engine to an Information Engine.

As a result, more people are finding the information they need right at the Google results page without having to follow a link to get the information they need.  In the end this can mean less traffic for your website but if you are prepared, there are several strategies that you can use to take advantage of this.

We will be writing a series of articles with tips to take advantage of this evolving search results page.  For today’s tip, we definitely recommend that you take advantage of the Q&A feature within Google Maps.  Search results that are destination specific take the user directly into maps on the first click.  These destinations have a section dedicated for Q&A.  Read more about this new feature in our article: Updates to Google Maps

Look below at the samples below for the same search:

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Have you reviewed your reviews lately?

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From Facebook to Yelp reviews for your business reviewscompany are probably scattered everywhere. How do you determine which to participate in?  How do you overcome a review site that represents your company under a negative light?

 7 tips to make reviews work best for you

  1. Determine the Scope – Take an inventory of all the review sites that your company appears in.  Note the quantity of reviews and how well your company is represented.  Also check and see if your company’s listing is ‘claimed’ and correct.
  2. Claim your Listing – make sure you own the listing and that all the contact info, including hours of operation, are correct.  We recommend that you claim your business listing in all review sites – Google loves this type of consistency across the internet.
  3. Pick the best review site that fits your industry and the lifestyle of your customers.  As Google slowly evolves to an information website more than just a search engine expect to see review sites like Yelp slowly evolve in their focus to businesses are that are less transactional and where choosing the right company is critical to the consumer.  Research heavy industries include contractors for home remodels, doctors, long-term care facilities, and private schools.
  4. Offer Free Wifi if you are frequented by people using mobile devices.  Guest wifi usually has features to direct the user to a webpage.  There is no harm in directing them right to your review page.  Free wifi makes it very easy for them to get online and with a fast experience they have one more reason to brag about your amazing service.
  5. Don’t wear your clients out asking for reviews everywhere, rather engage with your customers on your preferred review site.
  6. Show appreciation in all your positive reviews.  Thank them, like the review, use an emoji.
  7. Respond to Negative Reviews showing your commitment to great service.  A negative review is an opportunity to care for your customers. Remember, people want to be understood so validate them by repeating why they are frustrated and what you are doing to improve future experiences.

5 star review

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Updates to Google Maps

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Google my BusinessGoogle My Biz FAQ mishap for Arrowhead Stadium is the tool to check your business listing on Google Maps with all the relevant info (Address, Phone number, Web Address, etc).  This information is critical if you want to be quickly found in any Google Map app on a mobile device.

Google Maps for has been expanded with an FAQ section (previously it was only available on the Maps app on Android) that is populated by internet users and works similarly to Amazon’s FAQ.  We see this feature becoming popular and recommend that you Pre-Populate your Google my Business  FAQ section ASAP to ensure relevant content and avoid being a target of some clever teenager. What to know more? Look at the picture on the right or try it yourself:

  • Take out your Android smartphone and search for: Arrowhead Stadium
  • Scroll down and read the Questions & Answers
  • When you search you will no longer find the question ‘Do they have hookers at Arrowhead?’  – This question certainly got alot of attention at the expense of Arrowhead.

We recommend that you use the Q&A feature as a chance to front-load questions that prospects would find valuable about your company or industry.  Google is evolving more form a Search Engine to an Information Engine – meaning that instead of just search results, Google is attempting to answer your question without you needed to click on a result and leave the Google page.

UPDATE: The article has been updated to reflect Arrowhead stadium’s cleaned up Q&A


How are you using Google Map’s Q&A feature for your business?

Call us to see what's next for your marketing.