- Lessons from Startups You Should Learn
During the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time with startups. It’s always an amazing view of the world, to see things through the eyes of a small company or individual who is so focused on their product or service, that everything else is secondary.
These folks are focused. Like a laser!
They have an idea they believe in 100%. Every waking minute is spent in pursuit of achieving their goal. Spent in pursuit of supporting and moving forward the product or service.
Often heard around business incubators is the phrase “fail fast”. It means to fail early in a cycle, so you can learn, apply the knowledge and move forward. So as you look at your own investments, whether it be in SEO, social, paid search, etc., try to fail fast. Draw lines to determine success, set shorter time-lines and change direction as results show the path.
Another common thread with startups? What they end up as is often not what they started out as. www.Fab.com is a great example here. Originally a gay dating website, it transformed itself after the founders took a long hard look at what success meant to them and their business. Today is a shopping destination that is a trend leader.
The point here can be summed up in the phrase “don’t fall in love with your first idea”. If the idea is a winner, by all means, stick with it. But too many times people want to force something to work out because they liked the idea. Take a step back, involve other people and critically examine if every idea is worth continuing to pursue. Set the bar high and be brutal. You can always revisit an idea later, but following a bad idea too far leads to a dead end.
Losing focus is a common affliction with startups as they grow. Doesn’t happen until usually after they launch and see growth, and maybe some investment. They try to expand into new areas, hoping to broaden their base. What often happens is that core focal areas see less resources and the overall business falls behind trying to sort out issues with new products, while competitors chunk away at the original ideas that the company was founded on.
In most online companies today, this manifests itself in spreading resources too thin. One person to cover SEO, PPC, social, conversion optimization, content management, usability, email and more. In some companies they go the other way, hiring many people and given each one area, then walling them off so they don’t work well with each other, stop sharing data.
Sometimes the problem isn’t structural, but cultural. The decision is made to “go all in” on SEO, to the exclusion of other areas. Social suffers, the brand reputation suffers, link building suffers and so on. This is like being a body builder who goes to the gym every day and does curls with only their right arm, with predictable lopsided results in the end.
Being blind, though, is by far the biggest challenge most startups face. And you can face it too. Being so focused on one particular product, service or strategy can blind you to the need to invest in other areas. Great startups come to realize that the product is what people want, but that those people also need other things. Great startups reach a point where they know their own limits and start seeking input in areas they are weak in.
If you don’t have employees with a strong understanding of social media and customer relations, perhaps hiring a consultant to organize your social media program is a better starting point.
For the average startup, their life is like a ride on a rocketship, the only question being whether they’ll have enough gas to reach orbit. The vast majority do not. The good news for businesses beyond the startup stage is you already have enough fuel for your airliner. You’re on a very different journey. And that added time aloft is just what you need to refine approaches that aren’t working at 100% capacity for you.
Sr. Product Manager
- Exploring Data Shown in Connected Pages
Last week we launched Connected Pages, allowing you to connect your social pages within your webmaster account, with the benefit being you get to see data about the social pages.
We’ve seen a huge amount of activity with businesses connecting pages in the week since launch and for that, we’re thankful!
As a quick overview here is the data you can now see inside WMT when you connect pages:
On the Connected Pages Homepage:
- Impression Count
- Click Count
- Trends for above for the time period selected
On the Dashboard page:
- Impression & Click Count Chart for the selected period
- Impression & Click Count for the selected period and comparison to the previous period.
- Query Keyword Table: What Click and Impression you get from the specific keywords. (At launch, this is a weekly table, meaning data refreshes weekly.)
- Inbound links to your connected page.
Data being shown for your Connected Pages is similar in nature to that being shown for pages within your own website.
Like you can see who is linking to individual pages within your website, you can see who is linking to your social pages. Like you can see which keywords your web pages rank for, you can see what keywords your social pages are ranking for. All with the same click and impression data.
A guiding idea behind launching Connected Pages was to make it easier for you to see data about what matters to your business in one location.
If you haven’t checked out Connected Pages yet, stop by the Help & How-To page that explains how to set up and activate this new feature.
- Duane Forrester, Sr. Product Manager Bing
- Connected Pages – Now Claim Official Pages Beyond Your Website
For any business, claiming an account inside our Webmaster Tools allows access to a lot of useful information. SEO Reports, link data (for your site and other sites), ranking information, keyword traffic data and so much more. Yet even all this usefulness comes with a limit. We could only show you data related to the websites you own or controlled.
Today, however, we’re releasing the Connected Pages feature within Bing Webmaster Tools. Now, in addition to the current data you have access to on your own website(s), you can also claim official social pages, connect them to your account and see similar data as it relates to those connected locations.
Ever wonder which keyword are sending traffic to your official Facebook page? Curious to know who’s linking to your Twitter page? Well, now you’ll know.
Which Page Types Can I Connect to My Website?
Currently, you can connect a wide range of page types to your verified website, provided that they contain a link that points back to your verified website (the main URL), or at a minimum – a page that lives on your main website. We won't ask you to enter any passwords or provide us with any extended permissions to your social media accounts to establish this connection, but the link inside the connected page needs to match in the sense that the link needs to point back to the root of or a sub-page within your verified website. Obviously, to check this, we also need to be able to extract the link from each of the connected pages, so the page needs to be accessible from the web and not block our verifier in any way. Here is the complete list of web presences we currently support as connected pages:
· Windows Store
· Google Play
· Apple Store
· Windows Phone Store
Now, if you have an established presence at any of the locations listed above, you can begin connecting them inside your BWMT account effective today. Data will start to be populated within 72 hours. After that, it’s “always on” and you can select date ranges as within your normal site data areas to see information for customizable periods of time.
Sr. Product Manager
- How to Spot Low Quality SEO Providers
Often you won’t know the quality of work to expect from an “SEO Expert” until you’ve already paid the bills, and the results simply fail to show up. In some cases, however, it’s a bit more obvious. Below is a solicitation email I received this week to my personal email address. An email address this company did not possess because I shared it with them, which means they either scraped the email from somewhere, or have it on a list they “came across”.
It’s an interesting tale of the usual:
· Pointless statements
· Shallow results
…and so on…
Greetings from <company name removed>!!
<company name removed> focuses on building Internet Marketing solutions. Our goal is to advise, guide and support our clients in all stages of their Online endeavor. Our team is highly qualified in the areas of Keyword Research and Search Engine Experts.
Best Prices: Our core technology is web based and automated, resulting in the best possible pricing that you could ever imagine.
Unique Model: Our unique model of submission, optimization and promotion helps you get the maximum ROI <original text revised to anonymize>
Time management: Since we will be handling your SEO tasks, you do not have to worry about your website ranking at all.
SEO Packages: We have packages to suit all your search engine optimization needs.
Traffic: We strive to pool in the best traffic at your website through SEO techniques like pay per click plans, affiliate marketing, online advertising and so on.
Results: We get your website ranked in the first top ten search results.
Always up-to-date: Weekly detailed report of web site.
We do all submissions manually, for the relevant category, thus higher acceptance ratio and guaranteed Results.
Awaiting for a response from your end.
Sandeep <name removed>
If we overlook the obvious grammatical issues, as this may simply come from using a translation tool, and focus on the intent, it remains obvious their approach is outdated, incorrect, and won’t return actual results. Claiming to use SEO tactics such as affiliate programs, online advertising and paid ads? This simply sounds like someone who doesn’t understand the topic.
And claiming their process is “web-based and automated” raises a couple flags. First, its jargon designed to lure in small business owners who think those idea equate to efficiencies. Second, it tells me they either template the work, or potentially use programs to build distributed links, and such, to try to boost rankings. At best, it’s simply their approach for doing directory submissions.
Manual submissions? Umm, this is 2013 not 1997… This simply makes it sound like the company is providing something of value, when in fact it’s an almost complete waste of time. Useful directories are very limited in number and submitting to a search engine is largely superfluous in the age of near instant indexing. …and does this mean their automated process is actually manual?
And the age-old, dead giveaway – promising ranking results. Heck, even saying you’ll hit the top ten is misleading. Sure, anyone can easily do this for irrelevant, no-traffic terms, but what the business hiring you actually wants is rankings on relevant terms that drive actual converting customers to their website.
I was a bit frustrated with their email, as it was obviously spam, didn’t have an unsubscribe option and they clearly don’t vet the list beforehand to understand who potential clients are. I’ll admit, I was also curious to see if anyone would actually respond…so I replied:
1 - stop spamming
2 - stop selling garbage
3 - research your email list
Remove me from this list.
A.) we are not spammers
B.) we don't sell garbage if you have purchased any then feel sorry for you.
C.) we should research list to have only people who seek services.
You are deleted.
Best responses ever from a spammer. I'll include them in my blog post for everyone to read.
...and that's thousands of actual SEOs worldwide. They'll love this!
Well you should provide the live url to me, will wait for your response buddy.
Its a huge platform to market ourself as well.
Also keep our complete conversation as well in the blogpost.
Not to worry Sandeep. ...and there will be no marketing on your behalf...
So right to the very end, as far as I could tell, Sandeep remained oblivious to what I was telling him. He clearly felt that “any publicity is good publicity”. Though the obvious message that I won’t mention his company didn’t seem like enough to dampen his enthusiasm.
This is one example of the type of low quality SEO shilling that happens every day. Solicitations comes from all around the world, this just happens to be from India, a popular target of ire for many in the industry. This actual company, who I have submitted as spam to the teams inside Bing, is low quality.
That said, there are legitimate companies based in every country where spam like this originates from, too.
The trick for a business is to look for clues to help them understand the quality v. the crap.
Sr. Product Manager
- The Dinosaurs Died Because They Ignored Mobile
Well, not really, but maybe you could argue that that asteroid was a kind of “mobile”. And while those creatures would have been powerless to change their fate – extinction – today’s businesses are much better equipped to survive, if they take prudent and timely action. Which leads to the question…
Are You Ignoring Mobile?
We are hear the chatter about how important mobile is. But are you taking any action?
According to comScore (here and here), mobile penetration now stands at 62% in the US. That’s just shy of 150 MILLION people using mobile devices. And they are searching, streaming music, looking up directions, fetching stock quotes, checking the weather and so much more. Mostly the everyday stuff, in reality, but that “search” one…that’s a biggie folks.
That’s where people connect with you on mobile. This is where your experience on mobile can make or break a customer’s impression of you.
When was the last time you viewed your site on an emulator? They are a great way to get at least some view into how your site will render on various devices. Emulators exist for pretty much everything on the market today. You’ll need to research emulators, though, as many are specific not only to a device, but sometimes to an OS (operating system) as well.
Now, it’s important to note here, that not all this mobile activity is happening on smartphones. ComScore doesn’t break it out in the above article, but some of this activity is happening on tablets, so test on them, too.
And, with the next generation of gaming/entertainment consoles set to invade store shelves in the coming few weeks or so, now is also the time to see what your website looks like on a big screen TV! Don’t skip this as more and more people are searching, and engaging websites, from these devices. Does your site render well on a big screen television? Are you looking through data to determine how much, if any, traffic originates from these sources?
Sometime in early 2014 we’re looking at a convergence. It’ll be the first time that mobile queries will surpass desktop queries. And that trend is unlikely to ever reverse itself.
Here are some stats from an article built around Cisco data earlier this year.
- Between 2012 and 2017, wireless data traffic was projected to grow 66% per year.
- By 2017, mobile data traffic will reach 13x what it was in early 2013 – roughly 11 exabytes of data per month.
- Annual smartphone data traffic will grow by 81% each year.
- Tablets will ring it at over 110% growth per year.
Last holiday season, starting on Black Friday and continuing through Cyber Monday, the US saw the biggest growth in mobile device sales and mobile ecommerce transaction ever.
We’ve been reminding businesses for a couple years now to move away from m-dot domains in favor of responsive design, and that message remains.
And if you have an app, you’d better make sure it works correctly every time. No excuses for out of date code, small problems or anything else. If it creates a negative experience for a customer, you need to fix it and fix it fast.
I have one app that’s supposed to allow me to checkin for my flights. Except it only works once. Then, for all subsequent flights, I need to uninstall and reload the app. Yeah, even their customer support folks agree this isn’t ideal. And yet, this problem has existed with this app for months now. Clearly no one is testing or checking.
To compound the failure, their customer service team, while very responsive, doesn’t seem to be empowered enough to even ask the app team about the problem. Clearly disconnected teams.
And while this failure is partially in how the business structures who handles which elements, it remains a problem for me as I’m the one on my mobile device trying to use their busted service.
Seeing that this is happening is pretty easy, if part of their ongoing program is to review the current product on a frequent basis. Instead, it’s broken, leads to customer dissatisfaction and ultimately affects loyalty.
Wrapping up, it’s time to move on mobile in a big way folks. Businesses will get left behind as consumer perceptions shift to match what’s desired in these new mobile experiences. Today is the day to start planning how you’ll engage with customers via mobile, what resources you’ll devote to the effort, and exploring when/if you should move to responsive design. If you’re not at the planning stage now, you’re in jeopardy of falling behind.
Sr. Product Manager