eComXpo Conference Recap

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Friday, October 27, 2006
eComXpo Conference Recap

eComXpo was a 3-day online conference in which during this time attendees could visit with over 450 exhibitors, watch over 40 keynote and panel presentations, and network with over a whopping 7,000 other conference attendees. While this wasn't my first virtual conference, I found the the turn-out to be incredible and environment to be fun and exciting.

Working the AWP Booth

I was a part of the team working the All Web Promotion booth, which I found to be fun. I enjoyed chatting with the many different people who dropped by, even if they weren't at all interested in our services. There are tons of people who are very passionate about what it is they do, and I enjoyed hearing many of their stories.

My Favorite Part About Attending eComXpo

My favorite part of the entire show is the fact that there is no need for travel. There's no need to wake up early to board a plane, no need to stay away in a hotel, no need to miss work, and no need to miss after-work activities.

My Least-Favorite Part About Attending eComXpo

My least favorite part of the entire show was how virtual people tend to ignore you A LOT more than if they were right there in front of you. I'm not sure how many times I would initiate a chat with a booth guest, and simply be ignored. It was frustrating! And I am in no way a pushy sales-person type either. I was merely interested in what these people did on the net and whether or not they were enjoying the show.

Overall, I think the show was a success, at least as far as we're concerned. We were able to attain several solid leads, in addition to a whole spreadsheet of contacts I can now reach out to. eComXpo will be putting on another conference in March, and I, for one, am already looking forward to it.

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Search Engines Submission: The Basics

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Search Engines Submission: The BasicsSubmitting your website to a search engine is a rather simple process as it typically involves filling out a few form-fields. When completed, you will have notified the search engine of your website, and in most cases they'll begin to visit, crawl, and index your website's pages. However, is it even necessary for you, or a search engine marketer acting on your behalf, to submit your website to search engines?

Search Engines Submission: The Basics

Submitting your website to a search engine is a rather simple process as it typically involves filling out a few form-fields. When completed, you will have notified the search engine of your website, and in most cases they'll begin to visit, crawl, and index your website's pages.

Pretty simple stuff... right? Of course it is, but that's not the question that's currently residing on everyone's mind. The question that should have been asked is if it's even necessary for you, or a search engine marketer acting on your behalf, to submit your website to search engines?

Is it Necessary to Submit Your Website to Search Engines?

In the past I would have said "yes, absolutely", but, today is a completely different story. I'm not going to lie and say that search engine submission is a necessary step in building a successful web presence, because its not. Search engines have improved greatly in their crawling abilities over the years, and possess the necessary elements to locate, crawl, and index a new website on their own and without your help. However, I'm not going to suggest that submitting websites to search engines is completely worthless either. The one obvious benefit is that submitting a new website will provide it with an opportunity for a much faster inclusion into the engine's index.

Furthermore, I'm going to say that the decision of whether or not to submit your business' site will depend on how quickly you wish to get it to rank. In my opinion, there are only 3 or 4 engines even worth submitting to. In fact, most of the time submitting to one search engine will actually get you listed elsewhere as well. For example, I've found that submitting to Yahoo! will get you listed on Yahoo!, AllTheWeb and AltaVista.

Is it Necessary to Submit Your Website to Web Directories?

Web directories are a completely different animal altogether. There are literally hundreds of thousands of directories that can be found online, and understanding which are worthy of your submission and which are not is a little difficult.

Unlike search engines, a directory does not have a "spider" that actively crawls the net. Instead, directories rely on site submissions to feed their index. This means that if you choose not to submit your website to a directory than your site will never appear.

While it's true that a lack of directory-inclusions never hurt a website, directories can, however, help them. In most cases web directories are a great source of website traffic. For example, the following 3 directories are great resources to many people, and having your website included within their listings could mean extra eye-balls for you:

In addition, as a website owner you're probably already aware that having quality links point to you (meaning links from websites with relative information to yours) can DIRECTLY dictate how your website ranks within the major search engines. Submitting your website to key web directories is a great opportunity for you to attain those kinds of links.

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ObjectDock Tool Review

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Monday, October 16, 2006

ObjectDock Tool ReviewObjectDock is an application created by Stardock that enables its users to organize their programs into a dock. The application is very similar to the small panel found on computers running Mac OS X. ObjectDock enables users to have more control over how they organize their desktop. Rather than having a bunch of icons on the desktop, these icons can be placed onto the dock.

ObjectDock Tool Review

ObjectDock is an application created by Stardock that enables its users to organize their programs into a dock. In fact, the application is very similar to the small panel found on computers running Mac OS X. ObjectDock enables users to have more control over how they organize their desktop. Rather than having a bunch of icons on the desktop, these icons can be placed onto the dock.

ObjectDock Tool Review

ObjectDock promises a clean and organized desktop. A few of my favorite features include its highly flexible visual appearance, mouse-over zoom effects, and the optional Start Bar replacement feature. However, above all that, my absolute favorite feature is its ability to "hide" off-screen when it's not being used. If hidden, I simply place my mouse on the far right-side of the screen (location is changeable) and ObjectDock appears.

I recommend this tool for anyone who wishes to clean up their desktop, and make accessing commonly used programs easier.

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Book Review: "Unleashing The Ideavirus"

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Book Review: 'Unleashing The Ideavirus'In his book "Unleashing The Ideavirus", Seth Godin outlines several different ways in which companies can create their own ideavirus - a clever word for an idea that spreads quickly from person to person. Godin identifies the key factors in the successful spread of an ideavirus, and shows how any business, large or small, can use "ideavirus" marketing to succeed.

Book Review: 'Unleashing The Ideavirus'
"Marketing by interrupting people isn't cost-effective anymore. You can't afford to seek out people and send them unwanted marketing messages, in large groups, and hope that some will send you money."

"Instead, the future belongs to marketers who establish a foundation and process where interested people can market to each other. Ignite consumer networks and then get out of the way and let them talk."

In his book "Unleashing The Ideavirus", Seth Godin outlines several different ways in which companies can create their own ideavirus - a clever word for an idea that spreads quickly from person to person. Godin identifies the key factors in the successful spread of an ideavirus, and shows how any business, large or small, can use "ideavirus" marketing to succeed.

This book covers the concept of if you believe an idea is good, stand back and see how popular it really is by telling/showing it to a few key people (sneezers) and hope that they tell (spread) it to others. An ideavirus that spreads easily and far typically means that the company/idea becomes successful.

Book Review

Those who are familiar with my previous book reviews, know that I am a big fan of Seth Godin. It is for that reason I am sad. I expected a great deal of value from this book, as I do all of Godin's books, and believe that it fell short.

Overall, I wasn't that impressed by "Unleashing The Ideavirus", and would encourage readers to pass on it. I found many of Godin's ideas in this book to be pretty common, and don't imagine that marketing professionals of any level will get much in value for their time and money.

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Google Buys YouTube for 1.65 Billion

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Google Buys YouTube for 1.65 BillionGoogle acquired the online video phenomenon, YouTube, for $1.65 Billion. YouTube was founded in February of 2005 by 3 former PayPal employees. The company has since grown to over 60 employees, and has vastly become a very popular video sharing website which lets it's users upload, view, and share video clips. YouTube hosts a wide variety of video content.

Google Buys YouTube for 1.65 Billion

Last night, Google acquired the online video phenomenon, YouTube, for $1.65 Billion. YouTube was founded in February of 2005 by 3 former PayPal employees. The company has since grown to over 60 employees, and has vastly become a very popular video sharing website which lets it's users upload, view, and share video clips. Utilizing Adobe Flash technology to display video, YouTube hosts a wide variety of site content including movie and TV clips and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video-blogging and personal home videos.

My Thoughts

I've been trying to wrap my head around this acquisition since it was first rumored, and I keep coming back to the price. 1.65 Billion is an insane amount of money when buying a video sharing website. I just don't understand where the value is and how YouTube fits into Google's core services. Obviously, I am missing something, that much is clear. Here are some thoughts:

  • Google, in attempt to become a major player in online video, probably felt that their current Google Video platform, released earlier this year, is not at all comparable to those of its immediate competition. Therefore, their only hope for becoming a true leader in the online video market was to buy one that is.

  • Google really wants to be in control of YouTube's 1 million plus users, and solicit future users to sign-up via a Google account... similar to what Yahoo! has done with Flickr. Having more Google accounts under the company's belt will allow them more ways to solicit future products, not to mention track more individual user-behavior... no, Google wouldn't do that... would they?

  • Anyone who is a frequent visitor of YouTube knows that Google is serving up advertisements on what seems like every page of the video giant's website. It is through this partnership that Google gets to monitor just how much web-traffic YouTube receives. I wouldn't be surprised if Google realized just how much money it stands to make now owning 100% of the money coming in through that ad distribution deal, rather than just the 20% or so it owned before.

In any event, regardless of how this transaction will eventually play out, it sure was ground-breaking.

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An Interview with Michael Roebuck on SEM

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Friday, October 06, 2006
An Interview with Michael Roebuck on Search Marketing

Michael Roebuck is General Manager of All Web Promotion is a full-service web site design and marketing agency specializing in search engine marketing and Yahoo! Store design. He has been involved in the website design and marketing since 1999, and continues to play an active role today.

Today I will be interviewing my boss and friend Michael Roebuck on the topic of search engine marketing, and specifically how to build and manage a full-service design and marketing agency. Michael is the General Manager of All Web Promotion, a company that has been in business since 1999, and is the perfect candidate to speak with on the matter.

Interview with Michael Roebuck

Hi Michael, welcome to my blog. While we're certainly not strangers, I do believe this is your first appearance on my blog. I'm very pleased to have you on-board.

Thanks for having me. I'm honored to be here.

Let's start with the basics, shall we? Can you tell my readers a little bit about you and your background? How did you get started in our industry?

Before All Web Promotion, I was the Marketing Director for a manufacturing company called Badge-A-Minit. That was my background. Everything I learned in college or previous jobs just didn't matter anymore. I remember vividly that even the formula used to determine markup was different than I was used to.

Anyway, I was very interested in the Internet and getting the company web site designed and listed. I guess I spent too much time on it because shortly after I found myself running the mail machine for flyers.

Ha! Such determination should have gotten you a promotion. At what point did you decided to leave Badge-A-Minit and begin your own company?

Because Badge-A-Minit is an entrepreneurial company, and I had the direct phone number of the owner; I explained that other people would want to pay for this service. The rest is history. One night in Chicago going through the thesaurus and studying other web sites, my dad, brother and I came up with a name. All Web Promotion was born!

Looking back to that night, how has your company progressed?

It's like night and day. I started the company alone and now we have 10 people. The early days were nice because we were very small and everyone kind of did everything.

Michelle [Plym] was my second employee and is still with us today. She started off doing SEO, and has since moved on to be a Yahoo! Store and RTML designer.

Over the years, the company has seen a few bumpy roads. I remember when an employee quit the day before I was to leave for an SES show in California. In fact she was supposed to go with me. I got a call at 9:00pm stating she wasn't coming back. Luckily for me, at that time my brother [Peter Roebuck] was doing some of All Web's accounting and billing on a part time basis. I heard he was looking for work and I offered him a full time position. A few years later I kind of split the company in half. Peter continues to do billing and at the same time oversees the SEO side of the company where as I oversee the Yahoo! Store design side, as well as everything else. This arrangement has worked out great thus far and has allowed me time to grow the company in different directions.

With you [Karl Ribas] on board now, you get to manage the SEO and PPC projects that come in, as well as cover me when I'm gone or unavailable.

To sum up your question, I guess the company has progressed due to the employees that work for it. We all are vital for the smooth operation. Everyone has a specialty and we all work together to remain cutting edge and knowledgeable in all aspects of the Internet. The company follows the growth of the Internet and I steer it with future perceptions in mind. Most have turned out positive so far.

All Web Promotion started solely as a Search Engine Optimization company. What made you later decide to incorporate website design services? Why did you choose to work with the Yahoo! Store platform?

I added website design because we wanted a way to create some e-commerce websites quickly. We chose Yahoo! because of the name, its ease-of-use, features, and the fact Yahoo! Stores were included in Yahoo! Shopping. After I set up a few stores for myself, it was determined that others needed help as well. Therefore, as a company, we started offering Yahoo! Store design services.

Having worked only two jobs my entire life; I can honestly say that I've never before worked for a company like All Web Promotion. The atmosphere is both fun, and very rewarding, almost to the point where "working" doesn't at all feel like work. Would you agree? How would you describe the overall work environment at All Web Promotion?

I think it's great. Employees all think for themselves and argue with me. I used to hang up signs reading, "Question Authority" and encourage free thinking and problem solving. It must have worked because as opinions differ, we all hear about it. I feel that is really important though. I don't claim to know everything myself, but put us all together and we could solve world hunger. Or at a minimum, what size bed to place in an airplane [referring to a recent argument between Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin].

How about the team? How would you describe those that work for you?

The people are great as well. It's taken a while to get here, but we're here. The employees love what they do and because of this, they perform well. I also try not to treat anyone as if they "work for me." As I see it, we all work with each other. We all have our job to do, and we all work together to achieve success.

Our team is strong in almost every sense. It seems as if everyone has a special talent that they can contribute, and often I'll look to incorporate their talents into actual services that the company can benefit from. For instance our graphic design and photography services were created solely on the fact that employees had strong backgrounds in each of these areas. Like I mentioned earlier, I don't know everything, but together, as a group we are a powerful bunch of people.

Well said. We do have a great team with strengths in many areas, which I'm sure help to make your job a bit easier. As General Manager, what kinds of things do you do to improve employee morale?

I don't plan any official events or activities to improve morale. I treat people as I would want to be treated. Everyone is empowered to make decisions and think for themselves. I have a philosophy that goes like this: "As long as you can justify why you did something, you'll never be wrong. I might over-ride you, but as long as you can justify your actions, everything will be ok." I think living by that philosophy as well as treating everyone as equals, automatically boosts morale.

I love this philosophy! I happen to think it works very well for us, and maybe it could work for other companies too. What kinds of things do you do, or implement, to ensure that your team remains up-to-date and knowledgeable in their areas of expertise?

Together, we subscribe to numerous newsletters and industry blogs, manage a company iPod that is passed around with various podcasts on it, and attend various trade and industry shows. Apart from that we constantly test and try our own ideas.

What is the best part about managing a company like All Web Promotion? What, in your opinion, makes showing up to work each day worth the trip?

I love what I do. Each day is different and I deal with a different set of challenges. Variety is the spice of life! Nowhere have I met so many interesting people all trying to get ahead or get out of the daily rat race. So when you ask me the best part about managing a company like All Web Promotion, it's the people. We're taking people's dreams and turning them into reality. Then we take that reality and ensure the world gets to see it. What could be more fun than that?

Great answer, and I definitely agree with you. We work with many interesting people, and helping them to create and market their "dreams" makes each day worthwhile. With that said, how would you describe the typical All Web Promotion client?

Because of our ability to create a fully functional, turn-key e-commerce web site for only $299; we get lots of inquiries. The average web site is a bit higher though, as some customization is usually requested. Regardless, most of our clients are small businesses. From the mom and pops who start a part time job to get out of the daily grind to the smaller corporations who need a better web site for less.

What would you say is your absolute favorite client-success story?

When I was starting out I received a phone call from a guy who was just getting into a particular niche market. He had spent everything he had and I was his last hope. He gave me a couple months to get his web site listed in the search engines. If I failed, he was going to have to go to school to become a home inspector and he didn't want that. He's still a client today, and is a considerable force to be reckoned with in his niche market. He's also a really nice guy and I'd do anything for him for that reason alone.

Small business success stories are the best, aren't they? In fact, All Web Promotion is in itself a small business success story. As much as you were an influence to your client's success, there's probably someone who has influenced you in the same way. Who, if anyone, would you say has been the most influential person in your life?

My Dad. Hands Down. The older I get, the smarter he becomes. He is an engineer by trade and was able to take a comment made to him at a trade show and turn it into a dream come true. He took the risk of quitting his secure job with a stay at home wife and 3 babies to pursue a dream, and it has paid off for him. He answers to no one and is really a pretty smart guy.

I have the privilege of knowing your dad, and would agree that he's a great guy. Quite the poker player too, but that's for another interview! How do you think your dad's influence has helped you to become a better leader and General Manager?

Probably his lack of influence has been the biggest factor. Apart from observing him for the past 30 some years, he stays away and lets me run things as I see fit. This means I make my own mistakes as well as solve my own problems. Sure, he's there if I have a question but he typically doesn't offer his advice. Because of this, I run the company as I would want to be run. I'm not simply an extension of him doing what he dictates.

You've been at this ship's hull for over seven years now. How have your individual duties and responsibilities changed since you first started?

I don't get to get my hands as dirty as I used too. I got into this job because I loved doing it. Now, I sit behind a desk managing employees and doing business tasks. I get to jump in every now and then, and I still oversee a few clients, but I'm more of a solutions provider now. I get to work on the really tough tasks and solve the big problems that no one else knows or wants to commit to. It's a different kind of fun. It's still crack and I need my daily fix, but it's a different, newer crack. A more potent Internet Crack maybe?

Interesting.... Looking back at the success you've experienced thus far, what if anything would you change or do differently?

I wouldn't do anything differently. I've learned a lot and have helped many people succeed. If I didn't do what I did, we might not be here now. On the other hand, I might have bought stock in Yahoo! before the crash or Google and be sitting on a beach somewhere now, but other than that, I wouldn't change a thing.

What unique characteristics help separate All Web Promotion from say other online marketing and design companies?

As far as design goes, we can turn out a beautiful e-commerce capable website for thousands less than a design company or advertising agency could offer. Companies love that!

Mom and Pops love the scalability and training we offer. We can build them a site and then train them to use it thereby eliminating the need to hire a designer in the future. We can start with a basic site and as they sell and make money, we can add more functionality. Also, being that a lot of our clients are small business, we created an after hours support line. No-one else offers this. If you are working on your site at night (which most part-time people do) and hit a snag, give us a call. Most likely we can help you.

As you're well aware, Search Engine Marketing seems to have the ability to change gears and progress without notice. Where do you see the Search Engine Marketing Industry being 10 - 20 years down the road?

I have absolutely no idea. This industry moves so fast, I don't know where we'll be 20 days from now. I presume in 20 years the search engines will be some form of artificial intelligence that has been implanted in your brain. All you'll need to do is think and the answer will appear.

Interesting thought, but let's roll with it. Where will All Web Promotion be at that time?

We'll probably all be cross eyed and hunched over some form of computer. Our kids will be running the show and trying to get us old geezers out of the way so they can "modernize."

Ha! Early retirement does sound good! It is a shame we didn't get in on that Google stock when we had the chance. For those looking to start an online business, what would you say is the biggest misconception that exists?

Build a web site and you'll get rich. It's the age-old problem of people thinking that all they need is a web site and customers will beat a path to their door. It's not true. It's hard, repetitious and tedious work. But the payoff is great.

Another problem is overnight success and Google. People want to be number 1 for Google only and they want it by tomorrow. I have to agree with them partly because they know that 80% of their sales come from Google so why spend so much time on the other engines? It's a tough sell trying to get people to understand that a presence across the Internet is needed.

As a business owner myself, I focus on Google as well. Who is this MSN fellow anyway? Do they really matter? To some clients, they aren't even a blip on the stats report.

Great answer, and so very true. It's disturbing to think that some honestly believe that once their site is complete that they can just flick on the neon "open" sign and sit back to watch the orders fly in. This is a huge misconception, and I'm glad you mentioned it. Considering your experiences and everything that you've seen and done in this industry, what advice would you offer those looking to start a Search Marketing/Design company?

It's a tough market to get into nowadays. I started early but as long as you are knowledgeable and can perform, I think anybody can get involved. It takes a little while to learn this stuff though, and I still learn something new everyday, which is part of the reason I love it so much. You have to like challenges and be willing to work to overcome them.

Looking to the future, what can we expect to see from All Web Promotion with regards to website marketing and design services and resources? What can we expect to see from Michael Roebuck personally?

Umm... don't know. What's new with the Internet? We are integrating more usability features into the sites we design and dabbling with various third party applications to make web sites more advanced for less money. I guess as new features and functions get developed, we'll add them to our services. Basically, whatever we need to do to remain on the cutting edge of Yahoo! Store, and search technology that the common businesses can afford.

Well... that's that. I'm out of questions, and that means that you're officially off of the hot seat. Thank you very much for taking this time to chat with me. I for one had a blast, and hope that you, as well as our readers, did too.

Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure and I hope it's been enlightening.

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Yahoo! Begins to Serve Mobile Ads

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Yahoo! Begins to Serve Mobile AdsYahoo! launched a Beta version of their sponsored search program for mobile phones in the United States and United Kingdom. Advertisers will have an opportunity to bid on keywords that will display their ads on the search results page. As of now, this service will work on most mobile phones and handhelds that have web-browsing capabilities.

Yahoo! Begins to Serve Mobile Ads

It seems as of late that all the major search engines are eyeballing the mobile advertising market, and who can really blame them... it promises to be a very worthwhile and rewarding market. Yahoo!, on Wednesday, launched a Beta version of their sponsored search program for mobile phones in the United States and United Kingdom.

Similar to their current sponsored search platform, advertisers will have an opportunity to bid (in auction format) on keywords that will display their ads on the search results page. As of now, this service will work on most mobile phones and handhelds that have web-browsing capabilities.

My Thoughts

With more and more consumers using their mobile phones to perform searches on the web, most of which are local-related, it's a great idea for companies like Yahoo! and Google to offer some sort of mobile advertising platform. There are several times when I've personally performed searches on my cell phone, typically looking for restaurant information or specialty shops, and wished for better results.

Paid ads are definitely the way to go with mobile search! Putting the information that is desired in front of those that desire it is what a search engine is all about. Adding advertisements to mobile search results is a great way for search engines to see that it continues to happen, while making a little something-something on the side.

Do you or your clients own a brick and mortar business? If so, consider tapping into mobile search advertising via Yahoo!. I imagine that local businesses, such as restaurants, bakeries, taxi services, day spas, bowling alleys, or other shopping centers and venues, are the perfect fit for such a service.

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