The Importance of Search in Visual Content Marketing

Visual Content Marketing An email to a colleague began an unexpected journey.  I began searching for a quote source and ended up writing a blog post on the importance of search in visual content marketing.

The role of images in Content Marketing is to bring visitors to your site.  Why include images? Because content which features relevant images gets more page views.  The next question is – how will those visitors find your website?   In many cases, the answer is via a search engine. Organic search still accounts for more than 50% of website traffic while social media only accounts for 5%   That’s why it’s important to make sure the relevant images you’re using are optimized for search.

The importance of optimizing images for search in a visual content marketing campaign.

I paraphrased a quote I remembered from an episode of Scrubs in the email.  I wasn’t sure if my colleague was familiar with the show, so I tried to provide context.  This began an unexpected journey.

I searched for the quote and was presented with a list of sites.  The first site had hundreds – perhaps thousands – of quotes in text format.  The site was pages and page of text and there wasn’t a global search feature.  I didn’t want to dig through dozens of pages of text so I moved on.

The next result was a blog featuring animated gif images.  The images were ugly and because the quote text was hidden inside the images, it was impossible to search for a particular quote.  I moved on down the list.

I then clicked on the third link.  While the page only listed less than a dozen quotes from this particular television character, the images featuring the quotes caught my eye.  I kept reading as I scrolled down the page.  Each quote was contained within an image but unlike the last site, these images drew me in.  As a result, I quickly found myself at the bottom of the page.  When I got to the bottom of the page, I visited other pages.  I also wanted to share these images with others.

That’s called “visitor engagement” which is a huge win for this site.

Visual content marketing objective achievement unlocked!

(Crowds cheer and throw confetti.)

I then picked up my cell phone to share the images. I had two choices.

  1. I could try to type out the incredibly complex url or
  2. I could search for the images on my phone.

I chose the latter.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the images I wanted to share when I searched using my cell phone.

That’s when I noticed there were zero shares using the social media share buttons.  Something is amiss here. I started looking for answers.

No Image Optimization = 0 Social Shares.

Long story short -the site isn’t optimized for search.  Even worse, the images aren’t optimized for search.  Yes -that’s a thing.   Optimizing images for search should be a priority for visual content marketing campaigns.

The search engines can’t “read” the text inside an image. If the search engines can’t read it, they can’t index it. It’s just that simple.

Remember, search drives over 50% of traffic online.  Without the search engines, luck plays a huge role in whether or not your visual content marketing will succeed. Do you really want to give luck such a HUGE role in your content visibility ?

When Email Newsletter Message “Success” Leads to Failure

communicationTaking old school direct marketing tactics and applying them without alteration to email is a popular practice that is doomed to fail.  Applying the old school tactics without considering the change in media will lead to a never ending cycle of “successful” email-marketing newsletters that fail to convert as effectively as they should.

I wrote recently about the many “new media marketing” mistakes a former “sales training guru” I once admired is making as he tries to transition from “old school” to “new school” selling strategies. I shared how signing up for his newsletter has resulted in a never-ending onslaught of product pitches. Since his marketing techniques are sound, I haven’t unsubscribed. Instead, I have chosen to “learn” from him these days based upon what he does – or doesn’t do –  instead of purchasing the products he’s selling.

Recently, one of his emails caught my eye and I opened it.  This action immediately makes that particular message a success.  This message continued to rack up “wins” as I read the message and then clicked on the link to learn more.


While this message chalked up several wins – making it a technical success – it didn’t win on the most important point which was making the sale.

How can an email-marketing newsletter be a success but not result in a sale?

There are many reasons that a successful email-marketing newsletter message might not “connect” and make a sale. In this case, it was the lack of understanding about how the “prospect” is connecting with the message.

If this particular marketing message had been delivered “old school style” – via direct mail marketing – I probably would have purchased the product.  However, this message wasn’t delivered “snail mail” – it was delivered via email and that changes everything.


There are two serious disconnects which have taken this campaign which I’m sure was a “winner” in the direct mail game and turned it into a “loser” in the email marketing game.

DISCONNECT #1: Lack of Responsive Design

I opened this message on my “smart” phone and I’m not alone. According to eMailMonday,

Mobile email will account for 15 to 65% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type. eMailmonday – “Party safe mobile email stats” (2013)

When someone clicks on an email message on their smart phone, it’s critical that the landing page is created with mobile in mind.

In this marketer’s case, my successful email newsletter “click”  landed me on a page which was a mobile nightmare design wise.

GOOD NEWS: Many, many WordPress themes are now mobile responsive – so if you’ve been creating content in WordPress, redressing your content in a mobile friendly design is as easy as installing and applying a new theme.

Consumers expect your pages to display properly in their smart phones.  You can’t expect to sell anything to someone who is playing “let’s try to read the content” on their mobile phone.

Mobile responsive design is now a “must have” not a “nice to have” feature if you expect your website to “sell”.  You can’t expect consumers to run home and sit down at their desk top computer in order to purchase your product or services.


DISCONNECT #2: Price Insensitivity

Like other consumers, I have been “conditioned” to find the best value using the tools at my fingertips – the web.  When I saw the $197 price point on the product offered, rather than click to purchase – my first instinct was to check to see if I could find the product at a lower price.  I quickly discovered the “info-product” offered is actually an audio book – offered for as little as $30 on eBay – and for $44 on Amazon.  I also learned that  the audio-book doesn’t live up to the hype – thanks to the many reviews left by others who have previously purchased this product.

The web has brought price comparison shopping to a whole new level.  On the web:

Price Comparisons Are the Rule Instead of the Exception

Don’t insult your valuable email newsletter subscribers by inflating the price of products you offer them.  Instead, you should offer them discounts that can’t be found ANYWHERE else on the web.

Even though this message only had two New Media Disconnects, finding the product at a fraction of the price – with poor reviews to boot – put an end to my pursuit of the knowledge contained within.

Essential Takeaway: Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools available to your business.  However, it’s only powerful if used correctly.  Share your thoughts below.

Question #56: Should I blog?

money making business

Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.  Og Mandino”

James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and serial entrepreneur who recently shared his  “Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Starting and Running Your Own Business.”  It’s presented like an FAQ for people who want to start their own business.

Probably the most powerful tip was the final one:

RULE #infinity:
You create your luck by being healthy and not regretting the past or being anxious about the future.

Inspired.  There are 101 other great questions and answers in the blog post.   One that caught my eye was this one:

56) Should I blog?
Yes. You must. Blog about everything going wrong in your industry. Blog personal stories that you think will scare away customers. They won’t. Customers will be attracted to honesty.

I won’t dispute the truth of the statement, however I’ve worked with enough business bloggers to want to raise my hand and offer a bit of advice on the subject.

You must blog: Check.

Don’t be afraid to blog about what’s wrong in your industry.  Check.

Angela Hoy of  the self publishing company Booklocker shares her concerns about how many self publishing houses engage in less than ethical tactics in the weekly newsletter.  She  and her husband also maintain a forum – the “original” web 2.0 app – which includes a “whispers and warnings” section.

Blog personal stories that you think will scare away customers.  In the words of Ralphie’s mother in “A Christmas Story” when her husband set up the leg lamp in their front window – “Ahhh, ohhh, uhhh…”

I’ve worked with business bloggers since 2006, and I feel I need to add this disclaimer to this bit of advice.

If you’re in the business of solving problems, it’s not a good idea to blog about how you can’t solve your own current problems.  For example, if you’re a marriage counselor, it’s probably not a good idea to blog about your own personal issues with infidelity.

There is of course and exception to the exception and that’s creating a “here’s how I’ve overcome this obstacle, I can help you overcome it as well” style blog post.   Even better is to create a series of  “I overcame this obstacle,  I’ve helped others overcome it as well” style blog posts. These types of post are by far the most powerful “marketing tool” you can create for your business.

Customers will be attracted to honesty.  Double, triple, quadruple check!

Another word for honesty is authentic – and this is where business blogging can get ugly for some people.  If you think your customers are mindless sheep then it’s probably best if you don’t blog because for some reason, blogging tends to put your “shit on blast.”

Instead of being afraid of the “putting your shit on blast” properties of business blogging, get your attitude adjusted then put on your big boy (or girl) pants and start blogging.


Old School Sales Strategies Don’t Work Anymore!

Blogging Topics“Nothing happens until somebody sells something”

Like many newly minted college graduates, when I crossed the finish line and collected my BS degree (pun definitely intended) with dual majors in Marketing and Economics, I quickly discovered that my degree was not what I thought it was.  I thought it was the key to success and instead it was merely an indicator future employers that I was willing to follow a prescribed path to complete a process. The fact that I had completed my degree in 3 years instead of four while spending a trimester in Japan failed to impress any of the HR people with whom I interviewed.

With no job experience other than retail mall clerk during high school, I found myself applying for “marketing” jobs. I quickly learned that “marketing” is HR code for “commissioned sales positions.” Eventually I landed a position with a regional advertising agency only to discover that “account executive” is just another term for “commissioned sales person.”

SELLING is an essential part of doing business.

My mentor was a wise woman who quickly introduced me to the wonderful world of “self-growth” as well as “sales training.” She began feeding me a constant stream of products from top name motivational and sales gurus. In those days, their words of wisdom were carrying via cassette tapes instead of podcasts. More than one of those loaned tapes literally disintegrated in my cassette deck from my ravenous consumption of the material.

Not long ago, I ran across a blog maintained by one of those gurus. It didn’t take any kind of “bribe” to get me to sign up for his email newsletter – because this man already possessed “demi-god” status within my mind.

After I signed up, I was HORRIFIED to see that the “legal bribe” offered by my sales hero had a GLARING TYPO in the first paragraph. (Thanks Mike for pointing out my glaring typo in the first paragraph of this post.)

This person had a huge balance in his trust account with me – so I hoped that this was just an oversight on the part of his staff.  Ever sinceI shared my email address with him, my inbox has been inundated with a never-ending stream of “hard closing” sales messages. Once I made a mistake of actually trying to watch one of his videos – and it was like watching paint dry. Meanwhile his blog posts seemed to be devoted to chasing keywords instead of sharing information.

Unfortunately, this man’s lack of understanding of the “modern sales process” has resulted in his credibility dropping to less than zero with me.  This is a direct result of watching him function in the “new world” of social media.

The new world of social media can seem bewildering to someone who has decades of experience in one-way communication.  I can see where it would be especially frightening for someone who hasn’t been along for the ride – for those who ignored the web until the 2nd decade of this century.

However, in the words of one of my clients – sometimes you can get so far behind that you’re actually ahead and that is definitely the case when it comes to social media and sales.

The importance of targeting your audience

creaturesoflogicI’m constantly prattling on around here about the importance of targeting your audience and there is no way for me to overstate the importance of this principle.

Targeting your audience is part of the foundation for the success of your business.

You can have the best product – the best service – the best solution ever seen and your business can still fail simply because you failed to target a specific audience when creating your marketing messages.

I’m in the middle of doing some research on a new business I’m preparing to launch with a colleague.  The business idea is solid and it’s based upon solving a problem.  I personally prefer this as opposed to a problem prevention business idea because human beings in general are exceptionally BAD about engaging in proactive behavior.   In other words, marketing a problem solving business is much easier than marketing a problem prevention business.

Yeah!  I’m starting another business and I’m currently in the research phase of that process.

In the course of my research, I’ve come across a company making an exceptionally well crafted offer.  That in and of itself is reason enough to spend some time exploring the company’s site however, it’s possible that this company’s offerings may make sense for my new business.

I begin the process of gathering information from the company’s website with the enthusiasm of an archeologist entering a previously undiscovered tomb of an ancient pharaoh   The opening page of the site is utilizing every conversion technique known to man.  This is good – this is REALLY good.  However, as I navigate the site, I find myself in a frustrating “loop”.  Every link which promises “more information” takes me to a contact form to request a personalized demo.

Frustrated, I head to the company’s blog.  Perhaps I’ll find the answers I need there.   What I find there are a lot of “shameless self promotion” pieces – but still not a clue whether their solution is priced within our means or not.  Another thing absent from the blog posts are anecdotes illustrating how real companies have reaped the harvest of the “solutions” promised in the company’s website content.  It makes me wonder…

Are the so called “solutions” offered by this company simply platitudes?

For some reason, this morning I’ve had the Seals and Croft song, “We may never pass this way again” stuck in my head.  It was there before I began this search – but now it seems to be hammering home a point: Visitors to your site may never pass this way again.

When I publish this blog post, I’ll close the two tabs – one for this site, one for the site I’m referencing – and soon that site will  fade from my memory.   It took five clicks to reach the site in question but it will only take one click of the button to close it.  I’ve already spent more time on the site than I normally would simply because not only did this company’s site inspire this blog post – but it’s also serving as a warning to myself as I embark upon the exciting adventure of starting a small business.

Will your content be featured on a FlipBoard


The roles of internet users are becoming more clearly defined these days – a sure sign that the market is maturing.   Internet users today fall into one of three categories:

  • content creators,
  • content curators 
  • content consumers. 

In the early days of the internet – before the year 2000 – virtually everyone online moved seamlessly between all three roles.  However, in the past few years, those roles have been becoming more delineated – which is a good thing if you understand your place in the internet ecosystem.

The Internet Ecosystem is Evolving – what’s your place in it?

I recently shared that Google reader is scheduled for termination but how it doesn’t mean RSS is dead – it just means the web is evolving.  Flipboard is one of the ways the web is evolving.

In a nutshell, Flipboard allows iPhone and iPad users to curate their own digital magazine.  What’s your passion?  Whatever it is, the new Flipboard app allows you to pull together your own collections of digital content – photos, videos, articles and audio files – to create your own “magazine”.  Once you’ve created your own digital Flipboard magazine, then others can “follow” your flipboard.

If the process sounds like an “expanded” version of Pinterest or Tumblr – it is.   According to Fast Company

It’s a new twist on the tried and true blogging formula. Magazines on Flipboard are simply blogs in a neatly packaged form–a broadcast platform that takes advantage of Flipboard’s smart UI and curation tools.

So where does this turn of events leave you – Mr. or Ms. Business Owner?

Does this mean you should shutter your business blog and launch your own Flipboard?

Again, this is a place where you need to KNOW where your place is in the internet ecosystem.

If your original blogging goal was to curate other people’s content into your own digital magazine – then you may want to look at shuttering your blog.

However, for my clients – their blog is not a carefully curated collection of other people’s content.  My clients are blogging to establish themselves as experts in their field.  If that’s why you’re blogging – then Flipboard is yet another distribution channel for your content.  The videos, audio files, photos and articles you’re posting may find new life when they get picked up by a talented Flipboard digital magazine curator.

Which is why its more important than ever to target your content to a tightly defined target audience.  If your product or service can appeal to dozens of tightly targeted niche audiences – its more important than ever to create content targeted specifically to EACH of those audiences.   The more tightly you target your content creation – the better your chance at having your content “discovered” by a Flipboard curator and featured in their magazine.

The more things change – the more they stay the same.


Passion + Strategy = Success

small business blogs

You might have passion to spare when you start your practice – but passion alone won’t get you to your ultimate goal of success.  

To achieve success, you have to have a strategic plan in place.  

A while back, I was contacted by a client who had fired me a few years earlier. We had worked together for about 10 months but we never really accomplished anything.  We spent most of our time debating the importance of achieving a #1 organic SERP on her desired keyword.  She thought it was a top priority – while I wanted to focus on creating a lead generation process.

 The client is always right – so I focused my efforts on her desired objective.  We parted on good terms when she claimed she couldn’t “afford” to work with me anymore – and I left the door open for her to return when the circumstances changed.

Over the next few years, my efforts on her behalf were rewarded.  Her site rose to a #1 organic position on her desired keyword but despite that “success” – her practice wasn’t succeeding.

Her next contact with me was after she had emptied her savings and been forced to go to work 40 hours a week.  She sent me a link to a competitor’s website – one who is offering EXACTLY the same service she offers on her website with the comment , “This is the kind of practice I want to have!”

In my reply, I pointed out that this competitor was simply copying her website – sans the graphics but right down to her tightly targeted, carefully crafted keyword phrase.

When we were first working together, she had carved out a unique niche in her field.  Today she has a myriad of competitors – all chasing this tightly targeted audience which we had identified as under-served  years ago.

The key takeaway is this: my client had passion to spare when she started her practice. However, passion couldn’t take her all the way to achieving success.

During our first go-around – she didn’t see the value of putting together a cohesive marketing strategy – which in my world includes a lead generation process.  Instead  the “shiny” marketing tactics which promised a “softer,cheaper, easier way” to build her practice had let her down.

For some reason, many of my clients resist digging in and developing a strong lead generation process.   This former client in particular didn’t view developing such a process as necessary – until she had to get a “real” job to support herself.

Creating a solid lead generation process is hard work – but it’s hard work that pays HUGE dividends in the long run!

RSS feeds will continue to be valuable despite the death of Google Reader

The proverbial “shit” has hit the fan this week about the death of Google reader but it’s not the only service scheduled to meet with the hangman’s noose – iGoogle is also scheduled to die this year as well.

There are two reasons I’m commenting on this subject here – first and foremost – I have a blog post which gives instructions on how to use iGoogle to subscribe to an RSS feed as part of your master plan to master the internet while reaching out to potential customer via your business blog.  With the publication of this post, I can now create a link to direct future visitors who find themselves on that page – perplexed and bewildered – to this page to get their questions answered.

The second reason for writing this post is to let you know that RSS is not dead – the technology lives on – its just being used by different applications.

There’s a great article on the death of Google Reader over at Fast Company.  Within that article you’ll find this valuable paragraph:

Increasingly popular social news reader apps such as Pulse and Flipboard, and Taptu […] are built on RSS, though their users might not even realize they’re using that technology. In fact, they often have an option to import Google Reader feeds.

If you’re a Google Reader user – check out the apps above to continue to access your feed subscriptions.

For those who signed up for blogging based upon the multitude of “internet marketing gurus” who told you that RSS feeds were the best thing since sliced bread – never fear.  Your blog’s RSS feed is still a VALUABLE connection and communication tool for your business – even if it’s not being accessed via an RSS feed reader.

To clarify that last statement; as technology evolves – there are better and more elegant ways to access the data your business blog’s RSS feed contains.

In conclusion – if you started blogging because someone told you that the reason blogs were great for your business was because they “came equipped with RSS” – don’t stop blogging because RSS is dead or because Google is killing their RSS feed reader.

To be honest, the ability for your visitors to subscribe to your blog’s RSS feeds was always – in my opinion – at best a tertiary reason to be blogging for your business unless your target audience is the tech crowd.  RSS subscribers have always been confined to the uber-nerdy and ultra techy circles (a.k.a. the web’s content creators).  These were the primary users of Google reader – which is the reason behind the VERY vocal outcry over its demise.

If you’re upset over the death of Google Reader – in the words of a popular Meme – thanks to KnowYourMeme


Meanwhile, the rest of humanity is collectively scratching their head wondering what all the fuss is about.

Branding elements are a commodity – the art of branding is not

business blogs and brandingBranding is something that consumers DO to your business however, by using the right “branding elements” – you can provide much needed “direction” in building that consumer perception. Since acquiring branding elements – like a logo, a website design, a facebook page or a twitter account – are all dirt cheap – what’s your excuse for not building a powerful brand?

There’s a great article over at Fast Company by Heath Shackleford Why Fast, Cheap, and Easy Design Is Killing Your Nonprofit’s Brand

It’s not a question of whether you can get quality design from cheap (or free) apps and services. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. The real question is a fundamental one: Do you have a strategy for what you’re creating?

For 8 out of 10 nonprofits, the answer to that question is no. Only 20% of causes report having a formal, written marketing strategy. Meanwhile, 100% have logos, websites, and donor communication vehicles. That’s less than ideal when you consider:

  • A logo does not equal a brand.
  • A website does not equal a digital presence.
  • A Facebook page does not equal an engaged community.
  • A press release does not equal press coverage.

Strategy leads to things like a distinctive and authentic point of view, the creation of compelling content, and the development of engaged communities. Without strategy, you are just making stuff that may or may not “look pretty.”

I stand and salute Heath on everything he wrote with exception of the statement about strategy which I italicized. Here’s where we differ: I believe it’s possible for a business to fail in developing a distinct and authentic point of view despite having a sound strategy in place. I have seen companies fail to create compelling content and engaged communities even though they have developed a cohesive marketing strategy. Admittedly, more often than not – in cases where the company fails to connect on these “branding precepts” there is a gaping chasm where “insert marketing strategy statement” goes.

Often times at start up – the passion of the founder “infects” the business at the cellular level. This infection leads to the distinct and authentic point of view which in turn leads effortlessly into created compelling content which has as its end result an engaged community. However, it’s the passion of the leader(s) – not the lack of marketing strategy – which lies at the root of this success.

It’s possible to have a marketing strategy without passion – and it’s equally possible to have passion without a marketing strategy. So if you have passion – do you really need a marketing strategy?

In the end, I’d have to say strategy trumps passion every time. Combine the two – and you have a powerful force which will fuel the engine of your successful business. However, if someone held a gun to your head and forced you to choose just one of the two – choose strategy over passion every time.

Why choose strategy over passion?

Strategy plans for the obstacles ahead – the incessant, relentless obstacles that can quickly “drain” every ounce of passion from most hearty and enthusiastic of mortal beings.

In the end, creating a cohesive marketing strategy is like creating an acrylic housing for the passion upon which you’ve founded your business. Not only can it protect your passion – it can also direct your “branding” efforts as well.

You’re not in control of your “brand”

business blogs and brandingIt amuses me when people start talking to me about “branding” their business because often it’s portrayed like it’s something that the business owner “does” to his or her business.

Oh nay nay – branding is something your CUSTOMERS DO TO your business.

You may be able to exercise some control as you “guide” their hand as they wield the blazing hot iron rod and take aim – but your control of the entire “branding” process is limited because branding takes place entirely inside the mind of consumers.

The Twilight movie saga is an exceptional example of how “branding” can go totally awry.

When you saw “Twilight” reference above – did you wonder if I were “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob”? That my friends is an example of how consumers helped to craft a “brand” for the movie franchise – one that has attached itself to the movie franchise and inspired everything from t-shirts to SNL skits. However, there’s another side to this “branding love story” – a story of branding gone horribly awry.

When it comes to what “team” I’m on – I’m on a third hereto undefined team – I’m on “Team Rifftrax”. If it weren’t for Rifftrax I would have never been able to sit through this insipid movie – let alone enjoy it as thoroughly.

Watch the Rifftrax Twilight synopsis here.

Thanks to the ruthless and brutal commentary provided by Mike, Bill and Kevin, I am truly a fan of RiffTrax and by extension – the Twilight saga.

The RiffTrax brand is strong – very strong. Jedi mind power strong – oh don’t get me started – they’ve riffed the Star Wars saga as well. “We don’t make movies – we make them funny” is their branding statement and they follow through on that promise with surprising regularity.

Which is where the whole “you’re not in control of your own branding” thing comes into play.

Yesterday I got an email from Rifftrax introducing their Kickstarter campaign to do a live Riff of the original movie in theaters this summer. (Note: Rifftrax emails always get my attention because they are used to share important information like this and not spammy shit like so many email campaigns do these days.)

I logged on to Kickstarter 22 hours after that email was sent and saw that $136,000 had already been pledged to the project, which is well in excess of the $55,000 original funding goal.

On one hand – this is the story of a strong brand – RiffTrax – asking their “brand advocates” for support – and the enthusiastic response. How did this happen? Through five years of delivering on their branding statement – regular customer contact – and quite honestly – respect for their audience and customers.

On the other hand (the Twilight end) – this is a story about “branding” gone horribly awry. Sure – millions of “fans” adored the movie when it was released- but the movie quickly found its way into the discount DVD bin at various superstores.

Meanwhile there are obviously a much greater number of un-fans who dwell on the dark side behind our leaders (Mike, Bill and Kevin). The difference between the two is the Team RiffTrax crowd are brand enthusiasts – while the “Team Twilight” fans are a fickle bunch.

Building a brand takes years – not days – and is a never ending process for your business. For an example of a movie studio that has taken building their brand seriously, read about Pixar’s brand building activities in the days BEFORE they were a Disney property.

The best way to build and control your branding message is to stay “on target” and deliver exceptional quality – unless you’re a movie studio and want your movie franchise to become the next target of team RiffTrax.