It Used to be ROI – Now it’s More Like WOI

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Ah, acronyms. If you’ve worked in investments, marketing or finance, you probably know the term ROI. It stands for Return on Investment. When a business spends or invests money, how much do they get back? If they invest $10,000 in marketing, they need to see a much greater return on that investment to be viable. So what’s WOI? Stay tuned… it’ll come up in a second.

The whole marketing world has been turned upside down by the internet. It used to be that big corporations ruled the world – kind of like the dinosaurs did in Jurassic Park. But like those dinosaurs, they don’t exactly rule any more. Now smaller companies have a much better shot at getting a share of the market because of the major changes in marketing methods that have resulted from social media.

The primary method of advertising a product twenty years ago was the big advertising campaign. Television and magazine ads ruled (remember broadcast networks and print magazines?). International companies like General Electric, Procter and Gamble, Ford and Revlon were the big players. Superbowl ads, full page or double spread layouts in Vogue, billboards – these were the messages that kept these big brands powerful.

It has almost been amusing to see these big companies come down to Earth and have to learn to interface with real people. David Meerman Scott, a social media expert who wrote the book The New Rules of Marketing and PR tells a story about how he went to a big Detroit car manufacturer website to research a new car purchase he was thinking about. Instead of finding a website that provided him with the interactivity he needed to plan this purchase, he found a screaming advertisement much like what he would find on television.

These big companies have had to learn the lessons of small companies. Be nimble, be adaptable, be fast, update your site frequently but most of all, be responsive to your customers’ needs. Don’t bludgeon people over the head with the product message YOU want to deliver.

Now – back to WOI. This is an invented term that means Word of Internet. So much of a message these days doesn’t travel by word of mouth as it does by Word of Internet. The right investment in social media and the right internet content earns you WOI.

In Hollywood, there’s a restaurant with the most magnificent short ribs ever. They also offer a 10% discount if you check in via Facebook. That restaurant considers WOI valuable enough to give you a discount. In a lot of cases, generating positive WOI isn’t really expensive. Negative WOI can, however, cost you plenty.

If you are like most people, you start searching on the internet when you need a product or service for which you don’t have an established vendor. As a test, an auto repair shop was searched for in the local area. The closest one had one review that was thorough, detailed, objective – and quite negative. Have you ever had a bad experience with a business and while fuming about it afterwards, wished you had a way to save other people from your bad experience? Maybe you already know that internet reviews now give you that way.

The classic tale of bad WOI that went unhandled by a major corporation is the story of the Dell laptop that burst into flames at a computer conference. The blaze was videoed by a bystander and posted to the internet within minutes. Dell lost a lot of business by not dealing with this negative WOI right away.

WOI can work for you or against you. It’s smart, these days, to get busy building yourself plenty of positive WOI that point people in your direction! There are many methods of doing this, some simple and cheap like asking people to check in at your restaurant in exchange for a little discount. Keeping your blog updated with interesting information is another way. If you provide interesting, useful information, people will link to your blog or forward it to a friend, winning you a little more WOI each time this is done. It’s good advice to keep your WOI positive and even do a search from time to time to see if there is any negative WOI you can clean up so customers keep flowing in your direction.

Morgan Fagerman

The Power of the Local Search

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In North America, there are around 348 million people, including all the babies and young children, elderly and so on. According to, 273 million of these people use the internet. Another way to look at it is that use of the internet is a regular feature in nearly 79% of North American households.

This means that your prime public – families and individuals who need your products or services – are on the internet.

Another interesting statistic in this area is the fact that between 2000 and 2012, the number of people utilizing the internet grew 153% (it was only 108 million in 2000).

Sure, some people still ask around when they are looking for a product or service they need but more and more, people are looking on the internet. Pizza restaurants, tire services, healthcare services, salons, movie theaters, dry cleaners… most people start now by looking on the internet. One report stated that 88% of people who searched for a local business then called or visited that business within 24 hours.

When Location is Critical

You’ll notice that these (and many other) businesses are location-critical. People will only drive so far to get their tires replaced. Maybe someone only wants to drive five miles to ten miles at the most. He’s going to want a local tire business.

He can go to Bing, Google or and do a search for tire companies. Foursquare started out as a social networking application that people used to share the fact that they were visiting a particular business with their friends. It progressed on to become a search function for businesses, with an emphasis on ratings and comments from earlier visitors.

For the purpose of education, I’ll do a search on Foursquare for a tire shop in Dunedin. When I look at my Foursquare results for tire stores in Dunedin, I get a map with about twenty markers. If I click on one near my imaginary home, I have a Foursquare page on this business that includes their address, hours, description of the services they provide. I can even sign into Facebook right from this list and “see which of my friends have been to XXX tire store.” Oh yeah, and there’s reviews.

Reviews are an important part of the whole local search function. You can find the vendor you want and then see what people have said about him. This is the Brave New World of internet search results. If you haven’t done it yet, you should look up your competitors and see what people are saying about them.

You Have an Image Now – Good or Bad

If you have a business that relies on local traffic, this is something you should be looking at. Whether you realize it or not, you have an image in the online world RIGHT NOW. If you don’t groom that image and take care of it, it may not represent you very well. In the old days, people who didn’t like your site would complain to the Better Business Bureau. Now, they just have to fire up the laptop and type their complaint into, Foursquare, even Facebook.

It’s now an important promotional action to actively groom and maintain a positive image in all these virtual locations. Just remember that statistic from earlier in this post about the overwhelming number of people who searched for a business and then called or visited. You’re probably doing this yourself. But, maintaining this image takes constant work and many repetitive actions that need to be done every month. If you don’t have the time for it, or don’t know what to do, you should look in to having it done for you. This is well spent marketing money, and often times give a much better return on investment than spending on traditional media.

Who is Matt Cutts and Why is He So Important?

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A person who is working hard to get his website seen by his potential customers needs to know the name Matt Cutts. Matt is the go-to guy at Google. They call him a Search Engineer. Everyone else knows him as the guru who will explain the secrets of life, Google-style.

You could consider that Google started in 1996 as a research project at Stanford University, but it was not incorporated as a company until 1998. By the end of the year, this search engine began to compete with other popular search engines like or Lycos. Google became a publicly owned company in 2004, and by that time, it was already handling the majority of the searches being performed on the internet. Nearly 85%, actually.

While there are occasionally rumors of one company or another offering some kind of threat to Google’s dominance in the search engine business, the company remains the leader in offering up search results. In 2013, they handled 65% of the internet search traffic, but of course, the number of searches in 2013 is vastly higher than the number in 2004. Their dominance in this area is what makes them so very important to anyone wanting to get their website seen by customers.

Getting Back to Matt…

In the last several years, Google has been modifying and updating its structure, always in an attempt to provide the person making a query with the most satisfactory answers. If you want to know why your Chevy is making a funny clunk when you turn, you really don’t want to be deluged with sites that just want you to open your wallet and buy auto parts for Chevys. You’d like a nice question-and-answer site with a search function that would allow you to type in “funny clunk when I turn” and get some suggestions. More and more, Google keeps changing the way the search engine evaluates a site for validity. The more valid the site is by Google’s criteria, the higher it ranks in the search results.

After all, most people never progress past the first page of search results. So getting your website on page one is all-important.

Once or twice a year, Google makes an announcement about its newest update. Matt Cutts is the guy who explains the change and answers the questions. He’s the one that keeps web developers up late at night, studying the changes to Google’s functionality. They watch Matt’s videos and podcasts over and over, making sure they master the changes.

Website Owners Now Have to Keep Up with Google

As soon as each change occurs, a funny thing happens. Owners of sites with old, stale, trite, mechanically-produced content have to scramble to keep up. But owners of sites with plenty of fresh, relevant, quality content that is written to inform the visitor (not JUST sell) are going to be sitting pretty.

We’ve already mentioned that several years ago, many sites were horrible and unreadable, written for the more primitive Google search engine in existence at the time. But Google’s perceptions get more intuitive every year.

When adding content to your site, now you can write in a natural, informative style. Being sure to add fresh, useful information to your site on a weekly basis can help you maintain or improve your ranking in those all-important search results from Google.

The lesson to take away is not what you have learned about Matt Cutts – it’s an understanding of how the most powerful force in producing search results is thinking and changing. There will be more on Google in future blogs, so stay tuned.

Website Content Comes of Age

Several years ago, many of the companies building websites indulged in what is usually called “keyword stuffing.” This meant that they were writing specifically to appeal to the way Google worked and not to the reader who might visit their site. Some of this content was appallingly unreadable. It would go something like this fictional example for a chain of patio furniture stores in Virginia with outlets in several cities across the state:

When you are looking for patio furniture in Virginia, you should be sure to pick a reputable patio furniture store in Virginia. The best patio furniture stores in Virginia can be found in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Richmond, Alexandria and Arlington. So those people shopping for patio furniture in Virginia should make sure they get the best prices in Virginia by…

You get the idea. Because of the way Google’s functionality was built in those days, this system worked to bring this page higher in search results than a competitor’s page that was written to actually be read by a customer!

Google Revises its Functionality Several Times a Year – Always Getting Smarter

But those days are long gone. Several times a year now, Google’s functionality goes through a medium-to-major shift. I’m not sure how they have managed it, but Google’s perceptions of web content become more and more human with every revision. With the latest couple of revisions, the type of writing you see above – horribly stilted and obviously just written for the search engines – is now penalized. This page might have found itself on page one of Google search results in 2007 but now it’s going to disappear far down the results.

So if you have content on your website that has been sitting there for several years and it was written this way, you need to update it immediately!

Writing with Synonyms

Fortunately for everyone, Google now looks for synonyms for your keywords which means your new content can be in a much more natural style. So if want to appear in searches for patio furniture, you can also use words like deck, terrace, courtyard, yard and backyard.

Instead of being limited to furniture, you can use chairs, chaise, lounge chairs, sectionals, outdoor chairs, and so on. So do use your prime keywords but don’t limit yourself to them. If someone is writing for you, give them keywords and synonyms and encourage them to work with them in a very natural flow of language.

This means that the person who is writing your content can write to interest and appeal to your customers! This is quite important because after all, it’s the customer who would actually buy something from you, not Google. Yes, you need to rank high in the search results in order to be found, but the copy on your website is supposed to sell.

For several years, a large proportion of companies on the ‘net decided to sacrifice readability and sales appeal for ranking. I doubt that it was a good business decision for them. The recent changes mark a return to the good old days of advertising copywriting when the words on the page were carefully designed to SELL the product.

So make Google happy – appear at the top of the search results – and SELL to your customers by updating your website content to keep up with these latest trends.