Don’t Follow – Lead

You are probably wondering where in the hell have I been? It’s been seven months since my last post … a lot has happened. The biggest change was I received custody of my two teenage sons in March, and while I was elated at the time, I had no idea how much of a challenge it would be. I know, stupid me, I will know better next time.

Nordstrom Epic Win for the Holidays...

Nordstrom Epic Win for the Holidays…

Okay, let’s talk business strategy and how to set yourself apart from your competitors. Too many companies follow instead of lead. It used to be that you knew Thanksgiving was close when the Christmas decorations went up. Now they are often up before Halloween hits. That’s just wrong. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and as my “protest” I would never set foot in a store that had their holiday decorations up before Thanksgiving (and yes, I kept a list). It was so bad last year that I did all of my holiday shopping online. There was no where I could go.

I can understand retailers reasoning, they do the bulk of their yearly sales during the holidays and since their competitors are getting into the Christmas season they need to as well or they will lose. That is one way to attack the market, or you can be totally awesome like Nordstrom … and take the high road.

This is a shot of the signs they have before you enter their store. These signs do a few things. First, it informs you when the holiday decorations will go up; Second, it tells you why, because they believe in celebrating one holiday at a time; Third, it is giving the bird to all the competitors for “Thanksgiving Creep”.

Look for obnoxious things your competitors do. Look at their ads, their sites, call their order numbers, do they have a phone system from hell that makes you press one to proceed in English? If so, make fun of them. “We never make you press one to proceed in English because I live person answers your phone and can help you right now. Your call is important enough for a live person to answer it.”

In this crappy economy do something that is completely outrageous, give great customer service and treat your customers as actual people instead of objects. You might be stunned to find out how awesome they really are and how much they like giving business to you. But first, you have to quit being such an idiot just because your competitor is.

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Ecommerce Good. Old Commerce Bad.

On Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton spoke at ICANN’s 40th public meeting and was asked his thoughts about Internet taxation. Clinton signed the Internet Freedom Tax Act in 1998 which meant retailers without a presence within a state were exempt from collecting tax on sales. The goal was to let the e-conomy grow and evolve.

It has evolved. So when Clinton was asked what he felt government’s role with the Internet should be now. His response was that while his administration fought against government involvement, the time may have come to, “have some form of consumption tax as part of the mix,” in order to keep taxes as a whole low.

“E-commerce is going great and old commerce is doing not so great,” he said and then continued to name some stores in his hometown that have gone out of business. “Do we need to set up a tax system that favors the people that are doing well and burdens the people that are struggling?”

Hachman, Mark. “Clinton Argues for ‘Consumption Tax’ on E-Commerce | News & Opinion |” Technology Product Reviews, News, Prices & Downloads | | PC Magazine. 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2011.,2817,2382133,00.asp

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AdSense Publishers Get Speed Boost

It struck a lot of Webmasters as ironic that Google made page speed a rank signal when AdSense scripts was one of the factors slowing sites down. According to Google, it slowed publisher sites by about 12%.

Gone are those days. Google developers improved the show_ads.js JavaScript needed by AdSense publishers and sped up delivery of ads. Google claims the changes will speed up publisher sites by a half second or more. After running Page Speed and YSlow tests, we’ve seen a noticeable improvement in scores. Publishers don’t have to upload new code since the change is automatic. Right now, the changes are working with Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer 8, with more browsers and versions included soon.

If you need to block the new ad version, set “google_enable_async = false” for each ad slot.

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YSlow Page Speed Availabe for Chrome

Speed, Chrome and bugs. I’m not talking cars, grilles and things that stick to grilles. I’m talking about YSlow Page Speed being available for the Chrome browser, without needing an add-on, like Firebug. YSlow is a tool for webmasters that helps identify ways to speed up page load time.

Download YSlow for Chrome

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Amazon Dumps all Illinois Affiliates

Amazon sent a “Notice of Contract Termination” to all Illinois affiliates today in response to a new law in Illinois. The law, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Verschoore (D-Rock Island) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), requires online retailers with affiliates in Illinois to collect sales tax and submit it to the llinois Department of Revenue (IDOR).

The email reads, “Unfortunately, a new state tax law signed by Governor Quinn compels us to terminate this program for Illinois-based participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers – including but not limited to those referred by Illinois-based affiliates like you – even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.”

Govern Quinn says the goal of the bill is to level the playing field and make things “fair” for brick and mortar main street companies that currently collect sales tax. The fact is Illinois is beyond broke and the state needs revenue. Instead of getting rid of redundant programs and wasteful spending, they looked to the Internet. The Governor also believes this will help create jobs. Guess he thinks consumers are going to shop more on main street and less online because of this legislation. Poor fella.

Amazon is fighting this new law calling it, “unconstitutional and counterproductive.”

Even though the damage this does won’t officially be reflected in unemployment figures, Governor Pat Quinn has caused people in his own state to lose jobs–at least temporarily, entrepreneurs always bounce back. Unlike the millions of Americans on unemployment, that won’t be an option for affiliates who made a FT living with Amazon (not that entrepreneurs would collect). Unlike union members protesting in Wisconsin for more more more, online entrepreneurs have no collective rights–and quite clearly no one looking out for their interests. —Maybe that needs to change.

In the meantime, if this creates a significant decrease in your income, contact a good attorney and tax account to come up with solutions, because there are solutions! Best Buy, Walmart and many other stores have also said they’ll welcome Amazon’s booted affiliates.

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Leave a Message on Skype–Literally

Skype announced today via a press release that for the first time they’re offering display advertising. Ads appear in the Home tab of the Skype software, for Windows users only in the USA, UK and Germany. Groupon and Nokia were two big names that shoved off the launch. Ads can include audio, video, social media sharing and click to call. Advertisers can target their market by country for the time being. The majority of ads will appear to users of the “free” version of Skype.

Skype Display Advertising

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PubCon Austin Starts

I arrived in Austin on Sunday and have been soaking in the sun and BBQ waiting for PubCon to start. This is PubCon #9 for me and today I am speaking on the Essentials Overlooked by 90% of Affiliate Managers. I’ll be summarizing the happenings over the next two days right here and going into full detail for members of the SEO Revolution.

In the meantime, you might want to read an article I did last month, How PubCon Made Me a Millionaire.

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Jonesing for Something Open

How many times have you needed to find a store, bank, post office, restaurant, dry cleaners, hair salon, coffee shop, taco stand, etc. that was open NOW? We’ve all been in that position either on holidays, weekends, during road or business trips, and later in the evening when places start to close.

Google’s mobile search has a new feature called Open Now. It allows iPhone and Android users to filter search results by establishments that are presently open. Users can also search by distance and review rating.

Source: Google Mobile Blog

How does Google know your business hours? You tell them–via your Google Places page. If you have a brick and mortar store, or your clients do, be sure this information is up-to-date.

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What’s Going on With Titles in Google?

It’s common practice that your Title will be truncated if it’s too long and pulled from DMOZ or Yahoo!’s directory, but lately Google’s use of Titles is making a lot of site owner’s scratch their heads. A domain name overriding a Title Tag’s contents? Titles crafted from anchor text, ALT or H3 tags? Titles coming from text used in inbound anchor link text–even if that text is nowhere on your site.

Complaints and concerns can be heard all over the web at Google’s webmaster forums, Webmaster World, and here. But not all webmasters are experiencing or even bugged by this. Some are reporting that the changes are improving click throughs.

If you’re seeing an altered Title, look through your source code and see if the source comes from your site. If so, you can make adjustments like rearranging tags, switching header tags, expanding alt text, etc., to get the Title you want. Also read, “Changing A Site’s Title and Description,” at Google’s Webmaster forum.

As always, don’t panic. Don’t make drastic changes to your site. Let things play out. This could be Google testing out potential algo changes or even a bug. In the meantime we’ll continue testing and will contact Google about these changes.

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It’s Time to Take Social Search Seriously

In March 2010 we told you about Google Social Search, which gathered blog posts, images, Tweets, and other information your friends/family were posting and placed them at the bottom of search results. You can read the March 2010 article here: Google Launches Social Search.

Previously, if Google’s algorithm deemed information from friends/family useful for your search, it would appear near the bottom of results. Now that information will be mixed into search results, with annotations and notes from the original poster.

Back in March we urged you to get a jump on your competition by building your social circle in Google. If you did that, good job! If not then consider starting now.

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