SEO Update from Chicago

Everything just got a bit harder with the new Google Caffeine update for the search engine. If you haven’t heard about it yet you can check out the API to see how your website will rank in the new engine compared to the old engine.

I would say that most people began to understand the old engine in a logical way from experimentation over time and many businesses thought they were just “following the rules” building sites in a way that fit with that logic. Now the new engine will be completely different and all that work will be gone. I looked at some sites and saw how they will compare between the 2 and the results are a challenge.

One site went from 12th to 44th for a key search term. Another went from 5th to 23rd. It is almost universal that everyone who develops a business model around search will be hurt by the change whether they are spammy or not.

I am all for reducing and removing spam/affiliate networks/link schemes from google to reveal the real content but the actual companies with the products/services/tools that businesses and professionals use will be hurt by the update and some may suffer financially as a result. Google just doesn’t have the human ability and reasoning skills in a robot algorithm to tell whether a site is spam or not. They’re going after spam and hurting other legitimate businesses.

Investing in marketing might be something we start looking at like investing in stocks/bonds/401K/the market. They have had long standing recommendations on asset allocation between stocks/bonds/international funds/currency and other types of investments. They associate risk levels with each one and say things like; invest the percentage in bonds that matches your age or diversify and reallocate to maintain that level of diversification between investment types 2-3 times per year.

Investment Strategy with Marketing may look the same someday. SEO might bring in X% of revenue and cost Y% of budget but is highly risky, so you don’t invest as much in it, because it is all potentially going to vaporize when Google decides to update. Things like Branding on TV and Radio and Outdoor are more expensive and not trackable, but companies have been using them for decades and they are very low risk. You spend that money on awareness and people know who you are after that. PR is another wild card and social networking (viral) marketing is another component with low cost and high risk.

Companies may want to diversify their marketing and advertising dollars based on risk as well as the ROI because within a few clicks of a mouse in California, the entire web changes and all your efforts may go up in smoke. This idea definitley favors the old methods and in some ways, internet banner ads. Display advertising on the internet is way undervalued right now and people are also starting to look at ads online like they used to on TV. They are actually paying attention sometimes. The conversion rates have gone down on average, but for mainstream brands and trusted sites they are near 5% (up from .01% years ago) when you include post impression data (people who never clicked, but went to your site anyway).

So, I guess the mood I am feeling today is one that is cautious optimism about old advertising methods in light of Google pulling the rug out from under companies, in the way they always do. It doesn’t help that adwords pay per click costs are as high as $20 for many mainstream words and can go as high as $100 perclick. Then when the conversion rates are so low, nobody will pay that. Most of my clients are abandoning ppcads and someday may do the same with SEO. It just doesn’t pay.


Most Offensive Wedding Gift Ever – An Apron

aprons, 50's, style, sexist, worst, wedding gift, everWith all that has happened in the last 100 years in women’s suffrage and our battle for equality of the sexes,  I am surprised and a bit offended that this company thinks that a 1950’s style apron is the perfect wedding shower gift. Who thinks that? Getting a blender that both you and your husband can use to make smoothies from twice is at least equal. An apron says: Hey you, woman, go make dinner! Grunt grunt…

Haven’t we fought hard against female stereotypes and the opportunity to be self sufficient, smart and hold an equal career and home responsibilities with a man? How can these aprons possibly be appropriate when they plunge us right back at the turn of the last century? A girly apron like this is only worn by a woman, never a man. Why not get a more functional William’s Sonoma Gender Neutral Apron that both he and she can wear depending on who is doing the messier cooking? Why say: Hello, I am not good for anything but cooking or cleaning, don’t ask me to think… with one of these career limiting sexist aprons?

Eww. All I have to say is if I ever get married, don’t get me one of these. Please, I would rather have a blender.

Greeting Cards Contest – Art Students

If you are a weekend artist or you have always wanted to work for Hallmark or Martha Stewart this might be for you. When I was a kid I did a lot of drawing, I don’t anymore but it is still something a lot of people go to school to learn and keep active with throughout their lives. I ran across a contest and wanted to blog about it because it offers a $10,000.00 prize for the winner and you get your design published on a greeting or on corporate christmas cards as well. It is a great stepping stone into that profession of graphic design for cards and paper products that a lot of people want to get into. Here are some of the rules to enter the greeting cards scholarship contest:

You have to be over the age of 14

You must be a student enrolled in high school or college

You must be a legal US resident

Only one application entry is allowed per person

The submitted artwork or photos must be your own original work 

The contest ends January 15, 2008

If you submit it they own it and can use it as they like even if you don’t win which could still be a stepping stone fr your career even if you aren’t the big winner.

The new Martha Stewart Blog

It looks like Martha Stewart has really taken to blogging lately. First Martha got a MySpace page and updates it regularly. Then she got a Facebook page and is pretty into that too. Now Martha Stewart has a new standalone blog also which means that there are 3 blogs to update every week or few days. She seems to either have someone with her at all times to document what she does or she is pretty handy with a digital camera and a blogging platform. She seems to have pictures of all her weekends and trips and likes to hear from people about the new things she posts. I hope she reads the comments once in a while if someone else is posting all this for her. But all in all, blogging to the public in a conversational style is a good skill for CEO’s and executives to have. People want to know that these big deal people are real too and have real voices. They are more apt to think positively of them if they have a blog or site like this because it makes them more human and distracts people from the ugly things they have to do and say yes to in the name of profits. So will you be Martha’s MySpace or Facebook friend?

Renegade Craft Fair Chicago December 8-9

renegade craft fair chicagoI have been really getting into lately and now I am buying christmas gifts, baby gifts and christmas cards all online there. I may get all my christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving! One of the cool things about crafters is that they are bringing back the idea of the craft fair and they are making it cool again. There is one coming up in Chicago for the holidays that I would like to go to and check out all the cool hand made stuff. Its the renegade craft fair. Here is the info I got on the email update I got today:

Just a reminder that the deadline to apply for this year’s Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale is just one week away! Late applications won’t be considered – so get yours in before November 1! Visit our website to apply –

The fair is scheduled for the weekend of December 8 + 9 from Noon – 8pm at The Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, which is located at 1419 W. Blackhawk in Chicago. Hope to see you there!

Etsy Love

I just wanted to take a moment to state my love for Etsy. I am someone who loves to craft but doesn’t have time for it right now. So I go buy a craft or two for very reasonable prices when normal store type stuff just doesn’t fit the bill.

necklace garnetFor example, I got this great real garnet pendant from mcfarland designs for 36 bucks and I love it so much I am going to get them for christmas gifts for some people on my list.

I also got this solar lamp from Etsy but I haven’t gotten it in the mail yet, becasue I just ordered it yesterday.

I like surfing through all the listings, but a lot of the stuff isn’t really my style and keyword searching doesn’t seem to do the trick. (not all sellers may have things tagged correctly) but once in a while you find some really polished professional made goods at very reasonable prices. And I love that.

bag, messenger, baby, carry, bags, cheapPlus you find cuter than buttons baby things like these cherry booties , messenger baby bags and sushi baby costume. Stuff that is so creative it’s great. They have everything from artwork, to home goods, to clothing, to jewelry, to kids toys and clothes to eco friendly pet items. So check out Etsy for some really interesting and unique finds this holiday shopping season.

What groceries people buy…

Last weekend I was at the Jewel food store and I was waiting in a long line with all the other working people who had the 2 day weekend to get all their shopping and household chores finished and I couldn’t help but notice what other people were buying. I get picked on a fair amount among friends and relatives for not knowing how to cook. I can boil and egg, make fried eggs, scrambled eggs, an omlette, pancakes, french toast and bake cookies but that’s about it. If it’s not for breakfast or with an egg I probably can’t cook it. Especially if it involves meat and no grill. I am the kind of person who thinks that putting a frozen lasagna in the oven for a hour is both cooking and stressful because I am not really sure how to operate my oven. (although I bought this place 6 years ago)

What I was suprised to find was that it looks like I am not the only one who occupies this category of shopper. And I wonder if I am this way because I want to be, and I find things that are no-cook to support my needs? Or if I was driven this direction by the prepared foods movement that all the food manufacturing companies have invented and deposited in my grocery store? The age old chicken or egg question?

As I looked around at the people’s carts in line around me I saw a lot of similar things to what I had in my cart. Bread and sandwich makings, salad vegetables, frozen vegetables, frozen lean cuisine, yogurt, fruit like apples, grapes and peaches. Sports drinks, mostly by people who look like they haven’t played a sport in at least 10 years, packaged snacks, granola bars, chips, dips, soda, milk and cereal. None of which require any cooking at all.

Where was the Martha Stewart clone with the flour, eggs, paprika, spices, sugar, rare vegetables, fresh meat and freshly grown herbs? Isn’t that what they put in the grocery store commericals and print ads??

So, we still have that image of a grocery store as a place to buy raw ingredients but we don’t actually buy them. Why don’t they advertise grocery stores as no-cook grocery stores? That would be a niche for people like me. Nothing for me that isn’t coming out of a cardboard box please. Oh right, those stores are called convienient stores.

I wonder if it is our societal laziness and procrastination that leads us to this place where we consume foods manufactured with ingredients from China (which has no FDA regulations) and consume additives that we can’t pronounce while trusting the agribusiness and food manufacturing companies the whole time. We really have no idea what the effect will be on the lifespan of our generation who was raised on Chef Boyardee rather than Chef Mom the cook. Will average expected lifespans shorten? Will we all shrivel into a lump of red number 5?

I am not sure, but if I can be a Martha Stewart fan and not know how to cook a chicken to save my life it is possible that at some point the grocery stores won’t carry the ingredients anymore and only pre-prepared foods. I think sometimes that living more organic and less processed would be good for me and for our country as a whole, but alas, I have no idea how to do that and working 50 hrs a week doesn’t really allow for a cooking class. So I guess I am not going to find out…