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CheapoDrugs.com Database Hacked?

29 Jan
cheapodrugs-blog

Not all companies care about privacy

For almost 20 years, because I’m a big nerd, I’ve been using unique email addresses for every single website. e.g. the email address I give VictoriasSecret.com is different than the one I use to sign in to Fredericks.com.

When I start getting spam at an email address, I can quickly turn off that one address.

Problem solved. No more spam.

For those of you thinking, “That multi-address thing sounds like an ongoing hassle!” All addresses come into a single inbox. It’s easy. …It wasn’t necessarily easy to setup, but that was forever ago. Who even remembers that? 😉

Canary in an internet coal mine

Anyhow, if I start getting spam to an address, and its content is unrelated to the site/business where I used the address, something is amiss. If it’s a biz/site I don’t care about, I just kill that address. However, when it’s a biz I care about, I let them know. I’m a canary in a coal mine. But much larger, and figuratively in email databases instead of literally in a coal mine. I also lack feathers.

Most of the time these businesses are thankful when I have an opportunity to act as an email canary. They listen. I tell them, “I don’t know how it happened, but somebody got into your database. I don’t know what they didn’t get, (credit cards? social security number?) but I can tell you that they for sure have your email list.”

How did somebody get our database?

There are three likely routes:

  • One of your employees or contractors grabbed it and sold it or is using it themselves.
  • Somebody hacked into your system and stole it.
  • A computer/laptop with your db and/or email list got infected with malware, which then sent the list to its devious hacker makers.

There are other options, but those three methods account for the vast majority of email leak incidents.

Why oh why is he blogging about this?

Cheapodrugs.com. I used ’em. …And while I still sometimes use Canadian pharmacies for my sweet, sweet drugs, I haven’t used Cheapo Drugs in a few years.

How strange then, that a little over a week ago I started receiving emails to the address I only gave to Cheapo Drugs. Within these emails I’m encouraged to use a coupon code to save on drugs at safemedspills by clicking on a tinyurl.com link. Nope. Not. Clicking. That.

What’s worse, the email contained evidence that the spammers also have access to other Cheapo Drugs’ clients’ information. (Full name, address, etc.)

I emailed Cheapo Drugs and let them know what had happened and shared with them the three possibilities (see above). In their reply, Cheapo Drugs confirmed that, shocker, they had not sent me the spam emails. The only other substance in their missive was, “We guarantee our patients that we do not sell their information to any phishing websites.” …I never said that you sold your address list. Idiots.

I went back and forth with Cheapo Drugs customer support a few more times trying to help them understand, but was met with a stonewall of non-customer-service. I even called and talked to somebody. I’ll spare you the frustrating details and summarize: Cheapo Drugs does not take proof of a database leak seriously. What to do?

Reporting a pharmacy to CIPA

I contacted CIPA, the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. Let’s see if CIPA takes this more seriously than Cheapo Drugs. …It would be hard not to. I’ll report back.

Sidenote: Now that Gmail’s spam filtering is so on fleek, I’ve considered using my gmail address more, in lieu of the system above. However, doing so isn’t as secure as using a different address for every site. Especially if you use the same password for multiple websites. Natch, I use unique passwords for each site, too. hashtag: nerd.

2015 in review

31 Dec

2015 was dismal for dandreifort.com blogging. The report’s well done though! If you’re a fan of data visualization, you’ll like it! Enjoy, and happy new year.  -DD

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Firing SEO Clients

27 Nov
yourefired

Try to say, “President Trump” without gagging.

I’ve blogged about canning clients before (because of payment and/or privacy problems,) but this recent blog post by Marvin Russell made me want to do it again!

I accept up to four clients every year. I don’t accept every potential client, and because I have the luxury of excellent word-of-mouth, I seldom respond to RFPs and the like.

I’m picky about who I work for.

Six qualities I look for in a potential SEO client:

  1. Quickly groks what I do, the pace, etc. Can I quickly shape their expectations?
  2. ROI-minded, with the data/analytics to back it up. Or empowers me to quickly set it up!
  3. Willing to sign boilerplate mutual NDA.
  4. Big enough to potentially benefit from my minimum monthly retainer, currently six hundred and fifty bucks. I don’t like wasting money.
  5. Eschews unneeded gloss and superfluous meetings/conference calls. Appreciates concise communication and reporting. Doesn’t want excess overhead.
  6. Provides communication conduit to fast decision-makers in the organization, so great plans don’t linger in development hell. Am I talking to somebody who can affect change?

Though they passed that top-six litmus test with flying colors, I encountered problems with two clients over the past couple of years. Both were related to other third-parties on the clients’ marketing teams.

Please, won’t you tell me about your wonderful web/branding team?

The first problem was an unresponsive, and then slow web team. After six months of hair-pullingly frustrating non-progress, I threatened to quit. Client finally whipped their web team into shape and it’s been (mostly) smooth sailing ever since. I look forward to their switch to a new developer and CMS in the near future.

The second, more recent problem, was when a client’s branding agency communicated poorly and repeatedly wasted my time.

The branding agency wasn’t willing to communicate via email and only scheduled phone calls in four daily time slots via a web calendar app. Good luck finding a conveniently timed opening in their tiny schedule! “Can you squeeze a five minute call in? Just call me any time, all day!” Nope. Only four a day.

The last straw: they missed a call I managed to schedule. When I called them out on it and asked for demanded other lines of communication, they finally started responding to email, by calling me “unprofessional” and defending their (lack of) communication, saying it was typical of agencies. (I work with several agencies. These jokers were the worst, by far.)

They got nastier. I told the client, “I’d rather have my dignity than the aggravation and money. I won’t work with them.” (The branding agency is in Dallas. That’s all you’ll get from me!)

Rough Ride to a Happy Ending

That client now insulates me from the branding agency’s bad mojo. When taking the branding agency’s advice lead to a >90% drop in organic sales, the client quickly reverted to the old site and told the branding agency to act on my recommendations. Rankings, traffic and sales recovered. I don’t think that agency will be in the picture much longer.

I’m glad it worked out.
I like all of my clients. That’s the idea.

Though I’ve come close, I haven’t fired a client since my first and only firing, the one mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. #gettingbetter

Reduce Facebook Ads the Supai, Arizona Way

13 Jul Soylent Facebook
Soylent Facebook

IT’S PEOPLE!!!

UPDATE:
I should note, days after this post, Facebook demanded I prove my identity. As my name is not Danakin Skyjacker, I was unable to satisfy their idiotic documentation criteria. They closed my account. I switched to one of my other fb accounts, with an even goofier name. The good news? Even less advertising. That fb profile has never had a hometown or a current city associated with it and it had “liked” almost nothing. Pure minimal-ad Facebook experience achieved. If you don’t want to open a new Facebook account, stick with the method below.

Original post follows:

I’ve been increasingly inundated with advertisements on Facebook, especially on their iOS app.

Cause 1: Facebook continually finds new ways to monetize its product. (You. You’re the product!) (Go on, click that link. It’s fun!)

Cause 2: Until today I’d told Facebook I lived in Honolulu, one of the most hip, expensive, and cosmopolitan cities in this hemisphere. (I don’t.)

Minimize Facebook Ads

So I changed my current city and hometown to Supai, Arizona, the most remote town in the United States. It’s not even accessible by car! Supai is the only place in the United States where mail is still carried out by mules.

RESULT: Fewer advertisements on fb. I am no longer ostensibly part of a cherished target demographic. (I never was.)

Sure, I might start seeing ads targeted to native Americans, and if Facebook advertising is on its game, I might even see ads related to sprucing up my imaginary new home in Supai. So far–worth it.

Concerned about your privacy? …Or just tired of ads?

Won’t you join me in Supai?

When not generously providing free table tennis lessons to hacks at the Triple Crown Pub, Dan Dreifort consults on SEO, user experience, and other aspects of digital marketing.

Beware Donating to Collectibles with Causes

4 Nov

Keen readers will notice my last blog post discussed parting ways with my beloved comic book collection. I painstakingly entered each book first into a spreadsheet and then into an online database. If I’d carefully packaged and sold the lot, spread out into a hundred or so auctions, I probably could have received $5,000 or so.

Collectibles With Causes Legit? Unknown. Sketchy? Yes.

Collectibles with Causes, also known as With Causes, Works of Life International Ministries, and dozens of other names, is a charity that accepts collectibles, sells them, and then uses proceeds for good works, When I found them in August 2014, I did my research, like any good donator would. While I found nothing indicating proceeds would be used for hateful/exclusive causes, their EIN (26-0903224) appeared in neither the California nor the USA register of charities. I called the IRS and they confirmed that they had no record of their non-profit standing. Furthermore, none of the charity rating services have an entry for them. Not a deal-killer, but cause for concern.

The only third-party mention of With Causes/Works of Life I could find pertains to their Christmas 2011 gift of a house to a large family whose house had just burned down. Here’s an article/video. Works of Life is still milking it; one of their most recent (2014) Tumblr posts gives a shout-out to this same charitable effort.

Nonetheless, I was attracted to Collectibles With Causes. I really liked the idea of a win-win-win. I get a tax write-off for my comics and don’t need to spend dozens of hours selling them. The charity sells them and my beloved comic books find new, loving homes. Finally, people benefit from the good works/proceeds of the sale. Three wins–at least! But is it too good to be true?

Communication Problems

Collectibles with Causes might not want to reimburse your shipping expenses even when you follow their instructions.

Collectibles with Causes might not want to reimburse your shipping expenses–even if you follow their instructions.

I sent them the details of my donation on September 3, 2014 and received a canned response thanking me, providing shipping instructions, shipping reimbursement instructions, and other information. I asked for clarification on 9/7/14. On 9/9/14 I still hadn’t received a response so I pinged them again. Later in the day, no response forthcoming, I called them. Ginger finally checked the info@withcauses.org inbox and responded.

Five days later, on 9/16/14, I shipped eight boxes/about 280 pounds of comic books to:

Works of Life
ATTN: Collectibles with Causes
1175 Shaw Avenue #104-135
Clovis, California  93612

Their canned reply mentioned that, “The best method for shipping a volume of comics is USPS PARCEL POST or MEDIA MAIL …costing only approx $25.00 per long box and less than half of that for a short box.” Alas, you’re unable to ship anything with advertising via media mail. (Newsflash: comics have ads.) The plot sickens: USPS Standard Post (known as Parcel Post, until May 2007,) is much more expensive than $25/box. My shipping bill totaled $484.49. I sent them the original receipt as requested.

I notified them of the shipping cost and problems with media mail, and asked them how long it would take to get reimbursed the large shipping outlay. Amazingly, I got a reply the same day, 9/18/14, “Shipping is reimbursed once we receive your books and the shipping receipt. I will let you know once the books arrive.”

Tracking information let me know that the books arrived on 9/26/14. Ginger did NOT let me know. I sent an email on 9/29/14 asking if the books arrived. No response. I sent another email on 10/8/14 asking for an update on shipping reimbursement. No response. On 10/27/14, I emailed again. No response. (I should note that I called a couple of times in that month-long period too.) I then called on 10/28/14 and was told Ginger no longer worked there and that I’d receive a call back in a couple of days. That didn’t happen.

I called on 11/3/14, and they’re now apparently reluctant to reimburse shipping, because actual expenses don’t gel with the dream-world figures in their horribly out-of-date canned response. They asked me to scan and send another copy of the receipt. I did. Again, they said they’d get back to me. …24+ hours later, I’m not holding my breath.

Is Collectibles With Causes as Scam?

I’m not sure if Collectibles with Causes is a scam. …They might just suffer from personnel and communication problems.

If I don’t receive shipping reimbursement within a week I will contact the California Attorneys General, the BBB, the IRS, their local news media, and anybody else I can think of. I’ll pass along every bit of information I have about Works of Life and how they’ve (so far) reneged on the implied contract presented on their website, in their emails, and via phone. …I’m pretty sure that’s a crime. They are messing with the wrong dude.

I strongly urge you to find another charity for your donation. I will revise this review if they eventually make things right.

Update:

It’s 11/17/2014. After nearly two months staying on them, I have a shipping reimbursement check in hand. (They paid up!) Did this blog post have anything to do with it? I don’t know.

If you’re going to incur considerable postage expenses when you ship something to any With Causes charity, note that you might have to wait and/or fight for reimbursement. If I had to do it all over again, I’d donate to a local charity instead. Lesson learned.

Update:

2/16/2015:  Very unofficial response from alleged former Collectibles with Causes volunteer is in comments. While it’s entertaining, I smile more when I read my response to it. Enjoy.

Update:

1/30/2017:  Somebody claiming to be Cameron Arballo from Works of Life called both my wife’s and sister’s places of employment and left threatening messages saying that he knows where she lives. Conveniently, these conversations were recorded. I’m giving them to the police.

Dan Dreifort is a professional part-time complainer. (In lieu of donations, send his wife earplugs.) He consults on web optimization and usability for fun.

Looking for the best Hawaii digital marketing agency

8 Jul Hawaii Destination Marketing SEO and a Beach

I fired a Hawaii marketing agency a couple of months ago. I was not a client. I’d been providing usability and SEO services to their clients since 2007. (Does that mean I quit?) I grew online business for a few of their big-name clients and received decent money for it. Everybody at the agency was polite and skilled. So why did I fire them? Throughout the six-year engagement they paid several hundred invoices, but rarely on time. I fired them because they regularly forced me to act as an accountant and a collections agent.

Glutton For Digital Media Agency Punishment

Hawaii Destination Marketing SEO and a Beach

I heart Hawaii !

A few weeks later I was approached by another Hawaii digital marketing outfit. I’m not hungry for work now, but with so much SEO and usability experience in the Hawaii destination and hospitality verticals, part of me wants to put that knowledge to good use. So when this new agency reached out to me, I engaged.

I insist on signing a mutual non-disclosure agreement with all clients. The NDA serves to protect any private information and ostensibly allows us to discuss anything without worry of public eyes and ears. After a month of wasting my time, this new agency today tells me, “We can’t sign this.” I tried to identify and fix the perceived problem, but after receiving a couple more obtuse emails, I eventually jabbed, “I take my clients’ privacy very seriously. If [Agency] doesn’t respect that, we’re obviously not a good match.” I sent a friendly “goodbye” note to his partner.

I assure you I won’t be communicating with them again unless we agree about privacy.

What I’ve learned:

  • Fool me once, shame on, um… how does that go, George Bush? Fire clients more quickly if/when they’re late with payments.
  • Don’t invest too much speculative time with clients until they agree to protect privacy.
  • I’d again like to help a Hawaii company or agency with search engine optimization and user experience.
  • I *still* don’t like time-wasters.
Dan Dreifort‘s current clients include: Product recommendation SaaS company, Plastic container manufacturer/retailer, Adjustable air-mattress retailer/manufacturer, Memory foam mattress manufacturer/retailer, Specialty shipping company, Brazilian jiu jitsu franchises, Tourist magazine, Childcare franchises, Acting school, Real estate brokers, Lawyer, Fence manufacturer/retailer, Online drug rehab center and a couple more. Dan is busy and can’t accept new work until January, 2014.

Keyword Research Alternatives to SEOmoz and Wordtracker?

7 Mar SEOmoz results

Research is the smart first step when starting a new SEO campaign or growing an existing SEO effort. I talk with clients to brainstorm a few keyword ideas and then feed those seed keywords into tools to find related keywords. Then, ideally, I look at  traffic and competition metrics to identify low hanging fruit of the long tail and other gems in the rough. (Per previous whiny posts,) Wordtracker (wordtracker.com) lost my business a while ago, but SEOmoz (seomoz.org) is just as frustrating.

Every single bit of keyword research I’ve done on SEOmoz returns “unavailable” for these metrics:

  • Local Search Volume (Exact Match)
  • Global Monthly Search Volume (Exact Match)
  • Local Search Volume (Broad Match)
  • Global Monthly Search Volume (Broad Match)

…Leaving only one SEOmoz metric, “Keyword Difficulty” which also often returns the dreaded “unavailable” result.

Obfuscating Valuable SEO Metrics is a Poor (But Popular) Business Model

SEOmoz results

SEOmoz – Close to Useless.

What’s worse, this “Keyword Difficulty” metric is dumbed down so as to hide any real value. While I’m sure the two-digit SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty score (or the nearly identical two-digit “Competition” score from Wordtracker) in some fashion represents IAAT and other competition metrics, I am more than hesitant to base important keyword decisions on these vague scores. While I’m sure their scoring algorithms consider many factors, I’m accustomed to crafting my own meta-metrics. But pretend for a second that we do trust their “scores” – exactly how are we supposed to make intelligent decisions without good traffic data?

More frustrating still is the fact that SEOmoz limits us to five keywords at a time and always takes several minutes to return results. There’s nothing less satisfying that twiddling your thumbs waiting for a screen full of “unavailable”. Oh wait, there is – try paying $99 per month for the privilege. Yeah, it burns.

What Does SEOmoz Have to Say?

I posed these conundrums to SEOmoz and received a few responses.

Load times in the Keyword Difficulty tool can vary depending on the keyword(s) and time of day but generally, this shouldn’t be more that a minute or so. Cutting down on load times is also why we limit individual searches to 5 terms.

Sounds like a crappy Band-Aid to me. I ran into slow load times regardless of time of day and keywords.

Search volumes were pulled from the tool several months ago due to problems we were having with accuracy. So instead of taking the entire tool offline, we removed search volumes while we work on new metrics that we hope provide more valuable data. In the interim, I’d recommend checking out Google’s Keyword tool if you’re looking for search volumes.

What are the chances that somebody using SEOmoz doesn’t already know about the Google Keyword tool? And why did it take a trouble ticket for me to find out that this is a known issue? Ugh.

Although we don’t have a solid ETA at the moment for a release on the new metrics, we’ll definitely let everyone know via the community and blog.

I’ll ask them if they can just send me a note when they get it in gear. I don’t want to have to follow them on Twitter for five months to figure out that their ducks are all finally in a row. I asked if I could have a second free trial whenever they fix their tools, you know, so I don’t have to pay a hundred bucks to play with broken toys:

Unfortunately I can’t promise that since we don’t have an actual ETA on when the new metrics will be updated but I’d be happy to add a credit to the account for half off your next month if you’d like.

Paying $50 to test their patches wouldn’t be as bad, but it’s hardly ideal customer service.

What’s the best SEO Keyword Research Tool?

And just to be clear, I’m asking you. Sure, I can get all the data I need directly from Google, but it’s a time-consuming boondoggle. That’s why SEO professionals like me used to pay thousands of dollars every year to the likes of Wordtracker and SEOmoz. Alas, no more.

If I’m going to spend a couple grand a year for competition and traffic metrics, I expect better. What SEO tools do you recommend? If you know a coder looking to make a buck on a new creation, I’ll help him/her design a killer app for keyword research. All I ask in return? Please let me use it.

When not whining on this blog Dan Dreifort consults on Search Engine Optimization and Usability from his home. An avid musician, Dreifort is currently performing with four different bands and trying to form a fifth. Dan Dreifort is for scuba.

Robocalls Are Easy To Fix

4 Jan
English: A Fox 40 whistle from the late 1980s.

A Fox 40 whistle from the late 1980s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In early November I received my umpteenth call from Rachel at cardholder services. A few years ago I wasted time filing FTC reports on these jokers in a wholly ineffective effort to thwart their incessant nagging. Of late I’ve instead taken to passive aggressively nagging them back.

How I Used to Deal With Rachel and her Cardholder Services Minions

This time, as is now my custom, I pressed whatever number would get me to a consultant to discuss the urgent scam relating to my credit cards. I then pressed mute and walked away. A few minutes later, per my routine, I picked up the phone to hang it up, but this time there’s a guy whispering all sorts of awesome stuff still on the line. So I listened for a while. He’d just started at his call center job two weeks earlier and had yet to get any training. He was bitching about the people near him and how backwards and horrible everybody and everything about his job was. Very entertaining. (He was using more colorful language than I’m willing to recount here.)

I wanted to un-mute and talk to him but decided not to. What would I have said? “Become a whistle-blower!” These $#%^ing phone spammers are breaking the law and I’d love to see some convictions. Unfortunately I (and likely most call center drones) are unaware of incentive to blow the whistle on such illegal activity, if any even exists.

FTC Robocall Challenge to the Rescue?

The FTC is planning to spend serious dough on “new and innovative ways to block these illegal calls,” and is soliciting fresh ideas via the U.S.A.’s official challenge website. They’re also offering $50,000 in prizes for challenge winners. But I recognize problems with most of the submissions. They’re either ineffective, costly, unproven, violate basic privacy or show other weaknesses. Solving this problem is as simple as the American dream itself and it’s a bargain too.

Incentivize Whistleblowers

From aforementioned breathy undertones of the underbelly of the robocall world, I was able to infer that call center workers are overworked, underpaid, shown little respect and mistreated. What if we offered cash rewards for proof of illegal telemarketing activity? How much would it take? I’m guessing not much.

What person working at a thankless illegal job is going to turn down a four figure reward for ten minutes of work? IT WILL WORK. But how will we fund it? While there’s likely already a budget for this sort of thing, I understand that taxing and spending isn’t sexy these days and that we’re to rely on the private sector for things like… money. (?!)

I’ll start. If I win the challenge, I’ll donate 10% of my take to an FTC telemarketing whistle blower fund.

Won’t you join me? (Boring details for my FTC challenge submission follow. Thanks for reading!)

Project Details FAQ

Q: What is required to stop robocalls and encourage whistleblowers?

A: Funding. A website to field scam reports. Small staff to review reports. Initial marketing push.

Q: What about robocalls that don’t provide an option to speak to a human?

A: There are still underpaid minions in these shady organizations. We can turn them from the dark side.

Q: What about robocalls from other countries?

A: People in other countries like cash too. We can turn them and stop the flow of robocalls.

Q: Harumph! I hate government spending! What else would we need to crowdsource the funding?

A: If the gov doesn’t have the ability to do it already, hire somebody to use free, off the shelf, open source scripts to accept donations. Initial marketing push.

When he’s not traveling or making music, Dan Dreifort likes to consult on search and usability. Dan also likes his wife even though she has neglected him for almost four years while she’s been at veterinary school. She comes back in three weeks. Dan is very happy about this.

SEO Usability Vacuum

5 Nov

That SEO and usability don’t flourish in a vacuum has been on my mind lately. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum. If there’s nobody to hear your pearls of SEO wisdom do they make a sound? The sound of silence sends no sales. Four cases of constructive complaining follow.

Case #1 – Hire Experts + Stop Listening = Profit? No!

I helped grow a startup e-retailer from nothing to three million in annual sales. The company sold to new owners who kept me on for SEO services but took away my keys to the site because they wanted to do all web work in-house. No problem- I work this way (via intermediary) sometimes. Though I’d informed them of redesign best practices, they chose to ignore it all;  the hasty series of redesigns and half-rebrands erased years of SEO and usability progress. I spent a few months frantically trying to implement remedial measures but they heeded nothing I said or sent. We parted ways less than a year after the company switched hands. In a few short months they went from hero to zero in Google. Why would you spend good money on a company and then tank it? Conversely, the people who sold the company hired me to do SEO and usability work for a new endeavor. Its sales are growing. SEO and usability are processes, not events; they don’t exist in a vacuum.

Case #2 – Second Verse, Similar to the First, But Better Outcome!

seo results graph

SERP trends: often cyclical over longer periods

The chart to the right shows long-term cycles of a  different SEO effort, underfunded and unfortunately not paired with a good usability effort.  The company rakes in millions every year and would hugely benefit from doubling, tripling or quadrupling their SEO spend. I tell them this every year and sometimes spend time cobbling together metrics to back it up. …Which led to a smart realignment of the campaign scope a few years ago. The effort went from about 10% funding to 25% funding, but we’re still overreaching the budget. Part of the problem is the size of the company; they’re huge. Big boats don’t turn on a dime. A properly funded campaign would smooth out those valleys, and the peaks would be, literally, off the charts.

Because of a third-party payment solution, this client is also unable to give me ideal, actionable analytics data tying actual sales to each keyword. I’m left measuring the ranking of SERP listings, a comparatively bush-league measure of success. I’m also sometimes unable to appropriately geo-target longer tail search phrases (usually a good tactic in underfunded efforts) because most of the campaign consists of more competitive generic keywords. (They have their reasons, but it’s still frustrating. Good thing I like a challenge, and complaining!) I have neither budget nor latitude to increase the usability of landing pages so some of the most trafficked pages on the site lack a cohesive design with calls to action and good user direction. Though I know it’s not true, sometimes this client’s actions tell me they’re happier with countless second and third SERP rankings instead of focusing on the first SERP. My voice is necessarily muddled by the relative vacuum, but it’s getting better all the time and I’m still able to do some good work. I am optimistic.

Google SEO vs Bing and Yahoo SEO

SERP ranks different in Google Bing Yahoo

Eating crow in Bing and Yahoo is fine if you’re doing well in Google

This other graph for the same client, though only tenuously related, needed a place to live in the blogosphere. Many of the campaign’s most broad metrics have been sluggish, flat or even slowly tanking over the past year because they cover all three major search engines as a whole. The chart at right (click it for a larger version) shows that SERP listings have been tanking in Bing and Yahoo, while Google’s doing alright. My SEO work will often please Google more than Bing and Yahoo, and this account exhibits the extreme of that trend. Because Google is responsible for the vast majority of searches performed in the US, I’ve never wasted much effort focusing on the other search engines. So while I likely won’t get more budget to play with, I have a Q1 2013 plan to address some of the issues. Ping me in six months if you want an update.

Case #3 – SEO & Usability Are Processes, Not Events.

There’s a reason SEO practitioners display results in charts with various metrics in one axis and time in the other; SEO is a process, not an event. This next tale bit of complaining deals with the one-night stand of SEO gigs. It’s my first one and I feel dirty – too ashamed to post a picture because a filthy picture is worth a thousand guilty words.  Because of stipulations tied to the funding of this project I was informed that I had to complete all SEO work and training in one month. I interjected, “But….” Nope. One month. I could not get keys to the server so I sent over a long list of Drupal modules essential for SEO like nodewords, xml sitemap, seo-friendly urls, etc. After a month I was still left with a CMS that wouldn’t even allow me to insert title tags or descriptions. It’s been over three months and I’m just now getting close to the finish line. It would have been a huge payday for one month’s work, but I knew better. It’s still a decent payout for a third of a year, so I’m happy. I’ve educated and empowered the client enough to ensure continued SEO success in the future.

Case #4 – SEO & Usability Success!

Google Experiments

A/B/X Testing and Google Experiments = More Bang For Your Buck

Most of my clients do listen, especially those I hand pick (vs. clients from agencies.) Case in point, to compliment SEO efforts I’ve really been leaning on A/B/X testing and Google Experiments. I try to convey that people should not be making decisions about design, SEO, brand, etc. when we can actually measure our audience and do what works best for them. After all isn’t that what any organization wants? The results (and data) speak for themselves.

If you have a very usable site with poor SEO, people won’t find your site. If I use SEO to build your audience, but your website sucks, you’re not going to get as much bang for your SEO buck. Usability is the science of making things not suck. SEO makes search robots happy. Usability makes people happy. The marriage of the two equals high ROI. This last image (above) shows how one little four week experiment caused visitors to be twice as likely to convert into customers. It cost very little to run that experiment and it paid for itself in one day. The rest is gravy. That it’s difficult to convince companies to invest in SEO and usability never ceases to amaze me, but I won’t stop trying (or complaining.) Thanks for reading.

Dan Dreifort makes money for companies and reads. If people paid him to read more he might stop helping companies make so much money. He’s currently proofreading (and loving) a book called When the Biomass Hits The Wind Turbine. It’s available in self-published form from Amazon for a few more months before its re-released and becomes all famous and stuff on the Daily Show and whatever awful show Oprah’s doing these days.

Inadvertent Lessons from Safety Town

11 Jun

Under a Blanket of Sleep

My earliest memories fluttered archetypal dreamscapes of unknowable shapes and otherworldly sounds. I remember not understanding the recurring dream, confusion which no doubt rooted the subtle cerement of fear shrouding this fascinating fancy. That I lacked adequate language to describe it frustrated me more than my inability to understand it.

Dan Dreifort 1976

No, it’s not a little girl. It’s our intrepid rememberer at a USA bicentennial parade.

Well, I still don’t get it and my words still don’t do it justice, but my next-oldest set of memories are mundane enough to recount here without feelings of inadequacy. Like most memories of early childhood, these gems exist only because of unintentional mnemonics.

I likely remember the USA bicentennial Independence Day parade because there’s photographic evidence I attended the event. I saw those “Happy 200th USA” pictures in 1976, 1977, 1978 and so on, every time I opened the family photo album. The requisite bright colors, explosions, and yummy charred meat in tube form might have seared something into my noggin too, but without photographs to jog my memory you wouldn’t be reading about it now. (Sorry!)

If a bear tells a story in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

The narrative is another way we cheat the long forgetting. One of my earlier memories surely exists because I heard about it repeatedly and then repeated the tale thusly.

The babysitter put me to bed in my crib. All’s well, until some pother of hullabaloo caused her to enter my room a short time later. Feathers filled the air.  Through the feathery haze she cried, “What happened?!”

I said, “My pillow hit me, so I hit it back.”

Or so the story goes. I’m sure I first heard that story when my parents recounted it to somebody shortly thereafter. I heard it again a few years later when I asked, “Mom, Dad, why are there little feathers in the carpet in my bedroom?” Then I took the storytelling torch and ran with it every time a friend asked about the teeny snow-like feathers mashed into the blue Berber carpet acting as the floor of the rebel fortress on the ice planet of Hoth as we played with Star Wars figures in my room.

Mnemonicless Memories of Safety Town

So what should we call the first memories of waking life we store without story or photo aid? I’m tempted to use words like “pure” but my episodic memory isn’t what it used to be, so we’ll just say they’re unaided or mnemonicless memories. An unintentional lesson from Safety Town might be my earliest cohesive unaided memory.

Safety Town, for the uninitiated, teaches preschool children about life on the streets. Here’s a link to the Safety Town I attended http://www.clevelandheights.com/index.aspx?page=1157 where I learned about safety on the sidewalks and streets of suburbia. I think I remember kids riding Big Wheels around a marked course acting as ersatz cars while numerous police officers watched over us. Safer, I suppose, than letting a bunch of idiot kids run loose in the streets to learn via trial and error with real cars.

This one time, at Safety Town

Surrounded by counselors and cops, a man walks among us distributing candy from a large container. “Would you like some candy?”

“You’re damn right I like me some candy,” is probably what I thought as I nabbed some sugary goodness with my grubby kid hands.

One of the many police officers then lined up all of the kids. “If you took candy, step forward,” he said. I and most of the other children took a few steps. “Now, turn around and hand all of your candy to somebody behind you.”

“What the f#*%?!” is what I might have said had my vocabulary been more, um, mature.

Obviously the lesson was, “Don’t take candy from strangers.” But what I took home that day was something along the lines of, “Don’t trust old people who take your candy.” Or “The police aren’t capable of protecting you, even if you’re standing next to them.” Or whatever. @$$holes took my mother#*%ing candy.

To this day I’m more likely to accept candy from a stranger than to think the police are going to protect me from harm. Candy is awesome.  1979 Safety Town can suck it. Safety Town, are you paying attention? Change your curriculum, if you haven’t already.

What other sorts of memory mnemonics are there? Is there a song that carries you to a specific place and time? Every time I hear “Happy Birthday” I think of my birthday. What a great song. Thanks for reading.

 
When not mangling memories, Dan Dreifort consults on search and usability and makes music with his band LEAVE CORP. He recently founded SLACK, Summer League Adult Co-Ed Kickball and is doing yoga for the first time tonight. Dan Dreifort is a notary public and a marriage officiant. Dan is also for scuba.
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