What Is The Best Way To Learn Internet Marketing?

Learn Internet MarketingI have been asked this question by more than 1000 different business owners (at least) over the last several years, and I am finally ready to talk (post) about it (and attempt to give my answer).  It is probably one of the most annoying and frustrating questions that anyone could ever ask me.  It is the question itself, and not the asker that is frustrating and annoying though.  Anyone in this industry knows that there is not just a simple answer, or a one “save all” solution, and I mean “legit” industry people.

The Secret (wait for it…..)

In real estate, the secret to success is always being associated with location, location, location.  So what’s the big secret to successful Internet marketing?  It is all about testing, testing & more testing.  Any true successful Internet business owner that I have met (or know) has already done (and doing) what they are preaching.   There is nothing better then learning from a real person who has “been there & done that”.

If you want to learn how to make a site rank, then you need to create one that you can test the crap out of.   You need to spend time on SEO forums and blogs (I will share my favorite later) attend a search marketing conference or two.  Get on Twitter and follow some amazing Internet minds.  Just don’t follow, talk to them (they will be more willing to chat back with you then you realize) and soak up every bit of knowledge and information they are willing to share.  You then need to take this information and test, test & test some more.

I first got into Internet marketing before I really even knew what it was, while working for a small radio station in the middle of nowhere (Southeast) Arizona.  I was told by my bosses at the time, “we want to be found for “xyz” and see what this whole having a website thing is about”.  This was back in 1997.  By creating a website, learning (from books at college believe it or not) about meta tags, titles and what not I was able to rank sites easily.  It’s funny that I learned these from web design text books (early stages of technical SEO perhaps?)

Obviously a lot has changed since then, but I remember continuing to test, test, test and learn.  I once got another “radio” website to link to us, and found that we were getting a ton of hits from that source. (light bulb moment) Hmm, getting links are good for websites, they bring traffic.  I had no clue at this point that link building would be so critical for website trust and ranking down the road, but that’s just it – I learned it from testing testing and doing more testing.  I never stop learning.

My Opportunity

I had the awesome opportunity to be a part of a business, and learn from (now my business partner) David Mink, one of the first people to introduce me into (officially) “Internet marketing & SEO”.  Funny thing, most people know me as the SEO, or Internet marketing person from our Dream Systems Media crew, but it was in fact, Dave that got me started with all this.  He himself didn’t know, or have really a clue where all this (online marketing) was going (at the time), but we knew we wanted to be a part of it, and knew that someday this would be the direction of all marketing.

Dave had created an online business already, had a website, and gave me free reign to market it.  When I asked him what to do, he told me; “Figure it out”.  So I did. I learned I could not rely on asking someone questions – this was one of the greatest lessons he ever taught me.  Going back to my roots of testing testing and …. you got it, more testing.

I have had lots of opportunities for trial and error, and as more time passes the better I get at what I do.  I have made many mistakes, and lost a lot of money in the process, but this is what has made me a better marketer.  I know what works, and what to avoid because of testing.  Also, because I am not afraid to continue to test, and continue to do all I can to educate myself in this field, I feel we are successful.  I will never stop testing & learning!

Amazing People To Follow On TwitterMust Read Blogs & Communities to be a part of (that I read everyday):

***It is important to educate yourself on the “dark side” (IMO) so, if you feel the same as I do – here is a good post by Rishil with a decent list of sites to check out: http://explicitly.me/do-i-need-to-know-blackhat-seo

***(disclaimer) this is where some of the “testing” may come into play.  I don’t know how clear I have made it that I have tested many of “throw away” type sites….

Conferences to learn from:

  • SMX, all are good, but if you can attend SMX Advanced I would highly suggest doing so.
  • Pubcon (Vegas baby)
  • SES
  • Any Local Marketing Events (do a search for them on Twitter, you will find them – or just ask)

So when people ask me; “What is the best way to learn Internet marketing?”  I finally have an answer – a post to direct them to!  I also hope that many of you can learn a lesson from what I am trying to share here.  Do not be afraid to test & try things, it is the only way you are going to get better at what you do!

No, You Really Don’t Understand What I Do!

About a month ago I had a conversation with an old school mate that found me via Facebook. It has been about 14 – 15 years since I last spoke/saw/did anything with this guy. We mostly just talked about what I do for a living, but it was interesting for me to hear his thoughts and ideas about our industry (and how he thought he did the same thing for a living). I have to admit the conversation was a bit irritating, and I ended up having to tell my old friend I had to .  I  can’t remember the reason I gave him, but the real reason was I was two seconds away from losing it and really giving him a piece of my mind!

He made the comment that after seeing all of my Twitter updates, and Facebook status updates he really just didn’t understand what I did. He said he was trying to figure out what it was I did for a living. I told him that he should have looked at the URLs listed (this one included) on all my profiles, because tuld have been pretty self explanatory as to what I do.

I wish I would have saved the chat (because it was classic), but I didn’t …. so I am going to do my best to share it as it happened. Just so you know the conversation was much more then this, but this was the part that was most frustrating that I wanted to get into.

Here goes:

Him: So what exactly is it you do for a living?

Me: I explained to him that I co-own an Internet marketing firm which helps people who want to be found online. (I did not go into depth about SEO and everything else at this point)

Him: Oh, so you teach people how to use the Internet better? That’s kind of like what I do. (he does Internet hookup etc.) We help people get online and use the Internet.

Me: No, that’s not really what I do at all. I help online business owners be found for the keywords they want to be found for when people are doing searches online.

Him: Pretty much everyone has a website now huh? We help people get the Internet going and get them online .. etc. etc. so its the same thing right?

Me: (aggrivated) NO, I work with real actual business owners that want to be branded online, care about online reputation, want to be found for keywords etc. I went into much more detail, but this is the just of it, and I tried really hard to explain to him that some people may have a website but if they are not found, then what good does it do them? I gave the example – There might be 40 dentists in Gilbert Arizona that are online and have websites, but only a few of them are going to get the most traffic on Google when people search for phrases like “Gilbert Arizona Dentist”, and that is because only a few of them are going to be in the top results of the search engines that people will actually click on.

Him: OH, ok so you help people get and register their domain names with Google? And, You get people to the top of the Google results in those sponsored sections?

Me: (very aggravated now) No, that really is not what I do. Getting businesses into the sponsored results is a form of search engine marketing, but I really am more on the organic side of results. I go into explain what the difference between the PPC results and the organic results are …. walking him through some specific searches and showing results. (hoping he finally gets it)

Him: So really you are just helping people register their domain names on Google and other search engines?

Me: Yes, that’s “exactly” it ….. (quickly finds excuse to leave conversation as I know its going nowhere)

The reason I share this is because everyday I get asked the question; “What exactly is it you do?” This reminds me how brand new our industry really is, 2) it reminds me that we have a big opportunity to inform and help business owners, and 3) that there are a lot of people out there that think they are helping people “get online” and “registered” with Google, but really have no clue what Internet marketing is. We have to be the educators of this industry and be the part of this industry that gives it a GOOD name.

Could I have done a better job describing what Internet marketing is?

I thought I would take this question to my friends on Twitter. I want to see if maybe my Internet marketing friends can help answer this question (140 chars. or less) better then I could, so if my friend is reading this post – he just might learn something! Thanks to @brandonbuttars @atraine @AlanBleiweiss and @dan_patterson

What is Internet Marketing?
What is Internet Marketing?
  • Bringing visitors to the site.
  • Getting the website/business discovered.
  • Conversions – not just bringing visitors, but converting them
  • Using all marketing channels – SEO, SEM, SMO, PPC, Viral, etc.
  • Marketing strategy – how all strategies will be used on a site.
  • Online marketing objectives – what are the goals for the site?
  • Increasing traffic – more traffic = more sales (at least it should)
  • Converting traffic into sales – the bottom line here!

These bullet points (taken from answers above) should really spell out what Internet marketing is, and what we do for a living. If you are talking to someone about “just getting your domain registered” You are NOT talking to an Internet marketer. I should have had more patience with my friend and done a better job at “educating him.” Unfortunately, many people just DON’T seem to get it, but I did realize that it is my job to (try) educate people/businesses about our industry because it is so brand new. We have such a huge opportunity and major growth ahead of us. I for one am very excited to be a part of this industry!

I would love to hear other stories from those who can relate.  I think this could be a fun post if you were to share any similar stories that you may have had when talking with friends family or whoever!  Thanks in advance!

Narrowing The Communication Gap Between SEOs And Developers

Brandon Buttars
Brandon Buttars

A long time friend of mine, who also happens to be a web developer recently took some time to answer some questions for me.  He and I have noticed there is a huge communication gap between most web developers and SEOs/Internet marketers.  We feel that the web developer thinks that they know how to build the site “good enough” without talking to an SEO, and the SEOs assume the developers don’t have a clue about marketing online.  Both are wrong. You each bring something amazing to the table and need each other.  I think we need to have some better communication from the very start and to kick things off, and get you thinking differently – here is my interview of Brandon Buttars, web developer.

When it comes to the design and development process, what is the most frustrating thing for a designer in regards to working with an SEO Firm?

I’ve found that as a designer the company and/or the SEO firm does not give a good guideline for what elements need to be included on the different types of pages. This makes it hard to design and you usually don’t find out what elements they want until a couple critiques in and hours after the fact. If you, as an SEO or company, can give your developers and designers some detailed direction you will end up with a more complete vision.

How could SEOs/Internet marketers do a better job at making what you do easier?

I think the details are necessary up front to make things move quickly. This will cut down on development iterations and design revisions. If the SEO or company you are developing for uses phrases like, “you know what I mean”, then the person saying, “you know what I mean”, most likely doesn’t know what they themselves mean. If any part of the design/development/SEO is run on assumptions there will be problems. Everything needs to be spelled out. If the SEOs need specific features spec them out with as much detail as possible, that includes placeholder content. Do not critique the placeholder content! Be willing to communicate about things too. Even your specs may be a rough draft. Work together to define the final specs.

What does the SEO need to know about the technical developer?

First thing is first, web design and web development/programming is different. Understand what you need. Do you need a web designer, a web developer, or both. Developers often times speak different languages. They live often times in foreign worlds that are much different than the SEO or regular person lives in. When developing web applications and designing user interfaces, everything said is taken literally. Be straight forward in your requests and don’t pretend to understand developers unless you are one yourself. I’ve found that some of the best developers out there have the least amount of patience when it comes to clients and people. If you communicate clearly to your developers they will deliver clearly what you want. If you don’t and pretend they didn’t deliver something you forgot to tell them to deliver, get ready for a pissing match. Developers are often times meticulous in details so if they forgot it you most likely didn’t give it to them in documentation.

How can developers and internet marketers bridge the gap in communication to make things run smoother in the design/development process?

One thing that people often times need to realize is that the cost of a project is eaten up by communication. When communication is made developers and SEOs need to understand that it’s costing both sides money and time. Realize that the more you insist on communicating the more the project is going to cost so realize if the initial cost of the project goes up because of unanticipated communication and unnecessary meetings, don’t be surprised. If both parties would come to the initial planning meeting prepared to ask questions and also prepared to answer questions then things would be hashed out much quicker and communication later in the process would be minimal. I think both sides need to understand who they are talking to. They need to understand who is responsible for what. Documentation is the key. When things are documented you have the ability from both sides to hold people accountable, but understand that when communication slips and delivery slips, you have lost all recourse for a launch date. If you say you are going to do something by a specific date, do it.

Is there anything else you want to tell us internet marketing folks now that the cards are on the table?

I think anyone, whether an internet marketer or not, needs to come to the table prepared with a clear vision of what they want out of the site. With a clear guide on what technical requirements there are to do the internet marketing you need to do. A developer and designer can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Go out of your way to communicate what your requirements are, but be open to help explain those requirements and details to the developers. There are more ways to skin a cat than just one, the developers may have a better way of doing things if you can explain to them why you are doing them.

Do developers even care about SEO?

Most good programming practices lead to good SEO. When you validate HTML code it will often times tell you what you are missing and what code has been written incorrectly, so to a degree all programmers care about SEO. Not all programmers understand how SEO works, but most of them understand why it’s done and what technical elements it takes (meta tags, title tags, alt tags).

Do developers like internet marketing folks?

They don’t hate them. I like to compare it to camping. You go to enjoy the outdoors and to relax. You respect other campers that are around you and try to keep it clean and a better place for those around you. Then there are those campers who come up to camp hooting and hollering around their campfire all night, smashing beer bottles everywhere, and leaving the campground with a burning fire, and a pile of garbage. As long as you are a SEO who leaves the internet with good results and not full of a bunch of irrelevant results, I think most programmers and most people in general respect those SEOs.  As long as you respect the internet and try to preserve search engine integrity you deserve respect.


Brandon Buttars
Brandon Buttars

Brandon Buttars has 11 years of web design experience, 4 years of experience working directly with web development teams, and 4 years of SEO experience. His love is CSS, XHTML, and graphic design. He currently works as Online Media Marketing manager for PMA Media Group, My Colleges and Careers Online Education, Renevati Lead Verification, and Offer Alliance Affiliate Marketing. He is a social media nut and loves using Twitter.

Offline Businesses Crave Online Knowledge

I had an unfortunate experience yesterday when I had to take my 2 year old to the Urgent care to get his head stitched up from splitting it open because of a desk.  He is ok now, but he didn’t appreciate us all poking and prodding at him.  He’s a boy and things like this happen I guess.  (It’s the reason I have Aflac accident – its not a matter of if, but when it happens).

The reason I bring this up is because the Doctor who was working had a broken arm and could not do the stitching.  He had to call up the owner of the Urgent care and have him come in to do the proceedure.  They took amazing care of us, (which I want to thank them for) but we got to chatting during everything and they found out what I did for a living.  He was telling me he does ok with rankings on MSN, but has never been able to get rankings on Yahoo or even crack anything on Google.

Short version of our conversation – he kept coming back to what I do for a living, and bringing it up.  I was not even having to “push” my services, (nor was trying) but he was asking me for help.  I handed him my card and he said he was going to give me a call and figure out how to take advantage of search more.  He was very appreciative.  I did not go in with the intention of gaining a new client, in fact it was the last thing on my mind with my son and everything.

The lesson I learned:

First, to make sure you always have your business cards on you (you never know).  Also, offline businesses really are craving to learn more about marketing avenues online.  I mean – I know this already, but having it happen to me in the way it did yesterday really drives it home that we Internet marketers are in a great industry and situation.  There is a never ending flow of opportunities for everyone and I am glad to be in this field!  I am also glad my son is ok!!

Now Is The Time To Take Advantage of Search Marketing

The Setting Resolutions Trend!

I have been reading a lot lately about marketing resolutions for 2009, and rather then share what mine are personally – or what my companies are – I thought I would give some insight as to what trends I am starting to see, and what I feel is going to be a businesses most important investment in 2009.

In the last month I have signed 4 pretty big clients, and each one of them has told me they see an opportunity online because of the slow down in the economy.  Whatever little they are doing online, they are seeing a ROI, and want to take things to the next level because they feel online is where its at.

All of my family and friends who are very aware of what I do for a living, keep asking me how things have been the last few months.  Keep in mind these are the same people who told me I was stupid when I quit my job, and went off on my own and left corporate America – they keep looking to say I told ya so rather then listen to me?  I kinda feel bad when I see everyone around me losing their jobs, and struggling to make ends meet, and I tell them that my business has never been better.

Why is that?

I embrace online marketing, I put big bucks into it, I spend nothing offline and I put every ounce of energy I have into learning/testing/implementing everything there is to know about Internet marketing.  I guess you can say – I feel that I am on the right team.

I had a chat with my brother the other day, and he was even telling me his very traditional company (when it comes to advertising) who has been putting 100k plus/month into print/offline marketing has finally opened up a bigger budget for online marketing in 2009 because they finally see the writing on the wall.  If only I could have only convinced them years earlier (and I tried) they would be leaps and bounds ahead of their competition.  I still feel its better late then never though, and that now is the time to take advantage of search marketing!

So I guess in sharing this insight with you I am also givine you my main goal of 2009, and that is to help businesses better understand the power of marketing online.  Shoemoney did a great post a while back talking about how when online marketing is done right – there is no recession.  You must learn to adapt, and change your business model and figure out a way to make money.  A good friend of mine made an analogy for me (with regards to his business) – he said:

“Mat, its like we have million dollar homes for sale in a market that only wants Condos and Town Homes.  So we have to figure out how to make a Condo, and Town Home product.”

He understands how to take advantage of down markets.  When everyone else is crying about sales being down, he knows what it takes to increase them.  When everyone else is crying about not making any money, he understands how to make his business money.  This is a sign of a true business owner – one that will make money no matter what the circumstances around him/her!

What are my thoughts on where you should be focusing your business resolutions? (in order of most importance)

  1. More money into Search Marketing – SEO, PPC etc.
  2. More focus on Reputation Management
  3. Branding
  4. Embrace Social Media – Learn it, use it, grow your business with it!

IMO – Maybe the most important resolution that businesses need to be making is the one that involves what they spend in online advertising.  I feel now is the time for business to be spending money, and putting money into their online marketing campaigns.  If you are making resolutions for your business, and figuring out budgets for 2009 – let me help you make your most important 2009 resolution – increase your online budget and finally start to embrace Internet marketing.  I can promise that if you do you will see a great ROI, even in a down turned economy!