Greg Lyon


5 SEO mistakes you may be making right now

Greg Lyon // in Strategy

Although it's become one of the core elements of online marketing, many businesses still consider search engine optimization overly-complicated, unproductive, or merely a fad. But overcoming these concerns is just a matter of using SEO to your advantage. In our experience guiding clients through their online marketing decisions, we've encountered a few common misconceptions about SEO. 

1. Believing it is too hard or too time-consuming

No matter how little time you may have, you can always perform bite-sized SEO activities which advance your overall strategy. For example, ask ten customers which keywords they most closely associate with your company or products. Or look up the top five most visited pages on your website and try to identify how the on-page elements (copy, titles, meta data, etc.) help or hurt that popularity. Apply what you learn to the rest of your pages. For those times when there really is no time, Vodori is here to help

2. Treating it as a one-time deal

It's tempting to treat SEO activities like spring cleaning—carve out a block of time to optimize those on-page elements, and once that's done, forget about it for the rest of the year. However, as marketplaces change (i.e., constantly), so do the keywords that consumers use to describe them. If keyword search patterns evolve and you don't evolve right along with them, you're likely to lose traffic and sales.

We recommend conducting keyword or user research multiple times per year, to stay on top of changes in each industry. Furthermore, organic search engines like Google and Bing are constantly tweaking their search algorithms (almost daily, actually). Make sure you keep up with these changes, and understand how they can affect your SEO tactics. Most search engines outline significant updates on their blogs.

The overlapping cycles of SEO strategy
 One step of SEO feeds into the next in an ongoing process.


3. Neglecting to measure and course-correct

Again, SEO is not a one-and-done tactic. Before implementing a campaign, consider how the knowledge you expect to gain will impel constructive changes for your business. As with any online marketing strategy, some actions will pay off and some won't

In my opinion, the real key to success lies in developing a reporting-recommendation-change action plan once your campaign is in place. Track your results closely, identify what isn't working, adjust or eliminate those misfires, and then track the changes. Rinse and repeat. Using this framework, with analytics driving adaptation, has worked quite well for Vodori and several of our clients. 

4. Failing to integrate within an overall marketing strategy

SEO is probably not the only tool you wield (and if it is, that's a mistake worthy of a whole different blog post). There's no hard and fast boundary separating it from tactics like location-based targeting, pay-per-click, social media, and PR. Determine how SEO fits in with your larger online promotions plan—where it complements other tools, and where it might conflict.  

5. Looking for one "key" to getting it exactly right

A truly successful SEO campaign relies on several components, including well-executed customer and keyword research, on-page optimization, community involvement, and a link-building strategy (plus plenty more). Optimizing one of these may yield quick success in some markets, but for most, a winning long-term plan will touch on several different techniques. 

In fact, if there is one "key" to achieving outstanding SEO, it lies in your human resources: the sharp, adaptable employee or employees who grasp all these techniques, and who can develop and execute a comprehensive plan.


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Greg Lyon


How to Start With Nothing, Or: It Helps to Start with Personas

Greg Lyon // in Strategy

A few months ago, Dave Shapanka wrote an inspiring post about starting a complicated website-construction project from scratch. To summarize the article using his own TL;DR:

“Remember when they taught you "pre-writing" in elementary school? Turns out that has real-life applications as well.”

Though “pre-writing” as it relates to Vodori’s business of digital marketing strategy, creative, and technology manifests in uncountable ways, one aspect of brainstorming that travels across disciplines from project inception to launch is that of the persona.

Wikipedia defines a persona as a “represent[ation of] the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behavior set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way.” We create personas to better understand our target audiences in order to figure out how they interact with our products and web properties. Our main goals in creating personas are to:

  1. Inform functional and technical requirements (i.e., what they need to be able to click on in order for us to make a difference in their lives)
  2. Direct creative activity (i.e., what arrangement of buttons, colors, videos, and copy will excite them about doing business with us)
  3. Guide marketing and online promotion tactics (i.e., how we can reach them and communicate to them how amazing we are)

If we have an absolute understanding of what’s going on in the brains of our target audiences, we have a much better idea of how we can eat them what inputs are necessary (across disciplines) to make our digital projects flourish. For a recent strategy engagement, the Vodori team completed the following activities to create impactful personas (note: talk to your creative team before starting, they will have valuable input into what information they need in order to do great work):

  • Ask around internally. Chances are, there are 1-2 people who work in customer service, sales, or the like that talk to your target audience on a pretty regular basis. Harvest everything they know that may be relevant to your goals.
  • Talk to them. Pick up phone, dial number, start to ask questions. Get in car, drive to office, shake hand, start to ask questions. If you can’t talk to them in person, send them an online survey. Surveys can also be an excellent opportunity to make the qualitative research process more tangible as the results are statistics. In short, if you approach someone with an opportunity to make their life better through the web, chances are they will open up.
  • Pretend to be them. Try and understand their everyday challenges, their goals, and what excites them. Shadow them for a day. Imagine you are starting a business in their industry – what are the things you would do in order to succeed?
  • Don’t forget the web. Even if you have a great understanding of what your target audience needs from you in a business sense, do you know how they might interact with it? How do they browse the web? Do they own a tablet or smartphone device?

When finished, you’ll have lots of raw data, most of it qualitative. Use this data to come up with a set of personas that you feel are representative of the entire market you are trying to reach (this could be as many as fifty or as little as two). When creating personas, make them feel as human as possible. Along with demographic and statistical information, include quotes from your research, attach pictures, outline business needs and possible features that might solve them, include fun tidbits like their top 5 favorite websites or the last three things they bought online. When you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, try your best guess; it’s okay to extrapolate and stereotype a little bit (but not too much).

If in the end you can hand a one-page printout of your personas to your designers and have them tell you that they know exactly who to design for while giving you some pointers on riding your fixed gear, a copy of the new The Antlers CD, and an invitation to their brother-in-law’s poetry reading of the lyrics from this Kris Kross album at a coffee shop that you’ve probably never heard of, then congratulations, you’ve done it. By the way, did you see what I did there? I just created a persona of a hipster designer that you understood so I could make my point. Boom.


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Greg Lyon


How to Find Partners and Devise a Game Plan

Greg Lyon // in Strategy

So you’ve just pulled an all-nighter to put the finishing touches on your brand new corporate website and are picking out which napkins to buy for the launch party. Your CMO barges through the door and dictates, “I’m really excited about the new website, but can we make that into an app? My wife just got an iPhone and it would be cool if she could download our site as an app. If we could have it by next Wednesday, that would be terrific. By the way, make sure you put the new cover sheets on all TPS reports.”

For many, after staring into space and figuring out what he meant by “download our site as an app”, the next logical step is to contact your agency (assuming you outsource this type of thing) and get their opinion. What should your mobile strategy be? Should you wait to see what mobile traffic looks like to your new site before spending the rest of your 2011 budget on an app? Can your current agency even handle the design and development of an app?  Do you need to start looking for other agencies?

Finding the answers to these questions can be daunting, and it’s up to your partners to first console you and more importantly, provide direction. Situations like these make it all the more important to have an agency or industry partner you can trust, no matter what the occasion. As a part of our yearlong Pre_Scribed series, Vodori recently released our official list of agency selection criteria. Regardless of project length, size, or budget, it’s important to put the agencies vying for your attention through the ringer and make sure that together you’ll be the best team since Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.  To see our recommendations in full detail, view the slideshow below for more detail or download a PDF version.

Disclaimer: Although one Vodorian mentioned that he applied the same list of selection criteria to the process of selecting his now-wife, Vodori recommends using the steps for their intended and original purpose (seriously man, leave work at work).

Ten Steps to Finding the Perfect Partner

We’ve also included a bonus “How to make a great RFP” guide at the end to help agencies better respond to your needs. Trust us, we respond to them all the time. If, after reading all of this, all you’re really looking for is a great new cover sheet design for your TPS reports, we would be glad to help. Also, don’t forget to register now for Chapter 3 – Design Content to Fit Your Goals in the Pre_Scribed series.


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Greg Lyon


Creating Value vs Publicizing Value

Greg Lyon // in Strategy

Value. It’s an age-old concept, popularized by Adam Smith and bastardized by consultants everywhere. It’s incredibly easy and hard to define all at once. It can be represented in myriad ways and in practically every context imaginable.

Recently, while watching an excellent debate/interview between Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart, I was reminded of an important distinction between the creation of value and the promotion of value. Although Stewart indirectly references the creation of value as “news”, and the promotion of value as “satire”, it’s a not-so-nuance that manifests itself everywhere on the web.

It was once a clear distinction: I create fire, you go tell neighboring tribe I created fire.

It's become increasingly blurry: I created a fire-creating device that can be used to create fire anywhere, and I tweeted about it to my 14,571 followers and I’m creating a website where people can buy my fire-creating device almost as fast as you can create fire with it.

The ideas that drive the value merge are driving the future of products and services.

Sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Etsy are the obvious examples of the merge between value creation and promotion systems. They created a platform that lets others create and broadcast their own interpretations of value. The rise of user generated content--old news, I know.

But the same ideas that drive the success of value creation-and-promotion-all-in-one tools are the same that will drive the future of products and services on the web: universal accessibility, social-focus, and ease of use. Plus, be of actual tangible value to the end user, but that’s a given.

HTML5: the future of apps

A hot topic these days is the conversion of mobile apps from downloadable pieces of software to full on browser-supported experiences through HTML5. Gone will be the days of downloading apps on mobile devices. Browser-supported versions of our favorite apps will bring universal accessibility (no more App Store vs. Android Market), easy social integration (the same web apps we enjoy today without downloading another app to integrate), and ease-of-use. I know there are still some kinks to be unraveled until my app-free mobile device dream will be realized. Hopefully Verizon still offers a fixed-rate unlimited data option then. A boy can dream, right?

Creation and promotion

To return to my main point, it’s warranted to challenge the notion of value we’ve all come to accept. In Vodori’s world of online interactive marketing and web development, the difference between the creation and promotion of value is a daily topic. Recognizing that the web has blurred the lines of these once easily separable notions is important for successfully engineering and enacting online marketing solutions. Blogging changed the traditional structure of an author writing, an editor editing, and a publisher publishing in order to reach a final product. What’s next?


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Greg Lyon


Top Ten Google FAILS of

Greg Lyon // in Strategy

There’s no doubting it: Google is awesome. When you spend a lot of time doing SEO, it’s even more awesome to see your hard work lead to the first organic result on Google’s results page. No matter how much you optimize, however, it’s inevitable that you’ll garner some misguided traffic. That’s why it’s important to analyze the search query report: a report of all your site’s Google-originated visitors (paid and organic) and what they typed into Google to get there.

Though some misguided traffic can be frustrating, it can also be a great source of entertainment.

To see your organic search query report, access the “Keywords” section of the “Traffic Sources” tab in Google Analytics. To see your paid search query report, you’ll have to click on “Reports” in the drop-down menu under the “Reporting” tab in Google AdWords, then “Create a New Report”, then select “Search Query Report” and select your parameters.

Top Ten Google FAILS

Without further ado, I’d like to present the top ten Google FAILS of Disclaimer: this is all real. Not only did people actually search this stuff, but they also came to Vodori after searching it. 

    1. “geocitiesizer"
      This thing is awesome! I’d say our web development is a little more professional though. Slightly.
    2. “is bradley cooper a tool”
      Congrats to Mike Kinney for making a pop-culturally relevant SEO Title tag for his blog post, but I’m not sure if this searcher got the answer they were looking for. I don’t want to answer this question honestly, because that might hurt my chances of scoring tickets to the premiere of The Hangover 2. Lylab Brad ;)
    3. “how to define+spring 3.0, there is an xml namespace for configuring taskexecutor and taskscheduler instances + examples”
      Personally, I’ve been trying to rank #1 organically on Google for this one for a while now. I’ll pat myself on the back for the excellent long tail keyword research and our first hit.
    4. “most important languages in the past”
      Elvish. Klingon. Igpay Atinlay. American (note: this is also the current most important language).
    5. “puzzles for my girlfriend”
      This is an interesting one. One would assume that the searcher is looking for a puzzle for their girlfriend to distract her while they’re up to no good (or debugging). In that case, I would recommend this one.  
    6. –≤–æ–¥–æ—Ä–∏
      According to Google Translate, this means hydrogen in Russian. You win, Putin, you win.  
    7. “rovegno italy”
      Indeed, our President shares his last name with a small town in Northern Italy. I think I’ve found my suggestion for next year’s summer outing. Well, here would work too.
    8. “what are the most important new advancements engineering in the last decade”
      There’s only one, and it’s the Three Little Piggy sandwich at Chicago’s own The Silver Palm. Double smoked ham, pork tenderloin, bacon, gruyere cheese, and some fried eggs.
    9. “sexy enterprise”

      And last but not least:
    10. “what is meant by online marketing”
      Uhh…defer to Rob DeMento.

Happy search query reporting!


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Greg Lyon


Oh, The Places You'll Search Engine Market

Greg Lyon // in Strategy

Facebook Places You'll GoSpurred by recent developments at Google, Facebook, and fellow Vodorian Chris Michael's Foursquare activity (seriously dude, being the mayor of an incorrectly spelled comedy club is not something to be proud of), it became clear to me as a search engine marketer that an increased focus on geo-aware apps and services could mean serious shifts in the way we use searchable content to reach our target audiences. Only time will tell if the recent announcement of Facebook Places unleashes industry-wide plate tectonics of Pangean proportions, but at the very least it's valuable to explore how local your online marketing efforts might become. 

Despite widespread concerns that popular check-in services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and even Yelp are nothing more than the 21st century equivalent of Big Brother, there's no doubting that they're addictive, fun, and growing in popularity.

The recent announcement of Facebook Places, the long-awaited location-based service from the social network that boasts 500 million active users, means things are getting serious. According to an article in AdAge Digital, Borell claims that location-based ad spending will hit $4 billion in 2015, up from $34 million in 2009, and Paul Feng from Google claims that 1/3 of all Google searches have local intent.

Making Cents of Check-Ins

So what, exactly, does this mean for online marketers? For one, it could mean an increased focus on mobile advertising platforms. The two biggest mobile ad players, Google and Apple, are certainly placing their bets on an explosion of mobile advertising dollars. As users spend more time on geo-aware apps and services, surprising them with locally relevant ad content may prove invaluable.

It could also mean a slew of new local optimization techniques. Companies like Twitter, Yelp, and Flickr have proved that it's now second nature for any popular Internet service to include automatic geotagging features. These features accumulate mounds of searchable, location-based information. As Google continues to test integrating local search results with a redesigned landing page, it might become important to reconsider online marketing campaign strategies for companies that regard themselves as location-agnostic. As the Yellow Pages moves to the cloud (see: Facebook Business pages, LinkedIn profiles, and Google's Places Directory) being able to rank high for locally directed search terms, even if you're an international gum manufacturer, will be increasingly significant.

But When Will Location-Based Services Actually Improve my Life?

Check-ins are fun, but other than improving your probability of randomly meeting a friend at a public place, does it really satisfy a basic human need? That's debatable, but it's not to say that check-in services aren't a platform for something bigger and better.

Companies like PlaceCast and DashMob are exploring ways of sending instantaneous, automatic coupon and sale information unique to the geofences you enter. This takes the "bother" of checking-in away; being in a certain proximity to different retailers results in automatic notifications of deals you might be interested in. Think Groupon for the few city blocks around your house. Think Foursquare's competitive game-like check-in mentality bundled with the shopping comparison power of snapping photos of bar codes in scanner apps.

Who knows, maybe this could even translate to a barrage of mobile Facebook ads in your previously uninterrupted friend-stalking adventures. And if that doesn't catch your attention, I don't know what will.


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