Sunday, February 28, 2010


I've been trying and trying to figure out the purpose of our latest blog assignment: Write about a book that changed your life and how you came across it. I can't figure out the importance of this in relation to our online book marketing class.

Part of the reason I'm trying so hard to discern the reasoning here is because I can't pick a single book that changed my life. My parents have said that I could read newspaper headlines and more when I was three. I've always read. My grandmother was a second-grade teacher and used to send me boxes and boxes of books and classroom learning material. I have no way to distinguish a before reading/after reading me. I'm probably over-thinking this.

I could post about Hesse's Siddhartha, which I read and loved, and then reread when I found it on a coffee table, inscribed with something like: "This book will change your life. Read it, then pass it along as I have done here." I still have that copy somewhere.

Or, there's my all-time favorite, A Prayer for Owen Meany, strongly recommended by a friend. I'd never read Irving before. It knocked me over, it rocked me. The friendship in Owen Meany was so powerful, and the prayer-like opening section proof of Irving's mastery, I fell in love.

Let's not forget the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I have read over and over again. Thank you Mr. Gray for reading The Hobbit to us in sixth grade. Speaking of teachers, Professor Wandling's love of romantic poets brought Romanticism to my life, and then Nietzsche, and finally Emerson.

How could I possibly pick a book that changed my life? No one book has changed my life, rather, it's the act of reading that continues to shape my perception of the world around me. As for the best of the best, those books have all come from strong recommendations of friends or teachers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Danger Zone: Keyword Research

Since we are all in the midst of beginning our marketing plans for class, I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the things that I have learned about keyword research. Don't kid yourself, keyword research sucks. But choosing the right keywords is crucial to planning an effective online campaign. Keywords are at the heart of your campaign, whether you are focusing on organic search results, PPC advertising, or on-page web copy.

The first step of the keyword research process is brainstorming. Think about your products from the point of view of your clients. What phrases are they using to search for your goods? Include alternate spellings, word placements, and synonyms. Surveying clients and potential customers is a great way to expand your keyword list and reach potential long-tail terms.

Once you have a healthy list of keywords that you might want to target, turn to online keyword research tools to flush out the data on each word or phrase. I like the Google Traffic Estimator or Google's Search-Based Keyword Tool. Data produced by either of these tools can be exported to Excel and manipulated there. Your goal is to find keywords with high relevancy and low competition.

Targeting keywords that are less competitive increases your chances of ranking highly for the terms, and you will spend less money on PPC advertising spots. Not to mention that some of the less popular keyword phrases, the long-tail phrases, bring in people who are more likely to purchase, thus increasing your chance at conversion.

Keyword research is not set in stone and you have to commit to tweaking your keywords, messages, and copy, to attain maximum results. I did a heap of research on promo products that I've tried to decipher. I used the information to create categories, title page tags, meta-data, and on-page copy. It hasn't been tested yet, and to be honest, I'm pretty apprehensive about the possible results. Anyway, let me know if you need any help, or have any questions. I'm still learning myself, and love to gab about all things search and social.

Talk to me Goose!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fresh Content

Have you noticed how difficult it is to find unique content online? We have tons of news aggregators and sharing tools, but when you really look at the offerings, everyone is sharing and reposting the same stuff. Even the local news seems to be surfing the same sites I am for stories and information. I read something on in the morning, then hear about it again on the 5 o'clock news. Not only that, but I'm seeing the feeds for Tech Crunch and Mashable in multiple places. It's information overload.

It's never been more obvious to me that content is king. If you can actually become a news producer, or contribute unique content on a regular basis, you have a very good chance of gaining traction with a blog, website, or social media strategy. Now that I'm on Google Buzz, I feel like I finally have a way to market the content, but my biggest issue is how to find interesting and unique things to blog about.

Are you having problems coming up with ideas for your weekly blog? Any tips or tricks?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Email Marketing: Select All, Delete

Like most people, I have multiple email accounts. I have an email account through PSU, which I like to send resumes from. It makes me look more official I think. I have a Gmail account that I use for personal stuff. I try not to give this email to anyone but my friends, and especially not to my family, who are continually forwarding chain letters, Republican propaganda, and "funny" jokes. I have a Hotmail account for "family spam" and I also use Hotmail for registering with e-commerce sites like Amazon, LLBean, Apple, and more. I only check Hotmail once a week or so. When I checked it today, I knew there would be fodder for this week's blog subject on email marketing.

I think it's safe to say that I'm not influenced by email marketing. I found about 75 emails waiting for me and promptly deleted them. Oops! I was going to look at those today. I get a lot of emails from the Oakland A's telling me about deals at the team store. Yesterday's special deal was in honor of President's Day. No surprise there, as it seems that every retailer uses the holiday as an excuse to send emails to potential buyers. Anyway, the email consisted of a small paragraph outlining the sales deal and a link to the A's MLB store. Not a single picture, which makes this email blast really boring! Shouldn't they entice me with a picture of a new sweatshirt or something?

L.L. Bean's email marketing campaigns are much slicker. They feature color pictures and reflect the overall look of their website. The very top of the email has a headline surrounded by dashed lines, making it resemble a coupon. The headline is offering a last chance at free shipping on orders over $75. I'm not in the market for new rain shoes, so I'm not getting sucked into this, but at least it looks nice.

I've trained myself to block these marketing emails from my mind. I'm actually afraid that if I do open them, I will buy something. After all, I did get suckered into buying a yoga dvd (yeah i know, crazy) when I bought my marketing book, simply because Amazon offered me free shipping on orders over $25. I've also gone to the trouble of maintaining two email accounts to further distance myself from this barrage of emails. In fairness, if I weren't so darn lazy, I could unsubscribe, but then I might be missing something important, right?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What's All the Buzz About?

This week Google launched Google Buzz, a social feature embedded in Gmail, and they caused quite a BUZZ. At the heart of most Buzz-related reports this week was privacy. Online privacy is a big deal for a lot of people, and rightfully so, but I was kind of bummed that Buzz was overshadowed by the privacy issues. I suppose Google could have done some more testing before launching it, and then maybe we would have had a more positive build-up before release.

I messed around with Buzz and it seems pretty darn cool. My main email account is through Gmail, so Buzz is only a click away. I actually liked that it did all of the work of finding my top friends and auto-connecting us. Because my Google profile is fairly up to date, Buzz knew about some of my other online info, and suggested that I share my blogs on Buzz. This way my friends will be able to see my blogs all in one spot too. Simple and easy, though this means I won't get the clicks to my blog unless I set my blog up where you have to click through to get the rest of the post. We talked about that in class, I just haven't done it yet. Other stuff to share includes Flickr, Picasa, Google Reader, and Twitter feeds.

So what about online privacy? Who cares if people see what you share in Google Reader, or who you are following in Buzz? Well, maybe you don't want your boyfriend's mother to know that you shared that interesting article on top sex toys of 2009 with your friends, and maybe your online stalker would be thrilled to see all of the Flickr photos from last summer that you posted under a user name they didn't know about. Instead of whining about how Google has violated privacy rights, why not just change the permissions? It wasn't that hard to do. I'm probably being insensitive to those sneaky online types with things to hide though, because I've only got a couple of friends using Google and I'm not sneaking around or hiding from anyone. Sorry if you are, and if Google got you into any trouble. Actually, I'd use Facebook a lot more if i wasn't sharing with a bunch of people from high school that I don't even like. Buzz is my way around that issue. And, as if we needed further proof that Google is totally on top of it, they've already changed the auto-follow function and increased the visibility of privacy options.

So, the question really is, will Google's Buzz have any impact on online marketing? Will Buzz be a Facebook killer? I wish, but I doubt it. I think the vast majority of people on Facebook are still using AOL email accounts, and it's highly unlikely that they will be able to figure out Buzz. I mean, it is buried in Gmail, which offers all sorts of nifty tools. Google's tools might be overwhelming. I know they are, because I was trying to show my mother how to use Google Reader and she was confused. Buzz doesn't have the ease and simplicity of stand alone platforms like Twitter. Also, it's strictly a Google tool, so you have to have a gmail account, and check it frequently.

Samsung USA was the first brand to jump on the Buzz bandwagon, and good for them. Their early posts are tests, and they've shared some YouTube videos and stuff relating to mobile. I'm following TechCrunch and Tamar Weinberg, the author of the marketing book I chose for class. I wish there was an easier way to find people to follow. I'm thinking that before long we'll see something similar to Twitter lists. All in all, I can't wait to see how Buzz develops.

Have you used Buzz yet? What do you think about its usefulness?

UPDATE: This Mashable article Google Buzz Has Completely Changed the Game: Here's How is too good not to mention.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cataclysms on the Columbia: The Great Missoula Floods

Are you looking for something fun and educational to do on your spring break? Consider a scenic trip through the Columbia basin! Take a road trip through the great Pacific Northwest and follow the path of prehistoric flood waters from Montana through Washington and down to Astoria, Oregon.

Originally offered by Timber Press in 1986, Cataclysms on the Columbia: The Great Missoula Floods, authored by John Eliot Allen, has been revised and revamped by authors Marjorie Burns and Scott Burns. Republished by Portland State University's Ooligan Press, the new edition features color images, updated science and data, and editorial corrections.

Cataclysms on the Columbia explores geological research that challenged the scientific paradigm of the 20th century, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Championed by J. Harlan Bretz, the theory of the Missoula Floods ultimately changed the way geologists looked at the Columbia River gorge and surrounding landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. In addition to a rich geological history, the parallel story of Bretz's life-long struggle to prove that "Lake Missoula" and its subsequent floods created the landscape are inspirational.

The basic Missoula Floods theory is that a giant glacier blocked the Clark Fork River and created a massive lake, eventually breaking up to allow the water to escape. Within a matter of about three days, the lake would drain more than 60 times the amount of the Amazon into the Columbia basin.Scientists now believe that event was not singular, but actually occurred at least 40 times.

It is easy to believe this theory as you drive through the Pacific Northwest. Stop to view the Scablands in Montana to see evidence of the torrential waters ripping the soil away where waterfowl gathers in rock potholes. Visit Grand Coulee in Washington to see now-dry towers of rock. This area, known as Dry Falls, was once the home of a 400 ft, 3.5 mile wide waterfall!

Cataclysms on the Columbia features a guided section replete with maps, images, and highway information to make your scenic Pacific Northwest road trip a successful geological tour. In addition to making a great scenic trip, all royalties from Cataclysms on the Columbia are donated to Ooligan Press and the John Eliot Allen Scholarship in Portland State University's Department of Geology.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Spats: Macmillian vs. Amazon

Amazon waited nearly a week, finally returning the "Buy" buttons to Macmillan books on its site on Friday evening. I'm afraid that we haven't heard the last of the arguing between publishers and booksellers as houses try to position themselves for success in digital markets.

What I didn't understand in class, and still don't really, is how Macmillan could put the smack-down on Amazon. Here's my understanding of producers and sellers: a business has a product that they want to sell for a certain price. Another business wants to buy said items, increase the cost, and make a profit selling to an end user. This is how retail business works, am I right? As long as a producer is getting the price they want for their items, who cares how much of an increase or decrease the seller charges the end user?

Apparently, Macmillan cares. With Amazon buying e-books in the range of $12-14 and then reselling them for a loss, Macmillan feels that their books are being under-valued by consumers. I can sort of see their point, as a fixed price point of $9.99 will soon be the expectation rather than a special deal, but it ISN'T THEIR RIGHT TO TELL AMAZON HOW TO CONDUCT BUSINESS. Sorry, I got a little loud there.

Add to that the fact that Amazon has been in the internet book-selling trade for quite a long time now. Who better understands what consumers are willing to pay? David Pakman's blog post "Weighing in on Amazon/Macmillan Pricing Debate" discusses price point:
Remembering your Econ class, you also know that most goods are elastic; as price lowers, demand increases. An optimum point exist that maximizes profit. I am pretty sure that the book industry, like the music industry before it, has not maximized profit by finding the optimum price. This is generally because the book publishers are not retailers — they have never forged a relationship directly with a customer. To optimize pricing (particularly on a per title basis), you need to conduct lots of tests and analyze lots of data. Amazon does this in near-real time and, I am told, is constantly optimizing pricing, page layout, merchandising, bundling, shopping cart path, and many other ecommerce variables.
Pakman also notes that consumers should not be responsible for legacy costs that include Manhattan high-rises, and other outdated operating costs. He points to the music industry that was slow in adapting to digital sources and hints that this might happen to the publishing industry if they aren't careful.

Are Macmillan's assertions regarding consumer expectation true? What about hardcover book prices? Doesn't Costco's low low price undermine consumer expectation? J.D. Robb's Fantasy in Death will be released next month. The list price is $26.95, but Costco and Barnes & Noble are offering it for $14.45, or 46% off! Gee, my expectation is that I will never ever pay $26 for a book. I expect to receive about 50% off of the cover price, maybe even more if I'm a B&N member. Is Macmillan going to step in and tell Costco what sort of discount to apply? I don't think so.

I have to side with Dave Pakman on this whole argument, even though I may be lynched by my friends in publishing, and say that Macmillan may be making a big mistake. Amazon, world-wide bookseller, might be trying to position itself to take over the world, but they are hardly the only company with aspirations of world domination. Amazon is better positioned to understand consumer expectation and they want to sell as many e-books as possible. If consumers feel that the price is too high for e-books, it may slow down sales of the Kindle.

Macmillan and the "agency model" may be forcing Amazon into the publishing biz by taking away Amazon's power to determine pricing for what essentially become their own products upon purchase. Publishing is certainly an avenue that Amazon could further explore, in the same way that Netflix produces some of their own movies. Agents and authors may be enticed to publish with Amazon. After all, they play host to millions of consumers every day and are ahead of the curve when it comes to digital publishing. They could do very well bundling traditional books with digital copies, and offer more money to authors because of their more decentralized business model.