What is SEO

What is SEO? and why is it important to my business?

what is seo

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and to put it simply it is the process of making improvements on and off your website to gain better search engine results.  This will lead to more visitors finding your website and for the right reasons.

Let me take a step back and explain what a search engine is.  Have you ever wondered how Google works?  Search engines are simply trying to find and understand all the information on the entire internet and then deliver search results based on relevance and authority according to what a user is looking for.

They do this by using very smart, and very proprietary algorythms that determine how your content is written and implemented in code and how other sites on the internet are linking to you.  This is incredibly complex and even still within a fraction of a second they will serve you results you are looking for.

Relevance: search engines are actually quite good at ranking results by relevance.  Let’s take the keyword phrase “Dog Crates”.  Search engines will be able to tell that a site that sell dog crates is of high relevance.  They will also know that a site that sells animal carriers is also of interest, and what more impressive is that they know that website promoting pet food or dog toys are also may be of interest but are of less relevance.

Authority: Search engines also compare you to other sites by analyzing how other sites think of you.  This is done mainly by links that are pointing to you by other site.  You can think of links as a vote of trust on the internet.  The bigger and more relevant the site that is linking to you the more authority the search engine attribute to your site and will rank you in kind.

But don’t get too caught in putting too much energy into getting links.  It’s not a popularity contest and search engines are smart enough to understand when it’s being used as a tactic rather than links being based on actual content.

Now this is crucially important: There are folks that try to replace quality and relevant content on their site with SEO tricks.  No single, or set of SEO tricks will ever help get your website infront of the eyeballs of the right people as well as quality content that is relevant to your target market.

I hope this helped answer the question, “What is SEO” and will be writing more specific tactics in later post so please stay tuned.

If you have any questions on this or other internet marketing topics please put them in the comments below.




What is Online Marketing

If you are wondering what online marketing is and how you can get started then I am writing this blog post for you.

Online Marketing

Online marketing is a blanket term that includes many tactics like SEO, social media, blogs etc.  It can be very confusing and overwhelming when starting out so try to think of it simply as relationship marketing.  Online marketing is about how to use these tools to build awareness and offer customer service and sales.  All these different tactics are different vehicles to be more human with your marketing in ways you can’t do with paper ads.

It’s important to offer that personal touch because they are more likely to do business with you if they feel like they get to know you. it creates a more well rounded approach to business. If you consider that it take an average of 7 touch points to make a sale, this personal touch with a human face helps that.

You might be thinking that getting too personal would be bad for your brand and that is very valid for certain businesses. For those brands you want to think of this as the place to focus on what you do for local charity organizations or way that your company performs community outreach etc.

Whatever you end up doing, plan to start with creating content. Content is the king of online marketing, whether you are a small business or an enterprise.   Blog posts, articles, ebooks, videos, podcasts, anything that can be seen as thought leadership in your industry. It’s the absolute best thing you can do to kick off your online marketing engine. Because it’s the gas that drives the engine and the best part is, it never burns up.  The more you create the farther you will go.  This all doubles for search engine optimization which is usually a vital segment of most online marketing strategies.

So, say your a small business and your starting to get a little overwhelmed with all these online marketing tactics that you have in front of you.  One thing you can do is just start watching and observing what other organizations are doing.   You should also just start playing around with the different social networks and start to get a sense as to how other brands are using them.  You have to consider what you can mindfully manage and enjoy doing because if you like facebook but get annoyed with Twitter than with out a doubt just start with facebook. You may find that one or two social networks is all you can handle for now and that is a great start.

One of the best reasons to use online marketing is that you have proof of how successful it is.  With a magazine ad you have no way of tracking who saw what and which specific sales came from it.  With online marketing you can track someone from the point of entry onto a webpage or twitter account all the way to their purchase.  That is the reason why everyone is moving more of their marketing to online strategies because every interaction with every person who engages it is tracked and you can then test, measure and compare tactics to then focus on what works best.

I will be writing more posts that will break these specific tactics down but please let me know what questions you need answered in the comments below.

How to Choose a Logo

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a graphic design expert but as a product manager I spend tons of time figuring out which web graphics will cause the desired result and which won’t.  This blog post is meant to help start  you off in the right direction when you are trying to choose a logo.

I have had to make decisions on a number of logo designs and like most customer facing design decisions I always start with the “why”.

Why are you putting a logo on the site? You might think this question is silly and overly obvious.  But it’s a good exercise to make sure you can answer this question with something more than just “because we need a logo”.

Does this logo need to do something different than other logos? What is the desired result of this logo? If you can’t answer these questions then you’re not ready to make a decision on logo design.

For example: www.schooltree.org is a new social network for school communities that I’m currently the business director of.  So why do we need a logo on the site?

Answer: to get people to remember they were on www.Schooltree.org as opposed to another site.

Our strategy is to promote the name as simply as possible.   I don’t think we should use an image as part of the logo.  As an example of websites that simply use the company name: facebook, google, linkedin, keek (I worked on this one too), path, digg, lifehacker, paypal, craigslist, ebay, wikipedia and on and on and on.

The common denominator with all of these websites is that they are simply trying to get people on them and to stay on them as often and for as long as possible. That is how they make money. Using imagery in a logo is common for websites that promote a product that is something separate from the actual website like a car or a band, etc.

When trying to cary your brand from one location to another imagery ties the product to the online display so people know they are on the right webpage in case they might have gone to a different webpage with the same name but for another product.

The purpose of our logo is to get people to remember the name ‘Schooltree.org’ and to come back to that url as much as possible. That is what we are selling.

If you want get a deeper understanding of how to design a logo here is a great book I can suggest.

Now for the engaging part of my post… If you can give me a reason to use imagery for the www.schooltree.org logo and send me a design that makes me change my mind we’ll use it and give full credit.

How Do You Go Viral?

How do you go viral? Or perhaps a better question is why do some things go viral and others don’t?

In this blog post I try to answer the question, how do you go viral?

Here are a couple points I learned recently from taking a course call Networked Life on coursera.  I’ll also draw from my experience building viral marketing campaigns and launching a couple social networks.

The ability of a virus to spread depends on the average degree of connections between nodes, or people in a population.  If you have a population where the average amount of connections per person is 1 then the virus won’t spread very far as it will just keep halting after reaching the second person.

If you have an average degree of 2 between people in the population then right away the viral reach of a contagion is much strong, much more than 2 times actually.  Then it doesn’t take much more to reach the tipping point at 3 or 4 which is a threshold where the contagion of the viral spread is complete in reaching the entire population.

Another element of the tipping point is the strength of the virus, or in a youtube video’s case, how entertaining the video is.  Meaning, if the video is really good and people like it will take a lower average degree of connections in the population to spread as would a weaker video.  Much like a bad flu that hangs around for a long time.  If you are in a more rural area with a weak flu it will die out quickly but if the virus is much stronger and makes someone sick longer there is a greater chance for that person to encounter more people while still being contagious.

On the flip side, if someone is living in a densely populated slum in India where people are basically living on top of one another, even a weak flu will make it’s way around a large percentage of the population due to the incredibly high degree of connections everyone shares.

So what the heck does all this mean?  Basically, if you want your content marketing strategy to go viral make sure you focus on these three points.

  1. Make the content awesome so that people keep on enjoying it and sharing it with their connections.   You can’t skimp on the investment here.  If it sucks, it won’t go anywhere.
  2. Make sure you’re spreading it in the networks where your target market has the highest average degree of connections.  A great example would be if you are trying to reach mommy bloggers.  You’re going to want to make twitter your priority over facebook because they are all there and they love to share good stuff.
  3. Focus on getting as many influencers sharing your viral content because they will boost the average degree of connections by having more connections than the average person.  Additionally, they can actually make your content stronger by adding their approval to it.  It’s like when a virus strain mutates into something more powerful and harder to kill.

Please share your thoughts on creating viral reach in the comment section below.  I’m always happy to learn something from my readers.  🙂




What is Gamification?

In this blog post I will try to answer the question, what is gamification? This is a very important question for any one who needs to motivate people to take action or to simply make a product or service more enjoyable.

Ever wondered what it is about Angry Birds that has generated over 1 billion downloads? Is there anything you can learn from that game to apply to your product to make more people like it, you bet there is. It’s called gamification.

So what is gamification? and how do I apply it to solve real world problems?

There isn’t one universal definition but in general it’s the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.

For example, Samsung Nation is an example of a company using game elements to get more traffic and more interaction with their products.  They motivate users to write reviews, watch videos, find out more, register products they have already bought, etc. They use simple elements they took from games like leader boards, badges, points etc. They ultimately want you to buy more products and are using game elements to reach that goal.

Another great example is the Nike Plus app. It uses the accelerometer on your phone to make your experience of running more game like. It tracks your data, compares you to other runners, has goals and challenges and if you achieve those goals you earn medals and trophies. They also built in ways to connect with friends to get encouragement. So the game structure around the task of running somehow make the experience of running feel more rewarding by using their app.

A competing app also meant to get people running is Zombies Run.  But here the  app is telling you that you are being chased by a group of zombies that want to kill you and eat your brains.  So it is simply making your run more fun, which is different from Nike Plus which is using challenges and rewards.

There are even products like Keas which is a service that helps people in companies engage in activities that makes them healthier, using regular game elements.  Such as:

  • Points
  • Quests
  • Avatars
  • Social graph
  • Levels
  • Progression
  • Resource Collection

But games are not just a jumble of elements stuck together in a half hazard way, rather they use game design that is systematic, thoughtful and artistic.  All of course, for the purpose of being fun.  This involves technology, algorithms, engineering while approaching problems using concepts that relate to all games while applying them to novel situations.

Some gamification examples focus on the elements and some focus more on the game design but all require a non-game context.  Meaning, what the user is doing is game like but the purpose has a validity and intention independent of the experience of the game-like elements.

I hope this shed some light on gamification and please let me know of other good examples you have experienced in the comments below.




Agile, what does that have to do with software development?

Agile, what does that have to do with software development? Here’s my elevator pitch on answering that question.

Just in case ‘Agile’ is a new term for you, I’m referring to a process for planning, creating and implementing software.  In case you’re picturing a group of very limber developers that can leap from their work stations to the fridge, where their Red Bulls are located, in a single bound… no, not at all. So, Agile, what does that have to do with software development? Especially when you’re a web developer sitting on your computer pounding Red Bulls all day and night?

Agile is a new approach to developing software that challenges the traditional “Waterfall” methodology. So if you are venturing to launch an internet startup, or any new business concept for that matter, pay heed.

Something I learned recently at a Product Owner workshop in Toronto with the WFS team, is that Agile is not really a methodology.  It’s a process of learning.  And though it has been created in the world of software development, it’s foundations can really be applied to any business. Another term closely tied to Agile is Lean.  They share the same foundations and I really do suggest reading The Lean Startup by Eric Reis.

A really simple way of comparing Agile to Waterfall’s traditional style of software development kind of looks like this:

Waterfall = plan plan plan plan plan | make make make make make | test test test test.


Agile = plan make test | plan make test | plan make test | plan make test,…

The reason why Agile has become so popular is the ‘Plan Make Test’ approach is a much shorter loop in which you are able to learn vital information from concurrent testing rather than making the whole product from top to bottom only to test it at the end of the process.

Waterfall generates far more wasted resources and often times causes business failure.  Generally even in good scenarios you have to go back and redo a lot of code to replace or change features that were not a product/market fit.

Here is a great video that shows how this process works: 

Now when someone comes up to you and says, “Agile, what does that have to do with software development?”, you’ve got a great video to show them.

This is a huge topic and I have offered a very shallow explanation of what Agile is.  A great book I recently read is Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices For the Teams, Programs and the Enterprise by Dean Leffingwell.

I do plan on writing much more on the subject so please do check back or subscribe to my blog in the footer of this page of the page.

How To Hire And Keep Web Developers

In this blog post I write about some key lessons I’ve learned regarding how to hire and keep web developers.


If you are in the same position I am, you spend a lot of time hiring and keeping web developers.  If you have done this for any length of time you know just how hard it is.   I don’t think there is a tougher industry to be recruiting and leading in today.

The demand for web developers is extremely high and it just keeps growing.  I’ve tried every strategy I can think of to find talent and I’ve come up with some realizations that I’d like to share with you.

Before I move forward, I have to suggest that you read ‘Good To Great’ by Jim Collins. Pay particular attention to chapter 3 where he writes about putting the right people on the bus.

Don’t hire the smartest people you can find.  Yeah, that’s right, I said it.  The success of your business will not depend on the collective IQ if your team.  Where’s the proof?   Think about 95% of startups that fail even though they are filled to the brim with ridiculously over paid geniuses.  Of course your team members need to be smart (enough).   But, as long as the are in the  intellectual ball park you should focus your hiring decisions on personality, attitude and motivations.

Take more time than you want to.  It takes more money and more time to build something when you have to keep re-hiring in the build process.  I personally don’t make an offer unless I’ve had at least 4 calculated interactions with a candidate.  The last meeting I have is social.  I take them out for dinner, and if they are married I invite their spouse.  Some people are surprised by this but I don’t want someone whose spouse doesn’t support them working for me.  I got this idea from Dave Ramsey’s latest book ‘Entreleadership’

Test all of your candidates… all of them!  After my first interview I have them do a hand-written test of the programming languages in which they will be developing.  In addition to that, after a follow-up hour long interview I have everyone perform a whole day of coding.  We give everyone the same task so we can compare all our candidates on the same base line.   When I tell recruiters this they generally cringe but since I’m not in the business of making recruiters lives easier, I don’t really care.  Which brings me to my next point.

Be cautious with recruiting firms.  The allure of recruiters is strong and I do use them but in limited doses.  Before signing with any recruitment company I ask them for blind resumes of candidates that I will have the chance to meet if I sign with them.  Their concern is for their business, which is getting people hired.  They are not concerned about the success of your business.

Do not pay top dollar.  Sorry guys, if you want to be part of my team you’re going to have to show me that it’s not just about the money.  I do strongly advocate paying people fairly according to their market value.   Still, if you think you can win the best people by buying them you’re going to end up with turn-over.   Nothing costs more than re-hiring.  A great way to measure someone’s market value is by using Payscale.com.  Remember, if they are only in it for the money they will leave the minute someone offers them more.  Someone will always offer them more.

Treat people the way you want to be treated.  OK, this is a huge topic and it needs to be part of every interaction you have with everyone in your life.  Thus, if you want a motivated team that is loyal to the company and its mission, DO NOT say or do things that you would not like directed at yourself.  For a great podcast on this topic listen to this Entreleadership podcast titled ‘The Golden Rule In Business’.

Well I hope these tactics help you figure out how to hire and keep web developers.  The right team members make all the difference.  If you have other suggestions or insights from your own experiences please leave them in the comments below.

Happy hunting!

How To Create A WOW Experience


In this post I hope to shed some light on how to create a wow experience for your customers.

Many companies and business leaders talk about the concept of WOW but few, unfortunately, actually take the time to teach their customers or their staff what it means.  It really is more than just a word that sounds good and when you break it down a little you start to see how vital it really is.
One company that strives to master WOW is Zappos.  They define WOW as the following…

“WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.

Whether internally with co-workers or externally with our customers and partners, delivering WOW results in word of mouth. Our philosophy at Zappos is to WOW with service and experience, not with anything that relates directly to monetary compensation (for example, we don’t offer blanket discounts or promotions to customers).

We seek to WOW our customers, our co-workers, our vendors, our partners, and in the long run, our investors.”

Zappos have really hit the nail on the head with this description and I especially love how they talk about creating an internal culture of WOW.  For them, it’s not just about their customers, but they include vendors and co-workers.  Wouldn’t you love to work at a company that teaches your team members how to create WOW experiences for each other?… (now take 30 seconds to day dream about that… yeah that’s nice…)
So, I think this company is saying that the essence of WOW is that gap between expectation and experience.  Here is a simple process you can use to make sure that whatever you are creating strives to exceed expectations.
Make something you would use yourself.  
Take a look at Mint.com.  When you use this website you get the ense that the people making this amazing personal finance tool use it themselves and love it.   Their numerous accolades speak for themselves.
Solve a problem in an unexpected way.
The first example that comes to my mind is a great book by the guys at ’37signals’ entitled Rework.  These guys produced a business leadership book that deals with chapters a completely novel way.  That alone made me want to read it and I’m glad I did because I gained valuable ideas that I have implemented at my own workplace.
Excede expectations.
I would say that the master of this trait is Apple.  There is a reason that I’m writing this post on an expensive Macbook Pro and that I make all my calls from an iPhone.  I appreciate that Apple puts the time into the finishing touches like no other tech company I have seen.  It also explains why they have been setting all the trends since 2005.
So if you’re asking yourself, “how do I do this?” Try answering the following three  questions :

  1. What does a user expect when they encounter my product?
  2. What does failing to meet the users expectations look like?
  3. What does exceeding the users expectations look like?

For a great podcast on this subject check out MichaelHyatt.com

Well I hope this post helps shed some light on the concept of WOW, making it more that just a new trendy word in the business leadership world.  Now keep in mind, it’s probably not possible to make everything a WOW experience, but it should certainly be the norm within the main value offerings of any business.

Please let me know about any WOW experiences you have encountered in the comments below!

3 Ways To Let Your Team Members Know How To Succeed

Ask any business leaders if they believe it’s their job to make sure their team members are equipped with the necessary tools to perform their jobs, they would answer yes, of course.

So why is it that emplyees who get all the new office equipment still often feel they don’t get the support they need, while others work in much less attractive settings but are able to perform with success and enthusiasm?

Well the truth is, the tools that really help someone accomplish their work and feel motivated are the intangibles that are much harder to foster.   Thankfully, like everything else, the harder something is, the more benefit that comes.

From my experience managing teams, these are the most important 3 ways to let your team members know how to succeed.

  1. Communication.

    How are you communicating with the individual members of your team?  Do you speak to them all the same way? Have you ever considered what their personal communication needs are? Some of your team members need to be spoken to in a short and direct form, whereas others need to be suggested things in a more conversational way.

    The challenging part is finding out what ways each person operates and a very useful resource is Dan Millers website 48days.com where you can access personality assessments for your whole team. He offer tools that help you figure out exactly who you are dealing with and what their personality strengths are. This is also essential in order to put them in the positions in which they shine.  It’s about getting the right people in the right seats and communicating with them so they know how to shine.

  2. Key Result Areas.

    Do your team members know exactly what they need to do in order to win every day? If your answer is no, then you have a problem. As a business leader, one of the most important things to do is make sure your team members feel confident they know how to be successful.

    Think about it, who is more motivated, someone who is running toward a goal they can see, or someone who is running with no idea why? Every person you lead should know exactly what their KRA’s are so they can be motivated, and very importantly, accountable.  For a great explanation of KRA’s check out Dave Ramsey’s book titled Entreleadership.

  3. Regular Engagement.

    So let’s say your have your staff take personality assessments and you’ve read them over.  You’ve also sat with each one of them and detailed their Key Result Areas and each person you lead knows exactly how to win each and every day.  What do you do now? Well, now you take all this information and engage them regularly.

    I think daily engagement is probably the right amount for most roles, but of course there are cases where it might not be practical or it may even be detrimental.  The point is, it needs to be regular, and of high quality. I start every day off with a meeting with my team in which we go over what we accomplished the previous day, and we set the priorities for that day.  This keeps things moving and keeps people actively engaged in their KRA’s.

These are just a few tools/practices that help me keep my team productive and I can assure you there is much more to write on these topics.   Along with the resources I’ve mentioned above, I suggest reading books by Jim Collins.  These are mandatory readings for my team members.



5 Reasons You Should Start Tweeting

My name is Jono Landon and I’m an internet business developer in Toronto Canada and recently I felt the need to write about my top 5 reasons you should start tweeting.

Even as someone who knows a lot about social networks, until recently the real value of twitter was somewhat hidden from me.  I say “real value” because though I’ve understood twitter from a text book point of view, it wasn’t until I started to depend on it that I really got it.  And to be honest, I think there is still much for me to learn.

So what caused this new dependancy? well I happen to be launching a new niche social network here in my home town, Toronto.  Our target early adopters are mommy bloggers and once I started connecting with this unique and exciting breed online, it didn’t take long to see how twitter is the glue that holds this group together.  And well, you gota be where your market is.

The way I can best sum up Twitter, is that it’s like texting with your friends but doing it publicly.  Being that it’s public, it’s a great way to bring other interested parties into the conversation.  So when someone is searching twitter for something they need and they find your conversation about it, they find you.  If you are someone who can help them solve their problem then you’ve got a opportunity in your hands.  That opportunity could be a business lead, restaurant recommendation, up to date traffic info… you name it, people are tweeting it.

Tweeting takes some time to figure out, but there are only a few things you need to get used to.  Like reading words with symbols before them (#, @) and learning how to express lots of meaning within 140 characters. Here are my top 5 reasons you should start tweeting.

  1. It will improve your communication skills. Twitter forces you to communicate a message that is engaging within a 140 maximum character limit.  This is an exercise in being concise and clear.  I can’t think of a more valuable lesson for writers, especially copy writers.
  2. It’s a great way to meet people you relate to.  People find each other based around topics that matter to them.  Where else are there millions of people in one place looking to connect about topics at all hours of the day.  It has simply never existed before.  For example, while connecting with mommy bloggers on twitter I met @elizabethtraub, had a very enjoyable hour long phone conversation during which I learned about her talented musician daughter Emily Otteson.  I happen to also work in the music industry so this was a lot of fun.
  3. It requires virtually no investment.  Not only are there millions of people looking to connect but they are doing it in a incredibly simple, convenient, fast, and free way.
  4. It’s a lot of fun.  It’s like a puzzle, trying to get your message across in 140 characters.  When you’re forced to be concise, you start to learn which words are essential and which words encapsulate many others.  It’s a game.
  5. It will ensure you are not out to lunch with progress. Though it takes a little more labor to get into the grove then facebook does, this things isn’t going any where so you might as well at least give try and see what all the fuss is about.

I’m sure I’m going to write more about Twitter down the road as I continue to use it and see more value.  In the mean time, I hope this helps shed some light on this strange but incredibly powerful form of connecting with others.  Happy tweeting!