WSJ on the Importance of Blogging for Small Business

The Wall Street Journal today devoted 2 pages to the importance of blogging and the internet for small businesses.  The article, entitled How to Get Attention in a New-Media World (subscription – find a print copy if you can get it) is a great example of what I’ve been telling the Vario community for years:  be the expert and you will be viewed as the expert.   

The essence of the article is that the Internet has (not will, not might, has) torn down the barrier for PR.  Small businesses can create their own buzz with effective online presentation, blogging, and by courting bloggers.  It can be done without huge pr firms, without million dollar budgets.

I’ve been watching lately, and now many companies are managing “blog-vegas” – post a problem with a branded product on your blog and you are fairly likely to hear from someone from that company rather shortly.  Look at Chris Murray’s post about PageFlakes last week. Companies are reaching out, and this is a style well suited to the small company.

David Churbuck posted today about Buzzlogic, tool for tracking blogs, specifically designed for online marketing.  David’s the VP of Global Web Marketing at Lenovo, and transitioned from publishing.  He made this point, quoting Sam Whitmore (a Vario customer):

A lot of former journalism colleagues were surprised to see me join a “vendor,” but most, like Sam Whitmore, saw the point that everyone is media in this day and age.

You might also be interested to see the site, where we’ve put just this sort of marketing in place.  The blog is still in cloaking mode, but you’re get the idea.  We’re creating the resource for Central Massachusetts small businesses. 

Craft your image, do it online, and do it without spending a bundle. It’s never been easier for a small business to make a big splash. 

Understanding Search Engine Optimization at the Basic Level

Download our Understanding Search Engine Optimization at the Basic Level Whitepaper

(This is from a whitepaper written for Vario Creative some time ago, but still pertinent – MNC)

In the past couple years the dominance in the search engine market of Google™ and their dependence upon “the Google algorithm” for generating results has created a new area of specialization in web design firms called “Search Engine Optimization.” There are all kinds of businesses now that are making all kinds of interesting promises and statements about the industry. On the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there is only one statement I can truly make with anything approaching 100% certainty:

“Anyone who promises or guarantees that they can get you top Google ranking for a keyword is at best a liar, and most probably something worse.”

Now that sounds a little harsh. It is meant to sound exactly that way. Read on to find out why.

Continue reading “Understanding Search Engine Optimization at the Basic Level”

Vin Crosbie on the 5 Stages of Grief for the News Industry

Vin Crosbie posted what could only be called a major treatise on the decline of the news industry. I’m honestly still dissecting it.  The main point appears to come down to this being a case of slow suicide, rather than murder by internet.

However, an examination of data shows that their online editions are read by fewer people — and less often and less frequently — than the dying print or broadcast editions. Moreover, ten years into these efforts, the online editions are earning only one-twentieth to one-hundredth per user what the dying print edition earns per reader.

or citing Bob Cauthorn

“Even the dairy industry spends more on research and development than the newspaper industry does. And milk doesn’t face anything like the new forms of competition that newspapers do.”

or quoting the State of the News Media 2006 report:

At many old-media companies, though not all, the decades-long battle at the top between idealists and accountants is now over. The idealists have lost.

Vin also links to this article from Former Knight-Ridder op-ed writer Alvaro Vargas, well worth reading in it’s own right.

Business Mashups = Web as Operating System

Read the previous post about online virtual servers from Amazon, then consider this from

Like Google , Yahoo!  and others, Salesforce is treating the Internet less like a communications network and more like a computing platform, a continuation of the dispersal of computing power from a mainframe to servers to a personal computer. And like his colleagues (albeit more vocally), Benioff sees Microsoft as a computer industry chokepoint that will be eliminated by Internet-based mashups.

Will our computers become simple “Internet Application Access Devices?”

Amazon Launches On-Demand Pay-Per Hour Virtual Servers

Steve Yelvington had a post this morning about new web services available from Amazon, the online book/commerce folks.  The implications are startling.  Here’s the basics of how it works, as I understand it (and I admit, my understanding limited).

They are allowing users to create virtual servers, which will be paid for based upon the actual computing time used.  The servers are virtual and can be configured online, and require use of Amazon Simple Storage Service which allows for expandable online file storage.

Here’s my prediction: if this can be done for servers, it can be done for personal machines.  Given that airlines are becoming more restrictive of laptop use, or for that matter even letting them on the planes, it’s only a matter of time before someone starts offering virtual online desktops for use by business travellers.  You’ll simple get on a computer, any computer, and dial up your web desktop to get to your machine.

We’re headed back to days of the dumb client, only this time the dumb client will be a web browser.

5 Simple Marketing Tips

We’ve discussed a couple fairly heavy weight topics in the past few days, so it’s time to shift gears and offer a bit of advice that can help even the newest of businesses.

  •  “How did you hear about us.” Those are the 6 most underused words in marketing, but often the most important.  Many small businesses are afraid to ask, fearing the customer will find it an imposition.  I look at it from a different perspective.  On some level you paid to acquire this customer, so you really need to find out how they found you. Continue reading “5 Simple Marketing Tips”

Why Vario Blogs

We’ve got opinions, and we find a lot of important information during the course of a day, week and month that we really want to share with the Vario community (note that I don’t refer to customers, this is a broader audience than that).  It gives us the opportunity to simply cite bits worth reading, and also offer our own take, including concrete examples from our experience (see Saturday’s post on metrics). 

But a blog is more than that, it allows for comments, which make it very much a two way communication system.  Where as articles are monologue, blogs are dialogue, and that is what enamours us of this communication medium.  There are issues in marketing, graphic design, web design, etc. that face us all, and this medium allows us to share.  My view and experience may be utterly different than yours, but understanding both views makes us each stronger.

Feel free to ask questions and suggest ideas.  We’re open, accessible and we really enjoy talking about this stuff. 

Analytics, Metrics and Goat Entrails

In the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time ripping apart Site Traffic Statistics, as well as planning metrics packages for a new site.  Strangely enough, both David Churbuck (formerly of and V.P. of Internet Marketing at Lenovo) and Chris Murray (former Director of Technology at CXO Media) both blogged about metrics – these are two guys I have immense respect for and you should read what they have to say.  Here’s my take on why analytics are important to all site owners, and why conversely you should not allow yourself to get bogged down in the details.

First a couple case histories from the Vario Files [invoke eerie music mode]

Continue reading “Analytics, Metrics and Goat Entrails”

New Malware/Adware?

Twice yesterday, once on my own computer and once on a friends machine, I saw an incideous bit of malware/spyware.  It was masquerading as a “windows system checker” and popped up a window on the computer.  The window itself looked just like like a regular window, but by click on the red x to exit the window, it began to install the software.  My various levels of spyware protection saved me, but Mike B. wasn’t so lucky.  We’ll find out this evening if Adaware can actually remove it.  I did have a look at the Add/Remove Software and the malware was listed, but it requested a password to enable removal – the gall of it!

A couple of points on spyware:

  1. If the gray “run this program” window and you’re on a site you don’t know or don’t trust, don’t allow the software to run.  Hit the red X and get out of there. 
  2. Be very careful to be sure you are on the site you think you are on.  In both cases above, the malware came from sites that were simple misspellings of popular websites – and you might not even notice you weren’t on the right site.
  3. Run Lavasoft Adaware and Spybot Search and Destroy – both freely available over the web.  Update them weekly and run them at least weekly.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would advertise via Adware.  And malware should honestly be a criminal offense.