All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

Google Analytics And Your Blocked Keywords

About two weeks ago I read a post by our buddy Darnell Jackson of youronline.biz titled Is Google Blogger Blocking? His premise was that if you look at your Google Analytics and check to see what keywords you’re being found for that your highest number will be blocked and thus Google’s withholding critical information all of us who do SEO work or try to optimize our content for certain words and phrases can’t fully get the job done. He also sees it as a monetary thing of sorts, and he points to the reality that you could be number one for your search term but if someone ponies up the bucks they’ll actually show up ahead of you.

Bank of America security trying to prevent me from taking a photo during the Iraq war protest
Steve Rhodes via Compfight

It’s a post that should be read, and I did leave a comment on it. However, I was getting ready to go out of town for a conference and didn’t have time to really look at it. That’s what this post is about, and it’s not pretty. I agree with Darnell on a lot of it, but I’m not so sure about the money side of it all; here’s my thoughts and research.

I decided to scan the net to see what others were saying about this. I came across many articles for when this first started occurring. What Google determined to do was not show searches for people who were signed into their Google account. They would count the search, but wouldn’t reveal what terms were being searched for. Matt Cutts also stated at the time that this figure would end up being a single digit percentage, which was his way of saying that this information wouldn’t be all that pertinent to us anyway.

You know I had to check that. I went into Analytics and looked at this blog. The terminology Analytics uses is “not provided“, and the percentage of terms it accounts for… 78%! I’m thinking that doesn’t look like a single digit percentage to me. I had to look at my other blogs. My business blog: 85%. My local blog: 55%. My finance blog: 92%. My SEO blog: 74%.

Kind of staggering isn’t it? The remaining search terms make absolutely no sense; there’s nothing one can do with most of them in knowing what to try to work on.

I wondered if it only had this type of effect on blogs, although I was betting the answer would be no. My thinking was that it’s possible that because there’s so much content on blogs when compared to regular websites that maybe the figures would skew differently. The numbers? Main business site: 51%. Secondary business site: 56%. Medical billing site: 34%. Anti-smoking site: 69%. Sales/marketing site: 51%.

This indicates that overall the numbers are lower with regular websites, but they’re still quite punitive aren’t they? Do you think this is helpful at all? What’s the point of having something called Analytics if you can’t get any Analytics? For that matter, why hide search terms when you’re not going to identify the person whose using those terms?

On this front I totally agree with Darnell. It’s unfair and illogical and I’m surprised more people aren’t up in arms about this. Actually that’s not quite true; lots of people wrote about it when it first occurred, but the numbers were much lower then. There are some folks who are writing about it now along with Darnell and myself, such as this article from Website Magazine, but it’s hard to find new stuff. It seems that most SEO folks have resolved to live with it or find another way around it. I have to admit I haven’t paid much attention because I use a Firefox plugin called Rank Checker & type in search terms I’m trying to rank well for on many websites.

Where I don’t agree with Darnell as much is that it’s about money. People have always been able to pay their way to the top, and that hasn’t changed one bit. Instead, what I believe is that Google is working harder on authorship and search related to people we know when we’re signed in.

Over the past couple of years Google seems to have been pushing for “relationship marketing“, if you will, and one of the things I’ve talked about is how you can search for something and see things people you know have either written or recommended in some way before almost anything else. I’m adding the word “marketing” because I think their initial intention was that people would review restaurants and stores and then Google could find ways of contacting those stores, showing them the numbers, and then getting them to pay for extra advertising.

At this point I doubt it’s working quite that way, but I think that’s where they’re going, and though it touches upon money, I think it’s more about relationships, at least right now.

Overall I don’t like it, but other than use something like I’m using there’s little anyone can do about it. Have you checked your Analytics lately? Are some of you using other programs to check statistics with?
 

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An Interview With Roger Madison, Founder Of iZania

Last year I did a series on black individuals and businesses online called Black Web Friday. In the second post of the series I highlighted a site called Izania, which is a black business networking website created by Roger Madison, whom I originally met on Ryze. Last week was the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and I had hoped to have this post ready by that date but it didn’t work out. So, one week later, I’m proud to share this interview with Roger that I hope you read because I think it’s important; at least it is to me.

1. Tell us a little bit about your site.

Black on Black-6

iZania.com was envisioned to be an online community to connect Black entrepreneurs, professionals, and consumers and help us to act in our self-interests and descendants of Africa.

2. What was your motivation for creating this site, where did the name come from, and how has it changed over time?

The motivation was inspired by the three years we spent living in South Africa from 1995 to 1998 – immediately following the transition to a democratic government. Nelson Mandela was a great inspiration in his expression of the “Spirit of Ubuntu.” Based in the South African philosophy of Ubuntu, (“I am what I am because of who we all are“) and the idea of consensus building, the concept perceives society as a community to which all individuals belong and is built on close relationships and group interactions. The community is held together by a feeling of mutual security and harmony. In this way, we hold to the traditional African values.

The word “iZania” is derived from a combination of Internet and Azania, which means the people of Africa. So, iZania means connecting the people of Africa via the Internet.

3. Do you get the same type and volume of activity that you did when you first started?

Our online activity has changed with the evolution of access to the Internet. We now derive our traffic from a number of sources – Our weekly newsletter, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), and our online group marketing initiative at iZania Market (www.izaniamarket.com). Initially, all of our traffic was based on visits to our main site. We have grown to more than 9,000 subscribers.

4. Last year I did a series called Black Web Friday because I was of the opinion that black Americans are not only under-represented online but that most people, including each other, don’t know about them. What’s your thought on my perception?

Black people are definitely laggards in adopting online engagement. This has a lot to do with income and access. The rapid expansion of smart devices has changed that a lot. Some studies indicate that Blacks are more active users of smart devices as their primary access to the Internet. By definition, this defines the type of activity – texting, FB updates, YouTube videos, Pinterest, Instagram. These types of activities are reactive, shallow, impulsive. Black businesses don’t use many of the online business tools to leverage their success – marketing analytics, financial management, customer retention and acquisition, supplier management. Additionally, they need to use the same channels to reach consumers that the consumers are using. This will help them to become better known.

5. Do you think your site prospers or is held back somewhat by the niche you’ve created?

We have chosen to focus specifically on helping Black-owned businesses succeed – first by connecting them to Black consumers, and leveraging their success to compete in the mainstream marketplace. However, by defining our niche – not a supporter of minority business, but Black-owned businesses – we realize that we are self-limiting. In spite of this, we are committed to helping our people because we need more help. We believe we can succeed by helping other Black-owned businesses succeed. We have had only modest success in ten years as an online community.

6. Do you see a lot of engagement on your site? Do a lot of people find ways to end up working with each other?

We really don’t see much engagement at our site. However, the most active and fruitful engagement that we have participated in with members of our community happens away from the site. The online connection serves primarily as a means of introduction. The hard work of producing results comes in activity out of the public view.

7. I’ve never had the opportunity to go, but have you ever been to the Blogging While Brown conference? If so, what did you think, and do you believe conferences like this are important?

I have never attended this conference. Any conference can be important if it provides value for those who attend. Whenever people of like-minded interests can provide value for one another, it is a good thing.

8. What more do you think has to be done to highlight black Americans online so that, when people and organizations like CNN are putting together lists of top bloggers, more black people are included on them?

Major news outlets and cable stations serve the larger mainstream market, and occasionally capture stories of special interest from various interest groups. Bloggers who can cross all boundaries in generating content of interest to a wider audience will be more successful. Black bloggers must earn their way up to the top of those lists by focusing on what their audience is focusing on.

9. I wrote one of the first articles on iZania many years ago; how many articles do you think your site now has, as well as how many blogs do you think people have and actually write on your site?

There have been thousands of articles over our ten year history. Our challenge is quality. We chose not to monitor and filter except for gross violations of the interests of our members. We now have a problem where some “bloggers” simply post content they have copied from somewhere else. We don’t get as much original content and valuable input from serious thinkers. We are beginning to do some selective filtering and deleting content that is clearly not authored by the poster.

10. Take some time to tell us what you see coming for Izania.

We are planning a major revision of our website to include converting all of our content to a “responsive web page” so that our content is more easily viewed on mobile devices. We will also do a major revision of our content – eliminating content that is no longer relevant. We have conducted regular surveys of our members to gain insights into what is most important. We want to become a more effective virtual facilitator for transforming the efforts of Black people – economically, socially, educationally, politically – to affect positive outcomes in our communities.
 

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The Scam That Is Smartphones

Yes, this is a bit of a rant post, but I decided to make it easy on you by creating a video about it. However, you’re probably wondering where I’m going to go with this sucker right? I’m not giving up all the goods, but I’ll give you something.

Have you ever wondered why you have to sign 2-year agreements when you purchase a smartphone plan? Have you ever wondered why you get some phones for free and others seem to cost you a bunch of money? Have you ever had a phone so long that you have problems finding components for it, such as batteries, cases, or even electric cords?

I don’t talk about cellphone plans in this rant; no sense going there, even though it turns out that one of the biggest scams we all deal with is having to pay for text messaging, which costs the carriers nothing to provide to us, even if we’re sending lots of pictures through.

What do I talk about? What do I consider as a major scam? Check out the video; you’ll find out:


 

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You Can’t Please Everyone So Start With Pleasing Yourself

I found this to be an interesting turn of events. Every once in awhile I write reviews of things, my opinion on a book, movie, software, etc. Most of the time I don’t know the people all that well, although on this blog I wrote a review of Bev Mahone’s book How To Get On The News Without Committing Murder and I know her fairly well.

John59

There’s a happy guy!

In that vein, I recently wrote a book review on a book by someone I’ve known for 10 years. I can’t say we’re great friends, but he’s someone I’ve respected from day one, a very driven and successful guy who wouldn’t be the worst person to emulate in many ways.

It’s a good book but not an easy book to read, and I put that in the review, along with other things. I highlighted some things about the book that were positive, and off I went. I even sent him the link to the review so he could see it.

Turns out he didn’t like the review at all. He said it was packed with lots of negatives, and he proceeded to tell me how I should have written the review. He also said that he’d shown it to others who agreed with him and thus felt justified in sharing his thoughts with me.

I was… stunned. I’ve never had anyone hate a good review before. And this is someone who’s seen my writing style, being an early subscriber to my business newsletter. We’ve met in public and I’ve asked him to speak to groups of mine. Frankly, I guess I thought we had a better relationship than we did I suppose.

What did I do? I wrote him back, trying to express that it was written with a positive bent in mind but that I felt it was truthful. I said that I’d never intentionally hurt him and that he should know that as I’ve promoted him to multiple people over the years. I also said that the post would stand, period. His response back didn’t quite like that; so be it.

I also asked a couple other people to read the review, just to see if they felt like him & his friends, and they said the review looked positive to them as well as truthful. Here’s that review if you’re interested in checking it out.

Writing is an interesting venture. You find that there are people who like what you do and people who don’t. It’s pretty universal when you think about it; as much as I love the Harry Potter books there are lots of people who hate them and the way they’re written. For that matter there are lots of people who hate Harry Potter that have never picked up a book or seen a movie; that’s pretty hypocritical but what can you do. Sometimes it feels like the lyrics from a Fred Knoblock song (I bet that takes some people back lol)

Although we write our blogs to share our thoughts with others on a myriad of topics, when all is said and done the first person you have to please is yourself. Did you say what you meant to say and did you say it the best way you could?

Sure, sometimes people misunderstand what you said or what your position is on something, but the beauty of blogging is that you get to clarify yourself if someone doesn’t agree or understand. Hopefully even with topics that people disagree on they’ll stay civil; doesn’t always happen as you know.

Pleasing yourself first means more than one thing sometimes. Yesterday I sent out a notification to my newsletter subscribers that I was putting it on hiatus for 6 months, and possibly not starting it up again after that period of time.

When I initially started writing it I was writing it mainly because I felt I had a lot to share and I thought others might enjoy reading it as well. In the last 2 months I felt I was writing it because of duty and I wasn’t sure that anyone really liked what I had to say, including me.

I have the blog for those topics now, and I’m not sure people really like it all that much. Duplicating the effort in a perceived losing quest made no sense after 10 years.

Truth be told, the only way you ever know if someone else likes what you’ve written is if they comment on it. Traffic means nothing because you never know if people actually read it or showed up accidentally through a search and bolted after the first couple of lines. So, if you’re writing to please others, get that thought out of your mind.

Feel the pull of writing, embrace it, smile at it, then do it. If it’s a chore, or there’s no enjoyment in it anymore, give it up, slow it down, or change things up. If you don’t like it, no one else will like it.

Take a breath, smile, laugh and enjoy life. And if whatever it is you do, whether it’s writing or working or playing poker, please yourself. 🙂
 

5 Ways Blogging Is Like Visiting A New Store

I live in the central New York area and my favorite grocery store is called Wegmans, which is also usually in the top 5 corporations in the nation every year as best places to work for. I also border a Wegmans via my backyard, the one I won’t go out into. I love Wegmans; let’s just get that out of the way.

With that said though, I’d be lying if I said everything at Wegmans is perfect. Indeed, there are some things that I can’t find at Wegmans that I have to go to other stores for. There are some other things I’m not crazy about that Wegmans offers. That’s just the way life is; you almost never find perfection anywhere you go (kind of like Japanese and Chinese restaurants and their horrible desserts).

Truthfully, for many years, probably at least a decade in fact, I never went to another local grocery store chain. I did go to the one individual store in the village that where I live is associated with, family owned, but that’s it. However, I have found that sometimes you’ll discover some interesting things in other stores. And when I was thinking about that I also realized that there are ways that going to stores you’re not used to correlates with blogging. So, in my never ending quest in trying to convince people just how special blogging is, I offer 5 ways that blogging is like visiting a new store.

General store
Alex Eylar via Compfight

1. Sometimes you’ll find something really tasty elsewhere. Wegmans has these amazingly juicy rotisserie chickens, big and plump at a pretty good price. They supposedly have 4 flavors; I say that because once you take the skin off, they have no taste at all. At another store I found rotisserie chicken as well, smaller, close to the same price, but marinated throughout the entire chicken and it tastes wonderful! Sure, I have to drive 8 minutes to get there as opposed to the 30 seconds of a drive it takes to get to Wegmans but it’s worth it most of the time.

Visiting multiple blogs opens up a world that you might have never known existed. There is a lot of wonderful talent out in the blogosphere and a lot of different styles. One of the recommendations I’ve made in the past over and over is that a great place to get ideas for your own blog posts is to visit other blogs and see what others have to say, then use your blog to comment on it. There’s nothing wrong with expanding your horizons that way.

Edmond Mille - Vegetable Fruit & Potatoes
Mahdi Abdulrazak via Compfight

2. Other stores have deals that your own store won’t have. Something I discovered relatively recently is that when it comes to health care in this area each grocery store chain and probably drug store chains as well offers something that another store doesn’t. Wegmans offers Lipitor for free. A store called Price Chopper offers insulin syringes for free. And of all things, it turns out that Walmart Superstores offers their own insulin brand where, instead of paying $285 for a month’s worth of insulin, it only costs $49 from them.

Not only is there a lot of talent on the blogosphere, but there are tons of different topics that people love to write about and everyone has their own style. Hopefully that includes you, because even if you have a topic that people love, if all you’re doing it regurgitating what someone else said first no one will care. Like above, all the stores have the same things, but each offers them at different prices. Your blog should be just like that.

Caden Crawford via Compfight

3. Sometimes you can only get what you want at a place you’d never think to visit. I love cinnamon Altoids. I used to buy them all the time at Wegmans. Then they stopped selling them and I thought I was out of luck. I visited all the other grocery stores and none of them sold this particular flavor anymore either. On a whim I decided to stop in at a drug store and, happiness, they sold them. I’ve now found that 3 drug store chains in the area sell them; whew! I’m someone who never really went to drug stores but I’m finding some amazing things these days that I thought were lost forever.

I’ve talked to people who say that there are certain types of blogs they’ll never go to. Heck, I’m the same but my list has gotten smaller. That’s because every once in awhile you find that you’ve categorized someone as one thing because of how they describe themselves and realize that they’re so much more than that. This is the only one of my blogs where I’m not sure how people categorize me, yet I write my posts with the hope that wherever they put me they also see me as someone who offers them something they can’t get elsewhere. And I hope that’s a good thing.

Jerry in the sugar isle face down
TheeErin via Compfight

4. You get a better appreciation for quality. I mentioned above that Wegmans is one of the top corporations in America multiple years in a row. What’s ironic is that one of the worst grocery store chains in the country is also here in central New York, with one store about 5 minutes from my house.

In most places you visit a grocery store and there’s not much difference from one to the other. That’s not how it works here, and that’s not how it works in blogging. Sure, some blogs and websites are prettier than others, but that’s not the only thing that decides whether one blog ends up with more visitors and traffic than another. In the end no blog or website is perfect, but all it has to be and seem is better than someone else’s, seem to be written better and offer something better than what someone else has to offer. Sure, there’s room for everyone, but sometimes there’s a great separation between quality and not so much, and it’s everyone else involved that makes the difference.

Choose Wisely!
Chris Goldberg via Compfight

5. When all is said and done, there’s a place for everybody as long as they show some competence and spirit. I gave you a link to the grocery store chain ranked as the 6th worst in the nation above. However, they have two things that are pretty cool. One, they have their own chicken nuggets that taste fantastic and are plentiful at a pretty nice price. Two, they have their own discount program where sometimes they discount certain items as much as 75% off the normal price; you kidding me? True, it’s not always about price but wow!

Same with blogging. We can’t all be (insert your favorite blogger here) and we can’t all have blogs ranked in the top .1% and we all can’t put out as much content as Huffington Post or Copyblogger. What we can do is be the best we can be, offer opinions and information, entertain, educate or inform, be interesting and original, and just write our own blogs and contribute to conversations on other blogs. If you can’t be the best then be the best you can be; no one will ever fault you for that.

Now, was that so hard? 😉
 

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