Fa Ya Ya Mardi Gras Indians, Fat Tuesday 2015

I read on Reddit where a few of the Indians were going to start walking from and tried to catch the gangs over in the 7th Ward. At both 9:30 and noon on Fat Tuesday, I crawled the neighborhoods I thought they’d be at, to no success. Then, we drove up to the overpass and I saw the Fa Ya Ya at Mother-In-Law’s, about to cross the street.

The first photo is of a Baby Doll who was rolling with Fa Ya Ya. Baby Dolls have a long, interesting history in the city around the red-light district and Jim Crow. You can read about them over on NPR’s writeup from 2013.

New Orleans Baby Doll Mardi Gras 2015 Fa Ya Ya

In the photos below, you’ll see two of Fa Ya Ya’s spy boys, and a flag boy.





This little girl was the meanest, cutest little Indian I’d ever seen! I don’t know what group she’s with.


Nor this guy. I couldn’t catch the name of their group.



Lessons on Minimum Viable Products, Facebook and Google AdWords ads

My third semester at Tulane University has come to an end and there were more successes this semester than the previous two combined. I owe that to my efficiency teaching the subjects and pushing the students to take action faster, knowing how long it can take for ad approvals. I thought it would be helpful to share the results of the class’s group projects not just for your sake, dear reader, but also for mine, so I can have a recap I can reference for next semester.

The class I teach at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business is Marketing 4410, which is a lab associated with a social media marketing class. Truth be told, I don’t teach much about social media in the lab because I don’t know much about social media. I’ve never had success (or a desire, frankly) to grow a social media profile, amass Likes, friends and followers. Instead, I am lucky enough to be able to instruct the students on the lessons I’ve learned in my tenure as a Direct Response Marketer for a wide swath of companies domestic and abroad.

During the semester, I walk students through a logical process of reverse engineering sales funnels on popular websites, figuring out why and how marketers do what they do. Then, I instruct each student to write a report about a product, idea, message or service that they are passionate about. Some of the students are creative entrepreneurs with wonderful ideas, while others are more analytical, thinking of ways to marginally increase the success of something that already exists.

The students define a Minimum Viable Product for their idea and give it success criteria. For instance, one student this semester, Pablo, wanted to offer a full breakdown of the individual clothing articles actors and actresses wore in popular movies, allowing the reader the opportunity to purchase them. The cost of reviewing a movie, doing the research, then posting the information was outside of the scope of the class, but a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) could be achieved with little effort.

The problem so many entrepreneurs face when starting a new business is that they build their product or service in totality before they ask the market if there’s interest. This leads to enormous risks with product development costs, the entrepreneur going in a direction they think is right, instead of what buying customers say is right. Usually the outcome is a disaster, both in terms of poor sales and wasted effort. To thwart this potential problem, I instructed the students to answer the following question:

How many people need to say “I’m interested!” and give you their contact information for you to feel like your product or service will be purchased upon release?”

Some said 100, with the criteria being email addresses collected. Others wanted 200 Facebook Likes. Another student wanted 250 people in Turkey to take a survey. Each project had to have it’s own success criteria for a MVP. Then, the student drew out the immersion sequence; the individual steps a prospect has to go through in order to become a customer. Finally, the student brainstormed what traffic sources would be the most appropriate to acquire the visits that could then lead to sales and conversions.

A few weeks into the semester, the students turned in their reports. Out of the two sections, each with ~21 students, I chose 4-5 projects for groups to work on together. These were chosen based on their likelihood of success, minimal startup cost, and uniqueness.

Some of the projects that were chosen and rolled into Group Projects were:

  1. Gym Fit Pack – A multi-gym trial coupon, so you could find the right gym for you
  2. A French Patisserie in Turkey – The student who created this idea is a French citizen with Turkish roots. She wanted to figure out which city in Turkey would be hospitable and excited to have a French patisserie move in.
  3. High-end Sweatpants – Fashion meets function.
  4. Emergency Babysitter App – An application to find a last-minute sitter, similar to Uber and AirBNB
  5. Internet Marketing company in Belize – The student was a Belizean and wanted to create an internet marketing company back in Belize when she returned after graduation
  6. Plastrak – A credit card tracking system to help people find their lost or stolen credit cards

It wasn’t my intention to find ideas that were the most viable, instead, it was to find ideas that had the highest likelihood of getting decent consumer data on as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For Plastrak, the credit card tracking system, the intention was to collect email addresses from prospects who raised their hand to say they were interested. To do this, the process was simple: Google AdWords Display Network ads targeted to the ideal prospect, driven to a landing page that provides basic information and the opportunity to submit their email address.

Here is the Ad Group, inside the Plastrak campaign within Google AdWords:

AdWords Display Network campaign for Minimum Viable Product

The image below shows the two ads the students wrote. The goal in running two ads was to test the difference between them and see which performed better.

Testing two text ads on Google AdWords Display Network

You can see the second ad was given nearly 80% of the impressions, assisted by Google to increase click-throughs. The average cost per click was $0.14-0.15, meaning that each time someone came to the Plastrak site, it cost us fifteen cents. We didn’t pay to display out ad, we only paid when it was clicked on. This is called Cost Per Click bidding, different from CPM or Cost Per Mil (thousand) impressions.

In total, the ads were displayed nearly 75,000 to qualified people as defined by the keywords on the webpages they were viewing. For instance, if someone was on a webpage about “credit card,” and that same page had a Google AdSense box, the Plastrak ad would potentially show. Below are the keywords used in the campaign:



The ads drove prospects to a simple page that the students created at Launchrock.co:


In total, there were 4 people who visited this page and submitted their email address. Four is a small number and although not nearly statistically significant, it is still a good indicator of what could possibly happen if we drove 10 or 100x more traffic.

The total cost, outside of time, to test out the Plastrak idea was:

  • $12.99 for the Plastrak domain
  • FREE for Launchrock landing page
  • $27.22 for Google AdWords traffic
  • TOTAL: $40.21

That’s only $10.05 a lead for the first market test. While it’s likely impossible Plastrak could become profitable paying over $10 a lead, that’s not the point. What matters here is that the students were able to test an idea and ask the market if they were interested. They could make an educated prediction that if they paid $10/lead and invested $1,000 in marketing, they could capture the email addresses of 100 interested, qualified prospects. From there, they’d have to sell them on the product and actually exchange payment. The numbers start to diminish from there: 1-3% sales conversion rate. They might make 1 to 3 sales for every thousand dollars they spend, assuming they’re not able to reduce the cost per lead, or increase the sales conversion rate.

To me, their idea is a wild success. They have proven it possible to drive qualified traffic and ask them for information in order to build a business. If they were truly interested in developing the product further, they would be in a better place by having done this MVP exercise.


Another group moved forward with the pack of gym passes, so a New Orleans resident could see which gym they liked the most. I think this really is a great idea, because it allows a gym to advertise for free, giving away something it already gives away – a single day to see if you like their setup. I know when I was choosing a gym in New Orleans, I spent a lot of time online, looking at pictures of the interior, reading reviews, then touring the different gyms. If I had a pack of passes I could take to 3-4 of my top choices, it would have made the process much easier.

Similar to Plastrak, this team decided they needed about 100 email addresses from people saying they were interested. However, because the idea is location-specific, they had to ensure the email addresses were for only the New Orleans area; specifically those who could likely travel to the gyms offered in the potential pack. Note that they students didn’t ask gyms anything, instead they wanted to see if there was interest first. If there was interest, they then had the opportunity to take those numbers to gym owners and ask for a partnership.


The ideal customer this group decided on was females over the age of 18-26 in the immediate vicinity. Because they wanted to target only women, they thought a Facebook ad would be the best route. Facebook has data points that Google AdWords simply does not. When my mom uses my laptop, Google doesn’t know it’s her, but when she logs into her Facebook account, Facebook knows who she is. For that reason, Facebook was the best platform for the initial test.

Below are the settings for the Facebook campaign:

Facebook Ad Set settings for MVP

There were two different ad placements run for this campaign: the Newfeed and the right sidebar. On Facebook, you may be familiar with these two different placements for ads.

This is the Newsfeed ad. Notice the size of the image, the quantity of the content, the “Sign Up” button, etc. Much more engaging.


This is the right sidebar ad. Less content, no “Sign Up” button, smaller image. We can anticipate a lower CTR here.


Here’s the high-level of how they performed:


Cost per click was about the same for both placements: $1.07 vs. $1.11, with the Newsfeed being slightly more expensive. Click through rate (CTR) on the Newsfeed ad was 6.86% while the right sidebar was 5.97%. This mentally checks out for me because Newsfeed ads are much larger and more engaging than an ad to the side of the general feed of content I’m looking at.

This was the landing page the students created with Launchrock:



The total cost, outside of time, to test out My Gym Pack was:

  • $12.99 for the MyGymPack domain
  • FREE for Launchrock landing page
  • $46.90 for targeted Facebook ads (both sidebar and Newsfeed)
  • TOTAL: $59.89


There were a total of only 3 signups out of 43 visits. That’s a 6.98% conversion rate, at a cost-per-lead of $19.96. The lead cost here is nearly double what Plastrak was, which is interesting. The cost-per-click (per visitor)  on Facebook was almost 10x what it was on Google AdWords Display Network, but the quality of the Facebook traffic made up for its higher pricepoint.


For me, this is a great reminder that getting a lower cost-per-click (CPC) on traffic is not necessarily an indication of the quality of the traffic. I’d rather spend $5 a lead and have them convert at 100% instead of spending $0.05/lead and only getting a 1% conversion rate. The quality of the data points Facebook has is far above any other mainstream advertising service, and is one reason I really love running ads on Facebook. While you’re paying more on the front end, you get the benefit of having a higher conversion rate, which means you can really choose the ideal prospect. Google AdWords Display Network is great for general products, and if you spend enough time tweaking and fine tuning things, you can get a Display Network campaign that is more efficient than a Facebook campaign… but it’s not easy.

The students are all set to graduate after next semester and did an extraordinary job mastering the content of the class. There were some significant wins that I witnessed, and some of the students are already taking what they internalized and are applying the lessons to the job hunting game. They’re all highly qualified young people who would be a benefit to any organization. If you’re a company looking to hire a young, but highly intelligent, self-starting junior level marketer, reach out to me and I’ll put you in touch with a few of them. They each have a paid campaign win under their belts, as well as a formal and applied understanding of direct response marketing.

Any questions about this post? Wondering how you can apply Facebook or AdWords traffic to your business? Leave a comment.

marketing lessons from black friday cyber monday sale marketing funnel

Black Friday Marketing Plan, Successes & Failures

One of our clients had a killer Black Friday campaign that finished yesterday. Here’s the simple funnel we setup:

  1. Choose a product that has high value
  2. Discount it lower than ever before & added a free trial to continuity plan
  3. Create a new landing page to showcase the product. Added a headline about the product, fascinations, testimonials, etc. Only about 2.5 pages of copy in Google Docs when I wrote it.
  4. Added video client recorded on REASONS WHY the product was important
  5. Drove previous buyers to the page with language in the emails saying why they needed to check it out. Drove non-buyers to it as well with more general language.
  6. Drove cold leads from Facebook.

As usual launches tend to be, it was a reverse bell-curve for sales. Big sales on the first and last emails, with long periods of no sales in between.

Take ways:

  1. Having a hard start/stop time was a big win (for both clients)
  2. Emails, in order of revenue from each, for previous buyers: 1, 4, 3, 5, 2. The first email we sent had the highest EPC/sales. Email 4 followed.
  3. 40% of Black Friday buyers had never purchased previously. 60% were return buyers.
  4. Facebook cold leads had a 0.55% conversion rate to sale and a $2.42 per visit value. Pretty much a wash. Consider this a win, since these are now customers we can sell AGAIN and profit from.
  5. We rolled in a few dozen into the continuity plan, which means they will rebill monthly. Very curious to see if they’ll stick around or if they’ll cancel.

Next time:

  1. Direct mail (offline) for top 10-25% of previous buyers to give them a special coupon. Get them to buy and buy some more.
  2. Get a more clear product ascension in place, so people can see where they are in their education, and what they need to buy to get to the next level.
  3. Video testimonials. Need to get them, so we can use them in video ads (retargeting specifically)
How to find a mentor

How to Find a Mentor

If you’re new to the workforce, recently graduating from college, you might be looking for a mentor to help guide you through the uncharted sea, to help you find success early in your voyage. If you’re starting a new business, having a mentor to be a sounding board for your ideas, and to advise you on when you should zig or zag can mean the difference of learning the easy way, through advice and the successes and failures of others, versus the hard way, learning through loss.

When I got started in the digital marketing world, I realized quickly that one of the best ways I could shortcut my way to success would be to find a mentor and use their experience as my starting point. By making my first relationship with a mentor, my success skyrocketed 3-5 years ahead of schedule, since he had gone through a number of problems in his business and could advise me on how to keep my business strong.

I think a mistake people make is to look for a single mentor and to hold onto that person for a long, long time. To let them advise them when you need them, and then once you’re successful, allowing that mentor to continue advising you on something that may not be based on their direct experience. Consider a DIY home-builder. He or she may reach out to a mason to learn how to build the foundation of the house, but that mason has limited knowledge when it comes to, say, wiring the home, or plumbing. It’s at that point that you need to find a mentor for your current questions and roadblocks.

In order to find a mentor, you first need to be clear about the outcome you want. The goal for your personal success (finding a job in the market), your business success (leveraging relationships with Chinese manufacturers), or fitness related (losing weight, gaining muscle). Have a clear and concise goal. Once you’re clear about what you need help with, tweak the goal to make it audacious. There’s nobody in the world that actively wants to work, for free, with someone who has uninspiring goals. They’re boring. They don’t activate the level of commitment in a mentor because they’re not engaged in the multiplication of their efforts. Said another way, when a mentor gives you a 1-to-1 benefit, just helping you, they are only helping a single person. If your mission is bigger, to do something grandiose, mentors will see that their time with you means the improvement of tens, hundreds or thousands of lives. That’s what makes a mentor want to skip their life of productivity and money-making to help a single person. They want to see something change on a large scale that they can be attributed to.

Here’s an example of a boring goal: “I need a mentor to help me break into the world of corporate consulting.”

The grandiose, inspiring spin on that goal: “I want to find someone that can help me actualize who I am as a problem solver so I can spend more of my highly active years helping organizations grow their bottom line while creating social goods. I want to personally be able to raise $50,000 a year for a charity I believe in, all while improving the success of companies I am inspired by.”

In a way, they are the exact same goal. You could want to break into the job market to become a corporate consultant so that you could work with businesses you support and donate a percentage of your income, but if you weren’t clear about that in your “ask” to a possible mentor, you’re going to look like just another guy.

Successful people inherently want to give back and help others. Many successful people had mentors themselves, and want to continue the tradition of helping others achieve success. If you plan to approach highly successful individuals, you’ll find that they are approached often. Maybe even weekly, they’re receiving a request for mentorship from someone who is aspiring to have a similar level of success, and they’re turning everyone down. Odds are, without a personal relationship with a possible mentor, you have no chance they’ll accept you and diligently work hard to improve your position in the world.

In order to compete against the dozens of others who are asking your potential mentor for help, you need to display why you’re the better person to invest in. This is why an audacious goal is so important.

Once you have your goal laid out, you need to setup the Law of Reciprocation in your favor. To do this, you must first work to help your potential mentor in a way that they see your value. It’s too common for people to reach out to a potential mentor and say “Give me your time, your experience and access to you regularly and I will give you nothing in return.” This “Gimme Gimme” relationship is exhausting for any mentor. Don’t be the “Gimme Gimme” professional. Instead, help first without asking for reciprocation, then later, when the time is right, you can ask for help.

Let’s say that out of 5 people you’d like to be your mentor, one will say yes, if approached in this manner. You don’t know which person out of those initial five you’ve researched, so you’re playing a bit of a numbers game. Draft your “Dream 5 Mentor” list by:

  1. Identifying your goal or the problem you need to overcome
  2. Creating an audacious, exciting spin on the goal that multiplies your mentors ability to help more than just you
  3. Figuring out who has overcome that problem
  4. Create a list of those people, ranked by relationship and distance from you. Obviously those who live in the same town as you and have relationships with your family are the easiest to build a relationship with yourself.

Take that list of your “Dream 5 Mentors” and find ways you can use your unique talents and strengths to help them. If you’re a digital native, jump onto their website, their social media. Do they have Google Analytics installed? Is their LinkedIn profile up to date? Are they tweeting correctly? Are they using an old version of Google Analyics code? Do they have an opt-in below the fold, reducing their conversions? Can they add some on-page keywords to improve their search engine results ranking?

If you have a specialty, or a better understanding then they do about a particular thing, offer to help them for free. Be sure that they understand there are no strings attached, that you want to see them succeed. Give freely.

This isn’t a sneaky way for you to “trick” someone into seeing that you’re a good person for them to mentor, you’re instead playing the game of “give from your heart and receive what they’re able to give back.” Nothing is owed here. You’re giving a gift to help them be more successful, and in return, they’ll want to find a way to help you.

Spend a week or two building your list and finding ways to help your Dream 5 list. It shouldn’t take your more than 10-20 minutes to identify something you could do that would help them with their business or missions. Reach out to them and offer the gift freely, telling them explicitly that you are not looking for anything in return… you’re not. You’re just priming the pumps for reciprocity to kick in and increase your chances of them wanting to help you because you helped them.

Once you’re able to do the work and help your Dream 5, provide to them results. Show them what you were able to do. Give them a report on the traffic to their site, increase in SERPs ranking, increased conversion rate, etc. Show them the value you provided. It’s at this point in the conversation with them that you can make your ask.

You’ve freely helped someone you admire and respect, and you’ve shown them that you get work done. You’ve flipped the game to say “here’s some value!” instead of “Gimme Gimme!” You’re now a friend of your possible mentor, someone they respect. Now, all you need to do is ask the question. Create a compelling question based on your audacious goal and position it to your Dream 5 after you’ve given them the results of the work you’ve done.

A conversation could go like this…
Me: … and here’s the results of me moving your optin for your newsletter from the bottom of your website to the top. A 182% increase in people who sign up. Not bad, huh?!
Possible Mentor: Casey, that’s incredible! Thank you for helping, I really appreciate it.
Me: Well John, I just want to see you successful. As I told you when I first reached out to you, I found you because you’re where I want to be. You’ve got the kind of success I’m after, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help you.
Possible Mentor: That’s a kind thing to say, Casey. At this rate, you’ll be successful in no time. Is there anything I can do to help you?
Me: Thanks for asking, John. Actually, I do have a problem. Maybe you could point me in the right direction? You see, I have this goal to shortcut the typical roadblocks people my age face when they are getting into corporate consulting. I have a mission to make $150,000 a year in as short of time as possible, and since I’m single, I can be pretty risky. I know I’ll be successful, and I want to use my position to give back to this community I’m working with. In my dream, I want to help for-profit companies grow through social goods, so that their shareholders can increase profits while creating lasting change in their community. Right now, I’m stuck with breaking into the market. I have some processes I’ve defined and taken a few companies through, but I haven’t been able to really break into the Fortune 1000 companies. Is there any advice you can give me?
Possible Mentor: Absolutely. Have you tried…

I’ve had a number of conversations in my life that are like that. All a little different, but all along the same equation: Give, show results, make a small ask. It’s like you’re giving $100 to someone, then later asking them for $5. The time I have taken to improve others businesses versus the time it’s taken them to help me is grossly disproportionate. I might spend 5 hours doing something for someone, then an hour pulling together an effective report. In return, I’m asking them for a single piece of advice to help me solve my current problem, all while enrolling them on my mission. Their single answer might tell me a book to read, or a seminar to join, or it might lead to an introduction. This is where mentorship starts… with the first “mission.” If you listen and do the work of your new mentor, you turn around and report the change that happened.

Back and forth. Ask for help around a specific issue, get their input, and report back with what happened. Without fail, you must always show your mentor that you took their advice, once it was clear to you, and applied it. Show them the outcomes and provide your reasons why it worked or didn’t. Think critically and always keep the audacious goal top of mind. You’ll find that your mentor will be excited for your call, your questions, and respond earnestly. They’ll see that them answering a simple email removed a 2-3 week long roadblock for you, and you give them gratitude, all while showing them the results they’re creating.

Once a person has enough income to pay their bills on time, with a little left over for fun, they want to get paid with impact. They want to know that the 10 or 20 minutes they put into a phone call with you turns into a cleaner city, or children fed, or your new startup having the best month ever. There’s a lot of joy with that, and it’s your job to “pay” them that currency.

Have you tried this method? What was the outcome? Comment below!


How to get a Professional Headshot for Free

Everyone needs to have a few really great (and current!) photos of their mug to use on LinkedIn and on other digital profiles. Here in New Orleans, there are plenty of Meetups where I’m interacting with people who could become my customer some day, and I want to have an accurate picture of myself. If you have an outdated photo of yourself on your LinkedIn profile or worse, a photo of you and friends where you’re cropped out, you’re losing trust. If I was hiring you, I wouldn’t want to see you on the beach, with a red Solo cup in your hand, or in your bathing suit. I’d want to see you cleaned up, dressed well, looking confident. If I can’t meet you face-to-face but I want to hire you, I need to feel like I can trust you.

I offer my Tulane students a single evening to join me in a park for headshot photos. We have fun, let loose, and they get a few great headshots by the end. It takes about 10-15 minutes per student once I have my equipment setup. The students show up in the park with professional attire (some wearing suit coats and gym shorts) and I snap photos of them from their shoulders-up. Classic headshots, nothing fancy. After the photos are taken, I bring them into Adobe Lightroom and crop as necessary, add a little vignetting and white balance. It’s all a very simple and straight forward process, but what I deliver the students allows them to be more confident in job hunting.

Many people do not know that there are dozens of photographers in their local area who are looking for models. Many are even advertising that they’ll pay for models, so they can improve their portfolio, try out new ideas, and get honest feedback. This is the secret if you’re bootstrapping your headshot! The term used on websites like Craigslist is “TFP,” or “Time for Prints.” Sometimes also written “Prints for Time” or “PFT,” models offer their time in exchange for prints.

Maybe you’re thinking “I’m not a model!” and you may be right, but experience is experience for photographers! In photography, there’s the art of taking the photo and the art of posing the models to make the photograph exactly what they have in their minds eye. Let them hone your skills and expect them to be a bit rough around the edges with their dialog. They’ll be new to posing and modeling possibly, but they will be excited for the experience.

A great way to really help the photographer is to pull together a few friends for the TFP shoot and let them run through a few models. This will increase photos available for their portfolio while allowing you and your friends to all have great prints.

Here’s how to do it:

Run a TFP ad on Craigslist under “Gigs” with a title like “TFP Young Professional Looking for Headshot by Photographer, New Orleans.” In the description, say that you’re a young professional looking to break into the industry you’re targeting, and what you need. Explicitly state you are looking for a chest-up professional headshot to use on LinkedIn. State the times and dates you and your friends are available, and make it clear it’s TFP. You’re offering the service of being a model, it’s a fair trade.

If you’re feeling generous, consider buying the photographer a meal while y’all are together. It’s a small gesture, but it can help offset their hard-costs of travel.

Once you’re able to save a few hundred dollars up for a professional photographer to take your photos, jump at the opportunity. Talented photographers that commit their lives to photography can do some amazing things with a camera and your profile picture will be improved because of it. Having a headshot ASAP is important, but budget for a professional set in the near future. You’ll look more professional and be able to demand the attention of those you want to speak to.

Here are a few examples of photos I’ve taken of my students. Add these to your Craigslist post as an example of what you want, or any other photos you can find online.
Student portrait photographer





Five ways to differentiate your website traffic

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Traffic

In business, one is the loneliest number. One client makes you susceptible to risk; one employee means your business can screech to a halt due to illness, internet blackout or family emergency. One traffic source? You could lose it overnight… any many have.

When I started in the digital marketing world, I worked for a friend out of the Detroit area. David sold information products online, and still does to this day. When he brought me on board, I was his Google AdWords specialist, where I would try to find ways to improve his campaigns every week. He was buying ads on Google’s network and for every dollar he spent, he was seeing at least a 5x return on investment. It was a great business and it was my job to improve it.

After about four months of getting comfortable with the ads, I decided to try my hand at a new campaign. The goal was to increase quality score of the ad copy by writing relevant text and decrease the overall cost. It was our first foray into image ads placed by Google, but I knew I could give it a good college try.

I mocked up the images for the campaign, eight different 300×250 ads. At the top, a traditional headline to hook the readers attention; the bottom half was an image of a woman. I found her on a stock photo site and thought she fit the bill. Cropped her above her halter top and added her into the different images. Once I was satisfied with the messaging, I uploaded them to Google for approval and flighting.

The next morning, David had sent me an email telling me the grave error I had made. It wasn’t a good day. Turns out, all eight ads were declined due to their “adult nature,” because the person reviewing the ads thought the woman was topless. A fair judgement, but I had no idea what the repercussions were. They told me that if I upload two more image ads that are declined, that they will ban our account for violations of the terms of service. They thought I was trying to game the system, even though it was an honest mistake.

What would have happened if I had made 10 ads instead 8? It was made explicitly clear to me that if I had uploaded 10 images and they were all disapproved, David’s AdWords account would have been banned.

Losing the ability to drive traffic with Google AdWords could kill a number of businesses in dozens of different niches. If you’re in a similar boat, betting all your chips on a single source of traffic, you need to differentiate.

1.) Use Bing and Yahoo ads for search traffic.

They don’t have nearly the impressions or eyeballs that Google offers, but there are plenty of people using these search engines to find what they are looking for. You may be able to spend less on your ads through Bing due to the low competition, giving you a nice traffic source that provides sales without Google.

2.) Use Facebook and their Custom Audience features

Facebook is the website most people in my generation look at the moment they wake up and the last site they visit before they go to bed. There are billions of eyeballs daily on the site and it’s a great place to target potential prospects. Having unbounded points of data, Facebook makes it easy to target the right people. If you are not currently using Custom Audiences to target your email list, Lookalike’s of your best customers, people who are friends of those who like your Page, or remarketing, you’re missing out. There is a wealth of potential income from Facebook alone, and it’s a great place to build another funnel for your traffic.

3.) Guest Blogging exposes you to Greater Audiences

One thing Google will never be able to control is your ability to guest blog. It’s an arduous process, but for that reason, it’s still highly effective. The short of it is that you reach out to someone in an industry that compliments yours and ask them if you can write a blog post on their blog. My favorite analogy is to think that you’re a cheese maker and you’re reaching out to wineries asking if you can write about pairing different cheeses with the wines they offer. The winery gets the benefit of relevant, helpful content on their site and you get the benefit of talking about your product or service. The way to do this is to find trafficked blogs in your industry or complimentary industry (you can tell by the number of Likes, Comments and +1’s the posts have), then email the owner and ask the question. You’ll want to ensure you have at least one link back to your website from the blog post. Consider offering the audience something special, like a no-cost-of-goods-sold audio if they sign up for your mailing list. You’ll build great fans, provide value, and buttress your otherwise single source of traffic.

4.) Blog yourself!

When the search engines crawl through websites and sort through the content, they’re assessing how unique and relevant the content is to the theme of the website. They want to provide the best user experience online, and in order to do that, they need to give the best websites the top positions on their results pages. This is the art of Search Engine Optimization. The single biggest thing you can do today to help your website grow in popularity and amass organic traffic from Google, Bing and Yahoo is to create regular, high-quality content. Writing blog posts between 300 and 600 words semi-regularly grows the percentage of quality content on your site. The search engines love this, and they will reward you with a higher position naturally. Make sure your content is focused around specific keywords that speak to your audience, that those keywords are in the title and URL of the blog post, and you should be set. It’s not rocket science… We’re not at a technological age where robots can write great content yet. It is one of the last things we, as sentient humans, can do to improve our rankings online.

5.) Be Social

I absolutely hate this term. I think it’s trite and without direction, so let me give it some… With Google’s announcement of Google Plus in late June of 2011, Google has begun using social signals in their ranking algorithm. This means that they are looking at Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest as signals to say if an article or post online is relevant. When I’m looking for news on something that is happening right now, I always turn to Twitter. It is the literal heartbeat of the internet. Twitter has real-time posts about current events, like “where are the Mardi Gras Indians right now?” or “What area is affected by this power outage?” If someone wants to write more than 140 characters, they’ll likely blog about the topic, then post it to their social media profiles with appropriate hashtags. This is a signal that the search engines are using to display those relevant, timely posts to searchers. Use this technique for your own site or business; tweet new posts. Follow people and companies in your industry and have a dialogue with them on social media. Use the trending hashtags on your posts to allow others to find it easily. The social game, in my eyes, has two outcomes:

  • 1.) To signal to the search engines the content that you’re producing is relevant and ready for eyes
  • 2.) To create a conversation with your audience, so you’re seen as an authority figure.

Point #1 is something everyone can do. Just Tweet, Pin, +1 and share on Facebook any new content you’ve written. Point #2 is a much broader picture and undertaking. Only tackle that when you’re actually ready.

Have you ever almost lost your single biggest source of traffic? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Why YOU are more important than what you DO

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. — Simon Sinek

This quote hit me today as I was watching this 5-year old TED talk. It’s not what we produce for people, it’s WHY we’re so hellbent on producing it in the first place… that’s what differentiates us from every other marketer, every other professional. Your story of who you are and why you do what you do is more interesting than just your output.

Yesterday, I met with my friend Vincent, a very talented guitar luthier in the city. We were talking about his background, developing copy for his About page on his soon-to-be redesigned website. While I’ve known him for almost a year, I still didn’t know WHY he builds guitars. We talked about his heritage, being born and raised in the French Quarter, steeped in his Italian roots, making pasta in the family factory. I learned about his trip to the Vatican where he did restoration work on marble sculptures for a few months when he was young and how that shot him into a trajectory on form and function. I got to see the passion in his eyes when we talked about his sculptures and what makes him come alive.

In the end, he produces guitars. If you put them side-by-side with another electric guitar with the same humbuckers and bridge, a similar paint job and tuning pegs, you might think they were the same. They both have unique stories and in my eyes, his will always be more valuable.

Here’s the TED talk from Simon Sinek on inspiring action through leadership.

What were you born to do?

“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter father along its path back to God.”

— Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art.”

I read this passage after being encouraged to read Pressfield’s book by my friend Bo Eason. The book is thick with simple, eloquent insights to nullifying your procrastination through simple, direct action. He’s an expert author who distilled complex subjects into simple points. The book reads like an instruction manual to get shit done and I find it very powerful.

What were you born to do? What were you put on earth for? Do you dare smite the angels?