The Web For Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.

Marketing in Stormy Seas

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Marketing's Stormy SeasWe are living in an increasingly political and polarized society where the default state for most people seems to be "pissed off".

In a world of "pro-this" and "anti-that", how does an entrepreneur or company market itself online?

One word: carefully.

There are stormy seas online. Here are a few suggestions on how to navigate more safely.

You Are Your Brand

For all you entrepreneurs and small business owners out there, chances are your personal social media profiles and your business identities are being followed by the same people. When you voice your opinion online, you're showcasing it to friends, family, clients and prospects.This isn't meant to dissuade you from telling the world how you feel about issues important to you, but rather to remind you that what you say online is visible and largely permanent.

The ramifications of this could be significant. Job seekers don't get hired because of their social media postings. Political candidates lose elections because of things they've said online. An off-the-cuff comment can create lasting ill will towards you and your company.

Accept There Will Be "Haters"

Not everyone is going to like everything about you. This is as true about your Facebook friends as it is about your real-life friends and family. It's even more true about strangers, some of whom are just looking for someone to hate. Are you vegan? Get ready for some omnivore to weigh in on your dietary choices. Like air travel? There's an environmentalist out there ready to talk about your carbon footprint. Own a fashion store? A human-rights advocate is around the corner ready to judge you based on where you source your products.

Every online interaction is an opportunity for you to build your brand. Your public interactions with people you disagree with say more about you than your interactions with your fans. While there may always be those who go out of their way to send negativity your way, dealing with them positively will be more beneficial than just blowing them off.


Your words have power. Every tap of a key represents a choice you've made in how to express yourself. If you want to call someone or a group of people "idiots", "f*[email protected]" or worse, you have every right to do so. Does it reflect well upon you to do so? Perhaps it will to some and perhaps it won't to others. You and your brand will be judged by your words, so moderate the language you choose to use when talking about issues.

Mobile Erosion

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Erosion - photo by Benoit Rochon

The rise of mobile devices isn't new. Search behemoth Google announced in May 2015 that mobile accounts for more search than desktop in 10 of its key markets. This is a significant shift, but many companies have not made the shift to responsive websites that are more mobile-friendly. This could be the cause of a subtle but steady erosion of market share for those businesses.

As of April 21, 2015, Google rolled out an update that gives preference to responsive, mobile-friendly websites in searches done from mobile devices. Consider that more than 50% of your potential site visitors are going to access your website on their smartphone. Non-responsive websites will likely appear lower in the SERPs on mobile devices.

The results for non-responsive websites will likely show up as lower overall traffic over time as competing websites shift to responsive design. It may also manifest itself in higher bounce rates for mobile users coming to non-responsive sites, and potentially lower conversion rates for mobile users.

From my perspective, the business case for redeveloping a non-responsive website is starting to be more clear, especially for companies that rely on their websites for new lead generation. It also increases the importance of customer retention and referral marketing. The data that drives the business case is likely sitting untouched in your website visit statistics, so if you haven't done so lately, it's high time to dive into the numbers.

The wind will always blow and water will always flow. Change is constant online and businesses must adjust to survive. Here's hoping you make choices that allow your online presence to thrive in 2016 and beyond.

Always Asking Questions

Mark Kawabe - Monday, January 04, 2016

Asking questions about your website's a good ideaI'm a curious kind of person. Things that interest me don't always interest other people, but that's okay. To each their own.

For you business-minded folks with websites, there are a few things you should be curious about. They're called "statistics".


Yes, I know. Looking over your website visit stats isn't always exciting, but it's something you should be doing regularly.

Wait - you ARE looking at them, aren't you?

If you are (or aren't), here are a few things to consider.

  1. Number of visits: obvious.
  2. Bounce rate: how many people come to a page of your website from somewhere else (like a search engine or a link from another site) and then leave after only looking at that one page.
  3. Conversion rate: how many people contact you or buy something as a result of interacting with your website. To properly track this, you need to be asking questions of everyone you do business with for the first time. Something simple, like "where did you hear about us" or "why did you choose to deal with us".

These are some of the many important statistics you should be aware of when thinking about your website. If you're not looking at your stats, you could be missing a huge opportunity.

If you need some help with looking at your statistics or getting started with tracking, please give me a call. I hope you're as curious about your website's stats as I am!

Stuff About SERPs

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, January 03, 2016

3D MazeIf you haven't come across the acronym SERP before, don't worry. It likely means you're not a geek, or not heavily invested in your website. If you're the former, feel free to celebrate. For those who fall into the latter category, let's talk.

SERP stands for "Search Engine Results Page". When you are talking about your site showing up in the top 10 listed sites in Google, you're talking about how well your site shows up in the SERPs. You'll notice I started right away with Google when talking about SERPs. Despite other search engines claiming to be more accurate, Google is still the "go-to" search engine for most people. So, I'd like to discuss a peculiar characteristic of Google's SERPs.

You may be surprised to learn that multiple searches for the same keywords may differ when using Google. There are several reasons this can occur.


Google wants to provide you with the most relevant information it can. There is a difference between "relevant" and "accurate". What you consider relevant is unique to you, so your Google search may turn up different results than someone else.

If you are signed into any Google service (like Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Maps, Google News, Calendar, Google+ etc.), Google knows it's you doing the search. The results you get will reflect your preferences. More accurately, it will reflect what Google thinks your preferences are. If you exit all Google services, your search results may change.

Your IP Address

If you use Google from the same computer, chances are you IP address is the same most of the time. Google tracks queries made from each IP address, so unless yours changes, Google probably knows it's you and your SERP results will be presented accordingly.

Data Center Differences

Google has over three dozen publicly-reported data centers. There are probably more. Depending on which data center you connect with for your search, you could get different results. Different updates to Google's algorithms (the "secret formula" they use to determine which pages are most relevant for a search) can be in effect at different data centers.

What Can You Do?

If you're the kind of person who wants results that aren't personalized to you, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Sign out of all Google services.
  2. Clear your search history.
  3. Use Incognito (or Private) browsing mode.
  4. Use a VPN to disguise your true whereabouts.
  5. Add "&pws=0" to the end of the search results page you're presented with and refresh the page.

I hope this glimpse into the world of Google's SERPs has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! I welcome your feedback.

Stick to Extremes, or Blend Both?

Mark Kawabe - Saturday, January 02, 2016

Some brave and wonderful family members recently purchased a lodge and marina in Haliburton. They're in the process of revamping their website and we got talking about content for the site. I'm a fan of keeping content fairly focused, but in their case, I think there were some potentials for traffic creation by adding some breadth.

If you own a lodge in Haliburton, you're pretty much guaranteed to use the words "lodge" and "Haliburton" somewhere in your content. You're not likely to use the word "Muskoka". That's fine, as long as you only want to tap into a defined target audience of people looking for a lodge in the Haliburton region.

However, consider the following possibility. Lots of people know about Muskoka. Perhaps fewer know about the Haliburton region, or they may THINK they know about Haliburton, but their knowledge may be incorrect. Someone looking for a lodge in Muskoka might be doing so because of Muskoka's stronger brand, which means they MIGHT be interested in going to a lodge in Haliburton - if only they knew about it.

Coffee or tea - why not both?So, what's a lodge owner to do?

Easy. Broaden the content on the website to talk about the Muskoka region. If you create some quality content that talks about the Muskoka region, there's a chance your site will be found in searches involving lodges in Muskoka.

What kind of content might work? Here are some suggestions for articles that could be appropriate.

  • Value comparisons of Muskoka and Haliburton
  • Geography of Muskoka and Haliburton
  • Relative popularity as destinations
  • Fishing quality in both regions
  • Relative travel times to each destination

It's easy to think of these articles being critical of one region or the other. The truth is you don't have to be critical. Be objective and positive. Someone who's always gone to Muskoka would probably not appreciate an article that talks about their choices with a negative bias. However, if you talk about the advantages and benefits of each location, readers will be more receptive to the information and will be more open to learning more about other options.

In addition, posting articles like this in one's social media streams is likely to generate likes, comments, shares and discussion, all of which is beneficial for the relative strength and popularity of your social media profile. Social media is a content amplifier. Put everything on your own website and then use social media to help get the word out. 

Coffee and tea drinkers consume different beverages, but they are similar in many ways. They like warm, fragrant beverages that come in a variety of styles and tastes. Coffee and tea may seem separate, but they're on the same continuum. Whether you're a purveyor of coffee or tea, writing content that can appeal to both audiences gives you a wider reach potential and more opportunities to start conversations and influence perspectives.

Nobody knows everything, and most of the time, we don't know what we don't know. Taking an educational approach to your content writing can open up a world of possibilities when it comes to marketing your business online. When you're wondering what to write about, think creatively and consider writing something about "the other".

The possibilities are truly endless :)

P.S. If you're looking for a Haliburton Lodge where you'll experience great amenities and personable service from some great people, click the bold text :)

Looking Forward to 2016

Mark Kawabe - Friday, January 01, 2016

Welcome to 2016! Happy new year!

2015 was a great year and I am looking forward to continued growth.

To my valued clients and suppliers, please accept my heart-felt thanks. Without your support, my business would not be where it is today. I am grateful for your patronage and your loyalty and I look forward to serving you even better.

There's always something new in the online marketing world. The journey never ends. Thank you for joining me on it and for sharing your experience with me.

Wishing you a healthy, safe, happy and prosperous new year!


Does Your CMS Affect Your Site's SEO?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, July 09, 2015

There are many people who swear that WordPress is the best content management system (CMS) when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO).

I disagree. When it comes to SEO, the difference doesn't come from the CMS platform you choose. The difference comes from how you use the tools available.

There are many elements that factor into how a site shows up in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Some of those factors are within your control because they're things you can modify within your website. Things like having good page titles, solid content, good internal linking strategies etc. Those are under your control, so in theory, your CMS could make a difference.

Does WordPress do those things better than any other CMS? No. In fact, WordPress in its default setup (as of today's writing) doesn't even allow you to specifically define a page title and meta description for SEO purposes.

What WordPress offers is the potential to simplify your SEO efforts. Add a plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast or the All In One SEO Pack and you'll suddenly have more options available to you. These aren't native to WordPress. They have to be added in. If you assumed that WordPress was simply better for SEO right out of the box, you'd be disappointed in your results.

A SEO specialist can do SEO on any website. It doesn't matter if it's a static HTML website, a WordPress site, or a site done on any other CMS. I have a static HTML website that's been in the top 10 for a popular search term for over a decade. I have clients with sites built on Adobe's Business Catalyst CMS who have good results in the SERPs.

No CMS offers an inherent advantage over another when it comes to SEO. The difference comes from the human being who manages the site. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn't telling you the whole truth.

High Flying Spammers

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's been nearly a year since the full implementation of CASL. Canadian companies have had a long time to get used to the new rules, and while they seem simple to follow, apparently they're not.

Porter Airlines is the latest company to face a hefty fine under CASL for violations of the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation. $150,000 is not a small amount of money. What were their transgressions?

  • Sending emails with no unsubscribe mechanism.
  • Sending emails with obscure unsubscribe mechanisms.
  • Not providing complete contact information in their emails.
  • Taking longer than 10 days to process unsubscribe requests.
  • Not being able to prove consent had been granted for each electronic address they sent email to.

Compliance with CASL is relatively easy, but also challenging. Entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable to falling afoul of CASL because they will not necessarily be able to prove consent was granted for every email address on their list. When you meet someone at a networking function and exchange business cards, if you want to add them to your CASL-compliant mailing list you are supposed to have some form of consent on record. Asking for consent is allowed, but technically, the response needs to be recorded. Ouch.

It is my opinion that larger companies will continue to be nailed for CASL violations while small businesses and entrepreneurs will likely continue to operate under the CASL radar for the forseeable future. That being said, CASL is the law of the land, so ensuring you've done what you can to be compliant is in your best interest.

Photo Credit: Porter Airlines.Dash-8.YUL.2009" by abdallahh - originally posted to Flickr as YUL - Montréal-P-E-Trudeau. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It's not new, but it's worth repeating

Mark Kawabe - Friday, May 22, 2015

I recently came across a wonderful quote from Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

"If my books appear to a reader to be oversimplified, then you shouldn't read them: you're not the audience!"

He knows who he's writing for. He understands who his target audience is. Do you do the same with your product and marketing?

It's easy to assume everyone's your target audience when you have something everyone could conceivably use. The reality though is that no two people are alike. Targeting "everyone" means you're wasting your efforts.

Take something as mundane as window cleaner. Mostly everyone in North America has a home or a car with windows, so everyone needs YOUR window cleaning solution, right?

Not so fast. There are many kinds of people, such as:

  • women,
  • men,
  • those who don't care if their windows are dirty,
  • those who would prefer a more environmentally-friendly alternative,
  • those who buy the stuff in bulk (and yours isn't sold in bulk),
  • those who only buy "the best stuff",
  • those who only buy the cheapest stuff,
  • those who prefer pretty scents,
  • those who prefer just the basic blue liquid,
  • and so on.

Not understanding who your product or service appeals to causes cascading problems for marketing. From design to content to context, you're flying blind. When you know who your ideal customer is, you're miles ahead of your competition who don't.

I know you've heard it before, but it's worth repeating. Know your audience. Create useful and informative stuff for them, and do it better than your competition. You'll come out ahead in the long run.



Where are you putting your efforts?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, May 21, 2015

When you create good content, where should it go?

From my perspective, it should go on your website first. Once it's there, you can then work on marketing it further. This approach makes sense for many reasons.


Let's face it: you don't control Facebook. Google doesn't owe you anything. Putting your useful, pertinent, relevant content on your site is the easiest, surest way to build your online foundation. If Facebook shuts down your profile (either on purpose or by accident), your "satellite" content will take a hit, but your foundation will remain strong.


I'm sure you've heard that search engines value sites with good content. If you're putting your good content elsewhere, you're building someone else's website and not your own. Don't complain about your search engine positioning if you're not adding new, relevant content to your site.


I've said it before but it's worth saying again: For most people, the value of social media is to amplify what you already have. There are companies that get the majority of their business on Facebook. That's great - for them. If you're not in that situation, I suggest it is more important to craft a compelling website that showcases your knowledge and builds your credibility. Your website should be the single source of all great information about you and your business so when people come calling from wherever they hail from online, they'll get a complete picture of what your company's all about and not a pale reflection of your social media presence.

It's really that "simple". Post useful content on your site as part of your blog. Then market the heck out of that content so lots of people learn about you. When they come to your site, have it be a good mix of design and content and calls to action. Keep at it consistently to generate leads and make sales.

If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the topics I've discussed here, please feel free to contact me. I promise to answer all pertinent questions!