Doing Business Right With Alan Bleiweiss

Alan Bleiweiss is an SEO professional in the San Diego area who specializes in auditing client websites in order to help them address issues that hamper their performance in organic search. He’s gotten so adept at his process that he generates a fairly significant income for himself and his part-time assistant.

The secret of his success is really no secret. He recently shared some insights from his journey in an article on his website. There are several great pieces of wisdom in there:

  • Do amazing work and provide value to your customers
    Alan’s process for relating to his customers is simple, yet very effective. He does great work, he takes care of his clients, he gives value beyond what was promised. Even when he has to fire a client, he works hard to refer them to someone else who can help.
  • Be generous
    Alan mentions that he shares a lot in online groups, forums and through speaking at conferences. I can personally attest to his generous sharing from interacting with him both online and off. Few are the people who would pack up their household and move in order to help a friend over the course of several months; but, Alan is the kind of person who would do it. I know many generous people, but precious few can even come close to the things this man does for individuals and the digital marketing community.
  • Be grateful
    Thankfulness is closely related to generosity. Alan often points out people he is grateful to in public forums. He has also put in a great deal of effort in sharing his gratitude with groups both large and small. He has gone through great pains to bring people together in the spirit of community and cooperation. That gratitude also spills into his client work.

By now, some of you may be thinking those “soft skills” don’t matter much in the realm of “real business.” I disagree. Beyond technical knowledge, beyond mere competence, beyond business savvy, the things that differentiate businesses are those soft skills. Success is more than just the bottom line, it also consists of those intangibles that bring more value to each interaction beyond just a transaction.

Alan will be sharing some of his audit knowledge at Pubcon Vegas 2017 in November. He will be sharing the stage with Bill Hartzer on Tuesday, November 7th at 10:10am. If you’re interesting in attending Pubcon, register today and use coupon code rc-3856015 to save 15% (good until October 20, 2017).

SEO Audits with Alan Bleiweiss and Bill Hartzer - Pubcon Vegas 2017

“Be Like Amazon – Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It” by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg

Cover shot of "Be Like Amazon - Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It" by Jeffrey and Bryan EisenburgIt’s not often that I get to interact with an author as they are planning a book. In the case of Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenburg, I got a small preview of the topic via a Facebook post by Jeffrey. I don’t remember the original post, but it was something along the lines of a question asking his friends there if they thought a book that boiled down the principles of how Amazon does business and how it applies to any other business would appeal to them. I responded, playing “Devil’s Advocate” wondering if that hadn’t already been done. Jeffrey’s response was that it was not.

I didn’t totally understand his response at the time, but after reading the book, I have to agree. It’s far more than just another “Amazon” book. It shares very simple, yet profound truths that are also shared in other works in a very entertaining and thoughtful way.

Some of the lessons shared could have come from Good to Great, others from Thou Shall Prosper, still others from various authors and speakers I’ve shared about in this space. What makes this book different is the way the lessons are presented and how quickly.

The book’s story line is about a young man starting out on a road trip with a wiser, older man. The young man laments that his business is not doing as well as he would like, which leads the older man to start sharing lessons about great businesses and the people who led them to greatness. It also shares how some of those businesses ceased being great when their leaders passed on and their successors did not adhere to the ideals that shaped the greatness that had been built.

The fundamental lesson in the work is the concept of the “4 Stone Pillars of Amazon:”

  • Customer Centricity
  • Continuous Optimization
  • Culture of Innovation
  • Corporate Agility

As the older man shares lessons, he refers back to these 4 Stone Pillars as a guide the younger man should use as his “North Star,” having everyone in his organization make all decisions based on one or more of the pillars. It’s really a great idea.

The best thing about this work is that it can be read in an afternoon. Yet, even in its short format, the lessons are clear and extremely valuable.

I highly recommend Be Like Amazon to anyone who seeks to make a business better, or to do better as a team member. It’s well worth the time.

A New Chapter

It’s been just a little over 4 years since I joined Rockfish and moved to Austin, Texas. To say that it’s been an adventure would be an understatement! During this time I’ve gotten to work with several great clients, refine my search optimization skills and bring them to a new level, and help start and lead a brand new online reputation management practice. I am very, very grateful to all the wonderful people at Rockfish with whom I’ve had the privilege to work over the past few years.

Rockfish LogoI realize that this sounds like I’m leaving Rockfish. In a way I am, but not really. I have accepted an opportunity to be assigned to our WPP sister company GTB. While I will still be a “Rockfisher,” I will be working with GTB in their Dearborn, Michigan, office as Director, Organic Search (SEO). This is another tremendous opportunity for me, not only professionally but personally, too.

GTB Logo

As many readers of The Crossing know, I am originally from the Detroit area. If you go look at my Google+ profile, you can see a picture of me standing on a mountainside in Germany wearing a WRIF t-shirt; WRIF being the radio station I listened to in my youth. Even though I’ve lived in Texas most of my life now, in my heart I’ve always been a Michigander. I still follow the Tigers, root for the Red Wings and cheer for Michigan and Michigan State. Having the opportunity to move back to my home town is fantastic.

So, as I pack up my home in Austin and get ready for this new chapter, I look forward to reconnecting with family and old friends, make new friends, and take on new challenges.

Onward!

I Was Hacked!

It happens to the best of us sometimes.

I have 5 sites that I manage or help manage that were compromised. It was actually quite a clever hack in that the sites all worked as normal when I browsed directly to them, but if I came in from a search result on Google or Bing, I was automatically redirected to a porn site. For those of you who came in and saw that mess, I do apologize.

I’m not sure exactly how they got in, but I suspect it was due to one or more of the following:

  • Old or outdated plugin that hadn’t been updated in a long time
  • Old or outdated theme that hadn’t been updated in a long time
  • Old test sites that were left running and WordPress hadn’t been updated in quite a long time

 

It’s a good thing I had a fairly recent backup because I ended up wiping the sites out and starting over.

Pay attention to your sites. Don’t let them sit totally unattended. Delete old test sites. And most of all, keep your software updated!

Now, it’s on to working on getting the site restored with a new theme and getting all the content back up and running.

20 Years In The Business

2016 marks a significant milestone in my career as a marketing technologist. It was 20 years ago, in the Spring of 1996, when I built my first website. From the time I strung together my first HTML up to now it has been a fascinating, interesting, fun (for the most part) and challenging career …

2016 marks a significant milestone in my career as a marketing technologist. It was 20 years ago, in the Spring of 1996, when I built my first website. From the time I strung together my first HTML up to now it has been a fascinating, interesting, fun (for the most part) and challenging career.

In 1996 I was a non-commissioned officer in the Army. I was coming up on a year left in my contract and had already made the decision to leave military service for a civilian career. The problem was, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was trained as a Czech linguist and an intelligence analyst. While that in itself was a great career it didn’t really translate directly to a job on the outside.

Flashback
Moving with a family while in the military in those days was a challenge. Most military communities didn’t have enough on-post housing available for the growing number of families. That made it necessary for many to seek homes off post. What would normally happen was that one member of the family would get to the new area, talk to their new coworkers and get a referral for an apartment community or a property management company. Then came the days- or weeks-long schlep around looking for a place to rent. It was very tedious and stressful.

One day, as I was helping a new arrival to our unit, the conversation turned to the challenge of finding a place to live when moving with a family. As Dave and I talked he said something that inspired me: “There must be some way for people to use this new Internet thing to help soldiers find a house before they move.”

Up to that point, I’d been trying to look for a business I could start from home with the idea of potentially building it large enough that I could transition from the Army to that business when I got to my discharge date. Nothing that I tried, though, had really gelled. What Dave said, though, got me thinking about putting together something that could provide an income as well as fill a real need.

I got on my brand new PC running Windows 95 (a brand new OS at that time) and started looking for rental referrals. I learned two things:

  1. There were rental referral companies out on the web. The largest of them were Apartments.com and Rent.net.
  2. The existing rental referral companies were mostly centered in larger metro areas and were very expensive to get into.

I realized that many military communities were not in or near major metropolitan areas, and, because of that, the rental managers likely didn’t have a budget to get onto the online rental referral programs running at that time.

In the meantime, I started taking apart websites (learning how to do “view source” in those first web browsers). With my very rudimentary command of BASIC, I figured out it was pretty easy to put websites together. I got a copy of “Teach Yourself HTML in 10 Days” and really got into the code. I learned to put together form actions with CGI and purchased my first domain. Thus, GeneralRent was born.

Screen shot of GeneralRent circa 1999

We started in Central Texas, signing up apartment communities and property management companies. If they didn’t already have a website (and most did not), we built one for them. Property managers would fax (and later email) their vacancies to us and we’d update their listings weekly. Those who were really forward-thinking would ask us to come pick up pictures of the places for us to scan and include with their listings. There were several occasions where I would go and take photos myself … for an extra fee, of course.

We joined the local apartment association and set up a booth at a Texas Apartment Association conference in order to attract more clients. We soon had listings in San Antonio and El Paso. Things were really coming together.

During that time I was also building websites for auto dealers and an art gallery. The art gallery owner didn’t even have email. I would get questions from customers via the online form on his site and call him during afternoons so he could dictate responses to me to type in and reply to them.

After about a year of tremendous growth, we hit a wall. The first sign of trouble was getting funding for expansion. We came to where we needed more equipment and operating capital. I didn’t know anything about getting investors or funding, so I went to the bank to see about getting an SBA loan.

The folks at the bank were nice, and they humored us. Online businesses were still so new, that they didn’t consider intellectual property and a business with few physical assets a good risk for a loan.

The other shoe fell when several of the larger rental referral sites merged. Their combined forces commoditized listing space, brought the prices way down and virtually eliminated the bar to entry for most rental companies. I had not yet mastered the programming and database skills to build a dynamic website that could scale enough to compete with them. After several months of losing clients I made the tough choice of getting a “real” job.

I ended up working as a temp worker at Wilsonart International working on a project to upgrade workstations from Windows 3.x to Windows 95. Thankfully, I’d had to rebuild computers at home enough that I had some great troubleshooting chops. That eventually led to a “regular” job doing tech support, and later to being promoted to Webmaster. I held that position for 12 years doing everything from application programming to database admin, to server admin, SEO, social media community management and more.

For nearly 4 years now I’ve been with the Search Team at Rockfish where I am fortunate enough to be able to work on SEO and Online Reputation Management projects for clients both large and very large.
Humble beginnings have led to a great career for me. I’m looking forward to another 20 years working in this amazing and dynamic field.