Monthly Archives: May 2010

Bots That Suck… Bandwidth, That Is!

So you’re supposed to get indexed in search engines and directories, to increase traffic to your site, right? Only not all search engines are “good” search engines, and some directories are also more enemy than friend.

Usually, if a search engine “spiders” your site, they follow some rules to make sure it does not harm your site. Spidering just means that the search bot crawls through your site looking for juicy bits of content, and then throws them into their index.

Robots have rules. When they come to your site, they are supposed to stop in and check with your robots.txt file, just to see if you have any instructions for them. And then they are supposed to OBEY the rules you give them.

But some bots don’t play nice. It is important to note that ALL major search engines SAY they respect the robots.txt file. But even those who say they do, often don’t. That includes Google, and some of the other biggies – they’ll MOSTLY follow it. But they sometimes disobey.

Bad bots don’t even look, or they look but don’t pay attention to what it says. Often, when you get a bot you don’t like on your site, the first suggestion is to block it in the robots.txt file. But that is often a waste of time, since the bot is not obligated to obey the rules in that file. To most bots, the robots.txt file is merely suggestions.

Some are so aggressive, the only option is to block them through an .htaccess file. Unlike a robots.txt file, a bot HAS to obey the .htaccess file. You can set it up so that the bot simply cannot access your site at all, and it has no choice in the matter.

So what does a bad bot do?

They can do several things that you probably don’t want on your site:

1. Suck bandwidth. This is common with badly written search bots. They just thrash your site, pulling up page after page, sometimes endlessly indexing, sometimes following all the links and then looking for things that are NOT linked. A bad bot can suck several gigs of bandwidth in a single session (this is an astronomical amount!).

2. Scrape content. Most bots do pull text to print in a summary in their search results. A bad one will scrape more than just sample text, and may reprint your content in unauthorized ways that constitute copyright violation. When images and text are scraped, this takes MUCH more bandwidth.

It is important to point out that bandwidth consumed by bad bots almost NEVER gives you any kind of return. Bad search bots pretty much DON’T send you site traffic.

Typically the first indication you’ll have is of escalating bandwidth usage which does not correlate with a proportional increase in traffic. In many hosting accounts, this is serious, because if your bandwidth exceeds a certain amount, your account may be suspended, or your host may charge you more. So bandwidth consumption with no return benefit is not a good thing.

Two bots that we have encountered recently are the Cuil bot, and the Twenga bot. Both absolutely TRAMPLE a site, and suck HUGE amounts of bandwidth, but send pretty much NO traffic to a site. The Cuil people are at least polite about posting the IPs that you can block. Twenga is not – and it has to be stopped using an .htaccess file. Neither one has a reputation for abiding by the robots.txt file either.

Both of these consumed the same amount of bandwidth that about 50,000 site visitors would consume. And Twenga seems to increase by the month.

We recommend that you do NOT submit a site to either of these engines, and that if you see escalating bandwidth usage on your site, do some checking to see whether you’ve been hit. Twenga may show up as an unknown bot with VERY high bandwidth usage. Cuil may show up with Admin URLs in your referrers – in other words, the referral URLs will be ones that PEOPLE could not have come from.

There are other bad search bots as well, which show up in similar ways. Usually, a search on Google for the bot by name will tell you pretty quick whether other people are having similar problems.

Nerdy Girl

Ok, so Kevin said we ought to make up alternate words for Terri Clark’s song “Dirty Girl”.

So we gave it a shot.

Nerdy Girl

Brain cells chewin’ on the error message
Throwin’ tech words everywhere
I’m beside you helpin’ with the guesses
Runnin’ my fingers through your hair

And you know, there’s nothin’ like it in the world
When we’re out there in front of the Dell and I’m a nerdy girl

I like it when we get cleaned up on Monday
Snuggling up with strings of code in Perl
Well when we’re coding and it’s just a fun day
You know, I love it when I get to be your nerdy girl
Nerdy girl

You’ll be workin’ on that brand new program
Smoke almost pourin’ out your ears
I’ll come sneakin’ up and whisper real low
“You’ve got a semi-colon missing here”

And you know, there’s nothin’ like it in the world
When we’re troubleshooting code and I’m a nerdy girl

I like it when we get cleaned up on Monday
Snuggling up with strings of code in Perl
Well when we’re coding and it’s just a fun day
You know, I love it when I get to be your nerdy girl

And you know, there’s nothin’ like it in the world
It might be php or trying out some Rails
But when you whisper geek and send me tech emails
I’ll be your nerdy girl

I like it when we get cleaned up on Monday
Snuggling up with strings of code in Perl
Well when we’re coding and it’s just a fun day
You know, I love it when I get to be your nerdy
Get to be your nerdy girl, nerdy girl
I get to be your nerdy girl

Explaining Quiet to a Shouter

The site was sold to another buyer. The buyer immediately started revising the content to make it “better”. They had purchased it from an expert, but felt there was more to do on it. There often is.

Page by page, the content was rewritten. Link by link, the backlinks were revised – some were deleted because they had been there specifically as a favor to the former owner. Navigation links on the site were also renamed. Part by part, the site was restructured, and pieces were now used in new ways.

A few months later, all search engines slowed the traffic they were sending. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that it was probably due to all those changes.

Are changes bad? No, not at all! But there are good changes, and bad changes. And Search Engines have things they like, and do not like, in websites, so if you make one or two changes that they do not like, they’ll probably forgive you. But if you change EVERYTHING and introduce things everywhere that they do not like, it is going to add up and hurt you.

Am I picking on anyone in particular that I’ve sold a site to? No. This is a common story, unfortunately. And you cannot teach someone ahead of time, because it all has to do with judgment. If I say, “keep the home page content shorter”, or “do not use too many keywords in a row”, or “don’t make your navigation links too long”, then they are going to use THEIR definition of “too much”. And it really varies from person to person.

I can even tell them “keep your nav links to no more than 3-4 words”, or “no more than 4-6 paragraphs on the home page”. But some people still won’t believe it really matters, or they will just gradually add a paragraph or word, then another, and then forget that it mattered when lightening doesn’t strike at once.

Sometimes it takes a while before the boom lowers. Partly because the search engines will not always react immediately, partly because the effect can be cumulative. You may get away with 9 edgy things, but be sunk on the 10th. And then it can take a while to isolate exactly where the problem is.

Normally when a site changes hands, if good changes are made, good things happen. If no changes are made, nothing else changes in reaction to that. Search engines could care less who owns it. Sometimes, more traffic temporarily occurs as a result of aggressive changes, but then reverses when too much is done, or when the search engines finally catch it.

But we’ve noticed that when a site is penalized, or when it drops in the ranks, that there is usually no single isolated reason. That can also make it hard to diagnose, because you have to weigh the factors and see if there are enough to warrant a lack of interest by search engines. Or it can be easy to diagnose it when you look at a site and there are borderline or over the line elements everywhere.

It isn’t always a penalty – often it is just that you’ve loaded in so much hype and drivel that someone else’s site gets to the point better, and rises above yours. Diagnosing that is a matter of judging overall quality. And if that has declined, it is probably why traffic has decreased. Often it isn’t that this element or that element is outright bad, it is just that EVERYTHING is borderline, so the quality of the site overall has significantly declined.

Some people believe that the best marketing strategy is to shout louder. That the person who will get heard the best, and paid the most attention to, is the one who hollers loudest. This isn’t at all true, either in marketing, or in life (just watch a kid tune out who is used to being hollered at, the minute someone raises their voice).

More isn’t always better. Most of the time, a quiet invitation, with good explanations will get more positive responses than aggressive ad copy. Something that is simple to understand, with options for more details will get more trust and buyers than miles of hype filled copy that appeals to greed but doesn’t explain necessary details.

Some people will understand this. Some simply never will. It is like the speed limit. Some people understand that a speed limit means something. They will always go no more than 65 in a 65 MPH zone. Others will push the limit, by a small margin, and swear they never speed. Many will go as fast as they think they can get away with, and then grumble when they get a ticket, say it wasn’t fair, then go out and speed some more. People are like that with marketing and SEO also.

I haven’t yet found a way to teach someone to recognize quality. I can teach them rules by the numbers, but if they don’t recognize quality, they won’t respect the rules. If they are naturally a shouter, then to them, being quiet may mean talking in a normal voice, instead of whispering.

And in marketing, quietly speaking the truth is VERY powerful.

Both Sides of Local Search

Local search is being used increasingly by people in larger metro areas, and as a result, search engines are now emphasizing it in search results. For many businesses, this is an opportunity. For others, it is not only NOT an advantage, it ends up being a problem. Local search doesn’t benefit all businesses.

If you have a local physical location that you want to draw people to, or if you want to attract people near where you are located, local search is helpful, and there are ways you can capitalize on the trend. You can work location keywords into your title and description tags (careful, no more than two per page), and you can put a single location list on each page in your site (put it in the same location on each page, near the bottom, no more than 10 locations, and make it people friendly). This can help bring you the people who are most likely to buy and trust you.

On the other hand, for many businesses, it isn’t helpful at all. This can be for a range of reasons, and our business is a good example. We market nationwide. There are a few towns near us that we market into, but there are limits to listings that mean it won’t help us at all.

Local search engines and local search results often have limits to them.

  • First, they ONLY allow you to put in your actual business location. So even if I am doing events in other cities, and need local advertising, it does not help me, because my business address is in Wyoming, and that is what they judge your location by. You cannot be located one place, and promoting into another.
  • Next, they only show results in a 50 mile radius. Well, we are in Medicine Bow, but we serve several Wyoming towns – Laramie is 60 miles away, Rawlins is 60 miles away, Saratoga is 60 miles away, Casper is 95 miles, and Cheyenne is 105 miles. No good at all!

And some locations may not have a high enough population to make it worth promoting local. An SEO pro once tried to do some optimization with one of our sites, and recommended using Wyoming in all of our key site tags. Apparently she did not do the research ahead, but made some erroneous assumptions. In any other state, that might work. In Wyoming it does not.

  • Wyoming has a population of only 800,000 and some odd. The WHOLE STATE! And the number of searches per day for Wyoming Web Design is pathetically small – not even into double digits, and that with inflated reporting methods! So Wyoming isn’t worth going after in the first place!
  • Other companies across the US also make the same erroneous assumption that the SEO pro did. They assume it is a state like any other and worth going after, so they optimize for it along with all the other states. That means you have thousands of companies wrangling over three interested people per day, and you can’t even RANK for Wyoming Web Design related terms. Bloated competition, and nearly non-existent market base. Bad combination.

So optimization for local search is a big strike out for us on all counts. It does provide a good example of not just one or two reasons for not using local search optimization, but just about EVERY reason not to use it though!

  • The thing is, there are a LOT of small, rural businesses with similar issues to what we have. No customer base at all within 50 miles of them, and a need to market out further.
  • There are a LOT of businesses with a national focus to whom local optimization is a waste of time.
  • There are a LOT of mobile businesses that do local presentations or local events, which need local marketing, but who cannot access it, and for whom the current setup is totally useless.

When optimizing a website, don’t overlook Local if it is an asset. But don’t think it is useful for every site either – putting local info in on a site that won’t benefit from it will actually HURT them, not help them.

Battling Dragons

Life was good. Her husband had a fine job, she worked a little from home, and her kids were well, and progressing through the normal milestones of childhood and school. She experienced the normal ups and downs of confidence associated with juggling a busy life. But it was good, and she felt fairly competent in her life, and sure of her ability to cope.

Then one day, she found a green dragon in her kitchen, blocking the way to the sink, where a load of dirty dishes awaited. She managed to get around it, after struggling with it for a bit, but it tormented and teased her as she worked. It dropped dishes, got in the way, and generally slowed her work. The next day, it was still there. And the next, and the next.

Several days later, a purple dragon appeared in the livingroom. It took up residence in the middle of the room, and harassed her as she vacuumed, and folded laundry.

Soon, an orange dragon appeared in the diningroom, and a blue one in front of the kitchen stove. A red one appeared in the bathroom, where it made taking a shower very difficult. A yellow dragon parked itself in her car, requiring a struggle to drive anywhere. And then a black dragon appeared at the foot of the bed, to challenge her each morning as it came time to rise.

No one else seemed to see the dragons. They were hers, alone, to battle, and they were everywhere. They got in the way when she helped her kids with schoolwork, when she tried to get out of the house to volunteer. They made everything she did very hard, and often made it impossible to complete the tasks she set out to accomplish.

At first, the dragons were a challenge, and she kept on going. She faced each with a determination to NOT let them conquer her, and to get things done in spite of them. But as they appeared, day after day, and as new dragons joined the old dragons, she found she just could not fight all of them, all the time – there simply was not enough of her to do it all. Sometimes the dragon at the stove was so troublesome that she just asked the kids or her husband to make sandwiches instead of cooking dinner for them. She often left the laundry in the basket beside the couch, because it was simply too difficult to complete the task. The floor went un-vacuumed, and the broom stayed under guard by a pink dragon in the hall closet. Some days, it seemed that the battle to just get out of bed was all she could handle – everywhere she moved, a dragon was in the way, and nothing else seemed to get done.

At night, she would go to bed, reviewing the day, feeling like a failure, because nothing had been done that seemed to matter. She had spent the day battling dragons, and had not accomplished any of her appointed responsibilities.

One day, a friend came to visit. She looked at the floor, and at the laundry, and at the dishes in the kitchen, and at the bread and peanut butter on the diningroom table where the kids had left it after eating lunch.

“How are you… Really?” she asked, looking at the weary woman’s face.

“Oh… ok.” she sighed. “I just wish there were more hours in the day.”

“You look tired.”

“I feel like I am not getting anything done that I should be doing!” once she started, it was hard to stop.  “My house is a mess, my kids are fixing their own meals most of the time, and it is hard to just get out of bed! And I just can’t get anything done, I just feel so incompetent! I’m not DOING anything!”

“Yes, you are doing something. You’re battling dragons.” the friend said.

She looked startled. “Can you see them too?”

“No, but I’ve had my own battles with dragons, so I know what they do. And I know what someone looks like when they are fighting them.” the friend replied.

“I thought I was the only one. I thought I was going crazy, or that I had done something bad to deserve them!” the woman said.

“Oh, most people have dragons at some point. And most women beat themselves up when those dragons get in the way and they can’t do everything they think they should.” her friend said gently, “There are some people who haven’t battled dragons yet, who will make you feel guilty, but many people have been where you are, and they really do understand.

“Dragons come in a lot of forms, and pretty much everybody fights them at some point or another. You know Julie?” the friend asked. The woman nodded in response, as her friend went on, “Her daughter has a heart condition. She has battled dragons from the day her daughter was diagnosed. And Tracy?” again the woman nodded, “Her mother moved in with her, and cannot feed or dress herself anymore. A lot of dragons came with that one. Kendra has Lupus, and fights some of the biggest dragons I’ve ever heard of. Angela has a mental illness, which stays fairly well controlled, but comes with an assortment of particularly nasty dragons. Nancy’s husband is out of work – so she and her husband both have dragons to fight. Elaine’s son has a rare chromosomal disorder, so their whole family fights dragons because of it.”

“I didn’t realize!” the woman exclaimed. “I got so busy worrying about my dragons that I didn’t even see that other people might have similar challenges.”

“Oh yes.” her friend replied, “It is hard to see when you are fighting dragons, that other people are probably doing the same. But it is also hard to give yourself credit for fighting them. You feel tired every day, and you feel like you didn’t get anything done. But you DID. You fought dragons all day, and you STILL got up, took a shower, and made sure your kids were dressed and fed and safe.”

“But I didn’t cook anything, and I didn’t get much cleaning done.” she protested.

“If you are going to survive with dragons, you have to give yourself credit for what you DID do. You are surviving. That is a great thing, and takes a lot of energy when there are dragons that try to stop everything you do. You are surviving and still making a difference in the world – you may be sure that God certainly gives us credit for our accomplishments, even when it seems to only be battling dragons.” her friend assured her. “The dragons usually go away after a while. Some people have to live with them longer than others, but for most people, they will eventually go away. They may come back later in a different way though. When there are dragons, we get by, and do what we can. We get up each morning, and pick the most important thing to do. We try as hard as we can to do that thing. Sometimes it takes all day, or it is all we have the energy for. Sometimes we can’t even get that one thing done. But we keep trying. That is what makes a person a great survivor. NOBODY sails through challenges in life while doing everything they used to do. You just can’t do that and cope too!”

“I suppose you are right.” she admitted.

“When you can’t get things done, you are not doing nothing.” her friend said firmly. “You are battling dragons. And you are winning.”

Credit or Blame

If a client makes money this week from their website, I get a thank you, and raving compliments. If a client site slumps and doesn’t earn, I take the blame for providing them with a lousy website. That is the drawback of being a web professional – good, or bad, we get the credit or blame.

Problem with that is that we can only influence some things. A client just re-hired us to rework some on-page copy, and some title and description tags. Two years ago, she came to me with a site that had just tanked in Google. We went through and recommended some very simple changes. Two weeks later, she was at the top of Google again, where she stayed. I can’t really say that what we did even had any effect. It is possible that Google would have put her back anyway. But we got the credit, and more work because of it.

Early on in the web game, I realized that we could not just build a site and walk away. That if we did not continue to do some hand holding and to be there to help with traffic issues, not just design and technical issues, that we’d lose clients long term. So we started to figure out how to offer that stuff long term. Our client sites work much better when they know they can come to us for stats analysis and marketing suggestions any time. And we might as well throw in some simple stuff with our maintenance fee, because the fact is, if we don’t, we get the blame when the site fails to earn, and we lose clients in droves, and have a harder time getting more, as opposed to when they WORK, and clients recommend new clients.

So I realize there are some things that I SHOULD take the blame for, and many things I can influence.

I do find it amusing though, when things just happen, over which I did not actually have control, and I get the compliments or complaints.

Marketing to a Narrow Niche

Niche marketing has really buzz over the last few years, with many marketers claiming that it is a more effective way of marketing. Niche marketing means you select a facet of a market, and serve that market only. I agree that it is something that can be effective for very small businesses, but it also has limits that need to be understood if you really want to make money at it.

For the most part, niching is something that happens naturally. Oh, a few people have to consciously think about it to do it, but most only have to think about it to figure out the niche they already occupy. Most niches are what they are – you can’t easily broaden or narrow them. A product or service works for the people it works for. Good niching just identifies that accurately and then maximizes the potentials.

Very narrow niches are difficult to market for. And often, you can’t broaden the niche just because you’d like to. If it doesn’t exist, you can’t create it. Let me explain through an example:

  • We sell a piece of software for Webmasters. Ok, BIG target market, right? Well, maybe .1% of the population could conceivably be classed as a Webmaster, or Web Designer. With a world population rounded to 7,000,000,000, we have a nice fat number to start with. .1% = 7,000,000
  • The most likely people to want this are self-employed Webmasters, or very small web companies. So chop that number by 80%. That gives us 1,400,000.
  • Our software is ONLY for Webmasters who also sell hosting. We just chopped another 90% off of our market base. This leaves 140,000.
  • It is also ONLY for those who use Cpanel hosting. So we just whacked another 60% off the previous total for a remaining number of 56,000.
  • And, it is only for those who use a specific billing manager – WHMCS. We just reduced the last total to about 10% of what it was, leaving 5600 people.
  • Of that total, only a fraction – perhaps 20%, will be in a position to WANT the software we have – they will want the automation feature we provide. 1120 brave souls.
  • Probably 30% of those people will think to look for it, about 1/3 will try to code their own, and another third will want it but think it does not exist so they won’t look. 336 people left.
  • Of those, about 1/3 will actually be prepared to PAY for a solution. Most want one free (it doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t keep them from stubbornly claiming that they should not have to pay for it). That leaves about 111 if we round off.

So at any given time, we may have about 111 people worldwide who are ready and willing to buy the thing we have, IF we can reach them and let them know that we have it. Finding 111 people in a world of 7 billion people is a difficult thing to do! The amazing thing is that we do actually make sales with this software.

But the niche is very tight. Even if we promote where they are likely to hang out, we still have a low chance of locating them, because they are always just a small portion of the people there. It makes marketing it difficult.

So why do we do it? Because we need the software, so we have to develop and maintain it anyway. We might as well sell it to those few people who do need it.

Can we broaden the niche? Perhaps. We could code a version for Plesk. This might increase our market base by 30-50%. Is it worth it? Recoding the app for a second version would cost us several thousands of dollars, and might give us only 1-2 sales per month (at around $300 per sale). We’d have additional ongoing development and maintenance costs as well, which might in themselves offset the profits. We don’t NEED a Plesk version, we don’t use Plesk, so our motive for doing it anyway is gone.

Niching is a good way to differentiate a business, but it is important in doing so that you make sure there is enough of a target market to actually promote to and earn from. Otherwise it can be very difficult to profit from your niche.

Finding Yourself and Your Customers in Your Marketing

I have long told my clients, “You are your biggest asset in your business, and in marketing.” I believe that the strengths of an individual point naturally to marketing methods and messages. When you maximize those, marketing is both easier and more effective. When you work against them, things become hard, and less successful.

A client of ours recently married. Her new last name was one that she felt uncomfortable in – she did not care for it, felt it was not necessarily a good image for her business. She had pondered and reached deep into herself to come up with a business name and imagery. She felt that what she had suited that vision.

She hired a marketing coach to help her to generate some clients. The first thing he told her is that she needed to rename her business, to her last name. He felt it was unusual enough to be memorable and that she should capitalize on it. He also told her to revise her business images, and totally rebuild it. She came back to me and asked me my opinion.

I disagreed with the marketing pro. It had nothing to do with his expertise, but with HER. He may have known how to get clients for himself, but he did not know her, and he did not seem to want to. I reminded her that she disliked her last name, but she loved her business name and felt it reflected a part of herself. That her business name was what she felt inspired to call it. I did not feel that she would be able to confidently go out there and promote her business if it was gutted of the very vision she had felt so strongly that she needed to promote. Her business name and imagery was wrapped up in who she is, and in the purpose of what she does. I felt if she removed those things, that she would be decapitating her business vision, and would remove her own ability to even do it any more. I also felt that in the event that it did work, it might bring clients to her that were not the ones she wanted to be working with.

My gut feeling about the marketing pro was that he was uncomfortable with who she was. That he wanted to remake her into a clone of himself, because that was the only success path he could envision. He did not understand that there are many ways to market, and many ways to succeed, and he simply could not get far enough outside himself to see who she really was, or to perceive any part of her as a strength, nor to be able to counsel her on how to USE her inborn strengths. He said that her site was wrong for the entire market she was aiming for – but the market was very diverse, and the messages were only wrong for the segment HE preferred. It was less a matter of it being wrong for the market than it was of his lack of ability to even SEE that portion of the market. She did not want the same customers he did, and he could see no value in any other.

I feel that when we create a business vision that is part of who we are, that it will naturally attract people whom we will be able to help, whereas when we use marketing methods that are not in line with our beliefs and personality, we are likely to end up with customers or clients that are a poor fit, even if we do manage to get any. Being who we are and stretching within that, is the best tool we have.

It doesn’t mean we don’t have to learn marketing skills. We do. But we learn skills and methods that are in harmony with our personality. When we stretch, we don’t go outside who we are, we simply extend our strengths. Over time, we become a new person, but it is a magnification of the best in us, not being rebuilt in someone else’s image.

You do have to step outside your comfort zone. But you still do it by being yourself. You don’t do it by trying to be someone else. The Lord has blessed us each with strengths, and expects us to use them. In order to use them successfully in business, you have to identify them, and then magnify them in ways that help you in reaching your goals. When you look at your business vision, and your marketing plans, make sure they are things you feel good about. If they make you feel a bit slimy, they are NOT right for you!

When getting help with marketing, the first thing any marketing coach, or consultant should do, is get to know you, and to get to know your business vision. If they don’t seem to be “getting” that, then they are not going to be able to help you market successfully, because they won’t know who you are trying to reach, and they won’t understand what really differentiates your business, because 90% of the uniqueness of your business IS you, and your unique way of doing what you do. Good marketing assistance is personal, and personalized. It isn’t a “system”, and it isn’t about making you into them. It is about drawing out what is best in you, and using that as your marketing strength.

Check out our new Cottage Industry Consulting and Development services at for personalized help in learning more effective marketing skills for YOUR business.

Deception In the Numbers

I have a thing about deceptive advertising, and deceptive promotional practices. Lately the news media has taken up the drum for various causes, and is using age old deceptive practices in the reporting of the news.

The latest one is in jobless numbers. “Jobless claims fall for fourth straight week”, the headline said.

Makes it sound like fewer people are claiming unemployment benefits, right? Wrong.

Turns out this is only the number of NEW claims that has declined by a very small amount (about 1/1000 of 1%). This means that the RATE OF INCREASE has slowed some. That is all.

Then they reported the numbers of continuing claims – and stated that the difference between this time this year, and this time last year, is good news. Down 2 million! Of course, there is no mention of the fact that in the last month or two, claims have simply run out for millions of unemployed Americans. Further, the number does NOT include people who have moved from initial benefits to extended benefits – so it isn’t even a true number on total people receiving unemployment benefits! They don’t release those numbers. They only track the initial claims, and the initial continuing claims!

So, with partial numbers, they are crowing that jobs are returning. There is no differentiation between people who got jobs, and people who moved either into extended benefits, or simply dropped out of the unemployment benefit pool altogether, but who still do not have jobs. And overall jobless rates have always been inaccurate anyway, because the only people who are counted are those who are registered with state employment agencies as actively seeking work – if a person has given up, and is not reporting weekly, they simply are not counted. Further, temporary JOBS are counted, but temporary unemployment is NOT.

Census jobs are skewing the numbers also. They have nothing to do with the economy, they occur every ten years on a planned schedule. They are very temporary jobs, and will have no lasting effect, and do not in any way reflect any positive economic change.

It would be like measuring sugar consumption in the US by measuring the number of bags of sugar sold at the grocery store. We could say that if the sale of bagged sugar fell in the retail markets, that sugar consumption is down, while ignoring sales of all other packaging of sugar, and ignoring increases in the sale of soda, cookies, candy, etc. It is disingenuous, and deceptive.

I get the feeling that the media is trying to tell us that things are better so that we’ll believe what they say, regardless of what is really happening. The amount of deception over the economy is appalling, and is happening across the board, with numbers being falsely labeled. Somehow, the media thinks that if they tell the American people often enough that things are fine, that we’ll believe it, even when our neighbors are still struggling and losing jobs, and even though our own jobs are in peril, and our businesses are facing unprecedented challenges.

I’m not a “doom and gloom” kind of person. But right now, we have to be realistic about what is happening. You cannot stay prepared and make sensible decisions when the information on which you need to base some of those decisions is false.

There are people who need the help of kind neighbors, and by being prepared, we can be givers, and not takers. Deceptive reporting is not helping anyone to achieve that goal.

Just Because It Works for Fast Food…

When you order Fast Food, you are presented with a vast array of choices, for every palette, and every appetite size. Get 20 different things, get them alone, get them with other things, get them big or small. When someone is presented with this every day, they may feel that this is just the way to do business, and that their own product or service must give everyone every conceivable choice for delivery of that product. They want their websites to always have more, and more, and more!

I think there are several reasons why the large menu of choices and groupings works for Fast Food.

Partly because they are selling to groups as often as they are selling to individuals. Individuals want quick and simple choices. They want what they like. Groups want something for everybody – which is what Fast Food has to market to. If a business sells to individuals, or single items aimed at a single decision process, many choices may not be superior to just a few well defined choices. But for stores that sell an assortment of items to groups like families, where someone needs to purchase multiple items for several different people at a time, there is a benefit from more choices.

Food is also associated with moods. So are many other industries – jewelry, clothing, entertainment, and others. A lot of choices is key, because people want what they are in the mood for, and moods are very changeable. Food is a consumable which is purchased over and over, and that purchase choice may need to change with every purchase. Jewelry and clothing are also purchased for transient use, even though articles are worn more than once, people want to own more than one, so choices are important. Conversely, if someone is purchasing a long term item that they only buy once a year or less, mood is less important. Many choices is less of a factor than making the RIGHT choice, and understanding the choice they make.

If the target market understands your offering – food is simple to explain – then many choices are less confusing than if your target market doesn’t really get how the products are different. That happens with a lot of markets where you have to educate the client as they make a choice – more choices can result in confusion if the product or service is one that people generally feel is confusing to start with. And no matter how you simplify it, there are industries where people ARRIVE with a feeling of confusion before you even get a chance to greet them! 🙂

I sell websites. More choices only confused my clients. They wanted two levels of service that were easy to understand, and a few different combinations of functions to choose from with examples of how they might be used. More than that, and they got overwhelmed.

To apply this to websites, keep choices simple for many types of industries. Offer many choices for other types. But before you go and copy the Fast Food Menu Model, make sure your business has similar needs. Otherwise you’ll work against the natural behaviors and responses of your target market.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.