Monday, August 9, 2010

Google Webmaster Tools and Your Site. Do It Now!

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Infection by KayVee.INC, on Flickr"]Infection by KayVee.INC, on Flickr[/caption]A few days ago, the fine folks at Google sent me a note. It seems that they -- Google -- had detected malware on one of the websites I manage. Anyone visiting that site ran a risk of having their computer infected with malicious code. That's bad. Muy mal.

Luckily the fix was easy. Google even pointed me to the exact place where the problem was happening. Google. The giant company. They could have removed my site from their index. But they didn't. Instead, they contacted me. I fixed it. The warning went away. And all is right with the world.

I'm not special. I'm smart. I added my site -- as I do all of my sites -- to Google Webmaster Tools. Yeah, it's a crappy name that brings up memories of 1998 when there was as single person who "mastered" the website. Those days are long gone, but the name has stuck.

Google Webmaster tools gives you a ton of insight to how users are interacting with your site. And also how Google sees your site. It's specifically because I had added the site to Webmaster Tools that this notice was sent to me. If I had not, Google would not known who to notify about the problem. And eventually, my site would have been removed from Google's index. And once that happens, it's a royal pain in the ass to get it back in. Without being in Google's index, your site might as well not exist at all.

Have you signed up for Google Webmaster and added all of your sites? No? It's free and just takes a minute to get going. What are you waiting on?

Friday, August 6, 2010

When to charge for advice you give away for free

"When you ask me to consider your specific business challenges, the meter is running."1

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="160" caption="Please Pay Here 3-14-09 19 by stevendepolo, on Flickr"]Please Pay Here 3-14-09 19 by stevendepolo, on Flickr[/caption]Figuring that out was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not that I don't like to get paid, you understand. I'm a huge fan of making money. For me, the challenge was coming to grips with the fact that my opinion was worth something, sometimes.

I'm a problem solver by nature. I'm not talking about logic puzzles or those infernal Rubik's Cubes. But give me a business challenge to overcome, and my mind can't help but start turning it over and over. Eventually, a solution comes tumbling out. Most of the time, I'll spot challenges before others, even business owners. I was at a local eatery recently chatting with the owner, and innocently offered up a two solutions to help reinforce his brand and increase traffic to his location. His comment: "Do you ever stop thinking?"


Which brings me back to the aforementioned hardship: figuring out sometimes.

If you catch me at an event or a social engagement, free advice from me is there for the taking. That may sit strange with other consultants, but not with me. I'm there, and am quite capable of making sure one person doesn't monopolize my time and finding something else to do when someone whips out a business plan.

If you want to take me to breakfast, lunch or dinner; the situation is similar. Again, others who make their living delivering business strategies may squirm here. Even if you take me to a fancy restaurant, I'm likely not to eat and drink my way through $225 in an hour. But I eat fast, and complex business problems likely won't be solved over a meal.

For everything else, we need to work out a business relationship. That's hard for a lot of people to understand and perhaps even more to afford. Sorry. But the advice and counsel I give is valuable. And outside of the times mentioned above and perhaps a few others, my time is precious. Sometimes that time is spent in ways that enable me to earn my rate. Sometimes it's spent on things I want to do, learn about or see. I'm a huge fan of free, but in the absence of fee, I get to decide where my time is spent. Your worthy project has to compete with my worthy projects. Which do you think will win?

While I'm on the subject: I'm not really interested in taking equity in lieu of fees. Can it work? Yes. Have I done it before? Sure. Will I do it again? Probably. But the chance is pretty slim. I'd have to really love the idea. Not just like it. And just like with my time before, there are a lot of things I already love. I probably don't have room for one more unless I have to give up a current love.

And keep this in mind: skills and talent are important. But only marketable skills and talent are worth money.

1 - Those words of wisdom were uttered... or at least typed, by Jason Falls. He's a social media educator and strategist. And very smart. Start reading Social Media Explorer. You'll thank me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Coping when clients will not take your advice

"As anyone who consults to brands via an agency or consultancy can tell you, companies often hire experts... and then don't follow the experts' advice."1

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Don't Do That by jemsweb, on Flickr"]Don't Do That by jemsweb, on Flickr[/caption]If you're considering a career in... hell, just about anything; get used to the aforementioned fact. It will happen. And a heck of a lot more often than you expect.

It happens to editors when authors balk at their suggestions. It happens to designers when clients insist that they get rid of all that wasted space. It happens to brokers when clients want to hold onto a stock for sentimental reasons. It happens to waiters, plumbers, doctors, trainers... everyone. And it's not changing anytime soon.

So how do you cope? Start by accepting it. Develop a "I'd advise against that course of action for these reasons, but it's your money" script. It'll largely go unheard, so you'll want to find a way to fix it in something a bit more tangible than a conversation. Email is good.

And don't get cocky: You could be wrong. You're a fool if you think you understand your clients' business, intent, desires and goals better than they do. Granted, you may understand the landscape and environment better than they, but don't confuse the two.

And develop a thick skin. Sometimes you're being paid to be a comfort to someone. To make them feel like they've gone through the motions by asking your advice, then ignoring your advice. Don't take it personal. You were compensated for the delivery of the advice. That's enough of a reward. If they actually follow your advice, that's just icing on the cake.

But don't be complacent. Sometimes, wrong is just wrong. Wrong tends to be cloaked in statements like this: "I don't care how shitty it looks. If it gets the phone to ring, it works!" Your clients expect you to point out when their short-term goals may displace more important longer term goals, or when the measured outcome doesn't match with their prior stated objectives. If they are caught up in the moment, you must remain objective.

Finally, make sure you're in the right relationship with your client. You know if it's not working out. You know when it's past the point where neither of you are getting what you need. You know when it's time to walk away. Of course, knowing when it's time and actually acting on that is another thing all together.

So take my advice... please?

1 - Taken from a post by B.L. Ochman. She writes on a variety of really smart topics in the social and digital space. If you're not reading her, you should.