Good-Bye 2013 It’s been great

Posted: December 31, 2013 by Thos003 in Just for Fun
Tags: , , , , , , ,

While the idea of getting old lacks some luster, I must say each year accumulates more memories, more love, and more life. I love that despite life not being perfect that each year is a little better than the last. I look back and say, “Wow” and then look forward excited for more.

And despite one of my favorite Princess Bride movie lines, “LIFE IS PAIN, your highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something” I must say, Life is awesome.

But then again I am a Marketer.


Happy New Year!

This past week yelp changed a few things, they no longer filer reviews!

But before you get too excited, they now “Recommend” and “Highlight” reviews, while they  have other “reviews currently not recommended.” But.. You can NOW click through to this reviews that are not currently recommended,  without having to enter a captcha!

“Yahoooooo!… No Captcha!

Wait there’s more, the “NOT RECOMMENDED” reviews are now sorted from low to high stars… AND they have a new video!!!


Highlight reel from Yelp’s New Video


(hmmm…. EVERY review? But what about the businesses that trip a review filter that causes their reviews to pass a different standard…???)


Wow… Not sure where to go with this one since Nick B. in Austin is so obviously fake, yet he’s reviews only got filtered for a “Bridal Company”. Check out this thread to see how many Yelper’s agree that Nick’s review should be filtered >>> Austin Pest Control Reviews on Yelp

Yelp Testing Carousel Layout

Apparently I was one of the lucky 1% to see Yelp’s new layout. But I did find a way for you to see it yourself… CLICK HERE! 


The page is wider. The font is larger. The “Competitor Companies” on the right are pushed further down. The reviewer images are bigger. They encourage users to add photos, for better or worse. What I surely don’t like is that they have distorted the video image by taking a landscape layout and squished it into a square. It would be ideal if I could select the image to show in the video box… even worse is this:


They have also eliminated a few options, like bookmarking and linking to a review. They moved the compliments, messages, and follows to the left and only visible upon scrolling over them.


I give the new design a 3 star rating… nothing to be too excited about, but not too bad either. Still don’t like the review filter even if Yelp has changed the name to “Not Recommended”. And I am still not happy about the number of fake reviewers that Yelp knowing permits to remain on their system. Yes… KNOWINGLY permit. I’ve reached out to the uppers at yelp and they have assured me that this user and others like him are being looked into. But they have been aware of him since I first reported it over 2 months ago. Here is Luther with Yelp responding…

If anyone wants the details on the fake review network that yelp isn’t doing anything about, ping me. I’ve got a pretty little spreadsheet I can share with you.

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Google is constantly testing and refining their search. This also applies to their ad section. Google cares about conversion optimization. Click here to see previous changes to sponsored section. Despite their “Do no Evil” slogan, they are still in the game to make money. Here is the latest testing of their ad section.


Compared to current “Ad section”:


my first reaction…


What is that Big Yellow Tag doing there?

I am actually a bit skeptical on if this is going to help click through rates. It does grab one’s attention which could help CTR. The main advantage I see is that the shading has disappeared. I think most people have grown cold toward the shaded “sponsored” area and simply skip over it out of habit. I assume that Google isn’t going to do anything that will hurt revenues.  Only time will tell if this test goes live in all the searches and how much it helps Google’s bottom line. But you can take this away, “Always be testing. Always.”


Yes you’ve got SEO Skillz… Don’t let it go to your head.

Hey it’s Friday!… Just keeping it real.

First Day at Ranked Hard, SEO Comic

First Day at Ranked Hard, SEO Comic (Photo credit: ByronShell)

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Here is the best Hummingbird Joke I’ve got:

Why does a hummingbird Hum?

Why Does a Humming Bird Hum?

Answer: Because it doesn’t know the words! Dumb bird.

Hey it’ Google’s Birthday!!

The humming bird is set to make the search faster. Along with other updates google is 100% happy. And why not, it’s their birthday. So blow out the lights and make a wish.

Related Posts:

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Scorpions and spiders at the top of the list isn’t much of a shock but…

Cats are a pest?

Frankly I am a little surprised that “CAT” was ranked so high. Is there really that much of a love hate relationship with cats? So let’s poll the audience:

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A fellow Bulwark employee and I recently attended AZIMA‘s August dinner event: How To Build Social Communities For Your Brand. The night’s speakers was Kevin Spidel, a self described “recovering political hack” who has extensive experience building and growing online communities in the political realm before doing so for more mainstream clientele.

Though the entire presentation was excellent and worth reviewing if you can find a copy, here were the few takeaways that really stood out to me. (Not all the ensuing content was covered or discussed during the presentation, but has simply served as a foundation for the following thoughts.)

Online communities are not audiences. Like the minions, they need direction and support.

“Communities are not audiences”. This is an important starting point to remember. Communities simply don’t happen. They don’t just appear all of a sudden and coincidentally happen to be comprised of people with strikingly similar preferences, passions or habits. Communities form for a reason. If you’re wondering where a given community is in the consumer funnel, forget it! You’re thinking of a different funnel. So don’t think like that. For that reason, communities do not need to be spoken to. They do not need marketing in the raw sense. They are beyond that point. What it needs is direction and purpose.

“Once you have a brand ambassador, forget a digital strategy. You need a volunteer strategy.” As vendors, or as markers, we easily get wrapped up in numbers. “What’s the ROI from last month?” “How was last month compared to like-month from last year?” “This customer just bought our product. How can up-sale him on additional products or services?” These are all statements that stem from the line of thinking that dwells on numbers and upper-right trending charts. It’s too easy to only view a consumer as a potential repeat consumer. Measureable performance is one thing, but when it comes to an organic community in an online setting, that is simply not the case.

Singer Michael Buble let a fan accompany him on stage for an unstaged duet.

Once you have a self-appointed brand ambassador on your hands, the possibilities are limitless. So, stop figuring out a way to keep selling stuff to that individual and come up with with a plan to empower them as vocalists. Provide a way for them to vocalize and share their experience or opinion. Build them a soapbox that they can stand on and say it in their own words. Better yet, let them borrow your soapbox.

If you think about it, brand ambassadors will continuously and willingly purchase your brand, so don’t worry about that. Your strategy for those consumers should be to help them educate and proselytize within their circles – circles that you most likely don’t even know exist and to which you will certainly not have access.

And, the gem of the night: “Loyalty is lack of a better option”. HALLELUJAH!!!

We as marketers have a propensity to pat ourselves on the back at the thought of how loyal our customers have become. We often credit our elaborate campaigns and strategies as the reason our consumers like our product and service so much that they are unwilling to defect to a competitor, even at the temptation of a lower price or additional perks.


Maybe, just maybe, it’s because they don’t have a better option. Or, said different, consumer’s don’t know they have other options. Every company thinks they provide the best products within their industry. Every pizza parlor thinks and advertises theirs is the best in town. Every bike manufacturer sells the “best bikes in the world”. On top of that, each one of those companies’ marketing campaigns suggest they have successfully conveyed that idea and that is the reason they have as many customers as they do.

Now, let me tell you a different story. A friend of mine has been with his insurance agent for close to 15 years. All his insurance is through the same agent. Minus any catastrophic claims, they’ve been through thick and thin with each other. Their business relationship has even survived the possibility of changing to a competitor based on price….until recently. My friend was recently solicited regarding his policy and this unnamed competitor offered the same coverage, plus additional products at a noticeably lower price. Not just a few dollars, but a considerable sum. My friend even consulted with his long-time agent first, to see if he was able to compete with the new competitor. His agent still could not get within the same ballpark. Given that my friend was actively looking for ways to cut living costs, he has now agreed to terms with a brand new face and a brand new provider. Just like that!

An Ohio native, Lebron James was destined to play for Cleveland his entire career. Until Miami came along with a better offer. Even loyalty has as price.

At the end of the day, doing business with consumers or other businesses comes down to three things: price, results and tolerance. Are consumers comfortable paying the determined price to receive the expected return? Are the results in line with the consumer’s expectation, and within reason relative to the vendor’s price? Does the consumer harbor enough tolerance, mentally and financially, to accept the results (or lack thereof) relative to the price and expectation. When it’s said and done the consumer will ask themselves one thing: “Am I getting what I pay for?” Consumers will be loyal to those that get the job done. End. Of. Story.

Building and nurturing communities within your brand has an intrinsic way of bypassing all of that. Healthy communities are comprised of believers, and even their faith in the brand will be tested. That’s normal. As you continue to educate and monitor your fold, the likelihood grows that their trust and belief in your brand will stand the test of time.

Peek at Returning Review Stars to Google

Posted: July 18, 2013 by Thos003 in Uncategorized

Google announced earlier this year that the GOLD STARS for Local Search would be returning, now powered by Google Plus. Well here is a sneak peek:


(Thank you Mike of Carpet Cleaning Chico for sharing this image.)

This is in Beta right now and few users can see these. Further, the final roll out may look a little different. But overall, the Gold Stars are there in living color. And I like the added score in front of the stars to clarify the actual average. It’s a nice touch. But still, more importantly, the stars. The stars are coming back!

Gold Star History

It was one year ago that Google removed the review stars from the local search pack. They instead went with a Zagat rating. A red box number from 1 to 30. This number was virtually worthless to users. Most didn’t understand it. 5 simple gold stars was easy to see, to read, to understand. And the disappearance of those stars made a difference. A HUGE difference. Taking away those stars cost Bulwark Exterminating big money. July of 2012 was my first down month in 6 years. Oddly, all other vital signs to my website look the same. Same traffic, same time on site, same bounce rate. But sales were down. After fixing this problem with a little schema markup, and then becoming the only organic with stars we had record breaking months. In fact, September of 2012 was our best pest control month ever, which is notable considering September is the tail end of our busy season.

Are Gold Stars REALLY that Impactful?

Further evidence of the importance of the 5 gold stars is found in Adwords Express (formerly Google Boost) and PPC Seller Ratings. Both of these add stars to google’s paid ads. Neither of these were removed over the past year. Since the Adwords team is in the game to make money, I doubt that leaving those gold stars in PPC ads was an accident. In fact, I know several local companies that opted to use Adwords Express for the sole purpose of restoring the “Gold Review Stars”. The results of for those that went that route varied. The lack of control in Adwords express deterred me from going that route.  I’m not a fan of paying $10 a click for keywords I don’t get a say in. (You can find my full Pros and Pests to Adwords Express on Avalaunch’s blog) And Google doesn’t offer the review star ad extension for local businesses outside of adwords express. But others have reported that they like adwords express. So with all marketing, test it.

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Wow, Independace Day!

Posted: July 4, 2013 by Thos003 in Uncategorized

Happy Independence Day!! God bless America!

So it’s been awhile since I’ve written here. It’s the darn FREEDOM that has kept me from writing.

“FREEDOM you say?? Freedom keeps you from writing?”

I know it sounds a bit bizarre, rationally, if I were free then I’d have the time to write. I do like to write, but there are things that I value more than writing, and those things have consumed my time and so I am not FREE to write. Let me explain further, FREEDOM allows me to opportunity to write, but opportunity cost has taken that freedom to write by spending the precious commodity of time else where.

I heard a great musician once speak and say, “How many of you want to be master pianists?”

I raised my hand.

“You LIE.” he replied. “Wanting is doing. If you really wanted it then you would put in the time and energy to do it.”

He was right. I didn’t really want to be a master pianist.

Freedom makes great good and great evil possible.

I am grateful for the great nation we live in. I am so very happy with the freedoms I enjoy. But I must recognize that these freedoms also afford the opportunity for abuse of time. It allows great evils. Our Nation stands divided now often between those that defend good and those that promote evil. Our nation allows men with evil designs the freedom to choose evil. This balance is itself an opportunity cost. It must be that those who will use freedom to build great things, to advance humanity, to revolutionize the world, are permitted to do so unrestrained. And in loosening those reins, beings that will corrupt, tear down, and oppose the progress of mankind, are equally free to actuate their desires. Freedom is simply a conduit for men and women to reach their potentials for better or worse. A hammer is a tool. The use of the hammer to build or tear down is no fault of the hammer.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We are free to choose this day whom we will serve. Laws aside, the good or evil we do is a right given to each of us. Freedom has made America thrive. Perhaps freedom isn’t always efficient. But freedom is effective. American freedom has advanced the world. Railroads, gas, telephone, electricity, and TV, all American. Even to this wondrous internet that allows me to work for Bulwark and blog to you right now, is American. Freedom rings the American advancement bell. It despite the corruption that follows some of these advances, and despite any individual’s view of the damages that America has done to world, America has and will always better the world as a whole.

Pursue your life and liberty as you will. Ultimately despite the possible decay and corruption found in America today, good may still prevail. It is our unalienable right to help ourselves, our homes, our families, and our communities in that pursuit of Happiness. But when our help is not welcomed by others, leave it be. For each of us may only ultimately determine the happiness of one person. The pursuit of happiness is yours and yours alone. While you may not be the author of happiness, you can find it. Happiness is there. It does exist. The Truth is that your Freedom is your own, to spend as you will.


This is the pest control guy, wishing you a happy Fourth of July.

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Income Tax 100th Anniversary, Did you miss it?

Posted: April 23, 2013 by Thos003 in Uncategorized

Someone turned 100 a week ago, and somehow I don’t think you celebrated it.

“People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.” 

Vintage Pin, Repeal Income Tax

According to last year’s presidential election exit polls, most voters want lower taxes. For a government run by the voters, this does not seem to be going with the popular vote. Even Senator John Kerry runs from taxes by docking his 7 million dollar yacht outside of the state’s reach, saving himself near half a million.

How did this pass if so many people hate taxes?

Well when the income tax was introduced it would only tax 1% of the population. So the majority got together and said, “Let’s take money from that 1%”.

How has the income tax aged?

For starters, the original tax code was 400 pages long. At 100 years old, it has 73,954 pages. ….Who has read all of that?

Highest Income Tax rate in 1913, 7 percent. The 2013 tax rate high, 39.6 percent. But it has seen much worse.

Did you know that the Original income tax was repealed?

During war times, Lincoln instituted revenue taxes to help fund the war. 10 years later, in 1872, the tax was repealed based on the violation to the constitution. The 16th Amendment was added in 1913, the year our current income tax was born.

“Income taxes punish the very things we want more of: productive work, risk-taking and success. We can’t say this enough: A tax on income is the price you pay for working; a tax on profits, the price you pay for success; and a tax on capital gains, the price you pay for taking risks that work out.” – Steve Forbes

Denmark holds the highest income tax rate at 60%.

Perhaps that it make you feel a little better about your current tax rate to know that 18 other nations have a higher income tax than the US.

The average American contributes $5 for ever Billion that the Government spends. This, of course, varies by your income as the bulk of the money come from our graduated income tax. And yet we still are not paying enough to cover the Governments spending habits. Perhaps we are not too far off from meeting that Denmark high tax.

Over 90% will e-file taxes in 2013

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps one of the most innovative moves in recent years with regards to the income tax is e-filing. But don’t be too impressed with the government, as “The IRS has partnered with various private industry companies” to make e-filing a reality.

So are you wishing the income-tax a Happy 100th Birthday?

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