John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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October 31st, 2006 by john andrews

Penis Enlargement, Halloween Costumes, Viagra, Pet Collars… and UNICEF.org?

That’s the currnet blog spam roundup. The typical phentermine spam, casino/poker spam, viagra spam, and Halloween costume spam, plus lots of “Nice Site” spam, one comment spam from an SEO firm in Colorado, and of course Jill got caught by Akismet (again). But this time I see a blog comment spam from UNICEF.org. Is UNICEF really blog spamming their message these days? I hope not. That’s one quick way to tarnish a brand, no?

John Atkins | contact@unicef.org | http://the real unicef site/ | IP: 71.141.0.74

Whether tragic events touch your family personally or are brought into your home via newspapers and television, you can help children cope with the anxiety that violence, death, and disasters can cause.

Listening and talking to children about their concerns can reassure them that they will be safe. Start by encouraging them to discuss how they have been affected by what is happening around them. Even young children may have specific questions about tragedies. Children react to stress at their own developmental level.

The Caring for Every Child’s Mental Health Campaign offers these pointers for parents and other caregivers:

* Encourage children to ask questions. Listen to what they say. Provide comfort and assurance that address their specific fears. It’s okay to admit you can’t answer all of their questions.
* Talk on their level. Communicate with your children in a way they can understand. Don’t get too technical or complicated.
* Find out what frightens them. Encourage your children to talk about fears they may have. They may worry that someone will harm them at school or that someone will try to hurt you.
* Focus on the positive. Reinforce the fact that most people are kind and caring. Remind your child of the heroic actions taken by ordinary people to help victims of tragedy.
* Pay attention. Your children’s play and drawings may give you a glimpse into their questions or concerns. Ask them to tell you what is going on in the game or the picture. It’s an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions, answer questions, and give reassurance.
* Develop a plan. Establish a family emergency plan for the future, such as a meeting place where everyone should gather if something unexpected happens in your family or neighborhood. It can help you and your children feel safer.

If you are concerned about your child’s reaction to stress or trauma, call your physician or a community mental health center.

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October 29th, 2006 by john andrews

Content is King

Content is King. As little content as possible, is King. Content is King.

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October 27th, 2006 by john andrews

Branding: More Expensive than Ever!

I just flew Frontier Airlines. I hit the highway from Denver at 6am for my 8:30am flight, only to encounter snow plows and traffic jams in white-out conditions. The cell still worked, so I called Frontier Airlines to check on flight status. No delays. Darn. It didn’t make sense to me, but a second call an hour later was the same: no delays. I arrived at the full parking garage at 8:13 am, parked in the snow on the roof, and joined the very long line at check in. Of course I couldn’t use the self check in, because I had missed my flight and needed to re-book. Or did I?

The flight was delayed almost 2 hours. It didn’t leave until after 10am. But I didn’t know that until I discovered it later while waiting for my 2pm flight. It seems Frontier Airlines maintains it’s original check in time even if the flight is delayed. When I checked in, the clerk could have easily sent me to my flight but instead told me I had no option but standby for the 12:50 flight. I state it again: no option but standby.

I later learned that standby is a dynamic process as well. You can’t get a seat assignment until 30 minutes before departure, and prior to that Frontier Airlines can sell the available seats, or give them away to “partner airlines” such as United Airlines, essentially bumping you to the next flight. If that happens you’re on standby again. Frontier Airlines also gives you a chance to buy a standby seat assignment for a $25 fee, but the 200-person-long customer service line is the means to that security. I wonder why the clerk didn’t tell me that when I was re-booked..? I was a Frontier Airlines customer arriving late due to traffic conditions on a blizzard morning when even my own flight was delayed almost 2 hours, but I was treated like an “extra” that “might” be accommodated after everyone else including United Airlines customers.

Anyway when my 12:50 flight was also delayed, I saw plenty of airlines were flying on time and I wanted to buy a new ticket from someone who would actually fly me to Seattle. I pressed the Frontier Airlines clerk to learn all of these details, and she gave me a seat assignment instead of standby (without any fee). My flight eventually left at 2 something. Just prior to departure, I watched as the previously available standby seats were consumed by a combination of factors, including a group of fly-through passengers arriving on my plane but staying to fly through to Seattle with the rest of us. Oops. Another 5 or so seats trimmed from the standby list to accommodate them. I suppose it worked out because there was at least 1 empty seat on the flight (next to me… last row in the back, middle seat, no reclining, back against the lavatory sink wall).

I will never fly Frontier Airlines again. I don’t recommend Frontier Airlines. Fronteir Airlines, as a brand, is tarnished. United Airlines is looking better than Fronteir Airlines, if only for the fact that even Frontier Airlines treats United Airlines customers better than they treat Frontier Airlines customers. Go figure.

As I watched the Direct-TV during the flight, there was a show about Big Luxury Brands. It was all about Gucci and Dolce-Gabanna and other big, expensive brands that sell products at exorbitant prices and suffer world-wide counterfeiting. The producers collected some good counterfeit products, and interviewed people on the street, challenging them to tell a real item from a fake item. Louis Vuitton bags, Tiffany bracelets, Coach wallets. Every clip showed the consumer choosing the fake item as the “real one”. In a classically disappointing segment finale, the commentator added “why are the big branded items so expensive? Because of quality assurance and for your safety”. That’s not a quote, but it’s close.

So Gucci sunglasses cost $400 because they are better quality and safer than $10 sunglasses? I’m not sure I follow that logic, but the point is that big brands have a TON of work to do maintaining those very very high prices (and profits). Is it worth it? As long as it works.

Brand maintenance is a silent partner in the Big Luxury Brand business. It takes a percentage. A percentage of the profits goes to building and maintaining the brand. Better brand = bigger profits. The limiter is consumer acceptance. And that, of course, can be bought via advertising and marketing, up to an upper limit of sales volume — you need to have enough millionaires to buy your $10,000 jeans, right?

I think there can’t be a partial commitment to branding. For the Super Premium brands, branding is almost an all-or-nothing endeavor. The more you spend making and protecting that brand, the more you can charge. The Chinese manufacture sunglasses just-like-the-Gucci-ones for a dollar or so each, in quantity. Gucci sells theirs for upwards of $200. Consumers apparently can’t tell the difference, even when challenged to do so with careful inspection. So you buy a few dozen pair (for $24 total) and hand pick the highest quality one as your “Quality Assurance”. No doubt Gucci spends a considerable portion of their profits keeping those Chinese copies out of circulation.

So how do you protect your brand? Frontier Airlines had quite a mess on their hands in Denver Thursday morning. They had to de-ice the planes, wait for the airport maintenance crews to clear snow, and accommodate thousands(?) of inconvenienced travelers. I gave them a solid 8 hours of “branding opportunity” as a captive audience, watching Mother Nature make a mess of the travel process. Frontier Airlines did an excellent job of destroying their brand in my eyes. How much opportunity do you have to project your brand on line? Do you take advantage of every opportunity?

Frontier Airlines chooses to accommodate United Airlines passengers over Frontier Airline’s own standby passengers. Was that a cost decision? What percentage of profits does Frontier Airlines dedicate to preserving their brand? Tarnishing their brand? They should have admitted to the delays they were experiencing, at the very least. Then perhaps I could still trust them. What about you? Do the post-purchase emails sent by your shopping cart engender trust, or create concern and second doubts? (Dear , thank you for your oder…).

When I search for your brand, do I find a positive branding message at the top of Google, or a page about some Internet geek all pissed off about how he was treated by customer service during a snow storm in Denver? Not sure? Check for yourself. You may decide it’s high time to put a wee bit more of those profits into brand protection by hiring an SEO consultant.

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