Big brands turn to small blog houses for big results

In January Seagate shocked me when they decided not to do a big booth at the Consumer Electronics Show, focusing more on small, intimate, experiences for bloggers and OEMs that they needed to meet with. It was a strategy that’s paid off this year and their stock has rebounded well.

Next month HP won’t have a booth at CES. Same reason. They know that the PR they need will come from visits with Engadget and other bloggers (we’re getting briefed this week on what their major news will be in a hotel room in San Francisco).

At many events now I’m seeing tons of blog houses and other social media suites and parties opening up. I’ll be at several of them next month at both CES and the Sundance Film Festival.

Why? Well, look at last week’s LeWeb.

Chris Heuer and his wife Kristy, run the Social Media Club. They wanted to find a way to save money on hotels in Paris. They found a house for rent, which cost something around 5,000 Euros, and they got several sponsors, largely PayPal, to pick up most of the costs for the house, which they branded “the Social Media Club House.” They invited me and I stayed free for several days (along with several other bloggers and journalists, some of which are pictured in the short video above). It was a real hoot!

PayPal booth at LeWeb

What did PayPal get? Mentions on our blogs and Twitter accounts, but a private dinner where they got to know us away from the hustle and bustle of their show floor exhibit (let’s be honest, how many minutes do we spend inside such booths? Not many, let me tell you).

So, it’s a win-win all the way around. They get to build relationships with bloggers and journalists for a low investment (far lower than building an expensive booth).

Are you seeing any other examples of this trend? Let me know of your social media houses that’ll happen at conferences next year here.

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2010: the year SEO isn’t important anymore?

The writing is on the wall. Small business marketing is moving away from focusing on SEO. Why do I say that? Because, well, Google and Bing are changing the rules so often and are getting so good at figuring out the real businesses that deserve to be on pages. Search Half Moon Bay Sushi and you get real answers from sites that didn’t focus on SEO. Yeah, there are exceptions, but they are increasingly getting rare.

With other searches, like one for Tiger Woods, you’ll get a page filled with stuff that SEO just doesn’t affect much anymore. In the middle of that page is a real time box that brings items from Twitter and Google News. It no longer is good enough to be just an SEO expert to get items onto pages like these. You’ve gotta be great at creating content that gets Google’s algorithms to trust it enough to shove it onto these new hybrid pages.

But there’s something deeper going on. Google has built systems that aren’t Page Rank controlled anymore and are giving far better analytics to small businesses than they did a year ago. They know a LOT more about your behavior now other than you clicked on a link, even to the extent that they know whether you called that business or bought something and THAT is changing the skills SEO/SEM types need to have.

No longer is it about optimizing search engine results and the new breed is going beyond just search engines to provide holistic systems that find and track customers not only on search engines like Google and Bing, but on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Yesterday I sat down with two of the guys behind a new company, coming in January, called “MyNextCustomer,” who already is working with about 50 small businesses and are getting much better results than more traditional “SEO/SEM only firms.”

Make no mistake, the two guys I sat down with, George Revutsky and Dustin Kittelson, who are co-founders of, which is a search marketing firm, have been doing search engine and online marketing for a long time (since 1996 in George’s case) and they share their insights in this 30-minute conversations about what’s happening to small business online marketing.

I came away from this conversations thinking that SEO is getting dramatically less important and that SEM should be renamed to “OM” for “Online Marketing” since small businesses need to take a much more holistic approach to marketing than just worrying about search results.

Are you seeing the same trends in your business?

iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5?

Lots of iPhone application developers are frustrated with the process to get new apps into your hands. It takes about three weeks lately for an app to get approved and into the iTunes store.

Lately I’ve noticed that some developers are avoiding building apps and, instead, are building custom web pages that are designed specifically for the iPhone. I’m not the only one, Marshall Kirkpatrick, over at ReadWriteWeb is seeing the same trend and yesterday featured several services that are building iPhone web experiences but not apps.

Examples you might be already using are Twitter’s mobile site, or Techmeme’s mobile site.

But yesterday another one came along from Nextstop, which is a cool new app for sharing cool things to do near you (great for travelers to check out) and they, too, decided on HTML5 instead of doing an iPhone app. So, I visited them in their San Francisco offices and learned why they made the choices they did, got a demo of the new mobile site they built using HTML5, and also talked about what their view of what’s happening in the larger mobile industry is.

Some reasons Nextstop likes HTML5:

1. Rapid iteration. If they code a new feature tonight, you get it tonight. No waiting three weeks for you to get their latest.
2. It prepares their systems for building a native app. Why? Because apps can include a Safari browser instance inside, so all of this work is reusable, even if they do a native app.
3. It’s easier to build and debug because you don’t need to do a lot of specialized coding to make the native app work properly.
4. It fits into the greater web easier for users. In an iPhone app it can be jarring to take users out to a web browser, but if they already are in the browser they are used to going to other pages and back again using Safari’s navigation.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about the latest thinking of iPhone app developers, this is a good video to watch.