In case you missed our first newsletter this year, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of International Internet Advertising Services Inc., we’re doing a series on our history and the technological advancements that have impacted our world.

The first few years of the new millennium were a crazy time. While the bursting of the bubble actually gave the company a boost, it would be the aftermath of 9/11 that would eventually take a significant toll. Google and GoDaddy had started their ascent to world domination.

So… the company was going strong and there were quite a few team members that we need to acknowledge for their contribution to that status. Bob Bayer has been one of James’ best friends since kindergarten, and James thought he’d be a great addition to the team. True dat. Bob was a perfectionist with skills. Mike says he could look at a website and tell you if one pixel was out of place. Bob not only made the team better, he helped Mike structure the file server and standardize work flow. In fact, the only downside of Bob’s presence was that his name was forever stuck in Mike’s head. He regularly called other team members Bob, and many years later, still does on occasion.

Then there was Paul the first. Paul was a “mad scientist” of imagery and animation. He created hundreds of amazing website designs and was a wizard with 3D animation. His preoccupation with work projects though, sometimes took his mind off other important matters. He arrived at work one day carrying a bag of garbage. Mike was mystified and asked him why he brought a bag of garbage to work. Paul was confused. He looked at the bag and was clearly shocked. His response to Mike: “Oh, no! I threw my lunch in the dumpster.”

There were others back then who have since move on. Nancy was a designer hired right out of high school and is now doing QA work in Australia. Serguei is in the United States working on stuff he can’t tell us about, not that we’d understand it anyway. Serguei is likely the smartest person who’s ever been on the team. He is a math wizard who has the ability to visualize complex databases. He wrote a book on artificial intelligence before the rest of us even knew what it was. (Thankfully, we can still call on Serguei when we need him.) And there was Leisa, Fred, Danielle, and Gary. Great people all.

Getting back to the state of affairs in the early 2000s, let’s talk about Google. Google wasn’t the first search engine. In fact, there were several others, including Magellan, Infoseek and Alta Vista. According to James, none of them worked very well. One day Mike stumbled upon a new search engine called “BackRub.” This one was very different. He was amazed, and so was James. Mike picked up the phone and called the contact asking if they were looking for investors – he’d like to be one. Unfortunately, they said no. Unfortunate, because BackRub morphed into Google. Still, Google has certainly been a big part of our business.

By the early 2000s, Google was well established as a search engine and began selling text-based ads. Mike completed their online course to become one of the first 100 Google Qualified Advertising Professionals in the world. International Internet Advertising Services Inc. was now really starting to realize the potential in its name.

The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s
The Story of Us – More on the Early 2000s



We know that many of you are concerned about the sustainability of your business in these unpredictable times. While there’s not much we can do to influence public health or economic trends, we wanted to let you know that we are here to help with your web-related needs.

Half of our team has worked remotely for years, and we have remote access to our servers and your websites. You can rest assured, the iias team is here to help when we are needed.

Some of the things you may want to consider:

Your marketing and advertising spend: If you are in a business that requires face to face contact or group gatherings, we can suspend your online marketing for a while, and either save that for a future ramp up, or invest it into improvements to your website.

If you sell online, or have considered selling your products online this might be a great time to increase your advertising or setup the online shopping you have been thinking about.

Chat services: On-site chat services are a great way to connect with customers who are already in buying mode, without having to use the phone or leave the page. A real customer service agent on your end can help customers shop, answer questions, and help to close the sale.

Gear up SEO/SEM for a speedy recovery: While it may not make sense to advertise right now, it does make sense to get ready for when it is. We don’t know when that will be, but health and economic recovery will come, perhaps sooner than you think. We can get your site and advertising all ready to give you a great boost when that time comes.

Share your good deeds: We’ve already seen many stories about people helping others during this crisis. While it may seem unsavory to promote yourself in this way, sharing your good deeds also sparks others to do the same. So, go ahead and use your company’s social media platforms to share your good deeds.
Stay safe out there and lets all look forward to brighter days ahead!



While Mike and James had done everything they could to prepare for the change from 1999 to 2000 that some thought would cause havoc with computers around the globe, Mike spent New Year’s Eve babysitting his servers, just in case. As it turned out, everything was fine.

The office had moved out of the “dungeon” into the “hothouse.” With concrete construction, the computers overwhelmed the building’s air conditioning. Not only was it very hot, but the condensation also caused constant dripping from the ceiling. Mike finally splurged on a portable air conditioner which improved the situation immensely; that being a good example of how the company survived through the year. While Mike was reluctant to spend on anything unessential, others like him were literally throwing money around.

Starting back in about 1994, investors were increasingly drawn to internet-related businesses. Those businesses become well funded with the expectation that investors would realize huge gains in the future. The business model of the day was to grow fast at any means – often offering free services to gain market share. Internet companies had luxurious facilities and rewarded staff with lavish vacations. Spending was wild and valuations were wilder.

Super Bowl ads in January 2000 were $2 million for 30 seconds and 16 internet companies were in the mix. The following year, there were only three.

Beginning in March 2000, the dot-com bubble burst. There were too many companies chasing the same market with no cash or foreseeable profits in the near term. Investors jumped ship and many companies went out of business. Those that did survive lost upwards of 75% of their value.

James and Uncle Mike carried on as usual in the now slightly cooler hothouse. Websites were built entirely by hand-coding, largely using PHP, which was a computer programming language created for web development in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. Perl, JavaScript, and C++ were older computer languages, but could also be used. Regardless, a website wasn’t a website without HTML, which brings us back to Tim Berners-Lee.

Berners-Lee was truly the father of the internet, and is still alive and continuing to mold his offspring. He didn’t just envision the internet, he made it work – including the development of HTML, which is an acronym for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is the programming that turns computer code into a visual display. It calls code from a server, takes the content and shows it as described – things like displaying headings in a larger font, spacing paragraphs, placing images with the corresponding text, and allowing the click of a link to transport the viewer to a different display.

Sir Berners-Lee (knighted by H.M. Queen Elizabeth in 2004) also had the wisdom to found the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to create standards for the inter-web. Today, he serves as a director for the esteemed organization, with a mission to “lead the Web to its full potential.”


The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s



By January of 1996, there were 100,000 websites online. Thirty of those were Mike’s clients, including a “matchmaking” service.

There were now 36 million internet users. Computers at home still weren’t commonplace, but email was a must-have for government offices and most businesses. Of those who were “surfing,” 86% used Netscape’s browser. Internet Explorer had been released though, and by bundling the browser with its Windows operating system, by 1999 Microsoft had converted nearly every user. The Netscape browser became open source as Mozilla and remained technically superior, but not commercially viable.

Lycos was the most popular search engine/web portal and published many of our early sites to their “Top 5% of the Web” directory. Internet Advertising’s website now contained more information about the business, but also continued to serve as a portal to our client sites.

James was now working for Uncle Mike full-time. With his gift for “figuring things out,” he learned what he needed to know when he needed to know it. He was plugged in 24/7 and a sponge for new knowledge.

Then came 1999, a divisive year for the tech industry. Early programmers hadn’t thought beyond the 1900s, meaning that some software would not know what to do when the year 2000 arrived. It was dubbed Y2K and speculation abounded. Some predicted an apocalyptic end to the entire world. Others theorized all computer tech would stop working. Then there were those who didn’t really think anything untoward would happen at all.

Mike was somewhere in between, concerned about his business but not a worldwide catastrophe. Mike and James spent hours doing research, installing software patches, doing tests, and then starting the process over again.

Andrew and Paul were part of the latter group, unconcerned.

Keara was two, hanging out at home with brother Jordan. Angela used the home computer as a learning tool for them, including Freddi The Fish.

Nick was now 4 and more interested in playing outside rather than on any sort of screen time.

The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s



The first web page went live on August 6, 1991. It was created by Tim Berners-Lee to share information about the World Wide Web project which was intended as a communication tool for government agencies and universities. It ran on a NeXT computer at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN. By 1993, another 129 websites had gone live.

In 1995, Mike graduated with honours in Computer Information Systems and Micro Computers in Business. Now, there were 23,500 sites on the World Wide Web. Mike was about to add to that number, although it wouldn’t be easy. Still, the man had a dream. He set up a business and named it International Internet Advertising Services Inc.

Mike and Angela were now married and had a baby boy who kept Angela very busy at home. Mike was kept busy figuring out how to create websites and building a web server to host them. While he was clearly a computer wiz, knowledge about this World Wide Web was hard to find.

At 25, Mike was a husband, father, and ambitious entrepreneur. He persevered. Accessing the WWW through a BBS (short for Bulletin Board System), he put up his first website and somehow managed to convince a few other businesses to use this new form of advertising.

Mike’s site was basically a directory of his client’s websites since Larry Page and Sergey Brin hadn’t yet invented Google. Jack’s Towing was one of Mike’s first clients.

“I remember Jack,” says Mike. “I called him up a few months after I’d created his web page to ask if it had brought him more business. He said no, and I was crushed. I started to apologize. Jack stopped me and laughed as he told me I’d saved him millions of dollars. I didn’t understand. Jack explained that while he was still getting the same number of calls from clients, he was getting tons of calls from suppliers vying for his business. He was able to make some great deals and that made his business far more profitable. He was a very happy client.”

Digital cameras were yet to become popular, so most clients provided printed snapshots. That meant scanning the images, which was quite time-consuming. James was 16 and going to school, but also had a side job digitizing the history of rural BC communities. His job was to scan books and create a website. James and Uncle Mike forged their first professional arrangement: James scanned the images for Mike’s sites and Mike helped James install hardware and get websites running.

Still working for the Correctional Service, Joanne was transferred to Abbotsford in 1995 and became the Regional Manager for Policy, Planning, and Information Technology for BC and the Yukon. She remembers being annoyed walking through the office seeing people playing Solitaire, which was released with Windows 3.0. Still, she defended this to her superiors as a way for staff to get used to using a mouse.

Forty-five kilometers away in Surrey, Andrew was spending a lot of his time designing computers and network systems and teaching others how to use them. Paul was still living with his parents in Romford, going to college and working part-time in a tropical fish shop. Nick had just been born in Ontario.

The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s


Joanne graduated from the University of Calgary in 1980 with a degree in Psychology. One of her classes was in Computer Science where she learned to code in Fortran. She still remembers the anxiety of her final project – making sure that the punch cards she carefully created didn’t get out of order feeding into the card reader that sent information into the university’s computer.

Having been raised in the Northwest Territories, Joanne’s first job after graduation was in Cambridge Bay – a small village about 1,800 kilometers north of Edmonton. In 1983, she moved “south” to Yellowknife and started a 15-year career with the Correctional Service of Canada. Urgent communications were sent by Telex. The message was typed out on a strip of paper that was fed into a telephone hookup, similar to a fax machine. Joanne recalls the office getting a computer with large floppy discs, but doesn’t remember what it was used for.

By 1988, she has been transferred to Saskatoon to the department of Policy, Planning, and Information Technology. She was initially a Resource Officer and used a spreadsheet program on a computer to calculate budgets. To create a written report, she had to close the spreadsheet app. In late 1988, Joanne was at a conference in Ottawa where she saw Windows for the first time. She was ecstatic that this wondrous new tech would allow here to have a spreadsheet AND a word processing program open at the same time!!

Over in BC, Andrew was living in Aldergrove, building computers, creating programs and video games for Apple, IBM, Commodore and NES systems and running dial up BBS servers. At the time he had the look to pull off the Don Johnson Miami Vice vibe.

Mike was 18 and working his way through college while employed at construction jobs. He was also building at home – a 386 XT clone. He was dating Angela, a grade 11 student who was doing high school the old fashioned way, books, and more books. Computers weren’t part of the curriculum and the internet wasn’t part of her life.

Across the pond, as they say, 11-year-old Paul lived in Romford, just outside of London, England. He was the proud owner of a Commodore VIC-20 with 20 KB ROM and 5 KB RAM.

Mike’s nephew James, a grade 3 student, was already teaching himself how to code. He figured out how to connect a computer to his TV and created a training moving across the screen.

The Story of Us 1980s
The Story of Us 1991-1995
The Story of Us 1996-1999
The Story of Us 2000
The Story of Us Early 2000s


It’s a new year, a new decade, and who knows what 2020 has in store for us. While we often make predictions this time of year, in 2020 we’re going to take a look back.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of International Internet Advertising Services Inc.; and, while our marketing materials focus on the more relevant aspects of the team’s work experience, we don’t often talk about our individual histories or how we came to be a team. It’s actually an interesting story, and one that shows how much the world of technology has advanced in our lifetime. So stay tuned!

And in the meanwhile, we wish you health, happiness, and success all year long!

Happy New Year!

All of us here at Internet Advertising count our blessings, we are very grateful for you, our clients, for your loyalty. It makes us proud and really motivates us to continue learning new skills and making sure we’re up on all the latest technologies because you rely on us to do our part to keep your business successful. It’s a win-win and we love that!

Although we will be closed from Wednesday December 25th to Monday December 30th for the holiday season, all of our systems are monitored 24/7 and we’ll know immediately if any problems arise that need our attention. You can also call if anything important arises and leave a message. We will be checking them.

We wish you safe travels, great fun with family and friends, lots of wonderful food, and some time to relax.

Merry Christmas!


If you had to write a job description for your website, what would you include? Thinking about your site as an employee is an interesting way to work through identifying the purpose and objectives of your site; and, on deciding how to measure its performance. Let’s try an example:

As the core of our marketing framework, this position has primary responsibility for:

  • reaching our target market;
  • capturing the attention of visitors; and,
  • converting visitors into customers.

Working collaboratively with search engines, social media, and other advertising platforms, you will create interest in our products, describe their benefits, and persuade our target market to make a purchase.

For a position this important, a good effort isn’t enough. No, in this position, you need to demonstrate results. Website analytics is the method you’ll use.

Analytics provide a tremendous amount of information about the visitors to your site. We’ll use some of that data to continue our example.

Is the site reaching our target market?

Analytics are pretty specific about the location of your visitors, and can also determine age and gender for many of them. So, you’ll know if your site is attracting your ideal customers, as well as what platform is sending them your way.

Is the site capturing attention?

Analytics will tell you which page the visitor landed on, as well as the sequence of any subsequent pages they viewed; how long they stayed on each page; and the last page they visited before leaving your site. If you have a high number of visitors leaving within seconds of arriving on your landing page, the site is not capturing attention. You’ll also know which pages visitors are spending the most time on, telling you what content they are most interested in, so you can tweak the information on your other pages.

Is the site getting a satisfactory response to your call to action?

Depending on your business and the features of your site, your call to action could be to make a purchase, set up an appointment, or ask for a quote. The use of analytics here is called “conversion tracking.” What is “satisfactory” depends on how competitive your industry is, but the goal is always to improve the conversion rate.

If you think of your website as an employee, think of us as the Director of Human Resources. With the data analytics provide, we can tell you if your site is doing its job, and what actions need to be taken to improve its performance.

So, is your website doing its job? Give us a call and we’ll let you know.




If only those were magic words that could make an entirely fake negative review disappear. But, they are not, and will not. Although feel free to scream it out anyway.

No, unfortunately fake reviews, which are almost always negative, take much more time and effort to deal with; along with a good measure of self-control. Different platforms have different processes, but here’s how to request the removal of a fake Google review (and the first few steps apply to all platforms).

First, investigate. Just because the review is negative, doesn’t prove that it’s fake. Try to identify the user. Ask staff about any circumstances similar to the review. Maybe the situation has been blown out of proportion. Do your best to find out if there is any truth to the review.

Next, draft a response as if it was a valid complaint. Why? Because even if you do get it deleted, it will take time. Don’t respond online yet, just draft. Take a breather, and go back to it again. This is a really good opportunity for you to show your customers and potential customers that you care about them and the quality of the products or services you provide. Learn more about responding to negative reviews in this great article.

Here’s an example: I’m so sorry you had this experience. We have initiated an investigation but are unable to identify you by your user name. Please call Bev at 1-800-222-2222 with your purchase details so we can rectify this situation with you and ensure that it never happens to anyone else.

Google’s rules are: “Contributions must be based on real experiences and information. Deliberately fake content, copied or stolen photos, off-topic reviews, defamatory language, personal attacks, and unnecessary or incorrect content are all in violation of our policy.” There are other rules as well, and you should read them.

Now, get the process going with Google.

  • From your PC, sign in to Google My Business. (If you don’t have an account, start here.)
  • If you have more than one location in your account, go into card view and click Manage location for the business/location where the review appears.
  • Go to the menu and click Reviews.
  • Find the review, click on the three dots, and then click Flag as inappropriate.​

If the review is associated with Google Maps:

  • Go to maps, and find your business name using search.
  • Select your business from the search results.
  • In the panel on the left, scroll to the “Review summary” section.
  • Under the average rating, click [number of] reviews.
  • Scroll to the fake review, click the three dots, then click the Flag icon.

Complete the form in the window that appears, making sure that you clearly state how the review contravenes Google’s rules. Click Submit.

Now you have to be patient for a few days. If the fake review is still there four days later, take the next step.

  • Get in touch with a Google Small Business Support associate.
  • Log into your Google My Business account.
  • Go to the Reviews section.
  • Click on the home menu and select Support.
  • Choose a method of Contact – Phone or Email.
  • Fill in the requested contact information. Add a screenshot of the review in question.

You should hear back with two days.

You can also send a tweet to the support team, @GoogleSmallBiz, preferably from your own business Twitter account.

As always, if you want help, just give us a call.




Get your calendar. Find a half-day in the next two weeks and block it off for “Password Security.” Do it now, then you can read the rest of this article.

Data breaches have become so common that it’s hard to even make a list of them all. At the recent World Economic Forum, it was reported that North American and European businesses believe that cyber-attacks are the number one greatest risk to doing business globally.

At a personal level, if you’ve ever used Facebook or Fortnite, or applied for credit, you’re at risk – and that pretty much covers everyone in North America. And don’t think that you are of less interest to hackers than others might be. At a recent staff meeting, there were several of us who have received emails that contained one of our actual passwords, and demanding payment. Fortunately for us, those passwords had since been changed. But it proves that we are all at risk for identity theft, bank fraud, ransomware, and the many, many other ways that hackers can make your life a living hell. So, how do you protect yourself?

First, you need a different password for every single account you have. That includes bank accounts, app accounts, email, social media, your phone, your Wi-Fi, and on it goes.

Second, you need each of those passwords to be completely random. Don’t even think about creating a password that you’ll be able to remember. If you can remember it, it’s not secure enough, period.

The biggest challenge then is not using unique and random passwords but remembering them. There are apps for that, and some old school methods as well. Both have their pros and cons. Choosing a method really depends on how you use the internet. Here are three examples:

Bubby is 88 years old. The only device she has is an iPad. She uses email, Facebook, online banking, and plays some online games. Bubby never needs to access any of her online accounts from anywhere other than her own living room. For her, listing her user names and passwords in her hard copy address book is the best method. The chances of her losing address book or someone stealing it are pretty negligible. It if burns up in a fire, she can regain access to all of her accounts with her email address.

Sarah is 16. She has a smartphone and laptop with at least 40 apps. She does some homework and plays a few games, but most of her online activity is texting or chatting with friends, and posting to social media. For Sarah, one of the free password manager apps, like LastPass  or Dashlane, provide great security. She will still have to set up strong passwords and remember her password manager password (but she can write that one password down and hide it in her dresser).

George is 45. He’s a consultant that works with clients all over the country and frequently travels. George has social media accounts on all the major platforms, he does his banking and shopping online, he makes appointments with his doctor and dentist online, he uses Google apps and stores all of his work documents online, and he has a smartphone. George has a lot of accounts and sensitive documents, and he accesses them on his phone, laptop, and PC.

For George, a paid subscription to a password manager is well worth the cost. According to PC Magazine, George should have the premium version of Dashlane or Keeper.

For those of you who exclusively use either Android or iOS, or who are on a PC most of the time, you can also consider iCloud Keychain or Google Password Manager.

The most important thing to remember is that you need to have long, complex passwords that are completely unrelated to anything about you. So, seriously, get on it!




I realized the other day that many of our articles seem to relate more to product sellers than to service providers. While marketing strategies can be very similar, there are a few things that those who only provide services need to keep in mind. So, this one is for you!

Know the rules of your regulatory body

Most professional services have a licencing or other type of regulatory body that governs their discipline; and many of these have rule about marketing and advertising. The Canadian Chiropractic Association, for example, does not allow a chiropractor to “claim professional superiority.” That means, that you can’t say things like you are the best chiropractor in town. You can still advertise, you just need to be aware of any such rules.

List your credentials and experience

Potential customers want to know your qualifications and experience. They probably don’t care that you have kids or pets, so don’t be tempted to expand your bio into areas that really don’t matter. Tell them about your education, your licences or registrations, and the type of problems you have solved. Some regulatory bodies won’t allow you to say that you are “specialized” in something particular, but you can say that you have “ten years of experience successfully treating back pain,” or “providing advice on wills and estate planning.”

Directly address other decision-making criteria

How do clients decide to come to you instead of someone else? In my experience, the provider often guesses wrong, so the best way to find out is to ask them. Is it your experience? Your website? Your location? The fact that you are open on the weekends? Identify the three to five reasons, and make sure that your website and other marketing materials address those issues directly. This information can also give a real boost to your online marketing.

Consider including prices on your website

Clients may be reluctant to tell you that price was one of the factors, but unless you deal exclusively with the rich and famous, price IS one of the factors. Customers comparison shop for services as well as products. If you are able to offer standardized pricing, consider putting those prices on your website, and explain why your prices are higher or lower than your competitors.

Offer online appointment booking

Online booking is a convenience that should not be underestimated. It means that they can book an appointment in the evening or on the weekend when they have the time, and it saves a whole lot of time for them and your office to be able to easily find available dates and times. You can also automate email or text reminders.

Consider cross-marketing

If someone needs a business lawyer, chances are they also need an accountant. If they get their nails done, they probably go to a hair salon too. Find service providers in your area that aren’t competitors but do share your target market. Give them a supply of brochures or business cards, and keep theirs handy at your office.

Encourage reviews

Positive reviews are one of the big decision-making criteria these days, and may be even more important in the service industries. There are quite a number of forums, but Google is likely the most significant. There are things you can do to encourage reviews, and we encourage you to do that! We wrote about this back in June, which you can re-read here.


As always, we’re here to help. Just give us a call.




It’s time to plan your fall and winter promotions

While there’s no rush to pack up your flip-flops, as long as the warm weather holds, it is time to start planning your fall and winter sales promotions. Here are some ideas to get you thinking, and we can help with the creative aspects as well as the implementation. Call soon though! A great ad campaign takes a bit of time to develop and set up, and your promotions need to run before these dates.

Thanksgiving, Monday, October 14 (Canada)

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to show your customers some gratitude. A note of thanks, along with a discount or gift with purchase, is always appreciated. You could also use this opportunity to launch new products or services, giving advanced access and deals to your best customers. If you primarily cater to a local or regional market, Thanksgiving is also the perfect time to give back to the community. Make a donation to the Foodbank, give your staff time off to serve up dinner at a shelter, or offer to provide the turkeys. Take photos, and share your joy of helping others on social media.

Halloween, Thursday, October 31

Halloween is big business in North America, and you can take advantage of the attention it gets. You can stick to the traditional pumpkin give-away or children’s party, or hold a costume contest on one of your social media platforms for a nice prize. If you sell something totally unrelated, we’ll have to get creative, but that’s part of the Halloween fun. For the HVAC biz: “Is your furnace about to ghost you?” For the roofer or building supply store: “5 kids’ costumes you can make with tar paper and duct tape.”

Black Friday, November 29, 2019

Black Friday sales are catching on in Canada, but most of the ones I’ve seen in the past haven’t offered the deep discounts shoppers expect. If you’re going to have a Black Friday sale, make it a spectacular one. While Black Friday is meant to be the start of Christmas gift buying, it’s more appropriate to pitch household items for Black Friday than as a gift (see below). You also need to plan your advertising well in advance and focus on your ideal market. There is a lot of noise to contend with leading up to Black Friday.

Cyber Monday, December 2, 2019

If you sell anything tech-related, this is your day. Again, just remember that you are facing a ton of competition, so direct mail to your customer database and social media followers may be the most productive. Since Giving Tuesday is the next day, partnering with a charity to do things like make a cash donation for each sale, or to give a device for every 10 sold, can help you both.

Christmas, Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Direct marketing for Christmas sales can start running mid-November, but general advertising is best left until after Black Friday. You’ll get the biggest bang for your buck advertising products or services that people will really want as a gift. (Mom does not want a new vacuum cleaner!) Offering a free gift with purchase or partnering with a charitable organization to boost their coffers, are some other ways to attract shoppers.


Opportunities abound, so call us now!




A simple way to test your web content

Quality content is one of the most important aspects of your website. Your potential customers rely on it, and search engines use it to index and rank your site. Borrowing a tactic used in the journalism industry, you can assess the content of your website by ensuring that you have answered the “5 Ws” plus “how.” (And just in case you’re in a trivia contest someday, since a discovery in 2010, the 5 Ws have been attributed to Aristotle.)

Who: Who are you, and who are you targeting? Your website should describe your company and what they’re about, as well as who your target market is. E.g. “We believe that people of all abilities feel good when they look good. That’s why we offer fashionable clothing items with unseen adaptations that make dressing well easier.”

What: What products or services do you provide? Your home page should give an overview; and different types of offerings should be divided into categories. In most cases, each category will be a menu item with its own page. Using the example above, your categories might be: slacks, shorts, shirts, and sweaters.

When: Your site should tell customers your hours of service; and, if you ship products, when they can expect delivery. E.g. “Our friendly customer service staff are available to help you with selection and sizing, online or in-store, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 7 pm Eastern time. You can order online at any time, and your items will be delivered within four business days.”

Where: Providing the address of your physical location helps build trust, and some potential customers living near you may prefer to do business in person. Your address is also used by search engines and apps like Google Maps, and will provide a distance and directions to your door.

Why: Why do I need your services? Why should I buy these items from you and not a competitor? The “why” is critical. What’s special about your company? Tell your brand story!

How: In this context, “how” can refer to how you’re different; how your products or services are different; or how you actually do what you do. Again using the accessible clothing example, you might have a few short videos demonstrating how easy it is to put on your various pieces of clothing.


So, have a read through your website with fresh eyes, and see if you’ve answered all of the basic questions that stem from the 5 Ws. If you notice any gaps, we’re here to help.




Analyzing how users interact with your website provides valuable information about how to improve the site’s performance. Google Analytics, the one we use most often, provides a lot of data, but you need to interpret that data within the context of your overall goals, and objectives set for each page. Let’s look at some examples of the metrics to watch for different purposes.

Acquisition: The acquisition data tells you how people found your site. By measuring changes between before and after time periods, this metric will tell you if a tactic worked. For example, if you’ve optimized your site for search engines (SEO), then your organic search numbers should be up. If you’ve had an ad running on a couple of social media platforms, your social media numbers should be up. If you’ve sponsored an event, attended a trade show, or engaged in some other marketing to get your name and URL out there, your “direct” numbers should be up. In all of these cases, you’d also expect your “new user” numbers to have grown. If your goal is to increase new users, you can also compare the metrics for each method of acquisition.



Behaviour: The behaviour data tells you where people go on your site, i.e. which pages they visit, how long they stay on a page, and which pages they leave from. This information can be used in several ways. For example, the pages where people spend the most time, are the pages that people are most interested in, and vice versa. Let’s say you sell jewellery and two years ago, you had a big run on Bangles. In the last year though, only 1% of visitors even clicked on the Bangles tab. That could be telling you that bangles are out of fashion, OR, it could be telling you that the younger generation don’t know what a bangle is. What do you do? Move the product listings to the Bracelets page, and delete Bangles from your menu.



Here’s another example. Let’s say you’ve put a sale on bracelets and done a bunch of advertising. The behaviour data shows that you’ve had a huge increase in visitors to the bracelets page, but the “Bounce” rate for that page has also increased dramatically. (The bounce rate is the number of people who leave your site from that page.) So, they came to the bracelets page, spent a minute or two on the page, and then left the site. That could be telling you that there’s a technical problem on the page; but if that’s not the case, then chances are that no one was impressed with your discounts.

Behaviour stats can also tell you if people are actually reading your blog (time on page), if your name or keywords are misleading (bounce rate from Home page), or if your shipping rates are too high (high exit rate from shipping rate page).

Audience: the audience report tells you three things: 1) when most visitors come to your site; 2) where those visitors are; and, 3) the type of device they are using. When visitors come to your site is an interesting metric. For example, if you post a weekly blog, is the posting date related to visitor traffic? Conversely, if that just happens to be when homeowners are most often looking for the paint you sell, that might be a great time to offer a one-day sale.



Where visitors are located is another bit of information that you can use to grow your customer base. For example, if you have mainly catered to locals in the past, but see a lot of regional or national interest, you might want to look at options for shipping to those locations.

Type of device used to be something we looked at regularly, but these days, it’s certainly best to ensure that your website adapts to any size of device.

If we’re running any advertising for you, we’re already keeping a close eye on those metrics, but if not, give us a call to get analytics set up. It’s definitely worth the small investment.



Industrial psychology has long been the foundation of advertising. The use of different colours, for example, to elicit feelings of excitement, trust, or luxury. That bright red “SALE” banner is no accident, nor is the choice of blue for IBM, Facebook, or BMO. Whether or not we actually trust Facebook, knowing what we know, isn’t the issue. The fact is, that North Americans subconsciously associate blue with trustworthiness, red with excitement, black with luxury, and we are calmed by shades of light green.

Green is also associated with environmental friendliness, so much so, that the word “green” is now synonymous with products that are not harmful to the environment. So, it seems to make sense to use a green-themed web design to sell eco-friendly products, right?

The “call to action” is also a traditional standard in advertising. Tell potential customers what to do and how to do it; or in the online world, show them where to click and what info to provide. We often use a commanding tone to influence compliance, like “Call now!”

So, here’s where ethics get a little trickier. Let’s say you are raising funds to save the whales. You have a great website design with blues and greens depicting nature, the oceans, and cute little baby whales. You make your pitch, and below have a bright red button that says “Donate Now.” All fair, so far. But, when you try to leave the page by any means other than clicking on Donate Now, a screen pops up that says, “Do you really want all these baby whales to die? They are relying on your donation to save them,” with two buttons below – “Yes, I want to save the whales!” and “No, let the whales die.”

That is an extreme example of a tactic known as “confirm-shaming” that tries to guilt you into doing something that you wouldn’t otherwise do. It is also used to convince you that you really should do something now, rather than think about it any longer. Some examples include things like “Are you sure you don’t want to order now?” With the choice of clicking “Yes, I want to get 30% off.” Or “No, I’m happy to pay full price tomorrow.”

Fair or not?

Here’s another trick (or is it?): providing you with the “most popular” options. Some would say that this is just making it easier for the shopper to find an item someone mentioned to them; but others say it is a way to manipulate you by associating these items with “popularity.”

Then there’s the false sense of urgency created when an item is shown with a note like “Only 3 left at this price.” If that’s true, well… but, some of these are simply random numbers.
There are truly devious tactics out there – the old bait & switch, the sneaking of extra items into your cart, misdirection, and more. Most ethical people would stay away from these on principal, and in the long term, they don’t work anyway because customers will figure it out and never come back.

Looking at these examples, the poles seem obvious enough: A standard call to action is fine, expected even, and deviousness is definitely over-the-line. But how to we deal with everything in the middle? Pondering this, I’m reminded of Rotary International’s Four-Way Test, and it seems a very helpful way to assess tactics in our very competitive world:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

From a business perspective, if you can’t answer “Yes” to all of these questions, you will not be successful over the long term. Being truthful and fair, building good relationships with your customers, and ensuring that they derive the benefit promised from your product or service are paramount.

The more I think about it, the more I like this test as a measure of good advertising practices. So for those who are committed to ethical behaviour, like we are, thanks Rotary. And for the others, we’re on to you!

Now that our cell phones are actually multi-function devices, setting them aside completely while on vacation may not be feasible. Not only do they serve as a camera for those holiday pics, they are also our time keepers, our route maps, and our kid trackers. So, if you’re not ready to leave the phone behind, let’s at least look at some ways to minimize the work related disruptions.

Set an email auto-responder

Most email systems have an auto-responder that will send an automatic reply to everyone who emails you. You write the message yourself, so you can state the dates you are away, as well as who they might contact if the issue can’t wait until your return. Two things I’ve learned: Set the autoresponder for specific dates, so you don’t forget to turn it off when you get back. But, give yourself an extra day on both ends.

Change your voice mail message

If you’re not in the habit of changing your voice mail each day, change it the day before you leave on vacation with the same info as the auto email. Don’t give your cell number on that message.

Turn off notifications

Agree on one method of staying in touch with those travelling with you. Ideally, choose one that your work contacts don’t have or don’t use to contact you routinely. Then, turn off notifications for everything else.

Consider wearing a watch

If you really want to unplug, consider wearing a watch and buying them for the rest of your travel crew as well. You can get some pretty inexpensive ones, and you won’t be tempted to check your phone quite so often if you don’t need it to check the time.

Pack old-school activities

A pack of cards, a few engaging board games, and a bit of creativity, will give you things to do together, rather than all playing games on your separate devices.
Save the social media posts for when you get home
This is a good practice for security reasons as well. We all want to share, but waiting until you’re home to post those vacation pics, will also keep you from scrolling through all those posts from everyone else.

Wishing you a safe and restful vacation.

In our last article we talked about the power of positive customer reviews. But what do you do when a customer isn’t happy? Unfortunately, now and then, we all have to deal with one complaint or another, and there can be an upside. Here are seven steps for turning unhappy customers into fans.

1. Listen, carefully and patiently

If a customer is lambasting you over the phone, keep your cool and listen as carefully as you can. You need to hear the product or service issues, but you also need to hear how this emotionally impacted your customer. Were they embarrassed that a gift was late? Angry that their child was hurt? Disappointed that the size was off and they couldn’t wear the dress for a special occasion?  Don’t take it personally, or get caught up in the emotion, but let them finish their rant and take in as much information as you can. If the complaint is in written form, read it through a couple of times to try to understand.

2. Acknowledge and apologize

Be compassionate, but not emotional. Speak in a steady tone, and with a soft voice if the customer has been loud. Acknowledge that the customer is disappointed or angry, and apologize. Commit to resolving the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. Example: “I’m so sorry the dress didn’t fit. Please give me an opportunity to make this right.”

3. Get to the root cause

You need to really understand what went wrong in order to fix it, not only for this one customer, but to make sure it doesn’t happen to others. Review the process and repeat back the customer’s main points to get confirmation. Example: “So, you did use the sizing chart on our website, and it indicated that you would be a size 8. You ordered the size 8 of the dress, and that’s item number 088765, and it was way too big for you.”

4. Take responsibility for finding a solution

Tell the customer that you are going to take care of YOUR problem, and resolve the issue to their satisfaction. You can simply ask what you can do, or offer some options. Example: “Ok, so as soon as I get off the phone with you, I’m going to look into that sizing chart, but first, I’m going to give you a full refund, and see what else I can do to make this up to you.” Remember that the issue isn’t just the wrong sizing, but the impact of that as well.

5. Offer a better than expected solution

You can turn an unhappy customer into one of your biggest fans by offering a solution that exceeds expectations. Make your offer and ask for confirmation that this is a satisfactory solution. Example: “Did you like the dress? I’m wondering if you’d like to try it in a smaller size, or would you rather choose something else? It’s on me, whatever you decide, and I’m still giving you a refund on what you’ve already paid.” (They choose something else.) “Ok, so I’m going to issue that refund, and I’m going to put a credit for that same amount on your account, so you can pick out something else whenever you’d like to. How does that sound?” Chances are, they will be quite happy.

6. Thank them

Yes, thank them, for bringing the problem to their attention, because you care about your customers and you want them to be happy with every purchase.

7. Follow up

When appropriate, (e.g. after they’ve used the credit) follow up. Call or email to let them know you took the issue seriously and want to make sure they are satisfied. Example: “I wanted to let you know that the sizing chart has been revised, so I sure hope the new dress you ordered earlier today fits perfectly. If you do have any issues at all, please call me directly at ###.” Do make sure that the issue is truly resolved in-house, if it was a problem on your end. Even if it wasn’t, send a more generic email to make sure they were satisfied with whatever the resolution was. Example: “I understand that you had an issue with one of own products recently. If you don’t mind taking a few minutes, please let me know that the issue was resolved to your satisfaction.”


In days of old, nothing was more coveted than the word-of-mouth referral. People trusted their families, friends, and colleagues to point them to the best providers of products and services. Now it’s 2019 and consumers want to hear from as many people as possible about what they think of you.

Take a look at these stats from

  • 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34)
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
  • 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars
  • 91% of 18-34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Consumers are likely to spend 31 percent more on a business with excellent reviews

That makes it pretty clear. More reviews mean more business. If you want to prosper, you need reviews, lots of them. And here are another couple of tidbits: 73% of people think a review older than 3 months is no longer relevant, and 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks. So, you also need a steady stream of reviews.

How can we make that happen? Well, let’s first look at the reasons why people don’t post reviews.

  1. For some people, they just never think about it. Less than half of consumers over the age of 55 have ever posted a review.
  2. While a large majority of 18-34 year olds have written at least one online review and may intend to, they simply forget.
  3. They don’t know where or how to post a review.

Now, before we go on, I know there are business owners out there who fear that making it easy for customers to post reviews will just encourage crazy rants and maybe even malicious fake reviews by competitors. Here’s the thing – the positives far outweigh the possible negatives. And chances are, by encouraging reviews and being involved in the review process, the number of positive comments will far outnumber the negative ones.

Okay, so how do you get more reviews? You address the top three reasons why customers don’t write reviews. You ask your customers to write a review each time they do business with you, you remind them, and you make it easy by showing them where and how to post their review.

That may sound like a lot of work, and it would be if you tried to do it one customer at a time. The good news is that we can make the whole process easy for you too by setting up a “review funnel” system for your business.

This system offers a number of benefits, including the potential to deal directly (and privately) with really unhappy customers, reducing the amount of time needed for monitoring, and streamlining the process of adding a response (which 89% of consumers read).

Are you ready to bring in new customers and build brand loyalty with more reviews? Visit for more information or give us a call at 604-556-0211 and ask about improving your online reviews.

I’ve just been reading about the technology behind what has been termed “deep fake videos.” I have to say, it’s scary. Our job is to help our clients promote their products and services, to help businesses grow. Yes, we want them to make a good first impression. Yes, we want them to highlight the best features of who they are and what they do. Yes, we want to increase their customer base and sales. But, we are steadfast in advising all our clients that they need to do so accurately and honestly.

Deep fake videos have mainly been focused on embarrassing celebrities and/or creating ridiculously farfetched content to ratchet up views for profit. Sure, it’s entertaining, and can be hilariously funny. But – there is a down side to not being able to believe what we see with our own eyes.

This video explains how deep fakes are created. You might notice that there is something a little off in the video of Obama. Now, watch this video of David Beckham speaking nine languages in a public service announcement promoting the fight against malaria. It’s pretty perfect.

That video was made by Synthesia, a UK company headed by CEO Victor Riparbelli. He believes that within three years, we won’t be able to tell the difference between fake and actual video – there will even be the ability to create a totally fake human doing and saying whatever.

So, how does all of this relate back to Internet Advertising and what we do for our clients? Obviously, fake is fake if it’s not accurate. We don’t want to create videos that show vacuum cleaners flying all over the house to clean your blinds, door frames, etc., in addition to the floor. That is dishonest. But what if it was easier and cheaper to create a truthful video by computer rather than recording live action? Is that ok? We’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

And, can our honest clients compete against the fakers? We still firmly believe that good will eventually prevail. It doesn’t take long for word to get out these days, so scams are short-sited regardless of your morals.

Conclusion? Well… be aware that you won’t be able to tell the difference between true and fake, so it’s probably best not to buy any flying vacuums; and, have faith that honesty is still the best policy for your business.

Most marketers will tell you that social media marketing is a “must have” in today’s world. While we don’t disagree, we also know that a lot of businesses are not getting the most out of their efforts and expense. Like any other marketing tactics, social media marketing needs to be goal driven, strategic, and part of an overall marketing plan.

It’s important to realize that “social media marketing” is not even one tactic, in and of itself. Rather, it can include posting to a social media account, engagement with potential customers, and paid ads. Those three, can be comprised of any combination of text, images, videos, or audio recordings, and can be the primary content or a divergence.

That said, let’s look at three ways that social media marketing can give a real boost to your business.

You’re launching (or relaunching) a brand

Social media platforms are a great choice for building brand awareness. Whether you’re just starting out or introducing a new product line, social media gives you the flexibility to “layer” shorter and longer content using a combination of text, images, and videos through paid ads and posts. You can target your theoretical consumer market and collect data to tweak that as needed. Social media is also very useful for brand building because you can encourage questions and provide timely responses in the brand voice. You’ll need to make sure that the design of your social media pages reflects your new brand, includes an engaging brand story, and has links to a well-planned website. The most important aspect though, is having your social media feeds monitored in real-time so you can hold virtual conversations with those who show an interest.

You need to create a big splash for a short time

Perhaps you need to move a lot of product at year end, are holding a special event, or decide to offer a flash sale on a slow week – social media is definitely the way to get the word out. You’ll not only reach the social media communities you’ve cultivated over time, but also a wider audience of potential customers. This type of blitz campaign is relatively inexpensive and can have lasting impact. You do need to have a strategically designed website to make sure that there is a smooth path to follow for potential buyers, otherwise, you could end up just frustrating and annoying people.

You need to hold on to your customers for a long time

If you’re in a business with a long sales cycle, sell products or services that last quite a while, or are dependent on after-sales maintenance or consumables, you can build customer loyalty by fostering a customer community. The key here is providing useful content and incentives to get and keep customers following you. Again, you’ll also need a website that makes it really easy for customers to purchase supplies and a way to talk to someone if they’re interested in a new product or service.

Websites are kind of like eye glasses – you can get away with holding on to what you’ve got for a few years, but after that, it gets pretty noticeable.

Two to four years is the current range of time that a website will hold its appeal and value. After that, you can count on fewer visitors and even fewer sales. That said, here are five signs that it’s really time for a makeover.

1. Something is flashing

Animated gifs were nouveau chic 20 years ago!  While there’s a new style of gifs that are popular on social media, having one of the older ones on your business website now, means you are an old-timer with nothing relevant to offer today’s customer.

2. Your site induces vertigo

If looking at your website makes people woozy, you need to have a serious talk with a designer about white space.

3. You’re counting on customers with a boat-load of patience

And there aren’t any on the internet. Unless you’re selling unicorns, no one is going to wait more than 10 seconds for your page to load.

4. Navigation is a search game

No one wants to spend the time figuring out your cutesy navigation just so they can buy whatever you’re selling. An obvious navigational path to conversion means sales. Sales are not a game.

5. You’re unintentionally supporting the Pride movement

If that is your intent, good for you. If it’s not, pick a colour palette already!

There are many, many factors that go into optimizing a website to persuade visitors to become customers. Markets are continuously evolving, and that means keeping up with conversion dynamics as well as general trends. Learn more about Web Design and Optimization on our website, or just give us a call to do an evaluation of your current site.

Thanks to “” for some great examples of not-so-golden oldies.

It does get a little murky sometimes, but generally speaking, an advertisement is something you pay for to be placed on someone else’s property. Off-line that could mean a billboard, a newspaper, or the side of a bus. What you’re paying for is to put your ad in that visible space. Online, the rule is basically the same, but gets confusing because you can advertise and market on the same platforms.

For example, you can pay Google to place your ad at the top of a search results list. But when your website is on the first page of results “organically” (because of search engine optimization), that’s marketing.

On Facebook, your own page, what you post on that page, and your conversations with customers, is marketing. You can also pay though, to place an ad on Facebook that will show up on other people’s pages.

Things are a bit more transparent than they used to be, with Google placements marked as “Ad” and Facebook ads marked as “Sponsored,” but the point is that your ad shows up where a lot of people will see it, and you can target your audience to those most likely to be interested in what you’re selling.

You can also place ads on Twitter, YouTube, on news pages and in digital publications, as well as in game apps, to name just a few. Publishing a series of “How to…” videos on YouTube is marketing. If those videos become extremely popular, you’ll likely start seeing other people’s ads at the beginning and end of your video.

The other difference between advertising and marketing is that a marketing campaign will often use a variety of different ads placed on different platforms. Strategically, the combination of ads, the order that they appear, and where they appear, is thoughtfully planned to generate more attention than any single ad could.

Your own website is kind of a hybrid. While it is your property, you pay for hosting and a service provider. Whether your website is an ad or marketing isn’t really important though. What matters is that you recognize your site as the core of all of your promotional efforts.

The most important part of any ad is the “call to action.” In online advertising, the action that you most often want potential customers to take is to visit your site. It’s your site’s responsibility to persuade visitors to take the next step – make a purchase or set up an appointment for your services. Web optimization is the process of creating that persuasion.

In the ideal scenario, you’ll have a great website, and implement a strategically designed marketing plan that includes several forms of advertising. When you put all the pieces together, you get more customers.

It’s officially spring and thank goodness. We can finally put away the heavy coats and fuzzy blankets and enjoy the outdoors. But before you pull out the camping gear, make some time to do your online spring cleaning. It may not be something you look forward to, but it’s important and could save you from some nasty surprises. Here’s your handy checklist!

1. Do a Google search for:

    • Your company name and any frequent misspellings
    • The owner and senior staff by name
    • Anyone who has left the company in the past year
    • Any in-house brand names

Check each of the results on at least the first two pages for any inaccurate, unflattering, or other problematic information. Copy the URL (page address) of anything to you find, and paste it into a document you can send to us or to your own PR professional. DO NOT take any action if/when you first discover an issue. Firing back in an emotional state can make things worse.

Also check on your own website and any directories you’re listed in to make sure the address, phone number, products or services listed, are all accurate.

2. Change your passwords on all accounts, including business and personal banking, email, and social media. If you have online service accounts, such as a physician or lab, change those passwords too.

3. Search for your business name on all social media platforms. Facebook and Google, for example, creating pages for places, which are often businesses. If they’ve created one for your business, you want to claim it and take control of it, as soon as possible. Do a search even on platforms where you have created an account. Also review the pages of any senior staff that non-friends can view, particularly if they have posted who they work for.

4. Clean up your own social media pages. We now know that scammers are using platforms like LinkedIn to gather information. While it’s tempting to be connected to as many people as possible (sounds like good business), that may not be the case. If you have a personal account (rather than a business account), go through your connections and if you don’t know who they are, you can disconnect from them without them knowing. Instructions are here.

(If you also want to disconnect from friends on your personal Facebook page, instructions are here.)

On business accounts/pages, it’s probably a better idea to just review the kind of content that others are posting. If someone is always trying to sell something, being offensive or inappropriate, or constantly complains on a public platform rather than calling you directly, you can take steps to delete these posts and people. You do need to be careful about this though, and we encourage you to talk to us first. There are pros and cons that need to be considered.

Now, where are those sleeping bags?

Search engines like Google offer advertising on their results pages, allowing you to jump to the top spot. There is a fee for this, but you only pay that fee when someone clicks on the ad and is redirected to your website or to a specific landing page created as a follow up to the ad. Even when your website is optimized for search engines, there are times that you’ll want to also use search engine marketing.

You want to increase targeted leads quickly

It takes time for search engine optimization to make an impact on search results. If your site has just been optimized, if you’ve launched a new website or have moved to a new URL (web address), you can generate leads faster by advertising, as these listings are guaranteed to appear at the top of the results right away.

You want to broaden or narrow your market area

There are times when you may want to change the geographic area that you serve. For example, let’s say you are a lawyer and want to focus on cases closer to home for a few months. You can increase local leads by placing search engine ads for searchers in your home community. This will help you fill your roster with local cases, without completely stopping your website marketing to the larger area.

You want to broaden or narrow your products or services

Using the example of a lawyer again, let’s say that you are well known for estate services, but want to attract a wider variety of work. You can place an ad that will show up whenever any of several key words are searched, such as “corporate lawyer,” “personal injury lawyer,” or “divorce lawyer.” You can also run ads like this during separate time periods, to get a better idea of what type of services are most sought after in your area.

Search engine marketing offers great analytics too, allowing us to track the outcome of each ad and to make changes, so you get the results you want.

Paid ads jump to the top of the results list.

As I was researching the last article on consumer trends for 2019, I sensed another theme that no one stated outright, but seemed to be in the middle (or maybe the muddle) of all the forecasts: there is an emerging group of mindful and deliberate consumers, who are demanding more from businesses than their typical products and services.

Integrity, social and environmental responsibility, are now expected from every company, and all of their executives. Transgressions are no longer judged in context of time or industry. Unfortunate comments, even those long passed, are damaging personal and brand reputations. Clothing manufacturers are being lobbied to reduce waste. People who can afford groceries are eating out of dumpsters to demonstrate the nourishing food that is tossed out regularly.

More consumers are becoming activists to drive positive change, bringing attention to causes and to businesses they see as harmful to humanity. They are also driving major brands to use their influence to advocate for issues in the social and political realm.

A few daring CEOs have taken up the challenge, but the dichotomy in results is a lesson in risk. While there was an immediate backlash for Nike, who featured Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign, supporters quickly countered, making it a big win for the sports brand.

For Dick’s Sporting Goods, who stopped selling assault weapons at its Field & Stream banner stores after the Parkland shootings, and lobbied for more federal gun control, it hurt rather badly. But, they haven’t backtracked and could turn things around long-term, betting that the anti-gun sports enthusiasts will prop up sales on new product offerings for more civilized activities.

Both decisions were a big leap from sharing profits with a charitable cause, which has been the more traditional approach to attracting socially conscious consumers. It will be interesting to see who else enters this politically-charged arena, and how they fare. The lessons for everyone though, are make sure your company is doing its part to be ethical, socially and environmentally responsible; and, know your customers.

While there is lots of technical work that goes into search engine optimization, the content of a website is equally important. The more you know about your customers, the better able we are to produce content that search engines will match with your customers’ searches.

It starts with key words, and your front line staff are in the best position to keep track of what those are. Here’s an example. Let’s say you sell swimming pools. What do customers ask your sales staff most often? Have they already done some research? Do they ask about a particular brand? Do they ask for a particular feature? Do they use terms like “inground,” “fiberglass,” or “infinity?” Or are they more likely to say that they want a “backyard pool” that’s “easy to maintain?”

That kind of information helps us in a couple of ways. First, it gives us a place to start our research. If most customers come in knowing that they want either a fiberglass or concrete pool, we can find out which of those keywords is most searched in your market area. If the results show a ratio of 25 searches for fiberglass pools for every 1 concrete pool, we know that we want to focus on fiberglass. If the results are fairly equal, we’ll probably suggest that you have a separate page for each type, allowing us to optimize the individual pages for each key word.

The other important factor though, is that key words also give us some insight into buyers’ “decision making criteria.” If they are asking about pools that are easy to maintain, we’ll create content on that topic. Since search engines look at far more than just key words, it’s not enough to use “easy to maintain” in a title or tag. You need to have quality content to go with that. So, what we’ll do, is develop a few paragraphs, perhaps an illustration or video, showing what “easy” means, and how that compares to other pool options.

Yes, we are experts in search engine optimization; but, you are the expert when it comes to your customers. And you can help us help you, by paying attention to how your customers ask for what they want.

In the last two articles, we looked at seven seemingly innocuous situations and what was really happening. Now, we’re going to look at how scammers are still profiting from our basic trust in others, and what we can do about it.

First though, don’t feel bad if you’ve been the victim of a scam. I dare say it’s happened to all of us. It’s certainly happened to me. Scammers send out millions of email and text messages; impersonate millions of people; post millions of times on social media sites; and have vast networks of their own to create fake profiles and pages, and sell tidbits of information that are later compiled into complete portfolios of real people.

Because they are so prolific, they only need a few people to be fooled by each “project.” And that’s the main reason that we are fooled. Because a few of us do know someone named Maggie Jones, and a few of us did post photos to Facebook earlier today, and most of us don’t want to send a message back to a parent or boss saying, “How do I know it’s really you?” when the message came from their own account. And, as the previous article demonstrated, these internet pirates are getting more sophisticated and are using more personal information to target individuals. So, how do we thwart these criminals? Here are a few tips.

Be mindful of what information about you is available to the public. For example, our website gives the names and job titles for everyone at Internet Advertising. If I get an email late one night from James saying that he accidently deleted his password for a site he has to have finished by morning, my first instinct is to send him mine. But, what I should realize is that anyone would know that we’re colleagues, so I need to make sure the message is actually from James.

Understand that it may not have been you who got hacked. If anyone of your friends on Facebook inadvertently gave someone their credentials, the scammer can now see your feed. Be particularly cautious of posting information about your children, the school or dance academy they go to, when you’re leaving on vacation, etc. Post those cute holiday pics after you get home.

Know that information about you is being compiled. Limiting your personal social media accounts is one way to reduce the amount of info that scammers can collect from different sources. Do you really need accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Google, WhatsApp, YouTube, Yammer, Bebo, Pinterest, Reddit, and Flickr? The data being collected about you now also includes your interests, what you like, how you feel about politicians, recording artists, etc., etc. It’s valuable to marketers.

Change your email settings to not send immediately.  It is very easy to spoof an email address, and in many cases the only way to check that it’s the address you think it is, is by replying. If you are able to change your email settings to not send immediately, (in Outlook, go to File, Options, Advanced, Send and receive, and make sure the “Send immediately hen connected” is not checked), then you can prepare your response, click Send, then go to your Outbox and see what addresses it shows. Here’s an example:

This image shows the message I received from the spoofed James account. It shows that it came from his actual email address.

Even when I click Reply, it shows that the message is going to James actual email address.   


But when I go to my Outbox, it shows that the message I thought I was sending to James, is actually going to a totally different person.

If you can’t change the settings and are at all suspicious, reply with a test message; e.g. “Give me 5,” then go to your Sent Mail folder and look at the address you just sent to.

Be suspicious of any message that asks for information or contains a link. Scammers use urgency, fear, and playfulness to try to trick us into taking action. They’ll also use the information that’s been compiled about you, your colleagues, and your family to add a familiar touch or try to scare you. In the early days, these scam messages had tell-tale signs like poor spelling, bad grammar, or fuzzy images. Some still do, and that’s a tip off, but many others appear to be legit. So, whether it’s an email message, a text message, a private message on social media, or even a post, if there’s a link, a request for login info or money, double check with who you think the message is from before doing anything else.

Don’t get sucked into “challenges.” And warn your kids and parents! One’s like the cinnamon or salt and ice challenges are downright dangerous. The newer “ten year challenge,” that asks you to post two photos of yourself, ten years apart, is suspected to be a huge data collection scam.

Use all of the tools available to you. Spend the money to purchase a security program from a reputable source. A free one could attack you itself. Turn on automatic updates for your operating system and software programs. Close any social media accounts that you don’t use at least weekly, and delete any apps you no longer use. Don’t share your login credentials, and if you feel you have to, do it by telephone. Take a minute to think, and trust your gut. Even if the message is urgent, give yourself time to process and consider the consequences if it is a scammer.

Do you have a tip for spotting scammers? Let us know, and we’ll we share it.

Oh, those scammers! Just when we think we’re on to them, they come up with an even more sophisticated ruse. In the last article, we listed seven situations that would seem pretty normal. (Review them here if you missed it.) Now, we’re going to reveal what actually could have happened.

What went wrong:

The email from your boss asking you to send the HR files to a consultant wasn’t actually from your boss. When you accepted the network request from the forensic accountant, who isn’t a forensic accountant, they got access to the LinkedIn profiles of all of the staff at your company. They learned that you had just gotten a promotion and who your boss was. They also knew your boss was going on vacation, because she posted a picture on her Facebook page from the airport, on her way to the Maldives. Soooo, someone now has a whole lot of personal information about your admin staff.

The melting snowman from John, wasn’t from John. But we all know someone who is always late, so easy mistake. What’s actually melting down is your company’s internal security, and everyone in the office is now infected with spyware.

The vase for your wife’s birthday never arrives. You try emailing the seller, but the messages just bounces back as unknown. You contact eBay but soon realize that they were not involved in the sale, it was between you and the seller directly, so you have no recourse.

When you clicked the link in the email about the offensive photos on Facebook, you were directed to a page that looked just like Facebook, but wasn’t Facebook. When you logged in, you gave your credentials to thieves, who then diverted you to the actual Facebook and logged you in. It all happened so quickly that you didn’t notice a thing. They now have control of your page and may or may not tip their hand by actually posting offensive photos (or promotional content that appears to be from you, or links that are raising the profile of someone else’s ad campaign; none of which you notice because you don’t alerts of your own posts). What they may do is just spy on you and all of your friends, noting when homes are likely to be unoccupied, private messaging children for nefarious purposes, and all sorts of other info that can be sold and used by evil doers.

That email with the free apps for your iWatch wasn’t from, so you gave your full name and credit card number to an impersonator who just bought themselves a $98.50 Amazon gift card with your money. When you’re statement arrives weeks later, you give it a quick scan and since you did do Christmas shopping on Amazon, it doesn’t catch your attention. If you ever do realize it wasn’t your purchase, the dispute period will be over anyway.

Dang nabbit!! Stay tuned for tips to avoid getting played.

I’m pretty good at spotting a scam, at least I was. But it’s a new day in Scamville, and the residents have upped their game big time. The English is perfect. The graphics are masterful. And collaboration in the underworld is extraordinary. In our next three articles you’ll find out how we’re still getting taken, and how to avoid it.

Are any of these examples things you might do in a typical week?

Monday: Proud of your new promotion, you’re updating your LinkedIn profile when you notice a request to join your network from a forensic accountant. You don’t recognize the name, but being in the financial management business, you sometimes need independent professionals to conduct investigations, so you click the accept button.

Tuesday: You get an email from Hallmark saying that a friend has sent you a belated Christmas card. You figure it’s from John, he’s always late! You click on the link to see a melting snowman.

Wednesday: Your wife’s birthday is coming up and you found an antique vase on eBay that she’d love. Unfortunately, you didn’t win the auction with your $150 bid, but you just got an email message from the seller saying that the sale fell through and since they really need money, they’re willing to sell the vase to you for $100. You reply “yes!” and send the etransfer.

Thursday: You send out a tweet saying that you really love your new iWatch for quickly checking incoming messages and they are still on sale at

Friday: You get an email from Facebook saying that photos you posted have been removed as offensive content. You’re shocked and really confused, wondering if your account has been hacked. You click the link in the email which takes you to the Facebook login page. You enter your details, go to your page and don’t see anything untoward, and no messages from Facebook. Must have been a scam.

Saturday: You get an email from your boss, who’s just started vacation, saying that he forgot to do something before he left. He asks you to send the HR files for everyone in the administration department to a consultant who he’s hired to review the company’s hiring process. He makes a joke about “other related duties” in your new job description. You login to the HR system and send copies of the files to the email address your boss provided.

Sunday: You get an email from with a list of links to 10 iWatch apps that they’re sure you’ll love. They are offering them to you for free, you just have to enter your name and credit card number to verify your mi-things purchase. You fill out the form because they got your card number when you purchased, so no harm giving it to them again.

Do any of these scenarios seem familiar? In the next article, we’ll look at how your week benefited scammers.