How much do digital marketing services cost?

Many small businesses owners know they need to market their offerings online, but the idea is daunting. Traditional advertising has always been a bit of a gamble, but digital marketing is downright confusing. It seems like a big black hole in cyberspace that will suck money off your bottom line. And that can certainly be the case if you don’t know what you’re doing.

It’s word of mouth on steroids.

Still, your entrepreneurial gut says you need a professional online presence. You know you need a Web site, but there is more. How do you get it to rank high on search engines? And will it look good on phones and other devices? You’ll also need to get in on social media where people chat, like, share, pin, and review businesses by the millions. If you’re not involved, your  competitors are reaping profits that could be yours. To make things worse, people may already be talking about you online, behind your back so to speak. You probably want to know what’s being said and be in on the conversation.

As an entrepreneur trying to stretch a buck, you may try to tackle the world of digital marketing with the DYI approach. After all, you’ve heard about free Web sites, free Facebook and Twitter, blogs, vlogs, etc., and free email marketing services. All you have to do is learn how to harness all the digital services and devices out there and turn them into your online marketing machines. How hard can it be?

Most Small Business People Have No Idea What Is Involved

Here is my warning to the small business owner thinking about being their own DYI digital marketer. Digital Marketing is a multi-faceted discipline and learning everything there is to know requires a huge time investment. Failure to learn equates with wasted time and pitfalls that will hurt your business. For example, if you’re not following Google’s rules, you may be penalized. Or, if you’re using old school tactics of print and broadcast ads your digital marketing will tank.

You have four choices: Pay to get trained in the profession, pay a digital media consultant, spend your time doing things that may not be effective, forget the whole thing and fall behind.

The fact is, if you’re not a professional and don’t have time to learn, you will need to budget for services if you want your digital marketing to work for you. You’ll need to learn how to work with these new professionals. Familiarize yourself with what’s involved in digital media marketing so you can speak with them coherently.

How much will it cost?

The following links will give you realistic information about the costs of marketing these days. Here’s the way I work: I ask new clients what their budget is but have never yet had one provide a figure. It gets them thinking, though.  Then I ask what their long and short term goals are.  We discuss options for meeting those goals. Then I write a work plan with priorities and costs.  Online marketing lends itself well to working in phases.

So, what’s the bottom line?

The costs given are with small rural businesses in mind, not big corporations. I’m talking mom and pop-style small–on the low end. The figures are based on my personal experience, as in what I have done personally, what I have seen my clients spend, or what associates charge. As you will see, the costs vary widely, which gives everybody some wiggle room to negotiate. Generally, for a market like the one described, expect to pay from $30 to $90 dollars an hour for the array of digital media services. Professionals in this market will often consider part trades for services. For perspective, keep in mind that salaried digital marketing employees in cities earn from $50,000 to $180,000 a year.

Campaign Development. $900 – $5,000

Project analysis, strategic planning (includes market and competitor research, keyword analysis for organic Search Engine Optimization) .

Deliverables: Strategic plan, budget, competitor  analysis report, strategic keywords. Plan should include overall online marketing presence including Web page, social media, and email marketing.

Web site. $200 – $10,000.

Deliverables: Domain name, hosting, copy writing, images, videos, e-commerce, analysis. The low end is a simple one-page “landing page” or “brochure page,” where the client supplies all content, including professional-looking photos. The high end considers an e-commerce merge with existing inventory system. As with all things online, there are free options  and more expensive ones. The price above does not include ongoing annual outlays such as domain name and hosting, which will cost around $150/yr. It also does not include monthly fees charged by “template sites.” Template sites are favored by many businesses because they can make Web site changes rather than waiting for a Web master to update their information, and paying their hourly rates.

Email Marketing Launch. $800 – $4,000

Deliverables: Vetted e-mail list, templates, copy, images, distribution, evaluation. Cost factors vary depending on size of list, number of changes, condition of existing customer email list, quantity of “camera-ready” content, etc.

Social Media

1-Facebook $800 and up

Setup $650  and up. Includes cover design, custom tabs, initial content, invitations, initial Likes building. Cost depends on number of custom tabs, pages, copy ready images and customized scripting.

Facebook ongoing status updates and management. $150 – $900 per month

Here is a useful Creative Services List with high/low costs of other services for which you may hire a creative consultant.

Here are a couple of articles that pinpoint two crucial online marketing devices.

Email Marketing

Search Engine Optimization







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Putting Your Restaurant Menu Online

On my webpage “The Greater South Lake Coeur d’Alene Alternative“, I help the 100,000 visitors on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes find restaurants in rural communities along the way.

For some, I am able to link to a menu on their webpage. Others post menus on listing sites, like  Some don’t have their menus online at all. I previously did some research into convenient menu listing options for my customers and didn’t find anything that wowed me.

As I was checking links today, I noticed “View Menu” by SinglePlatform has pretty much taken over menu listings on top online directories like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, YellowPages, TripAdvisor, etc. Their service allows changes to menus to be made across all platforms, even webpages, with a click.

How Online Directories Work

Most online directories post bare bones business information online, (NAP — Name, Address, Phone) then give business owners a chance to “manage” and expand their listings — mostly free to some degree, or paid if more in-depth services are desired. If you are not at least reviewing, and hopefully managing, your business information online, it can very well be wrong without you realizing it. If you have a restaurant, you will want to check and see if there is a “faux” menu for your restaurant online.

According to a post on, a forum for pizza restaurant owners, SinglePlatform posts menus irresponsibly — meaning, there is no effort made to ensure they are accurate. The only remedy is to sign up and pay to correct the information. Here is a very eloquent description of the “service.”

“I disagree with this company’s skumbag approach to business. It seems to go like this. We will publish your menu WITHOUT your permission on many of the most popular websites on the internet. This menu could be completely inaccurate. It could have dozens of mistakes. It could be someone else’s menu altogether or a menu from 10 years ago. They then cover their butts with the following discalimer.”Disclaimer: Always check with the business for pricing and availability of menu items. SinglePlatform is not responsible for menu or pricing changes, but the information is believed to be accurate when posted. Listing of a menu does not mean that there is any affiliation, endorsement or sponsorship between SinglePlatform and the listed business.

“Never mind that your pissed off customers may call up and want a pizza for half of the price that you sell it for because they went to yahoo and pulled up your menu. Only it wasn’t your menu. It was a BS menu that single platform put up there with your NAME on it. Here is the kicker. If you want to fix or replace or correct or remove the incorrect menu, that they had no right to publish to begin with, they will EXTORT a fee out of you to do so. Is this the kind of company you want to do business with? I can think of thousands of better companies to support with my dollars.”

The online directory mega corporations are not investing a lot of money putting your information online just to be good guys. They are building opt-in lead lists so they can sell you their other services.  But if you want your business to show up on page one of search engines and provide useful information to potential customers, you will have to deal with them. It’s called “citation building.”

Getting your business information accurately listed on the profusion of online directories can be a time sucking proposition. Getting all the information correct, the same, and up-to-date on the data bases of these mega corporations is often an exercise in frustration. This raises the very relevant question of whether it’s worth it to pay SinglePlatform the $79 monthly fee to keep everything straightened out, despite the fact that they are sort of forcing you into it.

Here is a pizza place owner who is happy with the service. He thinks his uptick in business may be tied to buying into SinglePlatform’s services.

“About 8 weeks ago I received a phone call from a representative from singleplatform saying she noticed that we qualify for their service: She asked if I thought we could handle a 10%-20% increase in sales.

“I thought this was an interesting sales pitch so I listened to what she had to offer and it turns out that she was offering something I was looking for. They update and publish my menu and make changes to the menu for me. All search engines, review sites, and my own website are updated by them any time I make a price or item change. This service was just what I wanted and I jumped at it right away. Within a month my menu was published on about 2o sites.
She said that by having a menu published on all these sites it would drive more customers to my business. I just thought it would be nice to have someone do the work for me. So far the result has been an increase in sales over last September and August. August was our best August ever (54 years) and now September weekly sales are up from an average of $17,800 (2012) to $19,600 this year. We have had some nice weather the last 6 weeks and I think it is either the weather or singleplatform or both.
I am surprised by the results . Has anyone else used singleplatform? If so, have you noticed the same increase or am I jumping the gun on this?” (Accessed from on Nov 8, 2014)

I looked at SinglePlatform’s webpage and followed links to news coverage about them.

Articles in Forbes and Huffington Post reveal interesting stories about Wiley Cerilli, the young and ambitious founder of the company, and the challenges he overcame when proceeding from an idea to a $250 million plus business that he sold to Constant Contact for $100 million in the space of four years.

Their services include: listings on an extensive network of search engines, website integration with “one click” technology, mobile optimization, integration with facebook and twitter, tech support, and analytics to see where customers are discovering and engaging online.

In comparison to the sheer volume of customers (at least more than 60,000), the handful of complaints I found online seem minimal. Here’s one from the Rip Off Report:

“They’re very good at selling you on their product, but have found a way to deliver something to you so they can collect your money, but not actually do your business any good, or even deliver on what you paid for in the first place.” (

But the fact that there are only 12 complaints on the Better Business Bureau site puzzles me because they mirror experiences that are pretty much ubiquitous among my customers who plunge into the world of online business citation listings. Typical problems include:

  • Difficulty getting wrong information corrected.
  • Discovering that the money being paid isn’t worth it and having a hard time getting of the carousel.
  • Finding somebody that actually cares and can help (needle in haystack syndrome).

One issue to be aware of is to read the Terms and Conditions. With most of these types of services, signing up means you agree to have the the service automatically renewed unless you cancel. When business owners don’t read the TOC and decide they want to cancel after the money has come out of their accounts, they may meet some resistance.

This is when they turn to the Better Business Bureau for help. In the case of SinglePlatform, this has led to satisfactory resolution nine times out of ten. But one business who tried to get a refund was told (like the case in the Rip Off Report above) that SinglePlatform simply doesn’t do that. The  business owner found a remedy in the form of a charge back through the credit card company.

It’s good to know generally the kind of workforce you’ll be dealing with if you do have any questions or problems with a company. is a site where people who work for various companies tell others what it’s like, so it’s a good place to get some inside scoop. In the case of SinglePlatform, most workers liked the company, although being quite young, most of them didn’t realize they were signing up to be relentless telemarketers to the point of being obnoxious. Most people are not necessarily cut out for that kind of work — but feel stuck once they get the job because they have to pay their bills. Most employees at SinglePlatform don’t last for more than a year or two.

SinglePlatform may be a good fit for your business, and you might get a salesman (“Business Analyst” in SinglePlatform parlance) who actually cares about your success. But don’t agree to anything before you ask a bunch of questions and read the fine print in the Terms of Agreement.


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Is SiteLock for real?

I am a new customer at Fatcow and signed up for SiteLock which keeps an eye on one’s source code for suspicious activity. Within a couple of months, I got an email from SiteLock that malware was detected on my site and if I didn’t respond via phone within a certain time my certification would be dropped. I was not able to respond via phone but sent an email that I’d be back in service soon.

A guy called me next day but I couldn’t talk right then. He said Google reported malware on my site. He was obviously a salesman and gave me some price options for having the problem fixed. I asked for an email with the details about the nature of the malware. The guy said he would send it.

Meanwhile, I did some research: Could I fix it myself? Could services I already subscribe to handle it with an upgrade for less than what SiteLock was proposing? I used Clearinghouse Search, AVG, and a Google Webmaster malware checker. There were no threats uncovered.

I realize the world of IT hacking is quite complicated, however, because of the way SiteLock company approached this supposed problem as a sales opportunity rather than helpful consultant, I wonder if I’m being okey-doked and am now in the predicament of spending otherwise billable hours picking the pepper from the fly droppings.

I did a search for “SiteLock scams” and found others who feel the same way. The bad reviews were downright horrible. There were some five stars as well. Nothing in between.


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Switching a Dinosaur Web Site to

Impressions of an online WordPress class with pitfalls and triumphs along the way

My clients often need help upgrading or creating Web sites, so I look for Web gurus to partner with. I much prefer to spend my time creating content rather than being a back end techie. But, Web masters that meet my standards are hard to come by, and the great ones are often super-busy or not affordable for my rural clients. So, finally I decided to bite the bullet and  upgrade my own creaking Web Site crafting skills. I’m taking online classes through the local college at $129 a whack. The first one — HTML5/CSS3 went pretty well. By pretty well I mean, the interface was bug-free and instructor Alan Simpson had a very thorough delivery style. I aced the final, but didn’t master the material. Part of that is due to lack of time for more practice. But I have the notes to refer to now. I love school, so when that class ended, I decided to enroll in the WordPress II class.

Switching to WordPress

I want to master WordPress for a number of reasons.

  • I need to bring, into the 21st century.
  • I need to create a new website for
  • I want to build and/or migrate content management sites (CMS) for clients.
  • I’ve tried simpler Web site building programs: Intuit, Kompozer and Weebly, and they all have glitches I don’t like.

I decided I could handle the WordPress II class because:

  • I already have several blogs
  • I helped a client navigate an existing Web site to a very basic site
  • I practiced with lessons on YouTube by Tyler Moore who is an online WordPress web tutor extraordinaire that makes it all look very easy.

Nevertheless, efforts to learn what I need on my own have resulted is frustration. I hired a consultant — something I rarely do on my tight budget — but thought 10 hours or so of his time would get me on the right track. This was true to a point, but mostly the lack of progress was disappointing. For one thing, he ran into some of the same frustrations I did; and, I needed to take a class just to understand what he’s talking about.

This blog article started as a draft of notes to post on the class discussion area. It got way too long so I decided to journal my experiences here to keep track of my questions, and discoveries. Somebody wanting to learn WordPress may be able to benefit from my trials and tribulations. Also, I don’t really want to sound like a whiner on the class discussion site, or sound disrespectful to the teacher, but there are some frustrating aspects of this teacher’s communication style that I need to vent about!

Challenges With the WordPress II Class

I signed up for the WordPress II class through thinking it would be pretty much a piece of cake, and I could get answers to a few of the sticking points that have been holding me up. Right off the bat, it’s taking more time and money than expected. This is as compared to my previous experience with the HTML5/CSS3 class. We’re three lessons into this one and I’m already lagging behind. I feel the teacher, John, could be better at making things more clear right off the bat.

Too begin with, I had to find a new web host, and the extra expense was completely unexpected. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see anything about that contingency in the syllabus or orientation. I know it must be hard to believe, but some people don’t have an extra $60 – $100 bucks lying around that’s not allocated for food, gas, and toilet paper. Also, John tends to make vague statements that leave out important (to me) details. This requires extra time from me to: 1) pore through the discussion posts one-by-one to see if my questions have been addressed there — and if not, formulate my questions in writing; and/or research elsewhere (which I could do without paying for the class). From the very beginning a few avoidable painful twinges pop up, and I briefly consider dropping out and getting my money back.

Lesson One – Getting Started With WordPress

We are told the class will be building a practice site together and that we will need a domain name and a host, so get the checkbook out. There was confusion on my part about how this domain should be named. It says I’d be needing an “unrelated domain name,” but “this shouldn’t matter…” huh — unrelated to backyard gardens? What do you mean it doesn’t matter?

“Also, keep in mind that you’re going to need a domain name for our class project website. You won’t be able to use its real name, (because I’ve already registered that domain), so you’ll have to pick an unrelated domain name. This shouldn’t matter, because it’s just a practice site—and after the course ends, you can erase the content and use the domain for your own purposes. If you plan on working on your own site during the course, you’ll have to register one domain for the course project and a second for your own.”

I have an aversion to “should/shouldn’t,” especially in reference to what should be precise directions. Since I don’t have money to throw away, I would definitely want to erase the content and use the domain for my own purposes at end of class. And yes, I have several pending projects and would want to register a domain name I actually plan to use. Does the erasing include everything except the actual domain name — like Web site title? Will I find the practice template useable for the domain name I will want to use? Not a deal breaker, but these are questions that should be anticipated and clarified at this point in the lesson, I think, rather than the FAQs at the end.

Do I Need A New Hosting Service?

I already have a host for a going Web site, and several reserved domain names I plan to use someday soon. So, the first thought is to use those and hopefully put the checkbook away. As part of the project to migrate to WordPress, the guy I’d hired had already set up a rudimentary WP site on my current hostmysite account, where the existing old html Web site is housed. I had paid him to do it so I wouldn’t have to worry about it — (but the WP files are residing there free). Now I have to focus on what he had already done, to see if I can appropriate it to my class needs.

I switched to hostmysite last year after my main old html Web site was hacked and the host took a full week to respond. Everything is working fine, and I have never actually needed to spend any time looking at the control panel. I always update the site in html and load it via the Filezilla FTP program. Now I’m looking at the hostmysite (basic service) control panel, which looks very outdated compared to the example shown in Lesson One. I click around for quite a while and can see no visible support for WordPress. You’d think it would be under the Applications tab, right?

Wildly Different Levels of WordPress Support Against a Backdrop of 100% Ignorant

When I started the process of trying to change my old site to a responsive WP site, I had asked the folks at hostmysite if they supported WordPress, and was told they do. I have since observed there are wildly differing levels of how a host “supports” WordPress. Last fall, starting out 100 percent ignorant, I helped a client in Oregon upgrade a Web site to WordPress — and add a map and video — by following the simple download instructions provided by their domain host (along with Tyler Moore’s great videos). I figured all hosts who claim WordPress support would have an automatic loading function.

When it came to migrating my own site, I didn’t have time to deal with it. I wanted the site moved quickly and, based on the ease of my experience with the client in Oregon, thought a seasoned WordPress contractor could take care of it in a snap. I paid him so I didn’t have to sorry about it, I thought. Now, if I was going to utilize my current host for the class requirements, I needed to zero in on what exactly my techie had done. I fished out the progress report he had emailed me and read it thoroughly for the first time. Then I emailed him with a couple of questions based on ignorant assumptions, forgetting that he tends to ramble on and on and charge me by the minute like a lawyer. I admire that he values his time, but not so much when I’m paying for him to tell me things I didn’t necessarily ask about.

Essentially, the important part of his response was that he had installed WordPress manually and  “stashed the WordPress site in a sub-folder.” At about that time I learned the basic service on hostmysite uses Plesk control panel, which the instructor cautioned us to stay away from because “it doesn’t work well with WordPress.” I slept on it and decided to look around for a more WordPress friendly host.

The Search for a WordPress Friendly Host

I spend several hours on the Internet, researching WordPress-friendly hosts, and finally zero in on SiteGround for: load speed of WordPress pages, customer help, cost, and services. I prefer to do business with American companies, but the hosts so outshine the competition, I overlook the fact that they are based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I am happy to see them on instructor John’s list of suggested sites. To sweeten the pot, they also have a sale going, and I get a year of hosting (with hack alert) for less than $60. So far the customer service chat has been stellar and I love my new control panel.

First Baby Steps to My New Web Site

I have been renewing a number of unused domain names through hostmysite and started an account at SiteGround with one of them. I’ll be using the automatic WP install to develop a brand new WordPress Web site for But I still need to make a space for the class practice site. In the FAQs, rather than within the lesson on creating domains and finding hosts, I see a question from somebody in a similar boat to my own.

“Q: I have one domain that I’m using for an existing website. Do I have to register a second domain for the class project?
A: Definitely not. You can set up a place for our practice website on your own domain at no extra charge, and you’ll be able to administer each site separately. It’s done by creating a subdomain.”

Sweet, but this contingency should have been anticipated and addressed in the flow of the lesson instructions. I intend to install the class practice site on SiteGround, on a subdomain of thrival-survival. I will try installing that second one manually for the practice.

Some statements by the teacher confuse me:

“…You can set up a place for our practice website on your own domain…by creating a subdomain (and call it) (the subdomain is listed ahead of your main domain and separated by a dot) or, (the subdomain is in a folder of your main domain). The version you choose will determine how visitors will access the website.”

There is no explanation about the pros/cons of the two choices, nor is there clarification about the resulting user experiences.

Lesson Two – Setting up the WordPress Site

This lesson contains a lot of important technical steps for setting up the WordPress files and I can only hope they are clear once I get into the thick of things. As I said earlier, I am lagging behind. I notice another vague statement, this one regarding permalinks:

“I’m going to give you one that works well for CMS websites that don’t have too many blog posts.”

How many is too many? How does number of blog posts interact with the syntax of a permalink? How should we plan ahead for a site where “too many blog posts” might occur? On the topic of quantity, how many pages (as opposed to posts) would be considered “too many” on a WordPress site?

Lesson Three – Working With Themes

Upon signing up with my new host I am (almost) immediately prompted to do the automatic WordPress install which requires picking a theme. I often hear about how themes can be easily changed, such as in the opening lines of Lesson Three:

“It takes only a few mouse clicks to activate a different theme, and you never have to worry about losing your site’s content when you switch. And perhaps the best part of WP themes is that you can customize them to your heart’s content.” So a different statement by John comes as a surprise: “…you may need an extra sidebar on the left or right of the main content…The overall layout is one of the most difficult elements to change, so make sure you’re satisfied with the way your theme is set up.”

I have a very simple layout in mind, and I do need an extra sidebar, but have not been able to find the proper theme. I thought I could easily experiment with themes and change if needed, but now I wonder.

John writes, “…choosing the best one (theme) for your needs is a major decision. For me, it’s often an agonizing task that takes as much time as any other part of the development process.” So, I’m not alone! Looking for the theme I need has already sucked up a HUGE amount of otherwise billable hours. There is always learning and professional development time, but this has come to a point of ridiculous for somebody trying to make a living in a rural one-woman shop. This one factor has completely stalled my ability to switch my old html site to a responsive WP theme in a reasonable time frame.

The framework I need seems simple enough. I need a theme with a header, and below that, a 50%-wide content block on the left and two 25% columns on right. I want the content block to look exactly like my existing site. Images with floated text that wraps around. I don’t want lines between the entriess. The columns should be 170 px wide. They will hold numerous static ads already on my site (enter the widgets, I suppose)? These specs are a rough idea and can be adjusted for maximum phone viewing efficiency, if necessary. I want the site to basically look like my old html site except the ad columns will both be on the right side, rather than straddling the two sides of the text block, like they are now. Oh, and I want to add a video plug-in and the site needs to be responsive, asap. Maybe I’ll have room for a thin column on the left for links and other things currently on the site. Pretty simple, right?

In Search of the Elusive Theme & Other Vagaries

I can see where a new service of “theme broker” could be a growing industry. I have eaten up way too much time searching and not finding. One key reason I invested in this class is for some clear help dealing with this theme issue. So, I was encouraged at the start of Chapter Three with the promise: “This lesson will cover every aspect of WordPress themes.” [Emphasis mine]. Unfortunately, vagaries like, “In addition to general purpose designs, there are plenty of WordPress themes for specific uses,” are a dime a dozen on the Internet and not what I want to be paying for.

I have tried some sites that offer WP themes and search filters, but so far none has offered satisfactory choices. It shouldn’t be that hard. A theme collection with with more sophisticated ability to select specific needs seems to be lacking. Even a site that shows basic free themes with lots of examples of what each one can potentially look like after incorporating various options, would help.

I hired that guy bring a theme solution to my table, but he also complained of all the fruitless hours spent looking at themes. I feel like I got about 10% closer to where I want to be for twice more than I wanted to pay. Part of the problem is not understanding beforehand, what can and can’t be easily tweaked (such as column width and placement). And now, finding out that only paid themes can be adjusted, is not good news at all.

Then, reading further, I discover even if I find a theme with the correct layout, the “responsive” function might not even work, according to John. “Not all responsive themes work as advertised.” How about providing a list of the ones the DO work as advertised??

We are advised to avoid themes with hidden links, which seems like a useful nugget of information, but once again, I have the feeling of being left dangling…”You’ll sometimes run across an unusual-looking link in the footer or sidebar of a free WordPress theme.” Why not describe what is meant by unusual looking?”

Will there be explanations about what some of the features in the Install Themes filter mean, such as: Blavatar, Custom Header, BuddyPress, Microformats, Flexible Header, Front Page Posting, RTL, Language, Featured Image, Full-Width Template?

It would be nice to know these things before starting the installation.



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I Went to Email List Hell and it Froze Over

Last night I fell into email list hell and I haven’t crawled out yet. I’m telling you this to share my angst and save you some time and frustration.

The mission is to establish an email campaign for my local Chamber of Commerce so they can send out a monthly email letter to encourage visitors to come to town. The Chamber has collected about 400 names and email addresses in various ways and I combined all these onto a spreadsheet.

The only way I know to invite people on a spreadsheet to join an email subscription is to send each one a message that contains a link to a sign up form that triggers the double opt in process. Double Opt In means people have to fill in a form to subscribe, then click on a link in a second email that confirms their intent to receive the emails. It’s the way I set up the mailing list for my own business, and everything worked very well.

I do not send subscription invites in bulk because I think they will end up in SPAM folders, and that would be a waste of precious email addresses. So, I cut and paste the message each time, cut and paste every individual email address, type in the first name to personalize it, and enter the subject line for every one. It’s time consuming drudgery, but I don’t know any other way to legally turn a spreadsheet list into a mass email list. It’s well worth the effort when you end up with a good non-spammy email list of people who actually care about what you have to offer.

I once had an email connected to my company Web site, but it got hacked, so I started using Gmail, which is  what I used to send out about 300 invites to start my own email list on Mail Chimp. I sent the emails out one-at-a-time over the course of an evening, and there were no problems.

I needed an email account to start the Mail Chimp service for the Chamber. They already had Gmail, but when setting up services for a client it makes sense to set up a new email for them so I can get in and out easily while keeping myself out of their other company email business.

I went to Gmail but ran into my profile with only two options: adding an account and removing one. You know, the “One Account All of Google” thing. It looked like the Chamber page would be linked to my Google profile, which I did not want. So, I decided to use a different service.

After perusing Web based email evaluations, I chose Microsoft, aka, hotmail, aka The interface was completely new to me, and not very intuitive. Where’s the help button?

I got the Mail Chimp account established and designed the opt-in forms and campaign template. Then it was time to import the .csv list into so I could start inviting people to subscribe. I knew the emails were working because I’d exchanged some campaign templates and header samples with the Chamber email marketing team.

The method for importing the list was not evident, so I searched around on the web for instructions. I found some but they didn’t work. There were no prompts as to why they didn’t work, and no clues about required file parameters.

This Chamber project has been hanging over my head and I want to get it done! So, I decided to try Gmail again, since I know my way around there (I thought). I searched the Web yet again and discovered I could avoid the “One Account All of Google” problem by  either clearing my cache and cookies (which I don’t want to do because I will have to retype all my user names and passwords), or use a different browser. I use Firefox, so I made the Chamber’s account through Chrome, which worked out.

I imported the spreadsheet list into Gmail via a .csv file, then arranged it into various groups because I had a separate letter for each group, depending on how the Chamber got their contact information. Some of the people, for example, had entered a contest which asked them to answer questions, including whether they wanted to get emails from us. Those who said “yes” were to get one version of the letter. Those who didn’t answer (the majority) were to get a different letter. Those who said “no” were not even on the spreadsheet. Other contacts were forwarded to us through the state’s tourism information department.

So, finally, I settled down to an evening of cut/paste/type/send and got about 40 emails out when a message popped up from Google saying the account was being frozen for 24 hours due the assumption that I was sending SPAM — which is exactly what I was trying to avoid. About half of the emails had bounced back as undeliverable, which I didn’t know because I was busy cutting and pasting, not looking at the inbox.

Everything was working fine at first, but the emails I had sent during the last 20 minutes bounced back. The reasons for their rejection were vague. It could be due to the fact that quite a few emails had bounced back, it said. But the reason they were bouncing back is because Gmail thought it was SPAM. I was trapped in a miserable Google loop with no apparent means of escape. I had also used the same subject line for each one, so thought that might be the cause of the problem. Anyway, I had no way of knowing whether the email addresses were stale or if it was a Google problem.

So, because I really wanted to get the project DONE, I decided to try Outlook again. I started by resending through Outlook, the emails that had bounced back in Google. All went through except one — or so it seems.

Bolstered by this small success, I decided to try loading the .csv file into Outlook again. That required more Internet research to see what I was doing wrong. Finally, I stumbled on the idea of using only three specifically named fields: first name, last name, email. I’d had two other headings on the spreadsheet: One was Business, and the other was Source, both of which are valuable information. Google had no problem importing the list with the additional columns. It sorted them into a handy comments box. When I changed the spreadsheet to just three columns, the .csv finally went through to If it was going to be so picky, why couldn’t Microsoft include a prompt with the required specs?

Upon importing, the list automatically became the Master List group, but I wanted it to be the Contestant group. I had just spent time sorting the spreadsheet into various groups and wanted to keep them there. So I went through one-by-one, moving each from the master list to the Contestant group I’d created. When I got all through with that, I was quite surprised to see that only the NAMES had been imported, not the email addresses! It took so long for me to figure that out because I was blinded by assumption. After 20 years of importing/exporting mailing lists I had NEVER transferred a .csv file into an email program that ignored the email addresses! So, I spent another hour cutting and pasting emails from my Contestant spreadsheet onto the Outlook Contestant group. By now, plenty of unwanted margins for error were creeping in, but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it.

Now I’m back in the same boat as I was over in Gmail. At this point the Contestant group is ready to mail out. I have two limited options in Outlook. I can mail to the entire group from the Inbox — but this is risky because nobody on this list has opted in to accept a mass mailing. Or, I can go into People, and look at thumbnails of the group members without any way to mail each one separately. I will have to go back to the Inbox, open my spreadsheet, enter their emails one by one, and run the risk of being flagged for spamming anyway, like I was back in Gmail.

I decided to test everything by making a little group and sending emails to a few of my personal accounts. I cut and pasted a copy of the invite letter onto a new email, gave it a subject line, and created a hotlink to the sign up form.

This leads to another Outlook mail quirk. When you type a URL into Gmail, it automatically hotlinks it, but doesn’t. Therefore, if you want to cut and paste with a live link, do it from an email that’s got the link in it, not from a text file, which is what I was doing originally. Why? Because cutting and pasting from text files is good practice, since .txt doesn’t carry over formatting. People who do drafts and paste them onto a blog or template-based web site use text files for that reason. Anyway, several of the bounced letters went out referring to a link that was not there because stupid Outlook didn’t automatically put one in. This underscores the need for testing things by sending yourself an email.

I sent the test group off to myself and waited a few minutes. That was about 2 a.m. I waited some more, but the emails never showed up. Oh, guess what? They’re going right into my SPAM folders because Gmail already thinks this sender is spamming. Grrrr.

There’s got to be an easy way around this. I go to Gmail’s Facebook page to see if I can get a “quick” answer. I’ve already been dealing with this for 24 hours, so quick isn’t exactly the right word. The only place to post a comment is in an existing post, so I find the first one and cry out for help there. The Gmail Facebook page has 1.7 million likes, so I figure it must be a pretty lively place. An hour later there is not one answer to my question — not even a bad one.

I open the bounced Gmail messages to take a better look at them. There is a “contact us” link to use if one’s emails keep bouncing. There is also a suggestion to use Google Groups and a link to a page that will supposedly have an explanation of how to do this. When I click on it, there is absolutely nothing about sending an email to a group. At this point I want to know why sending mass mail to a Gmail group is NOT considered SPAM. I click on the contact link and ask for help. I know it will take a while for them to get back to me, so I do more Google searches: “Is emailing to a Group considered SPAM?” Now I’m getting answers that mostly have to do with incoming SPAM. That, and they’re talking at me in acronyms I don’t understand:

“We also recommend publishing an SPF record and signing with DKIM. We do not authenticate DKIM using less than a 1024-bit key.”

“Learn more about email authentication. Additional guidelines for IPv6”

“The sending IP must have a PTR record (i.e., a reverse DNS of the sending IP) and it should match the IP obtained via the forward DNS resolution of the hostname specified in the PTR record. Otherwise, mail will be marked as spam or possibly rejected. The sending domain should pass either SPF check or DKIM check. Otherwise, mail might be marked as spam.”

I need a Plan C. I’m wondering if there is a service I can hire that has all their DKIMs, IPv6s, and SPFs in a row. Or at least a piece of software that walks me through them smoothly.

I log into Mail Chimp Support to see if they have any suggestions. One thing I love is support chat, which Mail Chimp has. So, we hash over the problem and in the end I’m told there is nothing they can do for cases like this. What? I bet I’m not the only one who has ever encountered this issue. The guy says I can send an email to the compliance department, which helps people with SPAM issues.

While I’m in Mail Chimp I check the list to see if there are any successful sign ups. I managed to get two subscriptions through all that mess!

OK. I’m going back to Outlook to start cutting and pasting. Wait, I think it’s time to carb up with some Top Ramen first. I’m hoping I don’t get flagged. I will change up the subject lines a bit. Maybe that will throw the SPAM bots off for a while.

Update: Here I am two days later still cutting and pasting in Outlook. I now have 20 properly opted in people on the Chamber’s list and they keep coming in. It’s a good feeling.

I’m changing up the subject line and the text sometimes. Don’t know if that’s helping, but I haven’t been accused of spamming and locked out. About an hour ago I got a message from Outlook that said suspicious activity was possibly occurring on my account, therefore they were going to SMS me with a code number so I could continue on. How hospitable. Why didn’t Google think of that?

Visit Harrison Idaho

Harrison Trails, the new e-letter from the little resort town on the lake



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10 Great Social Media Presentations for Beginners!

10 Great Social Media Presentations for Beginners!.

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Copy Writing Infographic Cheat Sheet

I love these Infographics. How about you?

VerticalResponse Copywriting Cheat Sheet Infographic

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Infographic on How to Increase Email Conversions

Intelligent Email Marketing that Drives ConversionsMonetate Marketing Infographics//


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How Technology is Changing the Travel Industry

10 key trends in innovation and technology that are driving change in travel

Personalizing the Online Travel Experience


Dreating a custom travel experience

Semantic technology will enable travelers to create an itinerary that will deliver the best total experience for their money.

A payment revolution is underway in the travel industry.

Near Field Communications technology is changing the world. In the near future, the idea of paying with a smart phone or other  mobile device will be commonplace. It’s already a trend in the travel industry. A recent PhoCusWright report found that more than one fourth of leisure travelers and one third of business travelers use their mobile phone to book travel products such as flights or hotel rooms.


Mobile payment transactions

According to a new report from Juniper Research, global mobile payment transactions will skyrocket over the next five years, surpassing US$1.3 trillion by 2017.


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Working from Home?

What to do if there is false (and therefore damaging) contact information about your business online.

The new marketing trend — as stong as a tidal wave — is to converge geographic information about your business with consumer data. To market  your businesses, third parties serve your information to anybody in the area who might be interested in what you’re selling. It’s a dream come true for the savvy business who can harness the power of this trend.

These third parties have to find businesses to sell their services to. One ingenious way they get leads is through a slew of online directories. Business owners need contact information correctly cited on these directories, whether or not we plan to utilize the paid marketing options. We willingly submit our info, and thus create sales lead lists, because the quantity and quality of citations directly impacts search engine ranking.

Claiming your listing is free.  Just supply the NAP (Name, Address, Phone). Some allow websites too, which provides valuable back-links. Others even let you post pictures and videos at no charge.  A number of these directories include customer reviews — another can of worms. They also offer a variety of paid services, but basic listings are free.

Here’s the rub. Since this marketing trend is tied to local geographic information, they want your street address. But suppose you work from home and don’t want your personal residence blasted all over the web? Can you still make sure your business is visible on search engines, directories, mobile apps, and social media sites? The answer is yes, sometimes, but it might be a hassle.

Gooogle+Local, arguably the most important directory for showing up at the top of a Google search, doesn’t accept PO boxes, so you have to work around it. Other sites like Yelp, don’t seem to have a problem with them as of this writing.

As the experience I share below shows, even if you go through the hassle of keeping your work-at-home address out of the limelight, it could be floating around on the web, because directories may have mined it from public information sources and posted it, unbeknownst to you. The only solution is to take charge of a situation you didn’t create (and maybe didn’t even know about).

It Pays to Google Your Business Once in a While

I googled my business in the course of doing research and noticed it listed on the front page of Google (which is a very good thing). It appeared on a directory named PowerProfiles, which I had not previously heard of. When I clicked the link I was shocked to see my physical residential address. I never supplied that data to any online listing service. I consider this data private, and neither my rental agreement nor zoning allows public access for the purpose of conducting business. This is a pretty serious breech and I’m betting other home-based entrepreneurs find themselves in the same boat from time to time.

Saved by the Red Button

Luckily, there is a prominent red button right above my NAP that says Edit this Information. Clicking on the link leads to a page that says PowerProfiles Data Changes (through our data partner Localeze). It says this is the place to make changes to my PowerProfiles data and hundreds of other sites too, all from one account, and to please allow 60-90 days for the new data to propagate.

There is another prominent red button marked Get Started Now and some text that says this is the place to claim, manage add, modify, enhance, close and distribute my listing to the largest, most trusted Local Search network. I guess they’re talking about Localeze? The button leads to a site called PowerProfiles— a place to “Get Started with Business Listing Identity Management.”

I see by the URL that I am now on a website (even though the title prominently says PowerProfiles. Localeze is a major data aggregator that serves business NAPs to more than 150 online directories. That’s why I went to their site 97 days earlier to claim my listing and manage my business information. I figure PowerProfiles and Localeze must be joined at the hip.

There are four choices offered:

  • Small and Medium businesses can claim, verify, and manage their Local Search presence.
  • Multi-location businesses can manage all listing identities with a program that reaches nearly 150 online local search platforms including mobile, social, online directories and navigational devices.
  • A third party can partner with Localeze to help multiple clients.
  • Residents whose address or phone number has been associated with a business can have it removed.

I click the last one: How to Remove your Residential Information from a Business Listing in our Directory. This leads to a page with clear instructions on how to remove the unwanted information. I am prompted to click on Search our Directory Now.

This brings up a page with a field where I can search for my listing by phone number, or business name and zip. There is also a panel of some FAQS to help with claiming, modifying, closing listings, and more.

This looks like a promising starting point for anybody experiencing issues with false, and therefore damaging, business information online.

The search reveals a new page with my basic business listing at right. Interestingly, it does not include an address, but it matches the correct data I entered when I had claimed this listing 97 days ago.

I hit the Remove Residential Information link anyway, just for the heck of it. This leads to a page that displays the name and city of my business, and an incorrect phone number. The phone number is from another state, and not one number in it matches mine. There is a drop down box that allows me to request removal of the phone number and/or address, and a field that asks why the listing should be removed. I correct the phone number, explain why the physical address should not appear, and since there is room left, I use the remaining space for my soapbox speech, which always seems to fall on deaf ears: rural and home-based businesses need to be able to use PO boxes in their online business listings.

Local search services are reticent to do this for several reasons. Unscrupulous businesses from just about anywhere can get a PO box and advertise “locally” where they don’t actually have a presence. Also, the trend is to pinpoint everybody geographically in order to serve them ads about stuff they want to buy RIGHT NOW. Wonderful as this is for people trying to make money, strictures against PO boxes unfairly penalize rural and home-based businesses who have special needs. The powers-that-be seem completely blind to this, or they simply don’t care.

To make matters worse, there is a notice on the removal page that says:

“Help us update this business listing by confirming the residential information you want removed. We will review your request to remove information from this listing and if it is added to our suppression list, we will no longer distribute your information to the Internet search engines and directories that receive their data from us. Your information will be removed from those websites as they update their files from us.”

Yikes! What information? All my information? I’ve invested many hours building citations. Localeze serves search engines, directories, portals, mobile apps, navigational devices, and social media sites reached by 90% of the U.S. consumer local search market. Will it all be wiped out in one click? It’s not clear. I definitely need my information distributed through them, but only the information I want plastered all over the Net!

How Often Are Listings Updated?

Localeze says it makes updates available to partners on a weekly basis. Each one has their own timetable for implementation, so it’s impossible for Localeze to guarantee when changes will show up. They do say, however, that sites generally incorporate changes within 60 to 90 days. One piece of information that would be very handy to have is not available on the first level of their info pages: who exactly are they sharing my information with?

Will I Get  a Phone Call?

I wonder if I will get a phone call to verify my request to edit information in the Localeze database. The next day my inbox includes an email from Localeze. It matches the data I supplied 97 days hence — the NAP how I want it. The NAP that should have percolated to all the other directories by now. I don’t know if the email is automated or if there is a live person on the other end. I include a note just in case.

“I see now the site w/incorrect info is The edit button leads to Localeze. Apparently, information I provided to Localeze has not filtered through yet, even though it’s been 97 days. Is it possible to get a list of all the sites Localeze provides my information to? Thank-you.”

Meanwhile, I browse the PowerProfile/Localeze site. I see that if you create an account there is an option to Add your Listing. There is also a link to Manage Listings. It says: “Easily verify and manage your Local Search presence across the Web.” I decide to click on that, and lo and behold! there is an alert (in red) that says I need to re-verify my listing, which I do with a click. Does this start the 90-day countdown all over again, I wonder? Do you think there should have been a note in the email stating the fact that I needed to navigate to that alert?

Is there a Live Person Behind the Localeze Email?

Happily, there is a live and helpful person on the other end of Here is what they have to say:

“We do not show a listing in our database for the information you inquired about. It is likely that is receiving that listing from another source. We recommend you contact them directly at (877) 249-0777 or email and have them manually remove your information from their website.

This is surprising, since the two companies seem so closely connected. It’s confusing because PowerProfiles is prominent on the web pages I am being linked to, yet the URL says Localeze. But, this is pretty typical of the kind of stuff that goes on when diligently tending to citation-building duties.

I forward the email from Localeze to PowerProfiles and receive an auto-responder. So, we’ll see what happens next. Just another day in the murky world of the virtual marketing universe.

Take-away: The importance of correct listings in online directories is paramount to business success in this age of virtual marketing. If you own a business, and especially a work-at-home one, you will have to focus time and/or money toward managing an online presence that you may only vaguely understand.


On Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 7:03 AM, LR, customer service via RT wrote:

Your name nor your phone number has a listing with PowerProfiles. You may have
requested its removal and was done.
If you think that there is still a listing with your information, go back to, find the listing, copy the URL. Paste the URL into a return
email and I will investigate the listing and remove if still in our system.
thank you.

Hello Lois,

This feels a bit like the Twilight Zone. I don’t think there is a listing, I know it.



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