Paid Search: Debunking the SEM Myth

“What can you tell me about ‘Paid Search’?” This is how my recent interaction with an apparently senior marketing official of a local company started with. I briefly touched upon Paid Searches and talked about organic search, but most importantly the main objective of Search Engine Optimation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM): maximizing conversions for a business by driving productive traffic to their websites. I talked about a team effort in optimizing SEO/SEM and not just an individualistic role as no big business can achieve SEM opulence without a team. However, my answer did not satisfy this self- proclaimed guru and the conversation abruptly proceeded towards “Quality Score” (QS) and  “Influencer marketing.”

In retrospect, when I think about how marketing professionals on-contract for businesses are approaching the SEM world it makes me ponder about their sling- shot strategy.  Do they actually believe there is a magic formula, to discover for maximizing Quality Scores on their websites. Let me break your bubble Mr. Pro marketing official. There is NO perfect score to get higher ad rankings.

Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines constantly update their algorithms as a rebuttal to these marketing guru’s out there whose claim to fame is to know the secret for “the perfect SEM Quality score” which  in reality does NOT exist. Google states the higher the QS the better. Remember though: QS is not used at auction time to determine Ad rankings. If the marketing guru’s can understand this simple request from Google they will not be out their searching for the ideal QS score.

Image result for SEM

If I play the devil’s advocate for a minute, I get why these guru’s are so focused on achieving optimal quality scores. They want to prove to the stakeholders in the business they know how to get the optimum score to continue winning the next contract. The truth is a minor update in the algorithm can bury your website down to oblivion.  Allocation of hefty advertising budgets towards improving quality scores, CPCs and Click- through- rates can prove to be an exercise in futility if are stuck in the QS bubble.

Quality Scores as per Google depend on three basic factors : CTR, Ad relevance and the landing page loading and quality experience. QS is simply a general estimate based on average past performance. It is not a short cut to Paid Search success.

I hope this helps marketing officials to debunk the myth that SEM Paid Search triumph is not measured in a unilateral quality score based world. It depends on a number of factors. As a webmaster is very important to keep on top of both Organic and Paid searches to stay ahead of the game.

Digital Media, Uncategorized

Increase traffic on your website: SEO

As SEOs we look at increasing traffic on the website every single second of every day. Every night before switching the night light off my mantra is to look at the number views and feel relieved that today’s job is done but the next second another day has begun.

How can we ensure there is a constant stream of traffic on our website, facebook page, twitter verse or LinkedIn. Whatever your poison is the key is: be prepared.

  • Bring on the NEW ADS
  • Keep a close eye on new ad formats to make sure they are relevant to your business
  • Stay away from SERPs that are overtaken by interactive ads
  • Find ways to differentiate your on-site experience from what Google is offering
  • Use chatbots
  • Use Non-Google sites like amazon, wikipedia or Yelp
  • Optimize the “search engine” your users are on. It is important to figure out where your business customers space is and then optimize for the platform they’re on
  • Use structured data and make the site easier to understand
  • Keep the site user friendly AT ALL TIMES.



Cell phone hacking becoming more common

The only $5000 figure Ashraf Ashley Khalatabadi hoped to see was in Lotto winnings when she opened her mail. Instead what took her breath away was a cell phone invoice and a pending notice of cancellation from a leading cellular company that asked her to pay $5828.14 immediately. Khalatabai who prefers the name Ashley could not get over the shock initially.

Khalatabadi is a hairstylist and works hard juggling multiple roles as a mother of teenage kids and long hours at her job.

“First I got mad at my kids. I thought they had been having a party with my phone.” But when she checked out the details on the invoice she found out there were more than three thousand dollars worth of downloads and none of them were on her phone.

Khalatabadi said she contacted the cellular company and registered her complaint about fears of a hacked account. But they were not very sympathetic about her situation. She disputed the charges but there was no one who could help her out.

She recalls her wallet got stolen during Christmas time while she was working at a local hair salon. ” I reported it to the police but my wallet was never found. I believe they used that information to hack into my phone service.”

At the moment Khalatabadi and the phone company have not resolved the issue but she hopes that some one will help her out and re-invoice her for the correct usage.

Environment and Climate Change, Uncategorized

Organic farming: a healthier career choice

“If you were given a choice to grow your food than buying it at the local supermarket, what would you do?”

Scott Crook at the UBC farm

I put this question forward to Scott Crook, a student at the “Sowing Seed for the future Practicum”.

“I would grow my own food. It is cheaper, fresh, healthier for us and the environment. I get to work at my own pace at the farm. It is great exercise. I cannot find any reason why not to grow my own food. “Crook said.

Crook got involved with the UBC farm as part of the practicum for his certification and has never looked back since. While on location Crook took me on an informational tour of the farm which amalgamates a farmer’s market and plots of land where students perfect their craft.

Organic farming and learning to manage agricultural farms has become increasingly popular among both male and female students in BC. According to a report issued by the Government of Canada, “Organic farming is booming in Canada”. In 2008 there were 444 organic farms in BC, as stated by a report issued by the Canadian Organic Growers.

Environmental protection and social responsibility are two of the main reasons Crook was inspired with to take this career path.

Checking out plants that have sprouted

“If you love nature this is the right place to be. I cannot be at a better place than this. I am learning how to avoid toxins, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And it is animal friendly farming” Crook said with a passion in his eyes.

Statistics Canada website states, “Since 2000, the number of certified organic producers in Canada has plateaued, after nearly tripling between 1990 and 2000. In 2003, the country had 3,100 organic producers – 1.3% of Canada’s farmers – farming just over 390,000 hectares.”

This means organic farming students like Crook may find it viable to take it up as a small business. Initially he wants to work for an established farm to gain further insights. Crook acknowledges he is on a successful track to becoming an organic farmer. Yet as with all career paths this also comes with challenges.

“There are days when it rains constantly. Then it is my job to protect the seeds from getting washed away. You have to put in long hours at maintaining the land otherwise the produce may not turn out the way it is supposed to be.”

In the program Crook got hands on training for all the processes involved in agricultural sciences. The most exciting part was learning how to work with a farm tractor.

I saw Crook and his colleagues in action with the tractor which seemed to be a fun process visually.

Crook put me in touch with reality, “It may seem like fun but it is a very technical process to get land prepared for sowing the seeds. You cannot risk going wrong with the very first step.”

“Do you still want to keep on doing this?” I asked.

“Absolutely. I would love to own a vineyard some day and make my own wine”, said Crook with a big smile on his face.

Crook is very clear about his future goals. He is motivated towards applying his skills through an apprenticeship program at local farms in the Lower Mainland.

I put Scott on the spot and asked him how he would describe himself in three words- “fun, adventurous and committed”.

“That’s the best attitude to life.” Crook said


Documenting memories through the Camera Lens

Miranda and Reilly Lievers are photographer husband and wife duo at Blue Olive Photography who captured Cinnamon and Galib Bhayani’s intercultural wedding in Vancouver. I sat down with them at their Gastown home studio over looking the Pacific Ocean for a Q & A session.

Miranda and Reilly Lievers- the force behind Blue Olive Photography

Faiza: Why did you choose to be a wedding photographer?

Miranda: It was kind of by accident. We were into other types of photography. This one time Reilly booked a wedding and in a panic he made me come with him. We found that really rewarding and fun. I know what the photos from my parents and my grandparents weddings look like. These photos will stay with the couple for generations to come. Their children and their grandchildren will be looking at the pictures we created for them. There is no better job than this in the world.

Reilly: We enjoyed it so much that we’ve been doing wedding photography for eight years now. We’ve photographed over 200 plus weddings.

Faiza: How many mixed/intercultural weddings have you covered?

Miranda: About 25-30 per cent of the weddings we have covered were intercultural. Especially being in Vancouver you come across many as it is a very multicultural city.

Reilly: The trend seems to be growing and we are getting more and more mixed culture weddings as time goes by. More people are stepping away from traditional roles and people tend to choose partners different cultures with much more ease than before.

Faiza: Have you found that Vancouver is particularly more focused on mixed unions than other cities?

Miranda: Vancouver is definitely unique because the city has a very multicultural character. We have covered weddings in Edmonton and Calgary where there is less diverse population. Majority of the people living there are Caucasian. Here in Vancouver due to the large number of mixed population you will see more mixed culture weddings

Faiza: What challenges have you had to face on intercultural shoots?

Reilly: Language mostly. Spending an entire day in a room where people are talking to each other in entirely different languages can be a bit tricky. You have to watch body language to understand whats happening. Because we shoot in a very photo journalistic way we have to pay attention to whats happening and why its happening when there are four different languages floating around in the room.

Miranda: So it has happened that the bride’s family is speaking Cantonese and the grooms family might know only English. Both families may be experiencing the same thing as us where they are unable to understand the language. So we follow along and understand the traditions that way.

Faiza: Can you think of a funny story that happened on a mixed wedding shoot?

Reilly: One funny story we had was at a Hindu wedding . The groom had not really been prepped for what ceremonies will take place. He sat there looking stunned the whole three hours while the couple had to walk around the fire. I think he really wasn’t prepped at all. He did not realize he had to all these traditional ceremonies. His eyes got wider and wider and wider and by the end of the day- he seems pretty exhausted

Miranda: (Laughs) Yeah that was pretty intense.

Faiza: Have you noticed any common trends among intercultural weddings in Vancouver?

Miranda: One of the common things we have noticed mostly with South Asian and East Indian weddings is how the timely and untimely things are. Some of our clients affectionately call it “brown time” . Things will just run an hour late, or two hours late or some times even longer. We have had scheduling conflicts that way. We worked with a wedding planner who just had done western weddings and she was planning this south Asian wedding. She was panicking because everything was running late.

Reilly: It wasn’t really even that late…probably by like 45 minutes which was actually pretty good for us. We were the ones who were trying to let her know that everything was fine and things were running on time as was expected for that wedding.

Faiza: So you guys were the experts on mixed weddings there then?

Miranda: (smiles) Yes. We were. We had worked with clients from different cultures before.

Faiza: Any outrageous demands mixed couples make?

Miranda: Probably the number of family photos that are expected in some cultures. It is important to capture photos of literally everybody that’s there . We have had a six hundred people wedding and we have had to go through a whole bunch of family photos in a very small amount of time. It is not impossible and it can be done but it requires the cooperation of everyone that’s involved in the shoot.

Reilly: We don’t tend to get a lot of outrageous demands. We’re pretty laissez faire about how we do things and what somebody thinks as an outrageous demand might really be status-quo. So we go with the flow. A lot of our clients come from outside Vancouver to get married here. We also get a lot of clients from mixed cultures who come here to get married.

Faiza: Makes me want ask another question. Have you asked people why are they choosing to get married in Vancouver?

Miranda: People have ties to family here, some have lived here before, or studied here. Simply also because it s beautiful place. It is cheaper to go to a tropical destination and Europe or the US. It is actually more expensive to come to Vancouver to get married as compared to a destination wedding. Its more expensive to have a wedding in Vancouver than other places.

Faiza: Which one was the most unique multicultural wedding?

Miranda: I think the Chinese and Filipino wedding. It was such a great combination of two cultures. They had the filipino cord and veil ceremony, the 13 coin money dance followed by the Chinese tea ceremony. It was very elegant.

Faiza: Thanks so much for your time Miranda and Reilly. I think you have one most special job in the world.


Pink Flamingos

Prime Minster Stephen Harper celebrated his 50th birthday with panache. Although he neglected to invite his cabinet ministers to the ceremony that invited severe criticism, seemed content to be strolling with his daughter Rachel amongst 50 pink flamingos; placed by staffers on the lawns of his 24 Sussex Drive home in Ottawa.

However this might be the only moment of respite the PM might get as there are myriad of issues surrounding Parliament Hill.

The Conservatives hope that their stimulus package will offset some of the damage but the inevitable wave of redundancies and defaults is likely to stoke anger and lead to calls for a change of government, regardless of what the Liberals put in the shop-window.

Lets give the Prime Minster a break and wish him the very best for yet another milestone in his life. Proudly Canadian.

life, Published articles, Uncategorized

A celebration of “right to life, liberty and security of person.”

The 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is celebrated on December 10, 2008.

The UDHR was a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris.

The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the Organization’s founding nations resolved that the horrors of the Second World War should never be allowed to recur.

The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has launched a year-long campaign to lead up to this anniversary. Because the UDHR holds the world record as the most translated document (with more than 360 language versions available), organizations around the globe will be able to use the year to focus on helping people everywhere learn about their rights.

“On this Human Rights Day, it is my hope that we will all act on our collective responsibility to uphold the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration. We can only honour the towering vision of that inspiring document when its principles are fully applied everywhere, for everyone,” Ki-Moon said.

At the United Nations Headquarters in New York a number of special events are taking place. The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights will be awarded at the special afternoon commemorative General Assembly plenary meeting in the General Assembly Hall. The recipients of the 2008 Prize are: Ms. Louise Arbour, Mr. Ramsey Clark, Dr. Carolyn Gomes, Dr. Denis Mukwege and Human Rights Watch.

Assassinated Ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan Mrs. Benazir Bhutto and Sr. Dorothy Stang are awarded the prize posthumously.