How Important is Your Online Reputation?

July 18th, 2011 by Brandon

Check out this interesting infographic made by our friends at Reputation Managers. We’ve been harping on online reputation management for years and it seems to finally have found it’s way into mainstream marketing circles.

The Reputation Killer – Communications Decency Act Infographic
Created by: Reputation Managers

Nathaniel Broughton on Google Search Suggest [video]

February 7th, 2011 by Nathaniel

Growth Partner owner and President Nathaniel Broughton was featured in an interview with Vanessa Zamora at Pubcon 2010, ahead of his session on the State of Domain Names.

View the full video here.

Brant Bukowsky on Mixergy

July 14th, 2010 by Brandon

Our very own Brant Bukowsky was recently interviewed on Mixergy. Enjoy!

SEO is No Fun. An Update on “Title Tag, H-Tag, Done!”

June 21st, 2010 by Nathaniel

QuicksandPeople who hate on SEO have always had this as a common rally cry: “Title tag.  H tag.  Done!”

What that means is SEO is simple, and all you have to do to rank is put your keyword in the <title> tag, in the <h*> tag, and boom you’ll rank.

This chant is always rebutted with the “PPC – The lazy man’s SEO” t-shirt I had a few years back at Pubcon.

While we all know these forms of online marketing both require a lot more attention than those remarks imply, I think it’s time to update the SEO one.  Ready or not, here it is:

Buy exact match domain.  Done!

Google’s boost for exact match domains is as strong as ever based on my experience.  You want to rank for “beach sandals”?  Screw everything you’ve heard about building links or title tags.  Get your hands on and things are going to work for you.  I promise.

Now, I support the reasoning behind the exact match bonus.  I know why it’s there.  It’s just one of many things going on in SEO that make me want to spend my time on something else these days.

The others?  How about the pandemic link drought on the web.  No one will link to anything.  Good viral content can bring eyeballs, but rarely will it bring links.  Retweets don’t count yet in the rankings to my knowledge . . .

Even still, if you are able to develop a way to bring in links on scale, you’re likely to get scrutinized.  They could be 100% free, earned, “yes I like this site, think it’s good for to link to and here’s the link”.  Anything on scale is going to get you into trouble.

Forgive me, but when the person who does less gets rewarded, I’m pissed.  I like the beach but only after a good day’s work.  The link economy is so jacked up that getting less links is actually better.  Try competing in that environment for awhile.  “So I should do less.  Okay, how much less is enough less?”  Ridiculous.

A few other complaints include-
You can’t buy links much any more.  People that sell them have polluted pages filled with casino, UK crap, or payday loans.  Good sites don’t sell them.  Getting them in the sidebar or the footer seems more like an eyesore or red flag than an honest vote.

Plus, the new Google design has also hurt organic CTR’s, just one instance in the line of many that have pushed organic results down and out from the top of the SERPs.

So I’m left with these thoughts-
Buy exact match domains.  That should work for awhile.  Don’t get too many links to them.  Just a few good ones.  Let it ride.

Down the road, I better get a lot better at monetizing social, PPC, and building a list/platform to survive, with all my businesses.

Cause the SEO route is competing for a much smaller chunk of traffic than it did 5 years ago, and it’s no fun in a link-less economy that lets rank on name alone.

5 years ago I was an SEO all the way.  Today I’m basically a domainer.  In 5 years, I’m not sure I’ll be either.  Pick a buzzword: “zero sum game” “diminishing returns”.

How about “no fun anymore”.

Image: Paul Thurlby

Are You Excited by the Sight of Competition?

June 2nd, 2010 by Nathaniel

competition startin line

One of the greatest challenges of any investor or entrepreneur is deciding what to invest in.

Business ideas (and investment opportunities) are like the bus – there’s always another one coming.  So we’re all stuck in a constant state of evaluation, left to our own devices trying to decide which ones will succeed and why.

Of course, most businesses change their course more than once in their lifespan.

Men I enjoy reading like Nassim Taleb might have you even believe that we can’t predict anything in life, so why bother trying so with businesses.  This philosophy aside, how do you know where to put your money and your time?

At Growth Partner, we’re working on a guide right now that outlines how we evaluate a potential deal or new business.  One thing I believe investors and businessmen seem to have a conflicting opinion over is the level of competition in a given niche they’re looking into.

Are competitors bad?  Does that mean there’s less chance of your investment succeeding?

I’ve heard people say as much.  I’ve also heard that competition (on the SERPs or on the street corner) is no more than a validation of the business.

That is, if you’ve got an idea, and someone is already doing it and surviving, all the better.  That means you’ve got a good idea.  Invest with gusto!

Let’s look at it more closely.

Breaking Down Both Sides
1. Competitors are Bad News Bears.

Too much competition means you’ll be fighting for pennies on the dollar.  Established companies are hard to unseat.  They have everything in place and we have nothing.

To draw from my own thought process, note that I’m purely an online guy.  I invest in web-based businesses.

Say we’ve got an offer to work with (we talked to them a few months ago, so this is legit).

To evaluate this opportunity, I go off to Google and start doing keyword research.  I search on some of those terms like “auto insurance quote”.  All the big brands are there, in the organic rankings and the paid.  A bunch of lead aggregaters are there too.

So, should we work with this guy or is he going to be over his head?

It’s interesting and complicated.  First off, brands have been getting more love in Google lately.  So even with a killer exact match domain like, you’re fighting the brand-love.

Also, if we want to go in and compete for paid traffic, those keywords are some of the most expensive online.  We’ll need to really kill it on conversions and on backend monetization to do well.

Fighting for pennies on the dollar?  Maybe.

Let’s do another example.  What about something easier, like “San Antonio lawn care”?

If I’m going to start a lawn care biz in San Antonio, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of competitors.  It goes without saying.  High school kids that work their neighborhoods, all the way up to corporate-type providers with businesses all over town.

san antonio lawn careSearching that set of keywords brings back a different type of competition (cause again I’m looking online).  You’ve got the OneBox local results to fight with, and it looks like most of the top-ranking sites are directories and aggregaters.

Good business to jump into, with these cited competitor types?  I think so.  I’d go try to buy, get in those local results, and push ahead of the directory sites.  They are spread thin, and San Antonio can be your market, when they are dealing in 250 others.

Granted, I chose two fairly conventional business types, but they do represent various types of competition both online and off.  The thought process is similar no matter what niche or business you’re looking at.

Competition from big brands can be a problem, as can a crowded marketplace for lawn care providers in your area.  But it can also be a sign that somewhere, someone is running a similar business and making money . . .

2. Competitors Mean this Business Will Work.

The presence of a few established competitors shows that this business can work.  We can capitalize on mistakes they’ve made, or market segments they’ve ignored.  Their track record can mix right into our blueprint to success.

In short, competitors show you a business idea is not some pie in the sky idea.

Existing search traffic can show you people are looking for a particular service, but it’s really the guys you see in the top 10 organic results and the top few paid results that give it this validation.

(Note of caution: Just because a company is bidding on a keyword, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose, or they’re doing it profitably.  But that’s another discussion.)

Consider this example, one of which I think is interesting and common amongst all “big thinkers.”

Tell me if you’ve done this – you have an “ah ha!” moment in the shower, on the plane, or on a lazy afternoon.  Some genius idea just came to you.  You’ve never seen anything like it, and you know it’s money.

After a few hours searching online, you put together a one-pager on the idea.  You pick out a domain name.  You’re all ready to go.

The next day, you bring it up to your buddies and one says, “Oh you mean like ABC Company?”

Shit.  Someone else already created this?  And marketed, and sold it?  You’re ingenious concept is now a lot less sexy than it was the day before.  Now there’s competition.  Bad thing?

I don’t think so.  I think that’s a great thing.  Too many entrepreneurs get bent out of shape over an existing competitor.  They should appeal to concept #2 here, that existing competition validates the idea and the business.

Sadly, at this stage, some might abandon the idea.  You’re forgetting that you don’t need a revolutionary idea to have a successful business.  You might need an interesting angle, or “in”, or marketing strategy.  But as far as original ideas go – There aren’t any! There are only iterations.

It’s a Constant Battle, but Keep Your Head Right
Like I said, starting a business or choosing which ones to invest in will always come with a dose of uncertainty.  You are obligated to research the competition and the “competitive landscape” before making any decisions one way or the other.

While some will shy away from crowded fields, count me as one that sees competitors as a positive. Especially when you are marketing online.  I sleep much better when I have some active competition in the SERPs.

Without it, you’re more susceptible to two things that kill any business – being too content, and being caught by surprise.

Image: Eric Wolfe

Entrepreneur Magazine Article on Growth Partner

June 1st, 2010 by Brandon

After being featured in Inc. Magazine in May, we were lucky enough to again be featured in an article on providing services for equity in Entrepreneur Magazine. This concept must be catching on!

Entrepreneur Logo

This article focuses again on our relationship with Soccer Pro and how we were able to help them grow from a mom and pop soccer retailer in Columbia, MO to a nationwide online leader in soccer equipment and apparel.

Let us know what you think or if you have any questions since there’s no good commenting setup on Entrepreneur‘s website.

Work 100 hours per week. That’s What You Have to Do?

May 17th, 2010 by Nathaniel

hard work

A few days back, Brandon and I met with a couple of scary-successful entrepreneurs.  Inc 500’s, Fortune 500’s, and IPO’s litter their 40+ year careers.

As they were telling us their story, one mentioned:
“At the time, I was working 130 hours a week and she was working 100 hours a week. (pause)  That’s what you have to do.”

Hopefully not!

I mean, that’s why we all love the internet so much.  It’s the great equalizer for launching any business, it’s the land of opportunity, it’s the best way to generate passive income.

17 hour days are for the corporate birds in their Famous Barr suits and briefcases.  Grinding it for the man.

But it’s also hard to argue with someone who’s built a 9 figure business through sweat.

How many hours do you need to work a week to kill it online? To build a good business?  Of course it all depends.

Recently, a group of well-known ‘net people answered this very question.  All successful people, all work a good number of hours.  (Not 130, but some are getting up there.)

I’ve met most of those people and it’s clear they enjoy what they do.  That definitely helps.  But you can see that the amount of time they work varies.  And who knows what constitutes ‘work’ for them, or for you even?

What looks like work in 2010 probably looked like vacation in 1980 when our successful friends were building their business.  Checking email, responding to customers on Twitter, drinking Ginger Boys in Del Mar.  That’s work for me.

By that definition, I guess I work like 80 hours a week.  But it doesn’t feel like it, thankfully.  Here’s what it seems to boil down to:

1. Wake up every morning ready to get at it.
2. Have a long-term outlook.
3. Never stop learning.

That’s enough.  Keep getting better every day and don’t let up.  Working 100 hours a week isn’t going to guarantee success, and hopefully the way business works online you can either put in less than that, or feel like it isn’t ‘work’.

Image: HeadovMetal

Lifehacker has some SEO Problems

May 13th, 2010 by Nathaniel

lifehacker seo is one of the most popular blogs online.  But their on-page SEO is hurting their traffic.

I bet if they made a few small changes they’d see a nice spike in traffic, that would stick around for the long-term.

I’m calling you out Lifehacker!

It sure isn’t about your incoming links (they have ~8 million), or unique content.  People love Lifehacker and the site puts out great content.  It’s funny, cause that’s the ‘hard part’.  They are messing up on the easy parts.

Here are the Problems

1. Title Tags
I wouldn’t be a nerdy SEO without looking right away at Lifehacker’s sloppy title tags.  First off, they need to drop the Category and the omnipresent “Lifehacker” from each post’s title tag.

Looking at this post on Webmonkey Stopwatches, the current title “The Browser Stopwatch Speed-Tests Page Load – Bookmarklets – Lifehacker”.

That should be changed to “The Browser Stopwatch Speed-Tests Page Load”.  Why?  They lose relevancy as the title tag gets longer.  Also, they are going to rank for “Lifehacker” regardless of including it in all their page titles, and Google might view this as duplicate crap.

This is a quick change in their CMS.  If you use something like WordPress, be sure to do this on your site.

2. Title Tag decouple/Keyword smarts
Second thing with these title tags is to try to be more aware of what keywords are worth ranking for.  This post entitled “First Look at Window’s 7 Backup and Restore Center”.  That’s a good title to show users on the site as a headline, but Lifehacker should go do some keyword research on Windows 7 before they post on it.

A keyword like “Windows 7 Review” gets 135,000 exact match searches a month.  This post could easily have a <title> of “Windows 7 Review – Backup and Restore Features”.

With 8 million freaking backlinks, and such a popular site, I bet they’d rank very high for ‘windows 7 review’ with that title, and ultimately get more traffic.

Decoupling a post headline and the <title> of a page is easy in any CMS.

3. Take the 4949422 out of the URLs.
That Windows 7 post’s URL is

Why with the ‘5144757’?  Take that out.

Or look at

Any time there’s a “:” symbol in the post title, it goes as a “+” in the URL.  And look how long that is.

Lifehacker should micromanage their post-URLs to be shorter, cleaner, and more keyword-focused.  Cleaning up the <title> values is part 1, then translating that into the URL is part 2.  So might become

That’s how I’d do it, and I bet the traffic would go up, up, up across the site.

Easy Changes
That’s 3 simple things that are on-page changes Lifehacker should do that would instantly increase their traffic.  The current setup is poorly leveraging all the link popularity they’ve built up.

The point is these are easy changes that have the greatest effect when it’s a big site like Lifehacker.  I just wish they’d take a listen . . .

If You Want Connections, You Need a Story

May 11th, 2010 by Nathaniel

famousIt’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Not only is life itself very much about personal relationships, business can be a different world when you have the right connections.

How do you get them?

People are people, and it’s easier than ever to find everyone using the ‘net.  It’s also easy to stay in touch with contacts across the globe with email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and the like.

What I mean by ‘people are people’ is we’re all the same. Just because someone is your idol because they wrote a book or started a successful company doesn’t mean they won’t talk to you, or find interest in you.

The ‘hustle’ part comes from you actively reaching out to the people you want to connect with.  Research them, research the groups that would be good to join, and send out an intro email.  Make a call or send a letter.  Be persistent with this.

What will you say?
Here’s the rub, and the title of my post.  You need a story. You may be wondering how that is possible if you have no business, just got out of school, or spent the past 5 years desk-jockeying it up at Edward Jones.

It is possible.  I think you have to focus it more on what you want to become, your ideas and passions, and how it relates to the person you’re trying to connect with.  But it’s possible.

Like: “I’m 26 years old, and a big follower of the internet space.  I’ve been obsessed with financial software since I was a kid.  I would spend hours at night working with Quicken.  Now I’m starting a simple finance platform for old people to help them track their medical expenses.   I’ve connected with some local groups like ____ and ___ but am looking to meet other people who can offer advice.  I’ve seen your company/product  _____ and . . .   Let’s have coffee.”

Of course this can be hit and miss.  There’s no telling if your story will resonate with the intended party, or which part will.  You need a story to even get in the game though.

With Growth Partner, it’s nice to talk to people about the involvements with 3 Inc 500 winners or the companies that sold.  The current investments and interests and online marketing skills.

Then again, we’ve had people say, “What really stood out to me was that Monopoly was your favorite game as a kid.” Or “I remembered your name from youth hockey.”

I’m still waiting for the “you guys brought personal assistants to Pubcon didn’t you?”.

The point is, get a story together and hustle.  Connections will come.

Image: Retrofuturs

See Us in Inc. Magazine’s May Issue!

May 7th, 2010 by Brandon

We’re extremely excited to write that Growth Partner was featured in the May issue of Inc. Magazine! The article centered on our relationship with Soccer Pro, an online soccer retailer who was our first Growth Partner deal. We wrote a case study on Soccer Pro on our partnerships page.

The article was just posted on Inc’s website. Click here to read it!

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