Wishing you a very jolly Xmas and see you in 2010

Well, that wraps up Ask Kalena for 2009.

It’s been quite a watershed year for us and if you’re a regular subscriber, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to every single one of you for sharing the ride.

I’d also like to thank my loyal guest bloggers Andy, Saurav and Peter, as well as my hard-working Virtual Assistant Sarah for their dedication this year.

I hope you all have a safe and memorable Xmas, a kickass New Year’s Eve and remember to find some time to reward yourself for your hard work throughout the year.

As for me, it’s time to unplug from the Internet and shut the laptop down to spend some quality time IRL with family and friends.

Catch you in 2010!

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Have been skipping blog duty

Just a quick post to say sorry for the lack of content on the blog over the past week or so, but I’ve been skipping school.

I’ve been indulging in a bit of rest and recreation with the family, touring around New Zealand after speaking at Search Engine Bootcamp in Auckland.

Apart from a few nights in Auckland, we went sight-seeing in rainy Wellington (where I introduced my son to the wonders of Te Papa), hiking the hills in Motueka, shell-collecting in Golden Bay, wine-tasting in Blenheim and soaking in Hanmer Springs where we had the bizarre and delightful experience of sitting in the hot thermal pools while it snowed on our heads!

See the picture of the pools included in this post.

Anyway, I’ve got lots of new blog material to share, a wrap of  Search Engine Bootcamp and a few Q and A’s coming up this week, so stay tuned.

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Battle of the Silly Pub Names

You know how sometimes you have a funny conversation with someone and it turns into a running gag every time you see them? Yep I love those too.

Because it’s the middle of the week and because we’ve had enough exciting search engine news in the past few days, I thought I’d break with tradition on the blog and share one of those funny conversations with you instead.

Warning: If you’re squeamish about naughty words, or just a prude in general, look away NOW.

So the other day my husband Jerry and I were reminiscing about a pub we used to go to in the nearby port town of Lyttelton called the Rat and Roach. It used to serve monster hamburgers which were delicious, but it ended up closing down, no doubt due to the poorly thought out name of the place.

That conversation led to us having a verbal competition to see who could come up with the silliest pub name, real or imaginary. It’s an ongoing battle but here’s the score so far:

ME: The Rat and Roach (real)

HIM: The Ox and Pickle (imaginary)

ME: The Spank and Fiddle (imaginary)

HIM: The Cock and Balls (imaginary)

ME: Ladies Pockets (imaginary)

ME: The Pickit and Hives (imaginary)

HIM: The Bendover and Wallop (imaginary)

ME: The Earl of Hurl (imaginary)

ME: Her Majesty’s Nipple (imaginary)

As you can see, I’m well in the lead with those last few, but I’ll add more as they roll in.

To help the cause, I took the competition onto Twitter to see what silly pub names other people may have come across. It even spawned it’s own hashtag #sillypubnames

It wasn’t long before we had some hilarious additions:

@Teifion: The Rat and Carrot (imaginary)

@netmeg: The Jox Trap (real – gay bar in Detroit)

@seoidiot: Fanny By Gaslight (real – I kid you not, in UK)

@Teifion: The Pig and Marmalade (imaginary)

@coplandmj: The Office (real – Brighton UK)

@barrysaunders: The Lick Her Store (real – bottle shop in Sydney)

@ninefish: The Slug and Lettuce (real – Worcester UK)

@Teifion: The Pipe and Cucumber (imaginary)

@ChelleC79: The Lion and Pineapple (real)

@ninefish: The Dog and Trumpet (real – Coventry UK)

But as @seoidiot pointed out in one of his tweets, when it comes to silly pub names that actually exist, the UK wins out every time.

Check out these classics featured in an article called The UK’s Weirdest Pub Names :

  • The Spread Eagle (Wiltshire)
  • The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn (Stalybridge)
  • The Happy Medium (Chicester)

and the gold medal goes to:

  • The Fawcett Inn (Hampshire – pictured) – say it aloud!

Hope you enjoyed these.

Come across any silly pub names of your own? Join the fun and please add them in the comments or tweet them using the #sillypubnames hashtag.

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How to Win Customers and Piss People Off (a Tale of Customer Service)

Yesterday I experienced the entire spectrum of customer service from FAIL right through to WIN and it got me thinking – how many companies really *get* customer service?

This story starts with a tweet. I was logged into Twitter yesterday when saw a tweet from @BestBlooms for free chocolates with a beautiful orchid bouquet with a unique New Zealand kete wrap. My husband is always buying me flowers and I had been wanting to buy him some in return, but had never seen any style that wasn’t too girly. When I saw the orchid wrap, I thought it was quite a masculine yet beautiful – perfect! So I placed the order with @BestBlooms and they promised to deliver it that afternoon.

A short time later, I received a call from them. It turned out that @BestBlooms are located in Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand, while I am in Christchurch on the South Island. So they would be arranging the bouquet and delivery via a Christchurch-based florist. Not a problem. The bouquet arrived late that afternoon via a florist who drove an hour each way just to get it here.

My husband was delighted and the bouquet was very nice and came with 2 liquor chocolates as promised. BUT it didn’t have the kete wrap that was in the photo and convinced me to buy it in the first place. Here’s a picture of the bouquet that arrived (click on it for a larger view):

Orchid wrap BEFORE

Slightly disappointed and because they had asked for feedback, I got in touch with @BestBlooms to let them know I received the bouquet but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Immediately, they asked how they could make it up to me. I responded that I didn’t know, perhaps a discount on my next order or something. They replied via DM:

“Hi – leave it with me – i will make it right. thank you for your order – we do really appreciate yr business and hate it when not right!

and I forgot all about it.

Today, there was a knock at the door and the same florist who drove an hour to my house yesterday was back again today, only this time she was holding a much larger bunch of orchids, with a larger box of chocolates, in the elusive kete wrap! Here’s a picture (click on it for a larger view):

Orchid wrap AFTER

The card said:

“To Gerald and Kalena, This was how it was supposed to look! Our mistake. Sincere apologies, Best Blooms”

I was absolutely blown away. This was gold class customer service! They had managed to turn a customer’s disappointment into delight and if ever anyone in my family or circle of friends needs flowers, who do you think I’m going to recommend? Yep, @BestBlooms. This post will also likely give them positive exposure as well. When I got in touch to thank them, they replied:

“Thank you and you are more than welcome. Guaranteed service is what we promise and thats not what we delivered! Had to be fixed!”

Compare this with another customer service experience on the same day. Yesterday morning, a friend of mine @kiwidvr showed me an email exchange she was having with the manager of a local theatre following a performance of Slava’s Snow Show she had taken her family to on the weekend. They had been seated in the gallery area of the Isaac Theatre Royal and could only see half of the performance due to the location of their seats, much of the action taking place at the front of the stage (which they couldn’t see) and people standing up or lifting their kids up in front of them.

Apparently their tickets in the gallery were inferior to the regular tickets because they booked late, but nobody at Ticketek had told them this upon booking. Having paid $150 for the tickets, my friend was disappointed enough to contact the theatre and complain. What she didn’t expect was the rude and arrogant response she received from the General Manager of the Isaac Theatre. Let’s call him Mr Cox.

Here are some extracts from his email:

“…it was your choice to opt for the cheaper tickets which based on current ticket prices for international shows were extremely well priced and accessible for all ages.”

“We have had no other complaints of this nature… the joy that this show is bringing to is clear to see on the patrons’ faces as they leave the Theatre each night.”

“If there was case for refund we would have considered it. Most times if we believe there are real concerns we’d invite patrons back at our cost. In this case though there isn’t a case for either.”

“I have seated myself in every level, on all sides of the theatre and experienced every show I possibly can here at the ITR. I do know though that unfortunately, as much as we’d love to, we can’t please everyone all the time, its the nature of the business.”

I couldn’t believe that this representative of the company chose not only to completely ignore my friend’s concerns, but to dismiss them as unimportant and make an assumption that SHE was the one with the problem. He also assumed that she wanted a refund when all she wanted was an apology.

I was amazed at the arrogance of the guy. He had a chance to turn an unhappy customer into a grateful one and he chose instead to compound the situation with a condescending and rude response. It was customer service FAIL of the worst kind. Do you think that theatre will be losing business over this? You betcha. My friend and I will be telling everyone we know about it and avoiding any shows at the Isaac Theatre in the future.

Having just experienced a customer service WIN on the same day, the comparison was black and white. So the question is – if you’re in business, how good is YOUR customer service? Is it more likely to win customers or piss people off?

Please share your comments below:

[Added – it was noted in the comments that I didn’t give the South Island florist any link love. Fair point! The wonderful South Island florist who made all those trips out here was Hornby Florist. Hats off to you as well.]

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Q and A: What salary should I expect as an SEO?


Dear Kalena…

What salary would i have if i were to get hired as an SEO or SEM? on average hourly and annual


Hi Cruiz,

A great question – and one often asked by people just entering (or considering joining) the SEO community.  As you’ve probably anticipated, it’s not really possible to provide a definitive answer to this question, as the salary rates you could expect,  depend on a number of variable.  I’ve outlined below some of the most significant factors that are likely to influence SEO or SEM salaries :

  1. Location – you’ve not identified which part of the world you are from, but this can have a significant impact on Salary levels.  Salaries in the US and UK, are typically higher than those in Australia, which are usually higher again than those in India (which has a massive and thriving SEO industry by the way).  Hot Spots within a particular country are also likely to offer higher salaries that are based on the usual factors – such as cost of living, lifestyle, and competition.
  2. Organisation – whether you are working In House,  within a specialist SEO Agency or as a private Consultant , will also influence you salary.
    For In House SEOs, the size of the business, and their awareness/acceptance of the importance of SEO will influence what they are prepared to pay.  Some SMBs are not able (or willing) to justify  a full time SEO role, so Search Engine Optimisation might be seen as something that is done by the Web Developer or Marketer in their spare time.
    The salary for In House SEOs in large organisations (with SEO teams) is broadly comparable to that of the salary for an equivalent role within a specialist SEO Agency (although the Agency SEO is likely to have the opportunity to deal with a broader range of clients and experiences) .
    Salaries for private Consultants can vary dramatically – from the highest salaries for recognised SEO Gurus to the (probably) lowest hourly rates for relatively inexperienced start-up SEOs.

    [Editor Note: You might also want to review the salaries and jobs categories in this blog to get a good idea of the type of salaries that SEO/SEM staff can command. My article 11 Reasons Why You Should Consider a Job in Search Engine Marketing also lists some common salary ranges. Cheers, Kalena]

  3. Role – there  are many different types of roles and activities within the SEO Industry, some people focus on one particular role, others undertake the complete range of activities.  Typically the more experienced you get in a particular area, the more specialised you become, and the higher salary you can expect.  Types of roles include – Strategist, Consultant, Analyst, Researcher, Writer.
  4. Experience – I say experience here rather than qualification, because there is not currently an internationally  recognised  SEO qualification (although given the increasing awareness of the SEO industry – this may change in the future).  SEO Course’s such as those offered by Search Engine College are a fabulous way to gain an understanding of this field, and provide a valuable insight into SEO techniques, strategies and tips.  However, experience – dealing with customers in real world situations is probably the single best way to justify a higher salary.  Being able to demonstrate real success with high profile clients in competitive industries, proves your experience and abilities.
  5. Profile – the better you are at raising your profile in the industry, the higher salary you can expect.   A high profile is usually (but not always) a natural result of experience and confidence.  If you are outspoken in the industry – through blogging, involvement in forums, attendance and presentation at industry events, etc. your reputation will develop. If it is clear that you understand the industry and know what you are talking about; if you offer useful advice and innovative strategies; and if you can demonstrate your ability to achieve real results for your clients, you may be on your way to “SEO Guru” status gathering followers (and an increased salary) along the way.
  6. Supply and Demand – as in all things, supply and demand will influence the level of salary you can expect.  If you have few competitors for a particular role you are likely to be able to demand a higher salary – providing you have suitable experience.  Supply and demand changes from time to time and is influenced by many things including geographic location , unemployment rates, and the financial climate.
    In these days of financial uncertainty, with many businesses tightening up their budgets,  you might speculate that the demand for SEOs would decrease.  However, the reverse seems to be true.  Many SEOs are in fact  experiencing an increase in work levels, as business owners realise that they need to get smarter about how to develop their businesses and spend their marketing budget.

Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz wrote an excellent post on this topic ( see : SEO Salaries – How Much Should You Make) – however this was written in 2006 – and now, 3 years on, the annual salary figures are almost certainly higher.  (how about an update Rand?)

Search Engine Optimisation is a role requiring specialist knowledge and experience, and as such you should expect to achieve a higher salary than a more traditional web or marketing role.  Some of the factors outlined above are outside your control (unless you are willing to move to another part of the world for example), but one factor that you are able to influence is experience.  Getting some good basic SEO Training and undertaking some Search Engine Marketing Courses (through Search Engine College of course) , doing some Research, and gaining Experience (even if it is only on your own/friends websites initially) is the best way for you to improve you salary prospects.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting Web Optimisation

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