Category Archives: What Not To Do

Make It Easy for People to Leave your Digital Auditorium – GDPR Approved!

Hey folks, Nick here! In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, we have been fielding hundreds of questions about user data, privacy laws and how to become GDPR-compliant when it comes to your website.

In light of all that, it’s important to remind ourselves that we have to make it easy for folks to exit our digital spheres of influence. For example, if someone wants to unsubscribe from your newsletter, give them that unsubscribe button loud and clear at the bottom of every email. Actually, I was reminded to write this article because someone failed to do just that.

A Coldwell Banker real estate agent I had met at a networking event took it upon himself to add me to his newsletter without my permission (never do that). Apparently all Coldwell Banker agents send out the same “personalized” generic newsletter every week/month. So, I went to unsubscribe, but he had hidden his unsubscribe button in the middle of a bunch of other footer text, and the link was the same color as the rest of the text. When I finally found the button, I was annoyed, but when I clicked on it, I got mad. Clicking on his hidden unsubscribe link opened up a blank email – meaning, I had to email this guy if I wanted to be removed from his email list that I never asked to join in the first place. Now I want to fight, and Gmail has made it super easy to report and block spam email.

From a technical standpoint, Gmail now has it on record that I have manually reported this email and its sender as spam. Any email from this guy henceforth will never land in my inbox unless I request it. On top of that, Google will take my report and add it to their anti-spam systems/algorithms, potentially auto-blocking this guy for others. If other folks send email from the same system that he uses, it could possibly block them as well. This is one of the reasons MailChimp is so aggressive about their terms of service when it comes to spam.

From a branding standpoint, I want nothing to do with this guy, because the system he has set up for himself (or rather, failed to set up) doesn’t give me an easy exit from its less than impressive efforts. Whether he meant to or not, he tried to trap me in his auditorium without realizing that I can do a lot more damage to him this way than if he had given me an easy, simple exit.

And this begs the question, why? Why would you want to try and keep folks on your platform that do not want to be there in the first place? Sure, maybe it cost you some money to get an email viewer there in the first place, but that’s your fault, not theirs. You may have targeted the wrong kind of audience in your marketing campaign, and once they got there, they decided your platform wasn’t for them. Or, you attracted them to your platform but turns out you don’t have unique or useful content.  Or, they wandered into your auditorium randomly/accidentally and decided that it wasn’t right for them. It doesn’t matter why, just that they want to leave, so why try to trap them? It’s a waste of your time and gives you a false perspective on the size of the audience actually interested in your platform.  When it comes to your audience, authenticity and relevancy should always win over sheer numbers.

On the flip side of this topic, think about having a safety net measure in place on pages on your emails so that viewers can easily unsubscribe. Here are a few best practices for email unsubscribes.

So, to sum up, how people can leave your platform(s) is an important process to identify, plan and implement! Time to check your own unsubscribe button and discuss more best practices for email marketing. 

The Fine Line Between Social Sharing and Bragging

The Fine Line Between Social Sharing and Bragging

Recently, Hurricane Harvey attacked Southeast Texas and the Gulf Coast traveling thousands of miles and devastating communities with over 50 inches of rain and winds of over 130 miles per hour. Tens of thousands of people were displaced by Hurricane Harvey and it is estimated that damages could cost up to 180 billion!

Countless individuals and businesses rushed to offer aid in the form of physical help, financial and material donations, fundraisers, benefits and more, including several of our own clients. Throughout helping to broadcast and coordinate these relief efforts, we have encountered two schools of thought when it comes to social media and charitable involvement. Everyone wants to help, but not everyone wants their philanthropic efforts disseminated to the world. Some generous donors and do-gooders would prefer to remain anonymous, while others are okay with sharing about their donations. But, when is sharing about your brand’s charitable involvement considered bragging? And when is social sharing a means for inspiring, organizing and spurring others to action?

First and foremost, one should remember that social media is a tool. Like any other tool or resource, social media can be used for good or evil. Money is a resource that can be hoarded for greed or given to help others. Cars are a tool that when driven recklessly can kill, or when used responsibly can help deliver resources to those in need.  Similarly, social media is also a tool that can be used for bullying, bragging, tearing others down or it can be implemented to organize people and grow businesses. How the tool is used is up to the individual.

There are several pros and cons to broadcasting charitable efforts or keeping quiet about them, and the line between bragging and social sharing can get blurry at times.

Let’s start with a few of the negative aspects:


What’s the point of your philanthropic efforts if you are just going to boast about them?  The point of doing something for someone else is not that you receive credit or brownie points for your work or donation, but that the organization that needs help, receives that help. Brands or businesses that prefer to give anonymously want to keep the focus on others and not on themselves. Posting about your charitable involvement could easily cross that bragging line, so businesses need to be careful how they portray and post about their donation.


Really, it all comes down to the motivation behind your charitable involvement. Are you giving or participating to serve others or to serve yourself? Giving can certainly help sales, but perhaps that should be a byproduct of your motivation and not the main cause for it. By keeping quiet about your businesses’ philanthropic efforts you avoid the whole mess of appearing to be giving for your own gain.  Before sharing about your donation or benefit, consider the source of your desire to give.  If the desire to help is genuine, then you are headed in the right direction.

There are several pros to sharing your philanthropic efforts with others too:


By taking the onus to step forward and do some good, you can inspire others to do the same. Monkey see, monkey do isn’t always a good thing, but when it comes to charitable involvement, it is! If everyone else is helping out, social sharing can encourage other individuals and businesses to do what they can to participate too. Inspiring and spurring others to take action is definitely one of the more positive aspects of social sharing.


By sharing your benevolent efforts with others online, you are helping to bring awareness to charitable causes and the need you are helping to fill.  Others may not realize that a specific non-profit exists or that there is a need going unfulfilled. You can bring good publicity to other organizations and your own business through the profess of social sharing.

Community Involvement

When you offer opportunities for others to help contribute to your charitable involvement, you are strengthening the community and providing others with the chance to partner with you to do some good for others. A strong community can help meet the needs of more people and a connected community can rally together to help a greater number of people. You can encourage your audience to buy your product or service, but you can also encourage them to join with you in a specific benefit or fundraiser for a worthy cause.

What it all comes down to is your motivation behind giving and how you broadcast that message. From the language, you use to the organizations that you choose to partner with and the causes that you elect to support, sharing your charitable efforts with others has the potential to inspire, spur others to action, bring awareness and strengthen the community.  Finding the right balance between social sharing and bragging can be tricky. If you need help navigating the field of social sharing and charitable involvement, we would love to help you get started!

Does Your Business Value Abstract Work?

Does your organization value abstract work? Does it need to?

Most businesses don’t value abstraction. They can’t. Because in order to survive they have to always be in action.

It’s only when a business takes action – puts a product on the market, makes an offer to customers, sends out an ad, creates a new contact – that the business itself becomes tangible, visible, and viable. Customers can react to actions. Sales can happen.

But customers can’t react to abstractions. Abstract work – planning, strategy, design – isn’t ever seen by a customer. It’s done behind the wall. It’s done way before actions happen.

Because businesses rise and fall on concrete actions, almost all businesses value action over abstraction. Businesses constantly push for action, to GET THINGS DONE.

Which means that abstract work suffers. It’s seen as an annoyance. Action needs to happen, even when planning isn’t complete. Or done well. What is important is that it’s out of the way. So that action can happen.

What people don’t see is the planning and thought process put into creating a successful strategy. For example, running an ad. The process behind creating the audience, choosing the right ad creative and crafting the right ad copy is all based on what we’ve learned from experience, continuing education and the current trends and successes of digital marketing.

The ad funnel strategy that our team uses helps businesses reach customers in the best way for what they want to achieve. If you’re too focused on actions and skip ahead to a conversion objective, you risk receiving a low conversion rate because the consumer doesn’t know you. If instead, you do the abstract work of planning and strategizing, you may find that you need to create a brand awareness ad before you can move on to the conversion objective. Without the abstract work, you are shooting in the dark hoping for random and aimless conversions, not knowing if you are targeting the right consumers or if they know your brand well enough to commit to a sale.

It’s a tough persuasive challenge to convince people who are running off to battle to stop, sit down, slow everything, and THINK. Even super think. To really mull over the best battle plan.

Trying to slow things down in order to do abstract work causes anxiety and panic in do-ers. “We can’t do that. The enemy – lack of sales, negative cash flow, rising costs, shrinking margins – is at the gates! There’s no time to plan. There’s no money for it. It’s too slow. It can’t be measured. Get out of the way so we can get in there and DO SOMETHING, we’re going under!”

And so everyone charges off, using the same old battle plan as they’ve used before. No one thinks things through in a different way. No one does the abstract work.

Into the battle, without a true strategy.

Does that sound like a good idea?

Web Design Mistakes – 3 That Seem Like Great Ideas

Is your Website “Naughty or Nice”? Are there web design mistakes that seemed like a good idea at one time?

web design mistakes

We’re in November, which means it’s officially the holiday season and digital marketers can pound holiday metaphors into oblivion. At Alter Endeavors, we’re always happy to audit a website and give feedback. We fundamentally believe that every website should be unique in its branding, calls to action, and user experience. Over the years, we’ve seen a wide array of web functionalities and marketing ideas that are designed to increase engagement or conversions. Most of them work, but here are a few ideas that seem “nice” but are actually web design mistakes that could end your website up on the “naughty” list.

1. Slide Show Carousels

If I’m a business owner and my business offers different service lines or promotions, a slide show carousel may seem like a great idea. It allows pictures to scroll through so that users can see my business’s versatility. But, that’s the problem. Your website should be designed to optimize interaction. When someone visits your website, they should be clearly directed towards the engagement that maximizes conversions for your business (or your call to action). By presenting multiple options, such as a carousel, you’re actually encouraging users not to click further into the site. Need more proof of how a carousel can frustrate users? Click Here.


Carousels can also be web design mistakes because they create an issue in regards to load time. When the page is pulled up, all of those images must load as well, which increases your load time. How does this translate to dollars? According to a recent study, for every second your website takes to load you are losing 16% of your traffic. If a carousel adds an extra second or two to your load time, you’re potentially losing up to 1/3 of your traffic before visitors even see the site. And while load time isn’t a major factor in Google’s search algorithm, it does play a part—so there’s that to consider.

2. Keyword Stuffed Copy

There’s a reason that black hat tactics exist in SEO. Because originally they worked. Keyword stuffing was a very popular technique 5 years ago because the content was designed to be recognized by crawling google bots rather than the users. In that respect, keyword stuffing seems like a “nice” idea to boost your SEO rankings. However, keyword stuffing is a web design mistake and a fast way to end up on Google’s “naughty list” and actually hurt your SEO rankings.

First, Google’s algorithm changes frequently. It’s designed to find optimal content for the user based on their search. Over time, Google’s algorithm advanced to the point where it is able to recognize what is valuable content and what is not.

Second, keyword stuffing is not designed to create easily digestible content for the user. Often times, the content overwhelms the user. Optimized content should encourage the user to engage further—either taking them deeper into the site or directing them towards a call to action. As Amy Renken of Amy Renken Writing Services put it, “when writing content for the internet, focusing on appealing to the human audience is just as important as writing for the search engines bots.”

3. Autoplaying Videos

If you’re considering a video on your homepage, first, I would like to highly recommend this idea. Video creates a palatable means of engagement with visitors and even helps your SEO rankings if executed properly. However, multimedia such as video that “autoplays” can actually decrease engagement on your site and are widely considered a mistake for website best practices. Here’s Sarah Murphy’s take, from our video partner Golden Arm Media:

“Autoplay videos on your homepage take viewers by surprise, particularly because of the audio. Instead, when a viewer clicks play to view the content, they are already more invested because they had to opt in to view it. It gives them the chance to be curious first, and dig deeper. Forcing it upon them with autoplay is an almost guaranteed way to turn them off before they have the chance to learn about your company. Just think about when you’re reading an article online, and a video ad starts playing—it’s not a very pleasant experience.”


Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

In whole, these are three ideas that seem like a great concept on your site but could actually put your website on the “naughty list” with your users and customers. Rather than a carousel, focus on one clear call to action. Instead of keyword stuffing, create content that is relevant to your business focused on creating engagement. Finally, video can be an excellent way to reinforce branding or give further insight to your business—just don’t force it upon your users!

A Marketing DON’T: Contact Form Spam

contact form spam is not a good idea

Contact Form Spam Makes Puppy Sad

Hey guys, Nick here to remind you that it is not okay to market to businesses randomly through their contact forms. The cost of contact form spam far outweighs the benefits. Oftentimes the people abusing these forms for marketing purposes are scammers or bots set up by hackers looking for a way into your site. However, there is a disturbing trend amongst marketing consultants and B2B groups in the U.S. who are employing this tactic. Stop it. I recently ran across a guy who actually sells this service to other businesses. We had words, none of them nice. Here are a few reasons why you should never pursue this as a marketing tactic:

1. Wrong Expectation

The expectation for most contact forms is either for support or leads. The people reading these forms typically involve either a sales team or a support staff. In smaller businesses, owners might be reading these, but the expectation for this space is not to be sold to.

2. Conversion Goals Through Analytics

More often than not, contact forms are linked to conversion goals on systems like Google Analytics. The folks analyzing those conversion goals and the analytics that support those goals have a tendency to gnash their teeth every time they have to manually extract the information they need to assess from the noise created by contact form spammers (I’m talking to YOU Jeff, stop it!)

3. Terrible, Lazy First Impression

Because of the first two reasons, now you face every sales person’s worst nightmare. Contact form spam comes across as lazy and annoying before the conversation has even begun. You didn’t take the time to research who in the company you should have reached out to talk about your service or product. Instead, you are blindly hammering on the door and trying to force a company or organization to respond to your summons. It’s like trying to pitch your service through Facebook Messages, nobody is going to take you seriously.

There Are Better Outbound Sales Tactics To Pursue

Cold calling can and does work, if done appropriately. Lead Forensics provides a great example. We actually signed up for their service. Don’t get me wrong, they have a really interesting (read as useful and unique) product. However, to get to the decision maker (me), they did their homework. They asked for me by name. The sales guy referenced something that I had tagged in social media to align himself with me. He stroked my ego by complimenting my work, citing specific examples of some of our recent projects. That took all of 20 seconds. He then jumped right into how his product could help Alter Endeavors track other businesses visiting our site and a way to connect with those folks. He had me hooked in less than 45 seconds. I was impressed and intrigued in under a minute. That’s how you cold call. It won’t always be that way, but with an approach like Lead Forensics’, your rate of success will definitely increase significantly.

• LinkedIn targeting. It’s another research tactic that, if treated properly, can lead to successful connections and conversations with decision makers.

• Setting up seminars and speaking engagements to give away valuable information in exchange for trust and conversation.

• Networking groups are still effective. We participate in BNI (Business Networking International) over here at Alter Endeavors.

These are a few ways you build trust through outbound sales and all are better than contact form spam. Even if someone doesn’t sign up for what you are selling, they are much more likely to speak of you, and maybe even speak well of your brand to others.

That’s all I’ve got for now folks. Go get it done!

Avoid Negative Online Reviews With Good Communication

avoid negative online reviews

Hey folks, Nick here to continue our talk about the “Trust Puzzle” as well as briefly talk about negative online reviews and good customer service. Here’s the deal: build out your private lines of communication with your customers as quickly as possible, and then spend the next year refining the (insert expletive here) out of them. One of the most important lessons we have learned with our service-based clients and dealing with their customers online stems from the level of accessibility our clients have available for their customers, especially via digital means. From our own data we have found that more than 65% of dissatisfied customers will reach out to your brand privately to resolve an issue before taking it public. The “Yelp Elite” aside, many folks do not want to speak ill of a brand in a public manner if they can avoid it. However, if a brand does not have readily apparent avenues for dissatisfied customers to pursue (with near-immediate response times from said brand), then social media and review sites like Google Places become the only recourse. This is dangerous for any brand, no matter how big it is. 

Get Proactive, Send a Survey… AND PAY ATTENTION!

The best way to see how your customers feel is by sending a survey. When building out an online strategy with our clients, especially those with high-dollar, infrequent services that folks only use once in a great while (like moving or painting or roofing), we harp on getting a survey system in place immediately. We actually built a system called Catch Engine to help with individual communications with each customers’ experience, a service we now implement for all of our clients. With Catch Engine, you can actually grade customers based on their answers. The system will then respond to the customer with the appropriate response page based on the customer’s responses. More importantly, you can set up alerts using the Catch Engine system to immediately notify you when someone is likely to post a negative online review, simultaneously letting the client know that someone will be in touch with them shortly about their issue. 

With a system like this in place, more often than not you can head customers off at the pass before they go announce their displeasure with your brand to the rest of the world. What’s more, you now have redemption—the opportunity to make it right with said customer and possibly even win them over as a brand ambassador in the future. 

A Teachable Moment – What Not To Do

On the other hand, if you have a survey in place, but do not have a rock-solid system for responding to negative online reviews in a near-immediate manner, you might actually make an annoyed client into a furious client. For example, I thought about writing this blog because of a recent experience I had with the Austin branch of a high-end furniture company who shall remain nameless. Although the sales experience was pleasant enough, their follow-through and delivery was lackluster at best. For buying such expensive furniture, their level of communication during delivery was practically non-existent.

I reached out to their support department about my frustration without ever receiving a response. After my furniture was finally delivered, I then received a survey; which, again, I let them know how frustrating their fulfillment process was for me. Weeks later, still no response. This is normally where review sites would come into play, and not in a good way. I appreciate the company providing me with a teachable moment, but do NOT be like them! Don’t get me wrong, I love my furniture. It’s awesome, but we are not very likely to order from these folks again or recommend anyone else do so either. At least, not until they fix their fulfillment and delivery issue. 

A Teachable Moment – Be Like These Guys

On the flip side we have a number of companies I have no reservations about naming. Square Cow Movers, Patriot Pools and Spas, Austin’s Paint Guys and Soleil Floors actively seek their clients’ feedback. All of these folks use the Catch Engine System to better understand and react to their customers’ feedback. The secret here? Respond within 1 business day to negative feedback. 

The other trick is to have a system in place for those who respond positively. Even if someone is happy with your service, take 2 minutes to follow up with them a week or two after they take your survey to let them know how much you appreciated their patronage, and how you look forward to serving them again. If you are in desperate need of reviews for your brand, cross check the positive responses to your survey with your review sites. Consider incentivizing your past clients who responded favorably to leave honest reviews of your service. But also, do NOT forget about your unhappy clients. They should be responded to immediately. 

It doesn’t matter what system you use, as long as you take the time to respond and act to every client, then it’s well worth the effort. 

The AgroAmerica Example Scam With Google Emails


AgroAmerica most likely has nothing to do with this scam, but since the scam artists are using it as their primary form of legitimacy, this is why we call it the AgroAmerica Example Scam. The primary target appears to be small to medium-sized web agencies and freelancers building/designing sites.


The scam starts either with an email or with a text message that looks like this:


From: James McGrew <>
Date: Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 12:07 PM
Subject: Re: New contact submission from Alter Endeavors
To: Nicholas Alter<>


I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in KY and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so I need a best of the best layout design for it. I hope you can handle that for me. Check out this site:, I will be happy if you can give me something better than this if its possible. The site would only be informational, so I need you to give me an estimate based on the site I gave you to check out. The estimate should include hosting and I want the same page as the site I gave you to check out. I have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.


1. I want the same number of pages with the example site I gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language
3. I don’t have a domain yet but I want the domain name as
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
6. I want the site up and running before ending of next month.
7. My budget is $4000 to $5000

Kindly get back to me with:

I. An Estimate
II. Cell-Phone Number

James McGrew



I’m hearing impaired. I would love to know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you  do you accept credit cards? Kindly contact me at:, so I can send you the job details if you are interested.


Tracy Miller

Sent from iPhone

When we received the first one of these things, the “hearing impaired” thing was not a tipoff for us. Neither was the request if we accepted credit cards. It wasn’t until we got about 3 emails into it with the first scam attempt that we realized this was not legit. Once we started to get suspicious, we tried to get a bit more information out of them to see if we could uncover who was doing this, or at least be able to provide a lead to authorities when we submitted this to them. Typically we just ignore crap like this, but this particular approach proves a little more put together, a little more crafty than your typical scam.

We didn’t go through the process accepting their “payment”. They want you to send money immediately to their “marketing consultant” after they have paid you. This could either be a money laundering scheme or it could be that they force a charge back to your credit card AFTER you have paid the consultant, which would result in a direct loss to either you, your merchant services provider or both.

We have submitted reports to Google that Gmail accounts are being used for this scam operation. Per Google’s policy, they did not contact us immediately about our report. However, we do encourage anyone else who has experienced one of these emails or text messages to speak up, submit a report, contact your local authorities, etc.

More importantly, be sure you have very strict policies in place about how you process credit cards and pay monies out from your company. Be sure you have a signed contract along with a payment processing page where credit card information can be filled out and a signature provided. Yes, many of us have e-commerce solutions in place, but for sums of money larger than $500, we strongly recommend getting a signed agreement before processing any credit cards. Check with your merchant services provider about chargebacks. We use CynergyData Texas specifically for this reason. They help protect us against situations like this.

Also, it’s our policy that we have a face-to-face with every client before signing a contract, even if they are hearing impaired. IM and video-conferencing equipment make it very easy to have a face-to-face meeting with someone even if they live far away and/or are hearing impaired. Stay vigilant people! Let’s build a better internet, and let’s please do away with crappy scams.

Dr. Pepper, Dublin Dr. Pepper, Texas Tradition and a lot of Pissed-Off Fans

The Dr. Pepper Snapple (DPS for short) group has just forced the 120-year old tradition of Dublin Dr. Pepper to stop production. Unfair Park has an excellent blog giving the details of this particularly poor decision on DPS’s part. More importantly, the Dr. Pepper brand is now under duress. An immediate and severe backlash is taking shape on the Dr. Pepper Facebook page, their Twitter account and more dangerously, on spaces they do not control. And so far? Silence.

The decision was made final and acted out yesterday at 5 PM. Unless DPS comes up with an incredibly good reason as to why their international brand was threatened by this small-town company, then they are going to lose a lot of business over the next few months. And the Dr. Pepper brand will NEVER be the same again if they do not handle this situation correctly. DPS claims Dublin Dr. Pepper violated their distribution rights, but in light of the entire lawsuit, the allegations are pretty weak-sauce, especially from a PR perspective.

DPS executives might blow this off, and so far that is what they are doing on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. They were not prepared to deal with the incredible onslaught of negativity now plaguing their FB page and Twitter account. So far, as I am writing this article, they have not addressed this situation with their 11,062,677 fans on Facebook or 82,302 fans on Twitter (really, that’s all y’all have on Twitter?), which is only making it worse. If they were hoping that their stalwart fans would defend them, they were fatally mistaken. Look on their FB page, and folks claiming 40+ years of Dr. Pepper enthusiasm are tossing their loyalty and paraphernalia in the trash, claiming a DP boycott. The comments are coming in the thousands and man, are they upset.

So what are you going to do Dr. Pepper? Social Media will not let you hide, that is both its beauty and its curse.  Here are a couple sample snapshots of what I’m talking about.

Underutilized Austin URLs…

As I’m working on content for a client, I am looking for online Austin-centric resources, and here are some URLs that surprisingly do nothing:

I understand ownership, but when you own the rights to a domain name like, IT SHOULD DO SOMETHING! I cannot believe we live in one of the most forward thinking communities in the United States (in terms of high-tech and social media) and some of the most prominent Austin URLs are just floating.

Web developers: Internet Explorer only platforms are the devil’s work. Participate and you are on the fast track to Dante’s Inferno

I have student loans, a naive participant in an unforgiving $1 Trillion industry. Yes, it is an industry, and one you can only get out from under if you labor for ten years, or if you get really lucky, or if you die (well, maybe if you die…the jury is still out on this one.) You would think that an industry with this much damn money would get on board to make it as easy as possible for folks to pay their student loansOr maybe not, if they really are criminals.

At this point, there is no excuse for the folks at Citibank or Hinsen-Hazlewood to have sites that are inoperable on anything but Internet Explorer. It is lazy and it is dishonest. I bring this up because I experienced first-hand what happens when you accidentally use another browser. You can go through the entire monthly payment process, submit your payment, land on the confirmation page and for some reason, because you didn’t use IE, your payment fails to process. What the hell is up with that? And because you were given a confirmation page, you don’t double check until you get a late notice in the mail and a penalty fee. Continue reading