Toward peace

Peace might not mean getting everyone else to do what you want them to do.

Instead, it might involve understanding that people don’t always want what we want and don’t often believe what we believe. Everyone has their own narrative and is struggling with their own fears.

We can begin there.

Most of the time, people want to be seen, understood and appreciated. And if we can offer someone dignity, we give them a gift that’s difficult to find.

Is optimal the point?

As soon as competitive people start to measure something, there’s pressure to make it better. And once better reaches the maximum level, it’s optimal.

But perhaps that’s not really the goal.

What about resilient?

Or perhaps we could value delightful, stressless or reliable instead.

Optimal is ultimately sterile. It leaves no room for much of anything else, including joy.

The travel agent’s problem

Not just travel agents, but all agents.

Information scarcity is disappearing.

Forty years ago, passengers didn’t know which airline flew where and when. And forty years ago, airlines had no easy way to find out who wanted to fly somewhere. Today, of course, there’s no shortage of information or ability to connect. So paying 10% of their revenue to a human who will use a terminal instead of the passenger using a computer hardly makes sense for the airline.

Movie studios used to have to wrestle with information scarcity, and so did talented creators. Actors weren’t sure who was making what, and studios had imperfect information about who to cast. Today, IMDB (and proprietary tools) surface enormous amounts of information for the studios. They know who is working on what, who is a pain in the neck, who can add to the effectiveness of the project. And the creators are part of networks, formal and informal, that get them information faster and more efficiently than a single human often could.

The same thing is happening to car dealers. In fact, just about any job where you used to hoard information and charge a fee is now in danger.

When your clients know more than you do, it’s difficult to be an old-fashioned agent who is making money based on information scarcity.

The alternative is to become a network hub who creates value through information abundance.

The real scam of ‘influencer’

Is popular the same as good?

Is popular possible?

Is popular your goal?

There are tens of thousands of humans spending their days trying to be popular on Instagram, buying outfits, wearing hats and seeking their version of cute. People from all backgrounds and genders, hoping to be the next Kardashian.

Facebook is filled with anonymous bots seeking to be popular.

The highest-paid YouTuber this year was an 8-year old kid.

And Twitter is the center of the politi-sphere, with each self-made pundit seeking to outdo the others.

Billions of hours spent by millions, mostly for free, to enrich a few social media platforms.

The lessons of the high school lunch table run deep.

Part of the scam is that the pyramid scheme of attention will somehow pay off for a lot of people. It won’t. It can’t. The math doesn’t hold up. Someone is going to win a lottery, but it probably won’t be us.

And a bigger part is that the things you need to do to be popular (the only metric the platforms share) aren’t the things you’d be doing if you were trying to be effective, or grounded, or proud of the work you’re doing.

When there’s a single metric (likes/followers), we end up looking in the rear-view mirror when we should be driving instead.

Maximizing the benefits for the social media platform you’re on are different than maximizing the benefits for you and those you are leading.

Nothing is one thing

“How was your day?”

It’s tempting to answer with just one word.


The same way we try to lump a job, a project or a person into a single emotion. As if there’s a prize for brevity, and pressure to categorize a lifetime of experiences and expectations into just a few words or a single feeling.

Whatever we’re encountering is a combination of experiences and feelings–from extraordinary to banal to absurd.

The real question is, “which part are you focusing on?”

If you’re focusing on the part of your day that was “fine”, then you’re ignoring the parts that were a miracle, or disappointing, or thrilling.

We get what we pay attention to. Our narration determines what we experience and what we remember.

If your narration isn’t helping you, perhaps it pays to focus on something else.

“Which part of your day are you experiencing right now?”


Where to Start Diversifying Your Traffic in Today’s Digital Landscape

Google has always presented businesses with unprecedented opportunities to start, sustain, and grow online. It’s also created an unhealthy dependence on the product set for many companies.

Shifts in Google search result pages are shrinking the opportunities to earn organic traffic.

Everyone is talking about it, including some of the top contributors in our industry.

Google continues to make changes designed to boost ad revenue, direct users to Google-owned properties, and fulfill searchers’ needs without leaving a SERP. That means fewer opportunities for digital marketers to earn organic traffic from Google.

No, this isn’t another “SEO is dead” post.

Organic search is still a strong traffic source and should be a core component of your long-term strategy. But you need to adjust your strategy if you’re reliant on Google’s organic traffic.
None of the strategies shared here are new or trendsetting, in my opinion. They do level up to solid marketing, though. It’s not about algorithms or quick wins to boost your quarterly bottom line; it’s about diversifying your traffic to create stability when change comes (and yes, change will continue to come from Google).

Let’s dive in.

Ramp Up Your Paid Budget

Whether we monitor the shifts that are changing Google’s SERPs, react to the disappearance of organic social reach, or account for the improvements brought to programmatic from AI, it’s time to increase your paid media budget.

With fewer opportunities for organic traffic, we’re recommending brands significantly bump up their paid budgets for the coming year across our agency’s book of business.

On the paid search side, Google is constantly testing and tweaking its search network ad formatting and SERP coverage. Early 2018 marked the end of the right rail and the introduction of the four-unit, top of the results page. It must be working for their bottom line; Q3 revenue from Google search ads was up 16% year over year as advertisers are tapping into Google’s ad product set with larger budgets than before.

As organic listings continue to get knocked down, paying to play (even on your branded keywords) is essential.

The decrease in organic social reach has been more than well documented over the past few years. With Instagram’s feed changes this year and closer integration with Facebook, we see their ad platform driving more demand from marketers (especially on the B2C side) to stay relevant on the platform.

On the display and programmatic front, we’re placing a higher focus on filling the top of the funnel than ever before. Effectively building top-of-funnel users ready to engage with your brand for the first time provides the opportunity to create carefully segmented remarketing lists. While the influx of traffic shouldn’t drive conversions immediately, your remarketing campaigns should be able to drive mid-funnel and purchase-decision conversions depending on the industry you’re in.

Building an appropriate attribution model for your top and mid-funnel-focused campaigns is key to understanding the value your driving from your paid efforts.

Provide Value for Free

Provide as much value as you can with no strings attached. Gasp!

Hear me out. What if you actually gave your audience a reason to consume content on your site without expecting something in return?

Find a way to provide something useful and valuable.

It could be something innovative that users can’t find elsewhere, something interactive to engage them with your brand, or a piece of content that fulfills an immediate need and creates a moment of clarity for them.

Be useful for free. (Asking for an email address is not a free transaction.)

Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles features an interactive map that allows visitors to learn where the company’s product supplies come from. The information is available to anyone who visits the site, without having to provide anything to access it.

Screenshot of Patagonia's Footprint Chronicles PageScreenshot of Patagonia's Footprint Chronicles Page

It’s informative. It’s unique. And it drives affinity for the brand. It also has nearly 2,800 backlinks.

There’s a reason why 10x content is a thing.

It’s tough to put a direct ROI on efforts like this. Please don’t try and do it.

When done right, good things happen. Brand affinity grows, opportunities for link building pop up, shares spread organically throughout social platforms, and referral traffic consistently builds your acquisition funnel. When done right, the results can be immense.

If your plan is to continue putting out high volume, low value (be honest with yourself) content, time to change it up.

Find Your Influencers

Get ready to continue buying attention.

Finding influencers that resonate with your brand may be as important as ever. As younger generations depend more on the personalities they trust over brand names and value propositions, the importance of identifying and partnering with influencers is growing.

Think about the demographics of your customers. Research shows how variably different generations lean on influencers in their purchase decision.

We’ve seen massive success in this space when executed with precision, and it all starts by picking the right influencers.

Finding influencers doesn’t have to result in buying promotion from trendy “Instagram Celebrities”. Some of the best success we’ve seen came from highly targeted, low volume-producing influencers. Think quality, not quantity.

We’ve also found success in this space with podcast advertising.

On the long list of emerging tactics and trends in the digital space, podcast advertising blends digital ad buying with influencer marketing. With ad inventory levels growing and the market around pricing beginning to solidify, podcast advertising opportunities offer advertisers a diverse set of promotion opportunities. Podcast advertising techniques are solidifying as well, creating a viable medium for many advertisers to tap into for the first time.

Take Advantage of the Traffic You’re Already Getting

While the three topics covered focus on finding ways to drive more traffic, we’re recommending brands focus more of their time and budget on optimizing website experience to drive the bottom line.

Yes, detailed plans need to be made and carried out on how to acquire traffic. But don’t forget about the traffic you’re already getting.

While you can find countless definitions for UX and CRO in the digital marketing space, we look at it as the work required to decrease friction on the journey to a conversion point.

Focus on experience-driving factors like site speed, removing unnecessary content, and accounting for elements of influence to build trust throughout your funnel.

If done right, the immediate results can bring big changes to your conversion metrics without adding more traffic.

Don’t Get Carried Away

I mentioned earlier that this isn’t an “SEO is dead” post.

SEO certainly isn’t dead, and your digital strategy should continue to find ways to effectively grow your organic presence.

There are still a lot of opportunities for organic search to thrive in your digital marketing initiatives. But be wary if you’re too dependent on that particular avenue for revenue-driving traffic, you may only be a few algorithm or SERP layout changes away from a place where your singular traffic source runs flat.

The post Where to Start Diversifying Your Traffic in Today’s Digital Landscape appeared first on Portent.

Making your case

Conventional wisdom:

Find a large group of people.

Explain why you’re better.

Prove that you are the right answer.



How it actually works:

Earn attention from precisely the right people.

Gain trust.

Tell a story.

Create tension.

Relieve the tension by gaining commitment.

Deliver work that’s remarkable.

They spread the word.

On writing a spec

Good specs force the difficult conversations to happen before they are expensive.

If you hand a good spec to a builder or a programmer, the chances that you get back the system you’re hoping for are dramatically increased.

For a building, the spec is architectural plans. But give an architect a good spec and she’s much more likely to design a building you’d be happy to live in.

This post is mostly about computers and other complicated systems, but the thinking can be used for just about any project where you and your team are asking a system to solve a problem for you. Unlike buildings, computers and other systems change their state all the time, depending on what just happened and what’s supposed to happen next.

The spec outlines the inputs to the system and the outputs it creates. If it’s simple, it’s easy to write:

Put a quarter into the gumball machine and turn the crank.

A gumball comes out.

So, at the highest level, we have problems and solutions. I need a gumball is the problem, and the solution is to use this machine to turn a quarter into a gumball by releasing one from an inventory.

It gets a bit more complicated when the state of the system might change as the result of previous actions. For example, if the machine is out of gumballs, my spec requires that the quarter be returned. Knowing this, I could also add to the spec that the machine should know how many gumballs are in inventory, and how fast the sales are, so that when it has two or three days of inventory left, it sends a message to headquarters to ask to be refilled.

Inputs and outputs.

It’s worth noting that my spec doesn’t have to include any information about what gumballs are for, or how much it costs us to make gumballs. We’re defining the inputs and outputs of a system.

[It’s totally worth having a different discussion with a different team about your processes, your goals, the people you serve and the problems you seek to solve. Systems work best when they are coherent with what you actually seek to achieve… but we can leave that for another day].

It’s tempting to nail down the precise solutions to each input and output requirement early on. You might decide that the way you’re executing your system should be part of the spec from the beginning. That’s backwards. The system exists for solving problems, and the way the system executes is only there to serve that goal, not the other way around.

Maybe you don’t need a 386 processor or a tin roof to solve your problem. Let’s figure out the problem first, and worry about the way we meet your specs second.

Grab some index cards and simulate your system. Have each user write down precisely what they want to tell/ask the system and have the person running the system hand back index cards with the results that they can expect. Be clear about the state that the system is in before each transaction and after it as well.

The sum total of these interactions is your spec.

Bound this with constraints of time and money and performance and you’ve done the hard part.


CCPA: Online Privacy Comes Stateside

In May of 2018, Europe grappled with online privacy with the implementation of GDPR. With a lot of gray areas around how US-based businesses should comply with GDPR and how enforceable the law was here, we instructed our clients to consult their legal counsel on the matter and provided some free tools to aid in compliance.

Now the online privacy legislation battle has arrived on our shores, with several states either considering or actively having passed bills. California – the world’s 5th largest economy – passed a bill called CCPA in 2019, and it’ll go into law on January 1st, 2020. Other states weighing similarly-written bills at the time of this post going live include New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, and North Dakota.

Key Differences in CCPA vs. GDPR

The critical difference between these domestic laws and GDPR seems to be regarding opt-in and opt-out policies. The European law requires explicit opt-in for the firing of any cookies or other data collection, but our US laws only need notification of cookies and a clear pathway to opt-out functionality.

Aside from that distinction, the concepts of “right to delete” and “right to access” any data collected by a website are all present in each state’s legislation, as well as broad definitions of what constitutes Personally Identifiable Information (PII). In some ways, bills like CCPA are more stringent than GDPR in their wording because they extend their PII definitions to “households” and not just “individuals.”

Unlike GDPR, where the likelihood of an EU citizen triggering any complaints against businesses that operate solely in the US was relatively low, CCPA and its domestic clones will have much broader implications for all companies doing business across state lines. As more states consider these laws in isolation, the likelihood that a federal privacy law will emerge is high.

Paid Solutions for Complying with CCPA

So how should businesses comply with the coming onslaught of domestic online privacy laws? There are several ways. Here at Portent, our parent company has chosen to buy a tool called OneTrust. It offers a variety of ways to present notification banners and gives compliance officers at an organization full control over how privacy policy information and corresponding opt-out functionality is shared. The tool starts at $30/month per domain, which is pretty expensive for smaller and mid-sized businesses with control over many unique web properties.

Free Solutions for Complying with CCPA

Other vendors like Osano, that we mentioned in our GDPR cookie banner response last year, have a free solution. But it’s less robust in how you can word the cookie banner and how it can be applied to compliance for certain laws. It’s also limited to a maximum of 7,500 consent views per month, which won’t work for sites with tens of thousands of visitors monthly.

How to Set Up Osano for CCPA Compliance

If you don’t have the budget for a bells-and-whistles solution like OneTrust, here’s a quick step-by-step to configure Osano to help comply with some of the new domestic privacy laws for free.

  1. Get an account. Signup for free on their plans page.Screenshot of Osano's plans and pricing pageScreenshot of Osano's plans and pricing page
  2. Configure the domain you want the banner to appear on and link to your privacy policy.Screenshot showing how to link to your company's privacy policy in OsanoScreenshot showing how to link to your company's privacy policy in Osano
  3. Choose a compliance type from the dropdown and style the banner visually using hex colors.Screenshot of Osano visual stying page showing how to select a compliance type from the drop down.Screenshot of Osano visual stying page showing how to select a compliance type from the drop down.
  4. Assign a category to your tracking scripts and then click “Get Code” to get the Osano script that enables the banner.Screenshot showing how to add a script category in OsanaScreenshot showing how to add a script category in Osana

Online Privacy Going Forward

We can’t predict the future to understand if all these laws will pass, but we can prepare based on what we know about CCPA in the present. Expect more states and countries to pass similar laws and that cookie banners will be the new normal across the internet!

The post CCPA: Online Privacy Comes Stateside appeared first on Portent.

Successful creatives

Many of the ones I know are terrible listeners. They don’t actively engage, don’t see the people who are right in front of them, and don’t exercise much in the way of curiosity or empathy.

I think they got successful because the idea they had inside of them somehow resonated with enough people that they get to share what they were thinking.

But the most reliably successful people I know are precisely the opposite. They are desperate to see and know what’s making other people tick. They actively engage, and they do it with empathy and generosity.

The second path is no guarantee, but it’s more likely to work and it’s also a lot more fun.