Category Archives: Online Marketing

Another Retail Chain Store Gone in Kona

What is going on with our national retail chains? We’ve lost Radio Shack and Sports Authority in the past year, and Payless Shoes will follow soon. Sears, in its corporate filings, says its long-term viability is questionable. They own K-Mart, so that, too, is in peril. The current Ross building in Kona was made for a Circuit City store: it never opened.

These are the brands I grew up with. I remember the joy of going school clothes shopping at Sears and K-Mart as a little tyke. When I was a teenager, I bought my first CD player at Radio Shack. I even worked a summer in a Radio Shack store, and had a great time playing with all the gizmos and gadgets when the store was empty.

The reality, however, is that all these stores hold a place in my memory from thirty-plus years ago; I have shopped these stores very little in the past 10-20 years.

The simple answer, the one we hear from the management of these stores is that online and over-capacity in retail are responsible for their demise. These are certainly true and are a big reason why some big box and specialty retailers are failing, but is there more?

I think there is.

Here’s why I shop online:

  1. Selection. Radio Shack in Kona would have—at most—a few choices of keyboards, speakers or any other gizmo I wanted to buy. Amazon has tens of items in each category. I always felt like I was compromising by settling by selecting among the few choices available at Radio Shack.
  2. Information. In the old days, you would rely on the salesperson’s recommendation. Nowadays, I can use the reviews of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of consumer when looking at the products online. I trust the crowd to steer me right. Most chain retailers control the information, and that’s just unacceptable in this day and age. There is even a car dealer in Kona that blocks cell phone signals at their dealership to decrease the information available to consumers. Because of this, I took my business elsewhere.
  3. Price. Just this morning, I was looking at a wall mount for a television. The one I liked was $55 at the local big box store; I found a better one online for $28, including delivery.
  4. Time. My time is very valuable to me. If I can order a product in five minutes online, that’s at least 25 minutes of time I save if I have to go to a local big box retailer.

commerce concept

Is there any hope for chain stores and big box retailers?

Of course there is. Stores like Wal-Mart and Target offer a lot of goods that just don’t make sense to buy online (toothpaste, frozen pizzas, alcohol, and various sundry items), items that sell best when the consumer can see the product (clothes, fabric, shoes) and things that are needed right away (a toy for the tots, spaghetti sauce or a quart of oil). These big box stores—Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot—do things well, for the most part. Their selection is good and all four have done a good job of integrating delivery to stores and real-time inventory on their digital platforms.

The trend toward online sales and the subsequent demise of specialty chain retailers is inevitable and will continue. Consumers have changed. Technology has enabled unparalleled access to information. Technology has also created immense efficiencies in the supply chain and distribution systems of Amazon, creating huge barriers to competition.

If I were a betting man, I would bet on K-Mart, Macy’s, Office Max and at least one of our chain automobile supply stores, being in peril in the next handful of years. They can, of course, pivot their business strategies and maintain relevance long into the future.


Results Matter! Getting Out of the Online Marketing Echo Chamber

Spend any amount of time researching online marketing online and you’ll soon start hearing an echo, actually a cacophony of echoes. This is because many companies just repeat the same old information again and again. They read something on a forum or on another website, take the information as fact, and then repeat it in their blog or newsletter.

Some of the information is good, relevant ways to grow a business online. Much of it is just repeating information from other sources.

What matters the most when choosing an online marketing company?

Results. That’s it!

Not price, as any company with good results is worth the price (within reason).

Not a lot of talk. That’s cheap and not worth very much.

At Kona Impact we are confident our results can outshine that of most companies people perceive as our competitors.

Here are three questions to ask any design, marketing or consulting company:

  1. What are five keywords/phrases you associate with your services or products? For example, it might be “taxi service,” “Kona airport taxi,” “airport shuttle,” “escorted island tours,” and “Kailua Kona taxi”
  2. What is your Google or Bing ranking for those keyword/phrases?

If a business can’t answer questions #1, find a new provider. If a company can’t answer #2, find a new provider. If the answer to the second questions is not, “we are in the top five positions for local search,” find a new provider.

Kona Impact is happy to show you our results for these two questions. In fact, we can be found in the top five places on Google, Bing and Yahoo for over fifty our targeting keywords/phrases!


The two questions above are the most fundamental aspects of online marketing. No matter how much talk or fancy brochures a design, marketing or consulting business has, understanding the nature of keywords and how to rank for them online is what separates a results-oriented marketing company and one that is just part of the great internet echo chamber.

Kona Impact works primarily with businesses on Hawaii Island, mostly companies in Waimea, Waikoloa, Kailua-Kona and South Kona. If you would like to “talk story” and see how we can help your business grow, give us a call at 808-329-6077.

Why can’t I find my website online?

There is a lot of confusion about websites, Google and the online marketing in general. Many people think that all it takes to have a solid online presence is to make a website. Build it, and they will come.

I am not sure why many people think the online world is any different from the bricks and mortar world. Does the fact that you have started a restaurant guarantee visitors, sales, and, most important, profits?

The simple fact is that online marketing is difficult.

Here are three reasons you might not find your website online:

  1. There is no content. By content I mean words. The search engines are, for the most part, just massive text databases. They look at your website, index the text, and, if you’re lucky, give your website back as a search result when someone searches for words on your page.  If you don’t have “papaya seeds from Hawaii” on your website, there is absolutely 0% probability that someone searching for “papaya seeds from Hawaii” will find your website.
  2. Your expectations about what you should be found for are realistic. If you want to be found for “Waikiki hotels” and you have those words on your website, what makes your website page more important and useful than the 15,600,000 (yes, I checked) pages online already that have those words on them? If Google does not view your website as more important and relevant relative to all the other websites out there, you will not be found. You need to be better than everyone else to be #1—a very daunting and near impossible task for valuable and common keywords.
  3. You’re trying to cheat.  Google and Bing/Yahoo are very clear about what constitute quality. Most of the SPAM email solicitations you receive for online marketing services will not follow these guidelines and either deliver no results or only temporary results. Even if you don’t use the services of a marketing company, you still might have made some grave mistakes with your website’s design and content.

Google, the most popular English language search engine, has hundreds of indices in its algorithm, the equation that it uses to connect searches to websites. No one knows all of the criteria, but a professional online marketer will know the most important and help businesses have the best opportunities to be found online. He or she will also have tools that can help you make a reasonable online marketing plan, one that looks for opportunities that are attainable.  If you need some help, give us a call at 329-6077 or visit us online at Kona Impact.

The puzzle of online marketing

Online Marketing: Overcoming Analysis Paralysis

Fear of making decisions and moving forward can be a business killer. By not taking action, whether it is a new online marketing campaign or buying some new equipment, will guarantee that tomorrow is the same as today. That’s right, no action guarantees that your status tomorrow will be the same as today. Don’t seek out new clients, and voila, you have no new clients.

Now, let’s take the business owner who knows that she doesn’t know, but, after looking at the issues, decides to move forward with a new website, a marketing campaign or adds some graphics to the store windows. Sure, she has taken a risk–expended capital and time (another form of capital–but we know for certain that she will have a different future compared to if she didn’t do anything. Only  when you seek out new opportunities do you find them

Waiting in a morass of what I call “analysis paralysis” is not action. It guarantees no movement.

Sure, the unknown can be scary and full of risk, but avoiding all risk is not how businesses become successful.

At Kona Impact, we specialize in helping our clients get beyond analysis paralysis and start taking action. We sincerely believe having us as you coach, adviser, helper, advocate, etc, will reduce your risk and maximize your opportunities. We work with hundreds of businesses a year and have a pretty good idea what is fruitful and fruity, what is useful and what is useless.

Hiring an experienced, professional team does not guarantee success. It does, however, help you make decisions that set you up for the best opportunities for success.

When you’re ready to start growing your business, give us a call at 329-6077. Our initial consultation is complimentary.

Hmmmm….Is that so?

Remember the old days when THE place to advertise was the yellow pages? Businesses would take out huge, full-page ads, because, well, they worked. That, however, was in the early 1990s. Nowadays, most businesses do not even bother with paid yellow pages ads, because they are expensive and mostly ineffective.

Some people say the same is true for newspapers. With greatly declining readership, better targeting through other media and better ways of interacting with potential clients, newspaper advertising is a tough sell these days.Very few of our customers who try it, continue buying print ads in the paper.

So, that leaves the yellow pages and the newspapers seeking new ways to stay relevant. The yellow pages bundle very basic (and most ineffective) template websites with ad sales. Buy and ad, get a “website.”

This week our local newspaper started running ads asking, “Is your website working for you?”. Fair enough. Good question. They then list ten things that they claim are the top ten must-haves for a website.

Their list includes: contact information (duh!), easy navigation (duh!), functioning links (duh!) and ownership (duh!). Not the most compelling information, and, to be honest, if you don’t these on a website, you have made perhaps the world’s worst website.

Two more items on their list are just wrong! They are not “top ten” items. One is just purely wrong.

“Relevant tags” – This likely refers to the meta tags for keywords. Google has not used these for site ranking for over five years! Almost no search engines do. They date back to the old days of making websites and are 100% not relevant today. Even worse, putting meta tags on your website tells all your competitors what you are focusing on. If a webmaster talks about meta tags, he or she needs to get out of the mid-2000s–an eternity in online marketing.

“Alternative text for images” – These can be useful, but they certain would not be on any “top ten” list. Maybe “top thirty”, but certainly not as important as a lot of other things.

Finally, I took a look at the one website they have an image of in their ad.

Here’s what I found:

1. 2nd page on Google for a very easy category with no competition.

2. No listing on Google Places, the most important tool for local marketing.

3. No Alternative text for images! If you put it on your “top ten” list, why are they not on the website you have built?

4. “Copyright and Powered by… xxx Media”. Wow! That’s not ownership by the business. This shows the major problem with all template sites: you don’t own your website! You are renting it and have no rights to the design. You stop paying, your gone.

5. The business’ Facebook page shows up on Google above the website page. That’s not very good search engine optimization by the seller of the website.

At Kona Impact, we have a much better “top ten” list, though admittedly, it’s more of a “top twenty” or “top fifty” list of things we do to ensure our clients have a strong online presence. We are focused on unique, customized solutions that provide our clients with top-level design, content, search engine optimization and search engine marketing. When you are looking for the best, avoid the fluff and misinformation and talk to the pros – Kona Impact – 329-6077.

Setting Shipping for Online Stores

At Kona Impact, we work with a lot of online stores. One of the most important conversations we have with our clients is how they want to set up shipping rates for their products.

The tendency for most is to say, “I want the shipping cost on the website to be what shipping costs me.”  Our answer is always, “do you mean the postage or FedEx cost, or do you mean your total costs—packaging supplies, packing the item, going to the post office, waiting in line and the actual cost of the postage?”  “Hmmmmm” is the common first response.

We look at Kona Impact from the perspective of the consumer. After all, the consumer is the only person who will make the website profitable. It is the consumers’ feelings and perceptions that will lead to a sale or an abandoned shopping cart.

From a consumer’s perspective, here are, in the order of preference, three ways to set up shipping:

1)      “Free Shipping” If at all possible, do this. By taking shipping costs out of the sales equation, you have removed one, if not the one, biggest obstacle to making an online purchase. Remember that we’re dealing with perception here, so if your item price includes shipping, it is perceived to be a better deal. This is tru even if it is more expensive than a similar item that does not have free shipping. One only has to look at how dominates  e-commerce to see the power of free or low-cost shipping.

2)      “Flat Rate” This is where all orders, sometimes those just over a certain dollar amount, have one rate for shipping. At Kona Impact, we recommend this over per item shipping rates (see below) as it encourages the buyer to buy more. This is an important part of shipping rates: they should encourage more spending.

3)      “Per Item or Per Weight” This, unfortunately, is what most sellers prefer, but it is certainly not what buyers prefer. The problem is that these rates are neither transparent nor readily available (without searching) to the website visitor. In the worst case scenario, buyers have to create an account before this information is available. What a hassle! No wonder shopping cart abandonment is high with this type of shipping policy.

We came across an interesting shipping rate that is intriguing. It’s based on a percentage of the total sale, with decreasing percentages with higher dollar amounts purchased. For example, for items totaling less than $15 the percentage is 100%–the shipping is the same as the purchase amount. For purchases over $100, it decreased to 22%, so $22 on $100 purchased. The incentive to place higher dollar orders is certainly there, which is a good thing. It does, however, discourage small orders, which might discourage 1st time buyers.

Whatever you do when setting your shipping rates, always look at it from the perspective of the buyer. If you see a large “free shipping” graphic on every page, consider how that might increase your customer base and encourage larger dollar orders. If you make it hard for customers to figure out shipping for what they want, how can you make it easier?

If you are thinking about opening an online store, give us a call at 329-6077. We can help you avoid some of the big mistakes and we’ll help you find solutions that work best for you.

I’ll Make Your Website #1 on Google!

i'll put you #1 on googleWe have received, as well as a few of our clients, a very interesting and clever cold call pitch for search engine marketing services. The caller (often from a blocked number) says that he can make our website #1 on Google.

With over 15 years of experience making websites and doing search engine marketing, I quickly realize that there is something very fishy here. After all, Google uses well over 200 criteria for its search engine results and if the all of these were known and could be manipulated by search engine marketers with exact precision, they would become meaningless as everyone would become #1 on Google.

The trick and I do admit it is a clever one, is that the cold caller will indeed put you at number one on Google, but only in the paid results. For example, if I pay enough, I can be number one for “Hawaii web design”, but I will be there only as long as I keep paying. The caller is not promising to make you #1 for the organic results, the place where every search engine marketer wants to be, because these results are likely to be there month after month, and there are no pay-per-click costs.

We can do the math for the “#1 on Google” plan. The cold caller figures out (it’s easy to do with access to the right databases) that the average cost per click for “kona scuba diving” is $1.50 and there are 300 searches a month for this. He knows that approximately 20% of those searches will click the top paid result, so to stay on the top of the Google paid results will cost somewhere around $90 (300 searches x 20% click rate X $1.50 a click) a month.

He then cold calls some dive charters in Kona and say, “I can make your business #1 on Google for “kona scuba diving” next month for only $150. Did you know that there are 300 searches for it? You will be #1 all month, I assure you. We guarantee it!”

The charter boat operator thinks this is a good deal. Is it?

Yes, if you’re the person setting up the ad and making $60 a month per key word. I can assure you that, if for some reason, the cost of running the ad approaches what is paid, you will not see  your ad anymore. The model only works if the amount charged to the business owner is quite a bit less than what is paid for the ads.

A better approach would be to set up your own ad using Google Adwords or have someone like Kona Impact do it for you—we charge a one-time fee. You’ll get more visitors and spend less money. An even better long-term approach would be to work with a company like Kona Impact to be found toward the top of the organic searches. This is a lot less expensive in the long term.

So, the next time, or the first time, someone cold calls you with an online marketing scheme that seems too good to be true, it is. Hang up. Call someone in your community. If that community is Hawaii Island, call us: 329-6077.

Innovative Business in Town: Kona Family Fishing Charters

Part of what we do at Kona Impact is working with businesses on their online marketing needs. This include search engine optimization (SEO), setting up ad campaigns and general consulting for online marketing. Many of these clients come to us with a pre-existing website or involve us at the early stages of their website design process. We do not require that the website be designed by us.

One innovative local business we have assisted in this way is Kona Family Fishing Charters. Their specialty is, of course, family fishing charters. They have assembled a small, select group of fishing charters that welcome family charters, and most importantly, have boats and personalities that make for a great day on the water for resident and visiting families.

Not only have they focused on an under-served group of tourists, they have focused on charters that are truly family-friendly. It’s easy to say anything about a charter operations, but the owners, Dennis and Lee, have a level of understanding about the Kona fishing fleet that is unsurpassed.

They only choose the best, and invited that select group to join their fleet.

It can’t be emphasized enough that all boats and captains are not equal, and there is a lot of value in having an insider’s knowledge when selecting a charter boat in Kona.

Kona Family Fishing Charters

Two Online Marketing Myths

Kona Impact works mainly with small and medium-size businesses. We are usually sitting at the table with the business owner, or at least  someone who works directly with the owner. We like this.

When we work with relatively small organization, we have a great opportunity to learn about where the business is and where it wants to go. It is also a great way to help a business owner focus on what is important and dispel myths about online marketing.

Here are a couple of online marketing myths:

Build it and They Will Come

This is the most pervasive myth with websites. Many businesses decide to go it on the cheap and use a website template program or a unqualified person to make their website.  Lo and behold, they can’t even find their website online, even when searching for their own business name after the site is online. The have a website, but have no effective online presence.

Building a website, if done right, will help people find you. But, that’s if it’s done right. At Kona Impact, we plan the design, function and content of a website before we even consider writing our first line of code. In other words, we know the goal, how the website will be found online, before we begin.

We do a lot of research before we write our first word. We know what people search for. We know how to get that information on a page of website code. We know what to do after a site is launched to help it be found.

Simply put, a person who does not have a deep understanding of online visibility is wasting his or her time and hurting the businesses chances of success.

Social Media Will Save the Day

So-called social media, things like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (among thousands of others) are just some tools to help a business be found, connect with customers, and, we hope, make sales. For most, however, they take a huge amount of time and have fairly poor results.

I always ask clients how many Twitter feeds they follow or how many Facebook accounts they look at each week. The answer is almost invariably none, one, perhaps, two.

Social media takes time, and the rewards are often small.

At Kona Impact, we certainly encourage our clients to set up a Facebook account, as it is another way for people to find the main website for the business. After that, blog, write original, interesting content on your website. This is where you want your customers—on your site where you can sell them your products or services.

Just because something is all over the news, does not make it a good investment of time and effort.

The Kona Impact team has been helping businesses be found online for many years. We are a practical, results-oriented team that is on the side of each and every business we help. We are proud to match our portfolio, results and credentials to any other online marketing company in Hawaii. Give us a call at 329-6077 to see if we’re a good match for your business.

How to Kill Your Online Presence

At Kona Impact, we believe online visibility–the ability to attract visitors through online searches–is a primary reason reason for a website. Imagine the best looking website in the world, full of animated graphics, whiz-bang effects and some really cool functions. Sounds very appealing to some, but will anyone find it?

There is a balance between design, function and content. As a good general rule, you want all three to be at optimal levels to have an effective website. Design, of course, makes everything look good. Function makes it work. Content makes it interesting, and, perhaps more importantly, content (words, words, words) are what the search engines use to delivery people to your website. You see, the major search engines are basically just huge text databases that match what you are searching for with content on the pages of websites.

No content=Nothing to index=No visitors from the search engines.

One problem with many websites is that they hide all the content within databases. If the content is hidden, Google generally won’t find it, and it doesn’t help a lot with search engines.

One of the websites we used to host had over250 pages of content, a page for each of their products. The design was horrendous, but it did attract a lot of visitors because of the huge amount of content. We no longer host their site, but genuinely do wish them the best.

Now they have  a website system that hides almost all of their products in a database. The move happened a few weeks ago. Today, we checked how their website is doing. If it became more popular, we would have to reconsider some of the ways we build sites. If it became less visible, we would have a lot of our understanding of the search engines and website design validated.

After two weeks, they have become most invisible online.
They have killed their online presence.

Below is the data to back this up. I intentionally covered their keywords and replace them with “kona sushi, etc”. If you see a red triangle, this is a loss in ranking: #1 is first page, first result. Anything greater then 10 is off the first page of the search engines. Where you see a red X, it means the keywords are no longer on the first four pages of the search engine. A blue triangle is an increase in ranking.

The lesson to be learned from this is that if you change your website’s content, your online visibility will change.

This can be for the good or bad. The other lesson is the need to understand the balance between design, function and content. Their new website looks nice and the functions are impressive as well. The downside is that they will get very few visitors through Google searches because they have hidden their content behind a database. As a result, their cost per visitor will be very high, as they will have to do pay-per-click marketing or do offline marketing to get people to their site.