For Sale: Facebook Shares, 67% Off

What is Facebook really worth? We know it’s not worth $15 billion — earlier this week a federal court, ruling on the ConnectU case, confirmed that the company has already placed a different value on its shares than the one they publicly announced as part of last fall’s Microsoft deal.

Now Mike Arrington reports that Bill Dagley, a California money manager, is repping a seller with a block a stock they’re willing to part with at a “value far less than $15 billion.” He then cites a source that says the valuation Dagley’s client is looking for is in the $3 billion to $4 billion range.

Sound plausible? It does to us. We’ve heard a different but similar version of the story from “Stone”, a prolific and anonymous SAI commenter, for a while. The last time that Stone threw this one out — this week — he asserted that the valuation was “less than $4 billion for sure.”

And now, prompted by Arrington’s report, we’ve heard from a different source — this one we know, but have agreed not to identify — who says that in April, he was offered a 0.25% stake for $12.5 million — a $5 billion valuation. Our source, who didn’t move forward with the deal, says they weren’t approached by Bill Dagley but by a Facebook employee, inquiring on behalf of another Facebook employee.

So either said Facebook employee is now working with Dagley, or there are multiple Facebook shareholders looking to unload shares for 2/3rds or less of the $15 billion number the company boasted about last fall. We’d bet on the latter.

Peter Kafka

Domain Name Keyword Importance

It’s a common mistake SEOs make – differentiating between “direct” ranking factors and “indirect” ranking factors is very important. People just tend to make the wrong assosciations – they optimise a keyword domain site and see it rank for the keyword and assume that this is down to the keyword in the domain. It isn’t.

The strength of keywords in domains is very easy to test. Find a keyword with mild competition (say anywhere from 500k +), buy the domain, stick a page up with content that doesn’t mention the keyword (nowhere in the body copy, title, etc). Then link to the site from another site using the text “click here”.

If the appearance of keywords in the domain name were so important, then the domain would rank well. But it won’t. That’s because it used to work (circa 2002, 2003) and Google SERPs were filled with spammy keyword domains hosting scraper sites so Google heavily devalued the impact keywords in domain names.

Think about it logically. If this was such an important factor – i.e. more important than any other SEO factor as people are saying – why would Google allow this? A keyword in a domain says nothing about the quality of the content on the site – it’s something that anyone can manipulate in an instant and at very low cost.

BobsWidgets.com ranks well for “widgets” because people link to it using the text, “Bobs Widgets”. There’s a reason that marketing.com, seo.com, searchengineoptimisation.com, travel.com, food.com, etc aren’t number 1 for their respective keywords – that reason is that they have uncompetitive levels of keyword inbound link text compared to their competitors and the domain name is largely irrelevant.

That’s just the “pure SEO ranking” value however. You need to also look at other types of value that can come from keywords in domains –  it makes link building easier – people link to the site using keywords more often so rankings can come quicker because of that.

But look at the issue in a larger context – sure having “widgets” in your domain name will help you rank faster because people link to it saying “widgets”. But widgets isn’t your only keyword is it? What about the dozens, hundreds or thousands of other keywords you want to target? The appearance of “widgets” in the domain name doesn’t help them in the slightest.

For those reasons, overall keyword in domain names have very low value to even small campaigns and the overall value decreases as your campaign increases.

Personally, I wouldn’t even rank the value of this factor in my top 10 – it’s inconsequential to a SEO campaign where even a made up word as domain name (i.e. a brand) can achieve the same success just as easily.

There’s also an issue of image. I guess many people won’t realise and this is probably less and less of an issue as time passes, but there was a time when keyword domains were synonymous with spam (because as I said, spammers used to buy up keyword domains and throw up spam sites because they used to rank well because of the keyword in the domain). Personally, I ignore link requests and business requests from keyword domains for that reason – this may be the exception rather than the rule, but I believe there are probably a good percentage of website owners who feel the same.

And then the marketing issues. You spend loads of money on SEO for edinburghwidgets.com just for someone else to go ahead a buy up glasgowwidgets.com or buyedinburghwidgets.com and legally there’s nothing you can do about it – and there’s a decent chance they will outrank you and capitialise on any marketing efforts you are making. Why would you risk that as a business when you can optimise “abrand.com” just as easily?

Keywords domains are good for some applications, but I would be seriously concerned if a legitimate business wanted to spend money developing a keyword domain for their core business solely on the belief it will help them rank better.

By Scott Boyd

Giving Props To Essential SEO

The basics never go out of style

Search engine optimization covers an array of topics, from a decent title tag to the world of viral video and social media connections. It’s the basics that matter most

If you spend much time online, there’s a good chance you have a greater affinity for technology than the average person. Something new comes along, and you’re looking for a reason to give it a try. It’s fun, and it could be rewarding too.

Lisa Barone looked at the current state of search marketing and SEO, courtesy of Andrew Goodman’s assessment of SEO and recent trends. There’s a lot of curiosity and love for the latest and greatest ways to attract attention, she noted:

There may be great value in spending the time and money creating Facebook applications, toying with viral YouTube videos, and seeing if MySpace is filled with anything other than strippers and bands, but that often comes with an awfully low return on investment compared to the traditional stuff.

All the latest technologies have their place. In a number of examples, social media and viral videos brought tremendous attention to their points of interest.

Such potential should not be ignored, but Barone cautioned against getting too caught up in them. Content building, link development, and researching analytics for trends and necessary adjustments may not be the flavor of the month.

But like a vanilla cone, they still deliver what people really want when things get hot.

 By David A. Utter

Sixty-Five Percent of Small Businessse Say ‘Following Up With Leads’ Biggest Failure in Marketing Efforts

Leads Going Cold Seen as Biggest Gap, According to Infusionsoft Survey

PHOENIX, AZ (May 14, 2008)—Surveying the landscape of small businesses across the U.S., and amid concerns over the need to grow sales while reducing expenses, small business owners say the number one frustration they face daily when it comes to sales and marketing is the inability to consistently follow up with prospects. In a survey of entrepreneurs across the U.S. conducted by small business marketing automation software provider Infusionsoft, 65 percent of small business owners cite an inability to consistently and efficiently follow up with leads as the top concern.

The survey indicates a growing frustration among small business owners and marketers with closing an immediate sale, saying that they forget the nurturing process and instead let leads simmer. Small businesses increasingly seek a way to automatically capture and court leads until they are ready to buy, thus allowing the business owner to work on strategically growing the business.

Infusionsoft, a leader in marketing automation software for small businesses, reports that small businesses want to send more email to customers and prospects, capture information from web visitors, prospects, and then automatically follow up with those people.

The following is a list of the top 10 marketing-related frustrations as cited by small business owners in the 2008 U.S. Small Business Marketing Frustration Survey (ranked in order of importance):

  1. Too difficult to follow up with cold, warm and lukewarm leads consistently and efficiently
  2. Can’t properly track and manage prospects and customers
  3. Need to integrate online and offline marketing efforts
  4. Poor email deliverability
  5. Too much manual grunt work in the sales and marketing process, no automation
  6. Can’t track sales activity
  7. Lack of centralization, too many different programs and systems
  8. Too costly to maintain servers and IT staff
  9. Too difficult to manually manage multichannel campaigns
  10. One-dimensional marketing

The survey asked small business owners across the country to choose their top marketing-related issues from a list and then rank them in order of importance, recording results from 1,000 respondents. Infusionsoft conducted the survey via email and phone to organizations with 2-100 employees from January 1, 2008 through April 30, 2008.

“These findings are telling for understanding the challenges a small business owner faces,” said Clate Mask, President and CEO, Infusionsoft. “Small business owners are trying to figure out how to make their marketing more effective amid the reality of smaller marketing budgets, limited time to manage campaigns, smaller organizational infrastructure, and longer to-do lists. So these results are eye-opening to understand just how simple, yet real their daily frustrations are with converting more leads into sales.”

Automation of marketing and processes enables the small business to convert more leads into customers, grow the business without the need to grow staff, and increase sales from existing customers.

Automated Follow-Up Marketing for Small Business
Marketing automation software from Infusionsoft is built for small businesses. The web-based software allows small businesses to track contact details, capture leads automatically from their websites, send emails, execute multi-step and multi-channel campaigns, distribute leads to salespeople, and create orders and fulfillment tasks. Infusionsoft is capable of handling prospect and customer marketing communications, from one-off emails to complex multi-step, multi-channel campaigns that would be nearly impossible for an individual or group of individuals to do without an automated system.

“The benefits of marketing automation are huge,” said Mask. “It’s the difference between having a struggling small business that is just going day to day, trying to make a go of it and on the other hand rapid, consistent growth and really building a much stronger business that doesn’t require the business owner to be at the center of it.”

About Infusionsoft
Infusionsoft, the leader in marketing automation software for small businesses, is revolutionizing the way small businesses grow. There are 10 million small businesses in America that need an easy-to-use, affordable, powerful software solution that increases sales while freeing up their time. The company’s follow-up marketing software answers that need by helping small businesses automatically convert more prospects to customers, get repeat sales, and grow their business without growing staff. The privately-held, Inc 500 company, based in Gilbert, Arizona is funded by Mohr Davidow Ventures. For more information, visit www.infusionsoft.com.