Interview: Michael Kiely eDirect Marketing Guru, Blogging Evangelist

A Private Interview with Michael Kiely

Michael Kiely is a eDirect Marketing Guru and someone who ranks very highly on my cards when it comes to copy and strategy. Michael talked to me about his current ventures and online businesses and these have been transcribed below.

Who are you and how did you get into online marketing?
I am 54 years old and so was not in the dotcom generation, though I studied its activities from the outside. I went off and did a certificate in ebusiness so I could include online in my strategic recommendations. But I was still an outsider. Then I discovered BLOGGING. I blogged my brains out. Set up more than a dozen blogsites, built my traffic slowly, watched the traffic through StatCounter. Then the skies opened and the hand of God touched me on the forehead. Faced with selling all our flock of superfine ewes and lambs (and lose 7 years work breeding for the style of fleece we want), we had to come up with $80,000 to hand feed them for 100 days … In one night, I built a reverse blogsite (top down info instead of bottom up) appealing to the visitor to ‘adopt’ one of our sheep. I presented our story and included appealing pix of the sheepies, added a Paypal donation button, sent out a couple of press releases, and waited. Nothing happened for a little while. I emailed my lists and that brought my first ‘sales’. But one of the newspapers picked up the story and ran it, in a small item. But it was enough to start a media frenzy and that whipped up a buying frenzy. 5000 hits in a day. 2000 adoptions in 6 weeks. 25000 hits in that time. Most interesting was the online ‘conversations’ and links people put up. They drove the whole wave. Every media outlet put a link. People who adopted put up links and contacted their networks. Adopt A Sheep was an online phenomenon. We took the order and delivered the product (A personalised certificate of adoption featuring a photo of the sheep) online.

If you run more than one website. What is the name and URL of your primary website?
I have so many, I haven’t got a primary site.. but it’s about my past, not my future. is the future. is the present.

The internet provides access to global audiences and markets. Where are you located and is your market influenced by your location?
I live on a wool-growing property 4 and a half hours from Sydney by road, in a location called Goolma, on the Dubbo Road. That’s why I want to build an online business. So I can deal with people all over the place and live in paradise here.

What were the circumstances that led you to start your site/online business?
I had a midlife crisis and wanted to get out of the city/corporate circus.

What does this site do?

Are you a full time web business person or do you have other income as well?
I am a writer. I write ads. I am a strategist. I have some consultancy clientsi n the climate change business.

There are many methods of promotion for website. What do you do and which do you think are the most effective?
PR. Word of Mouth.
What techniques did you use in the beginning to launch the site?
I stepped on a success landmine in December and learned so many lessons.
Background: We ran out of cash to hand feed our sheep and ran out of grass.
So, faced with sending the entire flock of 2600 to slaughter and lose 7 years of breeding for superfine wool (which no bastard wanted to pay for anyway), we went public and appealed to people to adopt our sheep for $35 a head, the amount required to feed them for 100 days (the planning horizon during a
drought). Action: Bodgied up a blogsite with PayPal to take donations. I thought we’d get 6 or 8. (Friends and some of you kind people were the first to respond. Thanks Mike and Michelle.) So I sent press releases to 2 Sydney dailies – SMH & Tele – and waited. Two days, 3, 4, and a call from Tele asking for pix. Sent what we had. No, need a sad pic of farmer and wife. We took one, hard not to laugh. Day 6, 6.30am Sydney radio stations start calling. Small item in Tele. Channel 7 calls. Can they land a crew near the house at Uamby? 2 hours filming reduced to 1.45 minutes on that night’s news. Tele and Channel 7 put links on their websites. Channel 7 promos the spot on every break during the news and runs it last. Kabloom! 5000 hits on blogspot. 100 adopted. Next day: SMH online calls. More links. More radio stations. Louisa and Daniel, no training, giving interviews on air to listeners all over the eastern states. Orders pouring in. 10000 hits by start of week 2. Channel 9 sends a crew. Today Show. Daniel features. More links. More radio. Serious backlog of adoption certificates (personalised with name of sheep (+pic) and name of adopter. Calls from adopters – when will they get their certificates? Need them for Xmas. (Xmas! Forgot about that.) 20000 hits and 1000 adopters later, 3 of us getting 4 hours sleep a night, handfeeding sheep and churning out certificates, while fielding media and ‘where’s my certificate’ calls.
Recruit local business centre for help. Disaster. Customer complaints. Recruit sister-in-law. Great. Need more sheep portraits. Maxed out hard drive in my laptop. Crash. Byebye files. Phone keeps ringing. German journalist arrives to write a piece on the drought. In the next 3 weeks his articles appear in 4
major German online and offline newspapers. We are flooded with hits from Germany – 500 in a day. Put up a German translation of the blogsite with link on landing page. Local papers and radio arrive late for
the party. What’s that rumbling? The rising drone of the online conversations about us. StatCounter lets me see where hits coming from. Follow hits backwards to source to find links. Turns out people are posting stories and links on their personal blogsites, discussion groups arguing about the rights and wrongs of farming in Australia, quilters and knitters and spinners and crafty ladies telling each other they adopted, highschool girls (lonelygirl15) adopting a lamb for company in their adolescent cocoons.
People telling people what they’ve bought other people for Xmas. Wealthy people send a cheque for $1000, ‘inspired’ by what we are doing. Japanese man thinks he can take delivery of the animal. “Crikey! You’ll have to pay more than $35 for that, Cobber.” That’s Life magazine does a feature. More radio results. In the midst of the chaos, sniping comments left on blogsite by animal rights activists and farmers accusing us of not being financially crippled enough to deserve the money. (Response: “I’m just doing my best with what I’ve got.”) Calls from farmers begging for some of the money. Charity begins at home. “I’ll save my sheep first, then yours. I can’t help anyone if I go broke.” (We put full step-by-step instructions up on blogsite and flag it. We call NSW Farmers to discuss taking the program national.)
Negative blog comments spark large response from other commenters, positive. Cards and letters flooding in. Visitors turning up unannounced. Guided tours. Every adopter says they’re praying for rain. Christmas Day: People are opening gifts to find our one of our lambs, rams or ‘ma’ams’ have come into the
ir lives. It starts to rain at Uamby. 40mls. More than we’ve had for a year. It’s raining money, too. Results: Our target $87000. Total Week 8: $70000. (We had spent $60,000 up to when the appeal started.) Still fulfilling orders. Many fell through cracks when computer crashed. Also lots of no-show of certificate (sent via email) because customer changes email address, spam filter knocked it back, inbox full, etc. Still “where’s my certificate?” Customer is always right. No, not “customer” in our case. New friends? No. We are now family. This farm is their farm. These sheep are their sheep. We got an email from a lady in Sydney asking if “Benny” (a male lamb sponsored on behalf of Ben, an elderly gent in London who loves Australia and cricket) would send Ben a note of encouragement, as he had fallen into a
coma. I wrote back that I told Benny that Ben was ill and he said, “How sick is he?” I said: “He’s as crook as English cricket.” Benny said, “No one can be that crook…” and dictated a note to Ben. We heard later that, after getting Benny’s message, Ben started coming out of the coma. Our first miracle! Promotional Budget: Media $0. Website: $0. PR: $0. Reason for Outcome: 1. Novelty. Most people unaware of adopta-animal programs overseas (NZ, USA, UK), as I was until after we launched. 2. Convenient Christmas gift.
many grandparents said it solved a problem for them, buying for a bunch of grandkids. They could do it all online in 20 minutes. 3. Drought. Many people were effusive in their thanks (and we were the ones who were thankful) for giving them an opportunity to do something for farmers suffering in the drought. (We told everybody we weren’t the most deserving, but they didn’t care. We offered them the opportunity,. and the most deserving didn’t.) 4. Spirit of Christmas. Giving. Next steps: Expand the relationship. Expand the family.

What are your main sources of revenue from the site?
Currently from adoptions.

Where do you see key opportunities in the future for revenue?

We have a business concept which we are ‘conceiving’. It started with the desire to get a fair price for our wool, commensurate to the quality of the product we grow and the effort we put in. We intend to process and manufacture products for sale to consumers. The adoption scheme gave us the start of the process of identifying likely customers. (Unintentionally.) We will sell fleeces to spinners and craftswomen. We will spin the wool into yarn and sell it to knitters. And we will offer customers the opportunity to select and pattern or submit their won, and we will make up a garment, using a local knitter. I was blocked trying to think of how we could locate customers, but Adopt a Sheep opened the door. Our “Parents” might respond to the opportunity to purchase the fleece from their sheep, or the yarn, or a garment. On top of that we are exploring the opportunity of selling products with ‘their sheep’s’ image on, such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, cushions, mouse pads, key rings, etc. These ideas are based on the belief that some (not all) of our “Parents” would like to deepen their relationship with their sheep and with Uamby. We also expect to have members of our new family come to stay and help with the sheep. Other products we could produce include postcards, childrens’ books, photograph books, a book on The New Australian Farmer, a book on the ethics of agriculture (my field of study), a DVD on adapting to climate change. Further, we are deeply engaged in the climate change issue and will have ‘soil carbon credits’ for purchase soon, based on carbon sequestered in our soils and those of conservationist farmers from across Australia. We want to roll the whole concept out – already I have one young lady selling photos of their farm on Ebay to raise money for feed. I have helped her with publicity and website construction. Louisa and I are starting a series of seminars across the State to teach other farmers how to do it. We see this as part of our Mission to bridge the city-country gap. We then see opportunities for us as the retail shopfront provider for farmers who want to engage their ‘new families’ in the way we have outlined above – ie. we provide them with the infrastructure and management. We could also provide a farm stay booking service for farmers. All of this is driven by one thought: save the family farm, as an economic unit and as a sustainable environmental unit. Give farmers access to new revenue streams and incentives to conserve the environment by bringing city people and their needs and expectations into the equation. (Ie. an adoption scheme requires that the farmer be ‘green’ and ethical in their treatment of animals; growing soil carbon requires ‘green’ land management techniques.

Where do you see yourself in a few years time?
Surviving climate change.

If you could give two pieces of advice to aspiring or new webmasters/internet business owners, what would they be?

  • Try to build a fan club or a family, a community around your brand/business.
  • Look for the emotion in the relationship. Emotion drives engagement which drives involvement which drives value exchanges (sales etc.)
  • Act with absolute integrity and be open about everything.
Online keywords

How to build a website that will rank well…

Freestyle Media number 1 spot for “Online Marketing Agency” in Google Australia

4 Blunders to avoid your New Website from being Search Engine Unfriendly

Redeveloping your website can be a real challenge when you assume your web designers and developers understand search engine marketing. Unfortunately this is not usually the case. Most designers are great at making pretty pictures and developers are great at making great technology. But pretty pictures and great technology don’t necessarily give you great search engine results. I have come across many designers and developers in my time and following are the main problems I encounter when building a site that you want to rank well in the search engines.

  1. Too much Flash with keywords inside it – Websites with too much flash kill the opportunity to gain great results in the engines. The flash also contains all of the keyword text. This is exceptionally unfriendly to the search engine as there is no way to browse the text. The designer will tell you, “We will be using the latest technology in flash, you will be cutting edge!” I like flash but only moderate amounts used for promotion or product demonstrations.
  2. No text – Sites that have little or just 1 paragraph of generic text. Google only reads text, pdf’s and word docs. The designer will usually tell you, “Your web design has visual impact because of all the flash.” Unfortunately it will have no impact with Google.
  3. No Sitemap – There wasn’t a sitemap. Some developers will tell you that this is just old school and you don’t need it anymore. I assure you that adding a sitemap to your website will improve search results.
  4. No web page theming – Firstly a definition, Web page theming is structuring a website into different sections with specific themes so that a search engine can interpret and rank/categorise the pages accordingly. The search unfriendly sites I see are structured in a manner that is great for human browsers and ignore search engines. I always think about the search engines and the user at the same time and develop a structure which brings about a happy medium. Developing your site into themes and topics allows you to deliver the best site for human and search engine browsers. The read the words and browse and the search engine can categorise your site and browse.

3 Ways to Avoid Developing your New Website into a Search Engine Nightmare

  1. Check the designer and developers Competency of search engine marketing – Ask your web agency if they understand search engine marketing. All of them will say yes because you are talking usually to the main salesperson. Ask to see some result in the search engines of website they have redesigned. Type in the main keywords for the site and see where the site that was redesigned ranks. They are no good if:
    1. No listings – They cant show you a listing
    2. Non competitive terms – the terms which they used to show you results were just the brand name of the product and not a generic keyword. E.g. if they were showing you a Nike site and they typed in “Nike” that is no good. Instead if they typed in “sport shoe” and showed you number 1 listings, then you are on a winner.
  2. Check that the Content Management System is Search Engine Friendly – Ask your agency what CMS(Content Management System) they use. Get them to show you examples of websites they have built using the CMS and what sort of rankings they have achieved in the search engines. A CMS system can make or baek your searhch engine results by the following things:
    1. Too much junk in CMS – If the CMS is dumping huge amounts of content and code into the page, this can ruin your results since Google doesn’t understand code its looking for text.
    2. URL formats not compliant – If the CMS formats the URL and filenames of pages with too many query strings e.g. (ThisGreatPage.aspx?id=pinkelephany&Page=ContactMyMum&Query=NotSearchFriendly) All of those query strings will clog up the search engine and it will assume you are just content spamming and treat each of your webpages as a single page. I.e. the search engine will chop off the querystring elements and just assume that there is one page there, even though the query string elements allow you to see different content.
    Optimal website search strategy is to assign 2 -3 keywords per webpage
  3. Structure your site for the engines – I know the pain you have gone through developing your sitemap and thinking through all of the content that you want the use to look at. What I want you now to do is look at your sitemap and think about all the content you want the search engine to look at. Key things to do:
    1. Choose your keywords – First you need to figure out which keywords you are targeting. Your agency should be able to help you with this if you haven’t done any search engine marketing before.
    2. Choose your high ranking pages – Since you know which keywords you are targeting, you now need to decide which pages you want to target these keywords and rank highly in the search engines. These will need to be specially developed and your internal linking needs to be structured to give these pages the highest number of backlinks.
    3. Homepage vs Subpage organization keyword assignment – The strategy with keyword assignment for web pages is to choose 2 – 3 keywords per page. The normal trap people fall into is assuming their homepage will target all of the keywords. Your homepage needs to be treated just like another page it should have some main generic keywords assigned to it and just target those. (See diagram below)

Optimal strategy for Keyword assignment of website pages

Choosing a competent online marketing agency to build your website

If you are encountering any of the above problems with your current web agency I would suggest building your website with an Online Marketing Agency. The difference is that a web agency can build your site but an online marketing agency can save you money by building your website to be search engine friendly. Save yourself the cost of rebuilding your website and work with an agency that understands how to build a website that is search engine friendly. Contact Freestyle Media, a competent Online Marketing Agency
( or call Fred Schebesta on 02 9818 7300 to discuss your website requirements.

FMCG marketing

As Seen in B&T: Freestyling into FMCG Online Marketing

Freestyle Media launches New FMCG Online Marketing Division
As Seen in B&T
Freestyling Into FMCG Online Marketing

Online marketing agency, Freestyle Media has launched a division dedicated to FMCG online marketing campaigns and will specialise in building one-on-one relationships between FMCG companies and their consumers.

Freestyle Media Director and Division Strategist, Fred Schebesta, said that the new division will bring a fresh approach to marketing FMCG online and further solidify Freestyle’s position as an established innovative online marketing agency.

“We have a depth of experience in FMCG, with many successful campaigns that have dramatically increased our client’s brand awareness.”

The FMCG Division will bring together specialists dedicated to FMCG campaigns working on strategy, search marketing, website development, email campaigns and banner advertising.

“We have found that online works so well for FMCG clients because it is accountable and translates to the consumer more effectively. They can take immediate action which means they can start developing or extending their relationship with the brand immediately.”

“FMCG campaigns can be very innovative and targeted. With email campaigns, by using a database of customers our clients are developing a on-on-one relationship with their customers. It is more cost effective and faster to email directly.”

“More importantly, especially for FMCG, online marketing dramatically increases brand awareness and drives sales. New Product development is also much more effective and easier as you simply ask your customers what they want,” said Mr Schebesta.

The Freestyle Media FMCG Division will cover campaigns including new product launches, product development and developing strategies for extending consumer relationships.

“Developing products can be guess work without testing. By asking customers what type of product and elements they would like is the key to a great product. Creating ideas and new concepts can also be done by the customers if the company has an existing relationship that has been established through online campaigns,” said Mr Schebesta.

Freestyle Media has launched a New blog dedicated to discussing strategies for marketing FMCG products online and can be accessed at

Fred Schebesta is ADMA’s Australian Young Direct Marketer of the Year. Freestyle Media is a fast-growing online marketing agency with 15 full-time staff with Group revenues exceeding $1.5M Annually.

Freestyle Media clients include Sanitarium, University of Newcastle, McDonalds Australia, Qantas Holidays, Laser Sight, Acer Computers, Dore Australia, Bausch & Lomb, Wide World of Sports, Fuji Xerox, Thomson Education Direct and Rabobank.

For further information:
Catriona Pollard
CP Communications, Ph: (02) 9969 9668, M: 0411 023 974,

About Freestyle Media
Freestyle Media specialises in driving traffic to websites and converts online customers into purchasers of products and services. Services include Online Marketing Strategy, Website development, Email Marketing, Banner advertising, Search Engine Marketing and Media buying and planning are Freestyle Media’s core business.
Fred Schebesta’s Blog

Online marketing

Set Your 2007 Internet Marketing Objectives

Is 2007 the year where you Finally use Your Website and Market Online?

Why plan your online marketing for 2007?

Setting Goals and Achieving them
– So another year has past and what did you achieve with your online marketing in 2006? Did you want to change your website more often than you did? I will let you in on a secret. You didn’t have a plan. Just like you plan to run specific campaigns and events you need to plan and schedule in time to manage and modify your internet marketing. Its like reporting on sales, set time aside to modify and update your website.

Set yourself some objectives this year and make more sales over the Internet. If you don’t know what objectives to set get an internet marketing consultant like me I’ll sort you out. Here are some suggestions on what objectives to set:

1. Unique visits – Set yourself a target for the number of unique visitors you want to get to the website. I would suggest that you make it more than last year although keep in mind that an increase in quality targeted traffic is better than an increase in general traffic. I.e. get more interested prospects coming to your website as opposed to tire kickers.

2. Sales – Set yourself a sales target or a lead generation target. I know the feeling of not knowing what number to set but just put it in your mind and strive for it. Tell your team. Tell your agency. Tell me. I have found that when I set pie in the sky targets and inform everyone about them and keep reminding everyone about them we hit the target.

3. Search Engine Rank – Where do you want to be placed for your major keywords? Have you got a 12 month search engine marketing strategy in place? SEO has become very important with Google now implementing all of their LSI and other tricky ways of discovering keyword stuffing and link baiting. I would suggest a consistent rigorous application of website changes, keyword research, copywriting and content creation and tool creation a must have for any search marketing plan.

How to set an online marketing plan for 2007?

The smart people who are reading this are thinking how can they take action?

If you need some help with creating your 12 month online marketing plan contact myself at Freestyle Media for a 1 day consultancy for $1,150. This day will include:

Strategy – Establish your online marketing strategy. Where are the opportunities? Where is your target online? What are you going to do to entice them to your website? What are you going to do once they are on your website?

Metrics – Establish your online marketing metrics. Get the right software in place. Analyse your past efforts. Improve and enhance what has worked in the past.

Search Engine Marketing – Create a 12 month search marketing plan frame work. Where you are currently ranked? What are your keywords? Where do you want to be for what keywords?

Is Doubt Holding You Back?
It doesn’t have to. Here’s my iron-clad guarantee:

If 1 day of consultancy with Fred Schebesta doesn’t make your feel at least ten times better than what you did in 2006, contact me within 90 days for a prompt and courteous refund.

Don’t feel like you do now at the end of 2007 contact Fred Schebesta now!