SEOdamian's Blog

Helping others understand & share about technology, search

New World order – customer perspective 1st, Company perspective 2nd

Next Door Chicago

Who do you think the business is behind this site?

Check out this website and their whole approach to marketing. Let me know how long it is before you figure out who’s actually the big company behind the totally different approach to marketing.

Here is what stands out in looking at this as an effective marketing tool:

  • it is fun and colorful
  • it has movement – both in the rotating graphics as well as in the variable typefaces being used.
  • It is inviting,  both from its graphics and it’s ability to share with others, and the ability to easily find information
  • it states what it can do for me in a non-sales format way before I ever can get to the point of finding out what I can buy from them.
  • It focuses on community and how we can interact locally, rather than with a big mega Corporation.
  • It’s quick, concise, clear, and the messaging text is easy to figure out what it’s about, then get on,  get off, and move on to my next task at hand.
  • the navigation is easy to follow. While I usually don’t like the drop downs and chase the cursor type websites, this one is easy, because the targeted areas are large,  and easy to click on, with a single layer drop-down.

I think the key here is that they are starting from a customer perspective, rather than from a corporate perspective, which is very key for any business these days, especially in working with the younger generation.

https://www.nextdoorchi.com/The owner of Next Door Chicago website.

This site may or may not be the best for search engine optimization. Although it really is not clear exactly what terms they would be trying to optimize for anyways. They do rank at the top for “next door Chicago”. Which if that is their brand focus here, it is a good approach. But I imagine in the list of site objectives, SEO was lower on the list, and they are more successful in other site objectives.

I would love to have your perspectives on this.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | Chicago, Community, How To, local marketing, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Inventory is Dead Weight.

A feature that you built and tested, but didn’t deliver yet because you’re waiting for the next major release, becomes inventory. Inventory is dead weight: money you spent that’s just wasting away without earning you anything. Joel Spolsky
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2012/01/06.html

I discovered a new tool for quick survey of the series of tubes of the web (Daily Show fun) – AllTop.com which lets you get a single feed around topics that you can create, or others have created. The ‘generic’ page led me to Joel’s blog post today.

But Joel’s thought on inventory struck me. I have different posts in ‘draft’ stage. I have different ideas in planning stages. I have different relationships in development stage – I promised to get them some useful information (by their feedback) that I have not. This inventory (or more appropriately WIP-Work In Progress) is not creating value for me, or more importantly for others. I am short-changing myself, and others, and I need to stop that.

I notice so many people I respect are not getting hung up in working on getting ‘it’ perfect, before they publish/post/deliver/share so few opportunities are missed. The value they are reflecting is important. So the question becomes, how I do that myself?

I am finally not only hearing the need for creating, sharing and niching, but delivering. Whether that means publishing, posting or just hitting send more often. Thank you Seth Godin, and the many who have preached this newer concept over the old framework of: design, develop, test, fix, retest, fix, retest, fix, retest….. deliver an outdated design for a changing world and market.

So this year there will be more posting, more ideas and consequently more mistakkes as I ‘iterate’ and continually improve.  How are you going to change your models to improve this year?

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Community, Simple | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Site Redo / Refresh – New Sections to Add to Illinois Main Street Alliance – Part 4

This the fourth part of  my suggestions for a site redo/site refresh. Part one is at https://seodamian.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/site-redo/

Part two is  Here

Part three is Here

The Illinois Main Street Alliance (IMSA), is one of the organizations I am working with. This is a small business association with chapters across the country representing actual main street or real small businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce being more focused on large corporations (based on who is on the board, and amount of donations and how it lobbies). So as a small organization, it has a limited budget and resources. Most are volunteered with limited technical expertise.

Recently, I was asked for some input as to what would I do to improve its website. 

Not knowing the answers to the core questions asked in part 1 makes recommendations a challenge. But here are some suggestions for new sections to add to the site:

  • Create an section of an archive of newsletters.
  • Accountability section:
    • This could list a variety of different elected officials, and map out their voting history on those bills that are for or against our standpoint. There are a variety of tools that can be used to assist with this (most are free) from Google Maps (for listing legislative officials districts) to MegaVote by Congess.org
    • This section could also link to the different campaign donation sites and draw analysis on where our elected officials are getting their money from and how it’s working or not working in our best interest.
  • Jobs section
    • This could be an area to list jobs. This section has the opportunity to be a traffic generator because jobs always ranks well within Google and there are number of search engines that go through an aggregate job postings from across the Internet. It may be a way to bring in more individual participants that are looking for work as a way to plug into our system, as well as increasing our credibility and economic power within the state.
    • This may be a free or paid system it may be a outside managed service or internally easy to create page listing. It probably should be edited or at least monitor to make sure that there aren’t a lot of ‘junk’ postings and it
  • Editorial section. This could be a place where different leaders within IMSA can go share ideas and values to the community.
  • Facebook reposting section – Have a section that allows us to repost everything that is being posted at the Facebook site. Currently Google is not indexing much of Facebook (Facebook’s decision), so the good content, discussion and ideas shared there can not be found elsewhere.
  • Create a white paper section. This allows us to post the various content we have had and shared with the press and legislatures in the past. It provides both context and background. It also makes it easier for others including Google to understand our expertise and depth of understanding on the topic.
  • Create a press release section. This section needs to include both the PDF of the press release as well as the text of the press release. Ideally, this could be historical, going back to the beginning of IMSA.
  • Discussion board section
    • This section would be a good area for us to be able to have a’members only’ or ‘leadership only’ discussions and share the conversation back and forth rather than going in continuing to use just the e-mail post back and forth. This could also be a section to go through and post if we wanted to recordings of her conference calls today again we can allow others that were unable to attend a conference call to hear the actual conversation from those conference calls.
    • This area could also have conference call minutes that John typically collects and sends out after each conference call. They could be posted here as an easy resource for those to find all those discussion threads in one place.
These sections have multiple purposes. Again the priority and appropriateness of these suggestions is dependent on what the intended objectives are and who the primary audience is. But all of these expanded sections will create more content. That will improve Google ranking and improve viability in the search engines.
Greater sections tends to improve user friendliness and makes is easier for visitors to quickly and effectively find what they are looking for. Studies show that most searchers are not in the mood to be finding information until they find what they are looking for 1st. Just as it is much easier to be exploring and taking in the scenery then it is to be lost and enjoying where you are. Greater number of sections also makes it easier to have multiple people working in partnership on the same website without conflict. It is easier to define boundaries and not ‘stomp’ on each others work. Loosing an afternoon’s efforts can be so demoralizing.

What other ideas do you typically start with when doing an informational/community site redo/refresh?  Join in the conversation below with your comments.

November 2, 2011 Posted by | Chicago, Community, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

How will you choose a startup for providing you services when there are many already doing the same kind of job work?

A post in LinkedIn (a tool you should be using for learning, sharing and reputation building) asked the above question. The answer is core to most businesses. But it is also what needs to be shared in short order on your website. Assuming your website is trying to communicate why someone should work with you. If you have other primary objectives (and you need to be clear on your site’s objectives), then this still needs to be a part of your site somewhere.

Comfort of the Relationship:
I will choose a vendor based on the comfort of the relationship we can build. That comfort is in communicating that a vendor:

  • Understands my needs, That may be by being local, in my niche, knowing me personally, sharing your expertise.
  • Understands the industry today, Most industries are rapidly changing. Do you understand the journey my business is on and the challenges my competitors and myself are and will be facing?
  • Understands Where the industry is going. Help me understand the opportunities, and to help me avoid the traps, What are the new regulations, what are the new 600 lb gorilla’s, what new technology will be crushing my advantage, what new profit model will change my world?
  • Communicates What are the liabilities to avoid with other’s solutions. Your competitors have disadvantages – don’t bad mouth the competition, but inform me of what to pay attention to, let me understand how to evaluate your services independently so I know what is real (steak) and what is sizzle.
  • Communicates that you are trustworthy even if you don’t promise the most. Let me see you participating in my community, returning my calls when promised, sending me information relevant to my needs (the more specific the better), recommendations from others-the more closely related to me the better.

Another way to say ‘by differentiation’. You may provide the exact same service, but I know you are providing the right service for me because you understand my needs, and are looking out for my best interests not others (including your own) in our transaction and relationship.

When you understand that your relationship with a potential client may start with your website, you can see how important the look and feel of the site is.

By the way, in order to effectively address most of these issues, you will create pages that is SEO friendly if not well designed.

Talking about your industry will let Google know where to ‘slot’ your services. Referencing the past industry issues will show your expertise. Of course linking to experts makes it even easier. Sharing your knowledge about the future again lets people know that you understand and care, but also lets Google know that your solutions are broader in scope.

So after you try to show how much you care about your clients, ask your clients for feedback to see if you are successful. If you are not, be patient – you probably did not give your elevator speech perfect the 1st time you attempted it. Part of building relationship and trust is having dialog, and being open to feedback and continuing to improve your site, skills, and presentation.

What are your thoughts on differentiating yourself from your competition?

PS. A new blog I am working with Andy Kurz on is Healthcare Insurance Reform Analysis and Trends

November 12, 2010 Posted by | Community, copywriting, How To, LinkedIn | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking to network in Chicago?

While at the BizNetExpo on Friday, I found another group in Chicago – SMCC

Social Media Club Chicago

Social Media Club  [SMC] is a worldwide organization, with local chapters, that serves as connecting organization for anyone interested insocial media. Membership is free and open to all levels, including beginners. Chicago’s SMC chapter, launched in October 2008, presents events that mix socializing, networking and learning. SMC Chicago events include:

  • the future of social media with Jason Falls;
  • Brand U.0 with David Armano;
  • social media meets Chicago media;
  • BtoB and social media; and
  • women, blogging and social media.

Join us on Facebook http://smcchicago.org; LinkedIn http://budurl.com/smcchicagolinkedin or twitter http://twitter.com/smcchicago. ”

I have not been to them yet, but I heard the founder yesterday and she seemed impressive enough to put this event on my calendar.

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Blogging, Chicago, Community, Social Media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another site review on how to improve your sites traffic

I had a request to give some feedback on a 6 year old site on how to improve conversion, and traffic for the gift basket site Blissful Balance . Here in no particular order are some quick hit suggestions. Feel free to comment and ask some more questions.

  • http://www.blissfulbalance.com/essential_oils.html
  • Some suggestions for improving your SEO and site conversion
    • Script font is hard to read, contrast is low, graphic is not SEO compliant
    • There is No call to action above the fold
    • If a gift, not as clear that you cater to the giver – include a free gift for the giver or way to reward the giver for their giving thoughts.
    • No alt text to attract Google juice
    • Image names not leveraged – xdfwe99 is not useful to Google as to what the image is about. Consider listing in Google Images
    • More trust building across the site. Why should I trust my money with you where there are so many other sites out there to buy gifts from.
      • Above the fold
    • No header text to help Google understand
    • Need video for demonstrating product. Video can get YouTube traction today, Google takes months.
    • Audio to demonstrate CD as to why this is something I want to send to my giftee, this seems more unique then other parts of your baskets
    • About us – it should tell a story of passion – why should I buy from you. Because you have passion in these products
    • Tell me about you last 6 years – what have you done.
    • Hosting on Yahoo can be a challenge for other sites on IP could be tripping you up.
    • You have many Duplicate descriptions and boring titles on your pages throughout the site (site: blissfulbalance.com)
    • Articles page is missing your call to read on the description
    • You have links on spam farms
    • What keyword phrases are you going after?
    • No keywords in domain name
    • What is your niche?
    • You footer text should be unique on different pages.
    • Allow larger text options
    • What is your conversion rate?
    • Site is slow on Contact Us page
    • No physical address is listed here. You need to build TRUST, too many other options to go to the next one.
    • No 800 number (still need local number for trust) – Kall8.com is a great resource for low cost, easy to work with for 800 numbers in about 5 minutes including an autobill credit card number.
    • Have product info also on separate pages to allow the power of smaller pages. Tell more of a story with these sub-pages to allow for long tail search engine optimization by Google.
    • Look at SEO (search engine optimizing) your Aromatherapy page.
    • Tell me a story on your essential oils page. Consider making this a better resource for others to share by flushing out a greater list of resources, links to other sites and stories of the benefits of these oils helping others.
  • Driving traffic to the site
    • Create a few blogs to demonstrate your thought leadership and how you understand your customer. As the site reads now, you look like a salesman, not a person who understand the buyer of gift baskets.  Explain to me how you care about your customers, and they will care more about you.–
      • Post content at least weekly (partner if you need to – perhaps a trade of a basket for every 4 stories including shipping)
      • Mix ideas (for how to use) and stories (of how the baskets change lives by allowing for balanced life)
      • Post ideas on other site

Remember that the objective is not to trick Google, but understand that Google is trying to best understand what you can share about your products. Google is not human, so you first have to communicate to Google what your pages are about in order to most effectively communicate to it what you are selling.

Understand that there are many types of media to share with Google (and YouTube) and your perspective clients the value of our site.

Good luck, and let me know what your reactions are.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Community, copywriting, HTML Issue, SEO tools | Leave a comment

When is the best time to call a lead?

Bill asked the question in his blog http://blog.marketo.com/blog/2010/07/perfect-timing-%E2%80%93-when-to-call-a-prospect.html/comment-page-1#comment-5180

Here is my response to his discussion:

To me the answer was ASK. Before I scrolled down to your recommendations, that what was screaming in my mind. More and more the trying to parse someones specific needs based on all sorts of psycographic indicators is like trying to fish without radar. It may work in the aggregate, but if you are concerned about the individual day’s catch, it is a poor strategy. An individual purchaser’s will be different at different times. I was thinking how I purchase, and more and more, when I find a potential solution resource is varied from where I am in the sales cycle. I may find a new solution as I am checking the references of a final candidate, and having legal reviewing the contract, or I may find a resource as I am considering the category.

Besides, if you ask, it builds relationship and shows that you are more concerned about the clients needs rather then your own. And that will certainly help improve the sales cycle.

What are your thoughts?

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Community, local marketing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile – Part 1

A client asked me to review her LinkedIn profile. While her intention was for job search preparation, the concepts for self promotion or business promotion are the same. So I will share my suggestions with you in these series of posts. If you would like a review of your profile, feel free to ask.  The comments are a lot scattered, so dip and skim for what applies to your situation as usual.

Remember that LinkedIn is a professional toned site where there is a sense of verification by having others in your connection ‘valid’ what you share. I would put the key tenants of the community in this order:

  • Validation by connections. The more connections you have the greater the validity you have. There is a caveat to this that tends to happen over a 1,000 that relates to depth vs. breadth in your connections that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say, try to get all the valid connections you can up to around a 1,000. After that look at the issue closer and make your own judgment on strategy.
  • LinkedIn is not a 1 page resume. This is the place to be reasonable about describing what you have accomplished and how it can be useful in your next project. Using more words, makes it easier for someone to:
    • get to know you,
    • be able to search for you,
    • determine if they want to have you be part of a team. It is your marketing piece.
  • Your profile is your walking portfolio. Put as much meat as you can to let others understand why they want you. This is not the place to force someone to ‘ask you in the interview’. If you don’t sell them on you here, there will be no interview.
  • A place to give back – there is a lot of places to be in community. That means  listening actively –
    • asking questions,
    • participating in the conversation,
    • sharing your wisdom
    • sharing your ignorance and allowing others to demonstrate their knowledge
    • sharing your unique perspective.
  • A place to demonstrate. Your participation in groups, your posting what is happening, your complete profile, your sharing of reading and other activity, your involvement in events all demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and succinctly while giving. This is what almost every person looking to buy your services; whether a job or your business or your services.

With that outline, I will pick up next week on how to optimize your profile.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Community, copywriting, LinkedIn | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Ranked Well in Google, Where Are My Sales?

A client asked ‘I am ranked well on my keyword search term, but I am not getting many calls for my service – what gives?’

In the years of working with businesses even before the Internet, one of the biggest issue I have found, is that many businesses do not understand their solutions from their customers perspective. They look at their business from the supplier/seller side. They try to sell the best drill, forgetting that customers want to buy holes.  They sell the best shoes, forgetting that customers are buying a fun run, or how to win the marathon, or how to get a date. It has been a problem for so many businesses that 95% will never celebrate their 5th birthday  So how to translate this wisdom into Internet sales?

Create a more complete keyword list

Understand your ranking well may be in the wrong category. The customer IS searching for the right term, if you are not ranked well in that term it is your issue, not the customer’s. This is another place where the customer is always right. So a few questions and suggestions:

  • Make a list of all the different keyword search terms your perspective customers would be searching for you .
  • Then take some time, ask some friends and double your list of keyword phrases.
  • Now call your best 2 customers, ask them how they would search for your product or service.
  • Then feed it into Google’s keyword suggestion tool – https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

Now you have a list of keywords phrases. This usually is a much longer list than most businesses start with. This is part of what you hire experts for – to develop this list. The trend is to use longer phrases, as the shorter ones are usually more generic as each year passes. The short ones are more competitive, even if they get more traffic. But start with the longer ones, as they are usually easier to rank higher on, and also often incorporate the shorter phrases.

Now optimize each page of your site for a different phrase.

Are there any geographical indicators in your keyword phrases? If so, then think like your customers and consider that they consider themselves the center of the universe, not you and your business. They are probably searching from their home, not your business as the center. If your business is technically located in Warrenville, then cover the surrounding area. This is especially important if you are located in a suburban area where one town blends into the next town at the end of a strip mall and many customers many not even know where the town lines are. If you are in a larger city, don’t forget to refer to the city and the neighborhood names. Again focus on your customers location, more then yours. So optimize or add text that indicates you serve them –

Serving the Western DuPage lllinois area including: Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville, and Boilingbrook for dental patients like you for over 10 years. Supporting the Lisle Lions Football team and the Naperville Hockey Booster club.

Change this up on the different pages (but be truthful of course – lies will kill you more then poor rankings). You can put a tag line at the bottom of each page, you can have different descriptions in your description and TITLE tags, you can describe your location with ALT tags on the photos of your location, you can talk about your staff and the towns they live in. All of these help Google and your clients understand that your business is in their neighborhood.

Of course you need to optimize your titles to include your keyword search phrases in a way that attracts your customers to want to click on your site. If you were looking at these page titles on a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page), which would you click on?

  • About Us
  • About Joe’s Lawn Service
  • Joe’s Lawn Service
  • Joe’s Lawn, Kingwood
  • Kingwood TX’s best Lawn and Garden Maintenance service keeping your yard sharp, and your pocket book full since 1998.

Who are you more interested in considering – you or your customers?

Once you have these in place, make sure you have Google Analytics or some way to measure your traffic to determine if the problem is – not enough people getting to your site, or not enough people taking action on your site. Without numbers, it becomes very easy to solve the wrong problem. Especially if the real problem is harder to solve.

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Community, copywriting, local marketing, SEO tools, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Google The Only Universe or Just the Center?

I was talking with an SEO expert recently who was commenting on how the whole Internet marketing industry is so Google centered, and the extreme power they have on the industry.

While I agree that the economic engine that Google engenders for anyone marketing on the web is huge, I had to kindly disagree that it was all Google and their relative power was growing.  Pointing out that numbers in DM News about the amount of traffic internal (self generated rather than search engine generated) on Facebook and LinkedIn has become so substantial that it is shifting the PPC (Pay Per Click) price models. This creation of ‘internal’ traffic is a continuing movement toward user generated content (UGC). UGC is a major component of web2.0 or web3.0 (depending on whose definitions you use). But looking at the statistics of how many HOURS people spend on Facebook per day and week clearly shows that the power of people writing what interests them is very impactful on the overall web.  It is no longer just what the professionals write and what Google feels we want.

The retailer Amazon recognized this shift of power from the corporation as well.  Look at their Amazon.com site these days and you will quickly see 3 main sources of content:

  • Publisher provided – title, price, ISBN number and editors review.  The facts are seldom disputed, but the ratings on the editors review show that everyone understands the publishers editor always loves it’s own book.
  • Mined content – pulled from the content of the book – Top phrases in the book, key words in the book, number of pages.  This is content that reflects Amazon’s ability to use computers to infer real information just by counting and running programs against the data of the book.  The actual information and wisdom comes from a visitor to take these snippets of information and see answers that are useful.
  • User Generated Content – even the rating of the editor’s review is user generated. But the other reviews and the ratings of the reviews is where gold mine of content and traffic to Amazon trumps most other retailers.  More and more Amazon becomes the Wikipedia of a card catalog – UGC. It provides more information than professional abstracts and paid professional summaries found in the old dusty paper based card catalogs or their digital equivalents these days. The reviews can be biased, but the ratings and openness of them allow their value to be taken in context.

That last source – UGC is such a gold mine that Amazon went and bought a collection of it for future use – it was all the UGC about movies and TV shows – IMDB.com (Internet Movie Data Base) that was predominantly UGC (what was not was almost, as the staff generating the content were mostly paid low wages for a labor of love according to rumors).

This is all a long way of saying that UGC is one of the forces that has the potential to knock the powerhouse of Google off its throne and leave space for all of us to consider different sources of ‘truth’ and wisdom of crowds. This will affect how we optimize our sites.  More and more it will be the UGC that is key.  UGC are Forces beyond our control, but well within our influence.  One of the many areas I have seen the models change – managing volunteers compared to professional staff.  There are commonalities, but there are differences.

How have you experimented with User Generated Content and what were the results?

July 22, 2009 Posted by | Community, SEM Industry, SEO tools | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment