Thursday, December 18, 2008

SEO - Search, Experience, Opportunity

SEO back in the day was the latest and greatest thing.  People realized they could improve their search engine ranking through optimization of their site.  Everyone jumped on the SEOwagon.   It started with meta-tags, and people packing their sites full of invisible keywords to get ranking.  You remember - white text on white background that nobody but the search engines could see.  That just doesn't fly anymore.  

SEO is really only a very small part of Internet Marketing - and to do it effectively you have to consider several variables when selecting your keyterms and where you will place them.  You will also need to know the why and the how.  Lets examine the "S" the "E" and the "O" in search engine optimization.  In my example SEO stands for Search, Experience, Opportunity.

S is for Search

Obviously we are optimizing for search so that is one of the key components - what  are people searching for?  To determine your keyterms you need to know the answer to this question to find your baseline.  This comes from knowing your customer and knowing their product or service.  One thing to keep in mind is that if your customer may sell 3 kinds of apples - they may consider "apple a" to be more popular than "apple b" or "apple c".  Does that mean you focus your efforts on "apple a" - Heck no!

There are more questions to ask before you can determine what your keyterms will be, and to take that a step further, to determine your baseline from which you will do your keyterm research.  Ask your client... Which product are you most passionate about and why?  What is your most unique product and why?  Which of your products has the highest profit margin for you or perhaps which is your "loss leader"?  How have your customers typcially found you in the past, and what are they NOT finding, but may be looking for?  As you start to gather these answers, you'll come up with other ideas for your keyterm  research.

E is for Experience

You truly need an experienced marketer to assist with your keyterm research.  When researching keyterms - you dont want to just pick the ones you think are most relevant.  Using the example above, there is far too much competition on the word "apple" - so we look for relevant AND related words that your customers may find you on.

Finding the right keyterms is only half the battle - you have to understand the competition and search volume on each keyterms and how effective you will be in utilizing that keyterm throughout your site.  While "apple" may in fact be the most popular keyterm, you should consider the fact that  if 5,000,000 other sites are competing on that term, the chances of you getting top 10 in Google is frankly slim to none and you'll probably want to enhance it a bit.

Start to look for variations of your keyterms that have high search volume and low competition.  Consider the differences between "apple a", "apple b" and "apple c" and broaden your research.  As you do this, you will start to see some suggested keyterms that may work for you with perhaps less competition but solid daily search volume.  

O is for Opportunity

As noted above - there are opportunities in search optimization and what variations you may use.  Lets for example say that "apple a" is actually a "chocolate apple".   You might want to consider common misspellings of the word "chocolate".  This does not work in all cases, but in certain situations if done properly - you can monetize that common misspelling by capturing those users who perhaps type a bit too quick and search on "chocalate" - believe me - it happens.  You certainly don't want to include these misspellings in your page content, but can strategically place them in your meta-tags.

Another way to look for opporunity is in examining the different products and competition for each.  "Apple a" may be your most popular product, but effective optimization on "apple b" or "apple c" can most definately drive traffic to your site, and the end result is that more than likely you'll sell a bunch of "apple a" as well.

Consider also your customer's expertise - perhaps beyond the products they sell.  But your site content should include keyterm rich content related to your business - there is alot of opportunity in getting ranking on content pages that are informative and useful that will drive traffic to your product or service.

SEO - A small piece of the puzzle.

While SEO is important - there is so much more to it than just loading your site full of keywords.  You have to know where to place them, how to structure your meta-tags and where they belong in your page content.  Be sure when you hire someone for the purpose of SEO, you hire someone who truly understands and has the experience to get you the results.

Add other aspects of Internet Marketing and Social Media to your online marketing and if done effectively can be a recipe for success.  Continue to monitor the success of your keyterms.  Find the areas of weakness and expand on them - your keyterms may still be the right ones, but you may need to reprioritize and develop relevant content to support those keyterms.

Listen to your site and what it's telling you.  Work your site and be proactive in updating content, adding products and getting involved in related online communities.  Always promote your site continuously through the various avenues of online marketing.

Good luck with your SEO - Hope to see you in Google's Top 10!

These are just my thoughts on SEO, I'd love to hear yours!  Leave me a comment or find me Tweeting as @SocialPMChick.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flash Bulb Moments

As I am Twittering around this morning a thread formed around building trust with clients & showing them the value of internet marketing. This is something I get VERY passionate about because I see the tangible results of internet marketing each any every day and how that relates to my customer - the small business guy who makes a living selling his widget. There are a few parts to this thought so bear with me...

Part 1. The Customer's Perception. "Trust Me," I say.

When kicking off the "internet marketing" phase for a customer's new website - the initial call sets the tone for the rest of your relationship with the customer. The message you need to deliver to your customer is that they need to be patient with you - and with the patience comes the results and with those results comes the trust that is so critical to your long-term partnership. Telling them it could take some time (and we are talking months not weeks) to ramp up - they dont like that. That's where the trust comes in... "Trust me, give it some time and let me do what I do best - you will see..."

Part 2. What Exactly IS Internet Marketing? "Fasten your seatbelt," I say.

A small business owner who is selling his wares has probably spent the last 30 years doing just that... Selling his wares... Now we are telling him - you need to keep selling your wares - AND you need to work your website. Many of these customers are challenged to even set up an email account let alone understand the meaning of a blog, online press (or social media) release, linking strategies, content development, search optimization - let alone the idea of doing online "social marketing". A VERY common thought I hear from customers is that "they are just trying out this online marketing thing - they dont think their customer's shop online" I love to prove that one wrong!

Part 3. The Flash Bulb Affect "See what you've done? Now let's try this..." I say.

Now here's the really cool part, and I get totally passionate about this. A challenging customer who didn't think we could make their online presence successful - starts to see some the sales come in, and starts to see other sites linking to him, his bounce rate is dropping, he's getting repeat business, and reaching audiences he never thought he could reach. These little instances are all little tiny flash bulbs that go off - one after the other. I think of those old camera's with the flash cube insert with the 4 bulbs - remember those?

Once that last flash bulb has gone off - they "get the picture". I had one of these light bulb moments today with a client and it just made my day. THAT is why I do my job with passion - I live for those moments.

Be sure you deserve the trust you are given.

There is no greater satisfacation for me than making my customers successful online (whatever that means for them). More so when that initial trust took a long time to earn, but once earned led to a beautiful working relationship and ultimately a professional friendship.

I am very passionate about the why's and how's of internet marketing and helping my customer realize the meaning of all it all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Variety is the Spice of Life in Marketing

During a conversation with a coworker today (and a new employee at my company) I was chatting it up about why I love my job so much - there's that passion again.  This chap said to me that he couldn't get motivated in his last job because it was the same old - same old every day.    

Exactly!  I thought...  Here at Cazbah - I get to manage the online marketing activities for a buffet of industries.  Switching gears by the minute.  How many times a day do I switch gears?  

One minute I'm sending a press release about multi-deck pizza ovens... Then on to preparing an email blast about restoration of antique firearms, and before you know it, I'm helping someone publish their blog post about automotive expertise.  Sprinkle in there some content for medical laboratory testing equipment and perhaps some linking activites for industrial air scrubbers!  I cover the gammit in one day.  Oh and let's not forget the internal marketing activities for Cazbah and the new website to be unveiled in early 2009 (which will, of course, Rock!).

Every day is exciting in online marketing - moreso now with social media thrown in there.  The whole Twitter thing is fantastic.  I'm meeting new tweeters and sharing ideas hour by hour.  What I get out of Twitter and other Social Media hotspots are ingredients I can then toss back into my buffet of clients and apply to their online success.

Find me on Twitter as SocialPMChick - I'd love to hear about your day and what's on your buffet!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Developer vs Marketer - Who's Got the Passion?

I was inspired by a post I read this morning written by Tony Wright to share my observation about why so many software companies (and could also relate to small business) fail. Mind you this is just my small-minded perception - but my career path has touched so many different industries from medical to manufacturing to software marketing...  I believe I have a clear understanding now of "the right way to do business" (as it relates to software).

Tony's blog this morning was about software product development and how the product (or techie guy) and the business (or marketing guy) play a role in that process. His article is an excellent analysis of how things generally work and that while both are critical to the product development process, their roles take shape and form and different phases of the product development process. Both are imperative to the process so long as the end-goal and clear consensus on the product being delivered is identical.

Here's where my mind spun off... I kept coming back to the question 'what is the perfect balance in software product development between the techie guy and the business guy?' And here is what I came up with...

The best combination of the product/techie guy and the business guy is when both have a clear understand of the end product and precisely who the product is designed for - and equally who it is NOT designed for. Building software for a particular market segment is one thing - selling to that very market segment and setting guidelines on who your customers should be is another.  Both parties should never waiver from the marketing or development goals because they are both in 100% agreement on what the product is and who it can best serve. THAT is a pretty powerful combination.

I would add - if you develop software that is suited only to small business - then you should NOT sell to big business (even with a bigger price tag). Your specialty product will not meet their needs, and you will be unable to support it because it was not designed for big business. I have survived many rounds of layoffs and have seen companies close their doors for that very reason. Too many eggs in the "big business" basket (a basket you have no business being in)! Once those large eggs are removed there aren't enough of the smaller eggs where you should have been focusing all along.  

The right business model is a clearly defined product with a definitive purpose and a very specific target audience. Finding and selling to that audience is both challenging and VERY rewarding when you see it at work.

Here's where the passion part comes in (and yes I would be remiss if I did not tie this in somehow). A software guy, generally speaking, is totally and completely passionate about building the next greatest release on the market for whatever industry he serves. How many developers do you truly know that think it's a hum-drum job - and how many developers do you know that truly get excited and passionate about "what they can build".  
Add to that a business guy who is truly passionate about what the end user (the targeted customer) will experience through using that same software - knowing full well that to be truly successful we must learn to say no to some customers and focus solely on those who we KNOW will benefit from the product we are delivering.

The end result - you have a passionate techie guy and a passionate business or marketing guy with a common vision (maybe for different reasons and that's okay). If they stay on course and get that product developed and deliver it to exactly who it was intended for and it works as originally planned for said target that's pretty powerful stuff. And those targeted customer segments will refer to other companies in the same targeted customer segment and so on.

I have seen this model work and it continues to work very effectively. Moreover - those two techie and business guys are indeed both very passionate about their role in the process and that passion will drive the company further ahead and will continue to better serve those targeted customers. It is their combined passion that will allow their product to evolve naturally to meet the needs of its target.

I am forutnate enough to work for such a passionate business guy and I see the value of this model each and every day. It is a formula for success and continued growth.

"We want passion for our business.. workers who can interpret and execute our mission, who want to build a career, not just take a temporary job."
- Howard Schultz

Monday, December 8, 2008

Passion Under Construction

Passion Feeds Passion - I cannot say that enough. Things that may seems bothersome to you or I? I guarantee there is someone out there who feels passionate about that very thing. If not? Would anything ever get accomplished.

Take Road Construction for Example. Here in Upstate New York, there are two seasons: Winter & Construction Seasons. (A long standing joke in upstate NY) Well as the years go by, the Construction Season seems to spill over into Winter. Most of us (and I used to be one of these), would either avoid road construction projects altogether, or complain and sigh driving through at 40 MPH or less.

Think about this - Somebody, Somewhere had a passion for change. An enthusiastic mind said, lets improve the experience people have on this particular stretch of road. Somebody, somewhere had a "vision" a passion to make this change occur. 

There is at least one person out there who finds it exciting to build a project plan for this type of project and get bids for materials and figure out how many construction barrels and signs are needed, and how long it will take and what the phases will be. What is the critical path? Who are the stakeholders? What are the major milestones? How will I handle a schedule shift (or bump in the road)? There is someone with passion for this very thing. My best friend helped me see this perspective and it has changed the way I view construction projects.

Over the summer - traveling to my mother's house for a visit, we drove through a construction project to "see the progress". He said to me, most people avoid these projects - I intentionally drive through them to see how they are doing it and to see the progress. Interesting! Someone actually WANTS to see this project and see it succeed, and is excited about its progress.

Several months later, the same project is still going on. Yesterday as
 I'm driving through I think to myself how cool this stretch of road will be, and I snap a photo on my phone to send my best friend to show him the progress.

Six months ago I would have avoided that stretch of road altogether, or would have complained about the extended time it took to make my trip. Thanks to my friend's passion for construction that he derives from his career, it has affected the way I view road construction and changed a big negative for me, into a very big positive.

Remember - for everything we come in contact with, someone has to have a passion for it in order to make it so. Maybe the thought of someone else taking pleasure in what may seem like less than perfect situation - for the greater good, can help you to appreciate it just a little bit more.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Professionally Passionate

Have you ever encountered a person (or people) in your career that just seemed too happy to be working? Or perhaps worked for a company that seemed just too good to be true (or so you thought)? As I've unlocked my passion I have discovered the perfect job does exist!

It used to be when I came across "happy" working people, it was all commission based or salary based - it was not a real happiness that drove them, but rather the joy in realizing they could buy that new gadget on payday or take a vacation with their next commission check. Now granted, that helps, but just because we get a paycheck, does not imply we are happy in our jobs - and most certainly not passionate about them.

Well Charles Broersma, CEO and Founder of Cazbah (or ChazAtCaz on Twitter) is the real deal. I will never forget the first time I met him, before I had my job offer... I physically felt a buzz of energy sitting across the table from him - we may have been discussing my past employment, but his engery and excitement for his company and where he was going was just mind boggling. I walked out of my interview that day thinking to myself "this is where I belong". 2 days later I had the job.

Charles' passion for his business is like a virus for which there is no vacciene. Maybe it's because I did not get my flu shot this year that I caught that bug, but I'm sure glad I did. I find myself spending much time in the company of someone who explodes with energy and ideas. At any given moment, Charles will literally BURST into my office with a mind-blowing thought or idea, which will usually spark one of my own, which will in turn re-spark another for him and so it continues.

He is passionate about his employees, his vision for the future, and most importantly passionate about what we give back to our clients. We serve small businesses who provide niche products and services and who are (what's the word?) passionate about their product but need help finding their markets online? It's the perfect fit! Passion feeds passion!

On a good day, I have given Charles at least one thought-provoking headache because I've made his brain swell. If you see him on Twitter be sure to offer him something for the pain. If you catch me on Twitter - I invite you to share YOUR passion with me!

So try to pursue the very things that you are passionate about- that is the difference between good and
-- Shawn Doyle

Do YOU have passion?

To blog or not to blog has been my question for a while now... Until I could figure out what I had to share with the world it made no sense, but I now realize it is my passion for everything that I want to share - and how that passion continues to evolve in all that I do and all that I am personally and professionally.

I suppose where to start with this blog is to allow you to know who I am and why I am here.  At just 38 years young, I have been employed in the marketing and internet industries for just about 15 years - a lifetime it seems.  Somewhere between 37 and 38 a lightbulb turned on inside me and I realized that I was just existing and needed to surround myself with things I am passionate about.  Starting with a new job...  Having been home with babies for a few years and re-entering the work force, I made a very conscious decision to choose a career where I could be passionate about my career and truly enjoy what I am doing - rather than to just be a drone.   

Writing a resume is the easy part in going back to work - it's the "objective statement" that is challenging.  Do potential employers ever really read your objective statement?  Maybe not, but that's not the point.  I needed to know what my objective really was and what kind of job I wanted - so I felt it critical to write that statement for myself.  With the help of my best friend, who knows me better than anyone, and about more iterations than I can count, the word that kept creeping into the statement was "passion".   And my passion started to evolve.

And so here I am - employed at Cazbah in the Account Management group and I must say I am truly passionate about who I am and what I am doing.  My job is evolving and so am I.  

I hope you will continue this journey with me as I explore what passion means in my career and my life and how it is contributing to my personal success.  I will share stories about passion in project management (is that really possible?), passion for learning new technology, passion for social media, passion to see my peers succeed, passion for my client's personal success and so much more.  I believe with true passion anything is possible.   Are you passionate about your work?  I'd love to hear from you and perhaps share your stories in future posts as this blog and our passion evolves together.