Friday, July 29, 2005

Search Engine Optimization 101

New on WebMarketCentral.com is a page on Search Engine Optimization Basics, a how-to guide to getting at least decent placement for your site on the major search engines. While expert search engine position services offer more sophisticated techniques, this guide covers the basics of text optimization, meta tagging, alt-text for images, page naming, links and code tweaking for those without a big search budget.

Having exposed my knowledge and experience on improving one's search position, it's embarassing that the WMC site isn't showing up more respectably on the search engines yet. Through yesterday, a Google search for own press release brought up a number of sites where the release had been posted -- but missed the press release on my site! (Google is finding it today.) Also up until yesterday, Google couldn't find the name "Jay Lipe" on my site, even though it's in both the text and meta tags for my marketing-related blogs page. Again, that's working today. The Web's most popular search engine still won't find all of the words "Bronto Topica Silverpop" on WebMarketCentral, even though they are all listed on the Hosted Email Marketing Services page.

The bottom line on all of this seems to be that the final paragraph of my SEO basics page is spot-on: "The final step in improving your search engine positioning involves the least effort, and yet is the hardest -- waiting...It can take several weeks for Google to find your site, and about the only thing you can do to speed this up at all is to try getting your site linked from more sites so you are easier to find." Hopefully, within a few weeks, I'll be able to report much improved results -- and validate my own advice.

Gratuitous key phrase of the week: WebMarketCentral, the Portal for Web Marketers, Officially Launched (my press release -- we'll see if/when the search engines find this)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

WebMarketCentral Gets Official

After several weeks live, WebMarketCentral.com has now been officially launched with this press release. Most of the world won't see the release until PRWeb releases it tomorrow, but you can see it on the WMC site today.

Our goal, as always, is to help Web marketing and e-commerce professionals to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently by showcasing the top marketing books, providing useful advice, and providing an extensive directory of helpful online marketing resources.

To that end, we've also recently added to the site a directory of Marketing and Operations Consulting firms, including some of those whom we have found to truly outstanding such as Kelly Allan Associates and Green Point Partners.

Nest week, we'll post our first interview with a key player in the online marketing space. Until then, best of luck to you, and stay tuned.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Hydra of Web Site Development

Like the Hydra of Greek mythology, though much more benign (and not to confused with the 1990 Toto album, one of their weaker efforts), effective Web site development requires many heads. Perhaps not nine like the Hydra, but at least four: a technologist, a graphic designer, a writer, and a Web strategist. Finding all four skill sets in one individual is as rare as finding the next Michael Jordan in basketball, though finding two may be possible.

Many companies -- and not just small ones -- make the mistake when looking for Web development talent of focusing on the technology side: "knowledge of HTML, Java, Flash" etc. is among the absolute requirements in their want ad. While technology skills are important, they are not necessarily key, any longer, to the development of a truly effective online presence.

Take this law firm site for example: the graphic design is simple yet elegant, and technologically it works fine; but the navigation could be improved (Who are they targeting? What exactly do they want me to look at first on this site?) and much of the content has been written by lawyers (and reads like it). Yes, particularly in a larger company, it is important to enable multiple individuals to contribute content to the company Web site in their area of subject matter expertise, but as the brilliant Anne Holland of Marketing Sherpa pointed out in this column, it is also important to have a "keeper of the words" in order to maintain consistency and ensure the maximum impact from your Web communications.

So, for smaller firms who can't afford to hire a Web team, the question becomes: what talent do we hire and what do we outsource? Actually, the technology and graphic design aspects are the easiest to outsource. Virtually every Web hosting company now offers easy-to-use content management tools from entry-level (e.g. GoDaddy's WebSite Tonight) to professional-grade (such as the Neuance tool from Neulogic), taking the technical burden off the business. Graphic artists are generally not hard to find locally, and since complete site redesign is something most companies only undertake once every two to three years, it makes little sense to hire one full-time (unless you have a lot of other needs in this area). If you're not sure where to look, there are national marketing temp firms such as The Creative Group and Aquent who can connect you with professional graphic artists on a project basis. If you don't have the budget to hire a graphic artist, Web site templates for a variety of popular site-building and content management programs are available for prices ranging from free to about $100.

Writing is a talent you should have in-house. Although this individual does not need to be dedicated solely to Web writing (unless you have a very large and dynamic Web site), this individual should have knowledge of how to write for the Web: in other words, the "4-C" ability to write content that is compelling, clear, concise and consistent.

Most important is the Web strategist. This is the person who can answer the basic questions such as "Who exactly are we targeting with our Web site?" and "What are the key messages we want to communicate?" as well as determining what content should be on the site, how the navigation should flow, and what special features/capabilities should be incorporated (e.g. news feeds, stock feeds, links and resources, events, Webcasts, white papers / expert knowledge, online support, e-commerce, online chat etc.). This individual will be key to the success of your online marketing efforts; he or she won't be an entry-level marketer and won't come cheap, but will be critical. The Web strategist doesn't necessarily have to be an expert in technology or graphic design, but if you can find one who can also write, that's a bonus worth paying for.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Cars and Viruses (Real Ones) Online

Less than ten years ago, selling a car meant calling your local paper to place a classified ad, and getting sick meant a call to your doctor. Today, these are two of the many things we do differently in an online world.

I had both situations last week. To sell my car, I went to CarSoup.com. This site has a great interface; buyers can search and sort by year, make, model, body style, mileage, location, price and color -- in short, drilling down from thousands of vehicles to just the right one. So skipped the local paper and listed my 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible here.

Feeling a bit under the weather, and hoping to avoid a doctor visit (or at least have some indication of what was wrong with me), I checked out the leading medical Web sites: WebMD, DrKook, er, I mean, DrKoop, HealthCentral, and several others. I was hoping to find the medical version of something like the CarSoup interface -- let me enter or select from a list of symptoms and then tell me what I've got.

Unfortunately, while there is a great deal of health information now available online, none of these sites offered this type of drill-down capability. I was able to narrow down my malaise to one of four conditions, ranging from minor to life-threatening(!). I was left slightly more informed but a lot more nervous.

So, I reverted to pre-internet mode and went to the doctor. He didn't run any of the expensive tests that the health sites had indicated might be necessary (thank goodness). He simply asked me a couple of questions, checked me over briefly, told me what was wrong with me (nothing too serious, thankfully) and wrote me a prescription.

In short, while the Web has become a helpful resource for obtaining health-related information, the usability and value of even the leading sites has a long way to go. My prescription for the health-related Web sites? Check out CarSoup -- provide visitors with a clean and easy drill-down from their symptoms to the most likely diagnosis, preferably without unnecessarilly scaring them.

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