Friday, March 27, 2009

SEO & SEM For C-Level Executives

I have encountered a number of C-Level executives (CEOs, CIOs, and CTOs in particular) who are looking for guidance on a number of aspects around effective web presences. At the heart of this issue is the need for a high-level understanding of SEO and SEM. So, for their benefit, as well as for the general benefit of the Netverse, I thought I would provide an overview to these topics.

We'll start by defining our terms. SEO is Search Engine Optimization, which generally refers to optimizing ones website and pages to enhance ones placement in search engine result pages (SERPs). This placement is often referred to as "organic" because it comes from work you do on your site. My feeling is that SEO is a bit of a misnomer. After all, webmasters are not optimizing any search engines, but rather optimizing their website. Digital Asset Optimization is a better term in my opinion, plus I like the way that DAO reflects Tao (The Way). But SEO is well understood, so let's stick with that.

SEM is the other hand to SEO, the Yang to the SEO Yin. SEM is Search Engine Marketing, which generally consists of purchasing keywords and marketing links to drive traffic to your site. The fine folks at icrossing have a white paper from March 2007 called "Search Synergy Report" which concludes that a combination of SEO and SEM is more effective than either approach singly. Here, over two years later, this is not a revolutionary thought, but rather part of the standard practices for many successful sites.

I would also like to mention that there is a vast sea of acronyms surrounding this dense area of Internet technology. Don't be put off by it. This is not rocket science, but rather an ongoing dance of search companies trying to determine the highest quality content while websites try to figure out what the search companies are looking for so they can appear to have the highest quality content. Dynamicism and change are the constants in this equation.

SEO & SEM In Brief

Enhancing a website for organic search optimization is still very straight forward and can be summed up as follows:
  • Have a domain name that matches your industry and purpose.
  • Have a clear focus for your site. Make that focus permeate through your site.
  • Ensure that your pages (or posts) have the name of your site in a text form that can be read by spiders.
  • Ensure that your keywords and meta description match your message.
  • Ensure that your pages have great titles. A great title is clear and describes the content well.
  • Obtain links by creating unique, distinct and high-value content. Then, participate as a good citizen by reading and commenting on blogs, posting articles that can define you as an industry and thought leader. Your bios on other sites should link back to your site.
  • Each page or post should have a clear and consistent focus. Along with your descriptive title and heading, you should use consistent language in your pages and posts.
  • Be conservative with your links out and cross links within your site.
  • Use available tools to analyze and improve your site. DAO is an ongoing process, not a one time event.
Your SEO efforts will be supported by a thoughtful and consistent SEM practice. This practice should include:
  • Active Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns across major search engines
  • Active ad campaigns across major search engines
  • Active monitoring of campaign returns, landing page conversions, and website utilization and traffic patterns
In spite of the vendors who promise top rankings in a day or less, the industry consensus is that quality sites are built over time. Consistency and focus are the most important elements. Supporting the delivery of your message with well-selected paid search marketing will increase the visibility over your site, but only quality and an unique value proposition will create sticky visits to your site.

My advice is to be a good netizen and create something of unique and real value to improve enhance the SERP position of your site. Pay attention to the mechanics of your site by focusing your message so that search engine crawlers can understand your message and weigh it appropriately. In summary, honest, hard work and attention to detail are at the heart of mastering SEO or DAO and SEM.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Desperation in the business world

I see things that strike me as acts of desperation.  Yes, the economy is bad, bad, bad.  For an indication of just how bad, you should really spend some time viewing The Crash Course at  

However, I've noticed some things that are real strong indicators that marketing and product folks are getting desperate.  Here are two of them:

Trader Joe's.  I love Trader Joe's.  I get really good quality food at great prices.  For example, we try hard to eat organic when it comes to raw foods; milk, eggs, veggies, fruits, etc.  As an example of the great deals, TJ's sells a gallon of organic whole milk for around $5.98.  Shaws and Stop and Shop also sell gallons of organic whole milk, but for around $8 a gallon.   

TJ's used to sell a pound of organic romain lettuce in a bag of three heads.  It was a great deal and in the Summer, my wife and I would go through two of those bags a week.  However, a while ago -- could be a year, could be longer -- I noticed that the bags were lighter and were now being sold in 12 ounce packages.  Same price, but we were now getting 25% less.  That's a big increase. Last fall I noticed that some of the bags felt noticably lighter yet again.  That's because they now sell "Three heads of organic romain lettuce"  No weight indicated.  I promise you, some of these bags have three scrawny heads of lettuce in there that barely top 8 ounces.

Same bag, same big title, a tiny fraction of the value.  

Here's the second thing.  One of my credit card companies called me and I finally answered -- I hate being interrupted during family time.  Ms. Dublin politely identified herself and thanked me for being a long-standing member.  Then she asked my permission to read a paragraph and record the remainder of the conversation.  I initially assumed that she had to notify me of some change in the terms, but was puzzled why it had to be over the phone.  Since she was simply reading a paragraph, it didn't seem like she was trying to sell me something.  But there was that recording part.  Hmmm.

In the paragraph she said that they would be enrolling me in a program that would monitor my credit reports and notify me of any changes or threats and that after some introductory period, they would bill my account $9.99 a month.  It seemed that the company was trying to say that by listening to the paragraph I implicitly accepted the terms of this service that they were foisting on me.

I said that I wanted it clearly understood that I do not want any such service and that I am not agreeing to accepting any such program.  Ms. Dublin replied that I have the choice of opting in, but by accepting enrollment, she would simply send me the materials.

Really, what kind of malarky is this?  You want me to look at the materials?  Fine.  Send them to me.  However, you don't need me to agree, on tape, to have you send me the materials.  

So, I felt it necessary to state again that I was not accepting any enrollment in any such program and do not want any charges to be applied to my account for any such purpose.  Furthermore, it seemed that by accepting enrollment in order to get the materials, the company was equating that enrollment with accepting the automated billing of this service and I wanted it clearly understood that I was not accepting any such service levied to my account.  

I'm glad they were recording that.  :-)  Ms. Dublin thanked me and hug up.

The lesson here is that both of these programs are tricky and underhanded.  I love Trader Joe's a good deal less now and I do not trust this credit card company at all.  

Is that really the way we want our customers to think of us, our products and services and companies?  Nope.  It's baaad policy.  Baaad products and baaad practices.