Monday, September 26, 2011

Pea-Finding Maximizers Improve Your Odds: SEO Tricks You Can Use Right Now.

One problem I face creating a new website is in the buzzy realm of SEO – Search Engine Optimization, right? Maybe I am branding the company. Maybe I’m crafting content for a new or revised site. In all cases, it is now a challenge – and good client service – to get the new site’s page ranking higher on Google and other search engines.

How to find and use the right search terms in copy, if you’re a marketer or copywriter? How to build them into your website, if you’re an in-house graphic designer or a outsource coder?

These days we pay more attention because the Internet’s a shell game. The complexity and competition of the worldwide web are the shells; your website’s optimized efficiency is the pea. Discover the pea and you win more…eyeballs. But the pea is elusive. You need more than guesswork. You need pea-finding maximizers.

I always try to find and use a set of current practices when creating a site. (“Current” is important because the game changes all the time.)

That’s just what I’ve done over the past few days. I completed a website’s content with the extra help of 11 simple but effective tricks. I learned – or re-learned – them at a Search Engine Optimization lunch seminar last week. The good people* at CITOC brought Toronto-based Stuart Crawford, President and Chief Marketing Officer at Ulistic, to lead the instruction.

Here’re my current pea-finding maximizers.

1. Start with a tight-and-right marketing plan. Every great website is based on one. Getting it nailed is harder than it looks. And it’s also where you evaluate key words and search terms.

I sharpen this by building in brand-related words, too – important when the client’s marcomms will help push customers and prospects to the new site: not just “oilfield sand screens,” for example, but “open hole expandable sand screens.”

2.  Use text and lots of it. (or Department of Music to a Copywriter’s Ears). Google searches text. The more of it there is on a website, the greater the opportunity for search programs to spot your key words.

3.  Optimize for where you do business. Adjust your website(s) to relate to prospects locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. All of these if you do business globally.

Searches that are effective in Hong Kong or Heidelberg may not work as well in Houston and vice versa – key phrases may be completely different from region to region. Example: “combat boots” in the US, “military boots” in the UK.

4.  Search engines work even better with “current events.” The fresher the news the better off your website is, search engine-wise. Frequency of fresh news is also a strong attractor. Which leads to…

5.  Easy updating is crucial. However you can do it, you need to be able to change up news, events and other elements on your site quickly and easily. Whether you’re the one, or you have an outside resource do it, it has to be fast and simple. Make it so.

Okay – keep a clock on your IT department, your outside vendor or freelancer. The sooner the news release is posted, the sooner search engines can get to work. No, I don’t mean it has to be done this New York minute; “timely” is the right measurement here.

6.  Enjoy more wham! from your website title tag. If you can transmit a key word or key term in the website title, do it. Putting “Jones and Company” is way less effective than “Cheap Diamond Rings ׀ Jones and Company.”

Or look at where the upper left title tag starts with “Richard Laurence Baron. Then comes “Signalwrite” followed by “Marketing Copywriter Houston.” My brand is built on my three-part name. I want people to search for – and find – me. Thank you to Brian Bearden and Zephyr Salvo for constructing it this way.

7.  Put a Convert Button on every page. Do not lose the chance to call-to-action right where your readers may be stopping.

8.  Use PR releases for backlink to your site. More frequent publicity releases, even for in-company celebrations, can boost visits to your website…remember to put hotlinks into your PR every time.

9.  Then get OPWs to link to yours. That’s Other People’s Websites. Your partners, vendors, customers – either from some social media site(s) or their own websites…this will drive traffic to yours also. Don’t forget to return the favor.

10. Take massive advantage of Google Places. B2B or Retail, especially Retail – put up a separate Google Places listing for each store, office and facility. Don’t forget to check current address details.

11. Test and measure, test and measure. Keep using Google Analytics and other options to see how your newly effectorized website is doing. SEO needs some care and feeding, you just want to know what, where and when.

These are nowhere near all the SEO rules, tips and tricks. And unless your life is spent online, that means another kind of shell game for you to confront. How do you pick the right SEO person or firm to help you with this?

Maybe “test and measure” applies here, too. C’mon, can I get some opinions on this from real social media experts?

*Nota Bene (which means “note well”): Signalwrite-sized thanks with loud tropical shirts on to Citoc’s BJ Farmer and his team for timely and tasty learning; to Ulistic’s Crawford, taking advantage of Houston weather before snow-flying time comes to eastern Canada; and Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) who shows that finding the pea has been much harder than it looks for centuries. From Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

National Punctuation Day Needs More Than Ad Errors. Try Victor Borge.

There’s a movement dedicated to helping us punctuate precisely . On the National Punctuation Day® website, discover a “celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks…and the ever mysterious ellipsis.”

Entire books are devoted to the subject – the best known probably Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Great websites cover the wince-making world of mispunctuation. And there are photos of screwed-up signs, billboards, ads and packaging by the dozens.

E.g., I’m particularly grateful for today’s Signalwriter post visual first posted by Sarah Long, English-language writer at GBG Copywriting in Gothenburg, Sweden. Particularly – because it’s one of several portraying a mistake in the old Stella Artois “Perfection has its price” ad campaign. And because client Cameron Wallace of Helix ESG loves Stella.

This post’s for you, Cameron. But I also wanted to draw attention to the “Holiday Happiness” page of Bar Business – the editors present 10 or 12 ideas for bars and pubs to use for letting their customers have some fun and make more money for the month ahead. Featured in the August issue there’s a Virgin Mary Day (promoting non-alcoholic cocktails on 9/8) for example, and a National Punch Day (9/20, great for specially priced but enormous portions of alcoholic punch).

For 9/24, National Punctuation Day, the magazine suggests:

On this day you can have your bar staff annunciate the punctuation marks required by their conversational sentences. If they pause they say comma. If they shout they say exclamation point. And when they ask a customer, “what can I get you,” they say question mark. Get ready for a weird day.

I’ll say exclamation point. Do you think bartenders and wait staffers get paid enough for this question mark. In any case comma it apostrophe s a great reminder of a different phonetic punctuation sketch invented by pianist hyphen comedian Victor Borge period So to celebrate comma watch this routine on YouTube period

Remember it apostrophe s National Punctuation Day long hyphen proofread your stuff period

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Trails, Hapless Hotmail – I Can Change More Easily than You.

David Hansen posted a card from that is aimed at Facebook users but will serve for me to talk (briefly) about Hotmail.

I am appalled that the free service that I am in no way obligated to use keeps making changes that mildly inconvenience me.

When I returned to the computer yesterday afternoon, I discovered that my Hotmail account had been seriously corrupted. After more than a decade with Hotmail, the MSN service got hacked. I have no access at all to MSN Live or Hotmail.

Not only no access - but a new account I created to try fixing the problem was also immediately blocked. I can't "post a problem" to Windows Live forums because they require a sign-in; the passwords don't work. I spent almost two hours on the telephone with technical service people.

The toll-free number for MSN billing support, by the way, is 866-672-4551; even though it wasn’t his job, “Ed” helped out as much as he could. In the end, his assistance didn’t get me back into the account(s). He passed me on to MSN Product Technical Support at 866-234-6020; here, both “Joey” and “Ashwin” tried their best, I guess.

By 10.30PM, it had become a circular joke. To get anywhere, I had to log in. Every new password the tech-sup guys gave me sent me to a screen that told me my “access was blocked” and led me to try starting again. Basically, they threw up their hands at the end of the Skype conversations.

Many Microsoft and Hotmail online support forums address the blocked access issue…same problem as mine. Some resolved it. Some (according to my reading) never did. After Hotmailing for a decade and more, it's past time to move on. Hey, it was – mostly – FREE!

I can change. I’m working on that right now with a little help from a lot of colleagues and clients. Gmail is the choice here; and it’s been getting great reviews like here for years:

Gmail, our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award winner, includes excellent spam protection, phishing warnings and virus scanning; ultimate organization, conversation view, POP3 access and 8 GB of inbox storage that continues to grow every day.

In fact, you can find me on Google+ and Gmail both. Now that Google+ is “open to the public,” it’s probably the solution for me. I choose to embrace the transition. I close by paraphrasing the great Evelyn Waugh, “Change is the only evidence of life online.”

Friday, September 09, 2011

M D Anderson Rebranding Program’s Great Story – Behind the AMA Firewall.

Am I committing a faux pas? Or delivering a service?

I ask because Mary M Flory wrote a fine, descriptive article in the just-arrived issue of Marketing Health Services. Titled, “Painting the Town Red,” it’s about the M D Anderson Cancer Center rebrand. And for the moment, it’s for American Marketing Association members only – stashed behind the firewall.

This copyrighted article features the institution’s Associate Vice President of Marketing Alicia Jansen – that’s her in the publication’s photograph – and details how the institution’s stakeholder team pulled off its “comprehensive brand overhaul.”

(On a smacking-my-forehead note, I missed the chance to scoop Flory because Jansen presented the story, in person, at our AMAHouston Healthcare SIG event in June. And I did NOT blog about it.)

I am not going to reprise the article, nor take away from the hard work of brand reviewing and rebranding conducted by the MD Anderson Cancer Center team. But I think it’s worth bringing some element out from behind the firewall – the five challenges that MD Anderson had to identify before the brand could be “fixed.” Directly quoting from the Flory piece, they were:

1. Brand interpretation: MD Anderson did not have an understanding of how its brand promise was being perceived across its many stakeholders.

2. Brand asset performance: MD Anderson’s previous logo and other brand assets did not differentiate the organization nor communicate its mission as strongly. In addition, the assets were dated, fading into the current communications environment.

3. Brand voice: With the volume of communications being disseminated from the organization, MD Anderson noticed a dilution of the brand. This dilution was due, in part, to the lack of a unified design and messaging system.

4. Brand growth: Due to growth in the past 10 years and the mission to be a global leader in cancer care, several national and global relationships were established and a brand architecture and management system had not been implemented to unite or tie the strategy together.

5. Brand management: MD Anderson used a cross-functional approach to communicating its brand and did not have a strategy to manage its current approach, much less future growth.

It’s classic “Find the problems” stuff. (Gotta find ‘em before you can fix ‘em.) Well…your institution or company may be facing the need to build a stronger brand voice. So you next steps are: join the American Marketing Association, get behind its firewall and read the article. It’s a fine first guide to rebranding.

Me? I’m grateful to AMAHouston and Jansen for the chance to have heard all the newest parts of the story first-hand. (I did blog about the MD Anderson ad campaign here 18 months back.) Even more, thanks to Flory, Managing Editor of Magazines for the American Marketing Association, for the telling-in-print.