SEO and its discontents

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Discontents and SEO?

SEO and its discontents

Now, I am no expert by any means.

What really is Search Engine Optimization? discontents
What really is Search Engine Optimization? (Photo credit: Go Local Search)

But I know it’s important and so I’m going to take my shot at trying to optimize things as best as I can. The fact that the site and this blog are already on Google (and I already pretty much own jespah as a keyword – I’m #2 on Google already) is encouraging.

An Early Hint

In 2010 I met Kevin Palmer for a networking meeting, and told him I was interested in creating a new site for myself. And he told me — it’s like three legs of a stool: Content, Design and SEO.

Content I’ve got. I’ve got content coming out of my ears. I’ve got stuff to write like, like Carter’s got Liver Pills as my Dad would say.

As for design, I use WordPress. It is far, far simpler to just use their templates. They have an excellent understanding of how to put together a sweet-looking website and give it some style. And it’s mine and I made it and I am not only fully responsible for the content, I am also responsible in every way for its design and usability. With the help of WordPress, it’s prettier and more usable than ever.

SEO

But then there’s SEO. My friend, Robert Gentel, who runs Able2know, which we both manage (he’s the owner, I’m the Community Manager/Project Manager/Chief Cook, etc.), is an SEO whiz. I have talked to him about it a little bit. As I spread my own wings, I also learn from classes at Quinnipiac and from looking at Google’s own tools and, frankly, from my own experimentation.

I’ll either fly or fall onto the pavement. The first option is more attractive, so SEO it is.

Oh and the title? It’s a play on Freud’s book. I’m not a big Freudian but I do love the title.

Sometimes a title is only a title.

Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0, a Book Review

Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0 – Yeah, I’m a Fan

Web Analytics Matter!

We Go Way Back

First of all, the first book that truly caught my eye and made a huge impression on me was Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity.

Web Analytics

As a (hopefully) former data person, I can relate to the idea of needing web analytics. E. g., the measurements of how your website does. Why do you want to measure with web analytics? Why, you need to see whether your message is actually going anywhere.

For e-commerce sites, the ultimate test is, naturally, whether you’re getting sales. But it’s hard to tell – particularly in a complex organization – whether the website drives sales or offline marketing efforts. And even measuring orders via these channels may not tell the entire story, as customers may see offline advertising and then come online to buy, or they may do the reverse and buy in-store after researching a product online. Or they could just be coming online to think about it and compare and mull it over and could convert to a paying customer days or weeks or months later. Or never.

What if You’re Not in e-Commerce?

And what about sites (such as my own) where nothing is offered for sale? My ultimate customer becomes, of course, someone to hire me, either permanently or temporarily. And this would mean as a consultant or a partner or a founder or a director or whatever, but that might be months away. What happens in the meantime? I might be able to dope some of that out with SEO and seeing where I am in search engine rankings, but just because people can find my site doesn’t mean they’re going to convert into hiring me or are even in a position to do so. My mother (hi, Mom!) can find my site and read it, but she won’t hire me any time soon. Unless I want to come and clean the gutters or something.

How do you or I know what’s happening?

Enter analytics.

It is, admittedly, still an imperfect science. But Mr. Kaushik breaks it down and describes the reports that you need to understand what’s happening with your site. He talks about what is essentially a Trinity strategy: experience, behavior and outcomes.

User Experience

It’s not enough to just track sales (outcomes). It’s also about user experience and behavior. This is much like in the offline world, if you think about it. Going to a restaurant is an experience and many of them are packaged as such. But it is a far different experience going to a McDonald’s or a Chik-Fil-A versus a Bertucci’s. And that experience differs from going to Legal Seafood’s which in turn is different from Blue Ginger (celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s restaurant). You can intake the same amount of calories. You might even be able to get in the same quality and types of nutrition. And you might enjoy a Big Mac as much as you enjoy one of Chef Tsai’s specialties. Aside from price, what are the differences?

What Sort of User Experience?

When you go to a McDonald’s, a part of the price is wrapped up in the experience. For chain entities in particular, it’s about sameness and predictability. If you find yourself in rural Oshkosh and have never been there before, you see the golden arches and you realize what to expect. For Bertucci’s, even though it costs more and there’s table service, there’s a similar vibe. You go there because you can depend upon it to be a certain way. And Blue Ginger is also dependable in the sense that it’s very upscale so you know you are going to be treated a certain way and it will look a particular way and presumably the food will taste in a way that reflects that kind of investment, both by you and by Mr. Tsai and his team.

Enhanced User Experience

Mr. Kaushik shows how understanding analytics can help you to enhance user experience.  And this, ultimately, drives user behavior. While conversions (sales) are the ultimate in user behaviors, he doesn’t forget about other valid behaviors.

Hence for the e-commerce site, product research is a valid and valuable behavior. So is printing a map to a brick and mortar store. Or comparing prices.

And for a non-e-commerce venture (again, I’ll use myself as an example), valid user (reader) behaviors are things like reading my writings and getting to know me. I put myself out there in order to be known, because that’s a piece of the hiring puzzle (why are there interviews — it’s not to know about skills, which should already be known. It’s to see if there’s a personality and a culture fit). Plus it enhances networking. Know me, think I’m worthwhile (at least, I hope you do) and you might think of a place where they might need me, or someone I should meet. And I do the same, in turn, for you. And cosmic karma gets us both into better places.

Back to the Book

But I digress. Let’s get back to the book.

The book has a lively, engaging style. It’s long but I sailed through it. And Mr. Kaushik (who is very gracious and seems to be very approachable, by the way) is clearly having fun and loves what he does. It’s a refreshing joy to read a book where the author is constantly delighted.

Read his book. Learn about analytics. Make the web a better place.

May your bounce rate be low, and your conversion rate high!

Rating

5/5

CLUMPS of SEO

CLUMPS of SEO

CLUMPS is an ugly acronym and I apologize profusely for that. But if you want to build and promote a website and improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you should think in CLUMPS.

CLUMPS of SEO
A clump of day lilies

What are CLUMPS?

I will explain.

Content

C stands for Content, and Content is King. Don’t believe me? Try looking at a site – any site – and picture it instead as a framework with lorem ipsum written all over it. Kinda silly, eh?

How to Search Engine Optimization
How to Search Engine Optimization (Photo credit: SEOPlanter)

So, people need something to read. Or listen to. Or download. Maybe to play. Or discuss. Or purchase. And it could be any other of a number of things that they would want to do with a website. And they need it from you! So make up your mind as to what you want. Plan your content and work on it. Brainstorm what you want to cover, and keep records of that. This helps when the rubber really meets the road and you get writer’s block.

For Instance

For example, let’s say you want to create an episode guide for the old television show, Quantum Leap. The show aired 97 episodes. If you post a new episode every single day, you run out out of content in less than three and a half months. If you instead post twice per week, that covers 48 and a half weeks – almost a full year. Good, but what do you do after that?

So there are a few options. One is to post less frequently. Another is to churn up the content and repost it. However, what you could also branch out. Therefore, post about the actors’ work before and since the show aired. And cover convention appearances. Add photographs. Post or critique fan fiction. Open up the floor for discussions of the show’s philosophy. Maybe you can find a related show to write about, and compare it to the original. It doesn’t matter. Just, recognize that your content might have a finite end to it, so you’ll need to work on extending that.

Furthermore, it can also help to look around the online world. What do others say about your topic? Make a Google Alert for your topic or, better yet, make several, with variations. Follow the news and see what you can comment on. Don’t copy others’ work outright, but commenting on it, linking to it, and expanding on it are all fair game. Always, always, always link back! Speaking of links ….

Links

L stands for Links. You’ve got to get your link out there, and have it linked back to by other sites. Now is not the time to keep it to yourself.

This does not mean spamming! Rather, you need to launch a bit of a campaign. Find like-minded individuals and ask for them to link to you. Offer to link to them in return. Now, it’s better if you’re linked to by pages with good, large followings. How do you find these sites? One way is to do a search on the backlinks for your closest competition. Who’s linking to them? And target those sites.

And be patient! Rising in search results takes some time, although you can promote yourself by buying search, if you like, by using Google AdWords. But if you don’t have a budget to buy listings, don’t worry.You can still have good external visibility. What matters is not being number one. What does matter is getting onto somewhere on the top three pages of search results and then working from there. Of course, the higher the better. But the difference between page 100 and page 1000 of search results is a moot one.

Usability

U stands for Usability. If people cannot find what they are looking for, if your site is slow and unresponsive, or you’re just missing too many vital things, people may come, but they will not stay.

Case in point. I spent some time a few years ago investigating linking certain nursing job sites to various places where backlinks would be welcome. I did research, and of course nursing schools are a prime potential source of backlinks.

However, for some colleges, finding the link to either their nursing school or their placement office was akin to searching a hay field for sewing implements. I had, more than once, to resort to searching on Google rather than inside a particular school’s own pages, in order to find what I wanted. Sometimes, the pages were poorly named or written (e. g. placement office pages which didn’t have the word “jobs” anywhere in sight). Others had too many unrelated or poorly related or obscure keywords (e. g. referring to such an office as the painfully generic  “Student Services”).

It would have been far better to make sure that these pages were dense with correct words that people would use when searching, such as jobs, placement, careers, employment or internships.

Search Issues

Other sites had what I wanted but were painfully slow (that was often a server issue). Or the web developer was so in love with flash that the site has pretty scrolling pictures but it was hard to find where I was actually supposed to be clicking.

So look over your site. Or, better yet, have others do so. And find out from them what works, and what doesn’t. It’s not an occasion for them to tear you down or give you unstinting praise. Rather, it’s an occasion for you to learn what works, and what doesn’t.

Formal Checks

And for formal investigations, try using A/B testing methodologies. A/B testing means essentially serving up one version of a site to one person, and another version to another. And then you check their click behaviors. If these are people you know, talk to them. The difference between the “A” and the “B” versions of a page can be as small as a new color for the background or a different location for the logo versus a complete site overhaul. But it’s the smallest changes that are the easiest to process. Make small changes before you commit to larger ones.

This also goes into the idea of keywords. Keyword stuffing is, of course, a black hat strategy, and it’s the last thing you want to do. But white hat strategy isn’t just setting up a site for the benefit of search engines – it’s also setting it up for the benefit of people.

Metrics

M is for Metrics. If you’re going to do A/B testing, or if you care about whether anyone is visiting your site, you need to start looking at all of that. The best and easiest to use such analytical site is Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides all sorts of data, everything from which is the most popular page on your site to how long users are hanging around. Like many other things, take a little time and get to know the program but also allow it to gather some data. You aren’t going to get a terribly good picture of your site in a month. You need to let this percolate for a while.

Promotions

P is for Promotions. Again, I never advocate spamming. However, I do suggest that you put your link out there via your own Twitter stream, your own Facebook account, via Reddit and Stumbleupon, etc. For this hypothetical Quantum Leap site, you might want to find like-minded tweeters using a service like Triberr. You could look up science fiction, or television nostalgia, etc. and join tribes (groups of tweeters) with similar interests who would be likely to retweet your content. Use HootSuite or a Google Alert to run regular keyword searches on Twitter for various related terms. For people who are using those terms, they might have an affinity for what you’re doing. Perhaps you can follow them, and see if they will follow you back. And if they are reading your tweets, they are seeing your links. Look for reasonable hashtags and follow them, and start using them.

Check Your Metrics

But check Google Analytics after a while, and budget your time accordingly. If most of your time and effort are going into Twitter, but you get most of your readers from Facebook, you may need to rethink your Twitter strategy. Or, you could even try dropping it for a while, and only concentrating on Facebook.

Again, this is an exercise in patience. These things do take time, particularly if you have a shoestring budget and are essentially only using free services. For not paying, you will need to, instead, invest time.

Shiny New Stuff

S is for Shiny New Stuff. What I mean is, sites that stay the same, year in, year out, are just not that interesting. Plus, things change. Development proceeds at a far rapider pace than most of us know. Take a look at what’s out there, and see if making some changes will help.

For me, I started off creating a site completely from scratch, using HTML. I wanted to learn the language as well as possible, on my own. However, one area where I certainly needed help was in aesthetics. This went on for a couple of years as I had a site with good content, I was working on promotions and garnering linkbacks, and I was keeping it usable and was checking metrics.

I eventually moved the site to WordPress, and used their templates (the content, of course, is wholly my own). The site looks better and functions better. It also gives it a newer look. Plus WordPress fixes a lot of issues with key words. So long as your post is on point and mentions the keywords you want to tout, those key words will be in the page, and will be searchable by Google’s spiders.

Upshot

CLUMPS is still a lousy acronym. But I hope you’ll find it continues to hold true. The way to get your site out there, noticed and loved, is to make it as good a site as possible. Consider the sites you love. What they look like, how they work, what content they deliver and how they keep things fresh and interesting. Follow the metrics for your own site but take a leaf from those other sites’ pages. Not to out and out copy, of course, but rather to be inspired. And you can make your own quantum leap to better SEO.

CLUMPS of SEO
Quantum Leap

The Future of Lonely Writer and Adventures in Career Changing

The Future of Lonely Writer and Adventures in Career Changing

The Future

The future? Well, more specifically, I mean the future of the Lonely Writer website.

Adventures in Career Changing | Lonely Writer | Speculating about the Future
Speculating about the Future

Wait, what?

So as some readers may recall, I started that website as my capstone project at Quinnipiac University. I needed the project in order to graduate with a Master’s in Science in Communications (social media). Well, graduation happened in August of 2016. However, I had paid for the domain until the end of March of 2017. It seemed silly to try to cancel early.

But now it’s March of 2017.

Changes

Hence I want to change things up. My life has gotten considerably more busy since I graduated. I currently hold down four part-time work from home jobs, all centered around various tasks having to do with blogging. I also podcast every month and I blog for that podcast and for its parent podcast. Furthermore, I still blog about social media and even about fan fiction.

In addition, I still write and still work. I always try to get more of my work published. As a result, I just plain don’t have the time for yet another domain. Most noteworthy, I’d also like to save a few bucks. This project does … okay. Yet Adventures in Career Changing does better.

Therefore, I realized: I should combine the two.

What Will Happen?

The Lonely Writer YouTube channel and Facebook groups will both live on. And the Twitter stream won’t be going away, either. They do not require as much work as a separate blog. Plus, they are also free of charge. I am only talking about the other domain and those particular blog posts.

So, where are they going? Why, they are coming here! As a result, the blog URLs will change, and the blog posts themselves will be removed for later re-posting. I will change them up, too, so they will be more up to date. That’s all. So don’t worry, okay? That advice and that work will not go away. It’ll all just move here, down the street. I am excited about the move. I think it will help to freshen up Adventures without losing the focus, which is altering my career and also embracing social media. And the writing-related posts, of course, will give that more of a writing bent. That’s all.

Thank you so much for reading.

Michael Fleischner’s SEO Made Simple, a Book Review

Michael Fleischner’s SEO Made Simple

Michael Fleischner‘s SEO Made Simple is a terrific book about search engine optimization.

SEO Made Simple

First of all, written in a straightforward and engaging style, Mr. Fleischner makes his point: in order to dominate search engine listings, you need to make yourself known. Furthermore, you need to get your keywords into your website (but not stuffed there!) in a logical and natural manner.

Yahoo and MSN

Mr. Fleischner’s sole focus is Google but he does talk a bit about Yahoo and MSN. Furthermore, the reason to zero in on Google is made immediately apparent by the fifteenth page: Google is dominant. Here’s how the percentages of search stack up (he got his numbers from comScore for SearchEngineWatch.com)

  • Google: 43.7%
  • Yahoo: 28.8%
  • MSN: 12.8%
  • AOL: 5.9%
  • Ask: 5.4%
  • Others: 3.4%

Hence Google matters – but so do Yahoo and MSN, particularly when you consider that, combined, their share is nearly identical to Google’s. Yet don’t worry: many of the techniques Mr. Fleischner advocates will help with your placement on those search engines, too.

White Hat

White hat techniques abound, everything from adding unique keywords on each page to making sure that your page’s overall design doesn’t keep the spiders and crawlers from doing their thing. And that’s just on-site optimization. In addition, he also covers off-site optimization, e. g. writing and distributing articles, or generating press releases.

Furthermore, interestingly enough, there is little to no information on working the social media angle, e. g. Tweeting the existence of new blog posts or announcing page updates, adding similar information to one’s LinkedIn or Facebook statuses, or creating a fan page for your work (or, better yet, getting someone else to do that). However, that is, in part, a function of this being a book and not an e-book – there’s a time lag between going to press and the actual production of a paper book. Hence information is sometimes not as fresh as desired.

Instincts

However, there’s still plenty in here, for the serious web entrepreneur and the hobbyist. In addition, for someone like me, one great piece of it was some validation that I’ve got pretty good instincts when it comes to my own social media website. Oh, and if you’re paying attention – you’ll see that I just practiced two of his techniques in this very paragraph.

Dominate Google and get noticed. It’s that simple.

Rating

4/5

Andy Harris’s HTML, XHTML, and CSS All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies, a Book Review

Andy Harris’s HTML, XHTML, and CSS All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies

XHTML? I don’t mind reviewing a book with the word “Dummies” in the title. It helped me – I’ll even admit that.

Andy Harris’s HTML, XHTML, and CSS All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies is an interesting first book on website creation and design. As a bonus, it includes a CD with examples and code.

XHTML

Code

The book wastes no time and, by the tenth page, you’re already writing a little code. Mr. Harris’s style is to learn by doing. You read, you type, you copy what he’s written, you try it out. I found myself almost immediately altering his work to see what would happen. When the code didn’t break, or if it could be fairly readily fixed, it was a victory.

All concepts are explained, even those which may at the time seem like overkill, such as the practical differences among the .jpg, .gif and .bmp image formats. One of the earlier concepts explained is why CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are the way to go. By the time you get to Chapter Two of the first book (the book is divided into eight mini-books), Mr. Harris is already talking about online validation. And that’s a good thing, as that by itself can help a novice web developer to fix recalcitrant code.

No Design and No SEO

There is very little about design and virtually nothing on SEO. Whether that is a pitch to bundle Sue Jenkins’s Web Design All-in-One for Dummies book with this one, I don’t know. The ploy works, though, and Amazon reports that the two books are often purchased together. I was able to jump in and create my own social media website while I was in the process of reading this book. I also must add — Mr. Harris is jazzed about what he does. And that help you to become excited about what you can do with HTML code, CSS and XML, and even JavaScript and PHP/MySQL.

Basics

Between the two of them, read this one first and learn the basics for creating your website. Then read the design book in order to give it some beauty. But lay the foundation first.

Rating

3/5

What Do You Look Like Online?

What Do You Look Like Online?

This post is a riff on Do You Know What You Look Like Online. Essentially, the question is, if you were searching for someone

Look Like Online
English: Graph of social media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(someone just like you, perhaps), what sorts of judgments would you make? What seems off? What’s being suppressed, which should be promoted, and vice versa? Is the picture clear or fuzzy?

The gist of that article is, take control of your information, keep it as a uniform brand and check it every month or so. The corollary to this is one from Shama Hyder Khabani, which is, essentially, don’t spread yourself too thin. Concentrate in only a few places.

My Own Information

Absolutely agreed. When I google my own last name, 502,000 hits come up. And, fortunately, my own website is at the top (Yay, SEO!). My two Facebook profiles (I have one for work) come up as fourth and fifth. Then comes my LinkedIn profile, and then Twitter. Then there’s my Examiner profile and then the last entry on the first page of results is a link to my profile at Go Articles.

Putting my last name into quotation marks yields only 2,800 hits. Most of the same usual suspects come up on Page One of the results although one place called Jobs In Social Media comes up. Classmates is at the bottom of the page. But nothing is too weird or scandalous.

How Accurate is the Information?

To my mind, checking and rechecking every single month might just be a bit excessive. Is there a need to keep your profile accurate? Sure. Flattering, or at least not damaging? Yes, particularly if you are looking for work. But to keep it sterile and perfect, as you scramble to make it perfect every moment of every day? Eh, probably not so much.

I would like to think (am I naive? Perhaps I am) that potential clients and employers will see the occasional typo and will, for the most part, let it slide unless the person is in copyediting. I am not saying that resumes, for example, should not be as get-out perfect as possible. What I am saying, though, is that this kind of obsessive and constant vigilance seems a bit, I dunno, much.

Will the world end if I accidentally type there instead of their on this blog? And, does it matter oh so much if I don’t catch the accident immediately?

I mean, with all of this brushing behind ourselves to cover up and/or perfect our tracks, and all of the things we are leaving behind, where’s the time and energy to make fresh, new content and look in front of ourselves?

Clean Up Your Presence

To me, there is little joy in reading a blog post or website that looks like it was put together by someone who’s barely literate. But there is also little joy in reading sterile, obsessively perfect websites and blog posts. A little imperfection, I feel, is a bit of letting the ole personality creep in there. Genuineness – isn’t that what the whole Social Media experience is supposed to be about, anyway?

I refuse to believe — I hope and I pray — that a bit of individuality isn’t costing me potential jobs or the company potential clients. And if it is, then that saddens me, to feel that, perhaps, there is a lot of lip service being paid to the genuineness of Social Media but, when the chips are down, it’s just the same ole, same ole.

Genuineness is great. One you can fake that, you’ve got it made? Gawd, please, say it ain’t so.

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition, a Book Review

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger is one of those books where you are being given a message.

That message

The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition, a Book Review
Cover via Amazon

A pounding, relentless message.

Here’s a message.

Oh yeah, a message.

Look, a message!

You get the idea.

And what is this grand and glorious message? It is this: Markets are Conversations.

Um, okay. That’s it?

Yeah, that’s it. Oh and by the way, markets are conversations.

You just told me that.

More of it

Yeah, well, they are. Did I mention that markets are conversations? Oh and by the way, marketers and PR people are mean and nasty and awful. And they and other typical business people are a vaguely (and not so vaguely) sinister stereotype. Whereas all of the people (somehow, there are no details of who these typical business people and PR personnel are) are righteous, pure, just and true. They are individuals and deserve to receive our communication, and our undivided listening attention, like all individuals.

Uniqueness?

Like, uh, I’m unique, just like everyone else?

No, no, no! You’re a unique and wonderful and special personal with marvelous gifts and enormous accuracy in understanding good and positive and possible markets. And you do it all while making fun of typical business people who obviously not only do not have a clue but are also, let’s face it, heartless, cold, inaccurate, not listening, not worthy of the time of day or a significant study. And otherwise they should be ignored and forgotten, left to die on the vine.

But me, I’m a marketing type. The kind you said was evil.

So you are. Well, you’re evil, then.

Cut it out already!

You don’t even realize that I get it, this thing you are talking about, this point you keep dancing around as you keep beating the same old tired drum. Markets are conversations! Okay, great. I get that. And I have read it before although, in fairness, it was likely copying you. But after that – and after repeating this mantra at least a good 16 or so times in your book – what else have you got to say, other than that the creature known as Business as Usual needs to die? Fine, I get that, too. I’ve worked in traditional corporations, and I know that the work there can feel soul-killing. But at the same time, there are people who thrive in such environments, people who seem pleasant, intelligent, respected and even, at times, hip.

Out of touch?

But, but, but, those people are supposed to be like Richard Nixon in wingtips on the beach, so cluelessly out of tune with everything that they cannot possibly be reeled in.

Reeled in, to the Cluetrain way of thinking?

And at some point, and of course I am exaggerating, but the bottom line is, the book decries business as usual and stereotypical thinking, yet it turns right around and stereotypes the very people who it claims need to change the most. That is, of course, a lovely and time-honored way to get people to listen to you and change their methodologies to your way of thinking: make fun of them and make them feel small.

Not.

Where is it going?

So somewhere along the line, Cluetrain feels like it lost its way, like it cannot figure out how to be brief. Like it cannot comprehend that talking down to people – while it criticizes business as usual for talking down to people – is more than a little ironic, and that they are not on the happy end of that irony. Like it has almost become the very thing it says not to be: a business method and rule and playbook.

The positives

There are interesting observations in here, to be sure. But overlong tales of this, that and the other diverting digression bog those observations down. The Internet is full of people who are spouting and selling hokum! Yes, well The Refreshments said that before, and better: the world is full of stupid people. This is not, sadly, news. Oh and big business is not nimble and providing individual attention is lovely and wonderful, but hard to do if you’re very large and/or if the number of individuals you’re addressing is huge. This isn’t front-page material, either.

One nugget

There is one nugget of interest: when you’re dealing with said enormous number of individuals, you generally don’t need to address them all as individuals – you just need to work with a few and the others will see that you care about individuals. And you’re pretty much set there. This makes sense in a Groundswell (a far better book, in my opinion) sort of a way, in that there are more people online who are reading and lurking versus writing or critiquing, so a message to one can be like a message to a thousand.

All of that panning for gold, and only one nugget? Perhaps I am cynical, and I’ve clearly read far too many Internet marketing books lately for my own good. But The Cluetrain Manifesto just left me cold. Although it did, happily, remind me of this video:

Rating

Review: 2/5 stars.

Community Management Tidbits – From Small Things

Community Management Tidbits – From Small Things

Small Things – Every forum starts out small. Getting started is one thing. How do you get big?

Social Media Influence - Small Things
Social Media Influence (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

The secrets to getting big go hand in hand with those for getting started: Search Engine Optimization and content.

SEO

Let’s start with SEO. If you haven’t checked your keywords in three months, check them now. Compare to your competitors, and check Google Adwords. Consider changing up your keywords for a while and see if you can draw more traffic.

The basic principles of offsite SEO apply: get your site listed on other sites which are more popular. Also, consider article marketing (if appropriate) and blogging. Perhaps some of your best content can be repurposed as articles or blog entries. Ask the creator(s) of that content for their permission (even if your Terms of Service say that you own all posts, this is courteous) and update and repackage the content. Articles are a great way to generate interest in your site so long as you add your URL into the “About the Author” section. And make it clear that you allow reprint rights only so long as the article remains completely intact, including the aforementioned “About the Author” section.

Blogging

One good blog deserves another. If you want to see if your better content can be presented on others’ blogs, why not create your own site blog? So at the absolute minimum, you can use it to inform your users of site changes and planned outages. But you can use it for a whole lot more. Because you can showcase and expand better content, announce contests and promotions, and keep important site information front and center. Plus, if you add a blog, you can again make the rounds of basic social media bookmarking sites like Reddit and Stumbleupon. Add another one to your bag of tricks: Technorati, which is a site that, among other things, lists blogs.

Add an RSS feed if you have not already. You can feed it into Twitter and Facebook using a promotional site like HootSuite.

Facebook

Create a Facebook fan page and, at minimum, populate it with the RSS feed. And also use it to assure users if your site goes down, particularly for unexpected outages. Such an outage can make some users nervous. Facebook (and Twitter, too) can be a means by which you reassure them.

Site Redesign

Another area where you might be able to better grow your user base is with some site redesign. Be careful with this as a community can often take (frequently somewhat unfounded) proprietary interest in the site’s look and feel. One way you can ease users into a change is by telling them (don’t ask for permission) that you’re going to be testing some site changes. Consider using A/B testing and compare a few different versions and see which one works better.

Simplified Registration

Consider simplifying your registration process, if you can, and embrace user-centered design. You still want to use a captcha code and you still want to have your members sign up with a real, usable email address.

But look at your process and see if there are any unnecessary hurdles. Are you asking for something like a potential user’s middle name or home city? Isn’t that kind of useless (and many users would feel that the home city information would be excessively intrusive)? Jettison the question and your registrations might increase. Since you’re tinkering with the signup process and not the overall look and feel of the site, your regular membership might not take so much of a proprietary interest. They might not even notice.

Analysis

Check your metrics. Small things on a daily basis are not going to matter too much. But if you’ve got a continuing decline over time, or if membership is staying the same and not really increasing much, you may need to take action. To grow your site, you need to continue to promote fundamental principles: improve your site design and test it; take care to add and promote good, keyword-rich content; and continue good onsite and offsite SEO practices. And be patient as small things become bigger ones. Most communities weren’t built in a day.

Next: Going from a collection of users to a true community

SEO, continued

SEO continued (Search Engine Optimization) Strategy)

Yesterday I put together more of an SEO strategy.

SEO continued (Search Engine Optimization) Strategy)

This is tabs and tabs of an Excel spreadsheet as I think about what I really want to do with all of this.

It’s becoming more obvious is that I’ve got major ambitions and there aren’t enough hours in a day in which I can accomplish them. To really make a good site, a beautifully designed one with awesome SEO and kick-bun content, means engaging something like 50 people to do it.

Egad. I’m organized and I’m energetic and I’ve got time these days, but I’m not 50 people.

This is a source of a bit of stress, to be sure, but it’s also a challenge. How can I leverage what I’ve already got? How can I use my organizational skills to make things easier on myself? How can I set up some things which will run on their own, thereby saving me time? What’s the timing of, well, of all of it?

I’m very excited about this whole venture. I actually got a little Google traffic yesterday! Yay!

I’ve only been on Google for maybe 3 days. Holy cow. This stuff really works.

I have a billion things to do. Oh and I’m running in a 5K in a week. If I could do web development while running, I would.

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