Are You Showing Your True Value?

It’s no secret that times are tough in today’s corporate environments. It’s more important than ever to demonstrate your worth to your employer to help keep you off the block if any cuts are made. One way to do this very well is by doing something we all should have learned in kindergarten: Play well with others.

Young Children in a Group
It’s no secret that times are tough in today’s corporate environments. It’s more important than ever to demonstrate your worth to your employer to help keep you off the block if any cuts are made. One way to do this very well is by doing something we all should have learned in kindergarten: Play well with others.

A Non-Siege Mentality
When it comes to working on your corporate web sites, there is a lot of potential for empire building. Because IT people handle the technical end of things, put the site together and do the actual coding, they feel the web site is their baby. They sometimes resent someone telling them there might be a better way of doing things. The Marketing folks handle the “story” end of things, the design and the look. They often don’t like being told “no” and don’t understand why the IT people don’t just do what they’re told. Often times, both sides build a wall around their part and keep the other side out.
The truth is, though, that the web sites belong to the company. They are neither totally IT nor totally Marketing. In order to have the best web sites possible, it takes both groups coming together, combining their individual strengths to create the perfect storm of web site creation. Here are a few tips:
IT Folks: Explain why you can’t do something or why it’s not a good idea to do something. Often a simple reason can help the other side understand what’s going on. Whenever possible, work up a compromise instead of a flat-out refusal. Unless what you’re being asked for presents a real security problem or a technical nightmare there is, more often than not, a way to accomplish what the Marketing people want.

A group of men pushing a railway freight car

Marketing Folks: Help the IT people know and understand the story you are trying to tell. Be understanding when technical issues prevent doing exactly what you want and be willing to compromise. If you come from a print background, remember that web design doesn’t work the same; sometimes you’ll need to adjust a font or part of a layout because of the limitations of web browsers.
Check out my previous posts, “Geek-Speak for Marketers, Marketing Speak for IT” and “Who Owns The Web Site?” for other tips to get you started on a new era of cooperation. The biggest step to overcome is always the first – just get started!
When the time comes, don’t be afraid to talk up the other group when it comes to sharing love at the end of a project. People appreciate it very much when you speak well of others instead of blowing your own horn. Promoting others always has a way of coming back to you in ways you never expect. Karma can be a wonderful thing.

How Are Your Digital Assets? – Stuff I Learned At PubCon South

At PubCom South in Austin, Brian Combs of Apogee Search, Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profit, Mike Grehan of Acronym Media and Jackie Bodine of Google made up an excellent panel entitled “Universal & Personal Search: This Changes Everything.” I picked up quite a few ideas and action points from their presentations. Allow me to share some ideas with you.

At PubCom South in Austin, Brian Combs of Apogee Search, Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profit, Mike Grehan of Acronym Media and Jackie Bodine of Google made up an excellent panel entitled “Universal & Personal Search: This Changes Everything.” I picked up quite a few ideas and action points from their presentations. Allow me to share some ideas with you.

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS) have changed. No longer are there a few sponsored links on top, some to the side, then a list of “generic” or “natural” searches in a list taking up the main part of the page. Now there are links to images and videos with thumbnails to attract the eye along with “Shopping Results” and the “10-Pack” or “8-Pack” filling up the SERPS. If the searcher specifies a location in their search a number of links with a map image will also appear in the SERPS. All of those newer items sometimes crowd out the natural search results, which could bump your site down to the bottom of the first page or even to the second.
Because the human eye tends to focus on images first, SERPS with images will totally bust the traditional “Golden Triangle” or “Z” pattern of viewing as discovered in eye-tracking studies of the past. I’m going to use the example of searching for “Elvis” on Google, Live Search and Yahoo! to show how the images and video thumbnails look on SERPS which feature them. Click on the images below to see the actual web pages. Is your eye attracked to the images first? Mine were.
Google SERP on search for the word ELVIS

Live Search SERP on search for the word ELVIS

Yahoo! Search SERP on search for the word ELVIS
Here are some examples of SERPS where a location is included in the query. You can see how the map and “local” results change the SERPS:
Google search SERP on search for shoe repair in Austin, TX

Live search SERP on search for shoe repair in Austin, TX

Yahoo! search SERP on search for shoe repair in Austin, TX
Traditional web page only search optimization isn’t going to cut it any more. If you have digital assets (in this case referring to images, videos and PDF files) they need to be optimized just like everything else on your web site. Here are some tips:
  • Inventory your digital assets so you know what you’re working with.
  • Name digital files with a user-friendly, descriptive file name. “Chef Presentation of Banana Guacamole.jpg” is better than “img0900030233489a.jpg”.
  • Optimize PDFs using the pieces in the “Description” tab in the properties box. I created a guide posted on our Intranet to help those in my company who create PDFs.
  • Create a video site map file for Google (http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=80472&ctx=sibling).
Something to seriously consider is uploading your images to sites like Flickr and your videos to sites like YouTube. Even if you get your digital media files are indexed in Google, Yahoo! or Live image and video searches, you greatly increase your chances of people sharing and linking those files if they are on a site which specializes in such. Make sure to tag and describe the files thoroughly as well as make any copyright and trademark notices visible.
Videos need to have a call to action. It’s good to set the profile the videos are uploaded to with a “Visit my website at www.mywebsite.com” message, but it’s equally important to put that call to action somewhere in the video. This is because people can embed the videos into their own blogs or web pages, and they may not link to your site from their page. I think it’s be a good idea to put the call to action at the beginning and the end of the video and at the bottom of each image.
The bottom line we must keep in mind is “Content is King.” Content must be well-done, compelling and relevant to what your customers are searching for. All of the optimization is all for naught if you don’t have good content.

Austin Tweetup with @Barb_G

This morning I was privileged to meet some great folks at a tweetup in Austin. Barbara Gibson, Chair of The International Association of Business Communicators was in town for a speaking engagement. Bryan Person set the place, which was El Sol Y La Luna on 6th Street in Austin – an excellent choice.

In addition to Barbara and Bryan, Glenda Holmes (past Chair of IABC), Aaron Strout and Heather Strout were in attendance. We had a great discussion about social media as it relates to PR and marketing. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say they had a great discussion and I listened intently. They are some very sharp people and I highly recommend following them on Twitter:

Team Blogging – Stuff I Learned At PubCon South

Last week I attended PubCom South in Austin, Texas along with one of my marketing colleagues. It was a great, well-organized event put on by the folks at WebmasterWorld. I picked up quite a few good tips which I will share in a short series of posts.

Content is King
In the realm of SEM, one theme I’ve caught once and again at various events is that a well-optimized web site will have good, fresh, compelling and relevant content. One can optimize all day, but if the content is no good, the site still won’t score well in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Fresh Content is Important
In my notes next to various ideas I picked up at PubCom I wrote “Blog” five times. At each occurance the word is circled and once I wrote three exclamation points behind it. Here’s why:
An important point many PubCom presenters mentioned about web site content is that it needs to be fresh. Gone are the days when someone can create a great web site, post it and forget about it for a year or two (if those days ever really existed).
Not only does content need to be good when the site is first posted, but the content needs to be refreshed on a regular basis. This is especially true if you want visitors to come back to your site after their initial visit. Think about it: how many times will you visit a web site which isn’t often updated?
Blogging is a very good way to get new content on your site on a regular basis. Before you start a blog, here are some things to consider:
  • Commitment. If you start a blog, you need to commit to posting. Opinions vary, but I think once per week should be the maximum interval between posts. If you’re not going to be able to post at least once a week then you shouldn’t start.
  • Your posts need to be relevent. If the purpose of your web site is to sell banana guacamole, then don’t post articles about how to select a cell phone or what kind of shoes are in style this season.
  • SEO. Your blog posts should be optimized just like the rest of your site. If you have good, relevent content a lot of that work is done as you go.
I know what you may be thinking at this point: “I just don’t have time to blog. The time commitment alone is enough to put me off the idea.”

Catalan Climbers demonstrating teamwork

Team Blogging
If you’re in a small shop and you feel this way, perhaps blogging won’t work for you. At least not for now. But, if you’re in a corporate shop and there are a number of people in your marketing, sales and IT departments, please allow me to introduce the concept of “Team Blogging.”
Team blogging is simply this: get a group of people who can write some posts and make a schedule of who blogs when. If you go on a weekly update schedule and can gather a team of 6 people to blog you’ll only have to post something once every six weeks. Is that do-able? For many it will be.
When gathering your team, don’t forget to include those who perhaps can’t write themselves, but would make a good interview subject. For instance, your CEO might not have time to write something on a regular basis, but is available for an interview every so often. Also, don’t exclude those who can come up with good content but whose writing skills may need some polishing. Editing can be faster than writing something from scratch. In reality, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Because people today want to hear from the real people who work for the companies they do business with, I don’t recommend hiring a ghost writer to do blog postings. Although a tempting short cut, using ghost writers can backfire, especially when you take into consideration my last suggestion. Guest writers who are acknowledged as such don’t fall into this category.
My last suggestion about blogs: Allow your visitors to comment freely. Your web site’s visitors can also add relevant content to your blogs by commenting and asking questions. Of course, you (and the rest of your content-generating team) will need to respond. That will take some more time investment, but it’s well worth the effort. (I know you might be thinking about it now, and I’ll post suggestions on how to handle detractors and angry commenters in the near future).
Photo credit: Jurvetson

Geek-Speak for Marketers, Marketing Speak for IT

IT and Marketing departments together have a stake in successful web site creation. It helps to understand each other’s language to help things get done smoothly.

I posted this item on my other blog on August 21, 2008. I think it’s appropriate to repost it in this space:

An interesting session at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose this week was recapped on Search Engine Roundtable: How to Speak Geek: Working Collaboratively With Your IT Department to Get Stuff Done.

When I started as Webmaster for my company, my boss and I set down our “prime directive” that we don’t “own” our web sites. Some may view this as an attempt to dodge responsibility for the content and look of our sites, but we look at it as empowering those who can best determine how the sites are used and what is communicated through them.

For example: Our corporate Intranet is used to communicate information to employees. The content, therefore, is logically best determined by the departments needing to communicate with employees. Our public web sites are used to communicate with customers. It seems best to let the Marketing Departments create their messages and how to present them. In this way, us IT folks can focus on what we do best: keeping the lines of communication open and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Because we work closely with our our departments, all participants are able to lend their strengths to the process of getting a site completed and launched. None of us in IT are very artistic, so we leave the creative part to those who are better at it (or we outsource it). The marketing folks don’t always stay on top of search optimization or new technologies, so they leave that to us to provide advice and assistance. In the end, we get an excellent result which is much better than if only one group or the other had done the work.

I remember a couple years back in another session at SES San Jose where Danny Sullivan did one of his “on the spot” surveys and asked how many marketing folks had to fight with their IT to get optimization and search marketing incorporated into their web sites. I was quite amazed to see most hands go up. I would hope things have changed since then. I firmly believe the best work comes when marketing and IT come together as a team and work the process.

To all you IT folks, geeks, nerds, and what-have-you: It’s not bad idea for you to learn some “Marketing Speak.” The more you learn about the other’s job, the better you can assist in putting together an excellent web site.