03 Sep

Symptomeering, Keyword Selection Process

There are many people that claim to offer SEO services.  Some consultants are better than others.  I actually had a client ask for my help after they had used another SEO consultant.  That consultant built my client a new website that is doing 1/3 the traffic and half as many leads as they were getting from their old, ugly site, that was optimized for the right keywords.

In talking to my client I explained what makes me different is my ability to think like a prospect.  I am not encumbered by the curse of knowledge that my clients seem to have when it comes to their business.  Many of my clients have forgotten what it’s like to not know that their product or service exists.  To deal with this I have use a process called Symptomeering.

Symptomeering (sym-to-meer-ing) is the process of identifying symptom based keywords that your target audience uses to explain the pain they are experiencing.  These symptom based keywords are then aligned with your offering in order to drive actionable traffic to your website.

The process looks like this:

Symptomeering Flow Diagram

Symptomeering Flow Diagram

11 Apr

Social Media Success Stories

Even at this juncture I’m still asked by business managers if social media is helpful.  My answer is always an emphatic yes with one caveat, you get out of it what you put in.  One of the challenges I face is that as a consultant I only have so much control over the process when I’m helping clients.   It’s different when I’m helping myself, I have complete control.   When I have the control I need I can generate success.   Here are two stories from my own experience that highlight how social media can help your business.

Like many people I use a variety of social tools including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  This success story started on Twitter, moved to Facebook and ended on LinkedIn.  It would seem that you need to use more than one tool for maximum effect.   The end result for me was a small contract to help someone merge two domains without losing ranking.  At first I noticed that someone was retweeting some of my posts.   I sent a thank you tweet here and there.  It continued like that for a while then one day I posted a slightly more personal comment about a rock band that I liked.   This generated a response from my follower.  We’d been interacting for a while and we clearly shared the same taste in music so I added this follower to my Facebook account.   Our post, counter-post continued there until I noticed a plea for help.   I offered my assistance and we started working together.   The process of landing the gig was very short as we’d already built up trust and a rapport over social media.   Subsequent to the conclusion of the work the client posted a recommendation on Linked In further reinforcing the value of social media.

The second success story does not have a sales component but it does demonstrate the ability to use social media to establish credibility and domain expertise.   A couple of years ago Garmin decided to launch a service that competed head to head with a small company located in Seattle called Groundspeak.   I already had a blog about geocaching and would post to it from time to time.  One of my readers tipped me off to the impending launch of Garmin’s new site before it was launched.   My site was one of the few that had early knowledge of the launch.   I used Linked In to find a contact at Garmin so that I could verify that they were going to launch the site.  It was confirmed and I started writing more about it and my audience grew.  It was a very hot topic in the geocaching community.   I was posting some of the better information which prompted a call from the PR person at Garmin.  Credibility generates more credibility and I was soon talking with one of the co-founders of Groundspeak.   I wasn’t really looking to sell anything to these companies so there wasn’t a real sales opportunity for me.   I was able to leverage the relationships for some help in a related business endeavour.

These are two short success stories that highlight the tangible benefits of social media.   You will get out of social media what you put in to it.  Remember to be social, interact and share.   That’s what it takes to get the most from social media.

06 Apr

Banner Ad Rotator

banner rotator config screenSometimes when building a website the purpose of the site is to create advertising space that you can sell.  For this you need a banner ad rotator solution for your site.   Like most things for WordPress their is a plugin for that from the great folks at Tribulant.   The folks at Tribulant take a very SEO friendly approach to their product names.  This plug in is called WordPress Banner Rotator Plugin.

I have used other products for this purpose in the past.   I really like Tribulant’s version for the easy to use configuration interface.    As WordPress plugin the Banner Rotator takes advantage of short codes for both the ad itself as well as the ad size.   This allows you to place a skyscraper short code on your page and then have all skyscraper ads show up there.   You might use this on category pages as an example.   This is definitely a hand feature.

Something about this plugin you might like is the ability to use text or html in the ad.  With this feature you can create a portion of your page that will change on every load.   This is a great way to change content on your site.

If you are thinking of placing banners on your site then I’d highly recommend this plugin from Tribulant.

29 Mar

People Buy From People

I’m reading a post by Lisa Barone about the Social Media presentation at SES New York.  One of the speakers, Gini Dietrich, points out that people want to see inside  a company, they want to get to know the people that work there.   I’ve believe this for a long time, even before we had the term social media.   I have frequently expressed this idea as “people buy from people”.

I’ll admit this might be a personal bias.  I spent 15 years on the road selling various products and services before I struck out on my own.  Buying from a website is very impersonal.   Online purchases work well for commodity type purchases that are usually driven by price.   As a former sales manager once said to me “sell on price, lose on price”.

The idea that people buy from people is important to keep in mind when you are developing your eCommerce strategy. Will your site sell based on price?  Will people be available to assist?  Have you posted pictures of people that work at the company?  Humans are a social animal.  We want to see “who” we are dealing with.

If the idea that people buy from people sounds like common sense you’d be right.  Unfortunately business owners do not always apply offline common sense to their online initiatives.

17 Feb

IBM’s Watson and Search

The news is out, Watson beat two of the most prolific champions on Jeopardy.  What really impressed me about this technology is how well it understood the subtleties of human language.   Computers are very good at process strict rules.  Riddles, rhymes and Jeopardy do not always follow simple rules.  I think there is a real parallel between answering Jeopardy questions and returning search results.  As good as they are today search results returned by Google and Bing have a lot of room for improvement.

One of the most important things I do is help my clients figure out the words a searcher is likely to enter when looking for what my client offers.  I often use the example of what we do with sensitive paper documents, most of us call that “paper shredding” but the people in the industry call it “document destruction”.    These phrases refer to the same thing but they results returned by Google are different.

Paper Shredding Document Destruction
www.shredit.com www.documentdestruction.com
www.shrednations.com www.shredit.com
en.wikipedia.org www.cintas.com

The answers in my example are close but not exactly the same.  The difference gets larger for harder to describe problems.  Understanding what we mean versus what we say is a very complicated task.   Search engines have come a long way in helping us find the information we want but they aren’t good enough, yet.

I don’t disagree with what Danny Sullivan says in his blog – Could Google Play Jeopardy Like IBM’s Watson but I think he underestimates how Watson could impact search.  While they might be slightly biased the IBMers over at Writing for Digital wrote the 3 Ways Watson Manifests the Future of Search blog post.  Their post highlights how they think the Watson technology will help search.   I tend to agree with where they think it will go.

Watson isn’t about to replace Google anytime soon.  I do think the folks at Google and Bing will use this major PR win for IBM as incentive to make their search engines produce better results.