Jun 28 2010

Are SEO services worth your money?

* I am not sure that there are definitive answers. Would you be thinking of a specific area of SEO?

Much of what I consider to be SEO involves the underlying code of a website. As a freelance website designer, I have made a point of following best practice not only for SEO but also for accessibility. I’ve become wary of people who ask me ‘just to take a quick look’ at their websites because I can pick up on all sorts of things that need amending, yet I’m often left with the question, What are these people trying to sell, and why? And why should I buy from them?

When looking for a product myself, I rarely click on advertising and if I do, I don’t necessarily buy from the company that advertised. Invariably I buy either from a company listed on the first page of organic results or a company with which I’m already signed up. I read reviews of products. If I’ve had good service, I return to buy again. I don’t necessarily search the web once more for a new supplier.

I am influenced by the copy on a website and in asking your question, perhaps you may be thinking more particularly of the work involved in keyword analysis and incorporating this into the written copy.

Has ‘impartial’ research been done on how successful this is at attracting potential customers? Are there industry indicators on RoI? eConsultancy is one such company. You’ll need to pay for the market reports.

You’re more likely to show up higher on Google if you rejuvenate your website with new items and copy. Websites can’t remain static and expect to retain high positions in search results.

Whether SEO is worth the money could be a variant on ‘How long is a piece of string?’ To do a thorough job on a variety of SEO tasks requires somebody’s time. That somebody should be someone who knows what they’re doing and understands the way the net is moving. The SEO professional should also understand the need to liaise with the website designer. Is the business owner willing to pay the price for that knowledge, the liaison and the time required?

You can do SEO yourself, which is why eBusiness Club puts on seminars for business people. But how much time and effort are you prepared to devote to the task? Would you be better off outsourcing the work? Do you use analytics programs to measure response rates to structural and content changes in your website? How well do you understand the analytics? The seminars are probably better suited to familiarising business people with what they should expect from a SEO practitioner.

As a business owner, are you quite clear about your Call to Action and your USP? Are you prepared to continually oversee your web presence?

The goalposts are moving constantly on the web. Analysis shows that Facebook now accounts for more website traffic than Google and that social networks and forums have overtaken search engine traffic in UK this year. The implication is that many b2c companies need to have a Facebook presence in order to make contact with clients. And companies need to be alert to what is being said about them on on social networks. Customers may not be finding you via Google because they ask other people on Facebook about the best product, the best holiday, the best airline, the best car hire company, instead.

Watch out for SEO companies offering social media management.

* Sarah Whitticase posed this question on the LinkedIn Group, Business Scene – East Midlands – How visible are you?. This post is the text of my reply.

Jun 24 2010

Clubs Must Use Social Media

Professionally, I am very interested in how people and groups communicate. I’m mystified that there is so much sensible advice in the public arena about how to communicate information, that gets ignored.

As VPPR of my Toastmasters’ group, East Midlands Speakers Club, I need to know whether members think that they are getting too much or too little information and how they prefer to receive it.

I used the final project in my Advanced Manual on Technical Presentations, Enhancing a Technical Talk with the Internet, to carry out a small survey with the help of club members, of what are their communications’ preferences.

Since I am aware of the phenomenal increase in use of social networking, I also wanted to convey to my audience the urgency of the need to embrace social media. Many other toastmasters’ clubs use a variety of methods on the web to self-publicise and to promote toastmasters, blogs, twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. Ours does not, yet. Although we do have a Facebook group.

It isn’t enough now, just to have a website. Have you noticed the Facebook Like buttons and the Tweetmeme on these pages?

I had a high response rate from my colleagues, for which I am extremely grateful. Thank you, all of you.

I’m also grateful for the free use of Surveymonkey to organise my survey, Slideshare for hosting the slideshow presentation, and 4shared.com for hosting the soundtrack.

The objectives of the project required that I email a link to the internet for club members to follow, make a presentation using PowerPoint or Keynote, backed up by a flipchart if necessary, and to follow up the presentation with a summary.

Here is that follow-up summary, conveyed in a slide presentation and accompanying, separate soundtrack. The first slides show the results of the survey. Successive slides present data showing the incredible rise in use of social media. Finally, the presentation includes links which readers can follow to toastmasters’ groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

I thoroughly recommend watching the YouTube video linked at the end of the presentation. Four minutes long, it shows eye-widening statistics on the shift in communications preferences. The video is based on Erik Qualman’s book, Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. Did you know that some universities have stopped issuing email addresses to students because these young people just won’t use email? Instead, they’re using ereaders, iPads and tablet computers. How many people are using their mobile phones to surf the net to stay in touch with friends?

Unless we stay abreast of this revolution, we may find that it will prove difficult, if not impossible, in the future to recruit new members.

You will need to click on both the slideshow and the soundtrack to start them off, and manually forward to the next slide. The soundtrack will prompt you to move on. You can pause the slideshow if you need to.

The links on the slides will take you to toastmasters’ groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. The link to YouTube will open Social Media Revolution 2.

This presentation concluded my bid for the Toastmasters’ Advanced Communicator Bronze award, which has contributed to East Midlands Speakers President’s Distinguished Club Award this year.

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