Category: Social Networking

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.

Apr 27 2009

Vectors, nettuts and jQuery while convalescing

I’ve been quiet lately because I’ve been recovering from major hip surgery in February. But I haven’t been idle.

I’ve updated the Gothla website for our third workshop and hafla weekend in mid-July 2009. This year, we’re featuring Ariellah, Morgana, Shakra, Asharah and Deva Matisa, internationally recognised exponents of gothic bellydancing.

PayPal has been expanding its merchant services. This year, I shall be able to download booking information directly and print out attendee lists for each of the workshops. Extra levels of security hopefully protect our account from fraud and unwanted chargebacks when someone wrongfully claims back money paid through their account.

I’m getting products ready for the Gothla shop, which is hosted by Spreadshirt, based in Germany. Spreadshirt works best with vector images, that is, drawings. We like to change the colour of our Gothla logo for our t-shirts each year and we would like to be able to sell a generic t-shirt based on the photo in our banner.

I experimented with a couple of programs that can transform photos (raster objects) to vector images.

I was particularly pleased with the results from VectorMagic, although it’s not cheap to download the software, which gives you more control than the free online conversion service. The Gothla logo converted without a hitch. I wasn’t able to reduce the complexity of the photo to a vector image equivalent which Spreadshirt could have used. But I suspect that I needed more knowledge of technique, such as reducing the photo to a layer mask in Photoshop before beginning to make the vector image in Illustrator.

The face of Gothla UK, a raster image

The face of Gothla UK, a raster image

Vectorised version of the face of Gothla UK

Vectorised version of the face of Gothla UK

Essentially, there were too many small elements in my vector version. The t-shirt process requires smooth, definite lines. Ironically, I could have got the photo printed on a light coloured t-shirt, but since the event is Goth, we require black backgrounds.

I did begin to learn something of how vector software works. I hadn’t used Adobe Illustrator before and was delighted to discover its many uses, like making unwanted backgrounds disappear. I think I’ll have another go using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator using ideas from t-shirt factory.

I’ve also had time and opportunity to read more. I’m currently learning jQuery, a Javascript library resource which enables coders to attach behaviours to element attributes in the same sort of way as CSS. The benefits of using techniques such as jQuery are their minimalist approach and friendly approach to web accessibility. Web surfers relying on screen readers should be able to read web pages without having to wade through screeds of Javascript code.

I’ve discovered Nettuts, a website featuring a host of web development tutorials which deserves very close scrutiny. Want to know about Ajax, or CSS, or PHP, or building content management systems? Make this website one of your resources.

And I’ve been twittering a lot. I find twitter extremely useful for picking up information and exchanging ideas. The growth in social networking has inspired me to devote a whole new page on my website to FriendFeed. This is where you’ll be able to find out what I’ve been saying on twitter and facebook, and what I’ve been bookmarking on deli.cious and stumbleupon as I’ve been surfing the web.

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