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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You're Spending Too Much Time Online When...

To bring some levity to our office on this dreary December day in Northeast Ohio, we had our staff come up with some funny observations on how they know they've been spending too much time online.

Read "You're Spending Too Much Time Online When..." from the staff of Ohio SEO firm Pilot Fish.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Include an SEO Firm in Your Site Redesign

Many companies operate under the misguided notion that a simple facelift or “freshening up” will improve traffic and leads to their web site. Although having a fresh look and new content are important to site credibility, a site redesign alone won’t improve your site’s performance on the search engines or get more eyeballs to your site.

As you begin your next site redesign, be sure to include an SEO firm in the process. An SEO firm will help make sure that the improvements you are making to your site at the minimum won’t hurt your search engine positioning and at best will improve it.

For example, although Flash adds a lot of pizzazz to a site, building a site entirely in Flash will render the content virtually invisible to the search engines, making it nearly impossible to gain top performance on important keywords. An SEO firm will help guide you on the best ways to use Flash so that it’s graphically effective, not a hindrance to your site’s search engine ranking.

Read about the important factors that a qualified SEO firm can help you with during the redesign process.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

This Working Mom Won't Vote for Sarah Palin

Perhaps my headline is a bit strong given that I haven't heard Sarah Palin's VP acceptance speech yet. But, I have my doubts that her speech will put to rest any of my concerns with her candidacy.

I have no doubt that she is bright, capable and ambitious. Really, in 99% of the cases, you have to be for success in politics.

She's a woman, and working mom, with conservative values cherished by the Republican Party. That's where it starts to get sticky for me. I won't vote for a woman just because she's a woman, or a working mom like myself. I'm putting race and gender on the shelf when it comes to deciding who's most qualified. Rather, I'm interested in who is in best position to have my interests at heart.

One would think that Sarah Palin would be in the best position to understand the complexities of raising a family and balancing a career. That there are times in a woman's life when career ambitions have to take a back seat to the more pressing needs of family. That a true commitment to family values means direct involvement by both parents. That sometimes you have to say no to some great opportunities because right now your kids need you more.

That's where I have a problem with Sarah Palin. She's sending one son off to war, the youngest of her children, an infant, has Down's Syndrome, and her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. Any one of these situations might give any parent pause when considering a life-changing career, but to have all three situations and think "Gee, this would be a great time to run for Vice President," seems cold at best, perhaps even mercenary.

It's hard to conceive that these issues will never create distractions for Ms. Palin. And, in any other job, in any other career, she'd be expected to deal with it and still show up to work. But, we're not talking about just any other 9-5 job. We're talking about being one heartbeat from the presidency with travel demands and schedule demands that make it impossible to be a dependable mother.

I feel the most sorry for her 17-year-old daughter. Sarah Palin's infant son no doubt will receive excellent care, albeit without much involvement from his mother. And her older son will take care of himself. But, her daughter seemingly is being thrown to the wolves. It's hard to imagine how much direct support Bristol will get from her mother while mom is jet-setting around the world. And, when it comes to the birth of a child, shouldn't it be Bristol's mom who the girl should be able to rely on for help?

I've never been offered the chance to be vice president of the United States, but I have considered opportunities that would have required a similar upheaval in my family's life. In the end, it became difficult to rationalize the sacrifice my family would endure for my own career ambition. That type of decision would seem to fall in line with the promoted Republican values.

Instead, Sarah Palin's decision to allow the her daughter to endure the limelight as a result of her candidacy perhaps is a more realistic example of the promise that Republican morals offer: Let's teach our kids only about abstinence and, when they screw up and get pregnant, force them into a teen marriage or onto welfare rolls, leave the child-rearing entirely to them, and then push for the death penalty when the young dad shakes the baby.

No compassion. No support. No help.

And, as far as I'm concerned, no vote.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Are You Infecting Your Customers' Computers?

As part of our company's customer prospecting activities, our sales staff will routinely review a prospect's web site to learn more about the company before making contact.

Several times in the last few weeks, we've nearly become infected by computer viruses by sites that are infected just by visiting the web site. Fortunately, our anti-virus protection has enabled us to avoid catastrophe.

I often wonder how long it will be before the company will discover that their site is trying to infect everyone that visits it. I don't blame any company that becomes a victim of hacking as it can be difficult to keep up with all the new viruses launched. But, if a company's site has been infecting visitors for some time without the company knowing or addressing it, then that's a clear sign of web site neglect.

Every company should take responsibility for making sure that its site is functioning as intended by regularly reviewing it. From the standpoint of virus protection, that should happen every day by visiting the site. Applications should be tested once a month to make sure they're operational.

Having a site requires a proactive attitude toward marketing, customer service and site maintenance at a level that wasn't heard of in pre-Internet days. Not to make that adjustment hurts not only your company's ability to compete, but ultimately could damage the relationships you have with existing customers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quality SEO Services Focus on Three Areas

Given that Google and Yahoo regularly tinker with their algorithms, I thought it might be good to review the specific areas that are most important currently (summer 2008) in search engine optimization.

There are 3 primary areas that comprise SEO services:
-- Keyword Research
-- On-Page Optimization or SEO Copywriting
-- Off-page Optimization or Link Building.

Keyword Research is the process of identifying which terms are most used by the prospects you are trying to reach. Keyword Research not only evaluates the most popular terms, but also the competitiveness of those terms. Some terms might be too competitive for SEO purposes, making them more suitable for pay-per-click advertising. A good Keyword Research program will put together the best set of keywords for your site to generate the most and best quality traffic.

SEO copywriting involves incorporating the keywords into your site content, developing a site strategy that logically describes your business using those keywords and coding the site to emphasize the proper keywords.

Link building has become increasingly important and ignoring this area likely will result in a failed SEO program. Once you've identified your keywords and incorporated them into your site, it's important to find appropriate third-party sites that are willing to provide a link to your site. Trade publication sites, association sites and business directories are among the types of sites that can provide a valuable incoming link.

For more information about SEO services, contact Pilot Fish at 877-799-9994 ext. 2104.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Google Defines Change, Change Defines Search

“The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if these words by American inventor Charles Kettering (developed automatic transmission, spark plug, safety glass, electric railway gate, among others) were etched above the doors at Google Inc.’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Google has single-handedly changed the way people locate information on the Internet. Every move it makes is studied, second-guessed and mimicked by its competitors. And, in the spirit of all great American inventors, the company is never satisfied with the status quo, always working on the next iteration of search that will make its site that much more vital in the research habits of Internet users worldwide.

And, true to Mr. Kettering’s quote, every time Google changes its algorithm, the world of Internet users and web site owners hates it. Hates it because for some businesses the hard-earned positions on the search engine suddenly drop off and with it, traffic and leads.

Once again, Google is going through an algorithm change, the results of which will be felt in the weeks to come. To help you understand what your business can do to weather these changes, I recommend you read this article on “What’s the Best Way to Deal with a Search Engine Algorithm Update?”

Check out some other quotable gems from Charles Kettering.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RSSHugger a Good Way to Learn about Blogs

I'm still looking for a resource that lists blogs being written in the b2b and induststrial space, but I stumbled on one that lists lots of other stuff.

RSS Hugger is a simply laid out site intended to connect blogs with blog readers. For folks just getting started and wanting to see what other people are doing, RSS Hugger is an easy-to-navigate site that lists more than 1,700 blogs among more than 100 categories.

Check out RSS Hugger.

Questions to Ask Prospective SEO Firms

Not all SEO firms are alike. Unfortunately, because search engine optimization is a mystery to most marketing managers, it can be pretty easy to get bamboozled by an unscrupulous company offering you SEO services on the cheap.

To help you avoid that problem, which at minimum would result in money wasted on an ineffective campaign and at worst could cause your site to be banned by Google or Yahoo, I've created a list of questions to help you choose the right SEO firm and also have identified common mistakes that neophyte companies make when starting SEO.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You Can Manage Your Own PPC, but Should You?

Search engines Google and Yahoo have created user interfaces that enable most companies to set up and manage their own pay-per-click advertising campaigns. But, in the end, your ad campaign is likely to be far more successful if you invest in having an appropriate agency manage it for you.

Not all PPC ads are created alike; there’s a trick to writing a search engine ad that entices search engine users to click yours ahead of others and a bigger trick to getting these prospects to take action once on your site.

Search engine marketing companies that employ experienced Internet copywriters are best suited to manage your pay-per-click campaigns to maximize the response rate. In addition to providing high-response ads and landing pages, your PPC manager also will invest time researching the best keywords for your campaign, and monitor performance regularly, making adjustments to ads and landing pages, keywords and campaign buys to improve overall effectiveness.

Recently, Pilot Fish began managing the PPC ad campaign for one client that had been running its own PPC ads. Within one week’s time, the click-thru rate had doubled and the client reported receiving four very promising leads.

Not only did we rewrite the ads, we advised them on the pages to use as landing pages (finding that they already had pretty good copy on their site) and made recommendations on how much to spend for each keyword.

We regularly review the results and will continue to advise the client on how to maximize their investment for best return.

This client is using PPC as a lead driver during the time that we redesign and optimize their site for better natural position on the search engines. The expectation is that once their site optimization is in full gear, we'll be able to use PPC to fill in the gaps.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How to Get the Website Redesign You Want

The answer to the title above seems simple enough ... just tell the graphic designer.

However, when it comes down to it, it can be pretty difficult to describe to a graphic designer what you're picturing in your head. And, it's next to impossible when you really aren't sure what you want from your website redesign.

We've found that web site redesign projects are far more successful from the standpoint of customer satisfaction when the client provides a significant amount of detail about what they want. They don't have to draw it out for us. Rather, all we're looking for is a pretty good indication of their design preferences, which we then can use to create a unique design for them.

To help our clients communicate those preferences, we've created a list of design questions with sample sites. Check out the 20 questions to ask before starting your website redesign.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tips on SEO Copywriting

One of the primary reasons that companies outsource to SEO services firms is the knowledge they bring to the SEO copywriting process. Sites that are poorly written from an SEO standpoint face an uphill battle in gaining position at the forefront of search engine results.

To help you understand better the complexities of SEO copywriting, I've put together a comprehensive article on SEO Copywriting Tips for Google, Yahoo and Your Prospects. If you're committed to doing SEO on your own, this will give you an idea of what areas to focus on. If you're looking to outsource SEO, then use the article to determine which SEO services vendors are best capable to provide what your site will need to improve its search engine ranking.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Will PPC become an obsolete model?

With the news last month that PPC clickers aren't the valuable customers that advertisers might have expected, will we see a major change in the revenue models of search engines?

According to a Feb. 2008 report on PPC click-through rates, 6% of ad clickers are responsible for 50% of display ad clicks. These clickers, tagged as "Natural Born Clickers" further erode the validity of pay-per-click models because of their demographics.

These clickers tend to be younger, in the 25-44 age bracket, and have lower incomes, less than $40,000. What that means, is that many companies that measure the success of their ad campaigns by the number of click-throughs, are possibly getting site visitors not able to purchase the products or services being advertised.

The study went on to imply that the sucess of an ad campaign, therefore shouldn't be measured by clicks, but rather than by exposure. If that inference sticks, might we see search engines revert to the old CPM model?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Optimization will Save the World!

I'm all for optimization. I think we could better our lives, our economy, our environment and our web sites with optimization.

I looked up "optimization" on Dictionary.com, which defines it as “the fact of optimizing; making the best of anything” and “the condition of being optimized.”

I'm trying to do my part living an optimized life. My husband and I built a home using a geothermal energy system, so we're optimizing our energy use for heating and air conditioning.

I bought a hybrid car and have been trying to alter my driving habits to further optimize my use of petroleum.

A friend of mine is very health conscious; she's optimized carbs pretty much right out of her diet.

In each of these instances, the act of optimizing results in the use of less of something in order to be more efficient or gain a better result.

But, in the field of search engine optimization, the act of optimizing actually requires the addition of some things (i.e. fresh, optimized content, optimized meta tags, quality incoming links) as well as less of some things (i.e. less-complicated site coding, clean navigation).

If your company has a web site, it's important to have it optimized; not doing so only ensures that your site will be difficult next to impossible to find on the search engines.

Unfortunately, unlike the optimization examples above, in search engine optimization, doing everything correctly usually helps, but won’t guarantee the exact desired end result for every web site every time.

If it did, we’d call it search engine nirvana.