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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Job-hunting must: Write a cover letter

I'm in the process of reviewing resumes for two positions we're filling. Here's something I've noticed that make me wonder whether some candidates will ever find a job.

Many people send their resumes online without a cover letter. Most of these are coming via a job-posting site, so responding to my ad is as simple as clicking a few buttons. And that's why this annoys me. Given the number of applicants I've had for each of the positions, I've resorted to canning any resumes that arrive without a cover letter. It makes me think that the person applying really doesn't have that much interest in the position. If they did, they'd put a little more effort into making themselves stand out. A cover letter helps do that.

Here are some other ways a well-written cover letter can help:

1. Relate unrelated experience -- Quite a few people have applied for our positions who don't seemingly have the experience we're seeking. I don't have a problem interviewing people who feel they can translate other prior experience into this position, but I've got to know why you feel that's the case. Without a cover letter, I have no idea why you're applying for my position.

2. Explain job hopping -- I know times are tough and people are finding themselves in unfortunate situations multiple times. But, I'd really like to know why you've worked at 5 different places in the past 7 years. And, I'm not going to call you in for the interview to find out.

3. Draw attention to special accomplishments -- A person with 10-20 years work experience can have a pretty extensive resume. Help the hiring party out by detailing in your resume the special skills or accomplishments you've attained that set you apart from other applicants.

4. Showcase your communication skills -- Many jobs require someone with good written and verbal skills. A well-written cover letter will help show your ability in these areas. People who list "strong verbal and written communication" on their resume and then don't include a cover letter are liars or just lazy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When Google Speaks ...

On Monday, Google engineer Matt Cutts posted a video on his blog in which he discussed Google's official policy on meta keyword tags. In a nutshell, they don't use them.

That's old news to SEO firms that optimize web sites to perform on Google. We've known that for a long time.

But, we still have conversations with prospects and clients who ask us to quote an SEO project that entails "updating our meta keywords." In their eyes, updating the keywords tag is a quick and inexpensive fix. The problem is, it doesn't work.

Google gives no weight to the meta keywords tag at all. What they do look at is the title tag, description tag (for purposes of displaying your listing), your content and incoming links.

That doesn't mean that keywords have become obsolete. It's an issue of how you use them. Read my article on The Difference Between Meta Keyword Tags and Keywords.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Survey Identifies Links as Top Ranking Factor

For those wondering about all the hype around links and SEO, there’s a new study out by SEOmoz that identifies the current most important factors to a site’s performance on the search engines.

The survey highlights the universal experience of SEO professionals who work on websites every day. Pilot Fish’s own John Inama is a member of the organization; we find it beneficial to have the opportunity to brainstorm and network with folks in our own industry.

The SEOmoz report identifies the Top 3 ranking factors as being related to a web site’s incoming links. More specifically, they are:

1. Keyword-focused anchor text from external links: This is the text in clickable links that are pointing to your site from external sources.
2. External link popularity: This refers to the quality/quantity of external links.
3. Diversity of link sources: This is the number of links from several diverse root domains.

Here’s a link to the SEOmoz Search Engine Ranking Factors study.

To find out whether your web site has enough or the right type of links to help your site perform on search engines, contact John Inama at 877-799-9994 ext. 2104.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

National High School Sports Site Model Launched

I've been away from my blog for a while, and now I can tell you why. We've been developing a new business concept, which we are now launching.

Check out Sports Reporting Technologies, our new company devoted to licensing our SPORTSITEWARE(TM) system for developing a high school sports site business.

This system is different than any other sports site software out there. It's not geared for schools or individual sports teams to record detailed game stats.

This system is about developing news and filling the gap where newspapers have fallen in their coverage of high school sports. With the SPORTSITEWARE(TM) system, you can select the schools, sports and conferences you want to cover. We provide the tools to publish news, photos, audio, video, game schedules, results and stats. Our system also includes advertising and premium content subscription modules for revenue generation.

Currently, we're offering custom programs for these high school sports: football, volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, wrestling, swimming/diving, baseball, softball and track and field. We'll be adding new features once our inital rollout is complete and expect to add more sports for next year.

We've just launched our pilot site, SportsInk, which covers all the sports for 35 high schools in Summit and Medina counties in Ohio. We've gotten great feedback from coaches already, many of whom we provided a preview during the summer while the site was still in development. It's still in development; we're rolling out new features every week, but when you have a chance, check it out!

What you'll see on SportsInk is that they've already sold a good bit of advertising. Talk to local advertisers about high school sports -- they'll tell you they're interested in sites that show high interest in local markets. It's like shooting fish in a barrel!

We'll be licensing the technology to persons or companies that want to run an online sports site business. Licensing will include revenue rights to national advertising contracts we're already negotiating, as well as a "how-to manual" on setting up an online business, from staffing to promotion to selling advertising.

For more information, contact me at 877-799-9994 ext. 2102.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Strategies for Search Engine Success -- NPE 09 Presentation

Last week I gave a presentation on search engine optimization (SEO) at NPE 09, the plastics industry's triennial tradeshow held at McCormick Place in Chicago. I got rave reviews on the material. Many plastics businesses don't understand the basic mechanics of how search engines rank web sites and what they need to do to get the visibility necessary to drive new business leads.

For those that missed it, here's my presentation:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Optimizing Foreign-language Web Sites

Optimizing a web site for foreign search engines isn't much different from optimizing for our English-language search engines.

Like Google here in the U.S., the search engine is quite popular around the world and now boasts more than 100 foreign language versions.

We recently built an optimized Spanish-language site for one of our customers. Within a month, the site has earned its way to the first page of more than a dozen Spanish-language Google sites, and the company now gets more than 10% of its site traffic from Spanish-speaking prospects.

Read the full case study on this foreign-language SEO project.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Case Study Shows Value of SEO to Industrial Firms

Although times are lean, many companies realize that pulling the plug entirely from their marketing efforts could impact their ability to bounce back quickly when the economy takes a turn for the better.

The key is deciding how most efficiently to spend a very limited marketing budget.

Last fall, Polysort/Pilot Fish began working with Champion Plastics, a plastic bag manufacturer, to improve the company's search engine placement. Champion had hired an ad agency to redesign the site, and the newly designed site failed to improve the company's search engine positioning, site traffic or leads.

Upon review by our staff, we discovered the site had been built in a way that blocked Google and other search engines from indexing it. We corrected the technical barriers and optimized the content. Within weeks, the company closed on a new customer that directly resulted from being found on Google. And, within three months, the company's site was performing for more than 60 important keyword terms.

All this happened in the throes of a terrible recession.

Champion Plastics' John Callaghan credited our company with his site's turnaround: “We got that customer as a direct result of the work Polysort did for us. Polysort was able to diagnose the site’s problems and provide a workable solution. We’re now performing on many variations of keywords that are bringing potential customers to our site.”

Read the full case study.

Polysort provides web design and search engine optimization to companies in the plastics and rubber industry. Our Pilot Fish SEO division serves industrial and B2B clients in other markets.

For assistance with your search engine placement, contact John Inama at 877-799-9994 ext. 2104 or fill this form.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Back to My Roots: I'm Speaking at NPE 2009

I love plastics guys. Perhaps it's because of where I'm from -- Akron, Ohio. By the time the world of business had entered my consciousness, Akron was well in the throes of what would become a decade-long identity crisis.

Just months before I joined the staff of industry publication Tire Business as a reporter, Goodyear had fought off a greenmail attack by Sir James Goldsmith. Little did I know that that event would be the beginning of the end for tire production in Akron and our city as the Rubber Capital of the World.

One after the other, Akron tire giants fell to foreign ownership and the eventual departure to cities of better weather. General Tire to Continental AG, the combined Uniroyal and BFGoodrich to Michelin, and Firestone to Bridgestone.

The void that was left hasn't entirely been filled, but the plastics industry has done the best job of any other to take a position of prominence in our rubber-stained city.

During that time, I jumped ship as well, joining the editorial group that would launch the first plastics industry weekly newspaper -- Plastics News. As assistant managing editor of the publication from 1989 to 1995, I immersed myself in all things plastic.

I particularly enjoyed our work every three years in Chicago, when Plastics News would go full throttle to publish a daily newspaper during the huge U.S. plastics tradeshow NPE.

And so, here I am, 20 years and 1 month after the launch of Plastics News preparing to speak to the industry at NPE 2009. Ironically, this trip brings me full circle in more than one way. At the time I joined Crain Communications right after college, I viewed my stint at Tire Business as a short-term gig where I'd learn how to be a better writer before getting into my true area of interest -- public relations.

Little did I know that I'd spend 10 years in trade publishing, and then leverage that experience to help launch a PR-related business (web design and search engine optimization) to serve companies in the plastics and rubber industries. After leaving Crain in 1995, I spent my first week on the job at the Plastics USA tradeshow (at that time, the smaller sibling of NPE). I handed out diskettes that would help companies set up their first Internet connection and talked about how to get e-mail and why to develop a web site.

My how things have changed! And yet, how much they stay the same. I look forward to seeing many old friends in June and, perhaps, making some new ones. See you at NPE!

View info on my SEO speech for NPE 2009.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Trust the SEO Keyword Research

Perhaps one of the most difficult things a company has to do is trust their brand image to an outsourced vendor. Whether it's an ad agency designing a print ad or direct mail piece or an SEO company creating optimized content, the tendency is to not trust the hired firm to be able to communicate to your customers and prospects what you think the message should be.

Too often we hear "You don't know our industry, or our products or our terminology." This may be true, but SEO firms do know research. And, SEO keyword research oftentimes shows that the client is not seeing the full picture.

For instance, people in the banking industry talk about ATMs -- Automated Teller Machines. A company that sells these units refer to them as ATMs. But, more than 70,000 people monthly search Google for "ATM machine" or "ATM machines". Clearly, it's a redundant term "ATM machines -- automated teller machine machines", but a lot of people are using it.

A banking client might advise that we can't use "ATM machines" as a term on our site because it's redundant and we'll look like idiots to the rest of our peers. But, who are you selling to, your competitors or prospects? Using that term speaks directly to what the customer is looking for, and if you're looking for new business, you're not going to shut the door on a customer who uses the wrong terminology.

The really cool thing about SEO that differentiates it from traditional advertising is that there is so much ability to track user behavior and to use this research to develop a successful web site strategy. The key is, keep mindful of the end goal and trust the SEO keyword research.

Learn more about how SEO keyword research works.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Some things are best left to the professionals

When I win the lottery, I’m going to have my yard professionally landscaped and the interior of my house redecorated. With the Mega Millions lottery up to $212 million this week, lots of people are probably making plans for their sure winnings. As my husband and I discussed it last night, it occurred to me that we had a whole list of things we’d like to have done around the house. Not because we can’t do them ourselves, but rather because there are people out there with the talent to do them much better than we can and have.

Web design and search engine optimization kind of fall into those categories as well. Just as there are nifty landscaping and decorating tools we can use to make improvements at our home, there are lots of automated software programs that will help the Average Joe build a basic site or do some semblance of search engine optimization. However, without the knowledge of how to use what and when, Average Joe most likely will end up with a site that won’t perform on the search engines or convert visitors to leads.

Successful website design and search engine optimization aren’t about the tools you use. It’s about understanding the balance between graphic design and content; the content needs and requirements of search engines and site visitors; organizational and structural best-practices for user conversion; and the ins and outs of Internet strategy to stay ahead of your competitors. You can’t find those things in the help menu of a software program.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What's Good Content?

When it comes to building a business web site, companies seem to be stuck on the basics: tell them who we are, where we live, what we sell.

That's really just Step 1. If you want your site to get some traction, and ultimately show up on the search engines, it really should contain information someone might find useful.

Here's an article that I thought gave good ideas on topics for a small business web site:

10 Link Bait Tips for Small Business Marketing

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If SEO doesn't work, it's because you did it wrong

As a company that launched the first plastics and rubber industry portal back in 1995, we're used to being ahead of the curve. We spend a lot of our time educating clients and prospects about the Internet technologies they can use to build new business. As a result, for the last several years, we've become accustomed to explaining the why's, what's and what for's of search engine optimization (SEO).

What's nice to see in the b2b space is that companies are finally understanding what SEO is, or at least have an understanding that it's something they should check out. At the same time, we're also beginning to talk with companies that have tried SEO already and have seen it fail, making them very skeptical about the process altogether.

Unfortunately, like any other industry, there are snake oil salesmen in the SEO industry. They're the ones that blast out the unsolicited e-mails offering to "put you on top of Google within the next half-hour", or to "submit your site monthly to thousands of search engines." Or, the ones that say they can guarantee you a position on Google and you don't really have to take any active role in improving your site, you just have to pay them money.

It's important to ask a lot of questions before you hire an SEO company -- the competent, reputable ones will appreciate your interest in learning more about SEO and will be happy to help you through the process.

Another reason that SEO can fail is that a company doesn't make a full commitment to the process. Some companies get way to focused on one aspect of SEO, blaming their site URLs, meta tags, keywords, etc., rather than making sure they've taken care of ALL the big things first. Usually, when an SEO project has failed, it's because the right amount of attention wasn't given to every aspect that's important to ranking.

What we usually find is that companies ignore incoming links -- it's difficult and time-consuming to do and so it gets pushed to the back burner. When their SEO doesn't work, they start re-examining the keywords, the site structure, the content, rather than addressing the most obvious problem -- lack of links.

I saw a blog post this week regarding SEO naysayers who claim SEO is snake oil. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Importance of Finding an SEO-Friendly Web Design Firm

As you consider a site redesign, it's important that you find a web design firm that's also skilled in SEO. Incorporating SEO right from the start of a web design project will save you time and money as many of the elements that will be built in the web design process are impacted by SEO efforts.

Read more about SEO-Friendly Web Design Firms in an article I wrote for Xemion.com.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Land of Opportunity

I picked up my son and his friends from school last week and one of them immediately plugged in an Ipod. Out blared Big Band music, circa 1940s! I couldn't believe my ears. Turns out they got turned onto it from a video game they were playing and downloaded the music.

Which got me to thinking: There is so much opportunity companies haven't yet leveraged for marketing purposes. The convergence of technology has created a land of opportunity, limited only by our own creativity and ambition.

Much of it will play out for b2c companies, but b2b firms should keep their eyes and minds open to it too. It took a while for people to realize all the different entry points that the Internet provided to a given website. Similarly, we're getting to a point where cellphones, MP3 players, computers and other Internet-enabled devices will easily share the same information. We just need to be creative in identifying the way businesses can utilize them.