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Thursday, December 23, 2010

New high school sports CMS aids newspapers, radio stations

One of the difficulties of the newspaper industry, which has been suffering from plummeting circulation during the last 10 years, is being able to commercialize an online product.

The issue isn't having the content. Rather, I believe, the issue is presentation of the content and most newspaper chains lack of financial flexibility to invest in an online product that will generate value for their company.

I've spent the last several weeks reviewing newspaper websites and many offer nothing more on their site than they do in print. Additionally, what is available really isn't developed for Internet -- it's just a cut-and-paste job from the print property.

Internet users have become accustomed to wanting a rich, multi-media experience when they go online and, until newspaper sites find a way to deliver that, it will be difficult to create a revenue stream from their websites.

That's where Sports Reporting Technologies comes in. We've just opened up for licensing our SPORTSITEWARE(TM) CMS platform for covering high school sports. It enables journalists with little technical ability to operate a full multi-media site including news stories, photos, audio, video, game schedules, results and stats.

The system also can be used by entrepreneurs interested in starting their own high school sports site.

Read more about our high school sports reporting website CMS.

What's effective SEO worth to you?

I could have titled this blog item "What's SEO worth to you," but that would ignore all the scam artists out there that offer to provide SEO services for a ridiculously low price. Problem is, the results bear out the effort they put into it and by the time the client figures that out, they are long gone.

We are occasionally asked to compete with other "SEO" firms for specific projects and I cringe at the process. Too often, the client is looking for the lowest bid and not paying attention to the details about what they're actually going to get. We usually end up getting the client anyway, perhaps a year or two later, after they realize that the methodic program we outlined, priced higher than the SEO vendor who originally won the project, in retrospect sounds more sensible than the quick-fix they were promised by the other guys.

Effective SEO is not a quick fix, it requires skill and talent, and it can be expensive. I wrote a more extensive article about the expense of SEO for the website SiteProNews. You can read it here: Effective SEO No Walk in the Theme Park

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thanks University of Akron soccer team: LeBron who?

After taking a beating by the Miami Heat at home on Dec. 2, the Cleveland Cavaliers face the dubious task of challenging them on their home court tomorrow night. That first match-up wasn't pretty and sent the Cavs into a tailspin, with six straight losses after that (actually, maybe we should blame Boston for the current losing streak, it might make us feel better).

So, things don't look good for tomorrow night.

For many of us in Akron who have been true wine-and-gold Cavs fans, we're ready to exorcise ourselves from the LeBron James mania. See column I wrote on the topic the day after the Heat wave.

That's where the University of Akron and its national championship men's soccer team comes in. The third-seeded Zips beat No. 1 seeded Louisville 1-0 in the national championship on Sunday. Once we clear out all the snow, we'll plan that ticker-tape parade.

Congratulations to the team and Coach Porter. LeBron who?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Note to LeBron: It's not your race, it's the quitting that's the problem

As an avid Cleveland area sports fan, and the president of an Akron, Ohio, high school sports media site that covers LeBron James' alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, I was surprised to learn last week that I am a racist. According to LeBron and his super sidekick Maverick Carter, the strong reaction they received to "The Decision" was because of racism.

That kind of riled me up, but not wanting to spew anything equally nonsensical, I decided to sit on it a few days, till I could express my opinion on the topic in a cogent fashion. So here goes:

At no time when I have donated money to MY alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, have I ever stopped to consider the race of a student who might benefit from the financial aid that the school offers to those who wish to attend. When I bought Cleveland Cavalier merchandise, I never weighed whether to buy the jersey of lily white Zydrunas Ilgauskas or one of his darker skinned teammates. And when LeBron James declared his decision, it didn't matter to me what color he is.

What was upsetting to me and to most people in Akron and Cleveland, was that this young man, who espoused the virture of playing at home, would so easily throw away the "home" advantage for an easier path to a championship.

In the most simple terms: He is a quitter. LeBron was in a position to be the highest paid basketball player AND still live and play at home. Who wouldn't want that dream scenario!

Instead, LeBron James chose a shortcut to a ring, quitting on his team, his teammates and his non-quitting fans. For people who have supported Cleveland sports teams through thick and thin, this is the worst possible attribute an athlete could have. They haven't quit on their teams, and they thought LeBron was one of them, that he wouldn't quit either. As Art Modell showed Cleveland fans not that long ago, quitters come in any color, and the reaction to both of them has been equally strong.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What makes SEO complicated

More often than not, when we are asked to provide a quote for our search engine optimization services, the prospective client is surprised at the amount of work we tell them must be done and the resulting cost.

Perhaps the expectation-reality gap is a result of the ease with which so many other technical tasks can be completed with automated tools. Buy a copy of Microsoft FrontPage and build a web site in an afternoon. So, SEO should be similarly simple, right?

Unfortunately, while technology tools can make a light work of a lot of tasks, building a well-optimized website is not one of them.

For the most part, the SEO implementation process relies on human judgment and know-how. A generic SEO tool can’t be expected to understand the complex terminology in an industrial or other business-to-business environment or how to differentiate those terms from the same ones in other uses.

Similarly, an automated tool won’t be able to write optimized copy that also makes a compelling case for your products and services to the prospects you’re targeting.
Most importantly, the search engines themselves prevent the SEO process from being easily automated.

Imagine you run Google. Your company derives its revenue by selling advertising in the form of textual ads on its search engine results pages. Also on those pages are free listings, ranked by your company. Knowing that those free listings are considered the more valuable real estate, will you allow businesses to capture those positions for the price of a $39.95 third-party software?

Or, will you make the system sufficiently complicated for businesses to attain a first-page position that most give up in frustration and instead buy into your AdWords pay-per-click program?

That’s the real reason why SEO is complicated.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What I learned about SEO on the job

... A Guest Blogging post by Pilot Fish Account Manager, Leanne Wicks

Like many people who work in the search engine optimization industry my first experience with SEO was purely by accident. The company I was working for was closing up shop and Polysort/Pilot Fish needed an admin person. It was a marriage made in… well, necessity.

On my first day, I met with each member of our staff so that I could get a chance to learn about what they do. I vividly remember sitting in our sales director’s office that day and thinking to myself, “What on earth did I get myself into? This is crazy talk!! How can anything we do to a client’s site have any effect on their results on Google??”

Oh, how little I knew!

Five years, dozens of web sites and hours of blood, sweat and maybe even a few tears and I don’t think it’s so crazy anymore. Nowadays I have the privilege of managing many of our clients’ projects but I still remember those first few weeks and the concerns I had.

As you embark on your web site project, I bet you share some of them, too:

1. Google is smart. Why should I do anything special to my web site?

Google may be smart but at the end of the day, it still needs your help. Well written content, well designed navigation, well constructed code all make a huge difference in whether or not Google “gets” what your site is about. Leave out any piece of the puzzle and Google might get confused. A confused Google is a Google that gives up and moves on to some other site instead of giving your site the attention it deserves.

2) All of you SEO firms talk a lot about keyword research… frankly it seems like a waste of money. I already know what my products are called!

It’s true – You are an expert on what your business does but your customers aren’t experts and they are the people you’re trying to reach.

Even though you might call something one thing, they might be using a completely different way to describe it. Since people find web sites through keyword searches and Google uses your keywords to rank your site, you need Google to know that even though your product is called XYZ, when someone else calls it ABC, it’s still the same product.

Keyword research helps you determine how your prospects are searching for you and it lets you know which terms are the best chance for reaching the right people. Leave this part out and you pass up sales. Can you afford to do that?

3) I’ve already written my web site, why would I hire someone to revise the content on it? Isn’t that a waste of money?

The truth is that going back and revising content for a web site is a lot harder and more time consuming than simply allowing an SEO firm with strong copywriters on staff to write your content right from the start. It’s not that we won’t do it – we revise content all the time (almost every site we’ve ever worked with has needed at least some re-writing in order to best capture visitors and search engines) – but you’ll be a lot happier with the results if you let us help right from the start.

If you’re just starting out with a web site or considering re-doing it, consider letting an SEO firm in on the process from Day One. You’ll wind up with properly optimized text that is compelling both to visitors and search engines and you won’t have to spend any amount of time re-doing someone else’s work. It’s a win-win for everyone.

If it’s too late (you’ve already written your site), remember that well-optimized content can be the difference between ranking on the first page of results and the 50th page of results. Since visitors generally don’t go past the first couple of pages, can you afford to be anywhere else?

4) You keep talking to me about links and off-page elements. Why does this matter? I already let you design my site, write it, code it…!! Isn’t that enough?

Five years ago? Yes. Today? Not so much. Sure, there are some sites that seem to do well without paying any attention to this but believe me when I say it is pure accident and it won’t last forever.

Just like you wouldn’t send a product to market without any marketing materials, you shouldn’t send your web site out onto the Internet without working on promoting it. There are a lot of ways to do this but the most effective way is to apply sustained efforts to building links from good sources like press releases, articles and appropriate directories. And depending on your industry there are also huge opportunities available to participate in the social media space (YouTube, Facebook, etc.)

Is it time consuming? Absolutely. Hard? It can be. Boring? Once in awhile. But it’s also necessary. And an SEO firm that doesn’t talk to you about these things is doing your site a disservice.

And even if you do everything else right but leave this part out, your web site and your business will eventually suffer. Just ask the sites that enjoyed prime time placement with no effort right up until one of their competitors got on board with marketing their site. Don’t put yourself in that position. It is much easier to work hard consistently than it is to scramble at the last minute!

Do you have other concerns about search engine optimization? Contact us and let us help put them to rest.

Monday, January 25, 2010

SEO vs. PPC

We're frequently asked the question whether a client or potential client should engage in SEO or PPC to drive traffic to their web site.

Pilot Fish had the chance to test this recently, when we developed a new high school sports site -- www.sportsink.com.

What we learned was not surprising: while PPC offered immediate click-throughs, SEO delivered much higher numbers and still does today.

Read the full case study on SEO vs. PPC.