Posts Tagged ‘SEO’

How Facebook is changing the world

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I realize that the title of this post might sound a little dramatic. But I entirely, whole-heartedly believe that it’s true. Facebook is changing the world.

First of all, the number of people who are joining is skyrocketing. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has 150 million active users. This means that if Facebook was a country, it would be the 8th most populated in the world. And this isn’t just a group of passive users; almost half of Facebook’s members use the service every day. On Christmas day, Facebook accounted for 1 in every 22 online visits. This participation is staggering. Tons of new people are signing up to use the site daily – and Facebook is a service that gets more fun to use as more people join, so it’s doubtful that this participation will slow.

Facebook logo

But large numbers alone won’t change the world – it’s what Facebook is doing with those numbers that’s so exciting. Here are just a few things that I’ve observed:

Facebook is helping non-technical Web users begin to understand other Web services. I first noticed this because of Facebook’s “Status updates.” I have been promoting Twitter for about a year, but it wasn’t until Facebook’s Status Updates started getting popular that I was able to find a good way to describe Twitter to non-users. Now I just say “Twitter is like Facebook’s status updates, but that’s all it is, so you can update more frequently.” In another example, my cousin is organizing his 15th high school reunion using Facebook, and he wanted his event to be picked up by Google. This allowed me to give him a quick rundown on SEO and how search engines work. There are also reports that Facebook is gearing up to launch a “like” feature that will replicate a popular FriendFeed functionality. This not only will be incredibly popular with Facebook’s members, but will allow them a better understanding of FriendFeed. Facebook’s popularity and excellent user interface is helping to make Web use more mainstream and less frightening to Internet novices. This alone is a major game-changer.

Facebook is changing professional networks. I am currently looking to hire a part-time, contract Web developer to help out with my business. I am actively looking through my Facebook contacts to see if anyone in my network is a developer and might be interested in the job. I can recruit through Craigslist and Boston.com (and will likely pursue those routes, too); but if I can find someone I know – even if it’s someone who I haven’t worked with, seen or talked to in years – I am pre-disposed to hiring that person. Of course the decision will ultimately come down to experience and qualifications, but a network is very important in finding a job, and Facebook is suddenly adding people to my network who I haven’t spoken to in a decade.

Facebook is bringing friends closer. In the spectrum of being able to keep up with friends and staying in touch with people, I am pretty good. I would say slightly above average. Even so, I only have about 3 people who I talk to every day (my husband, my bf/co-worker, my business partner). Then there are about 6 other people who I talk to multiple times a week (my brother & sister-in-law, my neighbors who live downstairs and a few local friends). As my circle gets wider, the frequency of communication drops. Facebook is changing this, by facilitating daily communication with a much wider circle of friends. These are friends who I love dearly, but who just don’t live close to me and neither of us have the time to call and check in every day. But we can read each other’s status updates, look at the photos that we’ve posted and have at least an idea of what is going on in each other’s lives on a daily basis.

Facebook is connecting & creating communities. It would be pretty interesting to see the connections between friends in Facebook charted out, but it seems that most of the connections would be concentrated locally or with specific groups – work friends, high school and college friends, church buddies, soccer teammates, etc. But the really powerful thing is that each person’s connections make up a community of people who share at least one thing (or person) in common. If you expanded out even just one level of separation and looked at all of the connections of my connections, there would be a substantial community of people who likely share at least some commonalities. And when communities of people hook up and unite, it’s amazing what they accomplish.

- Facebook is starting to take a chunk out of my email inbox – in a way. I am getting a ton of messages from friends via Facebook now – both through Facebook’s inbox and the Wall-to-wall features. It seems that as people are spending time using Facebook, they just use the service to drop me a quick note to say hi, ask me a question, or just to connect. (This is only taking a chunk out of my email inbox in a way because a notification is sent to my email anytime someone comments on something that I’ve done or writes me a note.)

It’s becoming a verb. Chris’ new favorite expression is “I’m Facebooking.” The last major service that went from noun to verb was Google. Perhaps that is enough said.

My greatest weakness

Monday, July 21st, 2008

WeaknessAnyone who tried to visit any page on this site since last Wednesday already knows what I am about to tell you – my blog has been down for five days. It’s back up now, working just fine, but it appears that the damage has been done. My good SEO ranking on some good terms has been lost, 1/4 of my readers have unsubscribed.

I just wanted to send a quick note out to all of you who have stuck with me through the downtime – thank you! And I’m sorry for the technical difficulties. The short explanation is that this blog is using a technology that one of my new businesses/applications is also using, and when the developers made a change to that application, they managed to take down my blog at the same time. It appears that everything is now fixed and working like it should, hopefully there won’t be any more issues.

This outage really brings to light what I think is my biggest weakness as an entrepreneur - I am not technical enough. I know a bit about technology, definitely enough to talk about it and to understand the concepts, a smattering of HTML. But I am not a “do-er” – and so, when things like this happen, I am at the mercy of others. This fact is hard to take.

I am honestly not sure what the solution to the problem is, either. As the president of my company, I shouldn’t be the one who is doing all the nitty gritty work – that would be a waste of time and resources. I also don’t have the time to go back to school and to take classes to learn all this stuff that I wish I already knew. I could regret my college major (maybe computer science would have been a better choice than English, no matter how much I loved reading those books), but then again, if I had majored in computer science, who knows where I would be now. Maybe the influences of Maya Angelou (On The Pulse of the Morning), Sylvia Plath and Ralph Ellison are part of what has inspired me to be the person I am today, to do what I am doing right now. And regrets aren’t helpful, anyway.

So I put my lack of technical expertise in the category of unavoidable things that suck. At least for now. And I try to use this weakness as a reminder that I can’t build this business on my own, that I need help and input from a wide variety of other people to be successful. And I breathe. Slowly.

Photo by solidstate

Why I'm kissing Tumblr a sad, sad good-bye

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

My company has a lot of blogs for the various businesses that I’m starting – 52 to be exact. Most of them are run on WordPress, which I really like, one is run on an old install of TypePad (which is clunky, but might be because I need to update), and one is run on Tumblr.

I love Tumblr. I love the user interface, the way that you can post quick snippets of things. Quotes, pictures, text, links…it is fun to use. And the templates are awesome. The Cara Austin blog is on Tumblr, and it’s a delight to update every day.

Sad Good ByeBut there is a fundamental problem with Tumblr that I wasn’t aware of before I started using it – the search engines don’t seem to like it. In the two months since I have been posting (every weekday starting March 13, 123 posts total), the blog has only received 17 visitors from Google. Every one of those visits, except one, had the term “Cara Austin blog” or “Cara Austin Tumblr” as the search term.

This is a major problem for a commercial blog. I have a personal Tumblr that I use for my own things, notes, things I want to remember – and I don’t care if no one ever comes to that site. But for Cara Austin, a musician who needs to get her name out there and needs to sell albums, this is a big issue.

I didn’t know this about Tumblr. I didn’t know that the pages wouldn’t be indexed well (or show up high) on Google. I knew that Tumblr doesn’t have comments. And I knew that Tumblr didn’t have a search engine built in. These things I decided to live with.

But I didn’t know that Tumblr had a search engine optimization (SEO) problem.

I could no longer ignore the fact after I launched another new blog on WordPress on April 23, put up a few posts, and that blog starting receiving more traffic, from a wider variety of search terms, in a much shorter time period.

Here’s a little chart to illustrate:

Tumblr SEO chart

And so I’m leaving Tumblr. I’m leaving with a tear in my eye, but I’m leaving nonetheless.

Photo by Jaye_Elle

What is SEO?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

SEOSearch engine optimization or SEO is the practice of trying to get your Web site to appear higher in a search engine’s organic search results for the keywords for which you want to be listed. The idea is that if someone is searching for a term that is related to your business, you want to be listed at the top of the search results page because that person will be more likely to click on your listing and come to your Web site. Organic search results are the “natural” search results, or the listings that are free. More about organic vs. paid listings below.

There are many factors that contribute to where sites are listed in organic search results – the combination of these factors is called the “algorithm.” Only some of these factors can be impacted with SEO tactics:

  • Domain name – If your keywords are listed in your URL, you’ll have a better chance of being ranked higher in the search results for those terms.
  • Duration - The longer your site has existed, the higher you’ll be ranked.
  • Content – If you have high-quality content on your Web site, and the content matches the keywords for which you’re trying to rank, you’ll have better luck getting listed. It’s also beneficial if your site has frequently updated content.
  • Metadata – This is data that allows you to describe your Web site with a title, description and keywords. Metadata sits behind the scenes on your Web page and plays a factor in organic search results.
  • Incoming links – If your site has a number of other sites pointing to it, the search algorithms will determine that it’s of higher value and will list it higher in the search results. You will get an even bigger benefit from incoming links if the text that links to you contains the keywords for which you’re trying to rank.

SEO may sound like a relatively simple concept, but there are SEO experts who execute these tactics full-time and trust me – it’s more complex and difficult than it sounds. This post is just meant to be a starting definition of the term, and not a how-to or training guide in any way. For that info, follow the resources links below.

One quick comment about organic vs. paid search listings: All the various search engines display both free and paid listings on their search results pages. For example, if you type the term “SEO” into Google, the results that you get back will be a combination of organic (or natural) search results and paid search results. The screenshot below has the paid search results areas circled in red.

SEO google search

Let me say again that SEO can be fairly complicated and I am just scratching the surface with this definition. I definitely recommend checking out some of these additional SEO resources:

How to generate customer devotion

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

I read a blog post today that caught my eye because of the title: “Turn your customers into raving fans.”

CustomInk logoI am a raving fan, and CustomInk.com is the object of my affection. I recently used their services to make t-shirts for a charity walk that I organized. Going into it, I had a few issues to overcome with the t-shirts:

1)      I had a deadline of less than 2 weeks to get the t-shirts printed and delivered

2)      I am not a designer and had to design the t-shirts

3)      I was trying to create something that would appeal to men, women and children

4)      I wanted to be able to get input from someone else on my team to help me make the final decision, but we don’t live in the same city

I did a search on Google for “t-shirt design” and customink.com was the first listing. (Another testimony to the power and importance of SEO, but I’ll save that discussion for another blog post.)

t-shirt frontSo there are a lot of reasons that I love this company. The first thing I discovered is that they are able to rush-deliver an order in less than 7 days. Perfect! Second, their online tool is really user-friendly and fun to use. You pick the item to design (they have shirts, pants, hats, etc.) and the color. Then you head to the “design online lab.” The tool starts you off with a blank t-shirt and then lets you add text, graphics (you can upload your own or choose from their clip art library), change colors, layouts, put effects on the text…there are wide range of options. Then, to top it all off, you can save the design, email it to people to get their opinions and then start again with t-shirt backa new design if you aren’t totally satisfied. This tool managed to help me overcome all four of the issues that I was having with designing these t-shirts. That was enough to make me love the service.

But there was more. I placed my order, got my final proofs, talked to someone at the company to answer a few questions that they had about tricky parts of the design. Great. Everyone was pleasant, I felt a high degree of confidence that my t-shirts would be done on-time and that they would look great. Then came the kicker. I got the following email:

Hi Melissa,I noticed that you have designed shirts that could possibly be for a charity event. If that’s the case, CustomInk would love to donate to your team or to the charity itself on your behalf! Please let me know if your order is for one of these events. If you  would like us to pitch in and support your cause, please include information about your charity event, a link if you have one or the organization’s name if there is no link to a team web page.Warmest Regards,
Lori Mayfield
CustomInk.com

I immediately sent them a note back with the instructions about how to donate with a comment like “wow, I really love you” or something hero-worshipping like that. To which, Lori, my personal, human contact, sends me this delightful note back:

Thank you for the information, the link worked perfectly!

We try to donate to every charity event that our customers hold close to their hearts, so we are delighted to help with this event. Of course, we wish we could offer a large sponsorship, but because we do so many, I’m limited to small donations ($30). I just want to make sure you know that, even though we know every bit counts.

This is outstanding customer service and a fantastic policy for retention. Plus, it’s just really smart. I spent more than $500 with this company. The likelihood of me doing so again is high. I ordered 33 t-shirts – this means that I will tell all 33 of the people who are getting the t-shirts the story about this company (and I did!) because the company donated to our common cause. And finally, they know that they are reaching someone who has influence – the person who is in charge of the t-shirt ordering is likely someone who is making decisions for a large group of people and probably has other areas of responsibility and influence. This is really smart business. This article from Dosh Dosh talks about 9 great ways to dominate your niche, such as focusing on your reputation and developing retention equity, and CustomInk.com is doing all of these things.

See? I have become a raving fan.

 

~Today’s view:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1471632095/