The Zen of Search
the Image Freedom blog
The Zen of Search
the Image Freedom blog
Today my buddy @boynthemiddle posted this link to Gizmodo about a yellowing tint that has caused many iMac 27″ users to be very frustrated. See my new i7 27″ iMac has a yellowing tint on the lower half of the screen. Having read many articles about the yellowing, and hearing from @boynthemiddle I too called Apple.
I was told that the engineers at Apple had not yet acknowledged that this was a problem with the iMac. I just spent a lot of money on this Apple Computer and I sent photographs of my screen with specific sectors of the photo set side by side. You can see pretty clearly that the bottom section is yellowed, and the top section is pure white.
This is unacceptable.
So now this leaked internal Memo from Apple is deciding to “swap out” our LCD panels through an Apple Store or authorized repair center. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t want a new screen, I want a computer equal to the money I spent on it. Meaning if I pay a premium, I am going to require a premium in service in return.
I paid a premium. That’s my part. I am not getting a premium in return. That’s Apple’s part.
The idea that my iMac, as powerful as it is, must be opened up and the screen swapped out doesn’t sit well with me. As we’re seeing lately on Twitter, how accurate is the repair to your car when you get it back on the road? What if they don’t get the screen in place just right? This is my livelyhood here, that is why I choose Apple, because I expect the product to work as intended, every time. I don’t want my baby getting cut open and her parts replaced, I want her replaced, I want a computer that worked as intended from the start.
Am I crazy? I’m a loyal Apple fan, and part of Apple’s whole plan is that I like my Apple product so much that I talk about it, that my fervor and fandom spreads the Applevirus and you too buy a computer for a little too much money so you can have the cool OS X too. How does that work when the most loyal Apple customers, the ones who are going to spend the extra for the i7 Quad Core processor, who want the largest screen, are treated like outsourced to India Dell customers?
Not thrilled Mr. Jobs. This is not the Apple you were looking for.
Hopefully the bad press will cause you to rethink the memo that “sometimes screens have some discoloration, that’s just how LCD’s work.” Uhm. No. Try again.
I hear it all the time. “What do you do?” Well I’m an SEO. “And what is that?” Don’t get me wrong there are people who get it, or if they don’t get it, at least they know about it but the biggest hurdle for any optimizer is that constant question, “what is SEO?”
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, or sometimes Search Engine Optimizer. The reason SEO is such a mystery is because even the best Optimizers in the world are not 100% sure how Google’s algorythm works. We have a pretty good idea how it works, find some keywords, put them in the title of a web site, put them in the Header 1 tag, put them in alt tags and in the body of your content, maybe bold them, maybe italicize them, etc.
Your average web site is not doing these things, and so they contact an optimizer like myself. What are the three primary reasons someone contacts a search engine optimizer?
1. They want to show up on Google.
Google has become synonymous with “search” and while Yahoo and Bing are important too, most people ask why they haven’t showed up on Google, the big boy in internet search. Thankfully Google is pretty nice, they offer some really great tools to track the traffic your site gets, to analyze the keywords you’re currently popping up for, and to help you tell Google what pages on your site are the most important.
The SEO’s relationship with Google is not always a good one. It is our job afterall to cater the content of a web site to get our site to rank higher than other sites, and in some cases dueling SEO’s have gotten in serious trouble with Google for breaking the rules about ethical optimization.
Image Freedom is what is called a “white hat” SEO group and while we probably would do some Black Hat techniques if we could get away with them, the risk of getting a web site blacklisted on Google is just too big, and we believe no one should ever take that chance. Gotta play by the rules, or Mother Google will shut you down.
2. They want to show up on Google Maps
I bet you didn’t know that you can move the little Thumb Tack for your business and where it falls on Google Maps. Have you ever looked something up only to find the needle across the street from the actual location? Many businesses turn to an optimizer like myself to make sure their Google Maps entry is perfect. This can be done for free through the Google Local Business Center but it does help to have someone on your team who has done it before.
On the other hand, sometimes someone has tried to setup Google Maps themselves and has hired me to put it back the way it should be, so they aren’t in the middle of a lake. (True Story)
3. They want to know which keywords to target
Content is king. Coming very soon, Google will be putting even more weight onto the content of a web site and things like hidden keywords and classic Black Hat tricks will be a thing of the past. When a marketing team decides to pursue a content plan, they will hire an SEO to develop what we call a Keyword Cloud. A Keyword Cloud is many many keywords that are related to an industry and are scored based on the monthly search volume that word gets, and how many other sites are currently targeting that keyword.
This way, with your Keyword Cloud in tow, you can create content that follows the Keyword Cloud instead of just blindly making content. Your content will come up in searches and your message will spread. How often have you created content and wondered why no one ever found it? It needed some keyword research.
So that in a nutshell is Search Engine Optimization. It’s how you show up front and center on Google, Yahoo and Bing and the techniques and tricks to make sure it stays that way.
Does that make sense?
Every day I seem to offer the same advice, I seem to use the same web sites as examples, and I’m generally sharing the same message. So why am I not following my own advice in a lot of cases? To steal from Alicia Sanera’s recent blog “The Cobbler’s children have no shoes.” It’s absolutely true, I need to practice what I preach.
Lately I’ve been hanging out at the Pear Analytics offices and if you haven’t heard of Pear they’re a group that really understands the math behind SEO, the value of each tiny little tweak you can make to your site and how that will impact your indexing process. It is humbling to watch them work, and to hear their founder Ryan Kelly speak, he really knows his stuff.
Pear Analytics has a software suite called SiteJuice that takes your site and gives you pointers and scores on where your SEO is, and helps you track the progress of your rise or fall in various targeted keywords. The software is still in Beta, but I tell you it is going to be on the lips of every optimizer if it isn’t already. Anyway, Ryan wrote a blog called “Are SEO’s a Dime a Dozen?” and once again, I am humbled by his experience in this industry.
One of his points was, and rightfully so, how does the SEO you’re checking out rank in search engines? Brings up something we’ve covered before, and that is even if you come up for your targeted keyword, do you come up for your own name? I do, as we covered in an earlier blog, but as I said there was a time when I didn’t. Maybe I am measuring myself by some imaginary SEO bar and not by the “I’ve been around for Six Months is this where I should be?” bar.
For the most part, I think I pass Ryan’s 5 stage test. Do I rank in the search engines? Yep. Do I use out dated techniques? No. What was the last event I attended? We’ll come back to this. Does the SEO speak at events? Yep. Finally does the SEO talk over your head? Well, probably! That is always the struggle right? How do you bring someone who has never heard of SEO, is interested in ranking on search engines, and show them even the most basic of techniques without occasionally blowing them away? It’s tough, and truly, that is why I blog. The feedback I get here on how to make SEO approachable to everyone makes for invaluable research when it comes to sharing what I do.
Lastly, I said we’d come back to events. I don’t believe in trade shows. I’ve been involved in trade shows since I was 16 years old, and what I know is that if you’re not selling a product, there is little you can learn at a Trade Show that you can’t learn from reading blogs and being members of frontier web communities. That isn’t to say that Search Engine Expo won’t be a blast if I do make it, but when you look at the cost benefit analysis, I’m in the camp that those shows are a way for SEO’s to pat their ego’s and hell when I need that I’ll just read a happy e-mail from a client.
So what did I take away from Ryan’s article? We are never “done”. What he didn’t cover, that I know I’ve been dragging me feet about is the video element of Image Freedom. I’m an old documentary producer, I’ve got a Hollywood production studio in my closet, there is no reason why these ideas for videos that I have haven’t been done. That’s number one, number two is continuing to simplify and clarify what SEO is, find that best definition so your grandmother can be told just what it is we do.
The more I learn, the more I learn there is more to learn. Thank you Ryan for writing a benchmark list for us to gauge our progress on. I’m grateful to know someone as serious about SEO as you.
Time to get a little racy. You ready? People… wait for it… are fake.
As someone new to serious networking, the game always seems to be figuring out who a friend is, who an acquaintance is, and who’d sooner use you as a shoe horn than help you. Someone asked me recently, “You aren’t so naive to believe these people are your friends right?” I chuckled, and answered “You aren’t so naive to think it isn’t intentional?”
Don’t get me wrong, there are people out there who genuinely want to build a relationship with you, but more often than not they want an answer to a question that hasn’t been asked yet. “Do I have a web guy?” “Do I know a caterer?” “Do I have someone in the press on speed dial?”
I think I choose to be idealistic in that regard, I really am what you see. I thrive on fear, and when I’m in that uncomfortable “I don’t know anybody time to say hi” meet and greet setting I’m on full adrenalin. Maybe not the best representation of my Green Lantern fandom, but “feel the fear and do it anyway” has always been a big life quote for me since I read it on ZenHabits.
I’m afraid, I think, because I haven’t developed my bull shit face yet. I’m not a compartmentalizer and I sometimes feel at a disadvantage when I’m up against true bull shitters, fake smiles, forced curiosity, emptiness.
Maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. When I shake your hand, it’s because I genuinely want to know your name, know what you do, and see what you’re all about. I am a student of people, and all this stuff truly does excite me. Doesn’t mean I think you’re my new BFF.
So if the goal in all of this is to build relationships, being myself might be the best policy. Doesn’t mean I won’t waste my time shaking the hand of someone who won’t remember my name, but at the end of the day their own agenda might drag me along to meeting someone new, someone that will surprise me.
The alternative is being like them. Putting on that fake smile, and doing this whole networking thing for the wrong reasons. I think I choose reality, what you see is what you get.
Fakers be damned.
Who cares? No seriously. When you pull up your web site, when you get right down to it, who cares? Nothing created in the history of the world was widely loved and accepted by all, except maybe Susan Boyle. Your web site is no exception, and it’s about time you asked yourself, who actually cares about my web site?
Who are your primary web visitors? Ok, now that you know who they are, are they also your customers? What do you want someone to do once they come to your web site? Sometimes the best looking web sites have the worst conversion ratio. So I’m going to ask you again, who cares?
Are you selling a product online? If so are my questions answered before I have them? How do you ship? Are there related products, what is your policy on returns? If you are advertising a physical store online, how hard is it for me to find the map? How much text are you throwing at the user, how many people do you think will actually read your eight paragraph introduction about just how awesome your store is?
The truth is, nobody cares. People are in a hurry nowadays and when they visit your site, they want to laugh, they want to answer a quick question, and they want to move on. How can you make your web site into a product destination? What struggles do your customers deal with every day? Have you ever considered making fun of yourself? Maybe publish a cartoon unique to your business?
The new e-consumer is much more likely to stay on your web site if you give them something of value to stay there for. If you could tell the funniest story about your business, what would it be? Could it be told via a Sunday Comics style cartoon? Where could you put this on your site? Would it be funny to the average consumer?
Start from the perspective that nobody cares, and start serving individual groups of people. Target the groups you’re going to want to take actions. If you could attract a group of people to your site, would they tell others about it? Why would they? What do you need to give them or share with them or offer them on your web site that’ll cause people to spread the word? The answer is probably a lot easier than you think.
So stop creating content from the perspective of yourself, start creating content for the person that doesn’t care. Who are they? How can you make them care? How can you make your web site stand out? Don’t confuse a hit with a customer, give them a REASON to stay.