Thursday, May 26, 2011

Optimize This!

With the arrival of summer (my last summer as a student, mind you) I’ve had a lot more free time to work on my portfolio (jstrufant.com ... check it out!) and on my brother’s company’s website (acadialending.com ... check that out, too!).

I’ve already learned so much more about Wordpress and site building, and I have to say that it’s really satisfying. Web design is time consuming, and it requires a ton of patience, but figuring it out - often through trial and error - is a rewarding feeling.

For my brother’s website in particular, I’ve been focusing on marketing/branding and search engine optimization. He hired an IT guy to do the actual site building, and now I’m just beefing it up, maintaining it, and working on it's Google ranking with a blog and good, well-written content.

This isn’t quite as satisfying, seeing that it can take weeks or months to see any change in rank, regardless of how much work you put in. But with my handy “Search Engine Optimization For Dummies” book, I think I’ve made some progress. I’m learning a lot, too, which is cool.

Before now, I’ve never really considered myself to be a tech-savvy person. I grew up with the Web – so I have an advantage in that sense – but I’ve always been a consumer, rather than a producer of online content. In a way, I’ve sold myself short. Maybe it’s because I lack extensive formal training – or I’m just a debbie downer about technology in general – but I figured the Web wasn’t my forte.

The work I’m doing, and this article, have proven that I was wrong. In “Why I will Never, Ever Hire A ‘Social Media Expert,’” Peter Shankman makes a good (somewhat harsh, but good) argument for why anyone can make a successful online business campaign if they have the right skills. And those skills aren’t the ability to tweet or facebook. As Shankman points out, it’s about solid marketing and stellar customer service.

And although I’ve never taken one marketing class (public relations is close enough though, right?) I think I’ve learned an awful lot about it in the professional writing grad program at UMD. As a writer, you’re constantly marketing your ideas. At the heart of writing is rhetoric; Writers use persuasive elements that appeal to their audience in order to get that audience to do something, even if it’s simply to think in a certain way.

When discussing the importance of marketing, Shankman mentions relevance and brevity. I definitely have the relevance thing down; I’ve done enough audience analysis as a writer to understand how relevance plays into marketing. Luckily, I have the brevity thing down too. Shankman says,
You know what the majority of people calling themselves social media experts can’t do, among other things? THEY CAN’T WRITE. The number of “experts” out there who can’t string a simple sentence together astounds me. Guess what -- if we have about three seconds to get our message across to a new customer, you know what’s going to do it? Not Twitter followers. Not Facebook fans. Not Foursquare check-ins – NO. What’s going to do it is GOOD WRITING, END OF STORY. Good writing is brevity, and brevity is marketing. Want to lose me as a customer, forever, guaranteed? Have a grammar error on any form of outward communication.
He couldn't be more correct. I said before that I'm more of a consumer of online content, so I often look to my own preferences/reactions to decide what works and what doesn't. If it isn't relevant, if it isn't well-written, and if it isn't USEFUL, it isn't going to be attractive to me. You can tweet and facebook about your site all you want, but if the content on the site doesn't meet this criteria, I'm not going to visit the site - regardless of how many times you tell me too. And if it really gets bad enough, I'm going to de-friend/unfollow you. SO THERE.

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