Q&A for Public Speaking Engagement Today

A few months ago, I was asked by Liz Jenkins of A Fresh Space to speak at a meeting of the National Association of Professional Organizers about SEO, blogging, and other social media as it relates to improving web presence.

I’m not going to be coy about it: I love public speaking. (I’m available for more, if anyone has any meetings they need a speaker for.) I love testing out new ways of explaining things in front of audiences and seeing how well they work; I love the thrill of a good reaction from the crowd; I even enjoy when the reaction is occasionally ambivalent because I mentally note what happened and it helps me get better for next time. And from a marketing perspective, I’ve never had better luck generating interest and leads in my work than when I speak in front of professionals who are, at some level, prospects.

Anyway, I also enjoy when the organizer of the event is, well, organized, and for a NAPO event I suppose you’d expect that, but Liz has still impressed me with her follow-through. As part of that, I got an email the other day with questions she asked for answers to in advance, which means that I can share with you what I wrote back to her:

What are the key ingredients for a great website – what makes it stand out and make people stay and check it out?

The key ingredient for a great business web site is alignment with business purpose. Everything else flows from that: great content that is relevant to your audience (because it aligns with your business purpose), great branding and a great branded customer experience (because it aligns with your business purpose), great features and usability… you got it: that align with your business purpose.

If you’re a mechanic, say, it’s probably not meaningful to include an online chat feature on your web site. That is, unless your business purpose is to be the most helpful mechanic in your area, providing outstanding responsiveness to your customers’ concerns. And then there’d be alignment.

How does blogging help establish and enhance your web presence and what are the better formats for creating and maintaining a blog?

Blogging is a means of putting fresh content in front of your audience and giving people a reason to come back. Its side benefits are that it enhances the breadth and scope of words that are used on your site, which means Google and other search engines take notice of it more often for more types of queries. This sometimes means attracting a lot of irrelevant traffic, though, and while most people think of high levels of traffic as a good thing, we really need to train ourselves that traffic is a cost. You pay for the bandwidth on your site, and you pay for your marketing activities.

On one of my blogs, which is primarily for my songwriting business, I once wrote something wondering out loud about why our furnace was blowing air, but not blowing heat. I think in my mind, the relevance was that I couldn’t concentrate on writing because I was cold! For whatever reason, though, to this day, I get several visits every day from people searching for some variation of “furnace blows air not heat”. I imagine those people are sorely disappointed when they end up on a songwriting blog. I didn’t do anyone any favors by venturing off topic.

Besides which, one of the most universally respected measurements of web site effectiveness is conversion, which is a factor of how many orders you took through your site divided by how many visits you received. If you bring in a whole lot of traffic that doesn’t want your services, you add visits without increasing the number of orders. Which means your conversion rate is lower than it should be. Traffic that doesn’t have anything to do with the purpose of your site (remember: our key ingredient is alignment with our business purpose) is only bringing that ratio down.

What are some other social networking methods we can use to help our web presence?

There are so many social networks and social marketing tools, but the three I’ll mention for impact to web presence are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, since they’re fairly ubiquitous.

Twitter is an increasingly useful social network where the feel is of a disconnected conversation, like snippets of a cocktail party. Its two main characteristics are its immediacy — more and more often, news is breaking via Twitter as users tweet their observations of real-world experiences — and its relatively flat access to subject matter experts and even celebrities. It can help you connect with hundreds or even thousands of people who may be interested in your subject area.

Facebook is more like an interactive profile page, but with more and more of the same kind of disconnected conversational elements creeping in to the experience.

LinkedIn is a less interactive profile page, where the emphasis is less on interactive conversation and more on building a network.

Most often, Facebook and LinkedIn connections are based on real-life, in-person relationships, whereas it’s understood and expected that Twitter connections can be random and fleeting with no in-person exposure required.

So as far as helping your web presence, Twitter has the potential to expand your reach beyond your actual circle of acquaintances. There is also the culture of retweeting, which can mean even broader reach for any links you share (some of which, of course, should be to your own site – but not all). In general, though, you probably can’t expect a great conversion rate from Twitter traffic.

What is SEO and what are some ways that we can bump up our website rankings ourselves?

SEO is search engine optimization, or the process of trying to affect the way Google and other search engines perceive the relevance of your site relative to specific search queries.

See below for more.

What are some things that professional companies can do to bump up our website rankings?

The best SEO strategy revolves around content. Look at Google Analytics and see what kinds of keywords people search for when they find your site, and build on the momentum you already having there by reinforcing those same search terms throughout the content of your site. For example, if you see terms like “get organized” as a search keyword, make sure you find at least one and possibly several opportunities throughout your site to use the phrase “get organized.” Best bets are to use those terms in prominent places of the site, such as the navigation or section headers, where the underlying code is likely to give them added importance.

Next you need to work on getting links into your site. You can seek links from other people you know, but there are self-directed ways of doing this, as well. Think about places that you can add your site to a directory; think about topical blogs where you can comment (for technical reasons, sometimes this will count as a link and sometimes it won’t, but at any rate it never hurts to establish your brand presence by commenting in a well-known topical blog); think about how you might use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to create recurring links to your site.

Often, though, the best way to combine these two approaches is by blogging. In choosing to blog about your subject matter (on your site, of course), you automatically generate relevant content and you increase the chances that other people will link to your posts because they’re interesting and pertinent.

Comments? Thoughts? Questions? Those of you who read this and know a lot about the subject, anything you would take issue with? Let me know in comments.

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  1. Brad
    Posted April 10, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Kate, your Q&A transcript is the best info I have read in weeks. Thanks!

  2. Kate O'
    Posted April 10, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Brad! I appreciate that.