Last Thursday I attended the IIA Event “Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing (PDF 2 MB)”. While I was happy to be there to represent the IIA as always, I was primarily there to learn like many of the other participants. Some of the other participants were there because they were planning to get their hands dirty and develop some killer AdWords campaigns for their own companies; some participants were there because they had found the “if you build it; they will come” approach hadn’t gone quite to plan; and some were there because they were planning to recruit SEO executives and wanted to ensure they were recruiting people with real knowledge and experience. Well more knowledge and experience than they got from a one day course! We were absolutely full to capacity and as the afternoon session was hands on and PC based we were lucky to be able to fit everyone. Lesson 1: if you see an IIA event that would benefit you or your company, book it immediately!
The trainer for the day was Michael Heraghty of Heraghty Internet Consultants and his coverage of the topic was extensive. It was apparent very quickly that he has the SEO knowledge and the passion for SEO that will keep that knowledge fresh in a fast changing area. I had been to a seminar on AdWords about two years ago and so much has changed even since then that I really learnt a lot. The content of the workshop also boosted my confidence in developing Google AdWords Campaigns. I think the main thing to remember in Search Engine Optimisation and AdWord formulisation is that all the Search Engines want to offer their users the best experience possible, which means serving them results with the answer to their query, preferably in the number one position. Therefore they are constantly tweaking and improving their search engines in order for them to search like humans who know where they are and who they are. I know that I am a thirty something in Dublin so when I throw the single word query “hairdresser” into a search engine I want to see results about hairdressers in Dublin. (There aren’t many with great websites anyway but that’s another day’s post!)
One of the most useful points, I thought, that Michael made was all about what I like to call “Link love” (a quick search of WordSpy suggests that it hasn’t entered the general lexicon however Blogossary (not a receptacle for dead blogs but a glossary for blogging terms) defines it as “posting a link to sites or blogs, usually unsolicited, that you enjoy, admire, or find useful.” The beauty of link love for the recipient is that it increases your ranking with Google because Google not only looks at the content of your own site but the content of the sites that link to yours and why they are linking to yours. It works out the “why” by examining their content and if it contains some of the same keywords, it’s a good link, a real link, a link full of love. The more links of love your site receives the higher you rank in the search results. However, this only holds if, for example, you are one of my mythical hairdressers in Dublin and your site contains the keywords hairdresser and Dublin and sites linking to yours contain the keywords hairdress and Dublin EVEN IF those sites are saying “Roseanne’s Hair Salon is the WORST hairdresser in Dublin” with links to my salon’s site, Roseanne’s Hair Salon. The old adage that it’s better to be talked about than not at all really holds true for search optimization. The next trick is to engage the aforementioned dissastisfied customer of Roseanne’s Hair Salon and see if you can put it all to rights. This is something which will no doubt feature in Thursday’s half-day event “Improving Online Results using Web 2.0” and which Keith Shirley discusses when he was writing about last week’s inaugural meeting of the Social Media Working Group.
02/09/2008: I am editing this section to clarify a number of points. You can see from the comments that it has generated some interest among bloggers.
Michael mentioned that a great way to boost your link love was to write a guest blog post (HINT!! HINT!!). EDIT: Also I also imagine that leaving comments on blogs that are likely to be published (i.e. helpful, objective and “soft” sell comments (Edit: Please see clarification on my use of the term “soft” sell below.)) is another way to get those lovin’ links going. It also occurred to me that another great way to increase your link loving is to log into the IIA extranet and post information (news, appointments, vacancies, special member offers) about your company. Another link in the chain of love that will help you creep closer to that coveted number one position. I look forward to reading all your news!
With all of this in mind I would like to make a suggestion. If you have tended an IIA event and are a fully paid-up member and would like to write a review of that event and how you feel the material will feed into your work and your internet strategy, I would love to hear from you. Post a comment below or email me at members at iia dot ie.
(By the way if you can’t get enough of this SEO stuff, Heraghty Internet Consultants have plenty of case studies in the Clients section of their site.)
EDIT: Soft sell: Let’s be clear, the IIA is a business association and so our members are in the business of turning a profit. This is the main goal of all resources spent on company time. The reason that they will undertake any blogging or commenting on blogs is that they hope that their engagement will reflect well on their products and services which in turn will lead to new customers or sustain relationships with existing customers. Like all other engagments there are rules. You wouldn’t roll into a meeting with potential clients unprepared or do a radio intervew without planning. Writing a blog or commenting on somebody else’s blog has the potential to attract as much attention as a radio interview. However as an employee of the IIA when I comment on a blog in a professional capacity I will always be doing it with the IIA’s mission and strategic goals in mind. It will, after a fashion, be a soft sell to encourage members to take a more active role or to encourage non-members to consider joining etc. even if I never mention these goals explicitly.