Saturday, September 26, 2009

SEO and geography: Where the hell are you?

One of the things I find frustrating with many of the Web sites I consult with is that I oftentimes have no clue where the group is located.

Many of these sites are for individual chapters of our organization, so they are literally all over the map, in the U.S., Canada and a few other countries. So I find it frustrating when, say, I'm trying to determine where the North Coast chapter is and it takes me 15 minutes to determine that it's in Ohio, of all places.

Too often I think we assume people know who we are and where we're located. We don't take into account the search-engine tourists who may stumble on your site by accident. Maybe they have no interest in your content and will never spend a dime on your product, but if your content is in any way specific to one region, you should always let that be known in your page title and/or "about" information. 

I think this definitely can apply to newspapers, especially community sites with vague names. For example, I used to work for a paper called the Dispatch Tribune. Unless you live in that community, you'd have no idea where the paper is located. 

If the chapter mentioned above had mentioned Ohio in its page title, that obviously would help users determine whether or not to click through to your site. Also, maybe they don't know the exact name of your organization but they're looking for a group like yours in that area of the country. If your site in no way mentions where you are, you're potentially missing out on new visitors, customers, subscribers or members. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

New content challenges

Let me start off with one of those trite sentences about how long it's been since I've updated this blog. Yes, it has been a long time, but I've also been very busy with some new projects.

Of course, the biggest change came in September when I accepted a new job. This change will likely impact the subject matter of this blog going forward, but I don't intend to change the title or the focus completely. Hopefully I will still have some SEO content that will relate to journalists and other media professionals.

The new job, however, is really quite a change and a whole new challenge.

At my last job, I helped a group of magazines develop their online content strategies. The new gig is for a professional organization for administrative professionals. The organization has a fairly robust Web community, which offers its members a variety of social networking options, as well as a simple content management system (CMS) for its chapter and division Web sites. The organization has somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 members, all of whom could potentially contact me with questions. So, yeah, it's a much bigger pool of people to deal with. But so far, it hasn't been too overwhelming.

There really is very little emphasis on SEO at this point, but I hope to eventually (and gradually) inject some SEO principles to the group, which I think has the potential to bring in some new members.

So, at this new job, we have 100's of chapters and divisions all over the country. Most of them have their own Web site. When these webmasters have questions or problems with their sites, they email me. They also email me if they can't log on to our headquarters' web community. They also email me to ask how to add documents to their online libraries, and how to upload images, how to place a sponsor's ad, how to have their site added to our chapter locator, "What's a domain, anyway," and "Can we add this or that to the site?"

Basically, I do a lot of explaining, a lot of impromptu tutorials and emails fixing problems and finding solutions.

But I think the change will give me a different perspective on Web content than where I came from. It's a totally new focus, with different needs, different people and very different levels of Web knowledge. I definitely think getting away from ad impressions, page views, unique visitors and all that other "revenue-facing" junk will be good.

It's definitely a different work environment, but also not bad. I really enjoy everybody I work with in our building, and the members I interact with on a daily basis have, for the most part, been very easy to work with. I expect it will open some doors to some new ideas, so hopefully I'll have time to occasionally share some of them.