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101: Search Engine Optimization
By Brett Melson Thursday, July 23, 2009

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a vital form of marketing for almost any type of business ranging from a local fishing charter to a Fortune 500 company. Effective SEO enables a company’s website to rank higher on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for specific, targeted keywords when doing a search though one of the various search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN. The goal of any SEO campaign is to be the top listing on the first page of the organic search results. By working to uncover the various algorithms used by  search engines to categorize the information on the internet, successful SEO campaigns can tailor sites to increase relevance  to certain terms or keywords.

Theoretically, the higher a company appears in the SERPs  for a particular search term, the more visitors the site will receive and the better chance a sale will be made. For instance, even a small charter fishing operation in Delaware could benefit greatly by enacting an SEO campaign. By making subtle changes to their site, placement or ranking could drastically improve when someone searches “Tuna Fishing in Delaware” or some type of variable. Instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars advertising in local papers or magazines, which often produce little results, they could optimize their web site allowing their site to appear near the top of the list for certain terms. By taking advantage of the optimization the small fishing charter now is at the top of the list for that search, at the particular time someone is searching for a Charter fishing trip in Delaware.

Often businesses will hire a search engine optimizer to analyze the site and provide the necessary feedback to improve rankings. Tweaks or modifications to the site and often the HTML coding are required in order make the most of the campaign. If possible receive the input from the search engine optimizer during the creation or redesign of the site. This allows the site to be designed from the ground up to make the most of the optimization. Imagine clients looking for your product/service and instantly your site can appear at the top of the list above that of your competitors! Some tech savvy individuals will try and tackle the project on their own. Google offers a Sitemap program that helps to analyze the site and provide guidance to create your own SEO program.

Whether a search engine optimizer is brought in to assist or the project is tackled in house, search engine optimization is  definitely worth exploring for any business. To get started try reading Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

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Book Review: How to Castrate a Bull
By Jake Cornelius Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yes, the title sucked me in. You've got to admit it, though; How to Castrate a Bull is an eye-catching title for a business book. And yes, it does have a section about bull castration. The bland subtitle gives the intention of the book: Unexpected lessons on risk, growth, and success in business. Written by NetApp co-founder Dave Hitz, the book summarizes the nearly 20 year lifespan of the company and how they went from just 3 guys with an idea to over 4000 employees and more than $4 billion in annual revenues.

The title comes from Hitz's time spent at Deep Springs College in California. Deep Springs is a combination ranch and liberal arts college. Students work 20 hours per week on the ranch while they do their studies. When Hitz worked as a ranch hand he learned humility by shoveling cow patties, the risk management involved when taking a knife to a 500 lb. bull, all while learning precious critical thinking and writing skills. Although Hitz majored in computer science at Princeton, he gives more credits to the writing and thinking skills learned as a liberal arts student than to his computer science education; in fact, he writes that learning how to write clearly was probably the best thing could have happened for his success. There's a powerful lesson for the rest of us.

Some of the other lessons Hitz offers are to find a new or young market that you can quickly dominate. That's obvious, but even Hitz admits that before NetApp even got a good grip on their market, a different market had found them and they ended up completely changing their strategy. That is another lesson offered: be flexible. One should also be flexible enough to know when to make big changes. Hitz tells of coming to the realization that one of the other founders had to be fired. Hitz writes that he hated having to make that choice, but it had to be done if the business was going to grow. Unfortunately, it took 14 months; so another lesson is that replacing your CEO should be done quickly!

When I first started reading this book, I didn't think that I would make it past the first chapter. I didn't want to read a "Hey! I'm awesome!" story. Once I got past the introduction, Hitz did provide an interesting story about building a huge company. He gave interesting anecdotes and funny stories about how to and not do many of the things that must be done to grow. Even if you aren't planning on taking your business to $4 billion annually, Hitz's story is still a good one about business life.

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How to Get On Radio Shows
By George Merlis Monday, July 20, 2009

Shortly before the 2008 election, a large financial services company asked me to come to a corporate retreat and give a speech to 100 or so of their counselors from around the country. My subject was: “How to Become the Go-To Guy for Your Local Media.”

My first piece of advice for them was “book yourself on local call-in radio shows.” Call-in radio has a voracious appetite, many programs appreciate expert advice from callers and more than a few are happy to give a good call-in guest repeat exposure. The operative word in the last sentence is “good.” Being good in any media encounter means having a message and expressing it coherently, entertainingly and concisely. In previous posts, I’ve written about the need for an agenda in an interview and I’ve given a series of tips on how to turn your agenda points into compelling soundbites that viewers, listeners and readers will take away with them.

Since most call-in segments, especially unsolicited ones, are short, your agenda should only have one, at most two, points -- rather than the four or five I recommend for a typical media interview. Your message point -- or points -- should be sharply honed and compelling; it’s unlikely you’re going to have an abundance of time to sell them -- either to the call screener or to the audience at large. So use your most startling, stunning stuff right up front with the call screener; don’t save your best lines for air because if you don’t deploy them to the screener you won’t get on the air. Let me use the financial advisors I addressed to give you an example. At the time I gave the speech the wheels had come off the economy and confusion reigned everywhere (especially in the media, which had been mindlessly cheerleading the boom and -- with few notable exceptions -- was totally surprised by the downturn). Looking around the crowded room before going on, I joked to one of my hosts, “I’m glad so many of your folks have ground floor offices.” She answered, “Actually, they’re all fine; it’s the clients who are suffering panic attacks. Our guys have to talk the clients off the ledge.”

She was speaking metaphorically, but that was a great line to use with a call-in radio screener.  So I ad-libbed it into my speech:  “If I were you, and I were phoning a call-in screener, I would say something like, ‘I’m Joe Smith from XYZ Financial services.  And I think you’d be interested in how I talk my clients off the ledge during this economic free-fall." Chances are very good, I told them, they would wind up on the air and that before they went on the screener would remind them, “Be sure to use that talking people off the ledge line.”

Once you’re on radio, it’s vitally important to remember to brand. Let me put that in all upper-case: BRAND. Other media channels are forgiving. If you forget to mention your affiliation, a newspaper or magazine reader enjoys the reread factor -- she can hunt back in the story and find out who you are. In television the production often does you the service of putting your name and affiliation in a lower-third graphic below your image. But there is no re-read factor or lower-third in radio. A good radio interviewer will identify his guest and the guest’s affiliation. Unhappily, good radio interviewers are few and far-between. I’m sure that as a listener you’ve joined an interview in progress and heard an interesting discussion about “the book,”  “my book,” and “it.” Maybe you were interested enough to want to buy the book. But while you listened, the author failed to use its name and the interviewer -- who should have known better -- failed to name the volume AND his guest. If you turned off the radio before the interview ended, you were stymied. Try asking for “It” or “The Book” at Barnes & Noble; they  have thousands of volumes -- none named, “It” or “The Book.”  So on radio it falls to you to do your own branding. The medium is unique in other areas, too. And next time, I’ll go give you additional tips for radio mastery.

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101 on Creating a Business Plan
By Carleigh Lowe Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Once again Design Sponge has a great post for their Biz Ladies series. This time on Creating a Business Plan. I know that so many entrepreneurs find this task to be very daunting. I think this post will help, below is an excerpt:

Developing a Strategic Plan

Since mid-2008 we have been living, working and surviving in uncertain times. As the owner of an independent business, you likely have faced challenges such as restructuring your business model, adjusting how you and your staff interact with customers, living with fluctuations in billing structures and an increase in the number of hours you and your staff work. It has not been an easy time!

So, if you don’t have a strategic plan already in place, now may be an excellent time to take stock of your hopes, dreams and realities and draft a roadmap for yourself and your organization. If you do have an existing plan, it’s a good time to fine-tune and update it. When I was in summer camp, one of my favorite activities was orienteering. With the aid of a compass and a topographical map, we had to figure out how to get from A to B in dense forests. It was before GPS, and there were no easy answers as this activity required thoughtfulness, courage, creativity and a spirit of adventure in knowing that there are many ways to ones destination. As a Biz Lady, this memory is the best analogy to the process I encourage in conceiving and establishing a strategic plan for your business. Strategic plans aren’t scary, they don’t have to be too formal, and yes, they can actually be fun to draft.

Making a Strategic Business Plan

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Questions for Potential Managers
By Carleigh Lowe Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For anyone thinking about management issues, the blog Great Leadership has an interesting post. This is often a tough area for entrepreneurs; many of us have the big visions and ideas but struggle when it comes to delegating tasks to employees in order to get things done. Check out these three questions, as they may be helpful.

Below is an excerpt of the article:

2. "Do I have what it takes to be successful?"

Once you’re clear on your motivations, the next question is a harder one to answer – do you have what it takes to be a successful manager? That’s a hard question to answer if you’ve never been in the role, so to some extent, there’s some guess-work involved.
We know there are certain skills and attributes that can be demonstrated in a non-managerial role, that if done well, are predictors of managerial success. For example, Development Dimensions International (DDI) has developed a set of criteria that they say will accurately predict executive success, based on their own experience and research, and research by others.

According to DDI, the “right stuff” for future managerial success include:

1. Propensity to lead. They step up to leadership opportunities

2. They bring out the best in others

3. Authenticity. They have integrity, admit mistakes, and don’t let their egos get in their way

4. Receptivity to feedback. They seek out and welcome feedback

5. Learning agility

6. Adaptability. Adaptability reflects a person's skill at juggling competing demands and adjusting to new situations and people. A key here is maintaining an unswerving, "can do" attitude in the face of change

7. Navigates ambiguity. This trait enables people to simplify complex issues and make decisions without having all the facts

8. Conceptual thinking. Like great chess players and baseball managers,the best leaders always have the big picture in mind. Their ability to think two, three, or more moves ahead is what separates them from competitors

9. Cultural fit

10. Passion for results

Try assessing yourself against this list of criteria. Better yet, ask your manager and others to assess you. If you’re lacking in any key areas, that’s OK – most of these things can be improved with awareness, practice, and feedback. Other management skills are learned and mastered once in the role and with experience.

Read the full post here:

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