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Southwest Airlines – You’re Free to Blog About the Country

September 10th, 2006

I know that Southwest Airlines isn’t for everyone, especially those who love to be pampered by high dollar airline perks like microwaved frozen chicken and stale rice served in an aluminum box complete with plastic utensils. As for me, I’m perfectly fine with honey-roasted peanuts complemented by an ice cold ginger ale … and that’s why Southwest.com is typically the first Web site I frequent when preparing a domestic flight itinerary.

Okay, some of you who frequent this blog are probably thinking I’m a hypocrite because I’m promoting a company that could easily be described as the Wal Mart of the airline industry due to their commoditized approach. However, I’d argue that Southwest is a different type of company than a commoditized retailer such as Wal-Mart in the fact that value is provided to me personally through customized services such as SWAvacations.com and a frequent flyer program that even a traveling novice like me can understand. To top everything off, as a valued customer, I’ve been asked by Southwest Airlines to engage with the company through their blog.

Although BlogSouthwest.com started out as a simple extension of the company’s marketing rhetoric, the content has improved dramatically over the past few months. Brian Lusk and the crew have started to focus the stories on the emotions of their customer base. In fact, of all the corporate blogs that I’ve visited, I’d have to say Southwest’s is the best in terms of capturing my emotions through docuvideos on subjects covering post September 11th traveling fears to eloquently describing cool vacations ideas in places like Seattle. Whether in a positive or negative sense, travel is an emotional subject for most people, and Southwest has done a terrific job at understanding issues that travelers face.

Please visit Southwest’s blog site and let me know if you agree.

Apple Isn’t Really Blogging – Mac Users Want Steve Jobs to Blog!

September 5th, 2006

For all of my love and devotion to the Apple brand, it bewilders me that the company isn’t blogging effectively and is even being shown up by the enemy who has created and pro actively maintains a phenomenal Mac-centric blog. Oh sure, there’s been a few feeble attempts like the .mac blog, but it’s pretty much ignored because it’s simply a forum to talk about product features and violates some of the basic essentials to building an effective blog. How could it be that an organization that prides itself on being at the forefront of quality customer-centric technology has been beaten at its own game? Great question.

To provide a little background, I’ve been a Mac user for 5 years now and I initially made the switch because I was forced to through my job. In fact, I once thought of Mac users as strange professor types that lived in virtual compounds and spoke weird utterances common to cults. Begrudgingly, I began to use my desktop G4 and it wasn’t long before I came to realize the value of the product … it actually was performing at a quality level as testified by all those whacko Apple heads.

Lo and behold, 5 years later I’m typing away on my PowerBook G4 and dreaming about my future upgrade to a MacBookPro while at the same time scheming how to get my business partner, friends, family, and acquaintances to make the switch. Yeah, I’ve gone out on a limb by trying to reveal to them how they’re actually living under the blue screen bondage of a beast that sucks the creative lobe right out of their brains. However, I have to confess that approach has been met with less than desirable results.

So as I sit here musing, I can’t help but wonder if the dynamic and charismatic figure who started my little Mac cult would be more effective than me in swaying popular opinion by addressing the blogosphere in a way similar to how he approaches the WWDC. If there is anyone who can sell Apple, it’s our man Steve, I’m sure the guy even convinced Bill Gates to buy an iPod the last time they got together to discuss compatibility issues.

Along with opening the value discussion up to the PC slaves … err, users, through blogging, Mac evangelists would also love to hear what Steve Jobs has to say in regards to the future of the company as well as trends and developments that effect the industry. I for one desire to hear directly from Jobs on issues relating to Leopard, the rumored wireless iPod, and future compatibility/integration developments with the Intel processor.

It really surprises me how Steve Jobs is missing a grand opportunity to engage with Apple’s loyal and evangelical customer base by choosing not to blog. The company obviously sees some potential in blogging technology since they’ve integrated it into the iLife suite. So why not use the technology and have Jobs or other Apple personalities, like Guy Kawasaki for example, to come online and lead the most powerful marketing force in the personal computer market today? – ahem, that being us Mac evangelists.

In conclusion, the energy Apple heads like myself expend toward selling the product to friends, family, and acquaintances should be harnessed and exploited by the company so as to further endure its customers to the brand while increasing market share by exposing the company to potential switch candidates through the blogosphere. In all, we evangelists want to hear from Apple execs and we’ll do all we can to bring others on board as well.

If you’re an Apple user or one of those other types like my PC partner Doug, please let me know whether agree or disagree with my premise.

SEO is free | Top 25 backlink sources

August 31st, 2006

Now that we’ve covered essential aspects of developing a web site or blog that will rank well in search engines, it’s time to move on to some specific action items we can take to get us noticed. As a quick review, here’s what we’ve covered in this previous string of posts:

You’ve got a quality site, now deal with Newton

After meeting the quality prerequisite, we need to ethically get the word out to the world that we’ve got a great site. While maintaining a quality site will be the ultimate reason for long term SEO success, we still have to get the whole thing kick started. As a former boss of mine used to say, “Having a great idea and not telling anyone has the same result as having no ideas at all.”

So what we’re dealing with now is Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion, “An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.” We’ve built the mass into our site to keep it going but the challenge for now is to take it from rest to motion. Our slingshot will be Google et. al. who, if we treat them right, can serve as our matchmaker to unite us with those people out there who need our solutions most.

Will work for backlinks

The good news is that Google and company claim to want the same thing…they want to serve up the most valuable sites to their users for any combination of keywords. The most important means by which Google and the other major search engines claim to decide which sites are truly the most valuable is by taking a vote from the Internet community. The votes they use are link backs from other sites.

So your mission is clear, submit your URL for consideration to as many other sites, indexes, and directories as possible. There are many options for where to submit, but some of the most important ones I’ve listed below. I recommend to our clients that they go through this list methodically to get the best exposure possible for nominal cost. Keep in mind the process and protocol for getting your URL listed at each one of these sources will vary…some are an automated submission and others will require you calling the organization to make a case for being listed, yet others may require you make a contribution of value to their community.

  1. All the major search engines of course, you might consider using a service like Traffic Blazer from RisingLineWeb.com
  2. dmoz.com (open directory project)
  3. Superpages.com
  4. Local business directories
  5. Technorati.com
  6. Public Library Sites (you’ll need to make a convincing case as to why they should list your link)
  7. MyPages.com
  8. blogflux.com
  9. blogtopsites.com
  10. blogwise.com
  11. iblogbusiness.com
  12. Blogger.com (your profile)
  13. goarticles.com
  14. syndic8.com
  15. blogdigger.com
  16. weblogs.com
  17. Press Release Sites e.g. prweb.com
  18. Squidoo.com
  19. Craigslist.org
  20. Digg.com
  21. del.icio.us
  22. Furl
  23. Shadows.com
  24. MyWeb
  25. StumbleUpon
  26. blog-directory.org

The process of submitting to these potential partners can be time consuming. To keep from being overwhelmed, consider setting aside 15-30 minutes every week or two for backlink hunting. As always, I would be interested in your feedback or suggestions.

SEO is free | The truth about Search Engine Optimization (Part 2)

August 23rd, 2006

The systemMy introductory post on the truth about Search Engine Optimization was an indulgence in drama that hopefully got the point across that search engine optimization is not about beating the system just to show up in the top of someone’s search list. The temptation to focus on the means instead of the end is always there and while it can yield some immediate, apparently beneficial gains, in the long run it depreciates the value a site offers to it target visitors. When developing and implementing an SEO strategy, do pay attention to the details but don’t focus on them.

Remember that the ultimate determination of your site showing up on the short list of search engines is when it proves to the world that it offers consistent valuable content that is relevant to your target audience.

It’s a lot like a sales person who doesn’t pay attention to the details of how they dress when they call on customers…they put themselves at a disadvantage for sure, but if their technical knowledge, customer service, and
closing ability are honed, they’ll be successful anyway. Web sites are much the same. It helps to be dressed for the occasion of attracting attention, but you’ve got to have the goods to back it up.

It should be no surprise that some of the best council on search engine optimization comes from those who write the SEO rules, or a good portion of them at least—Google.  Google provides two pages of guidelines for building a web site that will best suited to be indexed and highly ranked.  If you’ve not visited these pages, they are a must for anyone who contributes to the management of a website:

Out of all the content on these two pages, the most important is in this short sentence: “Make pages for users, not for search engines.”

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