November 30, 2009 Program Summary

Best Practices for Turning Web Content into Search Engine Snack Food

Computer eyeing some snack foodAt this timely event,
online marketing and Web content optimization specialists Polly Mertens and Glenn Silloway explored proven, best-practice strategies and tactics that technical, creative, business, and marketing information design professionals can use when developing Web content for their clients — or for themselves.

Many tools, tips, techniques, and fads have come and gone in recent years, leaving many of us scratching our heads. What are today's best practices for writing content for the Web? What mechanisms will get the most laser-focused attention from Google and other search engines to ensure the fastest and highest rankings?

See the highlights and links to handouts below!

Speaker Polly MertensPart 1: Strategic Planning for an Internet Marketing Program

Polly Mertens discussed the online marketing process she uses with her clients to help them prepare a successful and integrated online marketing plan. It included deciding on smart strategies, choosing the best tactics, and tips for avoiding the most common mistakes when marketing online.

She also discussed an example of a one-year plan that touches on several strategies most marketers can employ.

Polly started off the evening by sharing with the group her 10 important “Tips for Avoiding Common Online Marketing Mistakes.”

Tips for Avoiding Common Online Marketing Mistakes
by Polly Mertens

Mistake #1: No money or not identifying a budget.
Tip:  Marketing is an investment – it’s short-sighted to think it won’t cost anything to market your business. Set aside a realistic budget ahead of time and stick to it.

Mistake #2: Not setting aside time for marketing.
Tip: Determine how important your online activities are to your overall business and then determine how much time you can devote to it each week. Schedule marketing time in your calendar like an appointment and keep your appointments.

Mistake #3: Not targeting your audience.
Tip: Write down the demographics and psychographics for your target audience and post them on your wall, computer, desk — somewhere you can constantly remind yourself who you’re talking to and what their needs are. You should have 1–3 targets, no more.

Mistake #4: Believing you are your target audience.
Tip: Take a look at your current Web site or marketing materials.  Are you talking to someone who’s exactly like you or does your message/image fit the people you want to sell to instead? If it looks like a description of you, demographically speaking, it might be time to rethink things.

Mistake #5: Not contacting your audience enough or contacting them too much.
Tip: It usually takes at least seven exposures before someone will pay attention to your message. If you’re writing a newsletter, never send it out more than once a week but also never communicate less than once a quarter; once a month is better.

Mistake #6: Not tracking your lead sources.
Tip: Be sure to use a Web site analysis program (such as Google Analytics) so you know where your leads are coming from.

Mistake #7: Trying to do too much.
Tip: Break your plan into bite-size pieces. Start slowly and grow. Develop a plan that will work, set aside the time and money necessary, and ease your way into it. Don’t get distracted mid-stream — give and take if you find a new method you want to implement it. For example, what will you give up to dedicate time to a new tactic?

Mistake #8: Not testing messages and methods.
Tip: Try something you’ve never done before at least once, but even better, try it at least three times (over 6–12 months) to see if it is a good fit FOR YOU. We can tell you what’s worked for other companies, but the only way you’ll know is if you try it for yourself.

Mistake #9: Reaching high and missing the low-hanging fruit.
Tip: Make sure your present methods (e.g., Web site, newsletters, articles) are optimized. Whatever you’re currently doing, is there anything you can do to make your current tactics work harder for you? Don’t jump into a new area and leave what you’re already doing without first capitalizing on all related opportunities that are within easy reach.

Mistake #10: Giving up too soon.
Tip: Before you give up a specific method, make sure you’ve optimized it and have tested various methods before you quit. Think outside the box to see how you might better use the method, but don’t give up what you’ve invested without making certain the tactic isn’t working.

counter the common mistakes, Polly took a best-practices approach. She discussed a sample one-year online marketing plan to give people an idea of what a well-rounded online marketing plan should include. She also walked through the various aspects of an actual plan to explain the actions that could apply to a sample business.

Polly emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all online marketing plan out there. It’s important that people define the objective(s) for their business, define their target market and particular strategies, and eventually identify the tactics that they’ll employ that will allow them to reach their potential customers within their time and budget constraints.

Polly’s recommendations to the group, whether they are business owners, writers, or service providers — anyone who manages online marketing programs — were as follows:

  1. Create a plan – Include objectives, budget (time and money), target audience, and schedule.

  2. Commit yourself – Don’t give up too soon and don’t get overwhelmed — stay in the game and really work it.

  3. Monitor and track results – You won’t know what’s working or not unless you can track how people are finding you and which ones are buying from you.

  4. Correct and continue – Stop doing what’s not working and continue or expand what works for you.

  5. Use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques – Create keyword-focused content pages, blog (at least once a week), or find or create inbound links to your site. Pick one tactic that works and build slowly.

Links to Polly's marketing plan handouts:


Bio info: Polly Mertens
is the founder of two real estate portals that ranked Number One in Google search in as little as 90 days with zero advertising; and an online marketing expert, trainer, and counselor. She is a dynamic and motivating trainer, speaker, coach and counselor to start-up business owners.

Polly received her MBA from Cal Poly after working for over a decade in San Francisco and Silicon Valley prior to moving to San Luis Obispo in 2001. She divides her time between teaching a 14-week entrepreneurship program entitled “Vision to Venture” for Mission Community Services, training and coaching small business owners around the country, and working with companies involved in renewables helping to change the face of business and the environment.

Contact Polly at pmertens@recsolar.com.

Part 2: Writing Web Content that Search Engines Will Love

Speaker Glenn SillowayOur next presenter was Glenn Silloway, founder of TheNetSells.comWhile Polly reminded everyone of the need to create a sound plan, Glenn shared with people a case study of one of his clients who is in the process of optimizing his Web site to increase the online sales and community engagement for his vintage surfing T-shirts and apparel.

Glenn’s talk, “Optimization 2.0,” focused on the extension of traditional search engine optimization (SEO) to include the new forms of social media, which are increasingly important tactics that even small businesses should use.

During this segment, he illustrated current tools you can use to discover and define the online conversations that are relevant to your clients or to your own business marketing.

The Evolution of the Online Marketing Environment

To help the audience understand the approach he took with his client’s online marketing plan, Glenn first set the context of the marketing environment:

  • In traditional mass marketing, referred to as “Interruption Marketing,” companies vied for attention by blasting ads at people without their permission — think of television ads. This one-way communication allowed little feedback or control on the part of consumers.
  • With the advent of the Internet, the relationship between businesses and consumers became more reciprocal. Consumers gained power, if only because the anonymity of the Internet allowed them to just “click off” if they disliked a company’s message. The dominant form of marketing online became search, in which consumers used a search engine like Google or Bing to find products and services. The consumer initiated the connection.
  • Now, in the Web 2.0 era, Internet tools have progressed to make everyone a publisher — with a resulting explosion of content on the Internet. This content concerns almost every topic, including brands, products, and the quality of companies’ performance. Consumers now initiate the terms of the conversation about products and services, and agile companies join in these conversations on a very level playing field. Marketing is no longer easy for companies to “control” — today companies have to participate and be seen as valued members of the conversation. Or go home.

These changes in the marketing environment do not eliminate the need for basic marketing work and strategic decisions. Glenn shared his client’s brand positioning as the basis for helping to choose and shape marketing tactics. The client has set measurable objectives for increasing sales, community members, and engagement with the online conversations about his products. These are the fundamentals that control all future decisions.

The Discovery Process

The next step in a concrete marketing plan is discovery, which Glenn broke into two components.

  • In the first step of discovery, the basic SEO work of finding the best keyword phrases for your business must be completed. Glenn suggested beginning with the Google Keyword Tool (access this via your Google account, using AdWords if necessary) and refining with Google’s Insights for Search. The product is a short list of keyword phrases that are highly targeted to your product or service or to your most important online communities (in this case, surf T-shirts and vintage surf memorabilia phrases were chosen). These keyword phrases will be used consistently in all of the content the company publishes across the Internet.
  • The second step of discovery involves research to learn where relevant conversations are happening online. The chosen keywords can help as search tools to seek blogs, forums, articles, and Twitter conversations that are relevant. Glenn showed how relevant conversations about ‘vintage surf’ can be found at Digg, Delicious, Yahoo! Groups, Facebook Groups, and Twitter. On Twitter, conversations sometimes use the ‘hashtag’ convention of putting the pound sign (#) before a standard word to denote a conversation — so there is a ‘#surf’ conversation to follow, for example.

Once discovery is complete, the next step is to select tactics. This may include traditional advertising, search advertising, SEO, and social media mobilization in almost any combination. For the client's online e-commerce store only, all of the tactics chosen were online. They included:

  • Search Engine Optimization of the main Web site
  • Publishing to a blog
  • Joining and participating in relevant groups and forums
  • Promoting blog content to online aggregators like Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Technorati, and Facebook
  • Setting up a Facebook Fan Page to show ‘teasers’ of blog posts, photos and videos of surfing culture, and special offers for Fans.
  • Sending out e-mail blasts to the in-house list
  • Monitoring and participating in relevant conversations on Twitter

Glenn noted that this is an exhausting and difficult set of tasks. Reminding people of one of Polly’s earlier tips, set aside a realistic budget for time and money and stick to it. People are spending hours online and not making them the best use of their time. Set aside 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to do your social networking, and then get offline.  Investing in your marketing can pay off, but you have to have a sound plan, a focused approach, and a commitment to pursuing your plan.

Bio info: Glenn Silloway
the founder and has been sole proprietor of The Net Sells since 2003, and was a successful search marketing pro since before Google. In late 1998, when he was VP of Membership for a statewide trade association in Minnesota, he helped to create and launch the association’s first dynamic Web site. The firm that developed the site grew rapidly with the dot-com wave, and in June 2000 it invited him to join it as an Account Executive. By the end of 2001, when reality cooled off the dot-com exuberance, owners of Web sites started asking for value. Internet marketing was no longer a sideline of development: it became the central focus.

Ever since, Glenn has worked full time to drive value to customers through online marketing — primarily search marketing — and to try to keep up with the speed of Internet change. He has created Pay Per Click accounts that yielded as much as 30 times the advertising investment and delivered top-5 ranks on many keywords. Today, he is working to integrate the exploding online conversation into productive marketing platforms for a wide variety of clients. Glenn is also a member of our SLO STC chapter.

Links to Glenn's marketing plan handouts:


Glenn's presentation appears here:



Disclaimer, credits, copyrightGet Acrobat ReaderSome articles or linked resources may be in Portable Document Format (PDF). To download the free Acrobat Reader, click the icon at right. To install the Reader, double-click the downloaded file.

Disclaimer and credits