This entry was posted on
Monday, April 18th, 2005 at
5:04 pm and is filed
Note – this is a very long post, and probably only of interest to the core-faithful. But curious passers-by are also welcome…
OK, here’s the current state of play for starters…What I do for a living and why I won’t be doing it any moreI currently work – on wage – for the good people at Screen Pages. This arrangement will come to an end on Friday (the 22nd of this month).What I do for Screen Pages pretty much amounts to organic search engine optimisation.Organic search engine optimisation involves three things:- indexability – how much can the indexing robots see/find?- relevance – how relevant is a site/page to any given query?- link popularity – are directory listings sorted and is the site well-linked?Over the past two years, I’ve developed a system with their crew that allows their clients to get over a major indexibility problem that pretty much comes down to removing/bypassing the one major liability of a dynamic site – the use of query strings.I’ve also taken a major – and often overlooked – asset in this dynamic system (that builds pages on the fly according to queries sent to a database). Instead of stopping at inserting page content and product images into the template, we’ve done incredibly simple things like inserting the category or product name into the Page Title and other visible/coded aspects that search engines rely on when gauging relevance.I normally integrate this activity with a carefully researched generic keyword strategy and do my best to ensure that directory listings include a description that is in keeping with this strategy. This is the first step towards developing link popularity but – unfortunately – for many of my clients, this is where it stops.By and large, my current client base is too conservative (culturally and financially) to invest a decent amount of money in link generation via relationship-building (see: weblogs) and/or viral marketing. Even though the system works, for many clients it’s far easier to secure a budget for an ongoing AdWords campaign, and this is usually the route they choose if they fail to build a decent link spectrum and thereby make the upper level of the generic keyword strategy work to their advantage.And it’s this kind of blogging/viral work that:1) I’m most interested in2) I really need to keep my current position viableOver the past two years, I’ve pretty much worked my way through the existing client base and attracted many new clients, but the new client uptake for SEO alone doesn’t pay my way. And – even if it did pay my way – doing SEO alone is pretty soul-destroying stuff.Oh, and I should make this clear, because assumptions are sure to be made…Screen Pages have been wary at times, and they don’t let me spend all of my time on blogging, but by and large they’ve been very understanding about the level of politics on Bloggerheads and the number/intensity of private campaigns I’ve been running. Especially as a lot of this stuff is useful when making the case for link generation – and most of it is done outside or work hours and/or just falls out of the side of my head while I’m doing Real Work.What I want to do for a livingPhew! Well, if you think *that* took a long time to explain… brace yourselves.The easiest way to go about it – I think – is to start with a quick outline and then take you step-by-step through my job-hunting journey this past week or so. This will show you the many ways my skills can be deployed and inform you of a few options I’ve considered (and rejected).(Note – In terms of locale, I’m close enough to London to make commuting workable, but I need to allow for South West Trains reducing my efficiency by 10-30% on any given day.)What I enjoy most (and, as it happens, what I’m best at) is taking search engine optimisation and plugging it into weblogs and/or viral marketing.By integrating with the weblog community and/or creating a mechanism that is of interest to them, you reach two distinct audiences:- those who are attracted to the weblog/mechanism- those who find you as the top or near-to-top search result for a lucrative/relevant query but have no idea why you are presented so highlyI held some SEO seminars in early 2004 and stated quite clearly in these seminars that this would work then and in the future (if configured honestly and spread organically), as Google was the dominant search engine for a reason and the new databases from Yahoo and MSN would follow very similar ranking strategies in order to win part of Google’s audience. And I was right.So, I had a sit down and a think about the types of companies that could benefit most from this approach (that didn’t already have the skills/knowledge to undertake this approach themselves).I began on familiar ground, seeking a design/creative agency with a need, client base and methodology that would allow me to operate as efficiently as possible.Advertising/Creative/Online AgenciesWhen looking for a creative agency in need of an integrated creative/SEO approach, I found a typical target in glue London, but – as with most agencies of this kind – a quick look at their client list ended the relationship before it started. Yes, companies like McDonalds do need someone to supply them with the occasional clue-by-four, but I can’t really see myself operating as an apologist for them and passing the exercise off as a ‘debate’. Let them eat AdWords.As I said, this is a typical target. There are other names and other shames that I won’t bore you with. I pretty much gave up after a while, and started considering other options.News OrganisationsThere are three media organisations that I would have no problems promoting and that are large enough to make good use of me:BBC – If it does happen, it will happen at a crawl. And complete integration with the BBC would stop me from developing The Anti-Murdoch Network.The Guardian – These clever chaps have team members who have been investigating blogs for as long as I have (probably longer), and their careful approach is finally starting to bear fruit of the sweetest kind. They also have very few issues in terms of SEO. They don’t need me.The Independent – I can do some very exciting things for these people, but I need a way in.I know I said three, but one other needs to be mentioned, even though it appears to be too small to sustain me in a dedicated role:Private Eye – I blogged my reasons and recommendations over a year agoPublic RelationsFrom here it was a pretty logical leap to PR companies. And this sector is just starting to wake up to the potential of weblogs. Too bad about the wanky titles such as ‘tech-fluential’.Too bad also that Burson-Marsteller (and large PR companies like them such as Shandwick and Hill & Knowlton) have some techniques I have no wish to adopt and many clients that I have no interest in helping. Take a stroll around PR Watch and you’ll see what I mean.There is a breakway group of ethical PR agencies, but this is a much smaller pool, and will probably require a freelance approach.Right now, I’m taking a closer look at (and/or talking with) Honey PR, Xavier Adam and The Forster Company.There are single organisations such as the WWF (based just down the road, as it happens), but even this large organisation is trying to double-up by seeking an expert in print promotion *and* online promotion (I wish them luck in their search).PR currently seems the most likely route, but here are a couple of other things I would be very interested in doing:Pipe Dream I – LegoBest. Toy. Ever. And Lego has a huge worldwide support group that’s just waiting to connect (pun intended). I had a plan that I presented to Lego over two years ago that mostly involved better engagement with their customers and budding designers. Oh, and the bit (that I’m *not* going to tell you about) that would turn that into money. They seemed happy with the whole idea, just… at… a… very… slow… pace… Here’s what they’ve done so far.Pipe Dream II – MPs & WeblogsI could very happily spend 18-24 months simply getting MPS online and communicating. But for such a project to produce silly things like grocery money, it would need to be led and fed by one of the major parties. And I won’t be doing it for the Conservatives. Nor will I be doing it for Labour while Blair is in charge (please see Gareth Davies and my secret agenda). That leave the Lib-Dems, and I don’t think they can afford it.Some lovely person with pots of money and a belief in improving/furthering political engagement could come along and decide that a cross-party blog development project is a good idea, and I do expect that to happen some day. Right after monkeys fly out of my butt.Pipe Dream III – Flash Music VideoI’ve talked at length to labels such as Universal Music and EMI. The latter took my comments about changing the culture of online music promotion via the very interactive Flash format and responded by putting a red button on a broadcast video. The labels seem afraid of setting a precedent whereby every major release will require the expense of a broadcast video *and* a Flash video… but right now they have a lot of problems with people exchanging music files in secret, when instead they could be discussing them (i.e. promoting them) in public.Take for example JPEG Baby, which – during its peak – was the top search result for ‘love song’ and is still the top search result for ‘love song’ in Yahoo. The same approach could have earned the top search result for ‘heavy metal’ (150,000 searches per month) or ‘rap song’ (33,000 searches per month).Take as another example a track that was already viral before I got to it – the London Underground Song. It was getting 1,000 downloads a day as an MP3, but once a video was produced to make it more accessible, we had 30-40,000 people listening every day. FFS, we reached 250,000 individual web users in a fortnight. And the record companies (boo-hoo) are worried about having to do it more than once.(I don’t expect to be producing music videos for major artists/labels, BTW. I’m just not good enough. But I don’t expect to be directing/producing them, either… as there are too many heads up arses.)Here comes Friday…So, that’s about it. The short-term plan is to have a serious think and do some more research as the election plays out, and from Friday to whenever bridge the money gap with freelance work.You’re a part of the aforementioned research, BTW. You’re supposed to read all of the above and give a damn. If there’s a route/option that I haven’t considered (or a company I may not have heard of) then you know how to get in touch.Cheers all.