Creative Writing Technical Writing SEO/SEM

Archive for November, 2007

This Post is rated PG-13

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Last week when my mother was visiting (and giving me her monthly “if you just rinsed off your dishes right after eating…” lecture) we rented Premonition (with Sandra Bullock). The eerie concept of premonitions has been haunting me since. I think I had one a few months ago when I arrived at the office feeling suddenly very troubled, almost shaking with some unknown worry. I went into the bathroom and cried, but I had no idea why. I felt as though something bad was going to happen, and I phoned my best friend Bob about it.

Days passed with no explanation. About two weeks later Bob was mowing the lawn at his Manitowoc campground and was attacked by bees. He experienced major swelling in his throat and began to feel faint. He made his way indoors, and finding it hard to stand up, he dialed 911. While on the phone, he collapsed, smashing his head on the way down. Blood spurted on the linoleum, the table, and the walls. EMS arrived to find him blue, his eyes rolled back into his head, just in time to save his life.

I never connected the events until I began searching for my own premonitions after the movie. I’m not one to believe in things that don’t have a scientific explanation, but who doesn’t think it would be cool to have super powers?

I had a dream last night that my very pregnant friend had a baby (could it have been because her husband IM’ed me that she had gone into labor?), but the newborn was able to not only smile and laugh but sit up in bed, crawl, even do a bit of walking, and most impressive of all – ask me in a complete sentence with no grammatical errors to put her in her swing. In the dream, no one but me thought these things were out of the ordinary, and I grew exasperated trying to make them see how she was not at all normal – she was very, very special. Now, I’d like to think my premonition means Isabel will be extraordinarily gifted (knowing her parents, ocupop principal Michael Nieling and wife Sara, this wouldn’t be at all surprising). Will my premonition come true? Stay tuned to find out. I got a text message at 5 this morning announcing her birth. I’ll call later, and if the baby gets on the phone and talks to me, well, then, I think I’ll quit my day job and become a fortune teller.

The most fascinating thing about the movie Premonition was that Sandra Bullock experienced seven days of the week out of order. One day her husband was dead. The next day, he was eating Cheerios and reading the paper before work. The next, his decapitated head rolled out of his coffin. Thursday, they made love. It was weird, and I had to watch the special features to figure out what was going on.

Some weeks I feel the same–of course not to that degree, but sometimes it seems like my days don’t flow logically. One day, tons of leads come in and it looks as though I’ll have to turn down work. The next, I’ll spend my day willing emails to pop up in my inbox. I guess that’s the curse of working for yourself rather than at a 9 to 5 job with a predictable amount of money coming in on a regular basis. I’ve spoken to some people in related fields who have given up on the solo gig. Going it alone can be scary, sure, and it takes a certain kind of personality (insane) to remain unfazed by the fact that some days there’s no more coffee, no more toilet paper, and no more money.

I went to High Tech Happy Hour last night at Novation Campus (not for the free beer and food), and from what I saw there, I’m not alone. I met so many creative, brave, smart people who hung out their shingle because they believed in themselves. They believe that what they can produce alone is superior to what might be produced elsewhere. Take, for example, Bliss* Video Productions’ Kristin*, who I recently profiled in EventDV magazine. Her bluntly stated goal when she left her steady job at a video production company to launch her own business: to create a wedding video “that actually doesn’t suck.” This, I believe, is a testament to the integrity of people who go into business for themselves. They don’t do it because it’s profitable (of course, that would be nice, and in Kristin*’s case, that came true), or because it’s going to advance their career. They do it because of an instinctual drive to do whatever it takes to be the best (setting your own hours and being able to work in your PJs has nothing to do with it, I swear). Another example is my neighbor Penelope Trunk, who after digging herself out of the debris on 9/11, instinctively traded her Wall St.-based business development job for a home-based one as a writer and mother in Madison. It’s my hope that we will recognize this integrity and sensitivity to life’s nuances in one another and support sole proprietorships, freelancers, and small, local businesses. This way we all win.

On a related note, if anyone’s looking for a palm reading or dream interpretation, I charge $25/hour.

WYSIWYG (search engine marketing)

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Liz Welsh emailed me yesterday. Although I have been known to talk to myself, I haven’t yet reached the point where I’m emailing myself. This was a different Liz Welsh, from Kentucky. She had wanted to buy this domain name and found that it was already in use–by me. So she challenged me to a Scrabulous game–winner takes the URL.

No, really, we hit it off. Interestingly, this Liz Welsh has her own marketing company, too. Lucky for me, she outsources quite a bit when she needs marketing materials created for her clients, so we chatted about collaborating.

Anyway, this parallel universe me (has anyone really ever been to Kentucky?) didn’t help me with my latest worry that I’m very average. Lately, everywhere I go I hear, “Oh yeah, we’ve met before” (no, we haven’t), or “You look familiar,” or “I swear I know you from somewhere. Do you play volleyball?” (not a chance). I figure if I look like so many other people, I must be extremely average looking. Now I come to find out that there are three other Elizabeth Welsh’s in Liz Welsh’s hometown of Louisville. How many are in Madison? I’m afraid to Google that.

This got me thinking about what separates me from other Liz Welsh’s. And then about what makes unique. And I came back to an email I had sent to a prospective collaborator describing my services, and I think I found it: “Basically, I do what fancy big-city companies do, but I do it myself without all the silly jargon and b.s.”

At a conference I spoke at last summer, I was stuck listening to a dry presentation at 8 in the morning. To make matters worse, they had run out of coffee. So to keep myself awake I struck my best “this is fascinating, I’m going to take notes” pose and tallied buzzwords on my notepad to see which geek-speak was used most often in that hour and a half. Would “price point” win? “Vertical”? What about “platform”? “Next-generation” anyone? 3 points for “algo,” and 10 for “B2B.” “Cononical,” “RLT,” “ROI,” “turn-key,” and “2.0.”

As fun as that exercise was, I do appreciate the need for industries to use jargon–I guess. But at the same time, much like I wouldn’t speak to a client in Spanch (inside joke), I won’t speak in Googlish either, or use search-enginisms, in person or on my website (if you catch me doing this, please call me on it).

In sum, what I’m trying to say is that when you work with me, WYSIWYG.

Oops, I did it again.

The Tao of SEM

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

One purpose of search engine optimization–to get a high ranking in Google–gets so much play that it’s sometimes easy to forget an equally if not more important purpose: Making your website more useful and usable so that you can convert website visitors into customers. Not cyber-people but flesh-and-blood people who will actually walk through your door with real-live Amex cards in their wallets.

In a former position of mine, we were very successful at getting clients on page one of search engines in the natural results as well as the paid results (the ads you see in the right column of a Google search results page). However, there were some whose websites we couldn’t “optimize” for conversions simply because their templates and content was pretty fixed. In these cases, they could see that they were on page one or two of Google or Yahoo, and that they were getting online traffic as a result of this, but they weren’t seeing that that they were making any more money. Naturally, they didn’t want to continue to pay for a service that wasn’t proving its value.

“Companies spend immeasurable billions on their Web sites,” says David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. “In most cases, without those central meeting grounds for companies and consumers, all the measured billions spent on online advertising such as paid search—which looks to drive traffic to company sites—would be for naught.”

On the flip side, you may have a website that is successful at converting visitors into buyers and is on the first page of Google. Why then, you might ask, would you invest in search engine advertising (pay-per-click tools like AdWords)? In large part because it’s been shown that you can double your traffic by running a paid campaign alongside top rankings on the organic side, according to a prominent search engine marketer who also says, “Being at the top of Google organic search is the top priority for just about every online marketing company that knows what that top placement would mean to a company. The difference between being at position#1 and #11, in many cases, means the difference between a profitable company and a company scraping by.”

On a related note, in their book, Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP: A Developer’s Guide to SEO, authors Cristian Darie and Jaimie Sirovich touched on what they call the “fusion of technology and marketing”: “Search engine marketing is a field where technology and marketing are both critical and interdependent, because small changes in the implementation of a web site can make you or break you in search engine rankings. Furthermore, the fusion of technology and marketing know-how can create web site features that attract more visitors.”

This is what I call the synergy of search engine advertising and search engine optimization. They are the yin and the yang operating on different forces through different means. One is immediate, one is patient and slow. Together, they bring harmony to the world–Ok, I’m going overboard here. But you get the idea.

Postcards from the (blunt) edge

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Usually postcards are sent to cheer up a friend feeling blue or let someone back home know that even while trekking through the Puerto Rican rainforest, they are what’s on your mind.

But I sent a handful the other day that I’m afraid don’t paint a sunny picture at all. Instead, the text that I chose for the cards, which I mailed to local businesses I’m interested in working with, is bleak and alarming: “Not on page one of Google? Why even have a website?”

But I didn’t mean to sound abrasive. I took my inspiration from the fact that “90 percent of searchers do not look past the third page of results, and 62 percent of searchers don’t go past one page,” according to research by iProspect and Jupiter Research.

It was my way of reminding the Small-Marts of southern Wisconsin that they can compete with its Wal-Marts via affordable, accessible search engine marketing.

If you’ve arrived at my website after receiving this postcard–or for any reason, really, thanks for visiting. Please poke around my site and contact me if you’d like to receive a complimentary website analysis and search engine marketing estimate.

What’s a Thought Leader?

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The other day my mother, who was visiting from northern Wisconsin, kindly offered to drop me off at a local bookstore with my laptop while she shopped for shoes. Unfortunately there was no WiFi available, so I used the hour and a half to browse the marketing section. I grabbed a stack of books that piqued my interest and settled down into a cushy chair. I picked up the first on the stack and dug in before discovering that I knew the author, noted thought leader David Meerman Scott–or knew of him, more like. During my two-year stint as a copy editor for EContent magazine, where he is a contributing editor, I had read all his columns. I tore through this latest book of his, The New Rules of Marketing and PR How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing, and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly, in about 45 mins. I’m usually a slow, deliberate reader but I had limited time to decide which one of dozen books at my feet to purchase, so I really didn’t have time to waste.

In one of the chapters toward the end, his notion that today PR and search engine marketing are one and the same intrigued me, and I wanted to remember that and include it on my site. I had never heard that sentiment before, but I guess that’s why he’s a thought leader.

I didn’t have a notebook or pen (or, I later discovered, enough cash to buy the book, even though it is affordable), so when I got home I revved up my laptop and dowloaded his free ebook with the same title and grabbed a snippet on the importance of search: “Particularly when your buyers search, they use the words and phrases important to them. Once you’ve built an online relationship, you can sell into the needs and potential solutions that have been defined, but you need to help them find you first.”

And then I Wikipedia’ed “thought leadership.”

Small Businesses and Search Engine Marketing

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Small businesses depend more on search engine traffic than larger firms, according to a study conducted by Hitwise in early 2007.

eMarketer senior analyst Lisa Phillips reports, “The Internet is now an integral part of doing business for US businesses, large and small. Virtually all, 98%, of the 220 manufacturers surveyed by SVM e-Business Solutions have a Web site, and 87% have had one for over three years. More than half, 52%, consider their site to be their most powerful marketing tool.”

According to, “The firm measured the percentage of average monthly traffic companies in the Internet Retailer “Top 500 Guide” received from search engines in 2005 and 2006. Half of the businesses ranked from the 400th to the 500th positions (e.g., smaller retailers) depended on search engines for 50% or more of their total site traffic.

Web-only merchants averaged 64% their of monthly site traffic from search engines.

Chain retailers and consumer brand manufacturers averaged 28% and 27% of their site traffic from search engines, respectively.”

On his Promotion World blog, internet marketing expert Michael Fleischner argues that search engine optimization is an important way for small businesses to compete with larger businesses: “That doesn’t mean they can’t compete against larger businesses or websites when focused on search engine optimization,” he says. “SEO is a basic marketing tool that everyone should use regardless of size…. I’m often asked by small business owners if they stand a chance against larger websites when it comes to organic search results. My response is that size doesn’t matter. When it comes to improving natural search results, it’s all about the keywords you choose and how competitive those keywords are. “

Liz Merfeld Professional & Personalized

"Our website had not done anything in 9 years. We started working with Liz and she generated more in 6 months than we did the previous 9 years. She understands how Google works and is well read on the latest web developments. I highly recommend her talents."

Kevin Ripp,

Google Adwords Qualified Professional

Yahoo Ambassador


Examples of previous work

Magazine & Newspaper Writing:

Madison Magazine


EventDV magazine

Streaming Media magazine

Streaming Media Producer

eContent magazine

EventDV Live digital magazine

Book Writing:

Apple Pro Training Series: Aperture 3 by Dion Scoppettuolo

Book Copyediting and Proofreading:

Designing with Web Standards, 3rd edition

Apple Training Series: iLife '11

Adobe CS5 Design Premium How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques

Adobe Premiere Elements 7: Classroom in a Book

Video with Adobe Flash CS4: Professional Studio Techniques

Refocus: Cutting-Edge Strategies to Evolve Your Video Business


Writing for the Web:


Orange Shoe Personal Fitness

Le Personal Chef

Ignite Technologies

Service Thread

Stoffa Productions