Search Engine Optimization

As readers of this blog know, I like to attach a photo to my posts which sometimes are obvious and sometimes need to be explained.   This one may need an explanation.  The photo is of a black hole.

For whatever reason, today has been my day for getting e-mails and phone calls from Search Engine Optimization consultants.  Each one, you will not be surprised to learn, promised that they can get me to the top of a Google search.  One even guaranteed it.

Funny story:  When I Googled these consultants, or rather, when I Googled “search engine optimization consultants,” adding their location (I am nothing if not fair), not one of them appeared on the first page.  So my question to them was, “If you can’t get you to the top of the list why would I believe that you can get me there – and pay you for the privilege?”

Most just told me I did not understand SEO (Don’t you just love how people hide behind acronyms?) and politely hung up.  One guy said I was doing it wrong.  Instead of Googling “Search Engine Optimization” I should Google, “XYZ.”  “XYZ” stands for another business this guy has and when you Google it, he actually does appear at the top of the list.

“Impressive!”  I told him.  “But I’m not interested in an XYZ expert.  We’re talking SEO.  So, if you got yourself to the top of the list for XYZ, and can’t get yourself to the top of the list for SEO, it appears you could do it, but only once.  Am I wrong?”  He said he’d e-mail me.

I’ve been invited to speak in December at The New York Public Library on obtaining and utilizing media coverage at no cost.  As of today, since May of last year I’ve been quoted in 155 articles which have appeared in 126 publications on every continent other than Africa and Antarctica.

Those are my bona fides when it comes to PR.  What are yours when it comes to your work and the service that you offer?  If you can’t do for yourself what you are promising to do for someone else, you have zero credibility.  It would be like me getting up and saying, and remember I am an executive recruiter, “I’d love to hire a director of Marketing, but I just can’t find anyone.  But I can find one for you in two weeks!!!!!”  No one would take me seriously.

Oh, and as for the reason for the picture of a black hole, that is very well where your money will be going if you actually hire an SEO consultant – at least one who can’t do for himself what he says he can do for you!

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How to Handle Nasty PR

There must be a full moon – even though it’s 10 AM on a Sunday morning.

I have had phenomenal luck with my marketing/public relations campaign.  During the past year I have been quoted in well over 100 publications.  On occasion I am contacted by individuals wanting advice.  It’s not something I do professionally, but I am happy to answer questions.  Two such e-mails greeted me this morning.  I wrote back that I would respond in a blog posting.

The first person, a woman from Florida, let’s call her Mary, was accused by a customer of not having fulfilled her commitments.  If you are lucky, there are only three sides to every story.  No doubt there is enough blame to go around.  Getting into an argument is not, however, a good idea.

Mary wanted to know if I could get her an interview with a reporter in her home state.  I’ve been quoted in a number of Florida publications, thus her question.

The reason for my PR success is that I don’t go to reporters and pitch stories to them; they send questions to me through the website HelpAReporter.com.  In any case, even if I wanted to pitch stories, I would not pitch this one.  Mary should not escalate.  Her customer wrote what he wrote on his website which, I doubt, anyone reads outside of his personal friends. My advice is simply to post a comment, if he permits comments on his blog, expressing regret that he is dissatisfied and encouraging him to contact her to see how they can work things out.  If he calls, and it’s a big “if,” Mary should insist that, when everything is worked out, that he post a positive update on his blog.  If he does not permit comments on his blog, Mary might want to highlight on her website her customer service policy.

The other individual, let’s call him Michael, was also attacked on a blog that actually has readership.  The owner of the blog does everything anonymously.  This one is easy:  Never respond to an anonymous attack.   Serious people know that persons who hide behind anonymity, whether they use a pseudonym or not, lack the courage of their convictions.  They want to feel important and the way they feel important is to get someone else to respond to them.  The worst thing that can happen to an anonymous attacker is to ignore him.  “You are not important.  You are not worth my time.  You do not matter.”  That is the message that is sent by silence.

Of course, if any critic crosses the line and defames or slanders, legal action is always required.  You don’t want to establish a precedent where people think it is alright to lie about you, slander you, or defame you. ( In such a case, only hire an attorney on contingency.)   But that’s not what Mary and Michael are dealing with.  In the former case it is someone who may honestly feel, albeit wrongly, that he has been cheated.  In the latter, it’s a sad case of a person who seeks publicity at other people’s expense.  The first should, if possible, be placated; the latter should be pitied.

Tony Blair’s Guide to Career Development

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s autobiography, A Journey: My Political Life, should be required reading for everyone. It is a treasure trove of great advice on life.

You have to speak the language in order to change the terms of the debate conducted in that language, otherwise you may be a fine example of a person who is right, but irrelevant.

I am remembering countless staff meetings when someone wants to say something just to hear the sound of their own voice.  They really have nothing to add to the conversation.  Still, they believe that if they don’t speak out their silence will be interpreted as disinterest.  Wrong!  Silence is golden.  It is better to be quiet rather than to sound like a fool.  After all, you can be wrong and irrelevant just as easy as being right and irrelevant.

Of course, if you are right, and want to contribute, you have to know your audience.  Some people talk down to colleagues.  They sound “preachy.”  Never a good idea.  Others just don’t know how to verbalize their thoughts.  They are better writers than speakers.  Go with your strengths.  Sending a short e-mail to a colleague supporting them after a meeting can sometimes be more effective than adding your “two cents” to an already too long meeting!

The issue is not the fornication but the complication.

That may be the quote from the book.  For the record, he was talking about a sex scandal.  No matter, it’s just a clever way of saying, “It’s not the crime that kills you, it’s the cover-up.”  If Nixon had come clean immediately following Watergate, he probably would not have had to resign.  It was the cover-up that cost him his presidency.

We all make mistakes.  Make certain that you boss hears about your mistakes from you.  And when you “confess,” make certain you have a plan to repair the damage.

The absence of credibility actually increases the likelihood of confrontation.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep and don’t give advice on subjects on which you know nothing.  If you don’t have the experience, ask questions.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  “Why wouldn’t it be a good idea to do…?” sounds a lot better than “I think we should try…” when everyone knows that you have never done it or that you failed in the past to do exactly what you are now suggesting.  Credibility is king when trying to establish your credentials.  Which brings me to the next quote:

Knowing when to shut up is one of the most vital rules in life, never mind politics.

‘Nuf said!

Tony Blair is a liberal or, if you prefer, a progressive.  This is my favorite quote (after “fornication!”) because I happen to be a conservative:

…the first instinct of conservatives it to resist it [a great public lather about something]—and they are often right to do so.  They don’t come to a viewpoint because everyone tells them they should.  This attitude is the reason that while people may say they don’t like conservative politicians, they still vote for them.  People tend to go with the crowd; but in an odd sort of way, they respect a leader who is prepared to defy the crowd.  Indeed, if he or she is not prepared to do so, the public suspect he or she is not a proper leader.  It’s weird the way it works, but there it is.  Progressive politicians often don’t get this.  They prefer to be with the tide of thinking, and get confused when the public say in an opinion poll they believe in X, only to vote Y at the ballot box.

“Defy the crowd,” does not mean to reject for the sake of rejecting.  It has to be based on something.  “I don’t understand, explain it to me.”  “I’m not convinced.  Prove it!”  Leaders lead; they don’t follow polls.  Followers follow.  The only correct definition of a leader is Drucker’s  “a person with followers.”  If you want a position of leadership based on respect and not an organizational chart, help people to reach the right conclusion by forcing them to convince you that they are correct.  If they are, in fact, wrong, you’ll be helping them to see the error of their ways.

Why Women Should Lose the Right to Vote

And you are reading this why, exactly?  Because you believe that I am going to write in favor of the repeal of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution? Or, am I making (and proving) a point?

We all know that in advertising, “sex sells.”  We also know that once upon a time the saying went “All press is good press.”  In the 24-hour news cycle, that’s no longer always true.  But an attention-grabbing headline, no matter how stupid, will grab attention and then the writer, or speaker, has about 10 seconds to convince his or her audience that they actually have something to say.

Recently it was reported on the news that the owner of an eye glasses Internet supply store harassed a customer to the extent that she had to file a complaint with both the police and the attorney general.  He actually photographed her home.  She was so scared that she changed the locks on her doors.  His excuse: he was overworked.  Now his lawyers are overworked.

What was interesting about the news item was that the customer found him on Google.  She did a simple Google search and he was one of the first to appear.   As she began to investigate him, she found out why.  There were literally hundreds of blog postings warning customers to avoid him at all costs.   The more Internet mentions a website gets, the higher it appears on a Google search.  Google does not say that the first companies to appear in a search are good companies, only that they are the most mentioned.

This got me thinking about the Search Engine Optimization business.  I used to get calls regularly from SEO consultants promising me that they could guarantee me a place on the first page of a Google search.  I immediately agreed to meet each and every one of them.  But I told them to think about it first.  “When you come in,” I told them, “I will Google ‘search engine optimization consultant’ and if you are not at or near the top of the list, the meeting won’t last long.  After all, if you can’t get you to the top of the list, how will you be able to get me there?”  For some reason, they never call back to set up an appointment…

A British SEO consultant contacted me through LinkedIn.  I replied that I Googled him and that since he did not appear on the top of the search results, why, I asked him, should I think that he could get me to the top?  His reply was brilliant.  After telling me that he liked my sense of humor, he told me that if I Googled “writing articles” I would see that they were at the top of the search results.  Brilliant!  So that’s how they do it.  Find something that no one would ever Google, make it a company’s keyword(s), and sure enough, they’ll be at the top of the results.  Amazing!

If you do a Google search for “executive recruiters” you will get 224,000 results.  “Workforce optimization” results in 384,000 hits.  And “career counselor” brings in 547,000.  Those are the three services which I provide.  I am certain the results will be similar for your profession, service, or product.

Apparently, you either have to be loved or hated by the masses to make it to the top.  But, as the harassed customer of the eye glasses store owner found out, you have to do your homework to find out if the reason is the former or the latter.

How to Relax Before Making a Speech

Some people can get up and speak before 500 strangers and not give it a second thought, but they would rather have root canal without anesthesia than introduce themselves to a stranger at a cocktail party.  And, of course, the opposite is also sometimes the case – probably more so!  It is to those individuals that I offer a couple of tricks and a few games:

Two tricks:

Tip #1    The morning of the speech take an extra long shower and go over the presentation in your mind.  That way, you’ll not only know that you can do it but that you can make the speech without notes.  Since you’ll actually have the notes with you when you make the speech, you’ll be psychologically in a better place.

Tip #2    Start a conversation with someone just prior to starting the speech.  Have the speech be a continuation of that conversation.  Look at that individual with whom you had be chatting until you become calm – but only for the first few seconds, otherwise it just looks weird!

Three mind games:

Tip #3    Remember this:  Before every performance Lawrence Olivier and Red Skeleton would both lose their lunch, hug the porcelain, or whatever other phrase you don’t find offensive.  If arguably the world’s greatest actor, who once played Hamlet in the afternoon and Othello in the evening, and perhaps the greatest clown of all time, could go on stage and do what they did despite chronic stage fright, who are you to be nervous?

Tip #4  Remember this:  The majority of the people who will be looking at you would rather lose a limb than be standing in your shoes. They’re a bunch of cowards!  You’re the brave one!

Tip #5  Remember this:  You’re the expert.  All those people who you are so afraid of have come to hear what you have to say.  You haven’t come to hear them!

Now, in case you are worried about some jerk asking you a stupid question, here’s the perfect answer:

You know, Mother Teresa once said,”If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish motives; be kind anyway.  If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; succeed anyway.  If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.  What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.”

Most people will think you a profound.  The jerk won’t have a clue what you are talking about.  And if he shouts out from the audience, “What’s that supposed to me?”  Smile and say, “I’m sure once you think about it, you’ll understand.”

What’s he going to do, argue…with Mother Teresa?!

Want Free PR?

Credibility is the key to successful public relations.  Here’s why you should continue reading:  Since April of this year I have been in the media over 50 times.  Everything from USA Today to The Star-Ledger and San Francisco Chronicle.  I’ve been quoted in Inc., Crain’s New York Business and the Pensacola Business Journal.  They have even cited me on Monster, Career Builder, Yahoo! and The Ladders.  I’ve also gotten coverage in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Uzbekistan.  On average I have been quoted as an authority on career development or recruiting three times a week since my PR campaign began.  The cost?  Nada!  Bubkiss!  Nothing!  Zilch!

The secret to my success is that I don’t “pitch” to reporters.  I let reporters pitch to me.  They ask me questions.  I answer them.  I give them what they want.  I recognize that their readers are not my audience.  They are my audience.  I have to please the reporter.  The reporter’s audience is his or her editor.  The editor’s audience is the general public.  If I meet the reporter’s needs, the reporter will meet the editor’s needs, and the general public will read that I am an expert.  I reach my goal (the general public) by respecting the PR chain of command.

Before I give you the secret, remember one thing, PR is better than advertising.  When you publish an ad, you are paying for it and everyone knows it.  That’s great when you are trying to sell a product.  If you are trying to sell your reputation – because you offer a service or are looking for a job and want to be recognized as an authority on your subject – then you need PR.  You need someone to quote you as an authority.  I’m not a recognized authority because you are reading this blog.  I’m a recognized authority because someone in Uzbekistan thought that what I had to say was worth quoting.

So how do you get reporters to pitch to you?  Go to www.helpareporter.com and sign up as a Source.  Everyday, three times a day, you will get e-mails of questions based on subjects that you have indicated are of interest to you.  Answer the questions and, if the reporter asking the question likes the answer, you’ll get free PR, which you can include in your resume and, more importantly, reference in your cover letter.

How do you write an effective answer?  Well, I can’t get everything away for free!