I listen to as many podcasts as i can, usually as a way to keep my mind engaged while my body is otherwise occupied with things like vacuuming, exercising, or taking long drives. I’m a glutton for ideas, so for me it’s a great way to spark creativity and explore new interests, usually in the realm of new technology. Some of my favorites feeds:

A recent IT Conversations podcast was on Search Engine Marketing, a discussion with Mike Moran and Bill Hunt, authors of the book Search Engine Marketing Inc. A lot of their discussion focuses on companies whose web presence provides real revenue, and who therefore have a strong financial motivation to think hard about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They’ve got some good advice: focus on content, check your description, write an article that solves a real problem (so others can link to it and build your web rank). But there are still plenty of us producing blogs (like Blogos) and open resource websites (like SemanticBible) whose motivation may be different: and SEO still matters for us.

If you’re reading this, in marketing terms, you’re a potential customer of my “brand”, and each web page or blog post i create involves, at one level, a marketing activity directed at you. I don’t get any revenue from my readers: my only half-hearted attempt at this is when i remember to put my Amazon Associates tag in a book recommendation (and to my knowledge, that’s never paid off). I don’t do ads either. I do, however, get something less intangible, but perhaps more important: blogging enhances my digital identity, including my reputation. If you’re in a high tech field, your on-line identity is becoming as important a representation of you to prospective employers as your resume. In my case, my unpaid activities of blogging, conference speaking, and web site development led pretty directly to my current work at Logos.

Of course, given the wide-open nature of web search, there are plenty of people who get to my blog for unrelated reasons. While i don’t want to repeat them here and perpetuate the problem, at one point a popular set of keywords leading people to Blogos had to do with my quoting some news story about home-manufactured, uh, pharm-a-sue-tickles. While it’s possible some of those misdirected searchers found some higher knowledge, most of them probably spent one second’s attention before clicking away. Moran and Hunt make a really good point here: these people are not “good customers”, and you’re not helping them or yourself by trying to attract them. Instead, they recommend you think carefully about what makes your site or blog distinctive: what are the target keywords you want to attract? Then determine a strategy for “owning” (to the extent possible) the search results for those keywords.

Example: with Google, i’m #1 among the 750k results for “semantic bible” (entered without quotes). I’m #3 for “hyperconcordance” (a modest achievement given there are only 5000 results). A two-year old post is #4 for blogos (but not the home page?? i must be doing something wrong): since blogging has become more popular, so has the name (though i was there first).  But i’m not even in the top 50 for “digital bible”, even though those are important keywords related to my content. Given all the competition in that space, it would take enormous effort to achieve a high ranking there. In this case, my efforts are probably better spent elsewhere.

There are plenty of free resources out there: Moran’s Skinflint Search Marketing is a good place to begin, and Google Analytics already provide far more capability than i know how to take advantage of. Which brings me back to the real challenge of doing SEO for non-profit sites: deciding how much effort is really worth it. But if nothing else, thinking about SEO gets you thinking about what your site is for in the first place, and that’s always a good thing to keep in focus.