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High Priority!
February 2005

Rich Tehrani

Search Engine Marketing, VoIP And Other News From The Telecom Fronts

By Rich Tehrani
Group Editor-In-Chief, Technology Marketing Corporation

Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing, or search engine optimization (SEM and SEO, respectively), are terms you’re probably hearing a lot lately. It’s a field that is brimming with activity these days. As with many tools, it’s used well by some companies, and abused rampantly by others. On the one hand, most companies are working to legitimately increase their search engine rank to raise the profile of their companies. On the nefarious side, other companies and individuals are using unethical tactics to raise their own profiles — a practice known as search engine spam.

The complete picture of what constitutes search engine spam is beyond the scope of this column, but essentially it’s a tactic to trick search engines into ranking your site higher than it would normally appear. Again, there is a gray area between what a search engine considers legitimate and what it considers spam. For example, in most cases, using tags and titles with intelligent naming conventions is a legitimate practice and won’t get you in trouble. Deliberately using a certain few words over and over again on your site to artificially rank the site higher can be considered spamming, depending on the frequency of the practice, among other factors.

The goal of this column is to educate companies on what they should be doing to increase their search engine rank, while staying in the bounds of ethics, not to mention the law. I won’t be teaching “tricks,” but I will share observations about what works and what doesn’t.
My first observation is that generally speaking, the sites that rank highest are news sites.

Many blogs also rank very high. The reason for the high ranking has to do with the frequent updates that both these kinds of sites get.

Bearing this in mind, how do you leverage these ideas for your Web site that sells clothing? Without question, the most obvious way to do this is to keep your site updated with lots of apparel news and fashion tips.

Get creative in your thinking.
Let’s consider that you are an apparel manufacturer and you launched a site that focuses on sales in the clothing business. Imagine having your site, or a spin-off site, become the most important site people visit when they are looking for clothing sales. In other words, you would have links to the Macy’s Labor Day sales site and discuss what the best values are that week. Think of the marketing you can do to the people that depend on your site. You can offer coupons or promotions on this site for your own clothing line. The options are numerous.

Then there are blogs. Everyone seems to be blogging nowadays. Blogs are a great way to generate sticky content that gets virally communicated. Think of a blog in the same manner as you would sending speakers to industry events. Many companies like to have speakers at events because it creates excellent exposure for the company and, more important, helps the company attract new customers.

Blogging works like speaking, but without the travel expense. It’s important to discover, within your company, who makes a good blogger and who doesn’t. Job title doesn’t guarantee success as a blogger: There are many CEO-level people who don’t posses a tight enough grip on grammar to blog well without the aid of editing by another person. These people should be identified and filtered before they blog. It’s also important to understand that the more you blog, the more people will read it. There is likely an exponential relationship to readers versus number of blog entries per day. Feel free to visit my blog at richtehrani.com to see my latest thoughts.

One thing worth pointing out is the legal ramifications of blogging. Who owns the content, and what about copyrights and redistribution, etc.? You will want to decide who owns your blog content and determine a copyright strategy. The legal world is still grappling with the concept of blogs, including what should and shouldn’t be posted on them. For example, a flight attendant was recently fired from Delta for posting questionable pictures of herself on her blog, and in a separate incident, a Google employee was asked (apparently, quite politely) to remove a blog entry because he divulged compensation details as well as minutes from an internal company meeting. This ordeal was recounted in a blog entry titled “Oops” (http://99zeros.blogspot.com/ 2005/01/oops.html).

A quick way to further boost SEO is to partner with industry Web sites that can supply news to your site, or allow your blogs to be hosted on the partner’s site. For example, going back to the apparel manufacturer example, you might approach Vogue and see if they will host your blog. Obviously, your blog will receive much more attention on such a prominent Web site than on your own. A magazine such as Vogue may charge you for this, but it would likely be worth the cost, depending on the fee and how important SEO is to your company.

Understand, though, that running news on your site gets tricky. On the one hand, it’s a great way to generate traffic, but it’s important that you establish controls on what runs on your site. If you are Saleforce.com, it’s likely you don’t want a Seibel news release boasting of their dominance in hosted CRM on your site. If you are Nike, you don’t want to discover on your site that New Balance just shipped its ten millionth shoe.

As you probably realize at this point, SEO is not an issue that can be fully covered in one or two pages. What may be the best article I have ever read on SEO is contained in this issue of Customer Interaction Solutions®, on page 58. It is titled “Beyond Search Engine Marketing — Increasing Post-Click Conversion Rates With Intelligent Search” by Jason Hekl of InQuira. It is a must-read, in my opinion.

IP Contact Center Race
I recently had a chance to make a site visit to a contact center in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company, Finish Line, is a retailer that sells sneakers and some apparel, primarily via their hundreds of stores located around the country. What most impressed me is that this is one of those companies that really understands technology and how to use it to the company’s advantage. The company’s contact center consists of about 50 agents, all working diligently over VoIP. Finish Line told me that what they really like about VoIP is the ease of setting up new agents…just one wire to the desktop.

Finish Line currently uses Interactive Intelligence solutions. They informed me they shopped around with Avaya, Cisco and other companies, and none could do what Interactive Intelligence does. Thus far, Finish Line reports they have seen no drawbacks to IP contact center technology, and they are looking forward to having wireless SIP-based phones so they can monitor agents on the go.

Google As Screen Pop
I recently blogged about the idea of Google getting into VoIP. Currently, there is a great deal of speculation about this happening, and the rumor started as a result of a personal ad Google ran regarding the need for dark fiber and a person who can manage it. Whether the rumors are true is anyone’s guess, but what is worth thinking about is the fact that Google is slowly building desktop alternatives to Microsoft from desktop search to e-mail. Will VoIP integration with their current search, e-mail and address book products be the way Google jumps ahead of Gates’ baby?

If you think about it, isn’t Google in an interesting position to do a search on incoming callers? Imagine when your phone rings and the caller I.D. reads “Jim’s Mortgage Company.” Wouldn’t it be interesting if, in addition to the call, you received a screen pop with the results of a Google search? Imagine if Google organized all of the results by tabbing different results into related categories so you could click on a tab marked “Better Business Bureau,” or “Legal Issues” or, on a positive note, “Case Studies,” or “Customer Lists.”

Even if Google doesn’t get into VoIP directly but chooses to work with other providers, wouldn’t it be great to integrate this search functionality with caller I.D.? Imagine if Google connected such a system to its corporate search appliance. You could also have tabs for “Invoices Past Due,” “Orders Sold” and “Notes.” Imagine the data-mining possibilities inherent in this scenario. Business intelligence departments should be drooling at the prospect. You could have a range of vital content at your fingertips when someone calls.

You could literally know everything about the caller before you answer. Imagine getting a call from the purchasing manager of GE and knowing her stock price just went up 10 percent a moment before she called. You might see all published articles that include her name. Imagine notifying her about the article that says she is a financial genius.

I am more enthusiastic now about the future of communications than at any time in the past. I see the true openness afforded by VoIP, and I see the ability for us to communicate in a much better way than ever before. What is different about communications today than at any time in the past is that any company is able to drastically alter the communications landscape and the way we think about communicating. Vonage popularized VoIP, Packet8 popularized videophones, and Skype showed you can have millions of people download your VoIP software in a matter of months with no marketing and no sales force.

Contrast this to 10 years ago, when innovation came from only large telecom companies and was sold to you as part of a closed system from a single vendor. The future of telecom, in my opinion, is VoIP 2.0, and it is everything we will be able to do now that calls travel over IP. Think of the power and control we will have when we are able to integrate any application we want with virtually any communications system. The Google example alone can likely improve contact center efficiency by a minimum of 10 percent if implemented correctly. The potential is there. We really need to keep an open mind and wait for the best and brightest to dazzle us.

Shameless Plug
Our Speech-World/IP Contact Center event comes to Dallas, May 24-26. This is the only event in the world focusing exclusively on IP contact center and speech technologies. These are the most exciting areas in the contact center business right now, and TMC is excited to host a community of call center decision makers eager to improve the productivity and efficiency of their customer service. I personally hope to see you there. Please check out www.speech-world.com for details.


Rich Tehrani
Group Publisher, Group Editor-in-Chief
[email protected]

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