16 September 2009

SEO Outsourcing Tips

Whether you are a start-up launching a new site, an existing business wanting to increase your online presence, a business wanting to revamp the website or an established enterprise looking for SEO maintenance and monitoring, outsourcing your SEO requirements makes sense. It saves you time and effort, can be far more economical than having an in-house team of experts and can increase your business visibility exponentially. However, it is important that you make the right choice in selecting your SEO partner. Follow these tips to maximize the chances of a making a wise choice of SEO outsourcing partner.

Set the goals and objectives of outsourcing
Be as specific and realistic about your online marketing goals as possible. Set a primary objective – is it visibility across the web, high search rankings for key terms, traffic, leads or conversions? Set a goal and a budget that would make the goal realistic. Decide what aspects of your online presence need to be in-house – do you want to outsource website maintenance also? Do you want to outsource consultancy or implementation of SEO? Do you need to do paid advertising also or just SEO? These will have an impact on which agency or freelancer you approach, the cost and the level of expertise required. It is always better to start small and scale up rapidly.

Having clearly defined your need, ask for specific proposals that meet your requirements. If all the proposals you get are around the same objectives, it would make it easier to spot differentiators. Not setting goals can mean you are comparing apples to oranges when comparing potential partners.

Understand what you are buying
If you sign up with an outsourced partner without knowing exactly what the deliverables are and what to expect out of the effort, you will, more often than not, be disappointed. Ask what each of the deliverables are, what they will deliver, what their objectives are and what the impact on the SEO will be. You can either the outsourcing firm or do a little research on your own.

Stay clear of Black Hat techniques
There may be the unscrupulous firm that will promise the sky. Many times, what seems to be too good to be true, actually is neither too good, nor true. There are many techniques that are resorted to by SEOs that can land you in a long term mess. It can result in your site getting blacklisted or penalized. In the interest of showing quick results, the outsourcing partner may cause serious long term damage. It is wiser to spend a little more and be a little patient with results than to suffer in the long run.

Do your due diligence
Just because a firm is cheap, it may not be the best thing in the world. Ask about the processes, the involvement, check on the credentials of the promoters, check the sites they have optimized, ask for performance reports and make sure the firm you partner with has a long term business interest and isn’t out to make a quick buck at your cost.

Get into a contract
It is okay to try a partner out for a month or so, to get a feel of their processes, interests and approach. If you are convinced they are legit, get into a reasonably long term contract. Not having a commercial pressure can result in a much more involved effort. The confidence will ensure that they stay accountable and work in your interest. Most firms are interested in long term relationships with their clients. No one likes to lose a client. So, making a commitment with the right firm can drive them to delivering with the objective of retaining you as a client for an even longer term.

Does it make logical sense?
Be it the pricing or the results offered, ask yourself if it makes sense. For the price quoted, what kind of talent would the partner be able to deploy on your project, what kind of time and effort would be given to you, and what kind of profits would the firm then be left with. If it doesn’t seem reasonable, it probably isn’t. Over reliance on tools and automated stuff robs you of human discretion, intelligence and insights that can be priceless in SEO. Your partner’s profitability is important because it can ensure involvement, commitment and sincere effort that be the difference between a failed effort and great results.

Outsourcing SEO: The smart thing to do

Outsourcing is never easy. Whether you are a small business or an established corporation, deciding on a partner you can trust and depend on is never easy. However, it is something most organizations do, in small and big ways. In the marketing and communication space itself, advertising agencies, press release agencies, freelance writers or designers, printers are all, technically, outsourcing partners. In many cases, we take it as the norm and don’t think twice about outsourcing, but when it comes to SEO and search engine marketing, it isn’t as yet, such a comfort zone.

Why is Outsourcing SEO an Issue?

Online marketing is relatively a young industry – SEO, even more so. With any new industry, the uncertainty is natural. It is such a rapidly changing space that things that are cutting-edge today can become obsolete tomorrow. In such a scenario, how do you know that the processes, techniques and methodologies followed by an agency or freelancer are dependable? Unfortunately, that is a judgment call you have to take. But sooner or later, you will have to outsource your SEO work.

Why is outsourcing SEO important?
Ever business starts small and then grows. With growth, comes the need to decide whether expansion is the way to go or a simple, small business operation is how you want your business to remain. If the goal is to grow, then getting right marketing expertise becomes important. Increasingly, the internet and search are becoming an integral part of decision making. Whether it is a consumer deciding on an impulse purchase or a potential business associate looking for a partner firm, you need to be visible when your target audience searches.

It becomes imperative then, to broaden your online presence. Just having a website is no longer enough. It needs to communicate and connect with the target audience, it needs to be visible in search results and it needs to draw your audience.

Your time and energy is better spent in the core business offering itself and so it makes sense to hire someone to do your online marketing. To do it right in-house would require a team of professionals with skill sets including writing, design, web development and SEO. More often than not, outsourcing is both the less expensive and the more sensible course to take, simply because you can leverage the expertise of an outsourced partner who has worked on a number of projects like yours. If you hire the right partner, the cost you incur will be lesser than hiring one full-time expert in-house! But you need to plan your outsourcing to get the most out of it.

09 September 2009

Give them Kashmir

Whether it is the terror attacks, the strained relationship between two neighboring nations or the animosity between the citizens of the two nations, it makes me wonder if a piece of land is worth the walls between hearts.

I am a proud Indian, but whether I was a Pakistani, Chinese, American or the citizen of any other nation, it wouldn’t make me think any different. I don’t believe any piece of land is worth more than human virtues of right and wrong, human relationships and universal brotherhood.

So, give them Kashmir. Give the Chinese whatever land there is a dispute over. And give any other nation any other piece of land they stake claim to. Give them your soul, your nationality, your pride, dignity, individuality and get it over with.

Relinquish all rights to national pride, relinquish any claims to individuality and accept a mute servility of the forces that dictate the order in the world. Accept that we are mute and spineless. Accept that we do not have the character to stand for our values and beliefs and accede to the global dictat.

Rid the common man of the life in terror. Relieve us of the brutality that we have to suffer while politicians, bureaucrats and custodians of the common man’s right…the public “servants” who masquerade as “rulers” get fatter and enjoy security beyond the reach of the common man. Let’s not live a sham, let’s not live in self deception anymore. Give them what they want and buy the notional safety by paying the price of pride, individuality, nationality and patriotism.

And if that’s not acceptable, don’t accept the “rulers”. Make them behave as public “servants”. Don’t accept the inanity of a blind world to atrocities meted out to a tolerant, peace loving people. Don’t cow down to hollow words and meaningless directives.

Who suffers? The politicos aren’t touched. Power shifts from one party to the other during elections. Empty words from ‘friendly’ nations leading to inaction that maintains the status quo do not save the lives laid in the line of national duty or sacrifice to terror.

Sandwiched between corruption and political pressures on the one hand, and inhuman brutality on the other is not an option. That is worse than selling your soul. My soul matters to me. I love every grain of soil in my motherland, am proud of it and love being an Indian. I cherish our tradition of peace, love, pride and standing for our values. I love the Indian even more. A life ground to death by politics and terror makes my heart bleed. Be it the life of a waiter at the Taj or the life of a soldier on the Kashmir borders. Give me back my nationality and my national pride. It’s about time the “rulers” of the nation made themselves accountable for ensuring that the average Indian’s rights are safeguarded.

Return the smiles to the faces of a Kashmiri child. Give safety to the vegetable vendor in the villages along the borders. Give back the pride of being to the slum-dweller, the dabba-wala, the bank clerk, the IT professional, the factory worker, the construction mason, the bullet-eating soldier and every other Indian soul. Give India back to every Indian. Give them the paradise on earth that they deserve. Give them Kashmir.

08 September 2009

What it means to feel proud...

Among my many beliefs, I have always firmly believed that no war is justified. This led me to believe that there should never be a need for armies and soldiers. I haven't been an advocate of 'sacrifice' either and have always maintained that selfishness is everyone's right and is the way to exist as long as it doesn't become a self-centered existence.

Both these beliefs got a new meaning during a visit to my cousin, and I discovered what it means to truly feel proud...

Kavita (Gunnu as we call her) chose to chase her dream of flying when she joined the Indian Air Force. After two months at the Air Force Academy, we went to visit her for the first time and were instantly humbled by the discipline and energy at the academy.

We met Flt Cadet Kavita and two of the other lady cadets and spent the entire day talking about their experiences at the academy, the toughening that they are presently going through, the learning and challenges, the dreams and aspirations, the hopes and worries. It was a long day that seemed to pass in a hurry and it was time to leave.

It may not seem like much, but I couldn't get rid of the images from the visit right through the return journey. I couldn't help thinking that if civilians like me practiced 10% of that discipline, it would be a changed world.

She is training to be a soldier...no she is and feels like a soldier already. But she has not sacrificed her civilian life. She has gone after her dreams and has set about realizing them. It is a selfish pursuit that left her father in tears of pride while leaving the academy. So is her selfish pursuit not a virtue? I am convinced it is. And my belief that being selfish is the way to be just got a new meaning.

I also do not believe Flt Cadet Kavita Prabhu aspires to fight wars, nor do I believe she wants to kill or become an instrument of killing. I do not think she is a part of the Indian Air Force out of a desire for war. And yet, it is evident in her eyes that is she prepared to fight, for her chosen profession and her ambition. Through her single minded determination and resilience, she is fighting her past of laziness and reliance on others. She is fighting social norms and she is fighting every hurdle that comes in her way. This is her war and to me...a justified war.

Walking away, on my way back home, I was humbled, discovering what it means to feel proud...not just of Flt Cadet Kavita Prabhu, but of just being.