I attended a cool presentation on Sunday about a strategy or concept or theory called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what SEO was until Sunday and I googled the term. I’m writing about the presentation on this blog BTW because it was through the wonderful folks at Chicago Now, but more on them later.
The heart of the matter, or why SEO is a useful tool or practice, is that it is nice to have readers. As the dozen or so of you know by now, I don’t write for a particularly wide audience and I’ve realized a while ago now that having an outlet that is read by other people is satisfying enough. At the same time, kind of why I joined Chicago Now in the first place, it is exciting to have a greater reach or at least the potential for a greater reach. Which is what made this talk so useful and worthwhile it was a pretty soft sell on the idea of getting more eyes on my particular page. I don’t have the time, ambition or personality to hustle with my writing, be it the blogs or my academic stuff.* Everything that was presented was in my wheelhouse: basic concepts (key words! Who knew?), relatively easy (a hyphen here, a hyphen there), and best of all unobtrusive, meaning I didn’t feel like I was being asked to change my style or content, but I was just being given a couple of tweaks to make my stuff a little easier to find.
*speaking of: check out my interview at Points Forward. The Dean of AA History, Ernie Kurtz has checked it out and is, “excited to read my work.” Serious academic geek-out.
The upshot of this is a few changes to the blogs, mostly things that I’ve always wanted to do but never took the time to try and find out how. Some of it you’ll never see, but some of it, like the buttons up top, will be noticeable. I suppose if I wanted to really simplify my life I’d just consolidate into one blog, but I still like the dual blog set up. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be spreading my stuff around to other sites now that I know how to point you there and also get a little closer to my varied audiences. For example, my reviews of Phish shows will still be over at Kaufmak, but I can post them on Phishnet, set up a link every which way and the folks who are interested in that sort of thing will have easier access. Among the take-aways from Sunday morning is that it isn’t so much about audience per se, but community.
Community was quite the theme, actually. We were reminded a number of times that we were part of a greater organization, a collection of bloggers. What makes this particularly valuable when talking about community is that we have a connection, but we have very different interests, very different points of view. I’ll admit, I don’t check out a lot of blogs, but since joining Chicago Now I’ve been a bit more adventurous. No, everything isn’t my cup of tea, even so it makes the internet a bit more manageable knowing that a lot of the folks pecking away face many of the same challenges and setbacks that I do. I get some of that from the Facebook group too, but putting human beings to the web identities gave it a tangible presence.
One thing that made me particularly happy was that this collection of folks, this community was pretty diverse. If my session was any indication, there are a lot of women bloggers, a pretty wide range of ages and a pretty decent racial diversity, at least among those in the room. Basically it was nice to see that the stereotype of a person who blogs was pretty much non-existent. Well, except for me, the middle-aged introverted white guy. At least I don’t live in my mom’s basement.
Rats, that last sentence is a really good one to end on, but I wanted to say a few words about our fearless leader and presenter for the morning, Jimmy Greenfield and Amy Guth. More than once, Jimmy reminded the audience that we are not a bother to him when it comes to answering questions regarding our blogs and from personal experience he means it. He acted as MC for the first part of the presentation and then held an informal but thorough Q and A with those of us that remained. Again, very open, patient and understanding to all of our questions. If you have any concerns with what you are doing, how it’s going etc. I can’t stress enough that Jimmy is your best resource.
Ms. Guth is a strong resource as well. I don’t brag about much, basically I have no confidence in most areas of my life when you get right down to it, except when it comes to teaching and public speaking. I’m pretty damn good at that part of my job. So I’m comfortable saying that Amy is a great teacher. Keeping a room interested in something as potentially dry as SEO for close to two hours takes talent. When I judge presenters and teachers there are a few vital areas that they must nail: knowledge, interaction and enthusiasm. Amy obviously knows her stuff and was able to go away from her notes (if she even had any) with ease. She kept moving and also talked with excitement about the topic, offering good examples of what to do and not to do. A little less important overall, but I think makes a presenter even more effective is rapport. Amy is quite charming and within two minutes I felt at ease in a room full of strangers. That doesn’t just happen, the presenter sets the tone and she did it quite well. If you’re one of my fellow Chicago Now bloggers, I can’t recommend Amy high enough.
It may not seem like the most exciting weekend event, but I’m quite pleased that I made the trek downtown and if time, inertia and inspiration merit it, I’ll be looking for the next opportunity to get some help with the blog. Next time though, how about some bagels?