Finding A Results-Driven San Diego SEO Company

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Handling International PR Is A Tough Task

newimage12Marketing executives within corporate America revealed in a recent study a telling prediction: Of all disciplines for which they’re responsible – more than the Internet, more than cause marketing, more than sports marketing and even more than advertising – international public relations will be the most important during the next three to five years.

The telephone survey was conducted by the Delahaye Group in January among 100 randomly selected U.S. PR executives. The survey found 81% think PR in general will gain importance in the next five years and 87% feel the same about international PR.

That means money for international PR. And where money goes, measurement must follow because money draws management’s attention with its demand for accountability.

Executives’ true challenge is to measure that program, learn what works within it and what doesn’t, and maximize the effectiveness of their international PR efforts.

So how do you maximize your effectiveness “over there?” You listen. You listen to what your overseas counterparts can tell you, to what the media writes about you, to what your customers and prospects tell you.

International listening is no different from what you do domestically. Your only new challenge is adapting to local cultures and languages.

Gathering data

Your first international step is to interview your on-site PR team. Don’t just talk to the muckety-mucks. Spend time learning what it’s like actually to implement various programs sent down from headquarters. What do team members need in their international culture? What works for them; what doesn’t? You may not like what you hear. But you won’t gain that teams’ buy-in for your programs if you don’t ask questions and incorporate the team’s feedback.

You will need at least to set up a clipping service for access to articles that cover your company. Many companies use their PR agencies, which can be expensive. But if you only want to monitor your program, you might be able to economize by following a few key publications.

Clipping services, which exist in most countries, also can provide your articles. Quality can be uneven, but at least they give access to your articles.

While the press is a good source of trend information, you also will want to listen to your employees and prospects. Listening to prospects entails conducting surveys that weigh the press’ impact on your target audience. Generally, phone surveys tell you more because mail delivery can be highly unreliable, depending on the country, and because people respond more erratically to mail than to phone calls. Hire a professional researcher to help you develop the survey. This ensures the survey’s accuracy.

Start by conducting a survey benchmark to determine current opinion, then repeat it once a year.

Analyze the data

Collecting information about your international PR program tells you nothing until you analyze it. Translating articles into your native language usually wastes time.

Much more important is choosing who will read your articles and analyze them.

Ensure that your reader knows articles’ languages of origin fluently and responds to them as if he or she were a target prospect – not a PR person, not someone within the company – someone your international PR program anticipates. Also ensure that your analyst is well aware of current international marketplace issues and PR strategies.

When you evaluate survey results, don’t bog down in minutiae. Look for trends and watch out for small samples. A recent survey said one of our clients was the most respected health insurance company in the country. Turns out the ranking was based on 14 people’s opinions.

Present results

You know that how you present information can be as important as how you gather it. But sometimes that knowledge disappears beneath a company’s drive toward international PR goals.

Over and over again I hear how much international field people hate it when “home-office folks” descend upon them, require huge chunks of time, deliver earth-shattering pronouncements and then leave without indicating how to implement or fund any of the programs.

Present results from your “listening” to international teams with the context of improving communications effectiveness. Identify opportunities together, strategize solutions together, then reach consensus on your collective next steps. Your end result will be much more consistent and productive communications worldwide.

Outsourcing Marketing? What Has This World Come To?

omwgBusinesses across the country are outsourcing work to other companies to increase work volume while holding down costs – a trend that marketing departments are beginning to follow.

Traditionally, companies have held the line at contracting for mainly non-professional work, such as secretarial or janitorial services. But in the never-ending search to cut costs, a company can now lease workers to supplement everything from its law department to its board of directors.

Outsourcing marketing

For example, one large telecommunications company in California, which asked not to be named, cut one of its division’s marketing department from 12 to two people. The department has outsourced the actual work of writing direct marketing letters, newsletter publishing and supplemental sales force training to another company.

“There seems to be plenty of work for everybody, and it is very competitive,” says Roz Angell, director of corporate communications for George S. May International Co., a Park Ridge, Ill.-based consultancy.

Unhappy with results

A recent survey by the American Management Association, New York, shows that more than one-fourth of the jobs eliminated by major corporations have been replaced by outside companies.

However, that research also shows that a significant number of businesses are not happy with the results from outsourcing work.

But not all outsourcing is a patch to cover work after a company bleeds employees.

Several of May International’s clients are small and midsize companies that are looking at growth and need to outsource work to supplement the efforts of a small marketing department.

High accountability

“Smaller companies are certainly using a lot of services from the outside, and we don’t see that changing,” Ms. Angell says.

“Many of our clients are outsourcing corporate communications and advertising projects, jobs that come with high levels of accountability.”

In a number of cases, outsourcing hasn’t been used to trim marketing departments for just that reason – most executives choose to hold total control of a company’s image by keeping all marketing work in-house.

A number of technology-oriented companies will outsource as much work as possible, except for marketing, says Andrew Olson, managing director of communications, entertainment and technology for search firm Ward Howell International, New York.

Maintaining control

“Many companies see marketing as part of how they do business. They want as much control over it as possible,” Mr. Olson says. “They are not going to outsource strategic marketing, pricing or product development.”

Mr. Olson says his clients are outsourcing supplementary marketing functions, however, such as brochure development and mass mailings.

Ms. Angell agrees that corporate attitudes toward the use of outsourcing for various functions can vary widely. “In the marketing area, outsourcing has been pretty schizophrenic,” she says.

How to find some help

For marketers looking to bolster their departments through outsourcing, Roz Angell, director of corporate communications for George S. May International, Park Ridge, Ill., offers the following guidelines:

* Experience. Make sure the company you contract with has experience in your industry and knows your products well. Many smaller companies may not have the experienced work force you need to meet your demands, Ms. Angell says.

“They are hiring kids out of college and burning them out,” she says. “You want someone who understands business with a capital B and who knows where the bones are buried in the industry.”

* References. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. This will help you determine the company’s track record for doing the type of work you need done.

* Samples. Another way to evaluate an outsourcing company is to look for work samples in your line of business that show product positioning, business-to-business sales and integrated marketing strategies.

* Billing. Make sure before you sign a contract to ask for an itemized bill. “You want full financial accountability,” Ms. Angell says.

* Work relationship. “The chemistry has got to be there, because small- and medium-size businesses are many times in crisis,” Ms. Angell says. “It is important to bring them on board and talk with them frankly and trust them.”

If the company doesn’t communicate well with you, chances are it won’t communicate well with your customers or the public, either.

* Service. Demand superior service, especially with quality and deadlines. Says Ms. Angell, “There are enough companies out there that if you are not happy with what you’re getting, you can find another.”

B To B-ing. Remember That?

brtWhen it comes to achieving excellence in advertising creativity, most people immediately look to the ads themselves. But creativity goes far beyond that. The people who figure out the media strategy have a much more difficult task in many ways. They must answer to two masters: Creative ad placement and the bottom line.

This month we honor the Best & Brightest Media Strategists – the people who have proven that they can unite these often conflicting masters. For the third year, Business Marketing has selected the top media strategists in business-to-business today. These men and women represent the best in their profession, bringing to media strategy a dedication to quality and creativity.

Representing a diverse spectrum of b-to-b, from industry to high-tech, these 12 have demonstrated their vision and commitment to excellence in this increasingly competitive arena by finding creative avenues for extending their client’s message while using media that fit their objectives. They’re also injecting their jobs with humor – and a sense of fun.

And they’re doing it while still trying to get their clients the best value for their ad dollars. That can make it all the more difficult, given today’s emphasis on the bottom line. These 12 have to watch their spending while convincing the client that cheapest doesn’t always equate with best when it comes to doing things right – even though it can look that way on the surface in a cost-cutting environment. They’re also raising the quality – and the image – of business-to-business advertising, pushing it to new levels and setting standards that all marketers can look to.

The Best & Brightest Awards is not the only program pushing to raise the bar on the quality of b-to-b advertising. Another is the American Business Press’ Creative Excellence in Business Advertising Awards honoring the best in b-to-b advertising. In the second annual CEBA Awards competition, Sawyer Riley Compton, Atlanta, basically swept the honors, winning not only the Grand CEBA, but also the awards for single ad, spread or larger and campaign-at least three ads. Martin/Williams Advertising, Minneapolis, won for single ad-one page or less.

Without taking anything away from the fine work of these two agencies, I have to say that I don’t understand why the same finalists kept showing up. In two categories, interactive ad-Web sites or CD-ROMs and inserts-special supplements, there were no first-place winners.

I know the b-to-b world produces good, creative work. We run it each month in Copy Chasers. But there was little evidence of b-to-b diversity at the CEBAs. Where were the computer ads? How about some representation from heavy industry?

The ABP is putting a lot of effort into creating awards that recognize the best in b-to-b, and in 1998 it hopes to broaden participation in the event. So, during the next year, I urge you to take a look at what you’re doing. Are you happy with your advertising? Would you be proud to enter it to be judged with other b-to-b ads? If not, do something about it.

But if it does live up to your expectations, show your commitment both to your advertising efforts and to b-to-b creativity in general and make sure it’s entered in the 1998 CEBA competition. The ABP can only do so much; the rest is up to you, the b-to-b marketer, to raise the level of creativity and recognition of b-to-b advertising.

Finally, when it comes to recognizing exceptional work, there are two people here at Business Marketing who deserve some mention. Brian Reilly, our executive editor, and Jason Brady, who was our summer intern, created the NetMarketing 200 that we introduce in this issue.

Through months of grueling, often tedious work, they compiled lists of possible candidates and then sifted through some 600 Web sites, grading each one. They also tried to contact – through both e-mail and telephone – each of the final 200 to get more information about the sites.

The final list, which appears on Pages 18 and 19, is the result. It represents the beginning of a project that will be updated each year as marketers grow and evolve their Web efforts.

When it comes to setting the standard for b-to-b Web sites, Brian and Jason have worked hard. It’s now time for the marketers to step in and push even harder to boost the quality of the b-to-b Web presence.

Oh Downsizing… We Hardly Knew Ye…

imagesCorporate downsizing has left marketers in a bind: Their job is particularly vulnerable while employment opportunities have slowed considerably.

In the throes of downsizing, “companies always look at what they would call non-mission critical departments,” said Dan Bellack, principal with Bellack Consulting, a San Carlos, Calif.-based advertising consultancy.

Support departments like marketing communications fall into the non-mission critical category. “If you’re not part of manufacturing, sales, etc., you are at risk,” Mr. Bellack said.

According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based outplacement firm; corporate layoffs slowed from 1993 through 1995 – 615,186 jobs were cut in 1993; 516,069 in 1994; and 439,882 in 1995. But “since October 1995, [the layoff trend] has been accelerating again,” said John Challenger, executive VP. “There have been 306,560 job cuts just in the past six months.”

The firm does not break out how many jobs were marketing positions. Mr. Challenger said, however, “marketing has been harder hit,” than many other employment categories, including sales.

Data on marketers is hard to find. A number of broad-based marketing organizations – the American Marketing Association, Business Marketing Association, Advertising Research Federation, Association of National Advertisers, American Advertising Federation and American Association of Advertising Agencies – said their groups had not researched the issue.

Even without hard numbers, marketers know they’re at risk. Marketing communicators “in business today who have not been thinking about options for at least the last two or three years have been living with their heads in the sand,” said Carol Chapin Bocell, former VP-corporate communications at Ave International, a Dallas-based manufacturer of electrical test equipment. Downsizing recently cost her job.

David Perry, former director-offset marketing with Niles, Ill.-based A.B. Dick Co., lost his job to downsizing this spring. Mr. Perry was the last marketer in the offset equipment department in Chicago. A.B. Dick laid off several other marketing professionals before Mr. Perry joined the company in 1994.

“I think in a lot of situations downsizing is necessary. But you must distinguish between cutting down to the bone and cutting into the bone – between downsizing that hurts the company and downsizing that helps the company,” he said. “A lot of companies want to flatten the [organizational structure! so much that marketing is gone, and all you have left is top management and worker bees. That just doesn't work."

Mr. Perry, who also has worked as a marketing consultant, said companies' emphasis on short-term return holds its own danger for marketing professionals. When that happens, "you're dead. That's what a lot of companies are trying to do, and it's a pox on marketing people. The very nature of marketing is looking down the road, anticipating rather than reacting."

In one sense, downsizing has created new realities, especially for experienced business-to-business marketers.

"With the more experienced people, their salaries stick out," said Rick Kean, executive director, Business Marketing Association, Chicago. "In some cases, companies do get rid of experienced people and hire inexperienced people who work for less money."

Added Mr. Bellack: "If you look around today at people doing in-house promotions and things of that nature [and compare them] to the people who were doing it 10 or 15 years ago, by and large you find a less experienced group of people.”

Corporate downsizing “has opened up an opportunity for people who were downsized from the company side or who, like me, came from the agency side for whatever reason. All of a sudden we become very valuable,” Mr. Bellack said.

A recent convert to consulting is Paul Sherrington, BMA chairman. Mr. Sherrington, a 23-year veteran with Equifax Inc., an Atlanta information services provider, lost his job as assistant VP-marketing communications when the company disbanded the corporate marketing communications department in January.

Mr. Sherrington started his consultancy, Atlanta-based Sherrington Marketing & Communications, the same week. He said his corporate job approach prepared him for the transition to consulting.

“I always viewed myself as an independent contractor renting my talents and abilities to the company or companies offering the best rewards,” he said. “For many years, that was Equifax. But once change hit, I had no problem moving in new directions. . . . My skills are highly transportable. A week after leaving Equifax, I was developing a comprehensive marketing strategy for one client, writing an annual report for another and starting on some product sheets for a third.”

AVO’s Ms. Bocell is considering starting a consulting practice. “I am actively looking for employment but I also am considering creating my own small agency.”

Running her department at AVO “was like running my own little company. . . . I liked that. And I think those kinds of jobs are getting harder to find.”

Ms. Bocell’s layoff did not surprise her, given earlier AVO cuts. “It’s kind of like when you have a 90-year-old grandmother and she dies. You’re surprised she died that day, but you’re not surprised she died.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics combines sales and marketing, estimating employment for this group will grow 18% between 1994 and 2005, down from 33% between 1983 and 1994. In comparison, the bureau said all occupations increased 24% from 1983 to 1994, and it projects a 13.9% increase through 2005.

The Labor Department attributes the slowdown to lower employment in wholesale and retail trade, areas that employ most marketing and sales professionals; it expects growth in the services industry, finance, insurance and real estate. In addition, a study by the Direct Marketing Association, New York, shows employment in this area is growing significantly.

Branding Makes The Brand Sizzle

This month, three major technology companies – Seagate Technology, Scotts Valley, Calif.; Sun Microsystems, Palo Alto, Calif.; and 3Com Corp., Santa Clara, Calif. – all launch major branding campaigns, which include heavy TV exposure.

The new campaigns are geared at increasing. container mind share and humanizing products sold mainly to engineers and other professionals.

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Before and after

Seagate is known for its hard disk drives, which store data on computers; 3Com sells products such as routers that move network traffic around; and Sun is known for building servers, computers that run networks.

Now, Seagate wants to be known for finding the information you need, 3Com wants its brand recognized on modems and palmtop computers, while Sun wants consumers to embrace the revolution of network computing and its Java technology.

All these campaigns have the right idea, said Marty Brandt, president of ProBRAND, Menlo Park, Calif., a branding consultant and author of the book “Power Branding,” who once worked for Sun.

“The technology businesses have been product-centric,” he says, “but customers buy brands,” and successful branding campaigns by Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. have driven this message home.

Such campaigns don’t have to be expensive – Mr. Brandt cites Point-Cast and Intuit as building strong brands at low cost – but top management must push the new identities throughout their companies.

Campaigns facing reality

Martin Marshall, analyst at Zona Research, Mountain View, Calif., said the campaigns reflect today’s reality. “Computers are the No. 1 industry in this country, bypassing autos and organized crime. People . . . are now dealing with computers every day.

“The idea of branding something is to get people to give a preference to it, and build a price differential.”

But each branding campaign is a little different. “We want to get through to people that we care about the information they need,” said Paul Wolfe, an executive creative director, Foote Cone & Belding, San Francisco, which created the Seagate ads. The campaign launches this month with TV spots featuring people desperate to get one piece of information. The agency positions Seagate as an information company, uniting hardware and software lines under a single brand and message.

Seagate is expected to spend as much as $50 million over 10 months on its global TV, print and Web advertising; Seagate and FCB declined to confirm a budget.

Seagate is also scoping out a buy in January’s Super Bowl broadcast. NBC is seeking $1.3 million to $1.4 million for a 30-second spot.

Challenging the status quo

The Sun campaign, $30 million of an estimated annual budget of $80 million to $90 million, uses big type to position network-based computing as “challenging the status quo,” said Tracey Stout, Sun’s worldwide advertising director. Sun’s tagline, “The Network Is the Computer,” will be kept, she added, and the ads, from Lowe & Partners/SMS, San Francisco, will give it consumer visibility when its inexpensive network computers hit the market next year.

3Com was known for obscure corporate networking hardware before it bought U.S. Robotics, a Skokie, Ill.-based modern maker. The ads, also by FCB, use an $80 million budget to create a brand for its broadened product line, says Larry Loper, 3Com’s marketing communications and branding director.

“The look of all [product] ads will be similar,” he says. “We have to make product advertising work more cohesively, so people know 3Com is one company.”