Little Fish, Big Pond - Save the Center and My SEO Enlightment
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Ok, I make websites for a living. Well, I do a lot of other stuff too, but one of the things I do is make websites. I make these sites 90% of the time for small to medium sized companies, and of course these days everyone knows (well just about everyone, I do occasionally still run into a person who thinks just cause they have a website for their TOTALLY off the wall widget they are going to instantly sell a million of the dang things and retire on an island they buy with the money, anywayâ€¦) almost everyone knows if you build it, it doesn't mean they'll come. Enter SEO, Search Engine Optimization that is: SEO, SEM, META-Tags, Pay-Per-Click, etc. I know with a limitless budget I could buy my way to the top, yet all the data out there suggests I can get to the top organically (yes, like the milk that doesn't have any additives.) Still, no matter how much I read, see, and hear about SEO, I can't get the Little Fish in a Big Pond out of my head. I mean let's face it, with 11 billion pages indexed on Google, (and I got that number off the internet, so I am sure by the time you read this it will be out-dated) the Web is a pond the size of Pacific Ocean and my client's website is like, wellâ€¦ krill (swim away, swim awayâ€¦)* As a responsible designer I did all I was instructed to do in regards to SEO on our site as well as on our clients' and I still had a hard time really having faith in SEOâ€¦ heresy I know. The internet inquisition would have found me out for sure. And then, it happened, the thing that led to my true conversionâ€¦ www.savethecenter.org.
At True Light Resources we have a passion for giving back to the world (one of our core beliefs is that through giving one truly receives) and we are very involved on a personal level with the success of The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation (The Center) here in Houston, TX. When we were informed that the City of Houston was making plans to remove The Center from the city owned property it resided on and sell the land to a developer for high-end high-rises, we jumped at the chance to be helpful. We did what we do for all our clients. We encouraged and guided The Center to drive all inquiries and traffic to a newly created website. A central location where they could keep the public informed of what was going on with the "Save the Center" campaign. The site served as a scalable and immediately changeable presence. We called on our dear friends over at Schipul and got Save the Center into a Tendenci site. We felt Tendenci would be beneficial to the movement for many reasons, one the most importantâ€¦ SEO. Tendenci has all those basic SEO guidelines built into the system and bonus, they are great at that little thing called link backs. Well, not so little reallyâ€¦ I mean the two most important things in SEO are content and link backs. So, link backs are actually a really big thing, and Tendenci does a really good job at it. Consequently, we had the beginnings of a good Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign.
Then, focusing on consistency, we created a suite of campaign collateral; buttons, car magnets, signs, etc. Using the established look and feel, and simply stating the web address, we were able to create low cost collateral materials. We drove people to the site and The Center was able to conserve resources (and for a grass-roots operation and/or small business, that's a good thing.)
Finally, we had all the pieces in place. We had a dynamic site, with keyword heavy content, embedded links, all the appropriate and necessary META-Tags. We had the ability through Tendenci to add articles easily, to send out news via email, and to continually add new content. We had a system of legitimate link backs in place and were able to make use of RSS technology. We also had a suite of collateral materials driving traffic to the site. If we were students in an SEO classroom, we would have gotten the Gold Star.
Still, I was truly amazed and transformed by the response we got on the site. There were articles written and press conferences held which helped immensely. All the while we kept encouraging The Center to send people to the site. At The Center and here at True Light Resources we dedicated a focused energy to pull all the information about Save the Center into one place. Miraculously, The Center received over 10,000 submissions of their petition to The City of Houston in less than 3 weeks and I am a True Believer. I know those faithful SEO devotees out there will say it's not miraculous, that it is the system working as it should, but have some patience with this newly, re-devoted disciple.
(*) Finding Nemo (and now you know I am also the mother of little children, but that's a total aside.)