This post is dedicated to my fellow SEG author, Mike Moran and his family who lost a loved one this week. I know all of our thoughts are with you, Mike.

Who doesn't esteem the helping professions? The firefighters, doctors, counselors and ministers who devote their professional lives to the assistance of people who are experiencing a time of need.

Tonight, reading Mike Moran's exceptional article explaining how the web had utterly failed to help him to find assisted living services for his late father-in-law, I found myself incredibly moved, not only by his family's bereavement and his story about his search for help, but also by the realization that when web designers, copywriters, SEOs and SEMs work within certain industries, we truly are in one of the helping professions.

Really, almost any project you take on wherein you're teaching a worthy business owner to understand the web could be described as being helpful. But I would suggest that the ultimate impact of what you do in a day's work is going to be weightier if you're working with the local Red Cross as opposed to the local bakery.

Mike's article identifies an industry - the home nursing industry - that has yet to wake up to the potential of the web, but which will have so much incredible help to offer people in both crisis and research situations whenever they finally do. As it stands, the industry was unable to yield a single website that gave Mike the answers he needed about qualifications, scheduling, fees, insurance or any of the other matters that anyone in his situation would need to know. The best line in Mike's piece:

"They have Web sites because people told them they should."

You know exactly what he means by that. The strange navigation 'solutions', the fuzzy images, the total lack of user-focused content, the buried contact information - basically the Microsoft Frontpage Special...built in the 90's...built to last!

When you step into a situation like this, in an industry as important as assisted living, your opportunities to help people are very real and very valuable.

You have the opportunity to discern that some of the people using this website will be in a crisis, maybe even crying. You know how to design a layout and write copy that gets them the answers they need without further stress or hassle.

You have the opportunity to recognize that elders may be coming to this website, trying to form a plan for their future, when they might need care. You know how to research and target the phrases they associate with their needs in the copy you write so that your answers show up to their vital questions. You know how to build a site that treats them with dignity while they are trying to make sensitive and important decisions.

You have the opportunity to discover the expertise that is within the company that has hired you and to bring that out in every aspect of the design and content the website hinges on. At-home health care professionals may not realize that they are experts. You're going to teach them that they are, and walk them through identifying the real needs of their website users. As an SEM, you will also be discovering all of the appropriate places for the website to be included, be this in health care directories, relevant forums or local search indexes.

You may even be the SM expert who inspires the nurses to start blogging about the common challenges people face surrounding the decision to hire at-home help. You may be the one who turns on the conversation that results in real, caring faces being there to welcome distressed families.

And, lest we forget, every time you build a high-quality, high-ranking website, you are upping the chances that a person searching for answers to tough questions gets your respectful offering in the SERPs, even if every other website on Page 1 is a useless, frustrating aggregate that is winning Google's link game but failing all human users.

Mike wrote his article to illuminate the usefulness of creating user personae. In order to do that successfully, you've got to use your research, experience and imagination to picture types of people who will be coming to your client's website.

Think for just a moment about what your own emotional state would be if your dear Dad or darling Mother had suddenly become ill and needed all the help you could find them.

Ethical, talented web designers, copywriters, SEOs and SEMs are going to be sure that you get the consideration you deserve at such a moment, because they have helped their clients learn how to help you. At the same time that they are increasing their client's reach, bottom line and prestige, the worthiest fruits of their professional labor can be reckoned up as having helped someone like you, just when you needed it most.

When you think about it, some projects we take on must certainly set off life-changing chain reactions along the life paths of people we will never meet, because we are sitting up at midnight, calling what we're doing 'KW research'. If we're doing this job for the local poison control center, a grief counselor, a traveling blood pressure clinic or a women's shelter, life-and-death situations will revolve around the other side of the FTP program.

Marketing discussions can be kind of grim sometimes, with one cynical voice proving to all the others that you can sell literally anything to anybody with the right tricks. If you hear yourself saying things like this frequently these days, and something inside of you doesn't like it, maybe now is a good time to pick some new projects. Pick the right ones and they just might just transform your daily toil into a kind of ministry.

Something good to think about?

September 11, 2008

Miriam Ellis is the co-owner of Solas Web Design and CopyLocal, providing SEO-based website design, Local SEO and professional copywriting for small-to-medium North American businesses. She is the Local SEO Associate in the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz, a moderator at Cre8asite Forums and an annual participant in David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors report. When she and her husband are not working on the web, they're farming organically and working on increased sustainability or roaming about in nature having the time of their lives.


Thanks, Miriam, for the kind words. I love your take on how all of us in this business can become part of the solution. I'm looking forward to seeing how things change in the future--we're the ones who can make that happen.

Miriam, your article has really excited me. I have recently started a website consulting business, Elastic Mind, and my mission statement is this: If you want to help others, I want to help you. My goal is to help creative and socially-minded entrepreneurs (or innerpreneurs, as I refer to them) grow their businesses using the web.

I started my business because I was fed up with helping companies that I didn't believe in. I want to make a difference and I realized I could do that by using my creativity, marketing knowledge and web geekiness. I help them to connect with the people who need them.

I am part of the solution, or I try to be, and it is nice to see that others out there feel the same way I do.

Hi Mike,
How kind of you to take the time to read my article. I really appreciate that and am so glad you approved of the sentiments in this.

I'm just getting to know some of my fellow bloggers here at SEG, Mike, and I hope I'll get to know you better as time goes by.

Your piece really struck a chord in me.

Dear Tara,
Thank you for your kind comments!

Your business idea is terrific, and I absolutely agree that believing in the benefits offered by the company for whom you work makes a huge difference in the quality of your life.

I think there is a major contrast between marketing to create 'wants' in people they didn't know they had, and marketing to help provide the best possible choices for people's needs. I know my own favorite projects have revolved around promoting (with web design, SEO, copywriting etc.) choices that actually improve people's lives.

I enjoyed learning that you share my interest in the potentials of helping people. I like your idea about being part of the solution.

Hope to see you here again!

This is exactly what we try to do when we design web sites for small business owners.

In fact, I prefer to work with small business owners because they see the need and value for good website design and content.

I feel as though the search engines need to do a better job of filtering out websites that are just there to drive traffic.

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Search Engine Guide > Miriam Ellis > When This Industry Is One Of The Helping Professions