I recently sat down with Duane Forrester, the co-chair of SEMPO's In-House Committee. Mr. Forrester is the Manager of Search Marketing for SportsDirect, Inc., which operates Covers.com, a sports news and information website. He has been a search engine marketer for 5 years and is very active at the Search Engine Forums website. He also runs an online consultancy at The Online Marketing Guy.

In this interview, Mr. Forrester talks about what it takes to promote a website from scratch with a new domain name and new products and services.

Bill Hartzer: Welcome, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Duane Forrester: Ive worked for the last 5+ years on online marketing. Prior to that, it was 6 years in marketing for casinos owned by Caesars Palace. Back in the day, it was all direct mail things we did to encourage users to visit the casino. Today (and for the last 5 years) its been online media buying, pay-per-click advertising, e-mail advertising and, you guessed it, search engine optimization. Every day I come to work, I work exclusively on search optimization and organic placements for our five main websites.

As a sideline, I have built my own website upon which most of the information in this book is based. The job I have helped me learn the necessary skills to make my personal venture a success. At various time of the day youll find me posting at www.searchengineforums.com as SportsGuy. SEF was one of the very first places online where those new to search optimization could come, ask questions and learn. I was one of them years ago. Today I help as staff there and answer questions for new folks every day. Im also currently the Co-Chairman for the In-House Search marketers Committee with SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization). By attending the search-focused conferences such as Search Engine Strategies, helping in the forums and my involvement with SEMPO, I stay up to date on the very latest in the search optimization world.

Bill Hartzer: Lets talk about starting a website from scratch. If you're starting from scratch and you've just bought a domain name, what would you first do to go promote your website and your products?

Duane Forrester: Start with the basics - look through this list of directories (http://www.strongestlinks.com/directories.php ), and based on your budget, decide which ones you're going to submit to. The goal here is to appear in places that offer a link to you from a related topic. This increases your exposure to traffic, as well - often for little to no money. If you have the money, by all means,m pay for entry into the big directories. Also, don't forget to start a MySpace and Netscape account for your domain.

Bill Hartzer: OK, great. What about the backend? What's your preferred content management system or package to create website content?

Duane Forrester: I'm of two minds. Most folks starting out won't need a dedicated content management system, and learning things like the Mambo system come with their own set of challenges. If folks have access to software like Macromedia's Dreamweaver, and understand how basic file structures on a computer work, they're basically ready to go. Some folks use Microsoft Frontpage as their webpage editor - I avoid it because it imposes certain restrictions that can haunt you down the road. Lately I'm a big fan of Wordpress blogs. A gent I know got me clued in and sorted outso now it's a process for me - set up the blog, tweak a few things, drop in an RSS feed, start posting and the site is up and running - no lie, less than 2 hours. I have used various blog software packages in the past, and it's reliable, stable and solid - but it doesn't offer the versatility of Wordpress, nor the support. My one blog is now getting switched to Wordpress.

Bill Hartzer: Yes, it's very possible to use WordPress as a content management system and edit the template (called themes) to use it more like a CMS and not a blog.

Duane Forrester: I agree 100% - you can do a vast number of things with Wordpress products. I like them for blogs as it's literally a 10 minute setup. By changing some of the parameters, or even simply selecting the right template, a user can indeed easily create a full-fledged website, with or without a blog associated with it.

Duane Forrester: If folks simply want to get up and running quickly, many hosting firms offer simple hosting plans - they allow you to FTP files into a space reserved for your domain, and manage files like you do on your computer - nice, simple and quick. Bill Hartzer: Do you think using the pinging technology (built into most popular blog software packages and scripts) is helpful for SEO?

Duane Forrester: In a round about way, yes I do. The actual act of reaching out to the service via the ping (which happens automatically when you make a new post, if you have the services listed in your "ping list") alerts the services, such as Technorati, that you have fresh content. They come crawling and the fact that you are actively posting fresh content, plus the inherent competition among search engines to index relevant data, means the major engines crawl you frequently. Getting crawled is the first step to getting indexed.

Additionally, if the services you ping capture your post, and display it to their users on their own front page, you not only get a big bump in traffic from it, but get the value associated with the link from that service's main page - in some cases, this could result in an inbound link to your site with a high PR value - it can be gold under the right circumstances.

Bill Hartzer: So, do you think that having fresh content on your site is helpful to users and helpful for search engine rankings?

Duane Forrester: Having fresh content is critical for a couple of reasons.
1. It's important because fresh content keeps the search engine spiders coming back to see you

2. Users truly appreciate fresh, unique content - and more important than spiders visiting your site, you want the users to keep coming back. If you put up fresh content daily, they'll come back every day. If you update the site weekly, they'll come back weekly, maybe.

And lets not forget - today's fresh content becomes tomorrow's authority piece on a topic as it ages and links to it increase.

Bill Hartzer: Yes, I know that there are a lot of sites that I follow on a daily basis because of their fresh content. I've also set up an RSS reader to follow a few sites that I watch regularly.

Duane Forrester: Having an RSS feed parsed into HTML on your page can be enough to meet the needs of showing fresh content to the spiders, but posting new pages or articles on a blog 4 - 5 times each week with create loyal users who will spread the word about you via links.

Bill Hartzer: What if you're a business owner and just don't have the time to update your site every day. That can be a real issues.

Duane Forrester: Agreed - updating a site or blog takes time. As a business owner, I'd set aside time once a week to pre-write a few article son relevant topics. This will allow you to go to the site 3 - 5 times during the week to update the content, but minimize the time it takes to do so. Additionally, I've found a handy tool called CaRP that can help ease the need to post daily to update content.

This little tool takes your favorite RSS feed form anywhere, on any topic, and basically converts it to plain HTML that gets shown on your website. It has the net effect of displaying constantly updating content on the page it's shown on - whenever the RSS feed updates, so does the content sown on your page.

Bill Hartzer: Yes, I've heard of CaRP, that's what they call an RSS Parser that takes an RSS feed and converts it so it displays on your website.

Duane Forrester: It's a great tool, but you'll need a bit of familiarity with code to get it live - nothing drastic, just the basics - being able to find a particular file, edit it, and save the changes.

Bill Hartzer: You could probably outsource the creating or writing/updating of the company blog, as well. I understand there are public relations firms and even search marketing contractors that you can hire to do it for you.

Duane Forrester: Absolutely - outsourceing this type of work is a viable option today. Plenty of services exist from college students looking to make a few extra bucks, to professional SEO firms, who can help you manage content creation and site updates. It comes down to the budget you have available.

Bill Hartzer: I understand that companies like We Build Pages has a new content-writing service (http://www.webuildpages.com/seo-content.htm).

Duane Forrester: We Build Pages offers this service, but I'm personally skeptical. I'm sure there is some value there in the right circumstances, but a website owner needs to be careful and do their homework. It's critical that you are getting unique content - it cannot appear anywhere else. using 'article services" has been popular of late, though this service seems to combine the writing with some research, so it might be worth considering for certain circumstances. I'm personally a big fan of creating the content yourself.

Bill Hartzer: If you're using someone else's content, though, like someone else's RSS feed, wouldn't that be duplicate content?

Duane Forrester: In many cases, the data shown will be basically the same as shown in other places, but there are two things in your favor here.

1. The RSS feed is used almost exclusively by feed readers, which do not display the feed content on your website's page, but in their own window for you to read.

2. If you edit the feed data to limit the size of the snippet shown, or the number of characters shown, you, in effect, create a new version of the content that appears no where else. Care should be taken to determine if these options exist, however - better safe than sorry - as some feeds are easily customizable, so not so much.

Bill Hartzer: Let's get back to starting from scratch. At this point we have a domain name, we've submitted to directories on our limited budget, and we have a content management system CMS on our site and we're starting to create content. Now what?

Duane Forrester: You've got a couple of goals at this point. 1. This content will be with you forever if you intent to make money online - you need to continually be creating new content - a good goal is one new page a day as an average.

2. Next up is the grassroots marketing you'll want to do - joining associations, becoming a contributor in related posting forums, and more important lately, you'll want to spend some time in the Web 2.0 doing some social bookmarking of all your new content.

None of this needs to be time-intensive. If you put up a post on your blog today, you go to your Netscape account and submit the article there, your blog platform already pinged the main services to alert them of the update, and you'll want to hit a couple more of the popular social bookmarking spots to get the article/post noted in their lists as well.

Bill Hartzer: Social bookmarking is helpful, and it's important to be a regular user of these services, is that correct?

Duane Forrester: Absolutely Bill. Social book marking is a solid resource these days - for a couple of reasons. First up, you gain a link from these large players in the social spaces, which can easily result in more traffic directly as a result of other users reading your submissions.

On another level, the links themselves can provide some added lift to your website over time. A good rule of thumb on linking is this - build links for traffic, not SEO.

One thing to remember about the social services, is to be sure to include submissions of content other than your own. These services exist to serve a larger market of socially engaged webusers, not as search marketing tools.

Bill Hartzer: And networking (adding friends) is helpful to get links to your profile which, in turn, will help out any stories that you submit to the social bookmarking sites.

Bill Hartzer: Yes, it's definitely worth it to focus on the traffic and not just the optimization part--creating good content and then getting visitors to hear about that content and link to it is great for SEO and marketing a website in general.

Duane Forrester: Yes sir. It's pretty simple to add friends in a social space such as Netscape - click the icon and add them to your list. Over time, the list of those you're getting exposed to increases, they increasingly read and share your info - it's a snowball effect that makes a noticeable difference over a few weeks.

The essence of everything search optimization is simple - you build sites for users first. if you do this by bringing solid, unique content to the market, you will be successful - it takes time, but it does work.

Bill Hartzer: Thanks for chatting with me, I look forward to interviewing you again sometime in the future.

Duane Forrester: Anytime Bill - happy to share what I know.
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Search Engine Guide > Bill Hartzer > Duane Forrester Talks About Promoting New Websites

Bill Hartzer currently runs a Strategic Online Marketing Consultancy that includes services such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online reputation management.

Bill Hartzer formerly managed the Search Engine Marketing division of Vizion Interactive and MarketNet, leading interactive marketing and website design firms in the Dallas, Texas area.

Hartzer is a successful writer, blogger, search engine marketing, and social media marketing expert. During the past fifteen years, some of his many accomplishments include: Search Engine Marketing Manager, Vizion Interactive, Search Engine Marketing Manager, MarketNet, Search Engine Optimization Strategist, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Webmaster, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing, Administrator, Search Engine Forums, Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences, Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld's PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference.