Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remember What Peter Drucker Said...

I am starting this entry off paraphrasing a quote by Peter Drucker, "The two primary ways to grow a business are marketing and innovation." I would add to Mr. Drucker's comments by saying that the two primary ways to grow an industry are through marketing and innovation. You may ask yourself, "How do you market an entire industry?" Well, associations can and do accomplish this or any company or groups of companies within an industry that position themselves as leaders through educating others about an industry is another way that this happens. How can an industry, as a whole, innovate? Typically it takes a major player to innovate, then the rest follow, or a new company arrives on the scene with innovation in hand, grabs up market share and then the rest follow. In both cases see Google.

I particularly enjoy the scenario of groups coming together to educate simply because it typically raises the tide for everyone in that industry that is a sincere value to the industry. There are times however, when this group "promotion" can backfire and pollute an industry through misinformation.

Recently a friend of mine attended an all day conference that was put on to help the marketplace learn more about online marketing and how to best leverage it as a way to grow business. Great idea...until my friend told me that a number of the folks
there were down talking Flash and it's role on the web. Specifically that Flash is bad for web sites because it is not compatible for organic SEO. Basically several of these "online marketers" were running flash through the ringer because of it's perceived lack of SEO friendliness. It is important to state that I was not there so I do not know how accurate this report is, but I have heard this inaccurate spew before from other "online marketers" so I thought I would take the opportunity to address it. If it was communicated, all I can say is I feel bad for attendees who may not know better because they paid to be misled,, I mean educated.

Now I am no programmer but I understand enough about Flash to know that it is like most online tools - it is versatile and can be a tremendous asset when utilized properly and can be a detriment when misused. As it relates to SEO or otherwise.

In this instance regarding Flash, its role in digital media and how it either hurts or helps SEO, I think presenters who claim Flash is a boondoggle to SEO are only about 20% correct, however I wonder if most even realize this? If so do they intentionally mislead to boost their desire to sell more SEO? In either event it is a tremendous disservice to their audience, and to the industry in general. Long term it is a detriment to themselves.

So, let's talk facts shall we?
It is a fact that Flash heavy sites are not optimal if your main goal is to run a site that is created to perform optimally in organic search. For pay per click it is a non issue.

It is also a fact that the average time spent on web sites is horrible. Less than 60 seconds for over 60% of all sites. For a large number it is considerably less. Considering the gross majority of sites are still dominated by HTML that does not bode well for you even if you are ranked high in organic search. What good is getting people to your site if the experience is so poor that they cut out 30 seconds later with a poor impression? Sorry but the fact is that your general consumer cares not about code, but about experience. An awful lot of people want an engaging experience - it is a fact - look at the consumer driving sites that actually hold users on for a decent amount of time. I am talking general consumers - critical mass, not specialized programmer users. When Flash is properly utilized in a site the stickiness of that site, traditionally, is much higher than static sites - it is a tested and proven fact. I have seen it first hand.

Flash can be incorporated into highly optimized html sites. Typically called hybrid sites. These sites not only are more flexible visually and interactively, but also succeed in organic rankings.

Flash sites can be optimized. Again, I am no programmer, but know plenty of instances and organizations that sell this capability where Flash is laid over optimized code, yielding a very successful organic placement. It is not an all or nothing proposition.

Lastly, I am a marketer, one that does not restrict good marketing research, strategy, practice, measurement or results to one very narrow tactic. In a holistic marketing approach, especially with a business that values its brand and its position in the marketplace, experience goes a long way with the customer relationship. SEO is a very small piece of the pie when it comes to a quality relationship with a customer. Is SEO valuable - of course it is when done well - but what truly offers long term value to a potential customer or a returning customer is not how high you are in Google rankings, rather a quality product or service offering and how you engage the customer based on their interest in what you have to offer. The last time I checked a high level of interactivity incorporated with a well thought out, intuitive, and properly executed user interface based on customer desire does more to KEEP your audience on your site. Flash is a superb tool, when executed well, for all of the above. For all of the folks who think Flash is counter to a great online marketing strategy, I might refer back to Peter Drucker's quote and ask them to educate themselves before misinforming others - because as far as digital content is concerned it is the present and a huge part of the future. If it wasn't I do not think Google (many of these "online marketers'" feeding trough) would be figuring out rich media ads for its AdWords program, continuously working on better ways to access and rank video and flash heavy sites, have purchased YouTube and there is a silly little rumor going around that the big G is considering giving a weighted advantage to web sites in its organic rankings that are rich media heavy - since the gross majority of rich media online is delivered through Flash, I see well executed Flash sites as the future - even in an SEO centric strategy. Looks like Google understands where Mr. Drucker is coming from. I wish others could stop the bashing long enough to understand this concept too.

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