Sean Sloan on Online Marketing and Web Development for small to medium businesses in Orange County.
Check out my website, open-interactive.com, for samples of my work or give me a call at 949.722.6119.
Sean: Okay, well I wanted to take a little bit of a different approach today. I wanted to steer away from the technical and go to more of the personal because when you hire a company, you are also hiring the people, especially if it’s a small company. I wanted to talk a little bit about the people in our company and give you an idea of what you get when hire us.
I’m in a partnership with Joe Schwab and he is the person, I like to say, that has taught me more about the and web technologies than any other living human. I have probably chatted more with Joe than I have spoken to him in person, which is really saying something because we’ve known each other for probably 15 years or more. Right around 15 years.
Joe was based in Kentucky but is now the Atascadero, California so we still are chatting. We also get on the phone on a daily basis. Joe is a super capable person. He’s been working the internet since 1997, longer than I have. He started out working on computers using command line to control servers. Command line is the text based interface where you navigate around the computer.
Man 1: Single and backslash and all those types of things.
Sean: Yeah, lots of weird abbreviations, but it tells the server what to do. He’s got a background in that. He also went to the Laguna College of Art and Design. He’s a unique person that knows both the technical aspects and is a capable designer as well. That is quite an unusual combination to find in a person. Often people are more technical or more artistic and Joe is both.
Joe is also a very good photographer. He’s a musician like myself, in fact we had a band together back in 2003 through 2005, around there. That’s Joe. Joe is a person that some of you may have dealt with on the phone. You can get him usually by calling him through our office line and I can patch you over to him. If you have technical questions or need technical solutions Joe’s definitely the person.
Then we also have a writer, John Lavitt. Some of you have deal with John directly. John is a very interesting guy. He lives in Hollywood. Well, actually he moved to the Valley recently because he’s getting married this September. I guess, well it is September.
John: This month.
Sean: Yeah, he’s getting married this month. He met a really wonderful girl named Maddie and they decided to get married and so they’re going to do that. John is an Ivy League graduate. He went to Brown University and he is a very intelligent, very capable, insightful guy. He has a lot of writing experience, in fact, in the movie industry and has actually led teams of writers. Being based in Hollywood he still has a lot of connections in that industry.
John also has an expertise in drug and alcohol recovery programs and writing for those and has worked with groups at UCLA to produce content around those topics and has interfaced with a lot of doctors and cutting edge people in that capacity. He has also published a lot of articles in an online journal known as “The Fix,” which is a dedicated to those topics.
Then there’s me. I have been working with computers and websites since 19…Well I started with computers in the early ’90s, then went off into the movie business for a while and then came back to computers and the internet in 1998, and I’ve been working in it steadily since then, been in business for myself since 2003. A lot of you know I joined this group of Strong Sloan Productions and then gradually partnered with Joe to create Open Interactive and here we are today.
We also recently hired a new gentleman by the name of Robert Hall who is a developer. He does PHP programming, CSS, HTML, things of that nature. He’s been a great new addition. He’s probably worked on some of your sites already without you realizing it. We’re glad to have him working with us so we’re building the team back up.
We’re up to four again. We were up to five before. We have a new guy who we’re bringing in. His name’s Quintin. He’s not quite as advanced as Robert but he is also helping us now. We have four and a half, would be the best way to describe it.
What you get when you hire us is four and a half very qualified, very experienced experts in web development and everything that revolves around your website. We have gained a lot of experience in dealing with business owners, discerning their sales process and helping aid that by developing their websites. That gives us an edge over the average developer who has little to no business background and much less experience when it comes to interfacing with business owners and determining how a website can best serve them.
The real difference shows in what we have to offer. When there is a need for something custom and when there are complex issues that need solving. For instance, Don is having a problem now with email and we just learned that there are, we checked the server, we’re not on any blacklist, but we learned that there are new, internal blacklists at some major email providers like AOL and Yahoo. So this is another layer of complexity.
Obviously people are trying to control spam but they’ve started what are, in essence, called internal RBLs, which stands for “Remote Blacklist.” They have a different process and we’re learning about how to address getting on and off of these internal RBLs so that we can make sure that your mail gets delivered properly because we know how important mail is. There are other external solutions available now, that weren’t available in the past, that people are going to be migrating to and some of you already have, to Google Apps for Business or Office 365 and things of that nature.
So there are solutions out there and it’s just a matter of implementing them. I think to sum up and then take it to questions, I’ve talked about this analogy before that we are like the wagon train scouts, going out into unknown territory and finding a safe route for the wagon train. I think that this idea that we are constantly learning and exposed to new technologies and possibilities is also an apt analogy. We are forced to be professional learners because of the changing nature of the internet, and boy has it changed. Even in the time I’ve been in this group, which has been 12 years now.
When you come to us you get, in essence, four and a half super qualified people to add to your team and the price is whatever we negotiate. It can be one time or it can be an ongoing program. We do ongoing programs for a variety of people, some people in here, and we have done project-based work for almost everyone in here who has a website. Not every single one but almost everyone. I’d like to open it up to questions. I know that the internet is a place of a lot of mystery and we’d like to take the mystery out of it. So if anyone has a question? Yes.
Woman 1: I do. Is WordPress still the going platform or the top platform that people are using to build new sites today?
Sean: Yeah, so WordPress is a content management system. We used to build sites in just HTML and then in PHP and HTML. WordPress uses those things but it has a content management backend that allows you to log in and add to the site. Our little tip site is a WordPress site and many small business sites are. In fact it’s estimated that up to 30 percent of websites on the internet today are built in WordPress.
That has challenges that come with it because whenever you are the big player, then people try to look for places to exploit that. It’s important to stay up to date on updating software and before we update any software we do a complete backup of the site and all the files and the database so that if there’s any problem and it needs to be restored that we have an up-to-date copy. That’s another thing that a lot of younger people don’t have the experience to do that sort of thing quickly and efficiently and know how to do it because it involves dealing directly with the server. We do know how to do that.
Yes, currently WordPress has so much momentum and positive going for it. In fact we’re using it for the basis of an e-commerce platform with a plug-in called WooCommerce and the extensions that go with that but that’s definitely the way to go. We recommend it highly. It’s very powerful. It gives you the opportunity to control your own destiny if you’re a person who’s capable of writing. Anybody else have any questions? Dennis.
Dennis: Sean, in the classroom today you were talking about the more you can write, the stronger you are. Because of the cycle of that, the amount of writing I’ve got to do often if I get behind in that. Is it important today as it once was in your eyes to hammer, hammer, hammer?
Sean: Yeah. It still is the basis of strong ranking because well, in Google’s effort to stay relevant they have to present relevant search results and so part of the equation is an aspect called “Query Deserves Freshness.” The query deserves freshness is looking for new content that’s put out there. It’s essentially going to rank you gradually higher over time in comparison to the person that doesn’t publish. That’s the rough, thumbnail sketch of it.
Things that happen externally to your site, links from other site, still remains important but those in fact come about more readily when you are writing content because if you’re providing something useful it’s more likely that someone will link to it. It deserves a thorough thinking through before you write. You want to try to address legitimate concerns of your buying audience so that they are seeing things that address their issues and linking to it. That’s the essence of it.
I think that with content comes the need for distribution and that social media has made that easier and also it’s important to distribute your content out. I think Terri does a great job of that in a variety of ways. Email marketing is still very important. If you have a core list of your most important clients or referral sources, having a simple email marketing program, I think every single one of you guys could benefit from that. It’s more affordable and easier to do than probably ever.
There’s more services to choose from, MailChimp has really come up. I think you can have 500 addresses for free or something like that. Cost and Contact has a low price to program. I thinks it’s $20 a month to start out. Eye Contact is about the same and there are many, many more. Everyone in here could have that, with a customized email newsletter going out to their most important referral sources and clients. Any other questions before I call it? Yes, Dr. Martin.
Dr. Martin: I’ve been writing a lot of things for my website but is there a point where I’m writing too much or do you edit it as you go along?
Sean: In a situation like that you might think about, and this also speaks to the idea that oh, writing is a burden, you can break things into sections so that it becomes a series. Break a single article into three, you could write it on three different occasions and link the three together as a three-part series. Especially with technical material you might have a tendency to overwhelm people, unless they were students. Even publishing stuff for your students in your own website you could make a student section and refer people when you teach a class to your website for documentary support of what you are.
That would actually help your site rank because the likelihood that students and other people would link to it is increased. That might not be something you thought of before but these are the kind of things we think we bring to the table in helping you think about how to succeed long term because it really is a case of the tortoise leading the hare. Okay. Thank you very much.