I first "met" Barry by browsing around the net, and coming across his blog, comments on other blogs, and forum participation. The more I read on marketing, the more I came across Barry. So I finally realized that I needed to actually speak to the man of the hour, and see if he and I could talk shop. Incidentally, his wide internet presence is a good example to follow for anyone looking to generate brand awareness.
Barry is an authority on marketing (and on SEO in particular; he moderates Cre8asite's online marketing forum), and his generosity in sharing the following insights shows why. We discussed a wide range of marketing and Montreal related topics, and the interview is really a great source of information.
Bookworm-SEO: How did you enter the world of marketing?
Barry Welford: I started in Marketing Research way before there was any Internet, since by background I was trained as a statistician. However I then spent many years in Marketing and Selling with major corporations both sides of the Atlantic.
Bk: What do you see as some of the most exciting emerging technologies in marketing?
BW: I see much growth in Internet Marketing and I believe that companies are somewhat slow in using the power of blogging to complement what they're displaying on their websites. It's all about customer dialogue in this Permission Marketing world and blogging is ideal for that. The technology that is expanding explosively at the moment is the Mobile Web and all that will develop from that.
Bk: Have you ever optimized a site for local search? If so, can you describe the process?
BW: That's a tough one, since I don't think the search engines do a very good job yet and it may always be a tough challenge for them. I always encourage my clients to have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that will make them visible for that in any search including Local.
However,in very competitive markets that's tough. When it's not possible, then clients may want to consider PPC targeted ads. Adword ads for example can be shown only within driving distance of the client's Post Code, which is about 100 miles radius or so. As a minimum, there's nothing to lose and you may well gain by making sure your business entry is correct in the Google Maps database.
Bk: Are there any leaders you're seeing in local search? What do you make of the new AdWords option to advertise on Google Maps?
BW: I'm not sure how many prospective clients are using Google Maps to find suppliers so it may be better to just use the 'within driving distance' option in the regular Adwords.
Bk: You're known as an authority on internet marketing in Montreal. What unique challenges does our bilingual environment present to marketers? Do you have any interesting stories you might share, working in our particular context?
BW: It is crucial that your customers, whether they're English-speaking or French-speaking are greeted correctly and feel in no way second-class. That means good quality language in both so that give a strong impression of credibility.
The SEO aspects of dealing in both languages are too large a topic to handle here. However one aspect that intrigues me are the number of companies who have accented letters in their company name. They are bound to be losing a certain slice of their traffic because of that and it's an easy topic to try to improve on.
Bk: You explicitly mention your presence in forums on your blog, and I see your email signature mentions that you moderate some SEO forums. What SEO forum community has the most savvy webmasters? Where are the members most helpful?
BW: There are several good forums and some of the more savvy webmasters are to be found from time to time in several of them. I believe it's important to look at the total Internet Marketing picture and not deal only with the minutiae of web design or SEO. It also depends on the type of community you want to interact with. Cre8asite Forums, where I moderate, is excellent on all counts with a great community. It's tagline, "Building Better Websites Together", really does capture what it's all about.
Bk: How has the web helped you network? Can you share some useful resources and/or stories?
BW: I think that networking is one of the most important things to do, either physically or on-line. The Internet is incredible for networking since it's so easy to find kindred spirits. It's important to dialogue, either by commenting on blogs or being active in forums or having your own blog(s). The key is to know what is going on. Here RSS newsfeeds are really important. My efficiency in keeping aware of happenings by using a newsfeed aggregator such as Bloglines, which is my favourite, has improved ten-fold at least. If folk are not aware of newsfeeds I would suggest that as the #1 priority above all else.
Bk: What tools do you use in your day-to-day SEO work? Any suggestions for things you'd like developed in the future?
BW: I use a whole variety of tools depending on the needs of the situation. I don't feel any particular lack that would suggest some new tool, but I do stay aware as new tools are put out. One thing I would recommend is using what used to be called the Google Sitemaps website and which has recently become the Google Webmaster Central. That's really good value.
Bk: You own your own business, Strategic Marketing Montreal. Can you describe the transition (if any) from being in someone else's marketing department, to striking out on your own, to finally establishing your own company?
BW: You have to have a very positive and resiliant personality to be able to stand the greater risk in being entirely responsible for your livelihood. Nevertheless the key pressures are less different than might appear. Dealing with clients, whether they be internal clients or external clients, is equally demanding if you want to succeed. Of course the major upsides are that you have more flexibility in how and when you work and you can choose your clients so that you only work with those where you and they will enjoy the experience.
Bk: Can you discuss (without giving away sensitive info) some of the steps that helped you establish your business? Some advice for marketers looking to follow along a similar path?
BW: I don't think anyone should under-estimate the difficulty in starting your own business, particularly if there's a lot of competition. The Internet makes it all very much easier and that's where you should put your priority. Try to establish a unique offering so that you stand out from the crowd. Then market and network as hard as you can. There's no magic bullet. Just work hard and focus, focus, focus.
Bonus question - Bk: It's an oppressive day in the Montreal sun: Bilboquet or Roberto's?
BW: I didn't know either of them without a little Google search but ice-cream is one of my pleasures so I'm sure I would have a great time in either. ~ Take 30 seconds to subscribe to my free newsletter.