By Jim Moore - Nov. 19, 2013
The Hickman County Industrial Development Board (IDB) has some things to learn about how to promote our county to potential business and industry.
First, there are some board members who do not even own a computer, let alone use the Internet. This isn't critical, since they are still very intelligent men, but it does make it harder for them to understand it as a communications medium. Even many of those who do have computers and use the Internet still have little understanding of the technology and of Internet website development.
Probably the most well-versed IDB member is Phil Wenneker, but because of an innocent mistake that left the IDB without a website or its domain name, he is reluctant to again get involved.
Second, in my own personal and public meetings with board members, they seem to mistakenly think that it's somehow easy to get the names, addresses and phone numbers of any potential business or industry contacts who visit any website they may have in the future. They seem to think the $6,500 being spent on a Maryland web developer will give them that. Wrong!
Federal privacy laws prevent the automatic gathering of such private information. The board's best bet is to join professional "social networks" such as LinkedIn.com, in which professionals voluntarily share such information. For the general public, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, etc. serve this purpose.
The art of attracting website visitors is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and may or may not include visitor tracking, a free feature I offer to all my 35+ website clients.
The best this can do is reveal such things as how many visitors a website or page may get, where visitors come from (country, state, city or Internet Service Provider aka ISP), how they find the site (such as which search engine), how long they stay (called website "stickiness"), what page they leave from, what browser they use, whether they use a computer or smart phone, Windows or Mac, and how big their screen size is.
There are critical things the IDB or any other such organization also needs to know:
1. Viewers are looking for accurate and up-to-date information, not hype.
2. Audio and video components are almost a requirement on today's Internet.
3. Website content needs to be frequently changed and updated - today's Internet is more like TV than a still photograph or page from a book.
4. While some things such as "keywords" are still a factor in designing a web page for search engines, they are becoming much less important because search engines like Google place less emphasis on keywords because of efforts to game the search engine systems with phony keywords that may attract visitors but have little or nothing to do with actual page content.
I say this with some experience, having been a professional web designer since the Internet was created. My work has won nearly a dozen international awards from my peers in the International Association of Web Masters and Designers. Of course, that and $5 will maybe get me a cup of Starbucks coffee. Most of these awards I have given to my clients for their own bragging rights.
Those of our citizens on the IDB and other such boards are generally good, honest and intelligent people who simply don't know the right questions to ask or requests to make of those who are so eager to sell them exorbitantly expensive websites.
As someone with neighbors who have lived in the country all their lives, I learn from them everyday things I would never have otherwise known with just "book learning." While their knowledge comes from the University of Hard Knocks (UHK) it is still deserving of respect, even if it is not technical knowledge.
I would hope that my own meager experience can supplement their own and be received with equal respect in our quest to improve our county's dire economic situation. And I would again plead with County Mayor Steve Gregory to spend less time on YouTube where he is known as "gregoryczar" and more on updating our county's only official website, which is years out of date and speaks poorly for all of us as a result.
By Jim Moore - Nov. 19, 2013