I haven’t been posting much lately in my blog – mostly because I’ve been working hard to get a long-time personal project finished and out the door. Done!

Creative Register launched about 10 days ago and is now closing on 30 listings. CR is a directory for (and of) creative professionals living and working in Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming in the following industries:

  • Web design/development
  • Graphic design
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Internet marketing
  • Social media
  • Writing
  • Interior design
  • CoWorking spaces

…and I’m perfectly willing to add more categories as appropriate.

My main goal right now is to build up the database – if you’re a creative pro in N. CO or S. WY and haven’t yet heard about CR, I’d really appreciate you paying a visit and signing up for a free account. Paid accounts get more perks and are very affordable, but there will always be free accounts.

Great talk on user experience design by Ron Zasadzinski and Scott Ackerman tonight at Fort Collins Internet Pros‘ Entrepreneurial Track meetup. There were about 30-35 people, a typical showing for most of this year.

Ron, Laurie Macomber and I founded FCIP in February 2008 because at that time, there wasn’t a local group for Fort Collins-area web designers, developers, writers, programmers and marketers. We had five members at the first meeting and now have over 220 members throughout Northern Colorado from every web-related discipline you can imagine.

If you’re a web pro (or an aspiring one) in Fort Collins-Loveland-Windsor-Greeley, come check us out. The next meeting is on October 8th in downtown Fort Collins.

This is a guest post by Writer and PR Consultant Brad Shannon of Shannon Marketing Communications.

Most every business has a website these days, but not many have undertaken a consistent, strategic public relations effort that ties together and leverages the work they have put into creating, optimizing and marketing their site. Used in the right way, a well-written news release with the right keywords and phrases can be a highly effective way to improve your search engine optimization.

This is significant as more and more newspapers struggle, go under (RIP Rocky Mountain News) or cut back to web-only operations (Seattle Post Intelligencer). Even as these traditional targets for public relations efforts get thinner and fewer, your online public relations efforts, and the work you do to promote your business through social media, is becoming more important than ever.

Anyone who knows the basics of SEO will tell you that content is king – creating fresh, original content for your website will help improve your search engine results and drive traffic to your site. Creating a consistent flow of news releases to post to your site is a start; but there’s more you can do.

When you write a news release, optimize it – incorporate the same keywords and key phrases in your release that you do on your website. Then, post your release wherever you can.

There are many free press release posting/distribution sites on the web, and while some are useful, many are not effective. I’ve had success with PRlog.org and 24-7PressRelease.com.

You can also use paid news distribution services like PRWeb, MarketWire or PRNewswire to get your news releases to interested editors and reporters; and these services also get your information into the web’s flow of news, and it can stay there for quite awhile – months, in some cases years.

Some of the newest services focus on “Social Media Releases,” or what some are calling a new generation of press release. These format and distribute news in a way that is more social-media friendly, and connect to and share news automatically via your (or your clients’) Facebook or Twitter accounts, blogs, or a variety of other social media networks. Two that are worth checking out are PitchEngine.com and PRXbuilder.com, both of which offer some level of free service.

Finally, as more and more newspapers cut staff, yet still need to provide a certain volume of fresh, relevant local content, many are going with some variation of a citizen journalist model. This allows publications to connect to the local community and involve their readership. There are those who don’t appreciate some of what that means, and I have a lot of good friends who are journalists; but what it means to you is that you can register for an account at many publications, probably even your local newspaper, and post your own stories and news release, and maybe even set up a blog.

Then, leverage your website and other efforts by posting useful articles and news releases to these sites, using the keywords and phrases you use on your website. The result is that you increase the footprint you make on the web, and you have your keywords and phrases posted in a variety of places. All of this ties together and helps you get more mileage out of both your PR and your SEO efforts, improves your search engine results and brings you more traffic.

Brad Shannon, Writer and PR Consultant
Shannon Marketing Communications.

We started Fort Collins Internet Pros back in January and had 5 people at the first meeting. Tonight was our 10th, we had about 30 show up and by the time I post this will probably have gained our 100th member.

Our group is for Web professionals in Northern Colorado and includes web designers, developers, programmers, SEO people, graphic designers, hosts, IT people and copywriters. We meet in downtown Fort Collins once per month.

I’d been hanging around on Meetup.com for my town for about a year, on the ‘waiting for a web design meetup’ and other lists, and a few weeks ago finally decided to bite the bullet and start a group myself (with one other coder as co-organizer).

So… this morning we had our first meeting over breakfast, and it went really well! Only five of the 9 that had RSVP’d yes or maybe showed up, but it was a good group and we had a great time. I just set up the second meeting and hopefully we’ll get a bigger turnout, but I was really pleased with the first one.

As far as Meetup.com, it has its pros and cons. One is that it’s really user-friendly and very simple to manage your group, communicate with everyone, set up meetings and RSVP’s/reminders. It has a few nice features like the message board and polling or profile questions.

The cons are that there aren’t forums – my group is interested in having that so we can post projects for review, post code snippets, book reviews, that kind of thing, and the message board is limited to only the one general topic. Also, that you can’t do anything with the site template, which is what I’d like to get my hands on…

One of our members has started a site on CollectiveX, which is a group/social networking platform, and we’ll be using that for our forums and other things that Meetup.com doesn’t offer. But I think for the time being we’ll keep the Meetup site too, as it really excels within its limited scope: getting people to join and get involved on a basic level. If you’re in the Northern Colorado area, consider joining us.

I’ve been thinking about creating a social networking site for web pros in my region. Ning is the platform that I like the best so far because it seems to have the most put-together appearance and out-of-the-box functionality – I don’t have time to develop another site just for fun right now!

I did find a nice article comparing a few of these ‘white label’ networking platforms that may be valuable for readers.

In any event, if I decide to do this it will be my first real foray into the realm, aside from LinkedIn. And it will be wholly experimental – I don’t know if I can get any interest out of locals or not. But it might be interesting to see…