An IBM executive said the move is driven by the company's need to help partners get more self-sufficient and profitable in a tough economy.
The offerings, to launch officially next month at the company's IMPACT 2009 conference, include search engine optimization (SEO) tools to help partners make their websites more valuable.
"The number one thing for [partners] is the ability to generate their own leads, identify opportunities and to do it cost effectively," said Sandy Carter, IBM's vice president of service-oriented architecture and WebSphere.
IBM will train partners in the niceties of SEO to help them generate more traffic for their websites and make their services and products more easily found on the Web. "If you look at [return on investment] for any social media, the number one ROI thing to do is optimize your pages for search. IBM.com was one of the first groups to figure out the algorithms for this and we will share our best practices with partners," Carter told SearchITChannel.com.
IBM created a tool that it uses to look at its own site metadata, headers, summaries, images and monitor readability, and IBM.com has reaped the benefits, Carter said. "It checks how many Google crawls you get, the rate and traffic rating. It's a really nice analysis tool."
SEO is indeed critical to partners, said Devi Gupta, vice president of marketing for Prolifics, a New York City-based IBM software partner.
Prolifics hired an SEO optimization consultant last year but did not renew the contract, Gupta said. "We felt we needed to take another look at our website and rethink our strategy. IBM is providing this benefit that will make it effective to jump back in using their recommendations. My understanding is this tool will take your keywords, go through your site and meta tags and evaluate it."
Good SEO is very measurable and tools to help us do it better are very valuable, Gupta said.
Better business through social networking
IBM is trying to more deeply entrench its WebSphere middleware and other software in service-oriented architectures (SOAs) and public and private clouds.
An IBM-built and maintained Virtual Forum will replicate the virtual reality aspects of Second Life but tailor them for SOA professionals, Carter said. "This is not just a webcast but a Second Life-type version -- fully contained. You can do keynotes, breakouts [and] partners can have demo booths."
IBM partners Prolifics and Sirius Computer Solutions have already worked with the forum, she said.
In the past few years, IBM, like many tech companies, put a lot of effort into Second Life presence. The problem was business usage did not live up to the hype. Carter admitted that it hadn't taken off as expected, although IBM still maintains a few islands for educational purposes. The new Virtual Forum will weed out distractions and focus on SOA-related business.
Other deliverables will be live social media training sessions in New York City, London, San Francisco and other locations to help partners get the most out of existing social networking tools -- Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. IBM trainers will show partners how to "paint" their Facebook page, optimizing it for business use. IBM will also host an online business catalog to give partners and customers access to SOA-related resources.
IBM expects several thousand partners to attend the Las Vegas Impact 2009 event in May. There it will continue to educate them on the new certification requirements for software partners that have raised hackles among some IBM partners. Under the new Growth Through Skills program, partners wanting to sell the company's software must get two technical certifications plus one sales certification for each of 14 different product lines they want to resell.