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January 31, 2009

Are cookies eating Google results?

By Y.M. Ousley

I was doing a bit of keyword research when I found something strange. Every single result came with the warning that it might harm my computer. These warnings are normal for warez and certain torrent sites, but I was getting warnings on searches for things like "men's fashion," where the top results were from reputable sites like Overstock and Amazon. A friend reported having similar problems.

I tried the site while logged in and logged out of a Google account without change. Disabling a few Firefox plugins seemed to not have an affect either.

My next step was to delete cookies from all but a handful of websites. And voila! my search results were back to normal. I've seen malware and strange things come through ad networks before, so I suspect that the root cause may lie in something coming through an adserver that attempts to redirect.

To the SMG readers, have you experienced a similar problem with Google results recently? Does clearing your cookies make a difference?

Could this be Microsoft's newest attempt to gain a larger slice of the search market? (I kid)

Update: Marissa Mayer explains that a human error at Google is to blame. I suppose my cookie paranoia coincided with the correction of the problem

January 30, 2009

Search Engine Strategies London!

By Li Evans

Ses-london-09 It's hard to believe that it's been a year already, since Mike Grehan of Acronym Media put together one of the best Search Engine Strategies events I've been to, but, the calendar doesn't lie, it's been a year.  Last year Mike had one heck of a program put together, new sessions, great speakers and some awesome keynotes.

This year looks to be no different, in fact it looks to be able to top last year in content that addresses the subjects that are relevant to what's going on in the industry now, globally.  Take for example the opening keynote, it's Matt Mason who's the author of The Pirate's Dilemma.  Now as some of you know I've got thing for pirate lore, so the title of that book immediately caught my attention when friend Whitney Hoffman of LD Podcast (great podcast for parents with children who have learning disabilities) first mentioned it to me, now the author is a keynote speaker at SES London - and no I don't expect him to dress as a pirate although and eye patch might be a cool touch. :)

What's cool about this book is that it touches on how the youth are really driving and changing trends and fads in the online world.  With these changes, its creating havoc in our worlds of marketing and business because none of these trends follow the old "norms" that companies have established.  Companies and marketers have to stop and rethink how they approach marketing online because of this, because "piracy" has become a new business model.

Mason-pirates Beyond the keynote by Matt Mason, there's a great lineup of sessions.  Some popular ones are returning from last year's lineup, and then there are new ones like one of the panels I'm speaking on with Greg Jarboe and Shari Thurow - Online Video Update - The Next Wave.  There's even a Orion Panel discussing where SEO goes next, and look who's on the panel - Brett Tabke, Jill Whalen and Chris Sherman, just to name a few.

Beyond speaking on the Video panel, I'm also speaking on Social Media and moderating the Podcast/Vodcast panel and a Site Clinic.  That site clinic will have Matt Bailey and Dave Naylor on it, I think that clinic is going to be fun, since you never know what site is going to be reviewed and what the panelists will help with.

So if you haven't signed up yet or you're on the fence, what are you waiting for?  Especially in today's economic recession, you need to get ahead of the curve, SES London can help you do just that!


January 28, 2009

Online Marketing Training in Philly at Online Media Boot Camp

By Li Evans

With the way the economy is going these days,companies are downsizing and looking for ways to cross train staff members to handle more responsibilities with online marketing strategies.  Trouble is that just because your online marketer handles your PPC doesn't mean they totally understand how to handle your PR online.  You're blogger may be great at creating catchy blog posts but might not know how to integrate a complete social media strategy.  Your very competent SEO can get you rankings for keywords, but might not have the knack for building a community. 

Where can you find the cross training to help your team get up to date on all these different areas of online marketing at a reasonable rate?

Well that's the question we attempt to answer by creating a great online marketing training conference called Online Media Boot Camp!  For under $500 you can get some great cross training in Online PR, Blogging, Social Media and Community Building.

It's also a pretty exclusive training, limited to just 65 attendees.  That gives the attendees more face time with the online marketing training speakers who do this stuff every day and know the ins and outs.  So who are the speakers?  Well check out this out.

  • Mack Collier who writes at his own blog, the Viral Garden (and others as well) will be doing training on building communities.
  • Shashi Bellamkonda from Network Solutions is going to be speaking on how you can sell online marketing and social media internally and get buy in from not just the higher ups but your whole company.
  • Valeria Maltoni from the Conversation Agent is giving guidance on corporate and business blogging.  It's a lot different than just personal or hobby blogging and Valeria has got a lot to share.
  • Beth Harte from The Harte of Marketing and SMG's most recent author edition is sharing her knowlege of Public Relations in a Web 2.0 world.
  • Then there's me - Liana "Li" Evans - I kick the day off by giving attendees the basic fundamentals around social media and online marketing.

Now you're wondering where, when and how much really, right?  O.K., so here's the other important details.

  • Where:  King of Prussia, PA - just north of downtown Philly, conveniently located off of the PA turnpike.
  • When:  April 9th, 2009 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Cost:  Until Feb. 20th, 2009  just $349.00 (yes, that truly is under $500!)

So what is included?  Well the training of course, but breakfast, lunch with the speakers and snacks are included as well as a few "give mes" (swag) and free WiFi.  Not a bad deal for some excellent online marketing training, wouldn't you say?

What are you waiting for?  Sign up today, because after February 20th, 2009 the price goes up, and with only 65 slots available, they won't last long!

Checking Redirects? Don’t trust Live HTTP Headers and Firefox

By Chris Phillips

We all know that we should use 301 redirects to consolidate link value and ensure each unique page of content has its own unique URL. Unfortunately the data that some tools provide are not always accurate.

Firefox’s add on tools can help save time and effort when analyzing websites and redirects. Unfortunately since they are made for Firefox, they are at the mercy of the way Firefox functions.

Live HTTP headers is a great tool that I use quite a bit to check to verify the right header information is being transferred. Unfortunately, Firefox’s “awesome bar” (the part of the browser where you type the URL in) can cause Live HTTP headers to report the wrong data.

Example:
alltell.com is a vanity URL that is owned by Alltel Communications, but IS NOT correctly redirected to the  main Alltel website. When I type in “alltell.com” into the following browsers (and hit enter):

Alltell_type_in  

I get the following results:

Firefox:

Alltell_firefox_screenshot

Internet Explorer:
Alltell_ie_screenshot

Google Chrome:
Alltell_chrome_screenshot



Results:

  • Firefox goes and retrieves the page/site it thinks is most related to what you typed in
  • IE returns a list of google search results
  • Google's chrome returns a page with a DNS error


On the surface this may not seem like an issue, but if you are using tools that are built on top of Firefox, the tools could report back incorrect information.

Live HTTP Headers
Live_http_headers

In the screenshot above, you can see Live HTTP Headers reports back there is a 301 redirect from http://www.alltell.com/ to http://www.alltel.com/ when in fact there is no such redirect.

This can be tested using 3rd party Search Engine Friendly redirect tools. In this example, I will use The Search Engine Friendly Redirect Checker from webconfs.com.This is a good tool to quickly check if a redirect is set up properly. The tool does not provide as much information as an internal agency tool but this tool will let us know if a redirect is “Search Engine Friendly” or “Not Search Engine Friendly”.

Below is the result when I checked to see if alltell.com was set up properly:

Alltell_redirect_check

Below is an example of the response you would receive if your redirect is set up correctly:

Chris_phillips_redirect

As you can see the alltell.com redirect is NOT set up correctly, even though Live HTTP Headers reported a 301 redirect was in place.

So the main idea here is to always double check your data using different tools to make sure you are getting accurate information. Getting accurate data from the beginning of a project can save you a lot of time, and aggravation in the long run.

January 26, 2009

Google Grants: Much More Than Free Clicks for NonProfits - Part III

By Account Deleted

Google-grant-nonprofit-gift In Part III in a Three Part Series by SemGeek on the socially responsible gift from Google called Google Grants, I focus on the importance of utilizing web analytics and some "outside the box" thinking when it comes to analysis. Too many advertisers have focused on the wrong things such as CTR% and Clicks when it comes to the Free Google Funny Money. What's important is NOT THE FREE CLICKS, but what you are learning from the Free Clicks. Let's discuss.

Another integral part of the search marketing process is the implementation of  web analytics and analysis. However, evangelizing the importance of that to Nonprofits, both large and small, is rather an uphill battle. For many search marketers who provide PPC and SEO in the “for-profit” world, they can make a much greater case for using analytics to track KPIs (key performance indicators) because most companies cannot survive unless there is a ceiling ROAS%, ROI% or CPA to measure against the investment.

As part of the standard PPC analysis, the search marketer would need to identify either at the campaign, adgroup or keyword level, and the basic conversion or non-conversion flow of the “after the click” scenario. For example,

Keyword → Ad/Creative → Landing Page  → Conversion (of any trackable sort).

Now, even though is may seem like a no-brainer strategy for future optimization, I often go beyond this method and dig deeper into other types of analysis, including Ad Messaging Testing, Indirectly related campaign testing as well as anything else that the Nonprofit could benefit from all of their “offline” and event based initiatives. 

With the generous $10k per month from Google, a search marketer could position the strategy around a Multi-channel Research, Search Behavior and Website Usability that not only generates traffic, but also provides valuable insight into future endeavors such as new website creation, newly created programs and all sorts of advocacy and messaging in other media. In essence, this methodology, here are a few areas where what is practiced in the “for profit” world can be applied to the “not for profit” world.

Each Google Grantee would be presented with a comprehensive 6-12 month paid search plan, consisting of a campaign-to-adgroup matrix, as well as reserved remnant space for any future “time sensitive” advocacy and messaging that is important to the Nonprofit. . Remember, the search marketer needs to be vigilant about the importance of seasonality of a Nonprofit, as it’s similar to any “for profit” business.

For example, a paid search plan would contain campaigns and adgroups based on Brand; Programs; Initiatives; Fundraising Events; Sponsors; Current news events, etc…  As you can see, this is very similar structure to that of mainstream PPC Account. Along with the different audiences that are being targeted, performing a level of Ad testing is another valuable area that should be considers. Wouldn’t a Nonprofit find it important to know that the CTA (call to action ) of the word Donate outperforms the word Contribute that can then be applied to all other offline initiates, which result in more donations?

To conclude, I see Google Grants from a much different perspective than just free clicks to a website. The socially responsible gift from Google has not been given the greatness it deserves and even though many top search marketers may be providing amazing results for the client, the Nonprofit has more to gain for the well-being of the organization because remember they are not paying to LEARN. For SemGeek, such as myself , the  true gift from Google is the freedom to do whatever the Nonprofit wants to do with the free advertising. It’s not about the Free Clicks, it’s what you do with the Free clicks, which makes a difference to the Nonprofit.

Greg Meyers is Partner and Co Founder of CampaignGrid, LLC and World Benefactor. He is also author of the search marketing blog Semgeek.com.

January 19, 2009

Changes, Changes, Changes for 2009

By Li Evans

At least there are changes here at Search Marketing Gurus!

First, I'd like to welcome back Greg Meyers!  Greg's a great friend, and an old colleague of mine who runs the great PPC blog, SEMGeek.  Greg now also adds knowledge - very in depth knowledge - of Google Grants and how non-profits can utilize and benefits from this program.  Greg also joins me in an intense passion for political online marketing.  Now with Obama in office (hey its less than 24 hours from now!), we're definitely going to be seeing big changes from the political front with how they operate in the online marketing sphere.

Greg's already contributed two great articles on Google Grants this month so far, and he's got one more in the series to come.  Check out Google Grants Part 1 and Google Grants Part 2

Second, we've added Beth Harte of The Harte of Marketing.  Beth and I have become really great friend and both have a passion for social media.  Beth's recently broken out on her own, and I thought this was a perfect time to snag her up and get her on the SMG team to help spread the good word about social media, public relations and all that fun reputation management stuff.  Beth is also a contributor at Marketing Profs and Search Engine Guide. 

So with those announcements coming, we definitely have added some great insight into our gurus team, that we plan to share with you the audience.  Stay tuned, the year will bring much more to come!

Google Grants: Much More Than Free Clicks for NonProfits - Part II

By Account Deleted

Google-grant-nonprofit-gift In Part II in a Three Part Series on the socially responsible gift from Google called Google Grants, I focus on the "cross-pollination" of appling the best practices of Quality Score. Let's discuss.

Following the best practice of Quality Score, which in essence, is better position for a lower CPC is key to any successful PPC campaign. This is especially true when it’s a Google Grants Account where advertisers are limited to the one-dollar CPC. As many of us in the industry know, the creation of very specific and tightly grouped keywords, Ad copy that is keyword-rich and a corresponding landing page which continues the keyword relevance, as well as visible SEO attributes, intelligent linking structures and most recently efficient page loading times all contribute to Quality Score.

The problem with this however, is that many of the cash-strained Nonprofits do not have the resources of a paid search marketing professional, nor do they know this best practice, which explains why many of the Google Grants that have been awarded in the past, have under-performed and been left untouched and forgotten. On the other side of the spectrum, those Nonprofits who have taken full advantage of this program, Google has been known to reward their efforts with an increase in the monthly Ad spend anywhere from $20k, to as much as $40k per month in appreciation for the success that they have achieved.

When evaluating a Google Grant, I often notice a trend in the missed opportunities that are preventing the Nonprofit to get the most out of the Grant. Many of problems go back to basic industry best practices and some lack a little of the “thinking outside the box” mentality. For example, many of the keywords that have been used are all very generic head search terms, and for most Nonprofits, the service offering and topics that they support are often the "Head Term" keywords that will most likely have a "high price tag", so the obvious solution to that problem goes into identifying the traditionally cheaper and more specific "long tail" keywords which are in essence less competitive and allow for higher position and more effective.

To continue the discussion on the importance of Quality Score, the writing of the Text Ad plays an important role in the “before the click” experience for the searcher. With that said, as a Google Grantee does have some technical issues to overcome with the Editorial police at Google. As with any Nonprofit organization which advertises their cause, it’s imperative for them to include the “call to action” of Please Donate. However, as many us know, the Google editorial process is rather strict and some nonprofits may have noticed some of their Text Ads keep getting denied due to the error message of "Solicitation Funds". This is due to the fact that your Ad most likely is saying something like "Help us by Donating Today!" Even though the message sounds genuine, Google sees this as a sensitive issue and can sometimes be misleading to the searcher.

If the solicitation of funds is promoted in ad text or occupies a significant portion of your site, the ad's landing page should clearly display tax-exempt status such as 501(c)(3) status in the United States, and should state whether the donations are tax-deductible in full or in part. Other countries need to have an equivalent status (must be a registered charity or not-for-profit organization).

So, the solution to help alleviate this issue is making sure the Landing Page states they  are a 501c3 status in the US and that they are tax deductible. If not, then Google sees this as false advertising and will turn the ad off, regardless if you are a registered Grantee.

In Part III of Google Grants: Much more than Free Clicks for Nonprofits, I will dive into the importance using web analytics and "outside the box" ways to analyze and monetize success that goes beyond online.

So please check back next Monday for Part III of this article.

To read Part I of Google Grants: Much more that Free Clicks for Nonprofits.

Greg Meyers is Partner and Co Founder of CampaignGrid, LLC and World Benefactor. He is also author of the search marketing blog Semgeek.com.

January 14, 2009

Online Marketing Tips Video: Forum & Message Board Marketing Strategies

By Li Evans

Are Forums & Message Boards dead?  Hardly!  In fact according to Charlene Li's Groundswell, it's the 2nd most popular thing people are doing in social media (next to watching videos). 

Companies and their marketers need to be weary though entering into these unique areas of communication with their potential audiences, there are rules to be obeyed and honesty of who you are to be pronounced.  These three tips should help you start to build a solid strategy for working in forums and message boards.




Full transcript after the jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Forum & Message Board Marketing Strategies" »

January 12, 2009

Google Grants: Much More Than Free Clicks for NonProfits - Part I

By Account Deleted

I have put together a Three Part Series on the socially responsible gift from Google called Google Grants. The goal of this series of posts is to highlight on the key differences and similarities of Google Grants as compared to the mainstream Google Adwords program we have come to know and love. I also provide detailed insights and some "outside the box" thinking that goes beyond the idea that Google is just giving Nonprofit free clicks to their websites. I hope you enjoy

Google-grant-nonprofit-gift PART I:
In 2003, Google launched Google Grants, a truly remarkable and unique type of advertising offering that was designed specifically for 501(c)(3) Nonprofit organizations. In a nutshell, Google is giving away $10, 000 per month in free PPC advertising. The overall goal of this program is to utilize and transform the Google Adwords system into a powerful tool to spread advocacy, awareness, volunteer-ism and provide the ability to increase donations, both online and offline, to make the world a better place.

Since it’s launch, Google has put very specific requirements in both applying for the grant as well as managing the grant. Throughout this article I will be focusing on the key differences and similarities between Google Grants and the traditional Adwords program that we are, in general, familiar with as well as discuss additional strategies that will help every participating Nonprofit get the most out of this program.

The key differences between the mainstream Google Adwords program and Google Grants program are mostly about the limitations of what can be done from a tactical perspective. For example, for many of us who are used to a multi-level strategy that includes testing with different networks, image display ads, and bidding tests, that this is NOT an Option with GG. In fact, two of the biggest restrictions facing the Grantee is placement on (1) Google.com only and (2) Maximum $1.00 CPC (cost per click).  Advertisers are forbidden to spread that free “Google Funny Money” to the other participating networks such as their search partners, Content and Site Placement Networks.

This lack of advertising freedom, as compared to the mainstream Google, does make it a little more difficult for the search marketer to allocate what campaigns and Adgroups should be given priority. Regardless of whether Google is Free or not, the end goal is to drive as much qualified traffic to the website and track the performance using analytics to decide what is working and what is not working. I would also like to note that with Nonprofits, integrating high-powered analytics filled with nifty bells and whistles is not suitable for them because of the cost and the extensive knowledge needed for them to simply understand what they are looking at.

Grantees are also stifled by inability to increase their bid for a quick jump in position, which is done almost religiously everyday in the mainstream. This is especially difficult for them, because many of the Nonprofits Topics, Issues and Causes require a specific industry related keyword(s) that are highly competitive, possess a higher worth and hence becomes an uphill battle to try and achieve a better position.

On the other hand, I have seen “actual” real life evidence where traditional account and click history along with a little help from the “magical algorithm fairies” within the Google Grant program have revealed magical positions within the search results. With that said, there is one major similarity which MUST be applied to counteract this cost vs. position issue, and that tactic is the infamous and ever changing Google Quality Score for which all search marketers have been victim of this love vs. hate relationship.

In Part II of Google Grants: Much more than Free Clicks for Nonprofits, I will dive into the tactical area of the Quality Score, Google Editorial issues as well as some additional strategic opportunities.

So please check back next Monday for Part II of this article.

Greg Meyers is Partner and Co Founder of CampaignGrid, LLC and World Benefactor. He is also author of the search marketing blog Semgeek.com.

January 07, 2009

Online Marketing Tips Video: Link Building Strategies

By Li Evans

This week's video is all about some simple concepts you can incorporate into your link building strategy.  Wondering about those emails that claim they can get you thousands of links for paying a minimal fee?  How about why people link to you?  Or maybe your boss doesn't want you linking out to anyone. 

In this short educational video, 3 simple concepts are discussed to help get your link building campaign off on to the right start.




Full Video Transcript After The Jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Link Building Strategies" »

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