October 04, 2010

Tapping Into Google's Freshness

By Li Evans

Reporting from Search Marketing Expo (SMX) East

This panel was a lot more interesting than I had anticipated it would be. The speakers on this panel shared a lot of insight into just what it is that Google likes in the way of freshness in content, links, and mentions when they are looking at content and applying the algorithm and displaying results to searchers.

Danny Sullivan was the panel's moderator and added a lot of personal insight from his experiences with running Search Engine Land that also brought a lot to the session. Janet Driscol Miller, Kenny Hyde and Joe Shehata were presenting on this panel and each had a unique perspective as to what they see in the way of relevance in the manner of "freshness" in Google.

Janet Driscol Miller of Search Mojo, led off the panel discussing "Query Deserves Freshness" factor of the Google Algorythm. The QDF has been around since 2007, but has really been brought to the forefront with Google's launch of Caffiene earlier this year. The QDF is used to determine what searches are "hot" and looks for the most recent information available for those trending queries.

Janet went into some great detail about the different Google tools that you can use to help keep up to date on trends and also if the keywords your marketing campaigns are focused on are also spiking for certain reasons. She went on to show the audience how Google insights can be embedded in a page and how marketers can leverage this tool to their advantage by writing relevant blog content around the insight that is spiking.

After Janet concluded her really informative presentation, Kenny Hyde took to the podium and focused on the three primary things that he has seen make fast changes in Google's search results. These three factors also allow the more authoratative sites remain pretty stable in the results, where sites who are not strong in these three areas tend to fluctuate a lot more.

The three areas that Kenny focused on were links, brand mentions and fresh content. He started off with pointing out that with links it's not just quantity and not just quality, it was both. Along with that the variety of the links and where they come from matter. The final piece of the linking puzzle that Kenny discussed was consistency in link building, that once you start building links, you have to continue at the same rate (or increase) if you want to remain "fresh" to Google.

The second area, brand mentions, isn't just using the keyword in the link as many would think, but more to the point that if there is a link you've attained, it's just as important to make sure that on that page there are other mentions of your brand. The sentiment of the brand mention is also an important factor as well.

When it comes to fresh content, Kenny pointed out a few things. The content itself doesn't have to be on a high ranking page, blog posts and syndicated content work well too. It also doesn't have to be on your site, where content such as press releases and reviews are perfect for this type of freshness factor.

The last speaker to round out the panel was John Shehata. John took a look at the freshness factor of Google and what matters in the perspective of Twitter and how it affects the search results. Getting your content retreated is probably one of the most important factors here. Google looks to this as an indicator of relevance. Some things to avoid though is using too many hash tags in your tweets, as the search engines have confirmed that they view this as a spam my tactic.

John also highlighted that not just the quantity but the quality of who is following you and retreating your content is rather important to the "Freshness" factor in Google. Getting influencers to rewet your content is taken as a sign to the search engines that this content is relevant more so when more people rewet it. John rounded out his information by saying it's just as important to encourage family, friends and followers to post your content in other social communities to further the relevance of the content.

This panel had a lot of great tidbits, advice and tips that I came away with some great information to apply here at SMG. Overall,if you can pick the brain of Janet, Kenny or John, I'd say do it!

August 18, 2009

Don’t Gamble with Your PPC Campaigns! Save It For The Casinos.

By Account Deleted

Gamble-ppc In the lyrics of one of my favorite songs by Kenny Roger’s “the Gambler” which states that “you gotta know when to hold em…., Know when to fold em… No when to walk away…… Know when to run….  And it is those lyrics which reminded me of how easy it is to gamble with your PPC Campaigns, when "rash" decisions can really screw-up your bottom-line. (BTW - What the hell happened to Kenny Roger's Face? It looks like he gambled and lost with his plastic surgeon - See photo below) In this post, I will discuss why it’s important to “know when hold certain keywords and also “when to fold ‘em” or pause them. Just because a keyword may be under-performing, does not mean it’s a bad keyword. It just may bring attention to other areas of the PPC optimization experience (Landing Page, website usability or even the Text Ad). Let’s discuss

Not all keywords are the same for everyone. In my experience, I have seen other PPC Marketers and even myself at times, be guilty of not giving keyword a 2nd chance at life it deserves and it's very much like gambling with real money where the only difference is that your not bidding with Chips, your gambling with your business.

Kenny-roger-face In my humble opinion, the best approach to managing keywords in the PPC Campaigns is to create  a small group of 10-20 “tightly” relevant Head Terms and Long Tail Phrases about that specific product or service. Depending on your analytics package, it is sometimes a good idea to identify a few head terms and leave them in either Broad or Phrase Match and let the user find the long-tail work for you. Once you have that setup, I would then monitor them closely a few times a day for a week at a time just to see the behavior.

A Few Behaviors would be:

  • Click Thru Rate (CTR%)
  • Avg Position Fluctuation
  • Competitive saturation
  • Eventually CPL/CPA.

Once you have a good idea of the winners and “non winners” – (Notice I did not say “LOSERS” because the under-performers may just have the wrong “intent” factor which is perfectly ok), segment them and start working on the ones that need a little more attention. The beauty of Paid Search is the ability for the search marketer to try all types of "last resorts" and test new things. Moreover, finding the ultimate “gold-mine” keywords are not always instant. It could take months to truly get a handle on how to continue the ROAS Success. So in comparing PPC to Gambling at the Casino, you are in effect,

  1. Looking at your cards
  2. Looking at the others players
  3. Looking at the dealer’s cards
  4. Deciding to FOLD'em or HOLD'em

The benefit of PPC is that you do not have to fold right away, you can try different tactics to truly determine if it’s a lost cause and/or stop the bleeding before the credit card company knocks on your door.

So what are some examples of Rehabilitation Tactics?
Certainly, there are many tools to utilize when you are forced to give these keywords a second and third chance at life in your campaigns.

  1. Step #1: Look at all of the RAW search queries (through analytics) and see if there is a gap in the long tail searches. An example maybe adding a FEW MORE negative keywords to filter out unqualified visitors to keep the cost down and improve CTR to get your ROAS at the level it needs to be.
  2. Step #2: Look at the keywords position. Perhaps the “quality score” effect is just not there, so you may want to drop a few cents of the maximum CPC.
  3. Step #3: Look at your Landing Page and Website and looking for problems in your Conversion process. This could also be an issue with price, lack of information, shipping costs (if applicable) as well as anything else which may be affecting your ROAS.
  4. Step #4: If on the Content or Site Placement Networks, run a referring sites report and add those sites that are driving up add spend and not converting to the Site Exclusion section within Google Adwords.

In Conclusion:
The bottom-line of this post is to highlight on the fact that PPC does not have to be a game of High Stakes BlackJack. The PPC Marketer has many options on the table and just needs to be conscious of the surroundings of the user experience to make a better decision. Many great PPC experts in the industry  have also been evangelizing on these similar tactics, techniques and strategies mentioned in this post. However, this SemGeek’s thought process is using all of these best practices and simply relating them to other types of behavior, whether you are gambling at the Casinos, or Fishing (That’s another analogy to write about) it’s all relative.

Rocky-vs-clubber-lang PPC marketing is dynamic in that sometimes you can “win by Knockout" in the first 30 seconds, but if you get knocked down more that 3 times in the same round, as a PPC Marketer you can still continue to analyze your opponent (client) and fight your way back to a successful campaign.

May 12, 2009

Online Marketing Tips Video: Community Building

By Li Evans

Finally I'm back with our Tuesday's Tips in Online Marketing!

Today I decided to focus on Community Building in Social Media.  It's under 3 minutes, quick and to the point about 3 tips for helping to build the community around your blog, forum, or even networking group like those on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Enjoy!



Full Community Building Tips Video transcript after the jump ....


Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Community Building" »

March 27, 2009

Pay-for-Performance: Winning Strategies for Advertisers and Agencies at SES NYC

By Brian Cosgrove

At the end of the first day at SES NYC came this interesting panel. Many ideas were shared about the importance of restructuring payment for search services and a few of the solutions offer considerations that should be made when considering these models. The panel featured the following speakers:

Moderator

  • Matt Van Wagner: President, Find Me Faster

Speakers

  • Richard Zwicky: Founder & CEO, Enquisite
  • Ron Belanger: SES Advisory Board, Vice President of Agency Development, Yahoo!
  • Tom Cuthbert: President & Founder, Click Forensics
  • Brian Klais: Executive Vice President, Netconcepts
  • Jonathan Scott: COO, Direct Traffic Media

Zwicky began the panel by illustrating the imbalance in compensation for paid and organic search. In his statistics, approximately 88 percent of spend goes to 12 percent of the search engine traffic (paid search) and 12 percent of spend goes to 88 percent of the traffic (organic). These numbers back up his notion that organic search is not getting the compensation it deserves. According to Zwicky, top SEO specialists can deliver top ROI so they deserve to be compensated for value delivered; and everyone should be focused on real value to the end client.

Next up is Belenger. Like Zwicky,this Yahoo! employee stresses minimizing the industry buzz-speak and getting down to business value. Unlike Zwicky, Belenger calls pay for performance problematic. It's true that for Belenger, search marketers need to minimize the sorcery by taking details of the tactics out of the price negotiations and instead get into value delivered. When it comes to pay for performance, however, there are a number of reasons that it may not be a good fit.

For example, the agency may not be able to influence all factors such as:

  • Conversion flow
  • Pricing competitiveness
  • Shipping and promotional offers
  • Brand "trust"
  • Customer service

As an alternative, percent of media spend presents its own issues:

  • It provides incentives agencies to spend more for paid search than they should.
  • In some cases, it disincentives economies of scale.
  • The first 90 days of of the engagement are bleeding red for agencies.
  • Search marketing is reduced to buying more keywords.

For Belenger, an FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) model with fair rates makes the most sense. The following were points on this subject:

  • Data is the new black: pay for it and agree on its value. Use it to derive strategy and insights.
  • Add incentives for cost savings: use technology deployment, outsourcing, and only provide in-house support where applicable.
  • Reach and stretch goals: create an upside for heroic work and a win/win business climate.

Next up, Cuthbert provided some interesting statistics. Online advertising is up 11% while print is down 19%. To explain this, he references phenomena such as CPA models, targeting, measurability, an roi focused culture, the collapse of traditional media, and enhanced tools.

Following Cuthbert is Klais. Klais works with software that is used to execute pay for performance search campaigns. Like Zwicky, he reiterates that there is an inverse relationship between spend and volume with paid and organic search. When thinking of pay per performance, there are a number of factors to consider such as the following:

  • Market opportunity
  • Click-through rate
  • Acquisition costs
  • Keyword coverage
  • Non-brand reach
  • Page placement
  • Page yield
  • Incremental traffic/revenue
  • ROAS

In general, the margin can increase based on value delivered which better aligns agency/marketer interests and should ensure positive ROI/ROAS. He did, however, express some performance model drawbacks for agencies:

  • Investment of resources ahead of revenue
  • Lack of control over execution and conversion
  • Difficulty in managing channel attribution
  • The possibility of succeeding out of a job
  • The program may contain baggage

For the customer, there are also drawbacks:

  • Costs can scale indefinitely
  • Bigger payouts tempt agencies to try risky tactics

When constructing a pay for performance arrangement, consider a revenue sharing model where you define fair commission structure. In this respect, consider rates for the percent of brand or nonbrand; or for incremental increases only. Consider affiliate levels for brand merchants and figure out how to handle channel attribution. Ultimately, try to make sure that SEO and paid search are given their fair split in credit.

Another model is cost per click. After defining a fair click cost, similar considerations should be made about branded vs. non-branded, comparing SEO cost to ppc acquisition cost, and multichannel attribution.

Scott came next and echoed the idea of performance related pay. He believes the industry should embrace performance contracts because the SEO gold rush is over, and clients are demanding accountability and governance in plans.

Scott proposes a base + performance model. That is, the performance element is the carrot, the motivator. He suggests setting up incentive targets based on true KPIs where you can approximately value them and trust them. Even still there are a number of considerations that should be accounted for when developing one of these plans.

The first consideration is seasonality. On a month to month basis, consider using Adwords trends to predict the possible changes in volume that occur. On a similar note, also consider other external factors such as the state of the market by doing a year over year comparison and utilize some basic forecasting. After that, relax and caveat a bit.

In some real life examples, Scott explained how there were bands where the % of bonus became larger and these bands were routinely adjusted to account for seasonality and market factors. It's about taking the time to reach an agreement that makes life easier and avoiding an overly complicated model. In this respect, the client should feel in control, there should be a warm-up period explained, and there should be get out clauses for both parties. It's about negotiating a sense of shared risk among both parties.

That wrapped up the session.  In summary, there are many factors out of the control of search marketers which make it difficult to come to a performance based agreement but, none-the-less, organic search marketers should be paid on the value that they deliver.

March 26, 2009

SEO: Where to Next? at SES NY

By Brian Cosgrove

On Day 1 of SES New York, the Where to Next panel was among the first in the track portion of the show. As you will read, the session was a conversation that migrated from topic to topic in fairly nonlinear path.

Speakers for this session were as follows:
Moderator:

  • Mike Grehan: SES Advisory Board, Global KDM Officer, Acronym Media

Speakers:

  • Marcus Tandler: CEO, Creativity in Action
  • Jill Whalen: CEO, High Rankings
  • Bill Hunt: CEO, Global Strategies Intl, Director, Global Search Strategy, Neo@Ogilvy
  • Duane Forrester: Senior Program Manager - SEO, Live Search, Microsoft
  • Chris Boggs: Director, SEO, Rosetta

The session begins with some best practices. Hunt suggests working on page focus for Title Tags, Headline Tags, and the First Paragraph. This is nothing new and as Whalen points out, at some point no more “on page” work will help. Boggs talks about being consistent with tying the story to the landing page.

The next theme of conversation related to link building. Tandler states that people miss links they legitimately need for their business (while spending too much effort on ones they don’t). Forrestor suggests that the “cold call” approach of sending an email to the webmaster asking for a link still works. This is debated though since all webmasters receive a ton of these emails all the time. Boggs talks about the quality of these links mentioning that many of them include the anchor text of the brand name. For Hunt, these links should be linking to the most relevant internal page. Many link opportunities are sold short because they don’t send users to the right page.

Following this talk comes universal search. Forrester says that SEOs need to get the right mix within the results. It’s all part of a program, depending where your at in the results. Getting into Google News, for example, involves meeting a number of guidelines and applying to get in if you meet the criteria of a news source rather than a journalist who is blogging. Boggs tells us that universal results are very smart and it takes some care to get search traffic from your latest press release.

Since universal search changes the organization of the SERPs, Grehan asks the panel if rankings reports are dead. Tandler suggests scanning the results for the terms you’re targeting and noting which modules show up. Whalen notes that personalized and Geo-targeted results throw a wrench into the rankings report scenario; but Boggs follows that up by noting that they’re still illustrative of overall rankings trends and movement. Further, they can indicate certain categories, etc…. that are moving up. Forrestor says he only uses them internally and one panelist claimed that they aren’t a KPI (this stands for Key Performance Indicator. I am not in agreement with where he was going here. I think rankings can certainly be predictive/indicative of progress toward getting terms which don’t drive traffic closer to a place where they will, at least in aggregate. That being said, a ranking number is not a KPI but KPIs can certainly be derived from rankings, even if there is no traffic, yet, to be seen).

Next up is analytics. Whalen expresses her affinity for Google Analytics. Forrestor encourages the audience to set up conversion, set a goal for that conversion, put a number on it, and beat that number. Boggs offers that the full purchase cycle needs to be considered with analytics since there are often multiple touch points for customers. He mentions creating an attribution model. To this Grehan asks “Why does search get credit for everything?” Hunt quickly replies that it’s the only thing you can measure and people are too lazy to click on organic (this didn’t make much sense to me either but I believe he meant it’s more straight forward for tracking than some other online marketing tactics, or that clients don’t have tracking configured for other methods).

Grehan mentions term “engagement mapping” and Whalen offers that it takes multiple touch points to market effectively (that is, they are complementary, not competitive with each other). Tandler follows this up with a statement that users should not take anything for granted when it comes to looking at their numbers. As he asks, “Who said 2% is great?” He mentions that in the context of that particular situation, they may be able to get it up to 10%. Always Be Testing (incidentally, this is the name of Bryan Eisenberg’s book on Google Website Optimizer). He mentions to get the most out of a landing page (a theme that has been growing momentum as of late).

Forrestor offers the term “claiming the cookie” to describe his attribution. He offers a term (2 day theoretical?) to explain that people should be asking themselves, “How much is the customer worth to me when they are with me?” He says that every month, he feels he gets closer to understanding what is attributable to search.

Grehan talks about Digital Asset Optimization and calls analytics the new SEO. This speaks to the concept of universal search encompassing many forms of digital content that together form the clients assets for online marketing. For analytics to be the new SEO, he may mean that it is the optimization of this whole system, through analyzing each one’s particular value, that will lead companies to success.

At this point, we move into slides for each speaker. I’ll list some of the ones that stuck with me:

  • Incompetent SEOs must stop wasting the time of companies
  • Big brands have the upper hand which means that there definitely is not a level playing field.
  • Developers need to bake in SEO
  • Don’t just be satisfied with #1 rankings, get the most out of Social media
  • Optimize your conversions
  • Don’t buy links, buy whole sites (Tandler alluded to fake review sites which sounds like bad news to me).
  • Create a deeper “real” integration between paid and organic search
  • Flash, Flex, Ajax need to be search engine friendly
  • Optimize your digital assets
  • Match the right page with the intent of the searcher
  • Speak the language of your audience (including from a business perspective
  • “Be a webmaster” and look at search holistically, take on all the various roles to some extent
  • Embrace in-house+agency SEO relationships
  • Make organic entry pages unique to go with the keywords

On the topic of things not being level, Boggs offered that money means time and bigger brands have money so they can afford to put more time into SEO. Another person asked of auto-completion or auto-correction where decreasing the amount of long-tail terms that are searched but someone mentioned that those tools are not always accurate. Someone asked about Woopra and some other tools that are good for looking at your traffic but I don’t recall much of a response.

So there you have it: A collection of topics all covered in a one hour time slot that offer many thoughts and ideas about “What’s next in SEO?”

February 21, 2009

The Pirate's Dilemma - SES London Keynote by Matt Mason

By Li Evans

Mike-grehan-matt-mason-ses-london-2009 Matt Mason, author of the Pirate's Dilemma spoke at the opening keynote of SES London. Prior to him speaking I got a chance to speak to him a little and I was really impressed with what a down to earth person Matt really is. That carried through to his presentation as well.

Matt started out by giving the audience some big picture overviews about Piracy by asking the audience how many of us knowingly pirate things and how many don't? Matt went on to point out it's not the piracy laws that we know that we break, but the ones we don't know we break every day. The audience seemed a little bewildered until Matt went on to point out that singing happy birthday in public, forwarding emails and photocopying books are all examples of piracy. If you calculated it all, 4.65 billion a year would be owed by each person for violating laws around piracy.

In the past, information use to flow in one direction but with the changes in society, technology and advancement with the internet, information is now flowing in a lot of directions and decentralization is happening. Piracy is having a great impact on businesses such as fashion, pharmaceuticals, and movies just to name of few industries, and its only just getting started. With the advent of the 3d printer and the fact that these printers are getting extraordinarily cheaper each year( a few years ago they were 21k, this year 1,800) as well as smaller and faster, piracy is becoming more and more a big issues companies face.

Continue reading "The Pirate's Dilemma - SES London Keynote by Matt Mason" »

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" »

December 03, 2008

Online Marketing Tips Video: Engaging Your Audience

By Li Evans

I know it'd Wednesday, but still working on fixing the kinks with my software.  Let me tell you, Adobe CS4 Premiere Pro is a memory hog!  More so than CS3 - big difference.  I wrestled with things till very late last night and decided to finish it up today. 

This week we've got 3 tips on how to Engage Your Audience.  Whether its your blog, your community or even MySpace or Facebook, these 3 tips if put into a social media strategy can help you interact, and engage the members of your audience and maybe even turn them into evangelists!



Full "Engaging Your Audience" Video Transcript After The Jump...

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Engaging Your Audience" »

June 10, 2008

Online Marketing Tips Video: Business Tips for Twitter

By Li Evans

It's that time of week again, and this week, our Tuesday's Tips in Online Marketing is featuring some more Twitter Tips, but this time more geared towards how businesses can utilize Twitter in the best ways possible.

Even though Twitter does have it's issues, lately its been down time and really limiting requests, it definitely has begun to make it's way into the mainstream and companies and small businesses alike are looking for some tips in how to use Twitter.


   

We've also put in a new area in our navigation that features the videos each week, small descriptions with players from various video sharing sites out there, so check out the Online Marketing Videos page here at SMG.

Full video transcript after the jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Business Tips for Twitter" »

May 29, 2008

NonProfits Can Benefit from Social Media, Just Ask Mara Triangle

By Li Evans

Elephant at Mara Triangle, KenyaSometimes as global audiences we get inundated with "causes" that we ignore those "Donate" buttons because we see them over and over again.  Unfortunately for Non-Profits, the offline blindness they have to overcome has now really become the same issues online.  What's worse is that some of these non-profits are getting bad advice about just starting up websites and "they will come".  I'm sorry to break this to the non-profits, just building a static website anymore - won't cut it.

Today I stumbled across the story of the Mara Triangle thanks to Twitter's blog (see even when they are down, they are still good for something!).  What's the Mara Triangle you ask?  Well, it's a wildlife park in Kenya which under the management of the Mara Conservancy helps to protect the wildlife from poachers.  Poachers are one of the biggest threats to the wildlife in this area, and with the conservancy in place, they are able to employ rangers to help protect the animals from these poachers.

Up until last year, none of these rangers had likely even touched a computer.  Up until last year, the park solely ran off of the entrance fees to the park.  Up until last year, Kenya as a country was pretty stable. 

That all changed until this year's election when political unrest erupted and put the entire tourism industry in Kenya into complete and utter chaos.  With no one coming to visit Kenya or the Mara Triangle, funds started to run out, fast. 

Enter William Deed, prior to helping the Mara Conservancy, he lead what he pretty much terms as a "bored with his lot" life and started his own blog about Waiting in Line.  That caught the eye of famed Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey and his son-in-law, Emmanuel De Merode who run Wildlife Direct.  They tasked William with building blogs and getting the word out about the different wildlife projects under Wildlife Direct.

Giraffes at Mara Triangle in KenyaIn February Mara Triangle's blog launched.  It was a slow build, but through word of mouth, news of this blog and what the rangers were doing started to spread.  The blog's chief contributer is Joseph Kimojino a ranger in the park.  He blogs just about every day, which is an amazing feat when you learn that he just click a mouse for the first time back in November.

What makes this story even more compelling?  Joseph isn't just blogging!  Joseph tweets on Twitter, he uploads photos just about everyday to Flickr, he loads videos to Vimeo and even helps to maintain the Facebook cause.

Likely though what caught the eye of Wired magazine is the use of Twitter.  It's also what caught my eye, and got me to click around and just be really amazed and excited.  There use of many different parts of social media just impressed me and made my jaw drop - photos like their's usually tend to do that.  I felt compelled enough by the story they conveyed to give a monthly donation.

Social media when used in the right way can convey compelling stories.  Whether its a blog, photos or even videos, social media allows emotions to be conveyed in ways no piece of paper or static website can.  Combining these powerful tools together can result in truly wonderful stories people just feel compelled to take up a cause for (or even buy a product or service).

Are you telling your non-profit's story in a compelling way?  Does your story touch your audience in a way like the Mara Triangle did me?

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