The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Creative Headlines Versus Descriptive Titles - Why Optimized Titles Tags are Still Important for SEO, My Latest Post on Search Engine Journal


Headlines can be powerful. Chances are you've come across a headline that was so enticing, you just had to learn more. It may have been funny, shocking, intriguing, etc. I think most marketers would agree that strong headlines can help drive a surge in short term traffic, while also being extremely memorable. However, I’m also sure that most SEO’s (including myself) would agree that those very headlines could risk poor search engine rankings, which means a potential loss of long term, quality traffic from organic search. And when Search can be a majority of a website’s traffic, it’s hard to ignore the power of high rankings.

The effect of creative and clever headlines on SEO.

SEO and Shoe-Throwing Incidents
There are times that I work with a client’s editorial staff to explain SEO, including keyword research, content optimization, the power of inbound links, etc. I find that many writers are interested in SEO, since they obviously want their articles and posts found via search engines. However, it's not uncommon to have a shoe fly by my head when I explain that clever and creative headlines are not optimal for SEO! As I explained in my guest post on Search Engine Journal, if I’m lucky, the shoe is thrown by someone with poor accuracy or small feet. :) Once the bombardment stops, I often start to conduct searches to show the impact of optimized headlines and titles (based on a client’s industry and focus). If you’ve read my previous blog posts, then you know I’m a big fan of backing your recommendations based on data and not opinion. I find that data is hard to ignore.

My SEO Headline Test
Based on my work with copywriters and editors, I decided to run even more tests and write a post detailing my findings. So, I conducted searches on a number of topics and checked Google, Yahoo, and Bing to determine how many of the top listings included titles that would be considered creative or clever. Then I reversed it, and checked posts and articles that I knew used clever or creative headlines to see where they ranked in natural search.

To view the results of my test, you’ll have to read my post on Search Engine Journal titled Great Headline, Poor Rankings – Why Clever Headlines Don’t Beat Optimized Title Tags for SEO

Feel free to post a comment on Search Engine Journal or here on my blog if you have any questions or thoughts about the topic.

GG

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Features in Keyword Discovery - Also Searched, Successful Search, Core Search Engine Information, and Competitors Search


New Features Features in Keyword Discovery 2009.If you’ve read some of my previous posts about SEO, then you know how important I think keyword research is. When you break it down, it’s risky to base decisions on what you think people are searching for versus analyzing the actual data. Once you perform keyword research, it can be used to optimize your current content, or more importantly, to help generate ideas for new content.

Needless to say, I’m neck deep in keyword research on a regular basis. Although I’ve used several tools to perform keyword research for my clients, I believe Keyword Discovery by Trellian is the industry leader. As new features are added to the product, I plan to cover them here on my blog in detail. In case you are interested, I’ve written several posts in the past about the importance of keyword research and some overlooked features in Keyword Discovery. After reading this post, you might want to also check them out.

New Features, Better Analysis
I’m going to cover four new features in this post that have been greatly helpful as I work on SEO projects. I’m a firm believer that you need to conduct a thorough analysis of your keywords versus just checking query volume. Trellian obviously understands this too, as they keep adding valuable features that make it a powerful analysis tool for search marketers. These new features help provide important pieces of information so you can make educated decisions about which keywords to target.

The four new features I will cover are:
* Also Searched Queries
* Successful Searches
* Analyze Information from Google, Yahoo, MSN/Bing, and Ask
* Competitors Search

Without further ado, let’s jump in.

1. Also Searched Queries
I love this feature. Have you ever wanted to know which other keywords people are searching for based on an initial keyword? This feature displays “also searched queries” as you search for keywords in the application (along with search volume.) So, if you enter “mens shoes” as the keyword, Keyword Discovery will show you other keywords that were searched for by the same users that searched for mens shoes. You actually know that the same users were searching for these additional keywords… In addition, the order of the results is based on user frequency (and not by pure number of searches in the database). This lets you see which keywords were most often searched by the same users versus just seeing volume numbers.

Click the image below to see a larger version:
The also searched feature in keyword discovery.

So, you can see that people searching for mens shoes are also searching for footwear, mens jeans, mens shirts, etc. You can also see specific retailers they are searching for. All of this data can help you make informed decisions about which keywords to target, as well as which additional keywords you might want to optimize for.

2. Successful Search Score
This is an important metric when analyzing keywords. Successful Search Score essentially tells you the percentage of people that clicked through a search result after searching for a keyword. It gives you a good feel for the keywords that actually generate a click through.

Below you will see a list of 13 keywords based on a search for mens shoes. You can clearly see how certain keywords generate a much higher click through. This metric should be part of your own decision making process for which keywords to target. It’s obviously not the only metric to consider, but when combined with other metrics that KD offers, it can help you determine which keywords to focus on.

Successful search score in keyword discovery.

3. Now You Can Analyze Data From Google, Yahoo, MSN/Bing, and Ask
After adding keywords to one of your projects, Keyword Discovery enables you to analyze those keywords to view a number of key metrics. For example, you can see the number of searches in the database, successful searches (mentioned above), the number of results in each engine for that keyword, and the KEI (or Keyword Effectiveness Index). Keyword Discovery recently broke down this information by core search engine, including Google, Yahoo, MSN/Bing, and Ask. Having all of this information at your fingertips enables you to analyze keywords across the core engines, in order to make smart decisions about which keywords to target. This data helps you understand how competitive each keyword is so you can target the right keywords for the task at hand.

Click the image below to see a larger version:
Analyze core search engine information in keyword discovery.

4. Competitors Feature
Checking this box when conducting a search in Keyword Discovery will display the top websites receiving search engine traffic for that keyword. There are some great competitive analysis tools on the market, and I use several of them on a regular basis, but it’s great to have some base level data at your fingertips while performing keyword research. For example, I entered mens shoes in KD and it displayed the top 100 sites receiving search engine traffic for that keyword (based on Trellian’s Competitive Analysis User Path Data). Your list might start with some obvious players, but as you scan down the results you might find some interesting competitors. And, you can use the results to start performing a deeper competitive analysis.

Click the image below to see a larger version:
Competitor search feature in keyword discovery.

This won’t be my last post about keyword research or Keyword Discovery…
So there you have it. Four new features in Keyword Discovery that can help you select the right keywords for the project at hand. I plan to write more about KD in the future as Trellian adds more features. Actually, there are some features that warrant an entire blog post, so look for more posts in the near future!

I’ll end this post with a Glenn Gabe public service announcement:

Please don’t base your SEO efforts on opinion. Perform extensive keyword research and have that research fuel your projects. A keyword is a terrible thing to waste. :)

GG

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

SES NY Series: Advanced Keyword Research for SEO and SEM, An Interview with Frederick Vallaeys from Google


The importance of advanced keyword research.Keyword research is a critical component to any search marketing initiative (for both SEO and SEM). Although most search marketers understand the importance of keyword research, many people outside of Search are not extremely familiar with the concept or the various tools at your disposal. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t perform extensive keyword research, you run the risk of missing key opportunities. Actually, you could end up basing your campaigns on guesswork and intuition versus actual data. Needless to say, that’s not a good thing.

I've written previous posts about the importance of keyword research, the power of the long tail, and how to get the most out of Keyword Discovery, and I always like to speak with other search marketers to share ideas. There's always something new you can learn (and then use immediately in your campaigns).

Why is keyword research so important?
In both paid and organic search, if you don’t target what people are actually searching for, you’re going to have a hard time succeeding. For example, if you target infant bedding, but people are searching for baby bedding, will they find you? If you target notebooks, but people are searching for laptops, will they end up finding your computers? Imagine you just launched a major SEO initiative and you spent a lot of time and resources optimizing your website…but for the wrong keywords. Will that yield adequate results? Will it yield ANY results? And beyond just finding the right keywords, you need to analyze how competitive those keywords are, how much they cost, and if you actually have supporting content. i.e. Are you providing answers to questions about your category, products, services, etc?

So if you can’t tell yet, I think keyword research if pretty darn important. :)

SES NY Session: Advanced Keyword Research
Frederick Vallaeys from Google.Based on what I wrote above, it should be no surprise that I’m very interested in the session at SES NY that covers Advanced Keyword Research. In order to find out more about the session, I decided to ask Frederick Vallaeys from Google about what he will be covering during the session. Frederick is Google’s AdWords Evangelist and he helps advertisers better understand which Google products can help them achieve their marketing goals. After interviewing Frederick, it was easy to tell that he is passionate about helping people maximize their AdWords campaigns! If you will be attending SES NY, the session will be held on Thursday, March 26th from 10:30 to 11:45. You can read more about the session on the SES NY website.

So without further ado, here is my interview with Frederick:

Glenn: What are some of the key points that people will learn at your session?

Frederick: The session should be fast-paced with myself and 5 other panelists. I will try to share as many ideas as possible for finding new keywords with Google tools like Insights for Search and the Search-based keyword tool and I'll also share some thoughts about how our different keyword matching options can be put to work for advertisers.

Glenn: I come across many marketers that aren’t familiar with keyword research, let alone how to organize the data, use it when building their content, landing pages, ads, etc. Will you be providing an overview of why keyword research is important and how it should be used in both organic search and paid search? Also, will you cover the core differences between using keyword research for paid search versus organic search?

Frederick: I won't go into keyword research for organic listings but you're right that there are different tools and methodologies for researching keywords for paid search. Users simply have different expectations for paid and organic listings. Google and Compete did a study in September 2008 with retail advertisers that showed that paid listings were up to 50% more likely to convert than organic listings. Selecting highly targeted keywords is a big component of driving conversions and because you're paying per click, you want to ensure your keywords attract the right type of users.

Glenn: With Quality Score becoming more and more important in Paid Search, will you explain how to use the keywords that you are targeting to achieve a stronger QS?

Frederick: I'll touch on a few best practices about Quality Score but I'm also doing an entire session on this topic at 2:15pm so I recommend you attend that one if you can. The gist of it is that ads should be useful information and if you choose highly targeted and relevant keywords, users will like your ad and this will help establish good Quality Score which in turn will improve your rank and decrease your cost.

Glenn: Will you be explaining advanced matching options? I know there is a lot of confusion with what they are, how to best use them, etc. (especially negative keywords…)

Frederick: Our keyword matching options are one of the most powerful ways of ensuring your ad reaches the right audience so I'll definitely touch on this. With negative keywords, you can tell Google which queries not to show your ad for and when you combine this with broad matched keywords, it's a great way to maximize your clicks while ensuring a high conversion rate.

Glenn: The long tail is incredibly important and powerful. Will you explain how to target long tail keywords, which can ultimately yield more targeted visitors from organic search and a lower CPC and a higher ROI from Paid Search? I think too many companies initially target just a few head terms, and completely miss the power of the long tail.

Frederick: Long tail keywords are extremely important when you consider that 1 in 5 queries on Google has not been seen in the past 90 days, if ever. Users search for keywords that are so diverse that any marketer would have a tough time predicting all the variations. Fortunately, Google's broad match keywords automatically capture any tail terms that are relevant to your ad. When you add them all up, queries that were captured with broad matches deliver roughly a third of all conversions for our advertisers.

Glenn: I’m sure you will be covering the Google Keyword Tool. :) Will you be explaining some advanced features and ways to maximize its use? If so, can you list some of the features you will cover?

Frederick: We have a brand new search-based keyword tool that generates a list of relevant historical Google.com search queries for which a particular site has no ad presence. For each keyword, it also suggests a landing page, bid, and ad group. It's a really great way to find missed opportunities in your existing campaigns. You can try the tool at http://www.google.com/sktool

Glenn: Analytics is obviously extremely important for tracking both organic search and paid search at a granular level. Will you be explaining how to glean insights from your reporting in order to target the right keywords?

Frederick: Analytics has a tremendous amount of data you can apply to your paid search campaigns. For example, you could use the "Keywords" report or the "Site Search" report to learn which keywords drive traffic to your site and what people search for once they're on your site. Combine that with data about conversions and you've got a powerful new source of potential keywords for your account.

Glenn: For Paid Search, will you be explaining how to estimate the cost for keywords and campaigns, once you have completed keyword research? I know the Traffic Estimator tool can be helpful in this situation… I’ve found that many marketers don’t know how much to spend on paid search, how much their initial budget should be, how to calculate that, and then what to do once their campaigns are running.

Frederick: Unfortunately I probably won't have time to cover this in my session but I'm happy to share some of my thoughts here. Because paid search is so measurable, we really hope that advertisers will analyze their results and tweak their targeting and other settings to ensure they are meeting their ROI goals. If you can show a positive ROI from placing paid ads on search, there should be no reason not to spend as much money on this as possible. Instead of thinking about paid ads as money that goes into a black hole, think about it as a cost of sales and use it to drive as many profitable conversions as you can possibly handle.

We have some tools and reports that provide guidance about how much potential traffic you could get and you can estimate your potential conversions from this. And once you've maxed out on search advertising, look for the next big opportunity such as ads on the content network or ads on new formats like mobile or video.

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To quickly summarize, there are many important aspects to consider while researching keywords to use in your campaigns. That includes using various tools and software to perform keyword research, estimating traffic, understanding the potential cost, increasing your quality score, conversion, and ultimately your ROI. To learn more about the Advanced Keyword Research session at SES, definitely check out the session details on the SES NY website. I’ll be attending the session and tweeting key points as they come up! I’ll also be recapping each day at SES NY here on my blog.

Are you new to keyword research and confused with where to start? Post your comments below. I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

GG

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

SES NY Series: Key Points in Launching a Global Website and International SEO, My Interview with Motoko Hunt from AJPR


Global website strategy and international SEO.As companies start to develop global digital strategies, they begin to face new challenges and obstacles. This is often uncharted territory for many people. Sure, US-based online marketers feel comfortable when targeting US consumers, but what if they had to suddenly target consumers in Japan, England, France, or China? Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to assist several large companies and brands with building global website strategies, including international SEO. I have found that there is a lot of confusion with how to target multiple countries, as well as how to rank across country-specific search engines. Actually, I’ve spoken with several companies that were going down the wrong path...

Globalizing your website might sound easy at first, but unfortunately, it’s not as simple as setting up additional domains, pushing your content to local markets, and then ranking across country-specific search engines. And if you’re thinking about keeping just one website that will target multiple countries, you have another set of problems to deal with. There are several key items you need to work through before you can have a successful global presence.

Global Obstacles and International SEO
From an SEO perspective, you need to address several factors, such as performing keyword research across various languages, addressing cultural issues, understanding top search engines in other countries (yes, Google is not the top engine in every country), and how to adapt to unique market trends. You need to understand the optimal technical setup for your global website, including hosting, ccTLD’s, geotargeting, localized inbound links, etc. Actually, to understand more of the challenges that search marketers face, you should visit some country-specific search engines and start entering your queries. Chances are you will see some interesting results, to say the least. :)

SES NY Session: Key Points in Launching a Global Website
So, when I was reviewing the agenda for SES NY and saw a session about Key Points in Launching a Global Website, I was all over it! Since I know there are a lot of questions about global website strategy and international SEO, I decided to interview one of the panelists to find out more about the session. I tracked down Motoko Hunt, Founder and Search Marketing Strategist of AJPR. Motoko is a seasoned search marketer focused on helping clients enter the Japanese market. She has a thorough understanding of Asia and has helped some of the world’s top brands with their search marketing initiatives. By the way, the session is on Tuesday, March 24th at 11:45 in case you’ll be at SES NY.

Motoko was nice enough to answer some of my questions and I have included my interview with her below. Definitely feel free to post your comments after reading the interview. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Glenn: What are the top 4 or 5 things people will learn at your session?

Motoko: People will learn some important points that will help them better prepare for launching a global website. Often times, people experience these issues during or after the global website has been completed, and wish they'd known that at the beginning. Research indicates more companies will launch or relaunch global websites in 2009. I believe this session will have something for everyone, from agencies to in-house marketers, from small to large-sized corporations.

Some of the key issues I'll cover are:
- Language and cultural issues
- Geographical issues
- Cross-border management issues
- Leveraging standardized templates to develop global websites

Glenn: What trends are you seeing with regard to how clients and companies are approaching international SEO? For example, when clients begin speaking with you, what are you hearing, are they going down the wrong path, is there confusion, etc?

Motoko: Since most of my clients are in the US and Europe, the decisions often times come down from the HQ in Western market to receiving ends in Asia. I see that one of the biggest challenges is how to carry out the project that was planned by the HQ and dictated to each local market. The size of in-house teams in local markets are usually much smaller than what they have at the HQ. Also, they usually have less understanding of SEO, or have different challenges in doing SEO like different target search engines and different search user behavior.

I hear loud and clear that local teams are struggling to keep up with the globalization projects sent down from HQ, while trying to create and maintain the site that "works" for local markets. The companies who give some room for local teams to adopt the local trends seem to have greater success with their globalized website.

Glenn: What are a few core things you want people to know about launching a global website (or multiple websites targeting specific countries)?

Motoko: During my presentation, I'll try and identify the top issues. Some address the technical issues such as keyword research and content localization, CMS, hosting and geo issues. Some countries may have unique regulations about the products you can sell online, or keywords you can bid on. Some are the organizational issues such as manpower, budget, project management and education.

When companies consider "globalizing" their website, some of the benefits they expect to see include cost and time savings. However, by not taking these issues into consideration before they kick-off the globalization project, it ends up taking more time and costing more money.

Glenn: Are you going to touch upon some of the technical items that marketers should address for global SEO, like ccTLD’s, Google Webmaster Tools (geo targeting), inbound links, hosting, duplicate content, etc?

Motoko: These technical issues are often overlooked or unnoticed until it causes some problems after the website launches. I'd like to cover as much as I can within the given time limit. ;-)

Glenn: Should companies just focus on Google or understand more of the global search landscape? (OK, that was a leading question!) I know many marketers in the US understand that Google is dominant here, but there are a lot of people that don’t know the leading search engines in other countries. i.e. Yahoo Japan, Naver in Korea, Yandex in Russia, etc.

Motoko: You know, they shouldn't just focus on Google. Unless of course their "globalization" target markets are limited to those where Google is the dominant engine. When globalizing a website, you need to know each market you'd like to target to determine what types of adjustments are required. If you have an in-house team in a local market, talk to them, use their knowledge, and let them add what is needed to succeed in that market. If you are going to hire an agency, make sure that the agency really knows the market. Having native staff is a huge plus. You want to work with someone with globalization experience, and someone that understands the culture, including how consumers behave and how business is conducted there.

Glenn: I think keyword research is a big issue, including translation. Several tools only focus on certain languages and countries. What are you going to cover that will help people go down the right path? Also, once they find the right keywords and content, what’s the best way to have that content translated?

Motoko: Keywords are the starting point for both SEO and PPC campaigns. If you use the wrong keywords, the entire SEO program and PPC campaigns would fail. Simply translating keywords for other markets never works well. I'll talk about the process of keyword research that has worked really well for my clients. The content should not be simply translated, but localized for each market. I'm sure you understand that the translation tools are not perfect. In fact, they are far from perfect when it comes to Asian languages. You should invest in editing the content by an in-house team or local professionals. You'd want to avoid giving the impression that you are just pushing US-centric services to other markets, which will be viewed as you don't value the market enough to take it seriously.

Glenn: Are there any case studies you are going to provide (along with statistics) for companies that have successfully launched global websites or that are having success with international SEO?

Motoko: I've just finished a case study with Autodesk's Japan team. Maura Ginty will share the results of the case study in her presentation. Also, I will share some of the feedback I received from a client's in-house team in an Asian market about their globalization projects.

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As you can see from Motoko’s answers, launching a global website is no easy feat. :) To learn more about Motoko’s session at SES NY, check out the session details on the SES NY website. The session is being held on Tuesday, March 24th at 11:45 and is part of the Search and the Future Track. As you would guess, I’ll be attending the session and tweeting from the conference. I’ll also be recapping each day at SES NY here on my blog.

Are you launching a global website or focusing on international SEO? Definitely post your comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

GG

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Check Your Search Engine Rankings, Why Your Competitors in Organic Search Might Not Always Be Who You Think They Are


Finding your actual competition in organic search.When beginning a new SEO project, there are some questions that always come up during initial meetings. How does organic search work? Which keywords should we target? Do we need to redesign our entire website? And…how do we compare to our competition in natural search? I’m going to focus on the last question in this post, because there’s an important point I’d like to make. Whenever I ask someone who their competition is in natural search, I typically hear the names of their core competitors (business-wise). Although that’s true in a pure business sense, that’s not necessarily the case in natural search. So, I often run a competitive position analysis to determine where a site ranks in the search engines as compared to its competition. It helps you (and your client) understand who their actual competition is and then sets the stage for deeper competitive analysis.

Don’t drop names with Google…
Outside of search, you might be able to throw a big brand name around and get somewhere. Unfortunately, the search engines don’t necessarily care. That’s one of the reasons you’ll see all types of websites ranking for highly competitive keywords. Actually, I’d argue that some smaller online businesses can easily outmaneuver larger websites and companies in SEO. When it comes down to it, the engines care about quality content, a good user experience, relevancy, and popularity. In other words, create outstanding content that can be easily crawled and indexed, optimize that content based on keyword research, make it easy for your visitors to find and use your content, and if those visitors find that content valuable, you might gain important inbound links (AKA votes). If that happens, subsequent rankings can follow… BTW, you’ll notice I didn’t mention that you need to be a big brand or a multi-billion dollar company to do this. That’s part of the reason blogs have become so powerful. They give the small guy a voice…and that small guy can often outrank large companies in the SERPs. Empowering, yes? Scary to large businesses and big brands, you bet.

Seriously? That’s My Competition in Natural Search??
Yes, I hear this often (with a few other words that I cannot put on my blog!) Once you run a position analysis using competitive keywords (based on keyword research), you and your client can clearly see who owns the SERPs for those keywords. Sure, the rankings can change over time, but you have a snapshot of which sites are ranking at that point in time. Then, you can take the next step and perform a competitive analysis to help you determine what type of content ranks, how the websites structure their content, and which sites link to them. Remember, quality and relevant inbound links are the lifeblood of SEO.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Note, since search engine rankings change often, you might not see the same exact results that I did during my test.

Flatscreen TVs
HD TV’s are obviously hot, so let’s check out a competitive keyword like flatscreen tvs:

Google search rankings for flatscreen tvs.

This is a great example. There are only 2 manufacturers in the top 10 (Samsung at #7 and Westinghouse Digital at #10, which isn't visible in the screenshot above). More on Samsung in a minute. The rest of the sites include reviews, news stories, a buying guide, an e-commerce website, etc. I’ll bet if you walked into LG, Panasonic or Samsung and asked who they compete with in natural search for a keyword like flatscreen tv's, you would hear the other big brands and not the sites in this list. Note, Samsung was pretty smart with creating the page that ranks on their website. Someone at Samsung (cough, cough, SEO guy), understood what people are searching for and provided that content on Samsung.com (Pagerank 8...) There are other good things about this page that I'd like to cover, but that’s for another post. :)

Cabernet Sauvignon
Any wine drinkers out there? Imagine you owned a winery and had an award winning cab? You would probably want to rank highly, right? Let’s see which sites rank for the keyword cabernet sauvignon:

Google search rankings for cabernet sauvignon.

Wow, I’m not exactly a wine connoisseur, but I don’t see any popular wine brands here (other than in the shopping results, which I'll tackle in a minute). You have Wikipedia (big surprise), about.com, an article about Obama, and then a spattering of other wine-related educational pages. Needless to say, this list of websites is probably not what a leading winery would expect to find ranking for cabernet sauvignon.

Enter Universal Search: Also, in the middle of the page you will see shopping results listed. This is Universal Search in action, where Google is mixing additional types of results within the organic rankings. More on this below, but you should start to think about all the different ways you can rank in organic search beyond traditional webpage content. For example, video, images, news, shopping, local, etc.

HD Video Camera
HD Video is all the rage, let’s take a look at the keyword HD Video Camera:

Google search rankings for hd video camera.

Very interesting. There’s only one big brand in the list (Canon at #4). The rest of the list includes reviews at cnet, an announcement from camcorderinfo.com, two YouTube videos (more on this in a minute), some news results, and then amazon.com. Again, if you walked into Sony, Panasonic, or Canon, do you think they would guess that they are competing against YouTube videos? Probably not. On that note, you can see Universal Search in action here again, with two video thumbnails in the organic results (at least at the time of my test). One is from Tiger Direct and the other is from Chris Pirillo! Great job Chris, you outrank major manufacturers of HD video cameras. :)

So, if you haven’t started thinking about Universal Search and the impact that it can have, just take a closer look at the screenshot above. I think you’ll change your mind. There's also a news result right under the video thumbnails. Both the video results and news results are powerful, especially since they have thumbnails associated with them. If you are interested in learning more about optimizing your video content, then check out my post about Video SEO.

Fuel Efficient Cars
Based on the spike in gasoline prices during 2008, let’s check out a search for fuel efficient cars:

Google search rankings for fuel efficient cars.

Holy smokes, there’s not 1 car manufacturer in the list. Not 1. I highly doubt that Ford, Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, and GM would take me seriously if I walked in and said that they compete with a government agency, a green publication, and a newspaper in natural search! That said, you need content on your site in order to rank... I was shocked to see several car manufacturer websites without a single occurrence of the keyword fuel efficient cars. I had to check a few times to believe it...

You will also see another example of Universal Search in the screenshot above. Google is providing news results mixed in the organic rankings (in the middle of the page). This is just another reason to start thinking about all of the ways to rank in organic search (and the different types of content you can optimize). All of your digital assets come into play with universal search.

So, are you ready to conduct a position analysis?
OK, I think you get the point. Performing a position analysis is an important step in understanding your actual competition in natural search. I would begin the process by identifying your competitive keywords via extensive keyword research and then determine where you rank against your competition for those keywords. Then, once you know the competition, you should complete a thorough competitive analysis to see how you can strengthen your organic search power and increase your search engine rankings.

Good luck and be ready for some interesting looks as you tell people who they really compete with in natural search. :)

GG

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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Critical Last Mile for SEO: Your Copywriters, Designers and Developers


The last mile of SEO, your web developers and web designers.As I’m mapping out a half day SEO training course for creative and technical employees, I started to think about the importance of the last mile in SEO. In the telecommunications industry, the last mile (or final mile) refers to the final connection to end users (usually referring to data connectivity to businesses and consumers). It’s often an area where issues can arise. In SEO, there’s also a last mile, although it’s slightly different. The last mile in SEO includes your copywriters, designers and developers. Let me give you a quick example. Let’s say you were hired to help a company with a large SEO project. Your job was to enhance the company’s SEO efforts by removing technical barriers, optimizing important categories of content, and increasing quality inbound links. You start by performing an extensive technical audit and you identify key barriers to indexation. Then you map out a full remediation plan. Your client is excited, you’ve built up some well-deserved credibility, and everyone involved believes that better rankings and targeted traffic are on their way. But hold on a second... Your changes still need to be implemented successfully. Enter the critical last mile for SEO, or your designers and developers that need to implement those changes. Needless to say, your technical and creative teams are extremely important to your SEO efforts.

Why The Last Mile In SEO Is So Important
It is critical that your creative and technical teams successfully implement your SEO changes. If they don’t, then your changes run the risk of having no impact at all (or worse, having a negative impact). That’s right, imagine you’re brought in to fix a problem and you end up making things worse! It’s definitely possible. Keep in mind that problems typically arise in the last mile of SEO when dealing with larger sites when there are more people involved. For example, a 500,000 page website with 75 people working on it. However, whether you hand off technical SEO changes to a single developer or a team of developers, you’re relying on them to implement something they might not be very familiar with. And you need to understand that without your designers and developers, it’s going to be extremely hard to get your SEO changes implemented swiftly and accurately. Like I said earlier, they encompass the critical last mile… That said, your designers and developers also need to understand that your SEO changes are important to the success of the website. It’s a symbiotic relationship and each party needs to understand the value that the other brings to the table.

Let’s take a look at some quick examples of last mile SEO breakdowns, and more importantly, how you can make sure this doesn’t happen in the future:
(Note, I’ve included just a few examples below and not an exhaustive list.)

Search Engine-Friendly Redirects
The Breakdown: Instead of search engine-friendly 301 redirects, 302 redirects or meta refresh redirects were implemented on the website. Both 302’s and meta refresh redirects are not search engine friendly and will not safely pass the link popularity from the old pages to the new ones. Needless to say, this is not good. If your redirects are implemented incorrectly, then you could waste thousands of inbound links and the search power they provide. In addition, you could have wasted countless hours of inbound link analysis.

XML Sitemaps Throwing Errors
The Breakdown: The database administrator generating your xml sitemap files didn’t know that each xml file cannot exceed 50,000 URL’s or 10MB in uncompressed file-size. The files released to the website exceeded those limits, and the engines wouldn’t process the files. Unfortunately, he didn’t know that the files were throwing errors until your SEO Coordinator received the errors in Google Webmaster Tools.

--I worked on a site with over 20 million webpages last year, and we definitely went through a few iterations of sitemap files before we settled on the final result.

Content Optimization, Keyword Research, and Wasted Opportunities
The Breakdown: Important new sections of content went live without being optimized based on keyword research. You’ve lost a great opportunity to provide optimized content and to possibly rank for target keywords. For example, a new product section goes live and it unfortunately contains generic title tags, non-descriptive links, no heading tags, a lack of target keywords, etc.

Canonicalization
As part of your technical audit, you might find URL canonicalization issues, which could cause duplicate content problems. For example, you might find URL’s that resolve using mixed case, querystring parameters, index files and root URL’s. 1 URL might look like 5 to the search engines (all with the same exact content).

For example:
www.yourwebsite.com
yourwebsite.com/
yourwebsite.com
yourwebsite.com/index.htm
yourwebsite.com/index.htm?value=duplicatecontent

The Breakdown: Your developers fix the most obvious problem, www and non-www versions of each page, but don’t tackle the other canonicalization problems, including trailing slashes and mixed case. You will unfortunately still have an issue although the action item might be checked off by project management.

Flash and AJAX
Let’s say you have a killer promotion going live along with campaign landing pages. There’s lot of good content to optimize and you have a feeling this promotion will gain some valuable inbound links. You hand off your content optimization spreadsheet, excited to see the pages go live.

The Breakdown:
Your new campaign landing page goes live, but the entire page was developed in flash or using AJAX. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know I’m a big fan of using flash and AJAX, when needed. That said, entire webpages or applications should not be developed using flash or AJAX (at least at this point). They should only be used for elements that require their power. If you do use flash or AJAX for entire webpages, then you run the risk of essentially hiding a lot of your content from the search engines.

Graceful Degradation and Progressive Enhancement
The Breakdown: User Experience wants to take 6 distinct sections of content on a product detail page and provide a tabbed structure instead (for usability). If the tabbed content launches without using Graceful Degradation or Progressive Enhancement, then you run the risk of hiding 5 out of 6 sections of content. For example, the search engines would only find the initial content on the page and not the additional five pieces of content. However, making sure your web developers use Graceful Degradation or Progressive Enhancement to expose the content would still put you in a good place SEO-wise.

So How Do You Prevent a Breakdown in the Last Mile of SEO?
Reading the examples above, you might think that SEO can be frustrating. It is sometimes, but there is a way to nip these last mile problems in the bud. Did you notice a common thread in the examples listed above. The common thread was simply a lack of information. So how do you make sure your designers and developers know about SEO best practices? The answer is training. SEO Training is critical to ensuring technical changes go live using SEO best practices.

In my experience, most designers and developers want to learn SEO best practices. Sure, there will be some push back (and I’m being nice with the term “push back”). But, it’s a great skill for your designers and developers to add to their skillset. They can still create killer applications and websites, but those sites will also launch using SEO best practices. SEO Training can also overcome conflict in the future by ensuring everyone developing a project understands SEO best practices. For example, there should be no surprises when reviewing projects if everyone understands how sites get crawled and indexed.

The Definition of Insanity
I’ll end this post with the definition of insanity. It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Don’t become an insane SEO. :) Introduce SEO training, best practices, examples, etc. and you can make your life easier while helping everyone involved improve their skillset.

Now I need to get back to fleshing out my half day SEO training course. Actually, I think writing this post has helped me create a better training course. I’ll let you know how it goes.

GG

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

YouTube Insight, How to Optimize and Enhance Your Online Videos Using Analytics


YouTube Insight, Optimizing Your Video Clips Using AnalyticsToday I get to write about two of my favorite things, Web Analytics and Online Video. Lucky me! Given that YouTube just surpassed Yahoo as the #2 search engine, I think it’s safe to say that many of you probably visit YouTube regularly to watch videos online. In addition, I know some of you are taking the next step and producing your own videos to share with the world. That covers watching, producing, and sharing, but there’s another concept I wanted to introduce today, and that’s optimization. Did you know that YouTube gives you access to a video analytics package free of charge, right in your YouTube account? It’s called YouTube Insight and it gives you the ability to constantly glean insights from your video clips and viewers. Video producers that use Insight already know its power, but I still think many people don’t know what to do with it, or more importantly, how to optimize their videos using the data provided by Insight. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know how I feel about the importance of web analytics. Well, this is simply an extension of web analytics, but specifically for your own YouTube video clips. Let’s dig in.

What is YouTube Insight?
YouTube Insight is a video analytics tool that provides you with valuable information about your video clips (and your viewers). Insight gives you several reports, including views, popularity, discovery (how people find your videos), and a new piece of functionality called hotspots. Insight Hotspots enable you see which parts of your video are hot (higher engagement) and which parts are cold (less interest and engagement). I will explain more about hotspots below.

Improving Your YouTube Videos with Insight
Let’s face it, producing videos is darn time consuming. I began shooting and editing video in 1995 and one thing I learned very quickly was that producing a video is not easy and takes a lot of time. So, if you are going to spend the time to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, and publish videos for YouTube, then you are probably going to want to know what works and what doesn’t. For example, which videos are more engaging, which garner most of your views, how popular were they compared to other videos, which parts of the video were more engaging, etc. You want to know this information so you don’t waste valuable time in the future.

Accessing YouTube Insight
You can access Insight in a few different ways once you have logged in. First, you can access your Insight Dashboard by clicking the Account link in the top right of your screen. Then you can click YouTube Insight from the Performance and Data Tools section located near the bottom of the page (left side).

First Click Your Account Link, Then Click YouTube Insight on Your Account Page:
YouTube Account Link

YouTube Insight Link

The second way to access Insight is by entering the My Videos Page (Uploaded Videos) and clicking the Insight button (for each video). The button for Insight is below the video information and is next to Audio Swap.

YouTube Insight Button Located on My Videos Page:
YouTube Insight Button

Insight Dashboard (a snapshot of all videos)
Your Insight Dashboard functions just like a dashboard in any web analytics package and gives you an aggregate view of your videos (your channel). For example, your dashboard will show you which videos are most popular, how many views your channel is getting, which geographic regions hold the most viewers, popularity of videos in your channel, demographics of your viewers, etc. It’s a great way to get an overall view of how your channel is performing. That said, you really should drill into each video to gain the most valuable information… Aggregate data at the channel level doesn’t really give you actionable information.

Tip: When you are ready to analyze a specific video, you can either click its name in the Views tab of your Insight Dashboard or you can go to your My Videos Page and click the Insight button under each video clip. If you always want to begin by analyzing specific videos, then you might start your visit by accessing the My Videos Page instead of the dashboard.

Visits
You can click the Visits tab to see the number of visits each video received in all countries, or in specific regions. You can change the timeframe on the graph and you can choose a specific country from the dropdown on the right. Then, let’s say you choose the United States, you can click on specific states to see your visits per state. To change the date range, you can click the Zoom links in the top of the graph for 1 day, 5 days, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or Max. Or, you can use the slider below the graph to quickly change the date range of your report.


YouTube Insight Views:
YouTube Insights Views

Popularity
Insight also gives you the option of seeing how popular your videos are compared to other videos in the selected region during that timeframe. Just like with visits, you can click a country on the map to target that region, or you can drill into a region to get more granular. For example, you can click a state in the US to see the popularity within that state. You can also click specific countries within a region like Turkey within the Middle East or China within Asia.

YouTube Insight Popularity:
YouTube Insights Popularity

Discovery (or Traffic Sources)
OK, who else is addicted to checking traffic sources for their website in their web analytics package? It’s hard not be, right? The Discovery tab provides the traffic sources for your video clips. I love it. In a nutshell, it's how people found your video. There are five links within this section and they include:

YouTube Search, or which keywords people are entering to find your videos on YouTube.
Related Videos, or other videos on YouTube where your video thumbnail showed up as a related video and people clicked that thumbnail to get to your video.
Embedded Player, or which sites have embedded your video clip (using the embed code in YouTube).
External Links, or websites that link to your video clip (AKA referring sites).
Google Search, or keywords people are entering in Google to find your video clips.
Google Video, or keywords that people are entering on Google Video to find your video clips.
Other, or links to your video where there is no referring URL (AKA Direct Traffic). This might be a person emailing the link to someone else, IM’ing the link, etc.
YouTube Other, or other pages on YouTube that are linking to your video clips (not related videos).

YouTube Insight Discovery:
YouTube Insights Dicovery

Demographics
Insight provides some basic data regarding the demographics of your viewers. For example, you can see the age range and gender for viewers. In addition, you can click on a specific gender to see the age range within that gender. So, you can click Female and see the age range of your female viewers. {Marketers, can you say Test Group?} More on this later.

YouTube Insight Demographics:
YouTube Insight Demographics

New Addition: Insight Hotspots (and Coldspots)
YouTube just recently made this feature available. Using Insight Hotspots, you can see which parts of your video are more engaging (or less engaging) as compared to other videos of similar length. As the video plays in Insight, there is a graph on the left side of the screen that displays whether that segment of video was hot or cold. If it’s hot, fewer people are leaving your video at that point, or even rewinding the video to see that part again. If it’s cold, more people are skipping that segment or leaving the video at that point. I’ll explain more below about how to use this feature to enhance your videos, but needless to say, it’s an outstanding addition.

YouTube Insight Hotspots:
YouTube Insights Hotspots

This All Sounds Great Glenn, But How Do I Use Insight To Optimize My Videos?
Just like web analytics, having the data available is one thing, but using the data to enhance your efforts is another. Don’t fear! I’ll explain some basic things you can do in order to glean insights from your reporting to optimize your future videos.

1. Your Ad Hoc Focus Group
Companies spend a lot of money testing their creative to understand what will engage targeted viewers. Well, you can use Insight Hotspots to see what is working in your videos and what isn’t, and for free! You can see which parts of your video people like (rewind and watch again) versus don’t like (they skip through or exit the video). For example, you might find that physical stunts are extremely hot where dialogue is cold. Or you might test a few different versions of a video to see which angles yield the highest engagement. Does humor work, action, or a combination of both? Using Insight Hotspots, you can begin to take guesswork out of the equation and make decisions based on data (which is always a smart move!)

2. Using Insight For Keyword Research
I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of Keyword Research for SEO. It’s an incredibly important process to go through in order to optimize your website based on what people ACTUALLY search for (versus what you think they search for). With Insight, you have access to YouTube searches that lead to your videos, Google searches that lead to your videos, and Google Video searches that lead to your videos (and all for free). By analyzing these keywords, you can start to understand the ways in which people search for different types of content and then you can use that information to optimize future videos (and the text content you provide for those videos like your descriptions, tagging, titles, etc.) For example, are people searching for a category, a specific product, do they enter questions or is it by major keyword?

3. See Which Videos Spike Quickly Versus Providing Sustained Visitors
You might find that an entertaining video has a spike in visitors and then fizzles out, where an educational video builds traffic over time and constantly drives viewers your way. Since you can view visits trended over time, then you can start to get a feel for the lifecycle of specific videos. The more you know about the different types of content you produce, the more you can tailor future content to meet your specific needs (or the needs of your clients).

4. Understand Related Videos That Drive Viewers To Your Video Clips
You can start to learn which types of videos are considered “related” and which videos drive the most viewers. The more you understand the videos that drive people to your own clips, the more you can target future content to that target audience. For example, maybe you had a lot of visitors from How-To videos. You might use this angle in the future to make sure you show up there again, or to capture that traffic from the start...

5. Learn Which Websites Link To Your Video (Referring Sites)
Checking your external links, you can see which websites are linking to your video clips on YouTube. From an SEO standpoint, this provides a great opportunity for link-building. For example, if a site in your industry is linking to your YouTube clips, then maybe they would want to link to your website as well. Links are the lifeblood of SEO and finding topical and relevant link opportunities is extremely important. Note, you can’t see specific URL’s in Insight…you only get domain information, which is a little frustrating. That said, you can probably track down the specific webpage by doing a site command in Google. :)

6. Find Out Which Video Clips Go Viral
If you see a lot of viewers from “Other” in your discovery report (direct traffic), then that’s probably from email, IM, etc. Basically, someone sent around the link for your video to their friends, coworkers, etc. If you had a high percentage of viewers from Direct Traffic, then you might have found something that gets people talking. You can follow this path and test out future videos using similar types of content.

7. See Which Geographic Regions Watch Your Videos (Countries And States)
Are your videos more popular within certain countries or regions? Why were they more popular? For example, did you get a lot of traffic from New York when you shot a video in Times Square? Did you get a lot of traffic from Massachusetts when you showcased Boston Baked Beans in your video about the Best Ideas for Sunday Dinner? On the flip side, did you get a lot of viewers from Hawaii to a video about Surfing the Web on Your Blackberry? Were they interested in surfing or a Blackberry??

Produce, Upload, Analyze, and Refine
Let’s face it, videos are not easy to create (good videos). They cost money, take a lot of time to produce, and a huge amount of effort to pull off. If an average blog post takes a few hours to brainstorm, write, edit, and publish, then a good video takes 4-5X that at least to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, publish and share. Given the time commitment involved, I highly recommend using YouTube Insight as your video analytics package to glean insights from your viewers in order to optimize and enhance your future clips. If you don’t, then you’re just flying blind. As you can probably guess, I’m against flying blind and you should be too, especially when someone hands you a free analytics package like YouTube Insight!

GG

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Using Keyword Discovery for Keyword Research, Some Commonly Overlooked Features and Functionality


Commonly Overlooked Features in Keyword Discovery.If you’ve read any of my posts about SEO or SEM, then you probably know how strongly I feel about keyword research. I believe performing extensive keyword research is critical to understanding what people are actually searching for versus what you think they are searching for. Opinions are nice, but you should always try and back your decisions with real data (at least as much as possible). In case you are interested in learning more about Keyword Research, you can read my blog post about using Keyword Discovery and WordTracker. I’m a fan of both tools, but I must admit that I’m a bigger fan of Keyword Discovery (KD). Actually, I couldn’t imagine focusing on Search and not having KD by my side. But something hit me about a month ago…I was overlooking some of the outstanding functionality included in Keyword Discovery. Actually, based on my conversations with other marketers, I believe many aren’t using all of the power of Keyword Discovery… So I’m going to help you (and them) by identifying some of the functionality that might be easily overlooked. Let’s get started.

Global Premium Database, Historical View (Past 24 Months)
Keyword Discovery enables you to choose various databases to tap into while performing keyword research. Their Global Premium database holds a few billion searches, looking back 12 months. But, did you know you could actually look back 24 months? Yes, you can and it’s simple to do. Just click the checkbox for “Historical” while searching for keywords.

Historical Keyword Research (24 months) in Keyword Discovery

Why would you want to search historical data?
Depending on the keywords you are researching, there are times you would definitely want to see back past a year. There might have been specific things happening in the past 12 months that would skew your data (think about a presidential election) or a new movie that comes out.

X-Ref (Cross Reference Tool)
I love this tool. Let’s say you are researching a prospective client’s website and want to check a competitor’s site for the keyword set you just searched for. Easy, just click the x-ref tab and Keyword Discovery will prompt you for a URL. Enter a competitor’s URL (the exact page you want to check) and KD will display how many times those keywords show up in the title tag, meta keywords, meta description, and in the page copy on your competitor’s webpage. Keep in mind, the cross reference tool will check at the page level and not at the domain level. This is important…you wouldn’t want to run back to your client and show them one page’s data thinking it was for the entire site. However, it’s a great way to check other pages that rank highly for the terms you are targeting.

For example, let’s enter the keyword “Halloween” and cross reference BuyCostumes.com (my favorite online Halloween shop). Keyword Discovery returns the following results for the homepage:

Click the image below to see a larger version:
Using x-ref to cross reference another webpage in Keyword Discovery.

Permutations
There are times where you want to see the volume for several keywords working together, but ordered in a different sequence. This tool will enable you to target your selected terms (only those terms) and show you all the permutations in the database. This can help you decide which permutations to target (based on the volume of searches you find). To use the tool, simply enter the keywords you want to target, separated by commas.i.e. keyword1,keyword2,keyword3

For example, let’s enter apple,nano,video:
Viewing all permutations for a set of keywords in Keyword Discovery.

Language Translation:
There are times you will be targeting languages other than English. Well, if you are setting up projects in Keyword Discovery to organize your work, then you can also translate your projects into other languages. Yes, this is a very cool piece of functionality that KD provides (although it’s somewhat hidden). Simply create a project, research keywords, and populate that project with those keywords. Then open your project and scroll down to view the icons at the bottom of the results. You will see the Babel Fish icon (a yellow fish icon). When you hover your mouse over the icon, it will say “Translate Keywords”. When you click the icon, you will be prompted to translate your project from English to either Spanish, French, German, or Italian (or vice versa). Select which translation you want to perform and click submit. Voila, your keywords have been translated. Note, you probably wouldn’t want to just take these translations at face level. It’s a good starting point, but I would try and work with someone fluent in that language before implementing a campaign. ;-)

Using language translation in Keyword Discovery.

Trending Graphs
This feature isn’t overlooked as much as the others, but it’s worth mentioning here. Whenever you perform research in Keyword Discovery, there is an option to view trended data for each keyword (as shown below). This enables you to view keyword data over the past 12 months graphically and is extremely important if you are targeting terms that are seasonal. Think about “roses” and Valentine’s day. You can view charts based on historical data, monthly, trended, and you can see market share by engine. This data can help you and your clients map out strategies for targeting groups of keywords throughout the year.

Viewing trending graphs in Keyword Discovery.

Now Don’t Overlook These Great (But Commonly Overlooked) Features!
If you are currently using Keyword Discovery and don't use these features yet, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If you aren’t using Keyword Discovery, you should be. I don’t view it as a nice-to-have, it’s a required tool in my arsenal. Once you are comfortable researching keywords, working in the interface, and understanding what the data means, then definitely test out the features I listed in this post.

GG

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Long Tail of SEO, How Long Tail Keywords Impact Natural Search Traffic, Bounce Rate and Conversion.


The Long Tail of SEO and how it impacts your Natural Search initiatives.Imagine for a second that you are an SEO consultant and that you have a big presentation today. Your prospective client has an e-commerce store and a fledgling blog at this point. The first thing the CMO says to you is, “OK Mr. Hotshot SEO guy (or gal), tell me how you are going to help us rank for these 10 keywords?” You glance around the room and your heart starts to beat faster as you make eye contact with the CEO and COO both smirking at you. After a brief second, you turn to the CMO and say, “I’m not going to help you rank for those 10 keywords.” {There’s a collective gasp in the room.} You quickly follow with, “I’m going to help you rank for those 10 keywords plus the hundreds of long tail keywords that are associated with them!” Now you’ve got their attention. Did that sound a bit dramatic? It’s actually a common occurrence when speaking with people that aren’t heavily involved in Search Marketing. The common perception is that you should rank for a handful of competitive keywords and focus your attention on getting top rankings for them. I agree you should, but if you just focus on those top keywords, you would be missing a huge opportunity. Enter the long tail of SEO.

The Long Tail Explained
Let’s begin by defining the long tail. It’s a term that describes the strategy of selling a large number of unique items, although it may only be in small amounts per item. Think of a large e-commerce retailer and the amount of revenue generated from all of the items housed on the site (versus just the top 10 items). The “long tail” may generate more revenue than your top categories (when you combine all of the units sold). So, for our Search example, the long tail would be the hundreds (or thousands) of terms that derive from your competitive keywords. Here’s an example. Let’s say you sell HD TV’s. You might want to rank for the competitive keyword HD TV. However, you would also want to rank for 42 inch Samsung HD TV, how to choose the best HD TV, reviews for Plasma HD TV’s, etc. As you can see, the long tail keywords are simply more targeted search terms than your original keyword.

The Impact of The Long Tail on Natural Search Traffic, Bounce Rate and Conversion:
Now, you might be wondering what the impact of the long tail of SEO can be? In my experience, the long tail can be a powerful driver of targeted traffic to your website. Also, since long tail keywords tend to be more targeted (think “Samsung HD TV reviews”), you might find lower bounce rates per keyword (if you have content that matches what people are looking for of course). More on that later. If you have more overall SEO traffic and lower bounce rates, then you have a greater chance of converting visitors (which can mean more revenue, subscriptions, downloads, and other forms of conversion specific to your site). Yes, there is a connection to the success of your business! :-)

How Does This Translate To Your SEO Projects?
I ran some reports using KeywordDiscovery to give you a few tangible examples. Let’s say you sell men’s shoes (I’ll use a generic example without brand names). A quick report from KeywordDiscovery yields 2,143 keywords including the words men’s shoes. Now, you wouldn’t want to target all of these keywords since some don’t apply to someone buying men’s shoes, but there are a number of keywords that you might want to target. For example, men’s casual and dress shoes, men’s narrow shoes, men’s slip on shoes, or best men’s running shoes. You get the picture. Now, let’s say you don’t have an e-commerce store, but you target people looking for medical news (you might have an advertising model). Again using KeywordDiscovery, there are 490 keywords that include variations of medical news. Some of the keywords you might want to target include latest medical news, medical ethics in news, breaking medical news, controversial medical news, etc. For more information about finding the right keywords, please read my post about keyword research for SEO.

How does this affect what you do, SEO-wise?
Warning: I’m about to explain a very technical and important part of SEO. If you get confused based on my elaborate and technical response, please read this section again. {OK, I’ll cut the sarcasm…} In order to rank for specific keywords, you should actually have those keywords on your website. I know that’s a crazy concept, but it’s true. ;-) So, in order to target competitive keywords and their long tail counterparts, you should develop ways to include that text on your website, in your blog posts, in the tools you develop, etc. The actual content can take many forms and it’s one of the reasons I love SEO. You can be creative and develop ideas for new content and functionality for the site. Please read my blog post about SEO, the amazing multi-channel channel if you haven’t already. When you need to develop new content, you can take several routes, including developing new areas of your site, blogging, creating new functionality or tools on your site, writing whitepapers, issuing press releases, etc. You would just want to make sure that you target more terms than just the core competitive keywords I mentioned earlier in this post.

The Long Tail Summary:
Although this was just an introduction to the long tail of SEO, I hope you see the power of targeting more than just a few competitive keywords. SEO can be a robust marketing channel and can drive thousands of targeted visitors to your site via a multitude of search queries. Keyword research can help you determine those long tail keywords and then your web analytics package can help you determine which ones are generating quality traffic.

Last, but not least, my blog post has given you a great line for your next sales pitch! ;-)

GG

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Video SEO, How to Optimize Your Video Clips for Organic Search


Video SEO, How to Optimize Video for Universal SearchI've received a lot of questions recently about optimizing video for Natural Search. This is primarily due to the surge in Universal Search, which is where the search engines are mixing in various types of content into the search results. For example, news, images, video, etc. Now, there's no shortage of blog posts and articles out there about video SEO and the point of my post isn't to cover every aspect of optimizing video for search. I just wanted to cover some core best practices, based on my experience. If you want to check out some additional resources after reading this post, ReelSEO provides some outstanding video SEO information, blinkx has a whitepaper on video SEO, and most recently, Brightcove released its 2008 video SEO playbook. I recommend checking out all of these resources and determining the best way to move forward for your given project.

Let's move on. Optimizing your video clips for natural search gives you one more way to get your content ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). In my conversations about video SEO, I’ve found a lot of misconceptions about how to best optimize video for search, so I’ve compiled this list of best practices so you can get off on the right foot.

Without further ado, here are some best practices for optimizing video for natural search:

1. Create a separate page for each video clip.
In order to optimize the core html elements for the video clip in question, you should provide a separate html page for each of your video clips. In e-commerce terms, you can think of this page as a product detail page for each video clip. More about optimizing the core html elements of this page below.

2. Optimize the filename and URL.
Create a descriptive URL structure and filename for your video clip. For example, if you were a golf instructor and created a video clip for how to hit sand shots, your URL and filename might look like the following:

http://www.yourgolfwebsite.com/training-videos/hit-golf-sand-shots.htm

And, your video clip might have the following filename:
http://www.yourgolfwebsite.com/training-videos/golf-sand-shots.flv

3. Optimize the HTML elements on your page.
I mentioned this earlier and it’s actually not unique to video… When you create a unique page for each video clip, you definitely want to optimize the title tag, meta description, H1, H2 (if applicable), and content (copy, images, etc.) surrounding your video clip. In order to properly optimize these elements, your text content should be based on keyword research. If you don’t know what I am referring to, check out my post about using Keyword Discovery and WordTracker for finding the keywords that people actually search for on the web versus what you think they search for. For example, the keyword "golf lessons" is searched for 3.7x more than "golf training".

4. Use descriptive anchor text when linking to your video page:
Don’t underestimate the power of using descriptive links. Using our golf example from earlier, don’t link to the page holding your video clip with non-descript text like “View Video” or “Play Video”. You should use descriptive anchor text like “Learn how to hit a golf sand shot.” or “Golf Lessons, Hitting Sand Shots.” Again, base your anchor text on keyword research (the text you place in your link).

5. Use SWFObject to provide search engine friendly alt content.
{If you want to provide crawlable, alternative html content in place of your flash movie.}
Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about how to use SWFObject 2.0 to provide search engine friendly alt content for your flash movies. If you are using flash video on your website, and I’m sure many of you are, then SWFObject is a great way to provide crawlable html content in place of your flash movie. One piece of advice (and it’s mentioned heavily in my post about using SWFObject), don’t overdo it when providing your alt html content. You should only provide content that is also in the video clip. For many, it’s tempting to provide too much content (or content that’s not present in the video clip). Don’t do this…it can end up hurting you. It’s technically cloaking, which is providing a different version of your content to the search engines versus people visiting your site. I recommend providing an optimized H1, H2, thumbnail, along with an optimized summary of what is contained in the video clip. You can also provide a video transcript if you have that available. Mix this content with the other html elements we optimized earlier and you’ve got it covered.

6. Provide a video sitemap.
You can provide an xml sitemap containing your video clip information (for all of your video clips on your website). Video sitemaps are an extension to the sitemap protocol and are similar to the xml sitemaps you already provide to Google and the other engines. If you aren't providing xml sitemap files to the search engines, then I’ll have to cover what they are and how to create them in another post! ;-) As you can probably guess, video sitemaps are tailored for video content. The sitemap contains additional information about your video clips, such as video location, duration, thumbnail image, etc. You can learn more about a video sitemap on Google’s website, but needless to say, it’s a smart way to go.

7. Provide an MRSS feed.
You probably already know of RSS (Really Simple Syndication), but what about MRSS? Well, it’s an extension of the RSS standard specifically created for describing media content. In a nutshell, it’s RSS for multimedia. The spec contains elements for describing your video content like file size, description, thumbnail, content, etc. Video search engines like Blinkx let you submit your MRSS feeds in order to show up in their search results. I highly recommend using MRSS.

8. Submit to video sharing websites like YouTube and optimize the listing:
You should upload your videos to sharing sites like YouTube and then optimize the listings in your account. That includes optimizing the title, description, tags, providing links back to your site, etc. Just like earlier, you should base this content on keyword research for your specific video content. Note, the YouTube versions of your video clips might very well rank above your own site clips. It’s up to you how you want to proceed, and it’s worth testing out with some of your clips to see how the search engines handle both your YouTube clips and your own site clips. I definitely recommend testing this, as it gives you an opportunity for another listing in the SERPs, but your ultimate decision might be based on your specific business model.

Break a leg!
OK, I bet you’re chomping at the bit to run off and optimize your video content. With Universal Search results increasing and the number of people watching video on the web also increasing significantly, you should definitely take the time to optimize your video clips for Organic Search. Now, if you don’t already have video content, make sure you read my post about how to create a YouTube video. It can definitely get you moving in the right direction. Then, following the best practices listed in this post and you can hopefully create killer videos and also get killer rankings to boot. Nice.

GG

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Performing Keyword Research and SEO, Don’t Assume You Know the Right Words to Target!


How to perform keyword research.When it comes to Natural Search and SEO, performing extensive keyword research for your given business is critical. In my experience, most people are too close to their businesses to understand what people are really searching for. You may have seen this too, like using terminology and acronyms that only industry folks use. Or, if you have been in an industry for 20 years, then you surely must know how people search the web for your products or services, right? Don’t make this mistake! You might get a few by chance, but I’ll guarantee you are missing huge opportunities if you ignore keyword research. So don’t do it. :-)

Skepticism is Good
Right now, some of you are probably skeptical. That’s good, and I’ll give you some examples to curb your skepticism. Let’s say you are in the summer rental business at the Jersey shore. If you performed keyword research for your business, you would find that beach rentals is searched 4X more than summer rentals, which in turn is searched for 10X more than nj shore rental and beach house for rent. Without keyword research, it’s all based on opinion… I’ll take real data over opinion 99% of the time. That’s one thing about keyword research that I love… it takes guesswork out of the equation. Armed with data, you can make the right decisions from the beginning of your seo project before wasting time, money, and effort.

Here are some more quick examples:
Do you sell jewelry? Did you know that the keyword jewelry showed up 12X more than the keyword jeweler in Keyword Discovery? Let’s shift our focus to a buggy business? Pest control is searched 10X more than exterminator. Sell infant bedding? Did you know that the keyword baby bedding showed up 16X more than the keyword infant bedding? That's 16X more! I think you get my point… Do your keyword research and move opinions to the side…focus on real data, real searches, and don’t waste your time and effort trying to rank for keywords that won’t pay off.

Keyword Research Tools:
The two most popular options for keyword research are WordTracker (WT) and Keyword Discovery (KD). I have used WordTracker much longer than Keyword Discovery, but I can tell you that I’m really digging KD. Both are great tools and will give you excellent data. WordTracker’s database holds approximately 330 million metacrawler searches where Keyword Discovery holds over 36 Billion from over 200 search engines. I often find myself using both tools to find the right keywords, and if you focus on SEO, I would probably keep accounts with both services. Their prices won’t break the bank… WordTracker is $59/month and you can get a fairly large discount for an annual purchase ($329 for the year). Keyword Discovery is $70/month and I believe both are a small price to pay for finding the right keywords via the multitude of tools they provide. Your return on investment should be huge, to say the least.

A Closer Look at Keyword Discovery:
Let’s say you sell women’s jewelry and wanted to do some keyword research. You would log into KD and enter jewelry in research mode (see screenshot below). You will see the top searched terms with the keyword jewelry in them. The one column provided at this stage is “Searches”, or the number of times that the keyword was searched for over the past 12 months.

Screenshot from Keyword Discovery (Research Screen):
Click the image below to view a larger version.
Researching a keyword in Keyword Discovery

Now, if you click the icon for “Analyze”, then you will see those keywords with some additional columns like “Occurrences”, “KEI”, and “Predicted Daily”. Occurrences shows the estimated number of webpages the keyword shows up on. KEI is a formula for showing you how competitive the keyword is. I can dedicate an entire post to KEI and you can read more about it on the web, but not all keywords are equal from a competitive standpoint. KEI helps you determine which keywords are worth going after and which ones might be too tough to rank for. Predicted Daily is just that, the predicted amount of times that the keyword is searched for each day.

Screenshot from Keyword Discovery (Analyze Screen):
Click the image below to view a larger version.
Analyzing a keyword in Keyword Discovery

Drill in further to find targeted, long tail keywords…
At this point, you can click on any keyword to see a list of longer tail keywords containing the original word you clicked on. For example, click diamond jewelry to see all the keywords in the database that have the words diamond and jewelry as part of the keyword. This will include diamond jewelry watches, black diamond jewelry, diamond jewelry stores, etc. Then click “Analyze” again to view the additional columns I mentioned above.

I have my keywords, now what?
Let’s say you performed keyword research, found your target keywords, and have the spreadsheet sitting in front of you. Now what? Well, you would want to include these keywords on your website within the right HTML elements. For example, you would want to use these keywords in the title tag, the meta description tag, in the page copy, within your page headings (H1, H2, etc.), in your navigation and anchor links, and in image alt text. You would want to take a hard look at the pages on your site and optimize each one for the specific content they hold. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but well worth it. If you have a large site, definitely work with your developers on how to optimize the site dynamically. I can also write an entire post on optimizing the elements I just listed, but you’ll unfortunately have to wait for that one! I want to keep this post from being 25 pages long. ;-)

In SEO, your work is never done.
Once you optimize your website, you can’t just sit back. Like everything in web marketing, you need to track your results and refine your strategy as needed. Maybe some of your optimization isn’t paying off like you want it to, so you may need to go back and research more terms and optimize more pages. Or, you might want to tweak some of your pages, based on changes in your industry, your products, or seasonality. If you are using a robust web analytics package (Omniture, Coremetrics, Google Analytics, etc.), then you should have some great data to analyze. Then learn from the data and make changes to improve your rankings. I have written several posts about web analytics and you should definitely check them out.

OK, I’m sure you are chomping at the bit to get started (at least I hope you are!) Definitely stop back and let me know how keyword research works for you and your business. Go ahead, real data awaits!

BTW, did you know that SEO is searched for 3X as much as Search Engine Optimization? We are lazy typists, aren’t we? Quick tangent...do acronyms affect your business? ;-)

GG

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