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

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! ;-)


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Monday, August 04, 2008

Whuil? Why Cuil Has A Long Way To Go Before It Can Compete With Google

Cuil versus Google, Which search engine is better?.With all of the hype about the "Google Killer" Cuil over the past few weeks, I definitely wanted to give it a little time before officially commenting. When I heard a rival to Google was launching, I was absolutely intrigued, to say the least. I love Google, but I’m not sure any company should have 70% market share in any industry! :) That said, I never thought Cuil could hit the scene and pose a serious threat to Google, but my hope was that it could be a solid alternative to the search giant. The problem for Cuil, or any Google competitor for that matter, is that gaining users doesn’t entirely have to do with the quality of search results (although that is an important factor). Google is so ingrained in our society that it’s going to be hard for any search engine to stroll in and make a dent in big G. I’m neck deep in search engine marketing, including both SEO and SEM, so you bet I’ll try it out. But ask my mother if she knows of another engine… I’ll save you the time, she doesn’t. And let’s face it, Google does an incredible job with Search. It’s not like they provide horrible results with no variety. People wouldn’t use it if it did! More on that later.

Data Typically Doesn’t Lie
So what do I think of Cuil? I’m actually going to let the data do the talking. I tested out both Google and Cuil using the same search terms with the goal of viewing the relevance, quality, and variety of search results. Of course, I’ll add my own commentary to help give you a better picture of what I saw along the way. This is by no means a final test, but I think it gives us a good feel for how Cuil compares to Google right now. Let’s hop in.

DVD’s and e-Commerce
Let’s hit the web to buy one of my all time favorite movies… Jerry Maguire. A search on both Cuil and Google for Jerry Maguire DVD Prices yielded:

Google: Great listings leading me to and other e-commerce websites. Google also provided shopping one box results for the DVD, linking to various ecommerce websites. In addition, you can always click the shopping tab in Google to see a listing of Jerry Maguire DVD’s with their associated pricing. Google had me at hello. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. ;-)

Cuil: This was easy, Cuil returned NO RESULTS. Are you kidding me Cuil? We’re talking about Jerry Maguire here!

Learning something new and defining terms:
How about a search to define a term? Mobile technology is ridiculously hot now, so let’s define Bluetooth. I entered Define Bluetooth and found:

Both Google and Cuil returned good results, although I would argue that Google did a better job of providing more variety (giving you the ability to search news, blogs, etc.) I won’t knock Cuil too badly for this one. Let’s call it a slight advantage to Google.

Local Search
I recently looked for a plumber in our area, so let’s try both Google and Cuil for plumbers in Princeton, NJ:

Google: Outstanding results. Google's local results provided 10 local plumbers with the ability to read reviews, print coupons, watch videos, etc. In addition, Paid Search provided some interesting results too. I like the variety and the local search results. Nice.

Cuil: Unfortunately, Cuil returned misc. plumber sites, no reviews, a few weird, off-topic results like Foreign Affairs Author Page (what??). Winner, Google by a mile!

Maps and Directions
I recently played Lederach Golf Club in Pennsylvania, so let’s search by address in both engines. I entered 900 Clubhouse Drive Harleysville, PA and found:

Google: Displayed a Google Maps one box listing at the top, with a link to the full Google Maps listing. There I had the ability to get directions and find the best route. Excellent.

Cuil: Decent results, but if I'm entering an address, you can probably guess I'm looking for directions and a map. There were also some results for places to visit and stay in the general area (nice, but not really what I was looking for). Winner: Google hit a 300 yard drive and Cuil ended up in the fairway bunker. Both have a shot for par, but Google has the easier path. :)

Shopping and Coupon Codes
comScore recently reported that coupon sites have seen a surge in visitors. This makes sense, given the economy, so let’s start searching. I entered Coupon Codes Lands End and found:

Google: Solid results. Great coupon code websites, with at the top of the list (one of my favorites). Paid Search also provided some good coupon code websites.

Cuil: Not so good. Although there were a few coupon code websites listed, there was one listed over and over again ( I wasn’t thrilled with Cuil’s results and found myself wanting to see Google’s results again.
Winner: Enter “Google Wins” during checkout to receive a 20% discount! ;-)

Images and Photos
Let's search for some photos. I searched for Statue of Liberty Images and found:

Google: Image one box results with a link to Google Image Search. Needless to say, I found exactly what I was looking for in mere seconds in Google. There were also stock photography sites listed.

Cuil: Random weirdness with almost no images listed. Come on Cuil…it’s the Statue of Liberty! I know images aren’t what you do well, but if you are going to rival Google, images have to be part of the equation.

Obama versus Mccain
No need to explain why I’m searching for this one given our election in a few months! A search for Obama versus Mccain yielded:

Google: Google News one box results listed at the top of the page with one click to the latest news about Obama and Mccain. In addition, major news websites were listed like, The Washington post,, etc. This is hard to beat…

Cuil: I found some 404’s, random blogs, and overall average information. I wasn’t impressed.
The State of the Union? Google wins the election in a landslide.

Cuil as a Google Killer? Not yet…
So there’s my test and the subsequent results. You tell me, which search engine seems better to you? Would you stop using Google and use Cuil instead? I wouldn’t…at least not yet. I do hope Cuil improves and gains in popularity, but it’s not going to be easy. Cuil has a long way to go before the masses move to a new engine.

Google simply offers higher quality results that are more relevant, along with a wider variety of content. And, you can further target your results by selecting one of the major tabs Google provides (like news, blogs, finance, images, video, etc.) That’s hard to beat.

If I were the founders of Cuil, I would work hard to at least return high quality and relevant search results and then move on from there. If they can’t at least match Google's search results, then they are dead in the water. Actually, I believe that any new search engine trying to beat Google will have to bring a unique model to the table…much different than just showing search results. It’s hard enough to change people’s behavior, and that's especially true if you show no results for Jerry Maguire! Rod Tidwell would not be happy. :)


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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Google Indexes Flash Content (SWF), Some Initial Questions, Concerns, and Findings

Google Indexing Flash Content (SWF)On June 30th, Google announced that it was working with Adobe in order to index flash content and thousands of flash developers around the globe rejoiced! Having developed countless flash applications, I fully know the impact of making sure flash content is crawlable for SEO. Until now, many developers were faced with a big question from marketers (and that question typically came at the end of the project), “How do I make sure our flash content can be indexed by Google?” This was never a comfortable situation for flash developers… Needless to say, the news that Google will index flash content is a big step forward for content providers, marketers, and for the engines. That said, I did have some serious questions and concerns after I heard the news. I understand flash development extremely well and I’m neck deep in SEO, so it was natural for me to start thinking about this from both perspectives.

Over the past few days, I’ve been testing several flash movies and applications across my sites to see how Google has indexed them. Below, I have listed some concerns and questions, based on my experience with flash, SEO, and my research and testing over the past few days. Keep in mind, this is by no means final…I plan to write more about how the search engines index flash content over the next few months. I know this is a dynamic area for search engine optimization.

Questions, Concerns, and Findings About Google Indexing Flash Content:

1. Indexing the Core SWF File (the parent swf)
Based on what Google explained in their communication, it will index the core swf file on the page, but not associate dynamically loaded files (other swfs, xml, etc.) with the original flash file. Now, there are many reasons to load content dynamically and most professional flash developers are using these techniques to keep their content fresh and to maintain a small file size. In addition, Google said that it won’t index FLV files (which are typically loaded on demand into a parent swf), because they don’t contain any text content.

My concern is that best practices may not be used so marketers can get all of their text content into one swf. In addition, loading xml data to keep your content up to date (such as pulling the latest product information from a database) won’t be associated with the parent swf (from an SEO standpoint). So, if developers start to add more and more content into the parent SWF file, then file size can become a real issue. I know bandwidth isn’t as big of a problem as in the past, but the proper way to code multi-section flash applications is to load additional SWF files into the parent SWF. So, get ready for more, “Loading Site” animations. :) I can only hope that Google and the other engines decide to associate externally loaded content with the parent SWF file.

2. Black Hat SEO’s Must Be Chomping at the Bit!
OK, this one hit me right away and concerns me greatly. As a flash developer, you typically display text content on the fly, based on how the user is interacting with your flash movie. For example, you might have movieclips in Flash that only display when someone triggers that feature in your application (i.e. to view the latest products you have). These movieclips aren’t visible until needed. I think you can see where I am going with this… In my tests, Google indexed all of the text content in the parent SWF, including text in movieclips that may never be triggered.

Now, the fact that Google indexed all of the text content is great for white hat SEO’s, but could be extremely dangerous in the hands of a black hat SEO. I fear that some may include dozens of movieclips stuffed with keywords in order to get those terms indexed by Google. In flash, you can basically add code to any object at your disposal. So how will Google decipher what’s real text content versus text content that’s there to game their algorithm? In HTML, you pretty much know if something is hidden. In flash, how do you know if something is really hidden? For example, let’s say you had a product image and some text show up when someone rolled over a small button in the corner of the screen. Let’s say 2% of users realize it’s a button and trigger it. Is that wrong? Is that against the rules? Take that example to the nth degree and you can see why I’m concerned. I’m eager to see how Google combats black hat tactics now that flash is being indexed. And more importantly, will you (as a white hat SEO) become collateral damage if they tweak the algorithm to handle this??

3. Obfuscation and SWFEncrypt
Many flash developers use tools like SWFEncrypt to obfuscate their code. I know, horrible word, right? Try saying that 5 times really fast. :) Obfuscation encrypts your code so other programmers can’t steal it. It bumps up your file size somewhat, but helps you protect what you’ve spent hours writing! My initial concern was that if Google decompiles your flash movies to find text content, what will it do with the your obfuscated code? But I’ll stop there, as Google explained that it won’t be decompiling flash movies. I was happy to hear this… So, programmers of the world, keep obfuscating! ;-)

4. Flash Publishing, Choose your method wisely…
There are several ways to output your flash movie (SWF) in your HTML code. In a nutshell, you can use standard object and embed tags, you can use JavaScript to write out your flash movie, or you can use SWFObject to elegantly provide flash content while providing alternative HTML content. SWFObject has a few different versions that you can use, and one relies on JavaScript and the other is a standards-compliant version that doesn’t rely on JavaScript. So, how will all of these publishing methods impact your flash indexation? I definitely recommend testing each of these methods out on your own sites to gauge their effectiveness. However, Google has already said that it won’t execute some types of JavaScript. So, as you can guess, using JavaScript to publish your flash content probably isn’t the best way to go at this stage. :) That would include SWFObject 1.0 and 1.5 (for now). Google said that it is working on an update for SWFObject, but does that include 1.0 and 1.5? That said, SWFObject 2.0 using static publishing (standards-compliant) doesn’t rely on JavaScript and I’ve noticed some strong results indexation-wise.

This is such a fluid situation, that you should test out your own flash content on your own sites to see how they get indexed. In addition, keep up to date on the latest changes Google is making regarding indexing flash content. My guess is that the changes will be relatively frequent as Google learns more.

My Flash SEO Advice
So there you have it, 4 concerns and observations that I’ve had since the news hit that Google will be indexing flash content. I have listed some quick advice below:

* Don’t assume Google will automatically index all of your flash content. That would be a big mistake, as there are numerous factors involved with how you code and publish your flash movies.
* Don’t run and create an all-flash site! Please don’t do this for numerous reasons… ;-)
* Test your flash content on several sites that you control, using various publishing methods. This is the best way to gauge how your flash content is being indexed.
* Keep up to speed on how Google changes its algorithm with regard to flash content. The techniques that you use today may need to be tweaked tomorrow. That’s the just the nature of SEO.

Quick Summary
As I wrap up this post, I wanted to reemphasize that this is a big step forward for Google and the other engines, Adobe, and countless content producers across the world. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time and I’m excited to track the progress of flash indexation. If you have discovered any interesting results, please feel free to include them here as a comment. I know I’ll be writing new posts about this topic as time goes on, based on my own testing. Now off to code and test some more flash movies! :)


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Thursday, July 10, 2008

SEO, The Multi-Channel Channel, How Search Engine Optimization Crosses Online Marketing Channels

How SEO Crosses Internet Marketing Channels.So you are probably asking yourself, “What’s a multi-channel channel?” Good question! When you take a look at the various online marketing channels, SEO has some special characteristics. It’s part of the reason that I love working on Natural Search projects. As many of you probably know already, on-site SEO is extremely important. Optimizing your website for Natural Search is a prerequisite for gaining top rankings. Making sure you have a clear path for the bots to index your site is extremely important, minimizing errors on your site, optimizing your navigation, linking structure, ensuring you are throwing the correct header response codes, and optimizing the core html elements on each page are all important. But let’s face it, inbound links are still incredibly important. I’m referring to links from other websites, preferably from powerful and relevant sites in your industry. This is where SEO and Natural Search start to cross channels. Read on.

So How is SEO a Multi-Channel Channel?
Whenever I have a whiteboard in front of me and the conversation shifts to SEO, I get to sketch my multi-channel chart. For argument’s sake, let’s say that you’ve already done an incredible job at optimizing your website structure and want to start increasing your SEO power. Chances are you will sit down with your team and start brainstorming link-building ideas. As you start to map out ideas, it will become extremely clear that you’re now talking about more than just SEO…you will be including other online marketing channels as part of the conversation. I can guarantee it.

The Multi-Channel Ramble:
Here we go… As part of your link-building conversation, you will inevitably start brainstorming ways to utilize social media and social networking sites to get the word out about your content. For example, sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Mixx, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, FriendFeed, Propeller,, and many others depending on your niche. You will also want to start a blog, which will be your platform for providing additional content on your site that can provide value to your visitors. You might also start brainstorming viral marketing campaigns using video, user generated content, web applications, and mobile applications. In addition, you might launch contests and sweepstakes too. You might brainstorm widgets and social applications, which can also impact your inbound links. Then, as you build new campaigns, you will probably leverage your PR department to help get the word out. And while you’re at it, you might tap into your loyal base of customers to help spread the word about your new content and tools (maybe starting with your in-house email list). Then, as part of your keyword research process for SEO, you might run some Paid Search campaigns to test the impact of various groups of keywords. And by the way, you will be working with your web analytics team to track all of these efforts at a granular level…

So, based on my multi-channel ramble above, you would have touched upon:
1. SEO
2. Blogging
3. Social Media
4. Viral Marketing
5. Word of Mouth Marketing
6. PR
7. SEM
8. Mobile Marketing
9. Email Marketing
10. Video Marketing

Now, can you see why I call SEO the multi-channel channel? ;-) Based on our example above, you would be hitting 10 marketing channels during your link-building campaign. Not bad for a little word like SEO, huh?

SEO and the future
Will what I explained above always be the case? I believe that as emerging technologies expand (like Mobile and IPTV), you’ll probably be able to add more channels to the list and not less! Will inbound links be the lifeblood of Natural Search in the future? I don’t know. Right now, it’s still the best way to determine how third parties feel about your content by casting votes (or links) to your site. And as long as that’s the case, then developing ways to increase your inbound links will be critical (which will keep SEO as a multi-channel channel.)

But let’s face it…technology moves at light speed. 10 years from now, we might be talking about CommuniRank™, ParsecRank™ or GabeRank™ versus Pagerank™. OK, I had to throw my name in there! :) The point is that whatever the measure is for increasing your natural search power, you will probably be leveraging a wide range of marketing channels to help increase your rankings. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So, if you focus on SEO and someone asks what you do, get them a cup of coffee, a doughnut, and grab a conference room with a whiteboard. Then take them through the incredible, multi-channel channel that is SEO.


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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 acronyms affect your business? ;-)


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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tagging and Tracking Yahoo Search Marketing Campaigns in Google Analytics

Tracking Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) Campaigns in Google AnalyticsDisclaimer: Before I begin to cover tagging and tracking your Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) campaigns in Google Analytics (GA), I highly recommend using an integrated search marketing package to manage your Paid Search campaigns, such as Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools or Omniture Search Center. Using a robust set of search marketing tools that are integrated with your web analytics package is obviously the optimal way to go (if that’s possible for your organization). Now let’s move on!

I Can Easily Analyze Google AdWords in Google Analytics, but…
Since many companies are now using Google Analytics, I often receive questions about how to best track Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) campaigns using GA. When you use Google Analytics, your paid search campaigns using Google AdWords are tracked natively, so there is no additional tagging that you need to implement. You will be able to drill into your campaigns, ad groups, and keywords easily from within GA and view sales, goal conversion, site usage, and cost. This is a great feature, because tagging your paid search campaigns is about as fun as writing "I will always remember to tag all of my Paid Search campaigns properly." a thousand times on a chalk board. :-) So I’ve decided to write this blog post offering you a good option for tagging YSM campaigns for analysis in Google Analytics.

It’s All About the Tagging…
For those of you not familiar with tagging, it’s the process of adding querystring parameters to your campaign URL’s so Google Analytics can accurately track your campaigns. I’ve written a previous blog post about tagging emails for analysis in Google Analytics here. To track YSM campaigns in GA, some marketers are tagging at the keyword level and some at the ad level. I recently helped several clients use a technique that enables them to tag their YSM campaigns at the ad level and utilize some of YSM’s enhanced tracking parameters to analyze their campaigns in GA by Ad Group, Keyword (the keywords you are bidding on), and Raw Keyword (what people are actually entering).

YSM Enhanced Tracking Parameters (Dynamic Values from YSM)
If you turn on “Tracking URL’s” in YSM, then you can access a list of Enhanced Tracking Parameters each time someone clicks one of your keywords. You will use two of these tracking parameters for our GA tagging example.

The 2 Enhanced Tracking Parameters You Will Utilize Are:
{OVKEY} – or the keyword that a visitor clicked on. Note, these are the keywords that you bid on, not the original query from a visitor.
{OVRAW} – Yes, you got it… It’s the original query (or raw query) that a visitor entered in Yahoo.

*Note, there are several other enhanced tracking parameters available, but we’ll use the two listed above for our tagging purposes.

The Yahoo Search Marketing Tagging:
I’ll begin by providing a tagged URL below and then explain the parameters. Note, you will be tagging your URL’s at the Ad Level. So, you’ll create your ad (or access one you have already created and use this dynamic URL as the destination URL for your ad). Then you won’t need to tag at the keyword level. Yes, this will save you hours of work and hopefully meet your tracking requirements as well. :-)

Tagging Your YSM URL:{OVKEY}&utm_content={OVRAW}&utm_campaign=Spring%2BClothing%2BMen

Let’s quickly cover each parameter:
utm_source=Yahoo, This is simple, it’s just the traffic source. For our purposes we are using Yahoo to signify YSM.

utm_medium=CPC, Signifying Cost Per Click.

utm_term={OVKEY} This is the keyword that was clicked on. Note, this is the keyword you are bidding on and not the raw query. The beautiful part of {OVKEY} is that no matter which keyword was clicked on, the {OVKEY} enhanced parameter will hold that keyword. It's basically a variable for the programmers out there...

utm_content={OVRAW} This is the raw query that was entered into Yahoo. This is valuable information and I’ll explain more below.

utm_campaign=Spring%2BClothing%2BMen This is the name of the campaign, which will show up under the Campaigns Tab under Traffic Sources. BTW, %2B is a plus sign, %20 is a space (these are URL encoded characters, which you should always use in your URL's). You should be descriptive with the campaign name so you can easily find your campaign in the list within GA.

Why Did I Tag the URL This Way?
Good question. Because I want you to quickly access your campaign reporting in Google Analytics and be able to segment your reporting by keyword and raw query. Now, let your test campaign run for a day and then access your GA reporting. Click the Traffic Sources tab and then click Campaigns. You should see a campaign titled, “Spring+Clothing+Men”. You can review your top level information for the campaign here, like Ecommerce Revenue, Goal Conversion, and Site Usage. Click this campaign to drill deeper. Once you are in the Campaign Details report, you can easily segment the report to analyze keywords and raw queries. Click the segment dropdown and choose Keyword. This will show you the keywords (that you bid on), that led to your site. You can easily view site usage statistics, sales, and goal conversion per keyword. Click the segment dropdown again and select Ad Content. Now you are viewing the raw keywords (or the query) that people entered in Yahoo to view your ads. This is especially powerful, since you can find new, longer tail keywords for your campaigns (which will probably yield a lower CPC). You can easily export the raw keywords and then import the ones you want to use in your YSM campaigns. For example, you may be bidding on the word Khaki Pants, but you might find that visitors are entering New Dark Khaki Pants or 32 inch Khaki Pants. You would export these raw keywords and then add them to your campaign. You get the idea…

Screenshot of the YSM Campaign Reporting:
Click on the image below for a larger version:

Viewing YSM reporting in Google Analytics

To summarize…
So there you have it. A nice way to tag your YSM campaigns, save time, and accurately view your Paid Search reporting in Google Analytics. I still recommend using an integrated paid search package when possible, but regardless, this technique will definitely save you time and frustration. It’s a nice way to drill into your YSM campaigns to view sales, goal conversion, site usage, and all by campaign, ad group, keyword and raw keyword. Now, I would still love to view YSM campaigns with the ease of AdWords campaigns in Google Analytics, but for now, I’ll just keep using this technique. I hope this helps your paid search efforts! Let me know how it works for you.


Related Content:
* Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics

* Site Search in Google Analytics

* The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Migrating to Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools - My Favorite Features

Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools - List of Top FeaturesI think everyone agrees that managing paid search is tough and time consuming. In my opinion, you need to be chest deep in your campaigns all of the time to reap the greatest rewards. With keyword research, copywriting, building landing pages, optimizing your campaigns, etc. it takes a lot of time, to say the least. So, if you could leverage technology to make the process of managing paid search more efficient, my guess is that you would probably do it. Of course, you would need a solid tool that provides a wealth of functionality for it to make sense. You probably wouldn’t make a big change if you just added one piece of functionality…you would need a platform that helps you on several dimensions.

The Vendor UI, Spreadsheets, Text Editors, and 3rd Party Software
Paid Search Management Can Make You Crazy!If you walked into the office of someone managing paid search for their company, you would probably see a process that includes a host of products and services. This includes bulk spreadsheets, the vendor UI’s (going directly into Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. to manage campaigns), using AdWords Editor, Text Editors, and 3rd party software for bid management. Then add a web analytics package for analysis mixed with reporting from the vendor and it becomes a world of multiple touch points that can drive a search marketer insane… and can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome. ;-) So, how can you alleviate the madness of paid search management? Well, alleviate might be a strong term, since the fast and furious process of managing paid search isn’t going away, but you can definitely make it easier for yourself. Enter web analytics vendors that provide paid search management packages. Coremetrics is one of the vendors offering this type of functionality and I created this post to list some of my favorite features of the platform. Note, this post is not meant to cover all of the functionality provided by Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools, so look for future posts that expand on this topic.

Some of My Favorite Features of Coremetrics Search Tools:

1. Auto-Tagging of Keywords
Halelujah. :-) For those of you who have to tag keywords so you can accurately track them in your analytics package, you will GREATLY appreciate this feature. Whether you manually tag them or you have developed your own application to tag them (which probably isn’t that good…), you will LOVE this feature of Coremetrics Search Tools. Simply copy the keywords you want to include in an Ad Group and click “Add New Keywords”. Wow, that was tough. ;-) Compare that to the painful, vision-killing, carpal tunnel syndrome-creating, insanity of tagging the keywords yourself, and you can see why this one feature may be worth the migration to CM Search Tools. For example, I added about 300 keywords to an ad group last week in about 10 seconds…and tagged the keywords at a granular level (read below).

2. Tagging Keywords at a Granular Level
Even when you tag keywords, sometimes you want to know more about why those keywords are generating sales (or not generating sales…) With the typical tagging hierarchy, you might see something like this in your web analytics package:

Vendor -> Campaign -> AdGroup -> Keyword

Now, that’s fine and you’ll see revenue by keyword, ad group, and campaign, but what if you wanted to see more? Coremetrics Search Tools enable you to go further by seeing a multitude of additional elements. For example, keyword match type, the raw keyword entered into the search engine, the version of the creative that yielded a click through, and whether the ad was displayed on the content network or in the search listings. Having access to these additional parameters will only enhance your decision making when managing paid search.

To show you the difference, let’s take a look at a hypothetical example:

What you would traditionally see with standard tagging:
Google->Sneakers->Nike->Nike Air Zoom

What you can see using Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools:

You can see how granular your reporting can be using Coremetrics Search Tools. Just to clarify the listing, Google = Vendor, Sneakers_Nike = Campaign and Ad Group, Nike_Air_Zoom_Phrase = Keyword and Match Type, and Search_Creative_VersionA = the ad was displayed in the Search Listings along with the version of the ad creative that the visitors clicked through. Impressive, right?

--Update: I've received some questions about the difference between the vendor dynamic values and Coremetrics dynamic values when tagging keywords. To clarify, I use a mixture of both when tagging keywords for paid search reporting. This gives me the best of both worlds.

3. Finding the Raw Keywords that Visitors Used
By seeing the raw keywords that yielded visitors and revenue, you can find valuable long tail terms to add to your campaigns. For example, let’s say you had a keyword set to Broad Match and 550 people clicked through the site yesterday via that keyword. Using Coremetrics Search Tools, you could drill into that keyword to see what people really entered, which can include terms that maybe you never would have targeted. You can then copy those keywords and quickly add them to the Ad Group in question, enabling you to target high quality visitors based on actual data.

To give another hypothetical example:
Let's say you have a broad match keyword like computer for gaming. Maybe you received 100 visitors yesterday from the keyword. Using Coremetrics, you can drill into that keyword and see what people really entered like What’s the best computer for gaming? or Tricking out your computer for gaming. These long tail keywords can be extremely valuable and can help you target prospects at a more granular level. Think about it, you can target what everyone else is targeting or target long tail keywords that your competitors might not even be aware of? I’d go with the latter almost every time. ;-)

4. It’s directly tied to your analytics program!
To quote Hyundai, Duh. :-) This bullet will cover several reporting elements, but having revenue, cost data, click through rate, bounce rate, average position, cpc data, etc. right in your web analytics program makes your life a lot easier. You don’t need to bounce around (no pun intended) to find the data you need. In addition, having Coremetrics Attribution Windows handy enables you to see first click, last click, and average click data all in one interface alongside your paid search statistics. Nice.

So that’s my first crack at letting you know what I like best about Coremetrics Search Tools. Definitely check back soon as I plan to write more about managing paid search using the platform. For example, I didn’t cover bid management functionality, which can really help you automate some time consuming tasks. Actually, that’s probably a large enough topic to warrant its own post!

In closing, if you are looking to increase your efficiency while expanding your paid search efforts, all while decreasing your chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome and having to wear glasses for the rest of your life, check out Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools. Wow, heck of a tagline for their product, huh? ;-)


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pop Star Mika Offers Web Marketing Advice - Diversify Your Online Marketing Channels

Mika Teaches Web MarketingFor those of you who obsess about what you do for a living (like me) and you are constantly thinking about new ideas related to your business, you’ll definitely understand the angle of this post. You see, I have an uncanny ability to hear music, and on the fly, map that song to something Internet Marketing related. I know, amazing super power, right? :-) It’s hard for me to turn off this super power… Last weekend one of my nieces started playing a song by Mika called Lollipop….hold on, hear me out! So, my uncanny super power kicked in and I couldn’t help but believe that Mika was reaching to out to internet marketers. I have provided the internet marketing translation of a segment of Lollipop below. Click the button to hear a segment of the song and the Glenn Gabe translation will show up.

Diversify Your Online Marketing Channels
I believe it’s easy for a company to fall into the dangerous practice of focusing on a limited number of online marketing channels to support their business. For example, some companies may focus entirely on search (Organic Search and Paid Search revenue). With the dynamic and competitive nature of Paid Search and Google dominated Organic Search, you shouldn’t rely entirely on your search marketing channel to completely support your business. I love search marketing, but what if Google tweaks their algorithm and your rankings drop for a month or two? It could happen. Another example would be relying entirely on your in-house list. Although I believe your in-house email list is one of the strongest assets you can have as a web marketer, you shouldn’t entirely rely on it to support your business. What happens if your current customers start to go elsewhere? What if they simply aren’t buying that month, quarter or year! Again, this happens.

So What Works? How Many Online Marketing Channels are Enough?
The answer to this question completely depends on your specific business, but I can tell you that you should test as many channels as you can to determine their viability. And…test them while your current online marketing channel(s) are humming. You might find that you need to grow your in-house list and that search marketing is the vehicle you will use to accomplish this task. Then you might find that within search marketing, Paid Search yields the most registrants where Organic Search yields the most revenue. Then as you grow you in-house list, you can use email marketing and other communications to build a solid base of revenue per month. You might test Social Media to see how much quality traffic and/or links you can build, which can increase revenue directly (from Social Media traffic) or indirectly (by increasing your link popularity and Organic Search rankings). You might find that banner advertising doesn’t do anything for your business, but that blog advertising does. Then, within blog advertising, you might find that paid bloggers don’t impact revenue, but forming relationships with bloggers in your industry does. You get the gist!

My point is that if you find something that works, but you don’t expand your marketing efforts outside of what works at that point in time, then you are taking a huge long-term risk. Think about it, you probably wouldn’t invest all of your hard earned money in one stock, right? You would probably diversify your investment to lessen your risk. You should follow the same philosophy with online marketing.

A Hypothetical Example
Cookies, Pies and Pastries Inc. (CPPI) launched two years ago and although they have the best homemade pies in the region, their online business has struggled out of the gates. They rely heavily on Organic Search to gain most of their visitors and revenue. Their site has gained a good amount of natural search power since its inception and it ranks for several competitive keywords. They have a small in-house list and most of their customers from search have been one time buyers. They are hitting their revenue goals, but here’s the problem…although Organic Search is a low cost (technically free other than paying for their SEO consultant), search visitors can be extremely transient. Think about it, compare someone who has bought from you in the past versus someone searching for what you provide. There’s a huge difference in the type of visitor, right? Also, your Natural Search rankings might bounce around and you might be on page 1 this week and then on Page 3 the next, only to return to Page 1 a few weeks later. Relying entirely on search traffic isn’t a viable path for CPPI. So, their web marketing consultant recommends that they expand their online marketing efforts to include Paid Search, Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM), and other online marketing campaigns (both on-site and off-site) to increase their in-house list. WOM would leverage their current customers to help get the word out about CPPI’s great homemade pies, Paid Search would be used to increase registrants and revenue, and CPPI will test several online marketing campaigns (both on-site and off-site) to increase the size of their in-house email list. In addition, to keep Organic Search moving in the right direction, their consultant believes they should launch a link-building campaign. One idea is to invest in their blog and use Social Media to gain inbound links. I think you get the idea…

This is just an example, but as you can see, there are several ways to help diversify CPPI’s online marketing channels...and hopefully while they are already hitting their revenue goals. Leveraging one or two channels is downright dangerous and if you are like me, you are a contingency nut. If one channel starts losing its power, you don’t want to be in a dire situation…like trying to do everything I listed above in 2 weeks since revenue dropped off a table! :-)

In closing
So, Mika knows more than you thought about Internet Marketing, huh? I was surprised too. ;-) The next time a teenager turns on a new song, keep your ears open and see if there are any good marketing lessons to learn. You never know, maybe Mika’s tour next year will be in front of corporate executives and not teenagers!


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

WebmarkTrium™ Hits Market - Smart-Pill That Enhances Web Marketing Knowledge

Natural Web Marketing Enhancer

The easiest way to enhance your web marketing knowledge!

Need an edge at work? Want to become a web marketing guru fast? Easily digestible WebmarkTrium™ pills make it a reality!

Instantly increase your knowledge of:

* Search Engine Optimization
* Paid Search
* Social Media
* Word of Mouth Marketing
* Buzz Marketing
* Conversion
* Web Analytics
* Flash and Rich Media
* and dozens of other web technologies!

Please view important safety information before taking WebmarkTrium™.

4 out of 5 doctors agree that taking WebmarkTrium™ along with hiring a highly skilled web marketing consultant can lead to increased profits, likelihood of promotion, increased athleticism, and a longer, happier life.

WebmarkTrium™ is 100% Lactose-Free
and is the First Organic Web Marketing Enhancer
WebmarkTrium™ is Manufactured Without the Use of Animal Testing


Important Safety Information:

1. The most common side effects of WebmarkTrium™ are bloating, wheezing, cramping, and dry mouth. Less commonly occurring reactions include blurred vision, double vision, and severe headache.

2. WebmarkTrium™ may lead to excessive use of banner advertising, including animations that take over a visitor’s entire screen. Please see for examples.

3. Some patients saw decreased search engine rankings, increased search engine penalties, and even search engine banishment in severe cases. Please see Google's Webmaster Guidelines for more information.

4. In some instances, patients experienced hot flashes, profuse sweating, and severe chest pain, especially when taken in conjunction with decreased organic search rankings (Please reference item #3 above).

5. Some delusional behavior may occur, such as believing that Social Media alone will make or break your business. If this occurs, drink 8 tall glasses of water, throw out WebmarkTrium™, and read professional web marketing blogs until symptoms subside. Then reference this primer on SMO for more information.

6. If WebmarkTrium™ is taken on an empty stomach, it may cause excessive frequency of email blasts with poorly crafted subject lines, lack of text content, and ridiculously bad offers. In some cases, abysmal Open, Click Through, and Conversion rates were seen in patients who refuse to scrub their lists.

7. In aggressive marketers, WebmarkTrium™ has been known to cause hostile and frequent spamming of social media sites, which may cause retaliation in the form of attacks on the patient’s website. WebmarkTrium™ is not responsible for server downtime, negative blog posts, or threats from social media users (especially digg users).

8. WebmarkTrium™ may cause extreme nervousness and jitters, especially when accompanied by executive team meetings where patients are required to explain web marketing results. We recommend breathing into a paper bag, drinking exorbitant amounts of green tea, and doing yoga prior to the meeting. If all else fails, try telling jokes in order to deflect any severe criticism and/or termination.

9. Patients may experience feelings of desperation, which may lead to skewed web analytics reporting, especially when reports are generated after failed email campaigns. (Please reference item #6 above.)

10. WebmarkTrium™ has been known to cause duplicate content issues, temporary redirects, extreme use of session variables, and cloaking, especially when taken while implementing website redesigns.

11. Your doctor may choose to start you on lower doses of WebmarkTrium™ if there is a history of unethical use of Word of Mouth Marketing, including paying others to buzz about your products, not revealing the relationship, or in severe cases, faking your own identity and blogging about your own products in a hope that it will drive sales. WebmarkTrium™ may enhance the feeling to conduct unethical WOM.

12. May lead to decreased quality scores, low ROI, and increased click fraud in patients that began the use of WebmarkTrium™ prior to understanding how paid search actually works.

13. Taking WebmarkTrium™ while visiting YouTube may result in the launch of dreadful web video campaigns, shot by a “buddy you know”, with no script, bad actors, horrible lighting, bad audio, shaky footage, and the use of copyrighted music. In some cases, lawsuits follow quickly and aggressively.

14. WebmarkTrium™ may cause some patients to hire agencies based solely on name versus skill-set and actual results.

15. The combination of caffeine and WebmarkTrium™ may cause sleeplessness and fatigue, primarily after launching poorly crafted web marketing campaigns. This was followed by excessive nail biting, fainting, and bouts of nausea.

16. WebmarkTrium™ may also lead to a strong denial that a patient’s products and pricing are actually competitive when all information collected by analysts point to a bad business model and a sinking business.

17. If a patient is new to web marketing and doesn’t understand blogging, WebmarkTrium™ may lead to anonymous blog posts, the faking of identity (infiltration), blog spamming, and other naughty things people shouldn’t do.

18. In “flavor of the month” patients, WebmarkTrium™ may lead to allocation of budget and resources to web video campaign of dancing dog with product dangling from collar. We are not responsible for web video campaigns that tank, injury to animals as the result of WebmarkTrium™, or for customer backlash. Patients are on their own if this occurs…

19. In clinical studies, no difference was seen in patients taking WebmarkTrium™ versus placebo.

20. We cannot guarantee that WebmarkTrium™ will actually increase your web marketing knowledge.

21. OK, don’t use WebmarkTrium™.

I'm Glenn Gabe and I approved this message.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When Website Redesigns Attack! A Gripping Story of Vanishing Search Engine Rankings

When Website Redesigns Attack, Search Engine Rankings Drop
This is a story of a website going full circle, and not in a good way... If you are thinking about redesigning your website and you believe that search traffic is important to your business, then this post is for you. Read on...

First, my purpose is not to focus on the company or website I refer to below, but to focus on the concept of redesigning a website without fully understanding the impact it will have on natural search. This is not a rare unfortunately happens all of the time.

Help, Google Doesn't Like Us!
Almost two years ago, I assisted a company that hit rock bottom from an organic search standpoint. They went through a complete website redesign and started to notice that their search engine rankings dropped off of a table. This had gone on for about a year prior to my showing up. The first thing the CEO asked me to do (and the term "ask" is being nice..) was to get the site ranking in the search engines as quickly as possible. The site was essentially non-existent in the engines and nobody at the company knew why. The site was a Pagerank 0, with old content indexed in Google, and the site wasn't ranking for any competitive keywords. So, I was handed a budget and launched a major SEO initiative to turn things around. After making significant changes to the site architecture, content, and navigation, we went live with a new codebase. Four months later, the site had over 65,000 pages indexed in Google, earned a Pagerank 7, and began ranking for dozens of competitive keywords, including hundreds of long tail terms. The site did a 180 and was humming from a natural search standpoint. I wish the story ended here...

Flash Forward to Today...
I noticed that the site was recently redesigned again. It was actually more of a refresh than a redesign. As I browsed the site, it didn't take long for me to notice some serious problems... Some of the most important changes that were made for organic search were now gone. Important keywords were missing from the site, title tags weren't optimized on key landing pages, and I could tell that nobody focused on SEO when mapping out the redesign. Uh oh. So I started testing some competitive keywords that the site was once ranking for...the site was no longer ranking for them... So, what will happen to some of their natural search traffic? Well, it will probably go to a competitor's website.

The Danger of the Website Redesign
I'd love to say that this is a rare occurrence, but it's not. When redesigning a website, it's critically important to have key people from a wide range of roles involved during the process. This starts with the web marketing team to map out the strategy and blueprint for the redesign. Then, the programmers and designers should be involved in the storyboard and prototype process. Also, you should include any specialists along the way, like search specialists and rich media specialists to ensure the entire project will go smoothly and achieve the goals of the redesign.

Don't Skimp Over Strategy
Sometimes (ok, often), the strategy piece is briefly completed and the designers and programmers run with the latest and greatest technology to wow visitors (or worse, to gain experience with new technology). When this happens (from a search standpoint) search rankings tend to go down. For example, that really cool, dynamic navigation isn't being indexed by Google, the new code is so smart that it's 302 redirecting visitors all over the place, and someone forgot to add descriptive title tags, description tags, and descriptive links on the site.

So, What Should You Do?
If you are planning a redesign, ensure you use a structured approach that includes key people from a wide range of roles in the process. This is one of the reasons I truly believe in Persuasion Architecture. Your web strategy is fully mapped out prior to designers and programmers getting involved.

My guess is that the CEO will pick up on the lower traffic levels and start asking questions. I wouldn't want to be in the room when that happens. :-()


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Monday, January 22, 2007

Website Optimization, Bounce Rate, and Conversion Rate

I just read an article about Click Fraud by Daniel Jupp, and although I thought it was a good article about the problem, there was a bullet that I would like to elaborate on. In the final section of the article, Daniel says:

"Website traffic analysis software can help identify what visitors are doing when they arrive at your site. If the software indicates that a large number of visitors are arriving at the home page, not going anywhere else and leaving the site very quickly, this is a good indicator that click fraud is taking place. Again, this data can be saved and reported to the search portal. "

Here's my point. I help companies build and execute their web marketing strategies and website optimization is a big part of my job. This includes landing page optimization, email optimization, paid search optimization, etc. I aim to increase conversion, period. Anyway, the part about checking your web analytics application to notice high bounce rates on your homepage struck me as odd.

First, if you are driving people to your homepage via paid search, then you should reevaluate your campaign strategy. I know this is a necessity sometimes if you lack the resources necessary to build custom landing pages, but to think that a high bounce rate on your homepage means you are experiencing Click Fraud is a stretch! There are so many websites out there that are not optimized properly to meet customer expectations (and to ultimately increase conversion). And I'm not talking about small websites without marketing budgets... There are three large scale websites in particular that I have worked with over the past 18 months that see over an 18% bounce rate on their homepage. And yes, I am working on that... So, if a website has 400,000 visitors per month, they are seeing 864,000 people per year leave without taking another step... Just imagine the revenue bump if you converted even a small percentage of those visitors. For example, if you converted .5% of those visitors that bounce and your average sale is $50, that's $216,000 in revenue.

Landing Pages Are Crucial to the Success of Your Campaign
Back to my point, when launching any type of online marketing campaign, a landing page is crucial. Think about it, imagine wanting to buy a Jeep Commander, finding a dealership, walking in, only to have the salesperson dump you on a lot filled with 1000 cars and only some of the them are Commanders. If you have a large e-commerce site, then that's exactly what you are doing if you send prospects to your homepage from a paid search campaign or email. The landing page should be tailored to convert that prospect, period. It should include all of the information that the person needs to move forward in the buying process. What's on the landing page completely depends on your product and company, but be specific, be brief, and provide clear calls to action.

In closing, high bounce rates on your homepage do not necessarily mean you are falling prey to Click Fraud... It might very well mean that you aren't driving people to the right place or that your homepage isn't part of your persuasive selling system! Don't spend all of your time on the external factors of a campaign (the creative, the blast, the keyword research, etc.) You should also think about where you are sending them. In my experience, too many companies are still a few years behind when it comes to website optimization, using landing pages properly, and enhancing conversion via scientific marketing.


PS A quick analogy...I have a 3 year old daughter and she loves watching "Far Far Far Away Idol" at the end of Shrek 2 (a parody of American Idol and with all of the creatures from Shrek). The performances were extremely well thought out, well written, and well executed by the animators. Each contestant was hilarious in their rendition of the popular song...there is even an appearance by Simon Cowell. Then the winner is announced and the entire scene falls flat... It was apparent that they ran out of time during the production of the segment. It just doesn't feel right, my daughter even looks disappointed, and you're left with a feeling of "that's it??" I couldn't help but think that this is a great analogy to sending someone to an un-optimized page on your website via an online marketing campaign. So, be sure to think of Shrek 2 when mapping out your next marketing campaign! ;-)

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Monday, January 01, 2007

SEO and ROI - Return on Investment of Search Engine Optimization

In addition to rich media marketing, wom and buzz, I've been heavily working on SEO and SEM projects over the past several years. It's an exciting area of online marketing and the SEO part has been enlightening. (It's also fun, which is an added benefit!) That said, I've had several executives ask me, "What would be the return on investment (ROI) for launching an SEO initiative for my business?" That's not an easy question to answer and one that cannot be answered in a short amount of time. There is a lot of work to be done up front before you can even attempt to answer that question, from performing a thorough SEO assessment to keyword research to mapping out technical changes to analyzing the competitive landscape. Then, you might find out that the website needs to be revamped before any significant changes can take place. For example, if a site lacks a robust text navigation, which will enable each page to be properly accessed and indexed, then you've got some technical hurdles to overcome (especially before telling a CEO that he can expect a 250% SEO ROI).

When it comes to hard ROI (revenue-driven), you need a robust web analytics program that provides detailed reporting on your SEO initiative. I've been working extensively with Coremetrics recently and I can tell that it does a phenomenal job at tracking your organic listings. Once in the application, just click through to "Natural Search" and you are given a drilldown into your organic terms broken down by search engine, conversion rate, sessions, sales, orders, and new visitors. That alone would make most executives happy. I've been part of enough internet marketing strategy meetings to know that everyone thinks a given set of organic terms are their "money" terms. With Coremetrics, you can call them on it! The report I am looking at right now has 120 pages of organic terms, sorted by revenue. Drill down into a given term and you can see the search engines that visitors came from, and then you can select the terms for trending. Click the trending report and you can see revenue over time for the selected keywords. Now give that report to someone who thinks their terms rule! :-) I guess my point is that you don't have to guess anymore. When starting an SEO initiative (or any online marketing initiative for that matter), the first thing you need to do is to get your web analytics situation in order. Without it, you are flying blind.

More Detail on Organic Search Analytics in Coremetrics:
There's more to learn in Coremetrics than what I listed above. Using Clickstream reporting, you can take a hard look at pages that rank highly for organic terms. Run a clickstream report and you can see where people are going after visiting that page. This will enable you to notice trends in visitor behavior, which can help you increase conversion on your e-commerce website. For example, if you saw that one page is ranking highly for a competitive keyword, then you could set up a clickstream report to see where visitors go after hitting that page. You can keep drilling down to see where the highest abandonment takes place (where people leave your site). Maybe there is a flaw in your navigation, calls to action, or creative.

The Obvious Benefit:
Well, the completely obvious benefit of using a robust web analytics program to analyze organic search is that you get to see all of the keywords that visitors are entering to get to your site. I'll bet you had no idea that you ranked well for some of those keywords. Then you can take a look at your site to see why that is, tweak other pages to rank higher, and to help your SEM campaigns (like turning off keywords you are paying for in AdWords or YSM when you rank organically for them!) Don't laugh, this happens more than you think...

In closing, SEO shouldn't be solely about ranking for keywords (even though it is fun to see a website start to rank highly), it should be about the return on investment of the project. Set up your analytics, track your natural search terms, and document everything. Then you can show off your cool rankings, but back them up with hard numbers...and dollar signs!


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Monday, August 14, 2006

Too Slick for Search?

First, a disclaimer: I am a huge advocate of using Rich Media to sell products and services, I love developing flash-based, interactive solutions for my clients, and I have even developed my own Rich Media products, heck, I'm Mr. Rich Media! That said, I have spent an enormous amount of time over the past two years working on search marketing initiatives (in conjunction with my Rich Media solutions). I know the power of Rich Media Marketing, but I also know the power of Search Engine Optimization. Now that I've got that off my chest, let's move on to my post!

When you need to build an interactive and engaging environment on the web, there is nothing better than flash. I started using flash 9 years ago, when it was a fledgling vector button program for Director, so I've had the ability to watch flash grow, and grow, and grow into the Object Oriented environment it is now... The problem with flash is that it cannot be indexed by the search engines. Go ahead and run a cache command in Google on a full flash site, and then click "click here for cached text only", and you will probably see a blank screen. Needless to say, this isn't good if you want people to find you via search. So, what can you do if there is definitely a need for using flash, but you also want the site to rank in the search engines? The answer lies in creating a hybrid site that uses flash elements, but within an html structure.

Here's an example...One of my clients absolutely needed a slick, eye-grabbing site that promoted their consumer goods product. The site needed to be engaging, but it also needed the ability to educate visitors and provide value added content that would help them understand the core benefits of the product. This was a perfect situation for developing a hybrid website. The core site is an html layout, that provides areas for html text. There is also a text navigation (which provides links to each webpage on the site using descriptive text.) The focus area of each section was developed in flash and provides highly interactive ways to get at more information. For example, you can roll over the product images to trigger a description, testimonials, and research from the industry. Forward to a friend was also built into each section. So, I used flash and html where both would be most powerful. The end-result is a highly engaging hybrid site that also ranks well in the search engines.

I'm all for creating ultra-creative solutions that engage your visitors, but you better believe that I want those same visitors to be able to find you on Google... In my experience, creating a hybrid website using both Flash and html works extremely well.

So, if you want to use Flash, but still rank in the engines, keep these pointers in mind:

* Don't develop full flash sites (without areas for html) If you need the power of flash, create a hybrid site so you can still add html content
* Don't use a flash navigation...always use a text navigation and use descriptive text
* And definitely do not develop a flash site that mimics an html site...then you are completely losing out on the benefits of both methods...

My final words...go ahead and craft highly engaging flash environments, but make sure you leave ample space for html text. Your clients will appreciate it, especially when they get thousands of incremental visitors each month from Google!

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