Search Engine Optimization

Google Removes Right Side Ads
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Google Removes Right Side Ads, Marketers Lose Their Collective Minds

It’s been quite a few weeks in the world of Paid Search Marketing. Google recently announced, and carried out, removal of their right side of the page pay per click ads. In the weeks that followed the intertubes were full of doomsday, the sky is falling predictions. We take a more measured approach, and here is what we think it means for paid search marketing in the near future.

A Little Perspective

The right side and bottom of page results only accounted for 14.6% of the clicks in January 2016. So we are talking about losing only a segment of those clicks. BUT added a listing up top, and are now showing more ad extensions in the results pages. (Stat via WordStream)

Non Technical Users are the Biggest Losers

There is still a large contingent of search engine users that aren’t aware that their are paid ads at the top of search engine results pages. It was much clearer that the right side listings were in fact ads. These non-technical users now have one more listing above the fold in most cases, and they probably still won’t notice the difference. But that might mean…

Paid Search Advertisers are the Biggest Winners

At least regarding these non-technical users. More ads up top, and less on the side, could mean more users click on our advertisements instead. And after all, that is one of our main goals. So this could be a net win.

SEO Becomes a Little More Problematic

As if the larger companies, national brands and directory sites weren’t making it hard enough to rank on the first results page organically, now there is one less spot available in the organic listings. Add to this the one additional paid listing at the top pushing organic results further below the fold and our jobs in search engine optimization just got a little bit more complicated.

Campaign Focus Just Got Even More Important

Targeting and campaign specificity just got more critical to running profitable paid search programs. If you haven’t been running more specific campaigns rather than fewer high volume general campaigns now is the time to make the switch. Better optimization means better performance. Time to get on the train.

A Hidden Opportunity?

It’s certainly possible we’ll see an increase in cost per click across the board. Or, we may end up weeding out some of the less sophisticated competition that is currently driving up cost. These exits from the competitive landscape could be just what the rest of us need to better break through the noise.

So it looks like a mixed bag in terms of results. Hopefully we’ll see the fallout start to take shape over the next few months. If you see changes in your program that you think are related to the change, please let us know!

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Search Engine Optimization

Measure Wisely – All Page One Keyword Rankings are Not Equal

How do you manage your search engine keyword rankings? Do you track your top keyword rankings in Google each month or do you rely on keyword referral traffic reports from your web site analytics? While anecdotal information can be gleaned from increases in referral traffic for a particular keyword you may miss a lot of useful information if you stop there.

Studying where you are ranked and movements in your rankings can tell you a great deal about your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Ranking movement can tell you if your latest web site edit had a positive or negative effect on your keyword rankings. New rankings tell you if a new program has been successful.

Reviewing your keyword listing for the information that displays could make the difference between a few extra visitors and a deluge of traffic. If your listing doesn’t work toward inducing a click you are losing business.

The page that is ranked becomes your landing page. Does the page give you the best chance of converting the visitor or does it need improvement? What is the bounce rate, exit rate and conversion rate of the page? If you are using Google Analytics be sure to create a goal and funnel. Find out where your visitors are joining or leaving your conversion funnel.

Knowing these things about your listings will help you maximize conversions and profits, and get big raises!

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Search Engine Optimization

Of Relevance and Intent – Choose Your Keywords Wisely

Looking to optimize your web site in an effort to generate higher keyword rankings? Before you commit to a single change you will need to do some work. The first step is to do your keyword research.

Look at your web site analytics. Learn what words and phrases your customers use to find you in search engines. Have on site search? Mine your search logs to see what keywords visitors use to search your site.

Research the amount of competition for your top keywords. Pull up your top ten competitor web sites. In your browser go to view>source. Scan the source code for the keyword meta tag in between the <head> tags at the top of the page. What keywords are they targeting? Look at their major product or service pages. What words are used for titles, bread crumbs and navigation links?

Once you have compiled your keyword list research the number of competitors being listed for each term. Type them into Google, Yahoo and Bing. Use this information to further refine your list so you are targeting the most attainable keywords.

Take your refined list review each keyword and assign it number for relevance. Use this scale to flush out the phrases most relevant to your business. If you sell cars than ‘car dealership’ is much more relevant than ‘car club’ or ‘car service’. Challenge yourself to keep only the most relevant keywords in your list.

Finally categorize the keywords by intent. Think about the difference in intent between someone searching for ‘shoes’ and someone searching for ‘pink crocks on sale’. A search for ‘shoes’ is general and informational in intent whereas the more specific search demonstrates a purchase intent. Each intent necessitates a different strategy and will have a different definition of success.

You should now be ready to begin incorporating your keywords into your web site optimization strategies. Keep in mind to revisit your keywords and web site search engine optimization strategies regularly.

 

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Search Engine Optimization

Trust but verify. Look at your web site code for telltale signs of disaster.

Earlier this year a local investor and media relations firm hired me to answer one question. Why after spending $30,000 in two years on their web site were they unable to attract organic search engine traffic?

I pulled up the web site and viewed the source code. It took me only ten seconds to find the answer. The developers had constructed the site in such a way that the content would display in a visitors browser but was not being written into the code of the page where search engine spiders look to gather it up. When the search engine visited it found nothing more than a few instructions and some structural code. No navigation. No content.

A horrifying development for my client. But I see this type of thing all the time. Programmers by nature are trained to develop by writing code. They are not generally trained in SEO, usability, conversion or other essential components of online marketing. This is no dig on developers. Simply the reality of our educational institutions.

The good news here is once it was brought to the developers attention it wasn’t a very hard fix. But the implications are huge for any business when this happens. Now that we fixed the issue and applied a healthy dose of SEO strategies they company is enjoying a ranking surge including page one’s in Yahoo and Google.

Go to your web site right now. In your browser menu find view>source. What do you see?

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Search Engine Optimization

Google Classifies Subdomains as Internal Links

Website Magazine reported yesterday that Google is now making a major change to it’s secret formula. This can have a fairly large impact to web site optimizers around the country.

Subdomains will now be classified as internal links. This should reduce the amount of link juice that a link from say your blog to your web site.

Website Magazine states “if you benefited heavily from subdomian links to your primary site in the past, the good times may now be coming to an end.”

Visit Website Magazine to read the full article.

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Search Engine Optimization

Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
by Daryl Eames.

Each web site starts as a house on a mountain. There are no inroads to your site from the fragmented places around the Internet. Your target market is congregating in various related and relevant places around the web looking for you. Problem is, you probably aren’t there to be found.

One resource used to solve this problem is the search engine. Consider search engines as a system of inroads from those fragmented places to our web site on the mountain. However, to be found we must achieve keyword rankings and get our content indexed. One tool used to accomplish that is search engine optimization. We create programs that help build highways from the search engines to our home on the web.

The term Search Engine Optimization is often misused. Common understanding is that SEO is a matter of Web site factors such as content, alt tags or site maps. Although important the truth is off-site and usability factors must also be taken into consideration.

It is also a bit of a limited term, as people understand it simply related to improved keyword rankings. This ignores the realities of the methods that are used to optimize and drive those keyword rankings. The goal becomes much broader than just keyword rankings. The true goal becomes to increase our exposure across the Internet and to build inroads to your web presence from the fragmented areas where your customers are congregating. Remember, Search Engines are only responsible for delivering a small percentage of traffic. Shopping engines, professional and social networks are also driving traffic. The key is that the two are dependent on each other!

Restated, SEO is a battle of words and word association. The goal of which is to increase exposure, drive more traffic, increase Search Engine Results Page (SERP)  and site usability and improve organic keyword rankings. These goals increase the scope of what SEO is and how it is truly applied to Internet marketing programs bringing it into the realm of not only content, but design, coding, domain, outside content, other web sites across the internet and more.

SEO vs. PPC

SEO and organic keyword rankings do not exist on an island. Keyword research must be done to determine not only relevant keywords to target, but also where those keywords fall on the traffic and cost matrix.

Some differences between the two are SEO is long-term and requires up front effort but pays like an annuity. Once you achieve a ranking it requires less work to maintain it and you reap the benefits for years. PPC is instantaneous; you can bid to any position you wish and has more straightforward options for control. However, the cost for keywords is ever increasing and once you stop paying you lose any rankings and traffic you had.

Since SEO is a long-term strategy that pays like an annuity, we need to determine the keywords that have a high level of traffic and high cost, but a lower conversion rate. These are the terms we want to earn through optimization programs. We also want to earn the low hanging fruit of low traffic, low cost, high converting terms. But since PPC is instant and less expensive for those terms we want to craft a program that compliments our ongoing organic efforts. Once we rank for the high cost, low converting terms we can turn our attention to the lower cost, higher converting terms.

How Does a Search Engine Determine Who and What You Are?

To understand the search engine it is important to understand their goals. Google has stated it wants to index the world’s information. To what end? To the end of remaining the largest, most popular and most profitable search engine. To accomplish this they must have the largest amount of information and present the most relevant results to each searcher.

Search engines use a fancy equation, called an algorithm, to figure out who you are, that you are what you say you are, and how users react to your content to determine what words and what rankings you are going to receive. It is not a 2+2=4 type of equation. It is a synergistic effect, with each data point multiplying the result instead of just adding to it.

Since the search engines do not share information about their algorithms, we must extrapolate and test to determine what key data points they use. We must also determine which of those data points are things we can actually control. From there, we craft programs that play to those strengths.

Some data points include site factors such as:
·    Domain name
·    # Years domain in operation.
·    # Years domain purchased.
·    Site traffic.
·    Click thru %.
·    Page drills.
·    Time-on-site.
·    Actions or conversions.
·    Site structure.

Some page factors include:
·    Page dates.
·    Text navigation.
·    Links and link structure.
·    Content.
·    Page names.
·    Keyword proximity/density.

Some code factors include:
·    Meta tag information.
·    Tagging (H tags etc).
·    Technology used (flash/images).
·    Code format/cleanliness.

Some off-site factors include:
·    Inbound links.

·    Write-ups.
·    Comments.
·    Reviews.
·    Press releases.
·    Reciprocal links.

What might an algorithm look like? Let’s put this in perspective. A simplified version might look something like this.
Page name @ 2% + # inbound links @ 8% + page dates @1% X content @10% = Keyword ranking.

The equation is run each time a search is performed for a keyword.

How Do We Measure and Cost Justify SEO?

The first step is to understand that SEO impacts almost every area of a web site. How far a user drills down into your site, how many pages they view, how long they stay and whether they convert to a lead or a sale are areas of site usability. Let’s also remember that searchers must use the SERP pages. How our listing displays is integral to the success or failure of a ranking. Is it clear and concise, relevant and contain a call to action or alternate contact method?

As a result we must first get an accurate, up to date picture of how users are coming to visit a site, where they are coming from, what they are searching for to find the site externally and once they get to the site (internal search), and what actions they are taking once at the site. We must demonstrate that more keywords are getting ranked, that those rankings are drawing more visitors, that programs are driving more traffic, and that changes are improving the way searchers use the site.

Some important metrics include how many keywords are ranked, what % of traffic is from the engines, what % of traffic comes from referring sites and what kind of sites they are. How is the site performing in drill down depth, time-on-site, conversion, pages indexed, bounce/exit rates, search to call and much more. We also need to identify what a visitor/lead/conversion is worth to a particular customer. Once identified we have the tools to measure and cost justify programs and improvements.

Where Do We Start an SEO Program?
Keyword research. Before any program begins we must do comprehensive keyword research to determine what the relevant keywords are, what the long and short tail keywords are, how much competition there is, how many searches are being done for a term, how the terms convert and what methods competitors might be using to achieve their rankings.

The next step is to organize these keywords into two groups. SEO and PPC (short-tail and long-tail) while considering what terms we are ranked for and which we are not. From there we analyze rankings and traffic levels to get our baseline.

Next we need to do a site review to determine coding, on-page, content and site factors that are currently in place.

Once that is accomplished we are ready to answer the question, what do all these things look like in terms of programs and implementations?

Programs might include new site navigation methods, blogs, external site reviews, press releases, articles, email re-posting, content building, knowledge centers and link partnerships. They also include new or improved usability methods and site usability/conversion programs. Design and implementation will be different for each client, depending on their resources and comfort level with various technologies and programs.

Keep in mind, it is not just that you implement programs. How they are implemented and work together is everything!

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