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November 22 2010

7 Online Marketing Metrics to Beat Competition Online

Competition on the web is fierce.  Companies just like yours are trying to rank on the first page of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Some businesses rely on consultants, SEO firms or Pay-Per-Click ads to try and get placement in front of the right audiences. If you practice inbound marketing, you know that creating, optimizing and promoting high quality content can help you improve your search rankings. But how do you know what a good benchmark is — or how much work you need to do to move ahead of the pack?

The list of data you could gather is endless, but there are a few key online metrics that can give you a clear idea of where your website stands relative to the competition and what you can do to be on top.

HubSpot Competitors Report

The chart above, featuring a few of HubSpot's own websites, combines the key metrics you should consider as you develop benchmarks for your inbound marketing strategy:

1) Website Grade

This is an overall grade provided by HubSpot’s Website Grader that measures a site’s overall SEO readiness, including a scan for keywords, conversion forms and more. On a scale of 1 to 100, 100 being best, your website grade gives you a snapshot of your overall effectiveness in getting traffic to your site based on inbound marketing best practices.

2) Moz Rank

 This score from 1 to 10, 10 being best, is provided by SEOMoz and measures link authority and popularity. High quantity and quality inbound links are key to improving your rankings in most search engines.

3) Traffic Rank

 The lower this number the better. A ranking from Alexa, this is an indication of how much traffic your site gets compared to all other sites on the Web. If you ranked #1, you’d be the most popular site in the world. Your goal is to have a rank lower than your competition. One way to get similar data online is to check out your Compete rankings.

4) Blog Grade

On a scale from 1 to 100, your blog grade is based on the level of traffic your blog receives and the quality and quantity of links pointing to it. Compiled by HubSpot’s Blog Grader, this report will provide you with actionable recommendations to improve your blog's effectiveness.

5) Inbound Links

This often overlooked metric is one of the strongest indicators of your potential online rank. An inbound link is like an online vote for your content and site: the more votes you accumulate, the more attention search engines give you. To beat your competition online, you need to build more inbound links with higher quality. You retrieve such data from public sources, like Yahoo’s Site Explorer.

6) Indexed Pages

This simple metric indicates how many pages the search engines think you have. (Sometimes, based on your site structure, you might have more pages than they index.) More indexed pages generally means more content and more chances to build links and rank online. If your competition is blowing you out of the way on the other metrics, you can be almost certain they have a lot more pages. One of the ways you can easily create more pages is through blogging — every blog article is a new page and a new opportunity to rank for a valuable keyword by providing remarkable content to your audiences.

7) Keywords in Top 100

This is an approximate count of the number of keywords on your or your competitors' sites that rank in the top 100 search results.  That means you are showing up within the first 10 pages. The higher the count, the better, because it means you get more chances to attract qualified visitors to your site.

Is there a competitor that’s beating you in online rankings? 

Do a little research to find out why and then develop an inbound marketing strategy to improve your position and start winning more visitors, leads and sales online. You can do the work of getting a lot of these stats from the different tools mentioned above — or, consider getting a quick benchmark by using HubSpot’s free 30 Day Trial to get your own Competitors Report.

Sign Up for HubSpot's Free 30-Day Trial!

HubSpot 30-day Free Trial

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Managing Huge PPC Campaigns? Try These Best Practices

Reading search marketing advice, you will find an abundance of information about best-practices that are easy to apply to a campaign or ad group level. Common best practices such as keeping ad-groups small and targeted, with relevant and keyword specific ad-copy have demonstrated great results....

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Content Strategy: the Art of Engaging Your User

Today’s Technology Positions for Tomorrow — Part One: Content Strategy

Kirsten WeisenburgerThis is the first article in a series about emerging positions in technology, which explores the philosophies behind the creation of these positions, how they inform our futures, and practical ways their principles can be executed in any organization to better position it for the future.

Kirsten Weisenburger is the Content Strategist at stresslimit design, the young Hochelaga-Maisonneuve web design and digital media agency where good work is the result of good play. Sitting at her desk in the unassuming residence-style office space on the edge of town, Kirsten sits at the precipice of developing web technologies, surrounded by young faces, fresh ideas, and a new attitude toward work that is shaping up to be the future of innovation everywhere. We sat down over tea to discuss content strategy, how its principles help anyone writing content anywhere, and the philosophy behind the rise of this field that is part of the larger shift in technological development forcing all of us to change the way we design, deploy, and dream.

“Oh my God, it’s all about the people.”

With over ten years working in the web, and a recent two year stint at Mitch Joel’s Twist Image, Kirsten is no stranger to innovative digital marketing and advertising. And however fascinating this space has become with our unrelenting advancements in web technologies, Kirsten still describes herself as a facilitator and enabler of people, not technology. “The Internet is all about human relationships…what we often find is that the human touch is exactly what’s needed to take a project to the next level. We’ve got the infrastructure, and we’ve got a client that has needs, and we’ve got ideas, but how to actually get that to a point where human beings can play with it and enjoy it? Creating that engagement is what makes all the difference between an interface and a community.”

“The Art of Engaging Your User”

Content strategy ensures that “business goals do not interfere with what the customer wants to experience.” This includes all points throughout the content lifecycle, from conception to birth to development to care to post mortem. Behind the scenes, content strategists can be responsible for the development of personas, which is a way of further segmenting a targeted market by creating imagined characters to visualize the different types of users who would engage you in a like manner. Content strategists can also lead or consult interface design, the tone and manner of content, and how content is integrated throughout a campaign. And as she runs from post to post conducting audits, rewriting copy, or even specing new sites, she sees her plight under a unified mantra: “what I really do is just get inside the head of the user.”
While most of us may never have the opportunity or the stomach for this kind of work full-time, the ever-increasing majority of our community has to create content somewhere. Good content strategy teaches us to remember the real reason we are creating that content in the first place. Here are Kirsten’s three biggest roadblocks to achieving the real objective of engaging today’s user.

Roadblock 1: Narcissism

“The number one problem I still see all the time is a website that’s all about itself. It’s all about this is what we do and this is what we make and this is what we have. Nothing about you. Nothing about what you want or what you’re interested in, or even why you’re here at all on the website. People are self-involved, but what’s more, they want a transparent experience. They don’t want a whole bunch of stuff between themselves and what they want.”

Copy. Images. Navigation. Is it all user-facing? Is it easy for and does it speak to the need of the user that is on your website? However amazing you find yourself or your product or service to be, whatever content you are producing for whatever means to whatever audience, it’s always one website (or other medium) talking to one human being.

Roadblock 2: Content Overload

“If you’re a business, or even if you’re a social media website or a community, people are not going to read much. They are going to scan.”
Take a bulk of copy, break it into bits, put it on multiple pages, make it scannable, and flip it around so it’s talking to the reader instead of just about you. “That’s exactly how you respect your user, by taking a web property and turning it into an experience that’s pleasurable and interesting.” And as far as search engines, quality copy will always trump quantity in the long run.

Roadblock 3: Isolation

“People build a website. They put it on their server. And they maybe promote it a little bit at first, and they just leave it like a ghost ship floating out there in the middle of nowhere. There’s no effort. Even a blog sometimes … there’s no back and forth. It’s a very small subset of the web community that understands the community side of things. 80% of people involved in marketing or the web pay lip service to social media, but they don’t actually use it.”

“If you can put a face and a name and a character and a voice behind your organization and make it sing and talk to everybody, it’s lovely. Otherwise your website is just this cold thing that you have to update every four years, and it’s just a chore when it could be a living entity that’s actually communicating and listening.”

“It takes more effort to talk in your fake marketing voice.”

“In the internet marketing community, there are people who are actually out there having conversations and having really meaningful experiences, but there is a whole other subset of the internet marketing community that is pretending to have conversations for the pure marketing value of it.”
It hasn’t clicked yet for many marketers that speaking truthfully is the new way to market yourself. Tell us something real about who you are and what you care about.

Trust = reliability + delight

In his book, The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier talks about delight as half of the formula for building trust, the key factor in influencing a person’s buying decision. Stresslimit design, Kirsten’s employer, has made a living off of this principle. Beauty and playfulness are the main objectives for this team of nearly a dozen, many of whom are both full-time artists as well as full-time web people. Innovation stemming from Montreal’s artistically-inclined culture is what will give this city the leg-up on the next wave of web development. As technology pushes our culture into a more open, collaborative, and instantaneous era, we know everything already. Differentiation is in delight. Delight is in beauty, inspiration, and engagement. Art.

“Play.”

Before they’re old enough for school, kids are learning the most essential elements of existence, such as motor skills, spatial awareness, and communication through play. At some point the knowledge became too complex for us to teach it to our offspring playfully, and school was invented. (Or at least, that’s my theory.) The real point is that technology is reaching a position where we can educate ourselves and our children in a way that truly engages the curiosity of the human spirit: through play. Customers are starting to realize it too. And the organizations who are not able to truly grasp this massive shift in culture and the way it is changing the face of business processes such as marketing (especially social media!), will continue to find themselves keeping agencies like stresslimit in business.

Next week: Evangelism

My name is Christopher Pineda and I am determined to change the world. I am a part-time consultant for Embrase Business Consulting and a full-time knowledge sponge. I want to identify the bigger pictures and find the truth in our society, because it’s the only way to understand the human spirit and innovate business into something that truly addresses what we need. Now welcoming suggestions.

November 19 2010

SEO 101: Top 3 On-Page SEO Elements that You MUST Control

Search engine optimization, SEO, used to be the domain of internet experts and marketing agencies – but that hasn’t been true since at least 2005.  The keys to getting found online are at the fingertips of most small businesses and some don’t even know it! 

Here’s a list of the Top 3 website components you MUST control to effectively target qualified online traffic.  Most modern website creation tools, or content management systems (CMS), can empower you to control these elements without technical or coding skills.  These tips are all about the content on your page - we'll discuss Inbound Link 101 - a very powerful SEO element in a future post.

1) URL

The most powerful signal a page can send to search engines is it’s unique identifier or URL.  Since the URL automatically includes your domain name, which should be keyword- or brand- centric, you should complete it with the top one or two words the identify what is on the page.

For example, if I have a bed and breakfast called Kirsten’s Inn with a domain name of www.kirstensinn.com I can use URLs within the site to guide search engines and users alike.

URL1: www.kirstensinn.com/p2riss21qx vs.

URL 2: www.kirstensinn.com/room-rates

While the first URL is gobblydygook that calls out where the page can be found, it doesn’t give a human or a search engine any insight into what this page is about.  The second URL instead makes it obvious that you can find pricing details on this page, making it easier and faster for people to find what they want.  Most modern content management systems allow you to control your URL with simple editors that give you control over the properties of your web pages.

Custom URLs via HubSpot

2) Page Title

Second only to URL is your page title.  This is the block of text that shows up in the top of a browser window anytime someone clicks on the URL. 

HubSpot Page TitleMany companies make the mistake of wasting their page title by repeating their brand name and generic descriptors when, in fact, you have a chance of improving your SEO with this small snippet.

Using the same example, let’s suppose that Kirsten’s Inn has a page about our gourmet breakfasts.  What do you think about these two page titles?

PAGE TITLE 1: Kirsten’s Inn Breakfast vs.

PAGE TITLE 2: Gourmet Full Breakfast Included, Fresh Menu Daily

With the second page title, my inn has the chance to rank well on terms like 'Gourmet' and 'Breakfast' or 'Full Breakfast' which travelers might be entering into search engines.

3) Headers – H1, H2, etc

Just like headings and bolded text in books or on menus, headers on a web page provide visual and contextual clues to your readers about the content that follows.  These headers let a reader skim the page to get to the content they value.  For that reason, search engines weigh header text more than the remaining content on your page.

But just because some bolded words look like a "heading" to humans doesn't mean they look that way to the search engines. There is a special way to "tag" words on your pages so they look like headings to search engines when they crawl your page.  Most modern CMSs will let you format your text to look like a header to the search engines.  So, when writing headings for your pages, use target keywords and keep the headings as short as possible so that your target keywords get maximum weight.

For example, if I were creating that breakfast menu page for Kirsten’s Inn – I might use the following as my headers:

H1 (main header text): Gourmet Breakfast Menu

H2 (secondary headers, less SEO weight):

  • Eggs and Hearty Breakfast Entrees
  • Fresh Baked Breads and Pastries
  • Coffee, Tea and Juices

Header Tagging via HubSpot

BONUS!  Not to be underestimated is the rest of the impact that your content, including images, has on your on-page SEO results.  So always be sure to write with your audience and their likely searches in mind.  Anytime you have an image, be sure to include ‘alt-text’, or text that describes the image so that search engines know the focus of your page. 

As a small business owner, start 2011 off right by taking control of and optimizing the content on your site.  Once you’ve done that – you’re sending the right signals to the search engines about what people will find on your site and you’ll be ready to move onto more advanced SEO tactics using inbound link strategy.

If you don’t have control over your site today – think about how you can get that control.  That might mean working more closely with your current provider, designer or switching over to a content management system that gives you direct control over your website; that includes tools like HubSpot, Wordpress, SquareSpace or Drupal and Joomla if you are pretty tech savvy.

Do you have control over your site and on-page SEO today?  If not, what do you plan to do about it?

Free Download - Improving SEO: A Practical Guide

Free Download

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November 18 2010

Building a Monthly SEO Action Plan! - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Aaron Wheeler

 Feeling lost or listless, like your head is in the sand? It's clear what you need: a monthly action plan! What with all the resources available to SEOs these days, it can be hard to stay on track and maintain a campaign without getting bogged down in minutia and losing track of the big picture. Well, for this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand is here to help! Just as Superman needs to vacuum the Fortress once a month, SEOs need to make sure they check up on their campaigns regularly by reviewing their diagnostics and metrics and researching their keywords and link profiles. It's like being Superman, but more fun! Unless you like vacuuming.

Embed video
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Video Transcription

This week we're going to be talking about building a monthly SEO action plan. You can see we've got lots of action graphics up here. It even says "more action" on both sides. So, you know it's going to be very actionable.

Basically, Danny Dover, who does SEO for us here at SEOmoz, and I were kind of talking about how a lot of folks in the sphere, eventually you get to this point where you've kind of fixed a lot of the problems that exist on the site, taken care of some of those missed opportunities, and you're more in the groove with SEO. Now, you're thinking, how do I build, how do I expand, how do I go beyond? What's my kind of monthly to-do list as an SEO? This action plan is here to help.

Step one, we're starting with some diagnostic stuff. At the beginning of every month, or depending on your lifecycle of doing this type of work it could be every week, you want to be running some diagnostics. I mean diagnostics like error checking and looking for problems and opportunities in your site. Things like, oh, we have these pages that 404. We blocked these pages with robots.txt. These are 302 redirects instead of 301s. All these types of things that you want to keep your eye on so that in case someone in engineering or development rolls out some new pages or there are some new things happening inside your website that you don't know about or something broke, you can identify those quickly and get them fixed up before they cause you massive trouble in the SERPs.

Step two, once you've gone beyond that, taken care of those, you want to collect some key metrics and measurement. This is probably a once a week kind of thing on a light level and maybe each month you might go a little bit deeper with some of these metrics. So, things like at a top level measuring visits from each search engine, the number of pages that are receiving traffic, the keywords that are sending those traffic, how many of those there are. Comparing that to the last few months and seeing how your progress is doing. How is that matching up against your goals? If SEO is a big part of what you are doing, are you hitting those numbers that you want to be hitting? Maybe watching some rankings as well. You could be doing things like competitive intelligence. I'm not just watching my site. I'm also watching these two other competitors through a rank tracking system, through software.

You could do this for links, for all sorts of competitive data as well. Just be kind of keeping tabs on, "Wow. Hey, my competitors are really accelerating their link growth. Where did those links come from? Oh, they've engaged in this type of a link building activity." Maybe they've been blogging a lot more. Maybe they've been producing some viral content. Maybe they've been engaging in PR. They've been speaking at events. Whatever it is that they are generating, you want to be seeing how they're doing it and what they're doing so you can keep tabs on it and know, maybe I need to bring that back to my organization.

So, these metrics or measurements should be going into sort of a standardized format that you're producing reports either internally for yourself, for your boss, for your clients all the time.

Then you can move on to step three, which is kind of trying to recognize some of these keyword and content opportunities. I might be looking here, let's imagine that maybe my site is Australian focused for example. Maybe I'm looking for keywords like wallaby catcher. I'm not ranked for that. There's some search volume around that. Vegemite sculptures, that's moderately interesting. I guess I'm glad I don't have to see one of those. It seems like it would have to be cold out before that would hold together. And those kiwi rascals over in New Zealand. There are lots of people searching for that. So, I definitely want to target that one. That's going to be an important keyword. So, you can go through that kind of keyword list. There might be new keywords that you'd like to rank for that have emerged as being popular. Your business could be entering into new areas where you say, "Boy, we weren't in the wallaby catcher business last month, but this month we're starting to go in there, so let's do some keyword research around that, see if there's content we can build." Once you have these keyword targets, you're going to need to set some content goals for yourself. Like, "Hey we're going to need to produce content around this." Landing pages, blog posts, downloads of white papers, articles. Whatever the content is that matches up against that content, you're going to need to get that on the website.

Then step four, you're kind of going to be worrying about social/public relations, link building, all that outreach and engagement kind of stuff that's hopefully going to bring value, both branding value and awareness value as well as direct links back to your site. You might be looking on places like Twitter or in the blogosphere or in the press and media world or inside your own industry, internally. You might be looking at trade organizations or business listing directories, those kinds of things. Saying, who do I need to engage at those places? How do I connect with them? Where should I engage? So, you know, this kind of a question can be things like, boy, you know, there is this new forum that's getting a lot of popularity, or there's this new blog that's really taking off, or there's a new Q&A site that's kind of going wild in my sphere and I want to make sure that I'm sort of in at the ground floor participating in those places. When Twitter came out, you want to be there. Now something like a Quora is out, maybe you want to be there. Maybe even something like Namesake, right, which is kind of getting some traction in the Web 2.0 Silicon Valley space. You want to be on that. Or Foursquare, Gowalla, these kinds of things. Particularly if you are location based.

Then you need to be asking questions as well, like, "What can I do to stand out and get noticed?" There's a lot of people who are going to be participating in all of these places -- bloggers, PR people, people who own websites who want to get links from. They're all going to be getting pitches from people like you, and you need to find a way to get noticed, to be unique from that crowd. That means identifying things. I think the easiest way to do that, unless you're an extremely creative person, is to see what works for other people in other places. If I wanted to get a blog post to go popular on Hacker News or on Reddit or get a lot of StumbleUpon traffic, I would look at what are those sites covering? What are people voting on at those sites? What does TechCrunch cover? What does ReadWriteWeb cover? What does my local newspaper cover? Find what those things are. See those stories. After a couple weeks or few months of reading that, you'll have a great sixth sense about what content that is.

Then, finally, are there existing initiatives that need some SEO help? This can happen quite a bit actually, where there are people in your organization who are doing things around PR and engagement, who are doing technical things around the website, who are producing new kinds of content, but they're not necessarily thinking like you are. They're not thinking about, "Oh, right. The links and the anchor text, that's important." And, "Oh, right, the keywords, I need to worry about what the page content is, do some keyword research, and make sure the focus is right." Or, "Oh, wait, I should be making sure that these pages aren't redirecting improperly or carrying the wrong kinds of display codes or using JavaScript to link to everything instead of straight HTML." It's your responsibility to keep up with all those existing initiatives inside the organization. That's why an SEO needs to be well plugged in to everything that's happening at the company.

All right. Hope you've enjoyed this SEO action plan and that you'll join us again for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by SpeechPad.com


Follow SEOmoz on Twitter! You know what? I'd love it if you'd follow me too: Aaron Wheeler.

If you have any tips or tricks that you've learned along the way, we'd love to hear about it in the comments below. Post your comment and be heard!


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7 Ways to Leverage Web Analytics to Become a Better Marketer

Strategic marketers are continually collecting data and web analytics on their website, but what do they do with all this information? 

As a marketer, data gathered online is an invaluable tool and should be used wisely.

1. Measure Offline Data

Offline marketing is often forgotten about when it comes to web analytics, but should be tracked and measured just as online campaigns are. Why? Because in some cases offline marketing campaigns can be vital for explaining certain trends in your web data.  For example, if your company released a TV ad that promotes your website. As a result you are likely to have increased traffic during the campaign.  Without taking this into account with your analytics, to what would you attribute the increased traffic?  It is therefore important to compare the results of your entire marketing strategy.

2.  Measure Traffic Sources

How are your visitors finding you? Finding out which sources are driving the most traffic to the website will help you to promptly correct your marketing and advertising strategy, as well as see how well search engines are indexing the content on your site.  It willl also be useful in informing you whether your social media campaigns are working and which email campaigns are driving traffic.  Within source data you can drill down further to determine which of your calls to action are the most effective.

3. 
Funnel Analysis and Site Functionality

A traffic funnel shows where visitors are exiting from a site and this is vital to see where customers are leaving your site.  It helps you to understand where you might be going wrong and where the opportunities for more conversion lies. It will also uncover functional problems with the site.

4. Use Event Tracking

An event could be anything from a whitepaper download to watching a video to filling out a form. The idea is to get an indication of visitor interest to a specific offering. 

5.  Measure Conversion Rates

Good content and clear calls to action will help to generate leads, which will hopefully convert. Testing pages or elements on pages will allow you to further analyze where you can make conversions at a higher rate.  Keywords should be analyzed to see which are leading to conversions and which are not, so that your site can be optimized correctly.

6. Clarity of Data 

The best marketers do not focus solely on one metric.  If you have an increase in traffic one week, you need to drill down further into your data to see where this traffic came from and why. Further analysis can reveal that you had a lot of visitors to your blog, and in particular one article. This can help you create similar engaging content next time and hopefully benefit from a similar surge in traffic.

7. Closing the Loop 

Closing the loop is all about knowing where to devote more time, energy, and resources. You want to devote your resources to those campaigns which are giving you a good return on investment, and not so much those which are not driving actual customers and business.

November 17 2010

Just Say No to SEO Articles

Ed’s note: Every so often we publish a guest column (reprint) of our favorite candid SEO experts out there, Jill Whalen. This latest rant/sensible-advice appeared in this week’s High Rankings Advisor. Enjoy!

Last week I was speaking with a potential client in need of SEO consulting who told me that they had been working on their product part e-commerce website over the past few months by adding “SEO articles” to it on a regular basis. “SEO articles?” I thought. “Why would an e-commerce site that sells product parts need articles about SEO?”

Of course, I knew they weren’t talking about writing articles about SEO, but writing articles for SEO. Which is often just as silly. Unfortunately, I hear this on a regular basis because so many believe that writing keyword-stuffed articles is somehow an SEO requirement. They don’t know why they might need these articles — only that, for whatever reason, the Google Gods want them. And so they write articles that nobody would be interested in reading, but which are stuffed chock-full of the keywords for which they would like Google to show their site.

And then they wonder why it’s not happening for them.

“Did we not provide Google with the SEO articles they require?” they ask incredulously.

“Why does Google not show our ‘History of Product Part A’ article when someone is searching to buy one of them?”

“Let me explain,” I say, and ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the potential buyer.

“If you were looking to buy Product Part A, which page would you rather find in Google? The one with the product part information, the price, choice of color/size, information on how to purchase it, and an ‘add to shopping cart’ button? Or the one that tells you the history of said product part?”

The choice, of course, is easy when presented that way. And suddenly – BAM! It all starts to make sense.

“That was exactly MY thought before we embarked on this crazy SEO scheme!” they reply. “It just didn’t make any sense to me, but I figured that Google was just weird and had its own reasons for liking stuff like that. So why do so many SEOs recommend this?” is their next logical question.

I wanted to tell them that most SEOs don’t have the slightest clue what Google really wants. But instead I told them that it’s usually because many SEO consultants don’t have a good grasp of why they do what they do. Once upon a time, some of them probably stumbled upon some websites that provided a lot of valuable industry information via a blog or resource center, and noticed that the site also did well in Google. So they put 2 and 2 together and came up with the not-so-brilliant idea of writing articles created solely for SEO purposes — and then they spread the information to the many places online where SEO myths are propagated.

And the SEO article creation industry was spawned.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the difference between “SEO articles” and information provided on a site that is there without regard to SEO.

When your goal is to create SEO articles, you’ll almost always make the wrong decision on what to write about or how to write it because you’ll be thinking about search engines rather than your target audience. Anything and everything you write or post to your website needs to have a reason for being there.

And that reason is not SEO.

What you add to your site should always enhance it in the eyes of your target audience. If an article about the history of Product Part A is truly something your target audience would be interested in — that is, it helps those people who might buy the product make their decision — then by all means, write that article. But don’t lie to yourself. Your gut will let you know if you really do believe it will be helpful, or if you are just looking for an easy way out!

Your goal is to get into the mind of your potential buyers and figure out what their pain points might be. What might hinder them from buying a particular product? What might prevent them from buying it from you? Maybe they’re not sure if the part will fit the gizmo that they were buying it for. Maybe they don’t understand why the latest version of Product Part A (rev.2.56) is worth so much more than the previous version (rev.2.0). So write an article pointing out the differences, and why the manufacturer decided to rev it up, and how the extra money it costs will be well worth paying because it will likely last twice as long.

That is useful information for your target audience.

It’s also an article that others interested in Product Part A might link to. And it sets you up as an expert on those types of products. You don’t need to think about SEO when you write such an article, because that’s not why you’re writing it. And yet, by the very act of *not* thinking about SEO, you’ll have created a potential SEO boon for your site.

The article itself will likely show up for long-tail searches relating to Product Part A (perhaps when people are seeking out the differences between the two revs). And if it naturally garners links, that link juice will spread to the rest of your site, providing your sales pages with a better chance at ranking for your money terms — i.e., pages that bring in people who are ready to buy now.

So banish the notion of “SEO articles” from your vocabulary. Optimize the actual pages of your site that are there to do business, and provide as much additional information as you can that will set your business apart from the others. Get into the head of your potential customers and give them exactly what they need to become informed buyers who want to buy only from you.

Jill

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, an SEO consulting company in the Boston, MA area since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen.

The Small Online Merchants Guide To Cyber Monday Success

3123384190 0c2ebb8594 mIf you run an ecommerce site and your store is not one of the top 500 online retailers, you likely are up at night obsessing about how to get on that list. After all, those 500 claimed nearly 70% of all online purchases last year. eCommerce has become a winner-take-most model and it’s remarkably difficult for small and medium-sized online stores to catch up without truly changing their customer acquisition model.

Cyber Monday is an important kickoff to the shopping year – how will your store compete?

Redefine Success for Cyber Monday 2010

Instead of trying to compete on price with the Amazon.coms and Home Depots of the world on Cyber Monday, create a marketing strategy to retain the one-day-only traffic increase on November 29th, 2010. After all, most purchases take place between December 5 and December 15th. Think of Cyber Monday as a potential shot-in-the-arm for your holiday marketing, not a winner-take-all-24-hour-e-tailing-thunderdome.

Below, we outline how to execute a marketing strategy for your Cyber Monday traffic that will align your marketing in December with real consumer buying cycles in the holiday season.

1. Brainstorm a Compelling Offer for New Visitors

Compelling offers are offers that visitors are willing to give up their email address for the right to participate. Need ideas? Consider:

  1. Contests (“test your knowledge, win free gear”)
  2. Sweepstakes (“enter to win free gear”)
  3. Short-term holiday coupons (“register to save $50 before December 20th”)
  4. Unique and in-depth buyers’ guides or shopping assistance not available elsewhere ("ask an expert for gift tips")

It’s most important to pick an offer that your market segment would find appealing. Consider what has worked for you or your competitors in the past, and move quickly to define the details of the offer.

2. Create a Call-to-Action Button and Place it Prominently on your Home Page for Monday

This shouldn’t be hard after you’ve envisioned the offer itself. Make sure to create a large, attractive button that will prominently attract user attention. Remember, this does not need to canabilize transactions, but can lead visitors back to the main store after they accept the offer. Place the button in a higihly visible location on your home page.

3. Link your Call-to-Action to a Dedicated Landing Page

Next, you need a landing page that will convert interested traffic. Generally consumers will understand that offers like contests and sweepstakes will require an email address, but not all will – your landing page should have a short form and “sell” the offer so that consumers not expecting a form are still enticed to complete the offer post-click on the call to action.

4. Configure a Thank-You Page to Curate User Experience Post-Submission

After consumers fill out the form, present them with a thank you message and their offer (in the case of a buyer’s guide or coupon) on a dedicated thank-you page. Additionally, link your visitors back to relevant products and categories or even embed relevant products on the thank-you page if your software allows. If you’re offering a coupon, this is particularly relevant – but even in the case of sweepstakes and contests, you want to get your products in front of as many consumers as possible as frequently as possible. Your thank-you page is another opportunity to do so.

5. Remarket to Differentiate Yourself and Increase Product Visibility

Over the next few critical weeks until December 24th, you should be remarketing to your new email addresses. Follow up with consumers to redeem their coupons; follow up to encourage them to share the contest with their friends; follow up to ask how the buyer’s guide helped, and how you can help further.

You should be putting your products, promotions, and offers in front of these consumers as often as reasonably possible to encourage a sale. This probably means one email per week, where the content of the email is not connected to the original offer above. Implement additional promotions and offers that will differentiate your products and services from bigger online retailers that can undercut your prices.

Using Inbound Marketing to Capitalize on Cyber Monday

The inbound marketing tactic of creating free visitor value in return for re-marketable email addresses can dramatically help SMB ecommerce sites improve their one-day-only traffic influx on Cyber Monday. Good marketers understand these inbound tactics and make frequent use of them – as you examine the competition on November 29th, consider how many of the top 500 retailers are already using these tactics, and consider if you’re ready to start with more sophisticated marketing techniques to produce remarkable sales figures.

Photo Credit: greengymdog

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Il n’y a pas d’experts en médias sociaux !

Non, il n’y a pas d’experts en médias sociaux… pas encore. Il y a ceux et celles qui détiennent une maîtrise en marketing électronique. Ils et elles se reconnaissent. Il y a ceux et celles qui ont commencé à s’intéresser activement aux médias sociaux dès leur apparition. Il y a ceux et celles qui ont sauté dans le train alors qu’il avait démarré. J’en suis depuis cinq ans. Et puis il y a les autres.

Chaque fois que je prononce une conférence sur les médias sociaux, j’avertis les membres de l’auditoire de se méfier de toute personne qui se prétend expert des médias sociaux. Je le dis également aux clients que je sollicite. Récemment, j’étais agréablement surpris de lire dans le journal Les Affaires, édition du 13 au 19 novembre, l’affirmation de Tim Baker : « Il n’y a pas d’experts en médias sociaux. »

Pour moi, une façon de vérifier la connaissance de médias sociaux chez une personne est de vérifier depuis quand elle s’y intéresse. Ensuite, il faut voir combien de campagnes de communication ou de marketing cette personne a élaboré de A à Z et les résultats qui ont été atteints. Tim Baker conseille de demander quelles sont les campagnes les plus réussies, celles qui ont fait preuve d’innovation et de créativité et surtout comment l’efficacité de ces campagnes a été mesurée et avec quel(s) outil(s).

En ce moment, je participe à une campagne de communication marketing qui laisse une très large part aux médias sociaux. Ce n’est pas moi qui l’ai élaborée, mais quelle chance j’ai de pouvoir y participer de l’intérieur et voir comment on orchestre une telle campagne. C’est absolument fascinant, mais très exigeant. Tout est nouveau; il y a tellement de détails… j’y travaille jour et soir. J’y reviendrai dans un prochain billet.

November 16 2010

MSN-Yahoo Merger – Best Practices

OK, well, to this point advice on managing MSN and Yahoo PPC has been relatively sparse in and of itself…

But AFTER the merger, chaos and confusion rules the day.

Rocket Clicks to the rescue!

Have a listen as Jerrold Burke, one of our top Managers, reviews best practices not only for solving post-merger crises (higher costs, CPAs, loss of traffic, etc), but for working with MSN going forward.

Don’t anyone ever say I never gave you anything!

Dr. G :-)

www.RocketClicks.com

7 Ways to Improve Your Writing … Right Now

image of woman checking her watch

Many of you would love to write more compelling blog posts, articles or web copy.

You’ve heard all the old advice. Practice makes perfect. Get your 10,000 hours in. Just show up and write.

And of course, that’s all a good idea. It just takes so danged long.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a couple of fast ways you can improve your writing immediately. No waiting for that pesky, tedious “practice” to kick in.

Way better.

Be concise and be clear

You’ve heard this one a million times. Tight, concise, easy-to-read pieces are heaven for readers. Long, complex, convoluted ones are just confusing.

Very often, the longer you write, the less you hold a reader’s interest.

If you can’t say it simply in just a few words, then you’ve lost readers. Write short, write lean, and write clearly, so you don’t have to waste words explaining what you’ve just written.

Keep it short

Not your writing (although that’s a good idea), but your line length.

Interestingly, people actually read longer lines faster. But fast reading isn’t necessarily what you want them to be doing. You want readers to be absorbing what you wrote, understanding your message, and reading comfortably as well.

So go for short. Set your page layout so that it’s not full width, or if you need that full width, keep sentences short and use plenty of paragraph breaks.

100 characters per line is optimal for speed — but about 45 characters is best for reader comfort.

Stick to three

3 is a magic number.

It’s said that people can process 7 bits of information (more or less) at a time. But the number that’s most compelling is the one we like the best: 3.

So have 3 bullet points. 3 steps, 3 strategies. Use the number 3 as often as you can.

Not only will you capture better reader interest by doing so, but you’ll improve your readers’ ability to remember what you’ve written. We tend to chunk information into groups of three, and recall those triads more easily.

Watch your tone

It’s easy for writers to assume readers can pick up on our mood and tone from our writing.

After all, we certainly know our feelings, humor, intent, and state of mind at the time we write. But for readers, it’s clear as mud. They’re guessing at your tone — and they may guess wrong.

Here’s an example:

Honey. Please.

Was I exasperated and rolling my eyes? Smiling and gently teasing? Acidly sarcastic? Or maybe just eating toast and reaching for the bear-shaped bottle?

As a reader, you have no idea unless the words around that phrase cue you into my written tone.

Talk Food, Sex, and Danger

Susan Weinschenk from What Makes Them Click is writing a great series called 100 Things You Should Know About People.

Go check it out. It’s good. Seriously good.

In this resource, Susan mentions that our brains always ask the following questions:

Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?

Nice.

Nice for you, too, because if you want people to pay more attention to your writing, bring up those big three (there’s that number again). Use stories and examples that touch on aspects of food, sex, or danger.

Add descriptors or associative words. Pair it with a nice picture, if you’d like. It’ll glue them to the page.

Break it up

Time and again, I see writers spooling out long, chunky paragraphs.

No, no, no.

Make it easy for people to read your work. The easier it is, the more they’ll get your point and enjoy reading — and that’s what you want.

Reading online is tiring (yes, even for you fresh-eyed Gen Ys out there). So you need to do everything you can to make it less of a strain.

  • No more than three sentences to a paragraph, please, and keep those sentences short.
  • Add bullet points and subheads to guide people along.
  • Oh, and bump up that font size, would you? Tiny means squint, and that’s no good.

Stay on topic

I know how tough this one is — I commit the crime of wandering too often myself, and have to make sure I don’t stray too far from my main point.

If I add too many points to a piece of writing, readers get confused about the main point of my post. They’ll be confused about yours, too.

Building an outline helps. Decide on the main point of your piece and create three (!) sub-points that support it. Make sure each one ties back to the message you want to get across to readers, and make sure each sub-point is supportive and relevant.

So there are your quick guides to becoming a better writer today.

How about you? What’s your favorite tip for immediate writing improvement? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author: If you want to improve your writing skills quickly, easily and with personal attention, check out Men with Pens and James Chartrand’s newly-launched writing coach program today. You’ll be on the fast track to word success!


Genesis takes WordPress further

November 15 2010

How do you avoid becoming bored with social media?

Here’s the problem with being ahead of your time: By the time everyone catches up, you’re bored.

This quote by Fran Lebowitz resonates with me from time to time. When colleagues and clients begin their discussions around social media, I’m carried back about 5-6 years, to a time I was first discovering a new passion: social media. I look for the same light in their eyes that I’m sure shone from mine. The  same enthusiasm I had when I talked about how social media was going to revolutionize the way we communicate as a society. I don’t quite see it, but suspect that it’s because they don’t get to enjoy the same thrill of discovery that I did back then. The social media path is fast becoming a well beaten one.

Social media has become my area of specialisation. The last thing I’d want to do is to become bored with my niche.

How do you avoid becoming bored with social media?

  • Take advantage of what social media allows you to do best: surround yourself with stimulating people. Connect with them;
  • Discuss what you learn. Be humble and ask for advice. Learn from others;
  • Pay it forward in the dozens of ways social media can help you contribute to your community or niche;
  • Take pleasure in initiating others, knowing they’ll help move the discipline forward;
  • Try to look at things … strategies, tactics, client needs … from new perspectives;
  • Keep pushing the envelope;
  • Keep pushing yourself – to network, to learn, to explore, to discover, to produce. Even when it’s hard. Challenge yourself to reach new heights and don’t stop until you do.
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November 14 2010

301 Redirect or Rel=Canonical - Which One Should You Use?

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

There has been quite a lot of discussion lately about the use of rel=canonical and we've certainly seen a decent amount of Q&A from SEOmoz members on the subject. Dr. Pete of course blogged about his rel-canonical experiment which had somewhat interesting results and Lindsay wrote a great guide to rel=canonical. Additionally, there seem to be a few common problems that are along the following lines -

  • When should I use a rel canonical tag over a 301?
  • Is there a way that the rel canonical tag can hurt me?
  • When should I not use the canonical tag?
  • What if I can't get developers to implement 301s?

I'm going to attempt to answer these questions here.

The 301 Redirect - When and How to Use it

A 301 redirect is designed to help users and search engines find pieces of content that have moved to a new URL. Adding a 301 redirect means that the content of the page has permanently moved somewhere else.

Source: http://www.ragepank.com/images/301-redirect.jpg

What it does for users

Users will probably never notice that the URL redirects to a new one unless they spot the change in URL in their browser. Even if they do spot it, as long as the content is still what they were originally looking for, they're unlikely to be affected.  So in terms of keeping visitors happy, 301 redirects are fine as long as you are redirecting to a URL which doesn't confuse them.

What it does for the search engines

In theory, if a search engine finds a URL with a 301 redirect on it, they will follow the redirect to the new URL then de-index the old URL. They should also pass across any existing link juice to the new URL, although they probably will not pass 100% of the link juice or the anchor text.  Google have said that a 301 can pass anchor text, but they don't guarantee it.

In theory a search engine should also remove the old page from their index so that their users can't find them.  This can take a little bit of time but usually can take no longer than a few weeks.  I've seen pages removed within a few days on some clients but its never set in stone.

Where is can go wrong

Not knowing your 301s from your 302s

The classic one which I've seen more than once, is developers getting mixed up and using a 302 redirect instead. The difference with this is that a 302 is meant to be used when content is temporalily moved somewhere else. So the link juice and anchor text is unlikely to be passed across.  I highlighted an example of this in a previous blog post, if you go to http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/ you'll see a 302 is used.  I first spotted this several months ago and it still hasn't been fixed and I'd assume that this isn't a genuine temporary redirect.

Redirecting all pages in one go to a single URL

Another common mistake I see involves site migration. An example being if your website has 500 pages which are moving somewhere else. You should really put 500 301 redirects on these pages which point to the most relevant page on the new site. However I've often see people redirect all of these 500 pages to a single URL, usually the homepage. Although the intention may not be manipulative, there have been cases of people doing this to try and consolidate all the link juice from loads of pages into one page, to make that page stronger. This can sometimes put up a flag to Google who may come and take a closer look at whats going on.

Matt Cutts talks about this in this Webmaster Tools video:

When you should use a 301

Moving Sites

You should certainly use 301 redirects if you are moving your website to a new location or changing your URLs to a new structure. In this situation, you don't want users or search engines to see the old site, especially if the move is happening because of a new design or structural changes.  Google give clear guidelines here on this and advise the use of 301s in this situation.

Expired Content

You should also use a 301 if you have expired content on your website such as old terms and conditions, old products or news items which are no longer relevant and of no use to your users. There are a few things to bear in mind though when removing old content from your website - 

  • Check your analytics to see if the content gets any search traffic, if it does, do you mind potentially losing that traffic if you remove the content?
  • Is there another page on the site which has very similar content that you could send the user to?  If so, use a 301 and point it to the similar page so that you stand a chance of retaining the traffic you already get
  • Is the content likely to become useful in the future?  For example if you have an ecommerce site and want to remove a product that you no longer sell, is there a chance of it coming back at any point?

Multiple Versions of the Homepage

This is another common mistake.  Potentially a homepage URL could be access through the following means, depending on how it has been built -

http://seomoz.org
http://www.seomoz.org/home.html
http://www.seomoz.org/index.html

If the homepage can be accessed via these type of URLs, they should 301 to the correct URL which in this case would be www.seomoz.org.  

Quick caveat - the only exception would be if these multiple versions of the homepage served a unique purpose, such as being shown to users who are logged in or have cookies dropped.  In this case, you'd be better to use rel=canonical instead of a 301.

The Rel=Canonical Tag - When and How to Use it

This is a relatively new tool for SEOs to use, it was first announced back in February 2009.  Wow was it really that long ago?!

As I mentioned above, we get a lot of Q&A around the canonical tag and I can see why.  We've had some horror stories of people putting the canonical tag on all their pages pointing to their homepage (like Dr Pete did) and Google aggressively took notice of it and de-indexed most of the site.  This is surprising as Google say that they may take notice of the tag but do not promise.  However experience has shown that they take notice of it most of the time - sometimes despite pages not being duplicates which was the whole point of the tag!

When to use Rel=Canonical

Where 301s may not be possible

There are unfortunate situations where the implementation of 301 redirects can be very tricky, perhaps the developers of the site don't know how to do it (I've seen this), perhaps they just don't like you, perhaps the CMS doesn't let you do it.  Either way, this situation does happen.  Technically, a rel=canonical tag is a bit easier to implement as it doesn't involve doing anything server side.  Its just a case of editing the <head> tag on a page.

Rand illustrated this quite well in this diagram from his very first post on rel=canonical:


Multiple Ways of Navigating to a Page

This is a common problem on large ecommerce websites.  Some categories and sub-categories can be combined in the URL, for example you could have -

www.phoneshop.com/smartphone/3G
www.phoneshop.com/3G/smartphone

In theory, both of these pages could return the same set of results and therefore a duplicate page would be seen.  A 301 wouldn't be appropriate as you'd want to keep the URL in the same format as what someone has navigated.  Therefore a rel=canonical would work fine in this situation.

Again, if this situation can be avoided in the first place, then thats the ideal solution as opposed to using the canonical tag.

When dynamic URLs are generated on the fly

By this I mean URLs which tend to be database driven and can vary depending on how the user navigates through the site.  The classic example is session IDs which are different every time for every user, so it isn't practical to add a 301 to each of these.  Another example could be if you add tracking code to the end of URLs to measure paths to certain URLs or clicks on certain links, such as:

www.example.com/widgets/red?source=footer-nav

When Not to Use Rel=Canonical

On New Websites 

I've seen a few instances where rel=canonical is being used on brand new websites - this is NOT what the tag was designed for.  If you are in the fortunate position of helping out with the structure of a new website, take the chance to make sure you avoid situations where you could get duplicate content.  Ensure that they don't happen right from the start.  Therefore there should be no need for the rel=canonical tag.

On Pagination - maybe!  At least use with caution

This is a tough one and unless you really know what you're doing, I'd avoid using rel=canonical on pagination pages.  To me, these are not strictly duplicate pages and you could potentially stop products deeper within the site from being found by Google.  This seems to have been confirmed by John Mu in this Google Webmaster thread.  He gives some interesting alternatives such as using javascript based navigation for users and loading all products onto one page.  

Having said that, John Mu has made a point of not ruling it out totally.  He just advises caution, which should be the case for any implementation of the canonical tag really - except if you're Dr Pete! 

Across your entire site to one page

Just a quick note on this one as this is one way which using the rel=canonical tag can hurt you.  As I've mentioned above, Dr Pete did this as an experiment and killed most of his site.  He set the rel=canonical tag across his entire site pointing back to his homepage and Google de-indexed a large chunk of his website as a result.  The following snapshot from Google Analytics pretty much sums up the effect:

Conclusion

In summary, you should use caution when using 301s or the canonical tag.  These type of changes have the potential to go wrong if you don't do them right and can hurt your website.  If you're not 100% confident, do some testing on a small set of URLs first and see what happens.  If everything looks ok, roll out the changes slowly across the rest of the site.

In terms of choosing the best method, its best to bear in mind what you want for the users and what you want them to still see.  Then think about the search engines and what content you want them to index and pass authority and link juice to.


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November 12 2010

How to Build Your Business by Walking Away from the Sale

image of high-heeled shoes walking away

Some marketing feels almost impossible to resist.

Your favorite product is 85% off! This really smart expert is only offering advice until Monday! This service will change your life or your money back!

Smart marketers know how to reduce risk, boost urgency, and tempt our wallets with irresistible offers.

But are there times when those techniques work a little too well?

Have you ever been so excited by great marketing that you bought something you just plain didn’t need?

I’ll give you an example. As I was cleaning out my closet this morning, I came across a pair of shoes that I must have bought in another life.

They weren’t my style, I had nothing to wear them with. And — worst of all — they didn’t fit. Why did I buy them?

There was nothing wrong with the shoes. For another person with a dressier wardrobe, a flashier style, a higher pain tolerance, and smaller feet, they would have been perfect.

Some clever shoe store had managed to entice me with a great sale — only for me to wind up with a product that was a bad fit in every possible way.

Are you helping your customers get a good fit?

There are lots of strategies to persuade people to buy. (I mentioned a couple of them in the first couple of paragraphs above, and you can find a lot more in those “resource” links to your left.)

But if too many people buy something they don’t actually want (or need), what happens?

They get their shiny package and realize it’s not for them. At all. They’re frustrated, disappointed, and feel sort of dumb for being taken in.

They may not ask for a refund. They may not say anything to you at all.

But the next time you have a product for sale, they’ll be far less likely to buy it.

That’s why the really smart marketers, the ones who have fantastic customer loyalty that lasts for years to come, let prospects know immediately who the product is for … and who it’s not for.

To figure out whether it’s better to give up the sale or urge your customer to make a purchase they won’t regret, ask yourself a few questions:

Who, specifically, is it designed for?

If you offer a training program for people who run small businesses, and wouldn’t be useful for those who don’t, you’ll want to specify that in your sales page.

If someone asks if your product would work for a freelancer or a large business, tell them it wouldn’t be the best fit — but you’d be happy to tell them about new products that might work for them.

It’s a bit like selling flashy designer shoes to a lifelong Birkenstock wearer. If it just doesn’t suit who they are, they won’t get any use out of the product — and they’ll be unhappy you convinced them to buy.

How much prior knowledge do they need to benefit from your product?

If your product is a 101 guide, it’s just going to bore and annoy advanced users.

And on the other hand, if your product requires an advanced degree to be able to understand and use it, don’t pitch it to newbies or you’ll just frustrate the daylights out of them.

Don’t sell five-inch stiletto heels to a woman who’s only ever worn flats in her life. Sell them to someone who has the entire Sex and the City box set and could climb Everest in her Jimmy Choos.

Let your customers know beforehand what level of expertise is required for your product, and they’ll be able to tell if they’ll enjoy owning it.

Is it location-specific?

If your resource list includes only US and Canadian locations and all of your buyers are in the UK, you’re going to have a bit of a problem.

Or if you’re explaining something that varies from country to country, you could actually wind up leading people astray.

Some sneakers are meant for gym use only; some are great for trail running.

If your customers don’t know where your product is designed to work, they might wind up getting hurt — or at the very least, annoyed and frustrated.

Cultivating customers for the long haul

I recently had someone give up a sale he could have made to me — and I was so grateful I became a longtime loyal customer.

I wanted to buy a specific e-book as a Christmas present, and sent a quick e-mail to the author to ask if it would be a good fit for a relative beginner. He quickly responded to let me know that the information was really intended for a more advanced audience.

This was in 2007. Although he did not get this particular $99 sale from me, I’ve since bought four other products from him.

Giving up a few sales that will make your customers unhappy isn’t just good karma, it’s also a good long-term strategy for customer loyalty.

Tell someone the too-small shoes look great on her, and you’ll sell a pair of shoes your customer will always regret buying.

Tell the same person the shoe doesn’t really fit, and you’ll have a customer for life.

About the Author: Yael Grauer is a freelance writer who owns a lot of shoes. Find her at www.yaelwrites.com.


Genesis takes WordPress further

November 11 2010

3 Ideas on How to Feature the Most Relevant Content on Your Website

Ever have one of those posts that sticks with you? Well, I have been thinking about a post from Doug Kessler on Library Marketing for a few months. While the term Library Marketing may be new, the concept is probably is something you have considered. As the content on B2B websites grow, we marketers have a real challenge on our hands: how do we best organize information so the right buyers can find  the right information at the right time?

This weekend as I was putting together our weekly dinner plan, I headed over to Allrecipes, which is my trusty resource for, well, recipes. This site does a great job with organizing its information, providing multiple ways for users to find the information that is most relevant to them. Lots of great ideas for B2B marketers! Here are a few.

Promote popular content

One of my favorite ah-ha points from Doug’s post is this: “A really common mistake in content marketing is to promote the recent over the best. A two-year-old eBook might still be the best for certain audiences and buying stages.”  

While there is value in promoting recent content, I all-too-often see companies focusing primarily on recent content instead of the most relevant content, especially if they have a blog (I’ve been guilty of this myself).

Allrecipes realizes that its users don’t care which recipes were recently added, so instead of promoting the most recent recipes, they make it easy for users to search by need:

  • Browse popular collections
  • See what the top searches are to inspire some ideas

The point is, your prospects and customer don’t only care about what content you added recently, either (and, your newest content may not be the content that converst the best, either).

If you are looking for a B2B company that does this well, check out Marketo (an example referenced by Doug). As you’ll see, you can search for content based on popularity, rating or date.

Action: What is the most popular content on your site and how can you better promote it?

Feature timely content

Allrecipes does a great job of showcasing ideas based on season or holiday: BBQ recipes in the summer or Christmas cookies in December.

While you probably don’t want to be changing the content on your website based on holiday, think about what may be driving people to your website? Is there some relevant industry news?

Salesforce.com is a B2B company that features timely content. For instance, one of the features on its home page is the stat that Fortune named them one of the fastest-growing companies. As a call to action, they link to their careers section.

Action: Would your website benefit from timely content?

Provide a customized experience for users

Years ago I created a recipe box on Allrecipes where I can store any ideas that inspire me. Additionally, they also have a section that stores my most recently-viewed recipes. Because I can so easily store information, I often return to the site.

If you have a lot of useful content, think about ways to help your users save and return to what is most meaningful to them.

As an example of a site that does this well, check out CMO.com in which all users can register for a My CMO.com account where they can save their favorite articles. They can also share their saved articles vis email and social sites.

Action: What can you do to help return visitors get the information they want more quickly? 

I’d love to get your ideas as well on how to organize content. What have you seen – on B2B or B2C sites – that works well?

Related posts:

About the author: Michele is the Executive Editor of the Content Marketing Institute where where she works with a fabulous group of contributors who know a lot about content marketing. She's also a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can follow her onTwitter @michelelinn or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.

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Match Types & Quality Score – The Truth At Last

In the comments to the previous post on Modified Broad Match, Helena Papirnikova asked an interesting question regarding the role of match type in quality score.

This is an issue that has been clouded in confusion for some time, and I thought worth more discussion than just a comment reply. So here goes…

Match Type / Quality Scores Rumors

Many say that using more exact match within your campaigns is a way to boost quality scores. Others point out that match type has no impact at all on quality score.

Who’s right?

It turns out that the truth is somewhere in between. Quality score is only calculated when the search query is identical to the keyword. A broad match keyword like ‘dog food’ is matched to many different search queries – sometimes it’s matched to ‘dog food’ and sometimes to ‘cheap dog food’ and other times to ‘puppy chow on sale in Kansas City’.

But quality score is only calculated in those instances where the query is ‘dog food’. For all other queries, the quality score that was calculated when the query was ‘dog food’ is used.

Suppose you have a text ad that promotes low prices and free shipping. When the query ‘cheap dog food’ is matched to your ‘dog food’ broad match keyword, you actually get higher click-through-rates then you do when the query is simply ‘dog food’. But since the query ‘cheap dog food’ isn’t identical to the keyword ‘dog food’, a quality score is not calculated using this higher CTR. Instead, the quality score calculated based on the lower ‘dog food’ queries is applied.

The result is that your ad will appear less frequently, in lower positions, and at a higher CPC when the query is ‘cheap dog food’ and the keyword is ‘dog food’ then it would if you were buying the keyword ‘cheap dog food’ in either broad or phrase match type.

Match Type / Quality Score Facts

  • Match type plays a role in determining which queries will be matched to which keywords
  • Quality score is only calculated when the query is identical to the keyword, regardless of the keyword match type.
  • The match type of a keyword is not considered and has no effect on the calculation of quality score for any keyword.
  • When the search query is identical to the keyword, a quality score is calculated and applied. When a search query is not identical to the keyword (but matched anyway) the keyword will use a quality score that was calculated based on the performance of earlier searches where the query was identical to the keyword.
  • If the same keyword appears in an account using different match types each should earn a nearly identical quality score. (Note: Minor differences in quality score may occur due to differences in ad copy and target URLs and the geography of searchers.)

So more exact match does not improve quality score – at all. The match type you set for any keyword is irrelevant. What matters is the keywords you choose to include in your account.

The Secret To Better Quality Scores

When you add a keyword to your account and use a broad or phrase match type, you attract queries that are related or similar to your keyword, but quality score is not calculated for these queries. When the CTR of those queries is lower than that of the identical query, you get an undeserved boost. When the CTR of those queries is higher than that of the identical query, you pay a quality score price.

The logic behind the suggestion to use more exact match is probably sound, but it suggests the wrong way to achieve the objective. You don’t need more exact match keywords, you need more keywords that are identical to the search queries that perform well (or occur frequently) in your account.

This shows the importance of intelligent keyword expansion. The match types of your keywords should be set to whatever is appropriate for each keyword – see our ‘Match Type Keyword Trap’ and ‘Modified Broad Match’ posts for more details on effectively applying match types.

Broad match keywords, particularly those which are generic or broad terminology terms, will tend to get lower CTRs on the queries that are identical to them and higher CTRs for the longer and more precise phrases to which they’ll match. Broad match helps you find more searchers but it does so inefficiently from a quality score perspective.

It’s critical to ‘query mine’ the keywords in your account (as discussed in this blog post) to find valuable search queries and turn them into new keywords. THIS is how you improve quality score, and increase both search volume and impression share while increasing ROI. (BTW, the Keyword Zoom tool in ClickEquations is the best way in the world to get this done quickly and easily.)

Negatives Don’t Matter Either

This is probably a good place to correct another common rumor. Adding negative keywords doesn’t directly impact quality score either. The reason is the same. When negatives filter out queries that weren’t identical to the purchased keyword, it has no effect because quality score was never calculated for those queries anyway.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t add all appropriate negatives – just that doing so won’t improve your quality score on specific keywords.

There is an indirect benefit, however. Adding negatives in theory will improve your CTRs overall (by not showing ads to people who probably shouldn’t be interested in them) and these improved CTRs may be used in the way CTR is considered for account history, display URL, and specific geographies – each of which is applied in the overall quality score calculation.

Why It Works This Way

The relationship between match types, keywords, search queries, and quality score is a little confusing. Why does it work this way? Why doesn’t AdWords just calculate quality score for every query?

I can only speculate. I seems like if we earned quality scores based on the performance of all the crazy search queries that broad and even phrase is sometimes matched to then we’d be less in control of our own accounts than with the current method of only judging our quality when people are searching for exactly what we’re advertising (on a keyword level).

I also believe that broadly quality score is a tool Google uses to get advertisers to do the right thing. Expanding keyword purchases based on queries is the right thing to do – it improves the account in every way and would be a best practice even if quality score didn’t exist. Yet I expect that if fully understood the benefits to quality score will motivate many people who wouldn’t otherwise make the effort frequently enough.

Quality score is a rating of how effective you are at advertising on a specific keyword. By only making that judgment based on the results of people who searched with a query that was identical to your keyword AdWords is able to fully and fairly score your performance.

Lessons Learned

When you look at the quality score of any keyword in your account, remember that this is the quality score earned by the identical queries. For broad match and phrase match keywords, there are likely queries getting this quality score – and the resulting Ad Rank and CPC – that could do better if you turn those queries into their own new keywords. Adding an exact match version of an existing keyword won’t help. Making productive queries into independent keywords can help a lot.

Related posts:

  1. WebProNews Interview on Match Types A recent interview I did with Chris Crum of WebProNews...
  2. Secret Truth Series #12: Quality Score Friend Or Foe? The folks at Google are masters of the art of...
  3. New Google Adwords Match Type: Include It’s time for a new Match Type. Our friends Broad...

November 10 2010

Le SEO pour les développeurs

Invité au forum PHP organisé par l'AFUP, j'ai donné ce matin à la Villette une conférence sur le thème du référencement pour les développeurs. Pour les présents comme les absents, voici mon support de présentation :



Au passage, je prie les lecteurs réguliers de bien vouloir m'excuser du calme actuel de ce blog : c'est juste que le temps me manque. J'espère redynamiser tout ça dès que possible :)

November 09 2010

Que va t-il advenir de Flash?

La semaine dernière, Ars Technica a découvert par accident que le fait de ne pas installer la visionneuse Flash sur le nouveau MacBook Air de Apple augmente du tiers la durée de vie de la batterie. Cela démontre que Flash exige beaucoup de la part du processeur de votre ordinateur. C’est peut-être en partie [...]

Eight Lessons for Online Marketing Success I Learned From Direct-Response Advertising

Do you think an industry worth $170 billion dollars, and still growing during a recession, might have something to teach us about making money?

I think so. Especially when that industry is built entirely on a particular kind of marketing—a kind of marketing which is directly applicable to the Internet.

Direct-response advertising has been an ever-lucrative, ever-growing industry for over half a century. Its success relies entirely on a fairly small number of key principles. And with the Internet being a direct-response medium, these principles transfer directly over. Here are eight of the most important of these principles, and how they relate to us as online marketers:

1. The money is in the (right) list

What’s the one thing you absolutely must have if you’re gonna sell your product or service?

I think you’ll find it’s customers.

In direct-response advertising, customers are sought through a mailing list. The better the quality of your list, and the more people on it, the better your response rates will be and the more money you’ll make.

Online, a list can be many things. The most obvious instance is an email list. The correlation is pretty clear between sending out a ‘snail-mail’ sales letter to a mailing list, and sending out an email sales letter.

But more broadly speaking, a list is any collection of people who’ll read what you put in front of them. Blog subscribers; Twitter followers; Facebook fans; etc.

Direct-response advertisers know the money isn’t in any list, though. This is something online marketers should take note of. Rather than being concerned with building up enormous numbers of followers, they should be focused on building enormous numbers of prospects. Because if your followers are not also customers, you aren’t going to sell anything. Better to have a hundred keen prospects than a hundred thousand freeloaders who never intend to buy anything.

2. Your first words count

Original Mad-Man David Ogilvy famously noted:

On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that, if you don’t sell the product in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your money.

Your headline or email subject line should focus on how what you’re selling will benefit your prospect. Simply talking up yourself or your product won’t sell anything. For example, a homepage headline like “The Leading Supplier of Blue Widgets in Blue Widget County” will fall on deaf ears—even for qualified prospects who want blue widgets. On the other hand, “Blue Widgets Shipped to You Direct, Cheaper & Faster than Anyone Else—or Your Money Back” gives prospects a lot of reasons to read your copy and find out more.

As a rule of thumb, if you can read your headline and then reasonably say, “So what?”…it isn’t strong enough.

3. The only purpose of advertising is to sell

Drayton Bird is very fond of quoting American advertising pioneer Raymond Rubicam, who said:

The only purpose of advertising is to sell. It has no other justification worth mentioning.

He is very right, and this principle can seldom be repeated too often. Many marketers are unduly concerned with ‘building brand recognition’, ‘increasing customer awareness’, ‘leveraging social media’ and all these other fancy marketing techniques. But what is the point of these things if they don’t measurably lead to more sales?

Of course, brand recognition, customer awareness, social media and the like can all be used to increase sales—and significantly at that. But very often, marketers have no clear strategy as to how they should use these tools to bring in more money. Sometimes they don’t even consider the question; they just ‘know’ they should be doing these things…because everyone else is, so it must be important, right?

If you haven’t got a clear idea of how a given marketing technique will help you make more sales, don’t use it. If you’re already using it, stop immediately. On the other hand, if you do have a clear idea but lack any way to measure your success, find a way before continuing.

4. The more you tell, the more you sell

Debating the value of long versus short copy is pointless. The fact is that copy should be as long as it needs to be to sell as much as possible—and no longer. Generally speaking, that means it should be ‘long’.

Long, that is, compared to most of the marketing materials you see online.

Marketers are often afraid that if they say too much, they’ll bore their readers out of buying. Ironically, what they should actually be afraid of is not saying enough to persuade their readers to buy.

“But Bnonn,” I hear you say, “people don’t have time to read lots of information. And attention-spans on the web are short.”

Sorry, but that’s pure, unadulterated hogwash. What you mean to say is that people don’t make time to read stuff that doesn’t interest them, and they don’t devote their attention to things with no clear benefit. In which case, refer to point #1 of this article!

If what you’re offering is interesting to the people on your list, and the benefit to them is clear, they will make the time to devote a lot of attention to it. Like you’re devoting to this article right now. What—do you think you’re different to your prospects?

5. The only kind of copy that sells is conversational copy

Internal marketing departments: listen up. Catchphrases like ‘vertically integrated’ and ‘leading provider’ are no better than jargon. They are meaningless to your prospects. And I’d dare to guess that if you had to explain them, you’d get tied in knots trying.

Writing your marketing materials to sound pompous, stuffy, and formal is an excellent way to avoid making sales. People don’t read pompous, stuffy, formal copy. In fact, the more impressive and important your copy sounds to you, the more like meaningless self-aggrandizing tripe it sounds like to your prospects. Take this ‘what we do’ page for example. Can you figure out what this company does? I can’t!

Regardless of your audience, your copy should be written conversationally. That doesn’t necessarily mean ‘informally’ or ‘casually’. It just means you should write to your ideal prospect in exactly the same way you would speak to him. If you’d do that casually, fine. If you’d do it more formally, that’s how you should write.

For example, imagine you run into a guy at the pub, and he mentions he needs something like what you sell. To get him interested, would you say, “We’re a leading provider of top-tier full-service solutions”…or would you say, “We can build a new website for you, from start to finish, and support it afterwards—plus help you use it to bring in new clients”?

6. You have to ask for the sale

That’s right—prospects will rarely do anything if you don’t actually ask them to. When you include a clear call to action (CTA) in your marketing materials, your response rate will naturally increase dramatically.

This is really the ‘direct response’ part of direct-response advertising: you’re asking your prospect to immediately take an action; to respond to your offer. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying something. Your offer might be a free special report. Or an email newsletter. Any link in the sales chain. But the critical thing is that you ask for a response.

Calls to action can be very short. They can just be buttons or links. But if you’re using longer copy, a good CTA will summarize core benefits to responding, as well as including a clear and simple mechanism for doing so.

7. What you offer makes all the difference

Not only do your prospects have to understand your offer…but you also have to be offering something they want. This doesn’t mean you have to completely rethink your core business model if you’re not getting much success in your marketing. Rather, you have to rethink your language.

What’s the difference, for example, between these two offers?

  1. If you buy two widgets, we’ll give them both to you at half price
  2. If you buy a widget, we’ll give you another one free

There’s no actual difference between what you get with these offers. But offer #2 will almost invariably pull much better than offer #1, because of how it’s phrased. Rather than having to buy two widgets (when you only really needed one) and getting a discount for doing so, you’re just buying the one you intended to—and getting a free extra one.

People love to get things for free, and they love to get things without taking any risk. So premiums and guarantees are very important elements in an offer. They can make a huge impact to your response rate. But whatever you’re offering, the way you phrase it can make the difference between success and failure.

Here’s a practical example from a recent consultation I did. My client was offering a kind of online training service—and to get people hooked, he included a free trial. What he was finding, though, was few people were signing up for this trial. My suspicion is the word ‘trial’ has lots of negative associations. “Try our free trial” sounds almost like asking them to do you a favor. Would “Get your first lesson free, with no obligation” work better?

I can’t tell you for sure, because we haven’t tested yet. But it demonstrates the principle.

8. Test everything

Your offer isn’t the only thing you should test. Because every list and every product is different, it’s crucial to test as many different ways of promoting it as you can.

You might be getting a 5% conversion rate off your existing marketing, and making a tidy profit—but how do you know you couldn’t be getting a 10% conversion rate if you made some simple changes?

In direct-response advertising, testing requires weeks to gather meaningful results—and it can be very expensive. For example, if you want to test two different headlines, you have to create a separate mailing for each, print it, send it to a reasonably-sized segment of your list, and then wait for the responses to come in.

Online, split testing like this is simple, cheap—and you get results in mere hours. There are many web-based tools for split-testing different pages to see how they do—Google Website Optimizer and Visual Website Optimizer are two popular ones—plus of course KISSmetrics lets you visualize your conversion rate across split-tested pages. And most email campaign tools allow you to segment your list and send different campaigns to each, with different subject lines, calls to action and so on (I use MailChimp, but a lot of people are fond of Aweber)

If you aren’t testing, you’re simply leaving money on the table. I’ve seen split testing a website yield a 400% increase in profits.

Summing up

The Internet is a direct-response medium. Websites, being naturally interactive, are as direct-response as you can get. And emails are the electronic descendants of traditional sales letters. Any marketing you do online, then, can benefit from the application of the principles which have made direct-response advertising such a successful industry.

Bnonn is known in the boroughs as Information Highwayman—the dashing & debonair conversion-rate consultant and attention-thief. When he ain’t writing wallet-pilfering content or cleaning up at poker, he’s helping business owners get better returns from their marketing. His free Ace o’ Spades newsletter comes with a complimentary copy of ‘The Busy Business-Owner’s Cheat-Sheet For Web Copy That Works’.

Webhooks: au tour de CakeMail de s’intégrer à vous

J’ai pris connaissance d’une nouvelle fonctionnalité qui s’est ajoutée à CakeMail. Il s’agit de WebHooks qui permet à CakeMail d’appeler une URL de callback d’un tiers lorsqu’il y a une modification sur ses listes de contacts.

Ceci est utile lorsqu’on veut réaliser une intégration de données en temps réel entre CakeMail et un autre système informatique. Jusqu’à présent, on pouvait seulement intégrer à sens unique. On était limité à mettre à jour CakeMail à partir de votre application.

Cette nouvelle fonctionnalité sera utile lorsqu’on peut suivre les désabonnements ou les adresses de courriel qui ont rebondi lors du dernier envoi. Aussi, elle sera très utile pour ceux qui utilisent CakeMail comme base de données principale de leads. Exemple, à chaque nouvel abonnement à une liste de diffusion, vous pourriez ajouter cette personne à un logiciel CRM.

Ceci exige que l’URL qui sera appelée par CakeMail soit accessible sur internet. J’ai l’intention d’incorporer prochainement cette nouvelle possibilité dans mes projets d’intégration CakeMail.

Webhooks: au tour de CakeMail de s’intégrer à vous est un article provenant du blogue d'Ovologic

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