Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dave Collins v. Linda Girard (aka search v. social)

I read two interesting articles today. The first was by Linda Girard of Pure Visibility. She discussed how Google was going to start charging advertisers when people clicked on the directions link in the paid search results, and she noted how this was similar to Google's click to call for mobile. Both are ways of catching and monetizing the flow of searchers who are close to making a purchase.

The second was by Dave Collins of Software Promotions. Dave described his experience advertising on Facebook. Unlike Google search advertising, where advertisers must interpret user's intent, Facebook offers rich demographic targeting. I can select my audience based on occupation, age, sex, location, etc. The thing I can't do is only advertise to people looking to make a purchase now. Unlike Google, Facebook has now way of capturing that intent. Dave did not see much in the way of sales over the time frame in which he ran his Facebook advertising experiment.

Well, I have a couple of thoughts:

  • The two articles illustrate what a gigantic transition it is switching between the two platforms. In particular, advertisers like Dave want a clear case for ROI which is easier to make on Google than on Facebook because you can target people closer to the point of purchase on Google.
  • I'm not that familiar with Dave's products, but based on his post, they're clearly high commitment, suggesting a longer lead time between first awareness and purchase.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best of the first week of search marketing practicum posts

This will be a periodic series this spring and summer on the best of the search marketing practicum student presentations. Students present their progress each week in optimizing their non-profit clients' conversion process. The analysis is far reaching and may range from audience selection to landing page redesign.

A few key facts:

  • Students are working with non-profits with online ad spends sometimes on the order of $10k per month.
  • Up to this point, the ad campaigns have typically been optimized for click-through-rate, not conversion.
  • The landing pages are often in no way optimized for conversion.
  • The students are green. They've taken a hands-on class in pay-per-click advertising, but they are brand new to conversion optimization and Google Analytics.

With that aside out of the way. This week's top presentation was produced by Adam DeVergilio and David Hardcastle. I should point out that Adam and David created the presentation just one week into reading one of our course books, Conversion Optimization, and meeting the non-profit, Liberty at Home, virtually for the first time.

So, without further ado:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Takeaways from Distilled's ProSEO Conference

It's sort of serendipity that I wound up at this conference. I happened to start reading SEOMoz at the start of the year and liked it. Then suddenly, about a month ago, they announced they were going to start doing this conference with Distilled, a UK consultancy I had never heard of. Given the content of SEOMoz, it seemed like the conference would be meaty and a good place to get a nuts and bolts perspective on SEO.

The conference did not disappoint, and I came away with a fantastic appreciation for Distilled and SEOMoz as well as the other contributors they brought together. You can find a summary of the conference proceedings with links to resources here.

Rather than attempt to give a detailed blow-by-blow of the sessions, it seems more worthwhile to list some major takeaways now that the conference has been done for two days:

  • SEO (search engine optimization) can be thought of as high tech PR (public relations). Basically, you're trying to find highly influential people and convince them to mention (link to) you on their website. All of the standard PR skills apply here. It's just that the context is highly technical.
  • The end result of SEO is better placement on search engines for search queries that are relevant to your website. Essentially, search engines rank websites based on how much influence people attribute to the sites. A big part of this calculation is mentions (links) from other influential sites (see first bullet), but there are a host of other factors which change constantly as the web evolves. This is what keeps SEOs in business.
  • The economic driver for all of this is the explosive growth of the web as a marketing and distribution channel. All considered purchases involve online research using search engines, and search engine queries provide strong indicators of consumer intent. Net net, good placement on search engines may result in a strong flow of well-qualified leads.
  • In the past decade, social media have come to play an increasingly important role in driving commerce. Social media are a source of information and recommendations. However, and perhaps most importantly, social media sites are increasingly a source of recreation and thus a way for businesses to drive engagement with their customers.
  • Since major brands have a lot of money to spend on social media, a lot of thought has been put into how people interact with brands as though they were social objects. The level of abstraction in this last sentence should be an indicator that these ideas are still very much in an incubation stage. What does seem to clearly work is social media as a personal marketing effort. For instance: local bands marketing to their fan base, or club style businesses engaging with their membership.
  • So where does pay per click advertising (paying for placement in the paid area on search engine results pages) come into play in all of this? There are two answers:
    • It's a shortcut when you don't have time to go through the long link building process required to achieve relevancy using SEO.
    • It's an unmatched source of market research data regarding keywords and the appeals that work for attracting people who use those keywords.

Another discovery I made at this conference is that there a number of university courses, frequently offered under the heading of continuing education, on SEO or search engine marketing. I'll have more to say on those in next week's post.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Liveblogging the Distilled Live Site Review

Here are the key questions during the site review:

  • What are your goals for the site?
  • What is your key conversion?

Then, we get to the follow-ups:

  • Your calls to actions are weak.
  • What are your keywords?
  • Are you saying that search is not the right channel? It's a B2B site (http://meridameridian.com)!? Rand Fishkin suggests using LinkedIn to find the right people. Site is now getting a lot of suppliers in China looking for distributors, but that's not their market.

Then we get to technical details:

  • Are you using Zemanta (suggests links to related content as you're writing your blog post). It's a way of getting relevant links and connecting to other web sites. You connect to them; they connect back to you. Works on blogger.
  • Use facebook pages vs as a human.
  • Don't pipe twitter directly into facebook. Add it manually. (this is all about social media)
  • Use FollowerWonk to find twitter followers in your area both semantic and geographic.
  • Build out local pages to get into local directories.

Now, onto Leading Authorities. They're an agency for speakers. Can get individuals to rank well.

Immediate suggestions:

  • About me: Example Tom Critchlow. Make the site's about pages look more like this.
  • Most advice centers around getting the clients to link back more directly back to you.

Now on to Soccer Tickets:

  • Use facebook comments. They're indexible. You put a widget on your site to increase engagement. Use the activity plugin for Wordpress that aggregates activity across your site.
  • Next suggestion: Make the site look more authentic. Looks like you're trying to rank for SEO.

Now SunglassWarehouse.com:

  • Panda (a google search index update) affected long tail keywords, not big ones. However, if you had a lot of low quality content, it will drag down your whole site.
  • Key insight here: This is a commercial site. How can you get other commercial sites to link to you? Offer them a service like a sunglass finder.

Finally CostumeSuperCenter.com:

  • Hit by Panda for site format. Looks too much like an ezine. Key issue: Don't go into popups. You have to have the same amount of unique content as you do advertising.
  • After all SEO details are covered: You know this page likely won't convert well either.
  • Get on facebook and get people to tag your brand on facebook.
  • Overall gist: Make the whole thing more human interactive.

Random tips:

  • Advanced google search like: best * interior *, to get sites you're interested in.