Category Archives for "Google"

Why You Don’t Really Want To Rank on Page 1 of Google

The other day I got an email from a dentist in a major city.

Here’s what he said…

“I’m a dentist in (major city).

I don’t have a website and I need a new website, pay per click and search engine optimization.

I want to be on the first page of Google for dentist and dental office in (the major city I live near).

Please respond to me by email please.

Thanks

Dr. Dentist in Major City”

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you, but EVERYBODY wants to be on Page 1 of Google.

At least, that’s what they say they want.

But, in reality, most people aren’t really looking to be on Page 1 at all. Here’s my email reply to the dentist that outlines what people really want…

“Hi Dr. Dentist in Major City

Thanks for the email. Your project sounds like an interesting one… I don’t often get the opportunity to work with a totally blank canvas when it comes to online marketing.

A lot of people come to me wanting Page 1 rankings on Google for specific keywords. After talking things over with them, however, I often find that what they’re really interested in is growing their businesses and getting more perspective clients/patients coming to their websites. Exactly how we do that, what keywords we target, etc. is less important.

Do you have a specific goal in mind about how you’d measure the success of this online marketing campaign?

Is it the number of new leads you get per month, a specific ROI you’d like to achieve with your online marketing project, or is there a reason ranking on the first page of Google is important to you and is your main goal?

Especially for a big city like (city name) and competitive keywords like “dentist” and “dental office”, rankings are going to be difficult… especially with a brand new website. If we’re not targeting specific keywords and have the flexibility to build a campaign that’s focused on the bigger picture of getting perspective patients to the site, the chances for success are much higher.”

I go on a little from there, but you get the point.

Being on Page 1 is great. And it’s a nice thing to shoot for.

What You’re Really After

But most of the time that’s not really what you’re after (though there are people out there who do “ego marketing” and just like to see themselves in the limelight).

You’re after more leads. More qualified prospects. More sales.

Certainly a Page 1 ranking on Google can lead to those things but, as the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

In this dentist’s case, it’s going to take a long time for him to have a brand new website and get on Page 1 of Google for the hyper-competitive terms he wants.

The better approach is…

  • Start by focusing on long tail keywords that he’s much more likely to rank for quickly.
  • Use Pay Per Click to not only drive traffic, but as a research tool to see which keywords are driving the most traffic and leads.
  • And work on improving the conversion funnel on his website to make the most of the traffic that he does get (because, in most cases, it’s not a lack of traffic that’s the problem, it’s a lack of conversions).

My team has all sorts of strategies we can use to get traffic to a website from organic SEO to Local SEO to Pay Per Click and others.

But one thing we don’t do is guarantee specific rankings or rankings for specific keywords.

The campaigns that work the best are the ones where we set an objective with the business owner on the number of leads they want to generate, a cost per lead, and other key metrics we can use to measure progress.

Then we have the flexibility to go out and use the tools and strategies at our disposal to get them there.

Getting on Page 1 of Google is not a goal that’ll lead to long term success in Internet marketing. Setting specific business objectives and using online marketing tools and strategies to support those objectives is.

If you’d like help planning and/or executing an online marketing strategy that’s aimed at achieving your long term business goals, email us or call 314-329-1422.

AdWords Ban? Here’s Why There’s Still Hope For You!

Google AdWords logoFor a long time, getting an Adwords account ban meant the kiss of death from Google. When it happened there was really nothing you could do about it but cry your eyes out and then try to find a new source of traffic for your site.

Google was notorious for ignoring advertisers’ questions, pleas, etc. after a ban. Most of the time you couldn’t even get a straight answer from them about why your account got banned in the first place.

That gave Google and AdWords a bit of a bad rep. Here’s this big bad company that comes along and shuts down the accounts of small business owners for no good reason and, frankly, didn’t a give damn who was affected or whether the ban was warranted or not.

But things have changed and it’s important to give kudos where kudos are due. Google has improved dramatically when it comes to how they handle account bans.

I was recently brought in to consult with a local business whose AdWords account was banned by Google. The account and website had been managed by an outside marketing firm that was either ethically challenged and/or didn’t have a good understanding of Google’s advertising guidelines and policies.

That company is now out of the picture and I was brought in to try to clean up the mess.

I was curious to see what would happen if I used Google’s standard support phone number (as opposed to leveraging any special connections to try to fix the problem).

So I called the number, talked to a very pleasant Googler named Matt who looked into the issue for me. While he couldn’t give me a reason for the ban, he did elevate the issue to the Policy team at AdWords and told me he’d get back to me within 24 hours.

I didn’t hear from him so I called back and spoke to another very pleasant Googler named Kate. She looked into the issue and told me that, after my call to Matt and a review of the account, the Policy team had unsuspended the campaign and it was now live again.

I pressed her a bit to see what the exact issue was that led to the account being banned in the first place. Her answer was a little surprising to me…they didn’t access to the exact reason for the ban any longer.

Not sure I buy that one, but the end result was that, in less than 24 hours, the account was unsuspended and I have one VERY happy new client.

From what I hear in the AdWords community, this experience is becoming more common. Google seems more than willing to listen to reason and review accounts that have been suspended. I’ve heard it take anywhere from under 24 hours to 2-3 months, but as long as you have fixed the issue that got you banned in the first place, you have a chance of getting your account back in good standing (though if you’re an affiliate marketer, you chances of success are much lower).

While I wouldn’t suggest pushing the limits of Google’s ad policies, if you do somehow run afoul of Google and have your AdWords account suspended…

Don’t panic. Contact them. Find out what caused the suspension. Fix it. Resubmit your account for review.

And, hopefully, you’ll have as much success as I did in getting the account back in good standing.

Oh, and if you have hired, or are planning to hire, a company to manage your AdWords campaign for you, keep an on top of things to make sure nothing fishy is going on. It’s your business that’s on the line more than theirs.

Google Can Probably Pull This Off But You Can’t

This is a biggie.

I don’t know if it’s gonna pay off for Google or not. But I do know many businesses are creating a similar problem for themselves.

Here’s the scoop…

Google announced they’re doing away with their Google Product Search in the U.S. and converting it to Google Shopping this fall.

And it’s more than a name change. Google Product Search was completely free but Google Shopping will only be available to merchants who pay for it.

It’s the first time Google’s taken free listings from their search engine results and converted them to a paid service.

Here’s the potential problem Google is going to face.

With the exception of their advertising program, Google AdWords, Google got the huge market share it has in so many areas by offering free products (Search, Gmail, Chrome, Docs, Earth, Maps, Android, YouTube, etc.).

In doing so they’ve built a large base of followers who expect to get Google’s stuff for free.

And because they’ve built that “expectation of free” among their users, there’s going to be an inevitable backlash from those who now have to pay for things they used to get for free.

Now Google is probably big enough to weather the storm (unless doing this becomes a habit with them), but the real question is what about your business?

A lot of companies give away free stuff to build their lists…great quality blog posts, monthly newsletters, special reports, whitepapers, etc. And that’s great. It can be a very effective marketing strategy.

But you have to be careful you’re not building a list and building a relationship with those on your list based on the “expectation of free.”

Because what happens is you end up stuck with an unresponsive list that doesn’t buy.

One example of this is my friend Scott Ginsberg, The Nametag Guy. Scott puts out high quality, truly original, thought provoking content on a nearly daily basis. But Scott’s income isn’t nearly what it could be.

Why? I’ll let him answer that for you in a quote from his blog

“I’ve conditioned the marketplace to expect my work as a gift, not a product. They’re aware of me, but I don’t have command over them. And once you’ve given the milk away for free, it’s hard to go back charge for the cow.”

It’s said over and over again in Internet marketing that the power is in the list. But that’s only partially right.

The power is in a responsive list of people willing and able to buy from you.

So condition your list to expect to receive offers from you. Condition them to take action when they receive something from you (Hint: It doesn’t always have to be about buying something…it can simply be issuing a call to action such as “Download my free report” or “Share this post on social media”.) The point is to get them conditioned to respond to whatever you send them.

Because, ultimately, a responsive list with 100 people on it is worth way more than an unresponsive list of 10,000.

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The Irony Of How I Got This KSDK-TV Interview On Facebook Advertising

Last week I got an unexpected email from local news anchor/reporter, Art Holliday from KSDK (St. Louis’ NBC affiliate).

He wanted to interview a local internet marketing expert for a story he was doing on Facebook Advertising. (While I much prefer to be behind cameras than of in front of them, I got over myself and agreed!)

So I went downtown to the KSDK newsroom but before Art started asking me questions, I asked him one… “How did you find me?”

His answer: “a Google Search”.

That answer perfectly highlights the challenge Facebook faces in trying to attract more advertisers and build up their advertising revenue to satisfy the Wall Street crowd.

Because when someone has a specific need they have to fill, if they have a problem they need solved, an itch they need scratched…they go to Google.

People are on Facebook to have fun, to be entertained, and to connect around things they’re passionate about. Advertisers that offer those things can do quite well with Facebook advertising. (Think restaurants, bars, musicians, fun / interesting events, or organizations that bring people together around a common good/passion.)

But people don’t go to Facebook to solve their problems, they go to Facebook to escape their problems.

And, when it comes down to it, most businesses are in the business of solving problems.

That’s the challenge of paid advertising on Facebook and is a big nut Facebook’s gonna to have to crack to explode advertising revenues and make shareholders happy.

If you’d like more of my latest insights on Facebook, Google and converting traffic into sales (no matter source the traffic comes from)…please sign up for The Click, my free new monthly online marketing newsletter.

Oh, and here’s the link to the video on KSDK of my interview or you can watch it here…

Chaos on Google and the 1 Word That’s Key To Your Survival

If a Google algorithm change makes the Wall Street Journal, you know it’s a big deal.

Google’s been on a tear lately. And what they’re up to affects businesses just like yours that rely on Google traffic for lead generation (or want to).

Let’s talk about what’s going on, the 2 big reasons why it’s going on and, most importantly, what you need to do to protect your business.

Beware the Penguin

The algorithm Google uses to determine where sites rank in the organic search results is always changing. Recently, however, the changes are coming faster and furiouser (if that’s not a word, it should be!) than ever.

The biggest of the changes, dubbed the Penguin Update, has especially been a whopper.

The WSJ’s article about Penguin focused on small business owners who’ve been affected by it (mostly for the worse). One of the owners saw sales fall from $68K to $25K in just one month. Unfortunately, stories like this are not uncommon in the wake of Penguin.

Over the past year or so Google’s algorithm changes have been focused on three main areas:

  1. Penalizing low quality sites that have unoriginal, spammy content and/or have lots of ads on them.
  2. Increasing the importance of “social signals” (ie. sharing and mentions of websites in social media) in determining how a site ranks
  3. Penalizing sites that have been “over-optimized” (ie. Google thinks the site owners have been trying to artificially boost their rankings). This is largely what the Penguin update is all about.

What’s Google Really Up To?

There are two things (which are closely linked) I believe to be at the heart of these changes.

One, Google is trying very hard to compete with (become?) Facebook. By integrating social signals (led by their Google+ social platform) into the search algorithm, they seem to be trying to turn into a social media company instead of keeping the focus on what they’ve always done really well…search. Time will tell whether that’s a smart move or not.

Second is money. The Penguin update has been a doozy. There’s pandemonium in the search engine results now. Business owners who’ve relied on their top Google rankings to pay the mortgage suddenly find their income has dried up overnight and they’re understandably panicking.

It’d be one thing if this change has improved the search engine results on Google. However, it’s not clear that’s the case.

Lots of post-Penguin searches are pulling up spammy sites that have no place on Page 1 of Google. At the same time, there have been established sites with lots of authoritative, unique, quality content that have been torpedoed.

It’s chaos.

There’s more uncertainty and volatility in the organic search results right now then I’ve ever seen. And that uncertainty and volatility serves Google very well.

Why?

Because it makes their paid advertising programs (which accounted for 96{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of their $39.7 Billion in revenue last year) a lot more appealing.

If you’ve been living the high life at the top of Page 1 of Google’s organic search results and your site suddenly disappears, where’s the first place you turn?

For a lot of people that’s going to be AdWords, Google’s paid advertising program. (Though, as we’ll get to in a minute, there’s plenty of other options.)

Not only that, but with social signals playing a larger role in the rankings, more people will have to pay attention to Google+ which Google’s pushing like crazy.

I don’t fault Google for any of this. They’re a public company, accountable to shareholders, and it’s their job to get people to use their services and, ultimately, make money.

And while I feel bad for those who’ve been negatively affected by the recent changes, they knew the risks involved with Search Engine Optimization (or at least they should have).

SEO has always been an ever-changing game and never had any guarantees.  No one knows when or how Google will change things next week, next month or next year. The only guarantee is things will change. Those changes will help some business owners and hurt others.

(By the way, this is not a knock against SEO which remains a very viable and very important online marketing strategy…you just have to be smarter about it these days.)

The bigger point is if your leads mostly come from just SEO or just PPC or just Facebook or any other form of lead generation, you’re playing with fire. One algorithm change, policy change, cost increase, etc. and that could be it for your business.

The One Word That’s Key to Your Survival Online

The lesson here is you have to protect yourself and your business. And the way to do that comes down to just one word…DIVERSITY.

This means getting traffic from a lot of different sources which could include:

PPC, SEO, Local Search, Bing, Yahoo!, Email Marketing, Blogging, Display advertising, Direct Mail (yes, I’m mainly an online marketing guy but direct mail, done right, does work!), Social Media (including YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook), Video Marketing, Article Marketing

And that’s just a starter list of broad categories. Even within each of the above there’s no shortage of options available.

The strongest businesses get leads from a variety of sources. Sure, if you have strong 1st page rankings on Google and your site suddenly takes a nose dive because of an algorithm change, that’s gonna hurt. But if you’re diversified, that drop won’t be the difference between making payroll or not.

And, by the way, diversity is also the key to successful SEO.

Getting backlinks (these are links from other websites to yours and are the single most important factor that determines how well your site ranks) from a variety of different sources has always been important. One thing that’s clear from the Penguin update is having variation in the anchor text of your backlinks is also very important.

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Quick Mini-Lesson: Anchor text is the actual text you click on a web page that takes you to another web page or website. It’s usually blue text and is often underlined. The words used for anchor text matter because they help tell the search engines what the page the anchor text links to is about. “Click Here” is horrible anchor text for SEO purposes because it doesn’t provide any useful description. However, if you want to rank well for the term “flowers st louis” then having backlinks from other sites that point to yours with the anchor text “flowers st louis” can help you rank better for that term. However, with the Penguin update, having one keyword make up too high a percentage of your anchor text will likely hurt your rankings. So, again, diversity is key.

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While my site hasn’t taken a hit because of Penguin, watching these changes and others unfold has been a big wake up call.

  • It’s part of the reason why I started a newsletter and am blogging again.
  • It’s part of the reason why I’m having more conversations with clients and prospects about paid advertising on LinkedIn and Facebook and Bing.
  • It’s part of the reason I’m working with clients more closely on the messaging on their sites in order to boost conversions so they make the most of the traffic they’re getting.

If you’ve been relying on one source of traffic for lead generation, I challenge you to add just one more source to the mix over the next 14 days. It’s not that hard to do and will put your business on more solid footing no matter what changes Google has in store for us!

Not sure what sources of traffic make the most sense for your business? Sign up for our 30 minute Post-Penguin consultation where we’ll analyze your business and traffic sources and come up with a game plan for adding more sources of traffic to help you Google-proof your business.

Google+ for Business Has Arrived

So Google launched Google+ for Business yesterday and, at the moment, I’m just not that excited about it. And, if I’m not excited about it as an online marketing professional, most of you

And that’s fine. Right now, I don’t think there’s much benefit to a business to signing up.

BUT (you knew that was coming), as I said when Google+ first launched for individuals, it’s not what it’s about right now, but what it will become. I don’t need to tell you what kind of reach Google has online. From the search engine to AdWords to Places to Android to the Chrome browser to YouTube to Gmail and more, millions interact with Google everyday.

It’s smartly tying all these components together with Plus that will make it worth your time and attention.

For now, just create a Plus page for your business, watch the promotional video below and wait. We’ll let you know when it’s time to take a closer look at Google+ for Business.

2 Startling Images All Local Business Owners Must See!

 

Ever wish you could get inside your prospects’ brain and see the world as they do?

Well while that might not be possible, you can see how they view the Internet through the use of eyetracking studies.

These types of studies use super-cool technology to track what people look at when surfing the web. And when you combine the results from all those who have participated in the study you end up with one extremely enlightening “heatmap” that shows you where people focus their attention when online.

SEOMoz recently did an eyetracking survey and the results are particularly revealing for local business owners. The study tracked what people look at when on the first page of Google.

Here’s image #1:

Notice how most people’s eyes are drawn to the “7-Pack” of local businesses (also called Google Map results or local search results) even though they are not the first results on the page?

Now take a look at the second image, which I find even more revealing…

Notice how even with a Google AdWords ad and other results pushing the local listings even further down the screen, people’s eyes gravitate toward the “3-Pack” of local results?

These two images clearly illustrate what a powerful magnet these local listings are for your customers (and while these images are from a desktop/laptop, these Google Maps listings get a lot of attention on Smartphones too).

The businesses that get to the top of the Google Maps rankings, win the lion’s share of prospects’ eyeballs (and business).

The first step to getting there is to simply claim your business listing on Google. There’s a ton of great free information on how to do that, and optimize your local search listing, on VizOnTheNet.com.

So if you’re not at the top of the Google Maps listings for the keywords your prospects are typing into Google to find you, head over to that site, start optimizing your local listings today!

 

Google+ Now Open to All

Earlier this week, Google’s infant (but fast growing ) social network, Google+, was opened up to everyone. Up until this week, you had to have an invitation in order to join.

Google made it pretty obvious to those who went to Google.com where to go to sign up (good marketing lesson here, by the way)…

We wrote about what Google+ means for small business owners a few months ago and, nothing has changed in our recommendations since then.

Sign up for a personal account (no business accounts are available yet, but look for them to come sooner, rather than later), play around with it a little (it has some very cool features), and watch as Google adds more features and integrates it more and more with other products and services.

Google+ is not a huge factor for small businesses right now, but look for that to change quickly!

 

Can Local Business Owners Ignore Bing?

Bing logoBelieve it or not, there are other search engines besides Google!

With around 65{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of all U.S. searches taking place on the Big G, it certainly makes sense for business owners to focus their search engine marketing efforts where most people are searching.

However, you shouldn’t completely forget about the other search engines, especially Bing.

A few years ago Bing and Yahoo! combined their search engines so that Bing now powers searches performed on both Bing AND Yahoo!. Combined, these two search engines get about 29{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of all U.S. searches on the web.

Looking at the search traffic patterns for most of my local business clients, I see they’re getting about 20{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of their organic search engine traffic from Bing and Yahoo!. It’s not 29{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} (and your mileage may vary), but that’s still nothing to sneeze at.

So what does this mean for you as a local business owner?

Three important takeaways…

1. Pay attention to where you rank for your top keywords on Bing and Yahoo!. Once a month, look at the Analytics data for your site and see what keywords people are typing into Bing and Yahoo! that are leading them to your site. There may be some good keywords there that you could further optimize and climb higher in the Bing/Yahoo! rankings for (and with relatively less competition on Bing/Yahoo!, it may be easier to claim the top spots for choice keywords for your local business there than on Google).

2. Get your local business listed on the Bing Business Portal. It’s Bing’s equivalent to Google Places and there’s a lot to love about the features it offers. At the very least it’s a good place to get another citation to help you in the Google local rankings but, again, with Bing accounting for 29{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of search engine traffic, the Portal may be a good place to pick up some extra visibility for your business.

3. If you’re using Google AdWords, it’s worth testing Microsoft AdCenter (Bing is a Microsoft product). It’s not nearly as slick as AdWords and doesn’t get nearly as much traffic, but with a 30{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} market share, you could be losing out on a lot of business by not being there.

There used to be a time when I’d tell local business owners to forget about Bing. I can’t do that any more. While I’ve yet to hear stories of Bing/Yahoo! rankings making or breaking a local business (Google can and does), don’t ignore Bing.

Especially if your competition is just focusing all their efforts on Google, spending a bit of time focusing on Bing may give you a few extra leads your competitors are missing!

 

 

I Really Want to Recommend Google AdWords Express, But…

The other week I posted an article with some words of warning about Google AdWords Express.

I really want to be able to recommend it to small business owners. Truly I do.

Google AdWords is a great marketing tool and having an easy, efficient and effective way to use it would be a huge help for many small local businesses.

Since writing that last article, however, my view of Adwords Editor has not gotten any better. Two reasons why…

1. A very pushy Google AdWords Express rep called a client of mine. The rep had my client on the phone for a long time and, despite the client telling the rep he was already using AdWords, the rep persisted. More to get him off the phone than anything, my client relented and signed up for Express.

But here’s what really got me about this situation…

AdWords Express targets searchers in your local area. 99.5{a950ddf0e7a23367a7e0f17377d3737fa8b8b1820bab9af7071f88951eb5d84e} of my client’s customers come from outside his local area so spending money advertising on a local level does him little good.

Google’s pushing this service really hard, but, unfortunately, at least some of the reps are just looking for the sale and don’t even take the time to see if Express can actually help a local business get clients or not.

2. Take a look at this screen capture…

These are the results of a Google search I did for the term “drug crime lawyer” (and, in case you’re wondering, this was for research purposes for a client NOT because of any drug crime I committed!).

Notice that last result on the bottom right with the blue pushpin looking icon next to it? That’s a Google AdWords Express ad…and it’s for a bankruptcy lawyer.

Yet the AdWords Express algorithm is showing this ad for a search related to drug crime lawyers. Not the best targeting there!

And, unfortunately, there’s nothing this lawyer can do about it because, unlike with “regular” AdWords, in AdWords Express you can’t go in and tell Google not to show your ads when certain words show up in the search query a user types into Google.

I do have faith in Google and believe(hope!) that this algorithm will improve over time.

Until then, I can’t recommend Google AdWords Express for the small local business owner.