Category Archives for "Search Engine Optimization"

PPC, SEO and Bisexuality

The other day I came across yet another sensationalistic article pitting PPC against SEO.

The article, and particularly the comment section, was chock full o’ SEO experts bashing PPC as expensive, complicated and ineffective. And PPC experts bashing SEO as expensive, complicated and ineffective.

It’s garbage – on both sides.

Why? Well, to get to the heart of why I’m gonna use a quote from Woody Allen…

“Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.”

Listen, I’m certainly not qualified to dispense dating advice here. But I think I’m certainly well qualified to give out marketing advice – especially when it comes to SEO and PPC. So, here goes…

SEO vs PPC is NOT an either / or choice. And, for many businesses, if you’re doing one and then add the other, you immediately increase your chances of getting qualified prospects to your website.

There’s a misconception out there that if you have high organic rankings, you don’t need PPC. Or, conversely, if you’re killing it with PPC, you don’t need SEO.

The issue with this thinking is that the results you get with one doesn’t erode the results you can get with the other.  The reality is you’re reaching DIFFERENT prospects with each.

And studies have found if you have top organic rankings and add PPC to the mix, you’ll get a lot MORE LEADS that you wouldn’t have gotten from just your organic rankings alone.

Now, unlike what Allen says about bisexuality, doing SEO and PPC probably won’t DOUBLE your pool of prospects, but still, doing both will drive more prospects to your site than just doing one or the other.

SEO vs PPC is the WRONG question.

The right question is… can you do both SEO and PPC profitably? Cuz if so, by just sticking with one and ignoring the other, you’re  missing out on revenue that could be yours and you’re giving your competitors a bigger opening to steal prospects away from you.

If you own a local service business and would like to see if your business may be a good fit for our unique ROI-driven PPC and SEO programs, either fill out the Contact form on our site or call us at 314-329-1422.

When Will SEO Become a Losing Proposition?

Got a really interesting question from an AdWords client of mine recently. This client is extremely online marketing savvy (he used to work for an SEO firm) so knows the Internet landscape better than most.

For the last few years, he’s been using a very large company to manage SEO for his business. Initially they had some good success. Post Penguin/Panda, however, has been a different story and the client is very frustrated and looking to make change.

In fact, he’s contemplating giving up SEO completely. Here’s his email…

“Frankly, one of the questions I’m going to ask you (and some of my other online marketing geeks) is when will SEO become a losing proposition for everyone (website owners, SEO companies, etc.)?  It seems that as Google (and everyone else) gets smarter and smarter, each algorithm change eliminates more and more variables once relied upon by SEO companies to game the system.

And if we do all our on-page correctly at some point should we just pull the plug on SEO, let the search engines do their thing and reinvest those dollars into PPC?”

Here’s my reply…

“My short answer is that I don’t have any idea when/if off-site SEO will become a losing proposition. I’ll leave that for others to debate.

What I do know is that, when done correctly, it still works now (though it takes much greater skill to pull off effectively than it did even just a year or two ago). Over the last 6 months I don’t think there’s been a month where our SEO clients haven’t had a net improvement in their rankings.

I’d love to expand what we’re doing together on the PPC side of things. I think there’s a great opportunity for remarketing, potentially Display Network campaigns and an expansion/change in direction in the keywords we’re focusing on in Search.

But SEO can still send a TON of highly targeted traffic to your site and I don’t think it can be ignored.

And, quite frankly, I don’t ever see on-site factors being all it takes to get good rankings. The search engines tried that experiment years ago and it didn’t work.

They simply have to use outside factors in some way to deliver relevant results. Whether those factors are backlinks, social media signals, authorship markup, what Matt Cutts has for breakfast on any given day, etc., who knows.

But whatever the mix of factors), off-site factors HAVE to play a major role in determining where a site ranks in the search engine results.

If there were ever to come a day when it looks like SEO truly doesn’t pay, we’d be the first to tell you (and, believe me, as a company that makes most of its money from PPC, I’d LOVE for that day to come because people would flock to PPC is greater numbers! ;)

But for now, I can’t in good conscious recommend ditching SEO. There’s too much potential business to be won in the organic results to ignore it.”

Now it’s your turn to weigh in…are the days of SEO numbered or is it still a winning proposition? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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.

Great Marketing Lesson From the Back of a Van

This van from a local HVAC company pulled out in front of me the other day…

 

Last week I wrote about the “Howard Stern Effect” and why you don’t want to try to appeal to everyone…

…Because when you try to appeal to everyone, you end up not appealing to anyone.

This HVAC company could be chasing any customers they can get like all the other HVAC companies out there, but they’re not. With just 5 words, they’ve developed a Unique Selling Proposition that demonstrates how they’re different from the competition and one that clearly resonates with their target audience…

“We specialize in older homes”

On their website, they go into a little more detail about why they specialize in older homes…

“We specialize in older homes because we got our start working with boiler systems and retrofitted them with ductwork, central air conditioning and furnaces. “

That sentence helps establish their credibility and gives their prospects a reason why they have this specialty (giving a “reason why” to prospects is a very important marketing concept, by the way).

(Quick side note…in just the 30 seconds I was on their website I discovered that whoever did their SEO used at least one very shady (also knows as “Black Hat”) SEO strategy so I’m not going to link to the site. Using that strategy is probably hurting their search engine rankings.)

In any case, this is a great example of a Unique Selling Proposition that a lot of businesses would do well to follow. If you’re looking for a local HVAC company to do work in your older home, wouldn’t you give extra consideration to the company that specializes in older homes?

I sure would.

And I have proof that it works…

When this van pulled out in front of me, it came out of the driveway of…a very old home!

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.

Why Local Business Owners Can’t Ignore Google+

Take a close look at this screenshot from a Google search for “google keyword tool” I did and you’ll know everything you need to know about why Google+ is a big deal…

Notice the #4 and #7 results (the ones with the little thumbnail picture with someone’s name next to it)…

#4 is a 2010 blog post by my friend (and Main Street Marketing Expert) Russ Henneberry. Russ and I are connected on Google+.

#7 is a blog post shared by Leslie Clark who I am connected to on Google+ as well (and, unlike with Russ, Google+ is the only social network Leslie and I are connected on).

If I am not logged into Google, the search results page for the exact same search for the keyword “Google Keyword Tool” looks like this…

Notice Russ and Leslie’s post are nowhere to be found.

This is the direction that search is headed.

For better or worse, your connections on Google+ and other social media sites are going to influence the results you see when doing searches. We knew this was coming, I’m just surprised at how quickly these changes seem to be happening.

What’s the bottom line for you as a local business owner?

Right now, you don’t have to worry much about Google+. It’s not adopted by enough people to make much difference. But that will change sooner, rather than later.

Think of a prospect of yours doing a search looking for a local (insert your industry here) and one of their friends has shared your website, blog post, reviewed your business, etc. That instantly makes your business rank higher on Google and be the most compelling result on the page to the person performing the search.

What I also see happening is that as more people come on board with Google+, the activity of Google+ users will become a bigger factor in where your business ranks in the search results for everyone…not just those we’re connected to through social media.

Google+ Action Steps for the Local Business Owner

1. Sign up for Google+ (it’s by invitation only right now and if you send me an email at adam [at] wordsthatclick [dot] com with the headline “Google+ invite” I’m happy to send one your way) so you have a front row seat as this evolves.

(Note: Only individuals can sign up for Google+ right now, business accounts are coming later this year.)

2. Get familiar with how it works – create some Circles, +1 some sites, make a few posts.

3.  Check back with us here at the Main Street Marketing Community and we’ll keep you informed of how to use Google+ to market your local business.

You can start (whether you have a Google+ account or not, by hitting the +1 button right below this post!

 

 

The Most Important Local Business Owners Should Know About Google’s New +1 Button

Google officially announced its answer to the Facebook Like button yesterday, the +1 button.

This button will appear next to the organic search listings, next to the pay per click ads as well as on websites that choose to add the +1 button to them.

Here are a few screenshots from Google that show what it will look like in the organic rankings (notice the +1 button next to the listing’s title and then, under the listing, how many people +1′d the site and/or specific people in your social network who +1′d it)…

Why should you care?

Because +1 can affect where you rank in the search engines.

How big an effect, time will only tell. (It will likely make only a very small difference in the short term, but become much more of a factor in the future.)

This +1 button seems ripe for abuse (how many people can you find in India, the Philippines, on even on Craigslist, etc. to click on your site’s +1 button for a few cents each?) and it will be interesting to see how it evolves over time.

For now, it’s just important to understand that it’s out there and that social media is becoming more and more of a factor in where your business ranks on Google.

Oh, and when you start seeing the +1 button pop up the next time you’re on Google, be sure to click it for your website (and it probably wouldn’t hurt to have your clients and friends do the same thing!)