Archive for December, 2010

Get Ready for 2011 SEO

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The new year is almost upon us and 2011 will mean some major shifts in SEOland. Of course every year brings major search optimization shifts. Google makes 550 algorithm changes in a given year according to Wired magazine.

A big shift in 2010 heralds some of the changes for 2011. The Yahoo Bing merger of search results has given Bing a 25% share of the search market. Google still retains their 70%+ and will battle to maintain position, while Bing attempts to grab more market share.

So far we who toil in the SEOland trenches know that speed will be a factor in 2011. Slow loading sites and pages will suffer in the rankings. If your site relies on a slow loading Flash splash page, or your designer didn’t properly compress your image heavy pages, you will see your position erode throughout 2011.

We also know that Social Media will play a larger part in ranking algorithms. Those indicators have been creeping into search toolbars often called “Social Media Index”. We know that being mentioned in Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Technorati is monitored by Google and Bing, we don’t always know how it is affecting rankings.

One of the biggest changes we will be seeing in 2011 is the ability of Google to look at user interaction with a website and rank that site accordingly. Bounce rates, time on site, number of page views will all be a part of ranking. The signals are loud and clear – you will be judged by your industry standards. You must have a site worthy of visitors, or Google will not place your site in a position to attract those visitors via search.

What do you need to do to make it in the next year of search? Be distinct. Have unique value. Engage with your community and if you don’t have a community – build one.

Keep these four factors in mind as you look at your site from a search perspective.

  • How many good inbound links do you you have?
  • How well are you represented in social media?
  • How well do your users interact with your site?
  • How does your site compare to others covering the same subjects?

As we get into the next year, we will be heading inexorably towards the new ear of search. We will need to spend more time, effort and money on becoming Search Engine Marketers. The old “flavor of the week” game the system techniques have become less effective than ever, and 2011 may mark their permanent demise.  Gaming the system may still work somewhat, but the strategic goals of the search engines are working against it. Remember – Google and Bing have obscene piles of money to accomplish their goals. Helping them achieve those goals is in your best interests.

To do that we must think more like traditional marketers. Offer items of value, produce good content, engage your visitors. The engines are watching. They will take note of how valuable your site is to your community. Value will be rewarded.

The beauty of a more traditional marketing approach is that it will be kind to you as the years go by. As search engines improve algorithms they will do a better recognizing sites that are seen as valuable by users. Search optimization is a never ending task. There are thousands of competitors who are spending time and money trying to take over your position.

You can retain your position and improve upon it by using a holistic approach to your online marketing efforts. Then, the changes at the search engines make are likely to favor you at the expense of your competitors who take a more short-term tactical approach.

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The Most Important Part of Social Media

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Unless you’ve been buried in a snowbank in outer Mongolia for the past two years, you’ve heard how important social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have become to your online marketing efforts. Yet many websites are not aware of the most important part of social media marketing.

Relevance and User Engagement

We’ve talked about relevant content before. Your content must be relevant to the user or they won’t find you in any type of a search. In Social Marketing, they wont’ come back to revisit you if your content isn’t relevant to their needs. But when you deliver engaging content to that visitor, they are more likely to stay on your page or click through to additional content.

Let’s take a typical example. You have a video playing on a page with ads. Your revenue stream from this page comes from ad views. If you include a relevant Tweet stream, you retain your viewers longer, thus increasing those ad views.

Let’s say you have 100,000 people watching that video, and a new ad is served every minute at $8 CPM, but you lose 50 percent of your audience halfway through the video. By adding that relevant Tweet stream, or user-generated video reviews you could retain half of those viewers you lose.

Let’s do the math. If you could retain half of those you lost – 25,000 viewers, and your video is 30 minutes long, and your CPM is $8 per minute,  you’d gain an additional $6,000 of revenue in an hour.

Seeing that participating social commentary can inspire the “herd effect”. The more people who comment on your video or reTweet it to their friends, the more people jump on the bandwagon and join in the commentary.

Loyalty also comes into play. If a customer has an engaging experience with your brand, they are far more likely to tell their friends about that experience. With the advent of social media, that circle of friends can run into some serious numbers!

Relevant and engaging social media can drive conversions. Let’s use a retail example. Let’s say your shoppers have access to tweets about a product while viewing the product page. You have 100,000 shoppers a day. If those tweets on products or brands bring the typical 3 percent site conversion up to 4 percent for that audience – with average order value of $200- you’d see $10,000 in revenue per day, or $3.6 million for the year. At 15 percent gross margin, that’s $547,000 of net profit.

The key to accomplishing these numbers is simple to state, but often ignored. Create engaging content. Add relevant social media. Serve in an easy to use page that invites even more relevant social commentary. That’s the recipe for social media revenue and conversion success.

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In SEO or Online Marketing Little Things Mean A Lot

Monday, December 6th, 2010

This past weekend I was buzzing around the net, checking on some SEO work and reading up on the never-ending changes in SEO Land. The normal arguments were going on in chat rooms, blog posts and comments. How much does Google want to see “this”? Is a three page checkout process one page too many? How badly does a lack of mobile ready pages hurt the bottom line?

As I rambled around the inter webz, I noticed there were over 400 MILLION pages competing for the key term I was checking. Seems like just last week there were a bare 100,000. An article caught my eye about mobile users hitting some astronomical figure by 2013. And I tried to buy something at a site that frustrated me with it’s multi page checkout process to the point of hitting the “cancel this transaction” button.

What do all these things have in common? Today, more than ever before, little things mean a lot. Competition is fierce, only 10 sites (or less in some cases) make it to the first page of Google for a keyterm. That’s 10 out of 400 million!

If you do get a customer to your checkout, you’ve won them from brick and mortar stores, online giants like Amazon and thousands of competitors. And they might have come to you from a smart phone – many sites are seeing mobile use in their stats that hit 10% or more of their monthly traffic.

Back in the early days when making money online was like picking up gold nuggets on a beach, details didn’t really matter all that much. The net was new, and customers would put up with poor checkout pages. They even went 3, 4 or more pages deep in a search session! Today, every detail counts.

No matter how well optimized a site, or how user friendly your purchase funnel may be, check these details or your competition will pull ahead of you.

Check the spelling – not only of your copy, but the all important meta title and description. I’ve seen keyterms misspelled in these areas which is great if you’re after a particular misspelling, but most folks aren’t. I even saw a site with the owner’s name spelled incorrectly throughout the pages!

Alt tags on images – do they count? A little. But if you and your competitor have sites of equal value doesn’t it make sense to do everything YOU can to tip the scales in your favor? Including making good use of the tags most site designers ignore?

Keywords in file names. Another little thing that most site designers and developers ignore are the names they assign images and page files. Do these count? A little. But hey – little things mean a lot! And instead of a bland “contact.html” or “logo1.jpg” it’s not hard to use “mykeytag.html” or “keyterm1.jpg”.

Go through your own checkout process. Are you standing in the way of a sale? Are you asking too much info from your customer? Are you using a dreaded captcha on a secure checkout page? That’s overkill and I can guarantee you will lose customers if they can’t read it and enter it right the first time.

Is your checkout process returning the right icon on the browser bar? In other words is it on a secure page with a properly updated SSL certificate? Nothing will stop the hand on the wallet faster than an error message popping up during checkout that says “this site may not be secure”.

Do you give the customer a clear message that their order has been received and is being processed?

Speaking of pages, do you have a custom “page not found” page? Do you politely inform your customer that they have reached a non existent page and give them a link back to your main page or a category page?

Does your site search work? I mean does it REALLY work? Does it come up with alternate spellings of a term or make suggestions? Does it politely or humorously let the customer know that term is not present in your site? Or is it a bare “search term not found” sort of page?

These are all little things, minor details, often overlooked. But with as competitive as the market has become, these little things can be the difference between being found and making a sale, or languishing in the middle of the pack of pages that are your online market.

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