Posts Tagged ‘seo strategy’

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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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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Giving Thanks To The Net

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Tomorrow is Turkey Day. A day given to reflection and thought and thanks for what we hold dear in our lives. Looking back on my Thanksgivings of the past, I can see the progression of computers and the net as they have woven their way into our society.

Our family used to wander over to partake of the stuffed bird feast with some friends. We’d take our computers and laptops and hook up a maze of wires that put each one in communication with the others. It would often take a couple of hours to get things right, with every electronic box talking to each other, but we didn’t care – we were in Geekdom Heaven.

We’d then play the newly minted StarCraft, filling the room with shouts and evil laughter while my husband and the lady of that house filled the air with the tantalizing aroma of roasted bird.

As we moved into the internet age, our game days went by the wayside. Instead, a home video filmed with a bulky, heavy camera, made a very early YouTube debut. It featured me dropping the bird on the kitchen floor after thoughtlessly plunging my hand into it’s nether regions as I removed it from the oven.

My diabolical offspring discovered the joys of viral video sharing with that little escapade just a few months after YouTube had been born. True to the genes I passed on to them, they also posted it to Google Video and a few other sites that no longer exist to see if they could get the view count up, and maybe get ranked for a few key phrases.

They were awed by the power of the net, watching the stats climb as those few moments of infamy became one of the first YouTube viral videos. And yes, they did get rankings for “stuffed turkey accident” and a couple of other Thanksgiving terms.

Seeking to repeat their success the next Thanksgiving, that camera was everywhere. Fortunately, even though there was a filmed incident that I will not describe here, other netizens had discovered the power of viral video. They flooded the net with exploding turkeys, live turkeys dressed in pilgrim outfits, turkeys chasing axe wielding humans, and many other funny, silly or downright stupid turkey tricks. Thus the previous year’s success was not repeated due to much heavier competition. That was something I was VERY thankful for!.

This year I will spend some time with my kids and friends. Even though we all can’t be together in the same room, we will be sharing the same online experience. We’ll be in a voice chat, playing some sort of online game as we catch up. We’ll talk marketing, and seo, and business startups and hardware advances for several hours before sitting down to our respective tables.

We’ll compare notes about online sales at Amazon and NewEgg. We’ll laugh about the “old days” as we auto connect to our wireless networks. Urls for favorite sites will be passed back and forth. We’ll compare site visitor stats and bounce rates and discuss how current events are affecting sales in our respective industries.

And when I sit down to give thanks for what I have, I’ll thank the technology and constant innovation that have made my Thanksgivings joyful memories for so many years. No matter how far flung my family and friends may be, they are as close as my mouse and my monitor thanks to the online world we live in.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Site Design DOES Matter

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

There is one area of internet marketing that is often overlooked. Site Design. While good navigation and a pleasing, easy to read page is conducive to converting lookers to buyers, recent changes at Google have made site design an even more important element of search engine optimization.

Google has always cared about the proper use of HTML and CSS code, page load times and other “backend” design elements, but with a recent test by Google, site design is about to become even more important to search results.

In the past couple of weeks Google has been experimenting with “page preview”. Enter a search term and click the magnifying glass next to a result to turn this feature on. Now scroll over the results and you’ll see something like the image below.

The keyword you entered will be highlighted on the page preview.

What effect will this new feature have on your online marketing efforts? Let’s look at two examples of a page preview.

Notice the broken Flash video image? The rest of this page isn’t bad, and it still could attract visitors. BUT the keyterms I entered to find this page are not highlighted within this preview. It won’t take long for visitors to start bypassing pages and sites that don’t have their key term prominently displayed and highlighted in the Google Page Preview.

Let’s look at another preview page.

I went to this page to find out why it was displaying so much white space. Java popups, old style html code and lack of CSS contributed to hide content from the page preview. This site – according to a quick look at it’s source code – is using site design style from the 1990’s. Do you think this page preview will result in visitors? Ummm probably not.

Most sites I review from an SEO perspective need some help. Titles, descriptions, code rewrites and other elements frequently need to be updated and redone. Most sites I see online are not “mobile friendly”. Many are confusing to visitors with poor navigation and overall site layout. But now the stakes have been raised. Now poor site design will be evident to everyone before they ever click your link in Google search results.

Make a New Years resolution to check your site and update as needed.

  • Check it in Google’s Site Preview
  • Use the index card or business card  test – how much of your site can be seen in a 3″ x 5″ or smaller area? That’s what a mobile device sees.
  • Dump Flash. Even if Apple were supporting it, it’s old, it’s tired, it’s a security risk and there are better, quicker, well supported alternatives to a Flash video.
  • Think “cross browser” and “cross platform” compatible. Be SURE your site can be seen on IE, FireFox, Safari and Chrome. Be SURE it’s Smart Phone and iPad ready.

And be SURE it looks inviting to the Page Preview browser! (HINT – Bing is also going the Page Preview route.) Spending the time to get a good ranking in Google and then losing the visitor to bad site design will mean your Christmas stocking will be full of coal next year.

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Internet Marketing Lessons My Sales Manager Taught Me

Monday, November 15th, 2010

A long time ago in what seems like a distant galaxy, far before the world of the internet, I had a most amazing sales manager. We were selling the first PC’s – Apple was only a scant 14 months out of the garage. And yet what this guy taught me was probably the best training for successful  internet marketing I ever got.

Ralph was an inveterate people watcher and we used to stand outside the store on the busiest street corner in Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland really did have foot traffic once upon a time and was the home to an astonishing number of Fortune 500 companies.

As people hurried by on their way to their cubicles and glass enclosed office suites, Ralph kept up a running commentary on what job they held, what their likes and dislikes were, even what they enjoyed doing  in their off time. Being fond of fact not fiction, I challenged Ralph to prove that he was right with what I considered to be guesses.

We started a “customer survey” with just five questions – what is your job title, do you use computers in your office, how long have your held your current position, with what you know about computers do you like them, hate them or are you afraid of them, and what do you do most in your off time.

We gave away an Apple logo’d sticky note pad and pen to everyone taking the survey. Ralph was incredibly accurate. The answers he gave for an individual before they took our survey had at least 3 of the 5 questions pegged correctly.

After about a week of running our little impromptu sampling I asked Ralph two questions. How was he able to size people up so quickly and how were those answers applicable to sales?

Ralph’s reply was that to successfully sell anything to anyone you had to know as much about them as possible in as short a time as practical. He would ask  seemingly friendly “warm up” questions to determine their level of computer experience, how they felt about computers in general, what “tribe” they belonged to, and anything else he could to determine exactly how he would respond to the customer and close the sale.

He also turned himself into that customer. He was a huge man – 6′ 4 and well over 200 pounds. But he could become a timid accountant in a heartbeat. His entire demeanor would change from the self confident sales leader into a hesitant, quiet, cubicle dwelling number cruncher. The prospect became comfortable with this mirror image of himself and would express his inner fears and sales objections, allowing Ralph to gently put them aside and close the sale.

If the self made tool and die millionaire wandered in, Ralph’s voice would boom through the store as he shook hands firmly with that kindred spirit. It was a lesson in the art and craft of salesmanship that I will always treasure.

When I began my online marketing career, Ralph’s lessons came to mind. I found that my most successful websites and clients were the ones that spoke the language of the unseen customer. The copy struck the right chords, resonating with the right “tribe” and matching the benefits to their objections,  and closing the sale.

Online marketing and salesmanship is more challenging than in person sales. The prospect is unseen, no visual cues are evident. But if you have truly taken the time to research your niche and it’s denizens, you know who they are, where they hang out, what is important to them and what product features they are interested in. You speak their language and walk their walk. By doing this, you identify yourself as a member of their “tribe” and build trust.

Yes, you understand their need. Yes, you are able to stop the pain and solve their problem because you understand THEM. You need the right keyterms to attract them to your site – the words they use, not necessarily the ones with the highest search volume.

If your market is fragmented – use landing pages to appeal to each segment. Use the language of that market segment to attract and engage. The voice in your copy needs to speak only to that segment, and not try to be all things to all people.

To paraphrase Caddyshack “be one with the customer, become the customer” and you will set sales records just like Ralph did.

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Don’t Let SEO Ruin Your Content

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

When it comes to keyword research, every person who has ever looked at keyword suggestions knows that there’s a million ways people search for the same thing.  There are regional differences – here in the U.S. some regions called canned soft drinks “pop” others call them “soda”.  And still others call them by a brand name, while some segments use the term “soft drink”.

If you check your server stats or other analytics, you can see what people use to find you. It’s eye opening and mind boggling. I always end up saying “huh I never would have thought of that ONE” when I see what real people use to find a particular site or product.

Most of the phrases are similar, and often highly competitive. Check out rental cars versus car rental for example. So the problem search optimization experts have is organizing and optimizing content for similar, yet different keyterms without making content pages read like a forced exercise in keyword research.

Ideally you would have one page that focuses on just one or maybe two keyterms. But when they are as similar as car rental and rental cars, that’s hard to do. You could take an existing page for car rental and change every instance of that term to rental car, but then you’d loose your ranking for rental car.

The best way to look at similar keyterms is to group them into “themes”. For example, let’s take a typical car rental (or rental car) location. Their themes could be discounts, locations, amenities, etc. Within each theme set up groups. Let’s take discounts. How many types of discounts are there? Each one and each way of saying that term becomes a key phrase.

Develop a page for each theme. Sprinkle the keyterms from that theme throughout the page. Be sure to add a few to other pages as well. Here’s how I do it.

  1. Set up the themes for the site
  2. Add the theme keywords, listed from best to worst according to traffic
  3. Add the #1 keyterm from each theme to the front page
  4. Use the #1 keyterm in the title and description for the theme page – trying to get the #2 and #3 in there also
  5. Use all of the keyterms for that theme on the theme’s page

Add the #2 or #3 term to other pages as appropriate

Your lower ranked keyterms will probably not have as much traffic as your top theme words. But they also probably won’t have as much competition either. Thus you get those other words into your site, but the spiders always know which theme words are #1 because of where they are placed – on the first page and in the title and descript of the theme page.

This method means you won’t be trying to shoehorn in phrases that don’t really match the page content. You will be writing for the Search Spiders but also writing for people – the most important element of search.

The very best way to make search friendly, customer ready, themed keyword rich pages is to blog. I love blogs – although for the record I”m not a fan of Word Press but that’s my techy side grumbling. If I see that people are finding me with some weird new combination of words I hadn’t thought of – no site rewrite required – I just start dropping those terms into my blog posts. If they are really good, I add them as categories.  And of course I get them into titles and tags.

Don’t put your blog somewhere else. Make it a part of your site. It will help your site in the rankings and it can’t do that if it is somewhere else in the web universe.

So there you have it – theme your keyterms, make pages for those themes and don’t try to jack in too many dis-similar words on a page. Your content will flow better, your rankings will improve, and both your customers and your banker will be happy.

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Achieving Viral Content

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

In the last episode of “SEO Land” we discussed the true meaning of the phrase “viral content” and why it was important to have visitors talking to others about your site. Just as an aside here, did you know that women speak to almost 20 more people a day, on average, than men do? Seems to me that if you had a group of women passing your link around you could have instant virality.

The big question is – how do you create viral content? It’s not that difficult and you don’t have to drag a bunch of cute, cuddly animals onto your website. Remember we want to get the content talked about, not necessarily get 1 million YouTube views. While a cat playing the piano is a sure hit, it probably has nothing to do with your business unless you’re a piano tuner.

Number one – create a blog. A blog is a wonderful thing. It serves many purposes, both in SEO Land and as a source of viral content. If you think you can’t write, you’re probably wrong. You should be able to put your thoughts, feelings, tricks and tips into some semblance of written order. You don’t have to post every day, and your posts don’t have to be lengthy.

They do have to connect with the reader and be more than a “puff” piece or a restatement of company policy. There’s a reason people don’t read T&C’s or Privacy statements – they’re boring. They’re pretty much all the same. You won’t see them on Facebook or being re-Tweeted. Unless you ARE  Facebook and you’ve changed privacy controls for the third time in a month and stirred up a firestorm yet again.

That brings us to one of the most overlooked elements of viral content – controversy. No matter what industry you are in, there are controversial issues surrounding it. Nothing gets passed around as quickly as content links that address industry headlines. My dad always told me to stay out of discussions about religion and politics, and in the world of social media and blogging, that holds true, too. But a well reasoned post about industry events is always a good way to be noticed and “passed around”.

Whether it’s your blog or your website, have something useful. Tips, how to’s, widgets, a good collection of useful links – these are all ways to get your site frequent repeat visitors. Did you know that the phrase “how do I” is used more often in search than any other?

If your site has the answer to “How do I…?” your url will get passed around and bookmarked more than your competitors. I have a special bookmark section that answers my most frequent questions. Things like conversion calculators – how many feet make 15 meters? BMI calculators – how tall do I have to be to support the weight I’ve gained sitting in this computer chair?  Financial calculators, a cool site that lists all the codecs for video encoding, another one that gives  a short description of CSS tags, and many more.

If you can answer the “How” or “What” or “Why” questions for your industry, do it! Set up a reference area on your site, or blog about it. Keep it simple – an ordered list of how to do something step by step. Or what to do for XYZ. Become a one stop shop for YOUR industry and your site and it’s content will become viral.

We can’t mention viral content without talking video. And with video the same points apply. Don’t just do a “look at how wonderful my product or service is” video. SHOW people how to use it! Tell viewers how to do something and they will watch.

If you can come up with a creative way of using your product – do it. The single most watched product videos are the “Will It Blend?” series from Blendtec. They are irreverent,  silly, hilarious at times and have been featured on every major news site on the net.

Think bloopers. Is there something that shouldn’t be done with your product? If it won’t create a safety hazard – do it! With the camera rolling. When you make people laugh, they remember you. They feel warm and fuzzy. And then they open their wallets. Because they feel a connection with you, when you have ENGAGED them.

These are just a few ideas to get your viral content ball rolling. Look at your industry and start thinking about how YOU can stand out from the crowd. What YOU can do for your customer above and beyond what your competition is doing. And pretty soon you will be saying “They like me! They REALLY like me!” as those talkative women begin telling the 28 people they converse with every day about your company, your site, and your content.

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SEO and Viral Content

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Have you ever looked at a video on YouTube and seen views over 1 million, or even over 2 or 3 million? If you’re a red blooded marketing person you probably drooled as your eyes turned glassy dreaming about that many visitors.

You will hear internet marketers promoting software or programs or techniques that will give you viral content. But you will NEVER see numbers even close to 10,000 by using any of these “tricks”.  You see, these techniques forget a very important fact about content.  The content has to be something someone actually wants to watch/read/listen to.

One of the masters of the viral content game is OK Go.  Their latest video features a choreographed dance with dogs. More than 6.5 million people have watched it on YouTube.

According to Ok Go’s lead singer Damian Kulash, “Content succeeds online,” he said, “because it brings people joy, it makes them smile — it’s interesting enough to be passed along to friends and family members. That’s no stunt,” he said, “it’s just a matter of making something that’s genuine and interesting.”

There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable.

We can expand that last statement  (which completely explains why all those programs and techniques won’t work) to read “There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable or useful.

Here’s the thing about the net – it’s built around people. Long ago the page rank of a site was an indicator of how many other sites found the content likable and useful. But guess what? Things have changed. Now actual real people “like” content and share it with friends, colleagues, and family. Social has overtaken the net and people, not sites, determine who has the best content. (Which is why page rank doesn’t matter nearly as much as it once did.)

Take a good hard look at your content. Does it talk about you? How great and good and wonderful you are? Be objective – is that content anyone wants to spread to their circle of people? Probably not, unless you have one of those foot long gold statues that are given out at awards ceremonies in Hollywood.

What is your content doing for your visitors? Is it educating them? Is it answering questions for them? Is it making their lives easier? Is it entertaining them?

Are you providing a place for lively discussion of ideas on your Facebook page, your blog, or your forum? Have you built into your site or your social media efforts an engine that will allow more and more content to be built up over time? A repository of useful information in your field?

Or is your site like the millions of others on the net –

  • page one – welcome to my site
  • pages two through 1000 – here are my great products with a one line description and a fuzzy, out of focus product image
  • page three – all about me
  • page four – contact me

This yawner formula is certain to make you a part of the thundering herd of similar sites and prevent you from ever “going viral”.

You see what works on YouTube – the basics – entertain, impart USEFUL knowledge, provide LIKABLE content, works with search engines as well as with people. The more likable content you have, the more the engines will visit and the higher you will climb in the rankings, bringing more and more visitors to your site. Those visitors are asked a ton of questions every single day that begin with “Where do I find…”

This is what viral truly means. When the answer to that question is YOUR site, and YOUR URL gets passed around in FaceBook, Twitter, eMail, and Smart Phone conversations – you’ve GONE VIRAL.

Your site will never achieve the Holy Grail of Viralizm unless you have that likable content in place.

How do you create likable content? Stay tuned and tomorrow I’ll go into the nuts and bolts of how to create that likable content.

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Search Engine Marketing = Location, Location, Location

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Realtors have always stressed the importance of location and property sales. Google seems to have paid rapt attention to these lessons. In an effort to further personalize the search experience, local returns are now taking even more precedence over other search results.

In a change implemented early this week, Google has at last added a location setting that makes my geeky SEO expert’s heart sing. They have added a setting in the left sidebar that allows me to change my detected location.

Why does this make me happy? You see, if I’m looking for a Chinese takeout around the corner, I like Google showing me a neat little map of my neighborhood and a synopsis of the local joints. If I’m trying to research keywords or find a client’s rankings, localization tends to backfire. If they’re located in Canada, I had to jump through a few online hoops to get relevant results that weren’t centered in the heartland of the US.

Based on where your computer is plugged into the net changes SEO results dramatically, even if geo-targeting is not important to your business. There are two areas of concern that you, as a site owner, need to be aware of.

Let’s look at the Chinese takeout example first. If you sell takeout boxes for Chinese food, you could be shoved far down the results page due to localization. You may have checked your rankings this morning to find that your hard won page one position has dropped to page two or worse!

Not every keyterm will return local results. You may have to revisit your SEO efforts and research some new terms that won’t be butting heads with local results to continue to attract your desired audience.

You may also hear your SEO experts celebrating a new page one ranking, while you’re looking at results that still show you in position 24. Their location may not have the local competition that your location is experiencing.

From Google’s standpoint localization means returning more relevant results. Google’s thinking that Wiki articles on the history of Chinese food is probably secondary to local restaurants is correct. But for those of us who make our living from the engines, this thinking adds another layer of complexity to our optimization efforts and raises the stakes in the game of Search Engine Marketing.

The second area of concern is WHAT is shown for those local results. Again, using my Chinese takeout experiment, the number ranked eatery began with a customer review. And it was NOT a good review! By this time I was truly in the mood for Chinese food and believe me I skipped right over the result that began with “There was NOTHING about my experience that was good and I would never recommend…”

WHY did this review show front and center? This poor site owner had never optimized his Google Places listing. Nor had he gone even further and checked out the other directories that appear in those results and made sure he had a proper profile setup in those.

You will never make 100%  of your customers happy. And it’s a fact of life that an unhappy customer will be more likely to write a bad review than a happy customer. Trying to remove bad reviews is a bad practice. But you can mitigate those bad reviews. You can answer them in a calm, respectful manner, apologizing for any errors or omissions. How you answer a bad review carries weight with other potential customers. No one expects that all reviews will be glowing. As netizens we’ve all seen our share of the impossible-to-please review writer.

If there are ten glowing reviews, two so-so reviews and one review trashing the service, that one bad review won’t carry much, if any, weight with a prospect.  But if that one review is a part of your first page description – ah then that’s totally different!

What can you do? Do your homework. Optimize your Google Places listing. Find the other directories and all reviews of your company. Institute a campaign to get MORE reviews. Fresh reviews will drive that older bad one down the list.

Last, but not least, listen. If you are getting similar reviews that point to a problem – handle that problem. Acknowledge it, fix it, and then reply to the reviews letting your current and prospective customers know that you ARE listening to them and you ARE taking appropriate action.

As Martha Stewart would say – “Localization and reviews are a GOOOOD thing” and adding a local setting to the sidebar is a great move from Google.

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Why SEO AND Social Media Marketing are an Investment

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Are you one of the companies who feels you don’t really need to spend any money on SEO or Social Media Marketing? I know times are tough. I know money is tight. And I know that many companies are tightening the budget. Search Engine Marketing isn’t free. Neither is Social Media Marketing. And cutting corners or even eliminating online marketing efforts completely can look attractive. But money invested in your online marketing can be the best investment you ever make for the health of your bottom line.

Let’s look at SEO first. Do you know what percentage of your visitors are finding your site from organic search? If not take a look at your Google Analytics. If those aren’t available, take a look at your raw server stats. If those are unavailable hop over to Alexa.com and look at their numbers.

Is it 60%? 10% ? 85% ? If it’s above 50% – will you be able to replace that many of your leads and prospective customers without spending any money in any other channel? Can you afford to lose those visitors? The net is a competitive arena, and if you don’t continue a link building campaign, if you don’t continue to create and distribute quality content, you will lose your organic traffic.

Maybe you’ve heard that Social Media is where it’s at. So you might consider pulling your money from the Search Marketing campaign and throwing it all into Social Media marketing. You’ll get some Social traffic, but without a properly optimized site it’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Maybe you think that you can pull ether one or both inhouse. After all the mail room guy says he knows all about Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. And he probably does – as a user of those services. But will he know how to set up the profiles in a way that gets them found by the right audience? Will he know how to conduct the conversations that will get users interested enough to visit your site?

Social Media has two important areas. Setup is the most important. If your setup is not done well, you’ll be building on a shaky foundation laid in quicksand. Social Media is a conversion layer NOT a sales channel. You CAN NOT SELL DIRECTLY to friends and visitors on your Social Media channels.

Social Media is like a good ShamWow infomercial. It introduces your and your company and products to prospective buyers. You have to get them interested and then make them want to buy, and then convince them to buy from you.

With SEO they are ALREADY interested, you just have to move them to your site and show them what they want.

Tapping someone to run a Social Media campaign who knows how to use Social Media, not how to market Social Media is like taking your receptionist who knows how to use MS Office and having her pitch your new operating system software to the folks in Redmond.

If you are thinking about cutting back on your SEO or Social Media efforts, or doing one without the other, remember – you’re playing in the big leagues. The day is long gone when you could throw up a site and get visitors and sales almost by default. You’re competing against brands and companies who command armies of experts.

But the really cool thing about the net is that you can STILL level that playing field and you can go head to head against the giants AND WIN if your experts are good at building foundations, engaging in the right conversations, and making your site appeal to your prospects.

Holding back on your online marketing investments can prevent you from building up the momentum you need to overcome your competition. Holding back on your online marketing investments means you won’t see your conversions increase even if your traffic doubles. Holding back on your online marketing efforts means you will lose market share and stop growing. And in the online world, if you stop growing, in time you’ll just be another web site languishing at the bottom of those 5 million pages that aren’t in the first 100 search results for your products and services.

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