December 1, 2008
Turn to SEO to help beat a bad economyPaid search helped the industry through dire times before, but don't put all your eggs in one basket during the current crisis. SEO can be just as effective as SEM, sometimes at much less cost.
Interactive marketers and ecommerce companies alike are increasingly worried about the economy. If we dial back seven years ago, to the rather dismal fall of 2001, we might all feel a little better. As reported by ClickZ at that time, Odyssey's "Breadbox" study found 51 percent of consumers reported they were more likely to pursue bargains given the negative economic environment. Meanwhile, 65 percent of online shoppers said they felt shopping online saved them money and 55 percent of all U.S. consumers believed that people using online services for shopping were likely to be enjoying retail savings.
The same survey would garner similar results today, and that is good news for those of us working in search. In times of economic downturn, consumers tend to shop online more, not less. While search enables online shoppers to comparison shop, there is also the perception that the best bargains are found online as well. As with 2001, I predict that online shopping numbers will either increase or change very little from where they were last holiday season.
A recent piece in the Washington Post should provide some comfort as well for interactive marketers. In her piece on comScore, "Counting Clicks: Now a Mainstay," Kim Hart makes the point that, "Eyeballs matter even more [in an economic downturn] now that legitimate companies' fortunes rise and fall with internet traffic and the advertising it attracts." Even as the market retracts and advertising budgets follow suit, one thing is for sure: search marketing will still reign. If one only looks at the article's predictions for comScore's financial future during the recession, it becomes clear: Companies that want to survive will have to maintain their online presence, and to do so they will need search.
Few question the fact that paid search pushed the interactive advertising community through tough economic times at the beginning of this decade. Paid search metrics tell marketers how many consumers are paying attention to paid advertorial, which is why eyeballs and ROI have dominated search since its inception. However, after a few years of focusing on pay-per-click campaigns, growth at most Fortune 500 companies over the past four years necessitated progress in organic search engine rankings as well.
I am willing to bet one thing will be different this year from 2001. With a whole lot more actionable intelligence and consumer eyeballs in the natural search space during this economic downturn, (1) CMOs will not wait to implement natural search strategies and (2) natural search will give paid a run for its money as the champion of interactive.
For example, look at a large enterprise software company, a channel that is very competitive in any economy, good or bad. The company was seeking solutions to build online brand awareness and increase conversion events. We listened to their search strategy, which predictably was heavily dependent on paid search. Then we made fewer than 20 basic, natural search recommendations and implemented them.
Just by changing its SEO tactics, the company quadrupled its Google ranking for one of its important keywords, moving from the third page of results to the fourth position on page one. Website traffic increased, bringing an additional 400 visitors per month, which also increased the number of leads and product and demonstration inquires. All of these fantastic results came from natural search optimization, not paid search. It was the natural search optimization that actually showed the company where its search strategy weaknesses were, and obviously provided effective course correction.
Great search marketing needs measurement and data points beyond the audience exposure that SEM represents. Despite its historic status as the engine that pushes our industry along even in difficult financial times, paid search data alone won't tell marketers about the impact individual keywords have on a particular search campaign. Paid search data alone doesn't tell search marketers which pages consumers visit most often and which pages are the last visited before conversion. Most CMOs would agree that it is more important than ever to know how the consumer came to their decision.
For years, marketers have complained that paid search results and natural search results are simply too different. With budgets retracting, it is imperative that CMOs justify expenditures. The good news is that technology is a great equalizer, and advancements have leveled the search playing field. There are ways to produce similar data that enables an "apples-to-apples" way of making evaluations and budget decisions.
For years marketers have been improving their page ranking using paid search. Now, marketers can improve their page ranking with SEO as well. As the example above shows, by looking at more than page ranking and meta descriptions and by incorporating links, visits, crawlability, and relevance, SEO can develop performance criteria comparable with SEM performance data. By evaluating multiple facets of SEO, marketers can receive an aggregate accounting of what is working.
We have known for a long time that traffic in search is entirely disproportionate to spend. Eighty-six percent of consumer clicks happen in the natural space, yet the lion's share of spend goes to paid search. Marketers have been told for years that this is acceptable because paid search is easier to justify. With new economic woes fueling stress in every market sector, and so much more to be gained in natural search, I am thinking that by next year, interactive will have a new favorite.
Seth Besmertnik is CEO, Conductor
March 28, 2008
EveryZing Launches Search, SEO ProductsADOTAS — EveryZing today announced the launch of two new products, ezSEO and ezSEARCH, helping to establish it as a solution provider for search and search engine optimization technologies. EveryZing hopes to help media companies capitalize on their offline success by creating high-quality online channels to build consumer interaction.
Integrating search results across audio, video, images and text, ezSEARCH offers media companies a “single search box” experience for their end users, driving enhanced user satisfaction and media consumption. Once the search results are blended into one index, ezSEO delivers search engine-friendly Web pages across thousands of topics, dramatically increasing the discoverability and placement of customers’ audio and video content across all of the major search engines. The products also require minimal effort on the customer’s part, as they are both deployed as hosted solutions and are quick and easy to set up and launch.
Clients include Entercom, Boston.com, Reuters and Dow Jones. “Sites like Entercom’s WEEI.com that have access to high-quality audio and video content are now able to fully leverage their multimedia assets to acquire more users, improve site engagement and increase online advertising revenue,” said Tom Wilde, CEO of EveryZing. “With the explosive growth of online audio and video, all major media companies are rushing to deploy their content to the Web. EveryZing allows them to plug all of their assets into the Web’s search ecosystem and build on the kind of success they have achieved offline with their high-quality content and powerful brands.”
EveryZing is a pioneer in next-generation universal search technology.
June 13, 2007
20 Tips for More Efficient Google SearchesFor millions of people, Google is an indispensable search tool that they use every day, in all facets of their lives. From work or school, research, to looking up movies and celebrities to news and gossip, Google is the go-to search engine.
But instead of just typing in a phrase and wading through page after page of results, there are a number of ways to make your searches more efficient.
Some of these are obvious ones, that you probably know about. But others are lesser-known, and others are known but not often used. Use this guide to learn more about, or be reminded of, some of the best ways to get exactly what you're looking for, and quickly.
1. Either/or. Google normally searches for pages that contain all the words you type in the search box, but if you want pages that have one term or another (or both), use the OR operator -- or use the "|" symbol (pipe symbol) to save you a keystroke. [dumb | little | man]
2. Quotes. If you want to search for an exact phrase, use quotes. ["dumb little man"] will only find that exact phrase. [dumb "little man"] will find pages that contain the word dumb and the exact phrase "little man".
3. Not. If you don't want a term or phrase, use the "-" symbol. [-dumb little man] will return pages that contain "little" and "man" but that don't contain "dumb".
4. Similar terms. Use the "~" symbol to return similar terms. [~dumb little man -dumb] will get you pages that contain "funny little man" and "stupid little man" but not "dumb little man".
5. Wildcard. The "*" symbol is a wildcard. This is useful if you're trying to find the lyrics to a song, but can't remember the exact lyrics. [can't * me love lyrics] will return the Beatles song you're looking for. It's also useful for finding stuff only in certain domains, such as
educational information: ["dumb little man" research *.edu].
6. Advanced search. If you can't remember any of these operators, you can always use Google's advanced search.
7. Definitions. Use the "define:" operator to get a quick definition. [define:dumb] will give you a whole host of definitions from different sources, with links.
8. Calculator. One of the handiest uses of Google, type in a quick calculation in the search box and get an answer. It's faster than calling up your computer's calculator in most cases. Use the +, -, *, / symbols and parentheses to do a simple equation.
9. Numrange. This little-known feature searches for a range of numbers. For example, ["best books 2002..2007] will return lists of best books for each of the years from 2002 to 2007 (note the two periods between the two numbers).
10. Site-specific. Use the "site:" operator to search only within a certain website. [site:dumblittleman.com leo] will search for the term "leo" only within this blog.
11. Backlinks. The "link:" operator will find pages that link to a specific URL. You can use this not only for a main URL but even to a specific page. Not all links to an URL are listed, however.
12. Vertical search. Instead of searching for a term across all pages on the web, search within a specialized field. Google has a number of specific searches, allowing you to search within blogs, news, books, and much more:
o Blog Search
o Book Search
o Code Search
o Patent Search
o Product Search
13. Movies. Use the "movie:" operator to search for a movie title along with either a zip code or U.S. city and state to get a list of movie theaters in the area and show times.
14. Music. The "music:" operator returns content related to music only.
15. Unit converter. Use Google for a quick conversion, from yards to meters for example, or different currency: [12 meters in yards]
16. Types of numbers: Google algorithms can recognize patterns in numbers you enter, so you can search for:
o Telephone area codes
o Vehicle ID number (US only)
o Federal Communications Commission (FCC) equipment numbers (US only)
o UPC codes
o Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airplane registration number (US only)
o Patent numbers (US only)
o Even stock quotes (using the stock symbol) or a weather forecast regarding the next five days
17. File types. If you just want to search for .PDF files, or Word documents, or Excel spreadsheets, for example, use the "filetype:" operator.
18. Location of term. By default, Google searches for your term throughout a web page. But if you just want it to search certain locations, you can use operators such as "inurl:", "intitle:", "intext:", and "inanchor:". Those search for a term only within the URL, the title,
the body text, and the anchor text (the text used to describe a link).
19. Cached pages. Looking for a version of a page the Google stores on its own servers? This can help with outdated or update pages. Use the "cached:" operator.
20. Answer to life, the universe, and everything. Search for that phrase, in lower case, and Google will give you the answer.
For more on Google's search syntax, see this guide, and this one.
- by Leo Babauta
May 30, 2007
How social media can help organic search resultsCreating interesting content and dispersing SEO keywords through marketing content pages are the first steps in increasing organic search results. No one is disputing that fact, but simply creating good content alone will not create the kind of search traffic that most online marketers need for their products and services.
by Kristina Knight
Social media websites can help push those great keywords and professional copy to the head of organic search listings. How? Sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, Newsvine and Ma.gnolia/ make it simple for readers to link to content, and as all SEO professionals know, good links are as important as good copy. So, the first step for marketers is to include social media buttons to these sites, making it simple for readers to link to that copy.
Having readers bookmark your content could garner even more readers and potential links to that content, thus pushing organic search listings even higher.
The second step in increasing organic search listings is to optimize title and description tags for the content pages. Including the top keyword phrase from the pages in the title tag, the description and the text body will help increase organic search listings. These keyword phrases should also be included in the h1 tags.
More than buying new keywords each quarter, optimizing your organic search results is the best way to increase pageviews and ultimately the ROI of any marketing campaign.
April 26, 2007
Search Engines Grant Traffic, Not LoveA recent Boston University Study finds the majority of blog traffic can be directly attributed to search, according to Web Pro News. Traffic is considered a critical component to calculating a website's value. Despite the intimacy between traffic and search, however, optimizing a blog for search engine algorithms does not win the blogs retention or popularity.
The study also found that while search engine optimization may assist in building traffic, it does little to help build "site stickiness," the elusive quality that keeps readers returning to a website. "Unlike traditional web pages, blogosphere access patterns are much more dependent on the social networks that they catalyze," Boston University researchers explained.
This suggests that while high search rankings get traffic through the door, bloggers must still ensure the presence and accessibility of quality content relevant to what people are seeking. Involvement in a network of similar bloggers can also help a website flourish. Even in the blogosphere - perhaps especially - popularity remains a networking game.
February 23, 2007
Optimizing for MSN : Is It Worth the Effort?Whenever you need to find something on the Web, you “Google” it. Most of the Web surfers do this, and the percentage of those who “Yahoo” or “MSN” for information is considerably lower.
Google has imposed itself as the “top-notch” search engine on the market, leaving little room for others. Little, but enough, some would say. Among the search engines, Microsoft’s MSN comes third, after Google and Yahoo. So, how do you approach SEO nowadays? Where should your site rank better?
Ideally, optimization for the Web should satisfy all major search engines, but each and every one of them has its own likes and dislikes. Most of the SEO is done for Google, because what they advertise is quality, relevance and low spam content. Given that Google’s brand is so strong, is MSN search engine optimization worth the effort?
MSN vs. Google
Opinions vary. Everybody knows that it’s rather hard to get Google to rank your site high in the search results. Most of the SEO techniques used nowadays are meant to be relevant almost exclusively for Google. Every Webmaster is concerned with code structure, sitemaps, keyword density, anchor texts, links and so on. Google is rather hard to please, especially when it comes to newly created sites.
The much-feared “sandbox” is a side-product of Google, where the new pages end up until Google considers them mature enough to be ranked in the search results. It’s a drawback, and there’s not much anybody can do about it, because one of the things that are valued by Google is the age of a Web page.
What about MSN? In this case, things tend to be a little smoother. MSN seems to really like new pages, and it has no sandbox. It doesn’t use an “age filter” and classifies sites much faster. Therefore, it is highly probable that the amount of results that a Web user might get for a given search to be significantly higher than the one obtained from Google. Also, it appears that the search speed is higher with MSN than with Google. This may be because their index is considerably smaller than Google’s.
Reports show that Google is already a saturated search engine. Its users see so many websites that they don’t have the patience to spend much time on any given site, but still want to visit others as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it appears that MSN users are more likely to produce conversions (sales). This probability is 48% higher for MSN users than for any other Internet users.
This can be a factor that might influence the adoption of some MSN marketing strategies. The conversion ratio is paramount for any commercial website, and such indicators could most probably lead to actions meant to improve the MSN ranking for this type of sites.
MSN Optimization – How?
It is almost impossible to get it right from the start. Much of the SEO process is based on trial and error. There are no precise criteria for each search engine. Basically, what is good for one might be good (or better, or even worse) for the other. Experts say that, in order to get as much MSN traffic as possible, it’s enough to follow the basic guidelines with, of course, some adjustments that will differentiate your MSN marketing strategies from the ones you might use for Google ranking.
MSN is dedicated to satisfying the visitors. Therefore, MSN wants to make sure that they can offer web surfers a high probability of finding what they want on your site. A well-developed site, with many pages and homogenous content will rank much better than a smaller site with poorly organized content (supposing that these two sites apply the ranking factors in a similar manner).
Creating a good, easy-to-navigate site map will not only help the search engine’s spiders crawl your site, but it will also add to its value for the visitors.
Microsoft’s search engine has a great response to an increased keyword density (as opposed to Google, which is quite quick at identifying and penalizing sites that, according to its algorithm, are clearly spamming – and sometimes it is not far from the truth).
This orientation towards quantity rather than quality makes MSN more spam oriented. But the criteria for choosing the right keywords for your site remain, basically, the same.
Therefore, the more back-links you have, the better. Bear in mind though that the quality of the links is a plus, as well as their relevance to the optimization aiming website. This will help spiders to completely index the website, thus leading to an improved visibility among search results.
The logical approach is to focus on building high-quality links towards the site and its content, which will eventually help you rank well in other search engines too. MSN will give credit to the new content and to the inbound links quite quickly.
You should not forget about clean code. It is a major factor for site indexing, and even MSN, which is not as demanding as Google, will rank poorly sites with badly written code.
One of MSN’s drawbacks is represented by its robots, used for page indexing, so keep them in mind. They have difficulties in indexing pages that contain frames, pictures, flash elements, Java script or dynamic URLs. If your site uses image or script based navigation, it is advisable to use text links as well, both within the content and at the bottom of the page. Text links are easier to follow and, more importantly, they give you the opportunity to link to your home page thanks to the anchor texts.
To make a long story short, MSN is more permissive than Google. Adopt the right tactics, and you can be riding the MSN wave in no time (as compared to Google, where you have to wait in the sandbox for a painfully large – for your business, mostly – amount of time). But there is the risk of dropping from that high position in the MSN ranking as quickly as you got there. This is because your MSN SEO techniques can be overthrown by those newly arrived sites that MSN likes so much to welcome. Such an inconvenience can be quite easily avoided by keeping the content constantly fresh.
There can’t be a “Yes” or “No” answer to the question above. Yet, there could be a “Why not?” MSN does what Google avoids, and likes what Google frowns upon or regards with suspicion. And then there’s also Microsoft’s potential marketing power that they can bring to the search engine business. So, the value of MSN should not be underestimated. Of course, it is a rather feeble match for Google now, but this situation can change dramatically overnight. Similar situations have been seen before, and Microsoft has the financial power to make enough changes and adjustments relatively quickly so as to turn the tables in MSN’s favor.
Bottom line, if you have already optimized your site for Google, it can’t hurt to do some MSN optimization as well.
January 30, 2007
iCrossing Study Finds Opportunity for Fortune 500 Automotive Companies to Optimize for Search Engine VisibilitySCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- iCrossing (http://www.icrossing.com/), a digital marketing agency committed to people's desire to find, today launched the "Search 500 Index", a new study series measuring the visibility of Fortune 500 companies among people who search online. The first study in the series, "Search 500 Index: Automotive" finds that Fortune 500 automotive companies lack sufficient natural search visibility on the major search engines based on 116 automotive-related keywords that iCrossing has determined online searchers are most likely to use.
"Natural search visibility" refers to the non-sponsored (non-paid advertisement) position of a company's brand, products and services resulting from a user searching with a keyword relevant to that company's brand, products and services on an Internet search engine such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask.com or AOL. Beyond driving direct sales, high natural search visibility can be critical to building awareness, positioning, and protection of a company's brand both on and offline.
Key Findings of Search 500 Index: Automotive
-- Only 11 of the 36 Fortune 500 automotive companies analyzed ranked
higher than a 2.0 (on a scale of 0-10) for natural search brand
visibility. General Motors earned a 3.6, the highest score among the
-- Only six of the Fortune 500 automotive companies appeared in the lists
of the 100 Web sites most visible for the automotive keywords analyzed;
-- B2C companies, especially online auto dealers and consumer-facing
brands (e.g. General Motors, Ford, etc.), are doing a far better job
than b-to-b automotive suppliers in terms of achieving natural search
"People are searching for automotive information online, but in general they are not finding some of America's largest corporations in natural search results," said Jorie Hutchings, senior director of search analytics, iCrossing. "The good news is that there is plenty of opportunity for the automotive Fortune 500 to improve their visibility in natural search results."
To increase their natural search visibility, the study recommends that Fortune 500 automotive companies:
-- Re-evaluate who their competitors are online. Parts manufacturers may not compete with auto dealers in the traditional marketplace, but they may be losing visibility to dealers online; -- Add more consumer-based content to their sites (such as user reviews and opinions); -- Consider partnering with or buying media on relevant, informational sites -- which tend to rank higher in natural search -- in order to garner as much residual traffic as possible; -- Increase competitive search-based analyses to derive new insights as to how your brand is performing online. The complete study can be found at http://icrossing.com/research Methodology
For the Search 500 Index: Automotive, iCrossing analyzed natural search engine position data for the following U.S. search engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask, and AOL. Natural search visibility was assessed and scored based on iCrossing's patent-pending index which weighs the value of natural search engine market share. Known as the Brand Scorecard, companies are ranked on a scale of 0-10 where a score of 2 indicates non-significant visibility, a score of 5 means moderate-high visibility, and a score of 8 signifies high visibility in natural search. The score is derived from an algorithm that takes into account the weights of the top 5 major search engines, estimated monthly search volume for the keyword analyzed, and the company's keyword rankings within the first three pages of natural search results. Therefore this calculation takes into account the variance of each keyword's search volume, placing greater importance on a company ranking in the first three pages for a highly searched term.
About iCrossing, Inc.
iCrossing is a different kind of digital marketing agency committed to people's desire to find. The company develops online campaigns, programs and experiences designed to help people find what they are searching for. Through a proven combination of talent and technology, iCrossing helps its global client base -- including The Coca-Cola Company and 32 Fortune 500 companies -- find solutions for complex digital marketing challenges. Founded in 1998, the company is headquartered in Scottsdale with offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco. iCrossing was named the 2005 Agency of the Year: Best Search and one of the Top 25 Interactive Agencies by OMMA: The Magazine of Online Media, Marketing & Advertising. iCrossing was also ranked no. 2 of the Top 20 search marketing agencies by Advertising Age. Find out more at http://www.icrossing.com/.
August 21, 2006
Google Tightens up Landing Page AlgorithmGoogle is updating its algorithm for evaluating "landing page quality" in an effort to weed out low-quality sites that are linked to from AdWords ads, writes ClickZ. As a result, "over the coming days a small number of advertisers who are providing a low-quality user experience on their landing pages will see increases in their minimum bids," according to the official Inside AdWords blog.
The new algorithm is expected to further restrict "made for AdSense" (MFA) sites, which buy AdWords keywords with a minimum or low bid, then link the ad to a page of AdSense (or other contextual ad program's) links (and not much else) for which they are paid higher per click than what they had paid to drive traffic to the page.
Penalizing such sites helps advertisers that link to quality content, site publishers, and consumers by increasing the relevance of Google's ads, according to Al Scillitani, search marketing manager at Fortune Interactive. But he is also quoted as saying a new issue of concern may be just how, and how appropriately, Google determines relevance.
July 10, 2006
Honda and Toyota Cars Most Researched OnlineHonda and Toyota cars are the most researched online, writes Internet Retailer, citing a study from Kelley Blue Book, according to which Toyota captured seven spots in the top 20 and Honda took five slots - all in the Top 10. Only two domestic vehicles made the most-researched list: the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Mustang. In the top 5, Honda Civic and Accord are the most researched vehicles, followed by the Toyota Camry, Corolla and RAV 4.
According to KBB.com, rounding out the top 10 were Honda's Pilot, Odyssey and CR-V; Toyota's Highlander; and the Chevrolet Tahoe. During the first half of the year, two vehicles fell from last year's list, the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee, which were replaced with two vehicles making their debut in the top 10: the Toyota Rav4 and the redesigned Chevrolet Tahoe.
July 6, 2006
Google to Charge for AdWords APIEffective July 1, Google will charge, per use, for its AdWords application programming interface (API), which software developers use to design applications for sending and receiving data to and from Google's keyword ad auction, reports MediaPost. The move is likely to affect bid management firms most, because they continually receive and send data to change keyword bids dynamically.
Writing in the official AdWords API Blog, Rohit Dhawan, Google product manager, explained: "We are changing the quota allocation system and pricing model to create a more flexible and level playing field that encourages efficient coding and application design. Effective July 1, 2006, the current free quota system will be replaced by a usage-based system. Under this new model, AdWords API token holders will be charged a nominal $0.25/1000 quota units consumed [per 1,000 times the API is used to call data]. As a result, current developer quota caps will be removed in order to provide a more flexible and scalable system for quota allocation and consumption."
The AdWords API is, for now, still available for free, but usage is limited, depending on the budget for the ad campaign being managed.
Google is also modifying its AdWords API terms and conditions "to simplify developers' abilities to commercialize their applications while at the same time ensuring that advertiser returns are maximized through the promotion of certain functional standards," according to Dhawan. It is making an advanced copy of the terms and conditions available.