Saturday, December 20, 2008

White Hat SEO Techniques

To improve a Web page's position in a SERP, you have to know how search engines work. Search engines categorize Web pages based on keywords -- important terms that are relevant to the content of the page. In our example, the term "skydiving" should be a keyword, but a term like "bungee jumping" wouldn't be relevant.

Most search engines use computer programs called spiders or crawlers to search the Web and analyze individual pages. These programs read Web pages and index them according to the terms that show up often and in important sections of the page. There's no way for a search engine spider to know your page is about skydiving unless you use the right keywords in the right places.

Meta Tags
Meta tags provide information about Web pages to computer programs but aren't visible to humans visiting the page. You can create a meta tag that lists keywords for your site, but many search engines skip meta tags entirely because some people used them to exploit search engines in the past.

Here are some general tips about keyword placement:

One place you should definitely include keywords is in the title of your Web page. You might want to choose something like "Skydiving 101" or "The Art of Skydiving."
Another good place to use keywords is in headers. If your page has several sections, consider using header tags and include important keywords in them. In our example, headers might include "Skydiving Equipment" or "Skydiving Classes."
Most SEO experts recommend that you use important keywords throughout the Web page, particularly at the top, but it's possible to overuse keywords. Your skydiving site would obviously use the word "skydiving" as a keyword, but it might also include other keywords like "base jumping" or "parachute." If you use a keyword too many times, some search engine spiders will flag your page as spam. That's because of a black hat technique called keyword stuffing, but more on that later.
Keywords aren't the only important factor search engines take into account when generating SERPs. Just because a site uses keywords well doesn't mean it's one of the best resources on the Web. To determine the quality of a Web page, most automated search engines use link analysis. Link analysis means the search engine looks to see how many other Web pages link to the page in question.

Going back to our skydiving example, if a search engine sees that hundreds of other Web pages related to skydiving are linking to your Web page, the engine will give your page a higher rank. Search engines like Google weigh the importance of links based on the rank of the linking pages. In other words, if the pages linking to your site are themselves ranked high in Google's system, they boost your page's rank more than lesser-ranked pages.

The Webcrawler search engine spider analyzes Web pages and indexes them according to relevance.

So, how do you get sites to link to your page? That's a tricky task, but make sure your page is a destination people want to link to, and you're halfway there. Another way is to offer link exchanges with other sites that cover material related to your content. You don't want to trade links with just anyone because many search engines look to see how relevant the links to and from your page are to the information within your page. Too many irrelevant links and the search engine will think you're trying to cheat the system.

In the next section, we'll look more closely at ways people try to fool search engines into ranking their pages higher on a SERP.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How Search Engine Optimization Increases Profits

For anyone who is attempting to make money online their website is their livelihood. Therefore, it is important for them to understand that without appropriate search engine optimization (aka SEO) they might just as well be standing in the unemployment line. You see, the majority of people locate the websites they will purchase from through a search engine and they usually only click on a website that shows up in the first page of the search engine results, so any website that isn’t on the first page of the search engine results may as well not even exist. You can’t make sales without getting traffic to your site and you can’t make money without making sales, right?

Although there are many ways to get traffic to your site without high rankings in the search engines, many of these cost many. PPC methods are one such method as is banner advertising. And many other methods will bring in a burst of traffic, but that traffic will fade over time. Sometimes very quickly (like within a day or week). SEO is a long-term traffic building activity that will bring you free traffic so in my opinion it’s one of the best things you can spend your time learning and implementing.

By getting a website properly search engine optimized many more people will visit that website. Depending on how well the site is set up for conversion a website will turn a certain percentage of its visitors into customers. So, the more people that visit a website, the more sales that website will make. If a website is getting a 3% conversion rate (fairly common) that means that 100 people have to visit a website before 3 people will make a purchase. With figures like that you can see why it is essential to drive huge numbers of people to a website in order to make any money.

So, what factors are involved in getting a website search engine optimized? One of the most important parts of search engine optimization is good SEO content. Web “spiders” crawl through a website looking to see what the keywords are and how many times they are used on that site and then report this information back to the search engines. This is one of the main factors in determining a website’s search engine ranking and obviously, in determining how much money that website will make. Good content will not only get a website a good search engine ranking, but it will also inform and entertain the people who come to that website which will make them more likely to stick around and return�the more time they spend on the website the more likely they are to make a purchase.

Getting the right SEO can be tricky, but an abundance of companies offer top-rate SEO service for a nominal fee. Getting the right SEO determines the success or failure of a website and thus their profit, so a small investment now is worth the big payday later to anyone wanting to succeed on the internet.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Social Media Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a business arrangement in which one company provides for another company services that could also be or usually have been provided in-house. Social media outsourcing is a form of business process outsourcing (BPO), the contracting of a specific business task (e.g., payroll), to a third-party service provider. Generally, BPO is implemented as a cost-saving measure for tasks that a company requires but does not depend upon to maintain its position in the marketplace.

BPO is often divided into two categories. "Back office" outsourcing includes internal business functions such as billing or purchasing. "Front office" outsourcing includes customer-related services such as marketing, tech support ... and social media optimization and outreach.

The goals of a social media marketing program are familiar: Establish the company as an industry leader, protect the brand, inspire customer loyalty and repeat business, boost traffic to the Web site, boost sales, etc. The key questions: Should the company outsource its social media marketing work, and can the chosen outsourced service provider deliver on its promises?

AOL Readies High-Stakes Social-Media Debut

In the world of social networking, it's time for AOL's big debut, and there's a lot of money riding on the outcome.

In March, the Time Warner unit said it would plunk down $850 million for Bebo, the No. 3 social-media Web site by unique visitors, which has yet to gain a foothold in the U.S. and has lost share in Britain, its strongest market, to rival Facebook.

Though such sites are exploding in popularity, questions remain about their value as advertising vehicles, leading several analysts to ask whether AOL overpaid for Bebo.

Search And The Presidential Campaign

During the 2008 election, President-Elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain had successful strategies that included ground-breaking use of online media in a presidential campaign to reach voters and convey their platforms.

Arguably, the popularity of online forums and maximizing the opportunity for consumer engagement through online presence allowed the candidates to be in two places at one time - live, in-market shaking hands while also available 24/7 online -- without collapsing from exhaustion on the campaign trail.

So what should we take away from the use of search and social media in the 2008 presidential election? To help answer that question, I've harvested the insights from a keynote panel at MediaPost's Search Insider Summit in Park City, Utah that discussed the two candidates' online tactics.

Search marketing is a valuable branding tool. Don't underestimate the power of search marketing in building and maintaining your brand. Organic results bring your genuine content to the forefront of the search engine results page (SERP). Those results increase with social media outreach, with consumer-driven content giving you third-party endorsement. Through paid search, you own your message and can adapt it properly -- and frequently - to speak directly with your audience when they raise their hand about subjects related to your brand. If McCain and Obama could do it on a topic like politics, you can, too.

Search serves as a powerful channel for lead generation and direct response. During early campaign efforts, the Obama camp used paid search for list-building and donor acquisition. Later, in general election campaigning, paid search played a role in voter mobilization and driving voter registration. The 2008 presidential election reinforces the valuable role search marketing can play in lead generation or direct response, whether you're looking to build your CRM program or drive your audience to a specific call to action.

Always optimize your campaign to better connect with your audience. According to panelist Emily Williams, interactive account executive at MSHC and member of the Obama campaign's interactive marketing team, the economic crisis didn't shift the team's strategy, but there was increased attention paid to "issue" terms. The analysts also focused on the impact of successful paid search strategies that favored the competition versus going against the competition. The reality is, your strategy is built early on, but like a growing plant, should never be left without water or pruning. The nature of business, consumer preference, consumer-driven media and the news media can shift what's important at any time. By keeping your audience in mind every day of your search program, you'll continue to be relevant and reap the benefits of your optimization.

Analyzing search behavior can inform and improve your demographic targeting. One can't help but question whether data from search trends and traffic served as competitive intelligence to guide where the candidates targeted their campaign efforts. Did lagging polls in Ohio drive a targeted search effort? Was the search strategy different to win California versus sustaining voters in another state? Little was disclosed from the Obama camp other than confirmation that there were strict measurements for search marketing and certain silos of focus.

However, analytics looking at this level of behavior is a significant source of information for any advertiser, whether you're a CPG brand that wants to dominate certain markets, an entertainment brand needing to increase ratings in areas with low viewership, or a quick service food restaurant striving to increase market share in a lagging city. And we can certainly expect insights from search behavior to play an increasingly significant role in future political campaigns.

Social media increases visibility. All this talk about search marketing, yet the Obama campaign was sending Facebook updates and messages to 'friends' almost daily. Yes, social media's value in engaging consumers and unveiling its success was only strengthened with the 2008 elections. What the Obama campaign did right was to put their candidate and platform in places where consumers were already spending their time. Williams shared that "the Obama campaign was looking for people who were looking for 'us,' and there's no better place to that than online."

She added, "The strategy of the Obama campaign was to build solid tools and allow people to use it in a way that fits them. Our job was to build it and maintain it so that other people could use it."

And that, alone, is something every brand marketer should be doing.

Using the right channels to effectively reach an audience segment is key, too. As Clickable's Ben Seslija, another panelist, pointed out, Obama's use of social media successfully reached a younger audience.

It all goes back to making sure your company and your brand are visible and a part of the conversation in forums where your potential audience or consumer is spending time. While it's up to you and your planning teams to determine the appropriate weight each channel should carry to fulfill your objectives, advertisers can learn from the Obama and McCain campaigns that peppering yourself traditionally and innovatively across the marketing mix maximizes your potential reach - and return.

It's the entire package that counts for your brand. What the presidential candidates did successfully that every company and marketer can learn from is to look at integration in a broader spectrum than only whether your media is aligned channel by channel. Results and success, as the candidates taught us, comes from the content, the tactic, and the image of the person or brand. You can't rely on a good offer or great pricing to drive your success if your brand perception is weak.

That is where the marketing, PR, image, the quality and value of products or services and the people driving the business play a truly synergized role in delivering the complete package that sways consumers to vote for your brand.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

State of the Search Engine Marketing Industry, 2008: Survey Results

SEM Insights posts results of a survey that included 254 SEM professionals on all levels. Who are our SEM colleagues? How many years of experience do they have? What is their job title and income?

After tallying all the results, it seems that the majority of respondents have the following in common:
* They have beginner knowledge of SEO (1-2 years) - 19%
* Their title is best represented as "search director" - 19%
* Most are making less than $50k/year - 35%
* The majority's highest level of education is Bachelor's Degree - 48%
* Most feel that title tag is the the most important SEO element - 51%
* Most believe that the biggest challenge facing SEOs today from a sales perspective is lack of mainstream knowledge - 41%
* Most believe that the biggest challenge facing SEOs today from a deliverables perspective is undefined expectations - 46%

And there's more. The survey is divided into other categories, including SEO at work, search conferences (83% think it's important to attend them!), SEM and Affiliate Marketing, and the future of SEM. I wouldn't do the survey justice by reposting all the results, so I've given you just a small amount of what you can see if you hop on over to the survey results.