Struggling to calculate your Google Ads budget? Learn a quick formula to use when you’re just getting started and also learn the most important metric to gain a competitive advantage.

Google Ads have helped many businesses thrive because of their power in generating leads and sales. The problem is that this power can be difficult to navigate, which has left some businesses on the sidelines wondering why they didn’t see results.

The topic of how much to spend is one that is tossed around among users and professionals, alike. The answer depends on how well you run your ad campaigns.

When you first use Google Ads, limit your budget. At this point, you do not know which keywords, ads or landing pages will be most effective, so you need to test different strategies. Because some of the money will be lost, you don’t want to waste too much.

The goal during this stage isn’t to make a huge profit. It’s to either make a small profit, break even or only lose some money. Your mindset should be that you’re investing in market research for a much more successful future with Google Ads.

Limiting your budget is a bit arbitrary. Simple math can give you a concrete amount for a budget.

Multiply the estimated cost per click of each keyword you want to test by a minimum of 100 to 200 clicks. This will ensure you’re giving each keyword a fair test. For instance, if you are testing 10 keywords with a cost per click of \$1, you should consider having a budget of \$1,000 to \$2,000.

## Growing Out of the Budget

You will know when you’re out of the testing phase when profits exceed your budget. This is the sign that tells you to abandon the budget.

Yes, you read that right — no budget.

It’s not about how much you spend on Google Ads — it’s about how much return on investment (ROI) you’re get from it.

Think about it for a minute. If you’re making \$2, \$3 or \$4 off a \$1 investment, why would you want to cap that? That’s success right there, and you might as well run with it.

## Switching From CPC to EPC

Too many people focus on the cost per click of their keywords when they really should be paying attention to their earnings per click (EPC). If you have the highest earnings per click vs. your competitors, then you know you can outbid them to gain more clicks, more leads and more customers.

So, how do you calculate your EPC? All you have to do is multiply your conversion rate (the percentage of people who become paying customers) by your customer value (the amount of money you earn from that customer).

To understand this better, let’s say one customer generates \$500 for you. If your conversion rate is 1%, then your earnings per click is \$5. This is your golden number. Keywords with a CPC less than \$5 will be profitable if your conversion rate remains 1%.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that increasing your EPC is the best way to compete in Google Ads.

The cost per click for your target keywords is not likely going to go down … In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll need to pay more per click in the coming months and years. That means your EPC is your biggest competitive advantage.

## Conclusion

You know that spending a lot of money on Google Ads isn’t what produces results. Ad campaigns need to be run effectively and a budget needs to be used in a way that helps identify what works best in your market. Once that information reveals itself, removing the budget (if possible) and focusing on ROI is the best decision, moving forward.

Google Ads campaigns can be a very effective way to generate leads if you know what you’re doing. The problem is that many people jump into Google Ads blindly. They figure Google will lead them through the steps and instantly, they will start getting sales and phone calls.

Google Ads campaigns can be a very effective way to generate leads if you know what you’re doing. The problem is that many people jump into Google Ads blindly. They figure Google will lead them through the steps and instantly, they will start getting sales and phone calls.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Google Ads can be a lot like riding a bull. You jump on the bull, and you think you got it. But all of sudden, it starts jerking around, and you immediately see that it really isn’t as easy as it looked at on TV. After a few close calls, the bull flings you off and you hit the ground. All you can do is look up at the bull and think, “What just happened?”

Some businesses spend thousands of dollars on Google Ads every single month and don’t see nearly enough return on investment. Many businesses vow to never use Google Ads again because it’s “a waste of money.” The reality? Often the campaign failed because of common mistakes many beginners make.

Knowing what factors contribute to failing campaigns is important for success. Learn them now, so you can get back on the bull, and take it by the horns next time.

## 1. Using Too Many Keywords

Some key takeaways here are:

• Focus on “buying-intent” keywords, not “research-intent” keywords. Ask yourself, is the person more likely to be searching this keyword in order to make a purchase or to do research?
• Let your conversion data guide your bidding decisions. Bid more aggressively on the keywords that are driving leads and sales and lower bids on keywords that are not converting.

Once you’re targeting the right keywords, then the next area to focus is your ads. People have limited attention spans, and if those ads don’t spark their attention, they will move on. As Seth Godin would say, “Be Remarkable!”

Plus, focus on benefits. People always want to know how something will benefit them. So, ask yourself: How does my product or service benefit customers? It’s the benefit that you want to market — not the product or service.

Lastly, make your ads congruent with the keywords and website landing page. Ultimately, this means you’ll need different ads for all the different keyword phrases you want to target. If your ads are not congruent, or relevant, then your prospective customers are not likely to click. Even worse, if your ads are not congruent with your landing page, then the prospective customers who do click are going to quickly leave, because the message on the website doesn’t match the message in the ads.

With Google Ads, there is no minimum budget. However, depending on your industry and the keywords you want to target, the cost per click for your ads can vary from \$1 to \$10 or even \$50 or more. If the cost per click for your keywords is on the lower end at \$2, then you can generate 500 clicks for \$1,000 per month. But if your keywords cost \$20, then that same \$1,000 budget will only generate 50 clicks per month.

Fifty clicks are not going to give you much data to work with in order to optimize your campaign month after month.

Another way to look at this is to calculate your daily budget. If your monthly budget is \$1,000 and you want your ads to display every day of the week, then your daily budget is about \$33. Again, if your keywords cost \$20 per click, then you would only be able to generate one click per day! That’s just not enough; you’ll need to increase your budget and/or limit the days your ads will run during the month.

## 4. Not Spending Enough Time Managing the Campaigns

Google Ads campaigns aren’t like Crockpot meals. You can’t set it and forget it.

Your campaigns need attention. They need nurturing. This is true whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran.

A lot can change in just a day or two. New competitors can start advertising and increase the cost per click of your keywords and steal impression share. Alternatively, competitors may leave or run out of budget, which gives you an opportunity to lower your bids to get the same amount of traffic for less! Unless you’re closely monitoring, you’ll miss these important changes that affect the profitability of your campaigns.

## Conclusion

OK, let’s review what we’ve learned here.

## Important Key Performance Indicators for SEO

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

Success online depends on how well you are optimizing your website and marketing your brand off-site. Times have changed, so have key performance indicators for SEO, and it’s no longer easy to rank a website for whatever keywords you believe people are searching for on Google. A lot goes into the process, and because there is an extensive process, you need to find a way to track the results of it to see if what you’re doing is successful. Here are the new, important KPIs.

## How to Track SEO Success

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

### KPI 1: Traffic

The first KPI to monitor your SEO is website traffic from organic search. To track this KPI, use Google Analytics. Analytics is free and easy to install on nearly every website platform. Once installed, go to the “Channels” report within the “Acquisition” section. By default, the Channels report will show you how much traffic is coming from organic search (AKA, your SEO traffic).

The next KPI you should track is leads from organic search. Conversions are obviously your goal, so knowing how many leads you’re generating is critical for monitoring your SEO performance.

To measure leads, you’ll need to set up “Google Analytics Goals.” A Goal can be a website form submission (ex: a quote request, a demo request, appointment request, etc.) or a phone call. Tracking phone calls within Analytics requires a phone call tracking tool, like Dialogtech or Convirza.

### KPI 3: Rankings

The third KPI is your keyword rankings. Contrary to popular belief, ranking your website high in the search engines is not the No. 1 goal of search engine optimization. The No. 1 goal is to drive more leads and sales, which is why traffic and leads are the first two KPIs listed above.

Of course, keyword rankings are important, and you want to monitor trends to spot opportunities to drive more traffic and leads or to spot potential problems that could decrease your traffic and leads.

To track your keyword rankings, use a paid tool, such as RankRanger and/or a free tool like Google Analytics. By default Google Analytics, does not show keyword rankings until you connect your account to “Search Console.”

### KPI 4: Website Bounce Rate

Website bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit the site and then leave without visiting another page. A high bounce rate indicates that visitors couldn’t find what they were looking for when they clicked through to your site. A low bounce rate means that visitors found something on the page they were interested in, and then navigated to other pages of the site.

Bounce rate has a lot to do with conversions. Many times, a page with a low bounce rate has a high percentage of conversions. In other words, people who visit the page are interested in the content and because of that, they act on it. When the bounce rate is high, conversions are lower, because the people going to it are not interested in the content.

Paying attention to bounce rate helps you know how well you’re targeting the right audience. If you see that a particular page has a high bounce rate from Google Search, then your message is not matching the market. Adjusting that content to better match the intent of the searcher will not only reduce the bounce rate; but in turn, you’ll improve the rankings and leads!

## Stop Stabbing in the Dark and Track KPIs for Success

If you don’t track your KPIs, you’re simply stabbing in the dark when trying to be successful with your SEO. Start tracking your SEO traffic, leads, rankings, and bounce rate, and then adjust your marketing plan based on the results. When you do this, you’ll likely end up seeing much more success.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.” (Link requires email registration.)

## SEOs: Forget Keywords, Focus on This One Thing to Zoom Up Search Rankings

Every time there’s a whiff of a Google Search update in the air, SEOs around the world lose their minds. Everything from rumors to conjecture to plain fiction flies around, till the dust settles and search rankings go back to “normal.”

Every time there’s a whiff of a Google Search update in the air, SEOs around the world lose their minds. Everything from rumors to conjecture to plain fiction flies around, till the dust settles and search rankings go back to “normal.”

This environment of confusion and Google’s famed reluctance to divulge the real details of its search updates means we see any number of “SEO authorities” publishing their “complete list” of definitive search ranking factors. Most lists are pretty interchangeable, with keywords and links dominating lists in various avatars: keyword in backlink, keyword in TLD, keyword in title tag, link anchors, number of links, authority of links and so on.

The problem is, everyone reads these same articles. And implements the same advice. You and your competitors.

So how would you break out from the cage of keyword and backlinks? By leveraging that one thing which is uniquely yours: your brand.

Your brand is what will help you beat the competition to the top spot on SERPs; everything else remaining constant. Rand Fishkin explained in detail Google’s site-quality-score-related patent in one of his Whiteboard Fridays, and implied that the algorithm might give additional prominence to brand names used in search queries. This could be taken to infer that the more often users search for a keyword along with a brand name, the higher the brand moves up in the rankings for that keyword.

Let me explain.

If users search a lot for “Skechers” + “running shoes,” the brand “Skechers” gets an automatic rankings boost for the keyword “running shoes.” This means when people search for just “running shoes,” the likelihood of Skechers running shoes coming up in the results is a bit higher.

## Invest in Your Brand (and Get Partners Along for the Ride)

The one thing that business owners worry the least about could prove to be their online graveyard. With the plethora of options out there, it’s simply unforgivable to not even lay a foundation for your brand.

Starting with a memorable brand name and logo, work on creating a definitive identity for your brand. Brand colors, typography, imagery, all come together to give your brand that elusive “X” factor that is rewarded by search engines. That saves you from spending big bucks on something as frivolous as chasing the Google algorithm, as Fishkin explained.

Partnering with a complementary brand that talks to your same audience is one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching a large pool of potential customers. Whether you care about your SEO ranking or not, this is one tactic every business must leverage.

In essence, brand partnerships are about reaching out to your partner brand’s audience at zero cost, in exchange for offering visibility to your brand partner to your audience, bartering free gifts for your partners’ users and more.

This partnership between Starbucks and Spotify exemplifies how customer experience can be improved, while retaining individual brand identity of both partners.

Here’s another example from the marketing industry: Online visibility platform SEMrush (disclosure: author’s employer) and inbound marketing software HubSpot frequently partner to do webinars for the benefit of their shared audience, which is digital marketers.

Do you operate in the B2B or SaaS space? Then trade events are a must-do for you, no matter what. From getting visibility and growing brand awareness in your niche to meeting potential buyers face-to-face, a tradeshow (which could be a conference, a seminar, or a meetup) is a no-brainer to promote your brand.

There are many ways you can milk a tradeshow for SEO traction:

• Speaking opportunities at the event that mention your brand and your business or workshops that show potential customers how to use your products.

## Go Multichannel (Both Online and Offline)

The offline and online worlds are increasingly blending together. While even the most traditional retailers and businesses have now gone online, we’re also seeing digital businesses dip their feet into the physical world. Amazon and Apple are leading the charge with their brick-and-mortar stores. For lesser retailers (or even Facebook), the concept of pop-up retail is also catching up fast.

Integrated marketing involving digital and physical channels has a lot of advantages in branding:

• More touchpoints for engaging the customer
• Better brand awareness and recall
• Broader, but consistent, brand messaging
• Contextual and relevant audience targeting
• Personalization in terms of channel and viewing/interaction preferences
• More (and accurate) data on the customer

No surprise, then, that e-commerce platforms like Shopify are offering e-tailers the option to sell natively on multichannel digital platforms, making it easy to build visibility from the ground-up and convert visitors once they arrive via digital sources, like search or referrals. This visibility and brand recall cycles back to organic search results via branded searches.

With every second person on social media claiming to be an “influencer,” the up-and-coming niche of influencer marketing is already getting muddied. However, the reason why we see so many so-called influencers out there is simply because brands can’t get enough of this absolutely punchy marketing tactic. According to research, a whopping 94% of marketers believe influencer marketing has a positive effect on their brand awareness and preference.

Connecting with the right social influencer can be a total game-changer for your brand. Take Bach Flower RESCUE as an example. Their line of homeopathic remedies was a perfect match for a number of natural and healthy living bloggers. So, RESCUE gave these influencers some of their products to try and asked them to share their thoughts. They also included a “buy one, get one free” code to share on their posts to encourage people to give the product a try.

Credit: Real Clever

The results of their campaign? An impressive 258% increase in Instagram followers, 6,000 clicks to claim the BOGO special, and they were even a top trending topic on Twitter.

When your brand receives social signals, backlinks, endorsements and mentions from celebrities and niche thought leaders who command high search volume themselves, the authority rubs off on your brand and domain, boosting your rankings.

## Crush Local SEO With Citations and Brand Mentions

Everything that you can do to get your brand out there potentially contributes indirectly to your rankings. As you work on strengthening your local SEO via citations, directories and business listings, the fact that your brand name is going up on multiple niche websites, probably getting backlinks from many of them, and also drawing reviews (engagement) from users, helps boost your visibility slowly but surely in the SERPs.

In fact, mentions and citations might be almost as powerful as links. The Google Panda patent refers to citations as “implied links” —

An implied link is a reference to a target resource, e.g., a citation to the target resource, which is included in a source resource, but is not an express link to the target resource.

Using Google’s own platforms and tools is an obvious win from a brand awareness, as well as SEO, perspective. So, waste no time in creating your own Google My Business Page and fill out every last detail about your business, adding images and videos to push visibility.

## Who’s Afraid of Keywords?

Even though it’s ingrained into digital marketers’ psyche that content and links are the two pillars of SEO, we need to realize that there’s more to this game than just pulling longer and longer lists of keywords to rank for. Sometimes the most “human” of marketing strategies is what it takes to get the bots and algorithms to take notice and deliver results. Onward and upward, brave brand custodians!

## 6 SEO Trends in Small Business

Staying on top of the latest SEO trends is vital, yet difficult for small businesses. The basic tenants of a solid SEO strategy have not massively changed from year to year, but Google continues to adjust its algorithms to keep pace with how consumers interact with the Internet.

Staying on top of the latest SEO trends is vital, yet difficult for small businesses.

The basic tenants of a solid SEO strategy have not massively changed from year to year, but Google continues to adjust its algorithms to keep pace with how consumers interact with the Internet.

If one theme has emerged so far in 2016, it’s that SEO is changing — perhaps more rapidly than usual — to keep up with the rising importance of smartphones, smart watches and mobile technology on the whole. Business owners who fail to adapt their SEO strategies accordingly risk being invisible to potential customers.

That said, I’ve listed six of the most current trends in SEO that all small business owners should be aware of. Keep in mind that most of yesterday’s truths about SEO still hold water today. Now, business owners must simply do more to avoid being left in the virtual dust.

### 1. Keyword Usage in SEO Is Evolving

Not long ago, keyword usage could make or break your SEO strategy. That’s because most people conducted Web searches by typing keywords into Google, and optimizing your landing pages with these keyword terms was a simple way to improve your ranking for these queries.

Fast forward to today, and it’s clear the game has changed. Rather than type specific keywords into search engines, more and more people are searching the Web by speaking into their smartphones and watches. Voice recognition apps such as Apple’s Siri were novelties when the technology first launched — the apps were more amusing than efficient — but now these apps have improved to the point of being just as functional as traditional Web searches. Now, instead of someone typing “Mexican food Seattle” into a browser window, an equally likely Google query will be spoken: “Find a Mexican food restaurant near Prospect Park Brooklyn.”

To capitalize on this trend, focus your content on themes rather than specific keyword terms. Strengthen your site by giving each page a distinct purpose. Make sure to emphasize local angles in your content. Blog about how your business is active in your neighborhood or district. Of course, keyword terms still have their place in SEO for small businesses, but now you must also think in terms of long-tailed keywords that are more likely to be spoken in conversation.

### 2. Get the Most Out of Deep Links

The most poorly optimized website imaginable would have all of its information crammed onto a single page. Clearly, that’s not a great idea, and instead your website should have different pages for each specific aspect of your business.

Deep links are likely to enhance how visitors interact with your site — they’re less likely to bounce and they’ll likely stay on pages longer because the information is more relevant. Combine these signals with a strong content structure, and Google is more likely to view deep-linked pages as more authoritative and deserving of better search rankings.

### 3. Invest in Social Media

One of the biggest debates among SEO gurus is just how much social media signals affect Google’s search rankings. Studies have shown that businesses that accumulate favorable social media signals — such as likes and shares on Facebook posts or retweets on Twitter — are more likely to get favorable placements in organic search results. Although Google officials have flat-out denied this is true, nobody is arguing that social media is going to become increasingly important in SEO strategies.

Regardless of whether likes and shares matter (and the data strongly suggests they do), there are enough other reasons to incorporate a strong social media campaign into your overall SEO strategy.

### 4. Engage Customers With Videos

Videos are the undisputed kings of grabbing people’s attention online.

More than 60 percent of Google searches are by people looking for video content, according to a report by Marketing Land. Videos are even more impactful on social media; a study by Socialbakers revealed that video posts on Facebook tended to get twice as much organic reach than any other type of content. Another study by Quicksprout.com found that Web pages with videos achieved search rankings up to 50 times better than pages without videos.

Small businesses can produce videos to establish themselves as authorities in their areas of expertise. Product demonstrations and how-to videos are short, sharable and don’t require big budgets to produce. Embed videos on your website, post them on Facebook and tweet them on Twitter. Don’t forget to start a YouTube page that could also get ranked high in Google’s organic results.

### 5. Optimizing for Mobile Is Now a Must

We’ve already reviewed the rising importance of voice recognition, videos and social media – all trends that are being driven by the widespread use of smartphones and other mobile devices. So it should come as no surprise that mobile Web design is also an absolute must in 2016. And by “must,” I mean MUST.

The benefits of mobile website design aren’t new – for the past two years, more people browsed the Web through mobile devices than desktop computers. However, now people expect to find seamless, intuitive websites whether they’re using large tablets or tiny smartphones. A mobile user who lands on a website that’s only functional on a 23-inch computer monitor is almost certain to bounce.

Many small business owners manage their own sites using WordPress or similar platforms, and most of those platforms offer free responsive site templates that adapt for mobile users. That said, you can’t go wrong with hiring a professional to ensure your site behaves properly on mobile devices. It’s that important.

### 6. More People Want Hyperlocal Search Results

Local SEO has always been important, but never more than it is now. As we discussed earlier in this article, more people are using smartphones and wearables to seek out goods, services and entertainment on the go.

Registering your small business with sites such as Google My Business, Bing Local and Yelp is critical if you want to have a shot at ranking in the local “map” results. Make sure all of your business information (such as your name, address and phone number) is listed correctly, and make sure it corresponds with whatever is on your actual website. Do the same for your social media profiles.

Starting a blog is another great way to harness the power of hyper-local searches. Blog about sales, products, company changes and even your customers. Make frequent mentions of your street, your neighborhood and the role your business plays in the community. Anything to strengthen the local identity of your business can boost your SEO efforts.

Want more SEO Tips? Click here to get the Ultimate SEO checklist.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of AdWords accounts and the most common mistakes I see typically fall into 5 basic categories, all of which can be quite costly to your business, but are fairly easy to fix. Here is a look at the most common types of mistakes people make when using Google AdWords, and how you can avoid them.

1. Budget Allocation Errors
This mistake can happen during the planning phase. Many company owners simply allocate their available dollars equally across all of their products or lines of business. This is almost never the best idea because all products and services are not equally valuable to your business. Instead, focus on your marketing goals based on maximizing your ROI (Return on Investment).

Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with your ad campaign. Do you want to grow an already profitable business unit or try to scale a new product or service? How many new customers do you hope to attract per month? Figure out what you want to accomplish, and then allocate your budget based on what is most likely to help you quickly reach your goal.

Writing ads is a tough job, but a great ad is the key to attracting the right prospects and turning them into customers. Many business owners struggle with exactly what message they want to send, and end up making one of 4 basic ad writing mistakes. See if your ads fall into any of these categories:
• One Size Fits All: One size fits all ads try to target a single ad to a long list of keywords. Instead of being highly relevant for one keyword, the ad ends up being mediocre for all of them. To fix this, create separate, tightly targeted ads for each of your core keyword phrases.
• Me Too: These ads don’t stand out from the competition in any memorable way. If everyone in your line of business offers free consultations, then a free consultation doesn’t make you special. Figure out what you provide that is different from what your competitors provide, and highlight that difference in your ads.
• Feature Rich: Your prospects want to buy a product or service that solves a problem in their lives. Feature rich ads focus on all the bells and whistles, but fail to answer the basic question of how the purchase will meet a specific need. To improve these ads, identify your customers’ needs and explain how you will fulfill them.
• Company Focused: Like feature rich ads, company focused ads fail to explain what you can do for the customer. Talking too much about your company wastes space that could be better used for telling prospects what you will do for them.
3. Landing Page Issues
4. Keyword Match Type Mistakes:
• Broad: This is the default setting so new advertisers often unknowingly select this when setting up their campaigns. However, it is almost never the best option. With this setting, your ad will display when a prospect searches not only your chosen keyword, but any other keyword that the algorithm thinks is related. You could end up paying for clicks from people who have no interest in what you are actually selling.
• Exact: This setting displays your ad only to prospects who search for your exact keyword phrase in the exact way that you set it up. This can be overly restrictive because you could ignore prospects who are highly interested but searching in a slightly different way. For this reason, I generally do not recommend starting with Exact match until you identify the top performing search phrases. Once you know the exact phrase, then you’ll want to use Exact match to laser target your advertising.
• Phrase: Phrase matching is almost always the best choice for a new Google AdWords campaign. It displays your ad when your keyword phrase is searched, even if it is part of a longer search phrase. Note that your ads could still display for irrelevant searches so it’s critical to use Negative keywords whenever you use Phrase match. Negative keywords will block your ads from displaying on any irrelevant searches you select.
• Modified Broad: This is generally the best setting for business owners who want to expand their advertising campaigns. It matches your ad to search phrases that include all of the words in your keyword phrase in any order. It improves your reach, but also raises your risk of irrelevant clicks, which is why you’ll want to avoid this advanced setting when you’re just starting out.
5. Conversion Tracking Omissions
Without conversion tracking, you have no objective data to use in tweaking your advertising campaign and maximizing your ROI. Yet many business owners omit this crucial step. Setting up online conversion tracking for solely web-based businesses is as simple as adding a bit of code to your receipt, or “thank you” page.

If your sales convert offline through phone calls or face to face meetings, conversion tracking is a bit more complicated, but still entirely possible. Your options include tracking phone numbers, coupon codes, and Offline conversion imports. All it takes is some understanding of the Google AdWords conversion tracking system and a little persistence to continually keep track of your leads and sales from your advertising campaigns.

## SEO 101: The 3 Keys to Rank No. 1 in Google

Mark Twain was only half joking when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, then wait a few minutes.” Growing up in Massachusetts I distinctly remember days when one minute it would be raining or snowing, and the next minute it would be clear skies.

Mark Twain was only half joking when he said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, then wait a few minutes.” Growing up in Massachusetts I distinctly remember days when one minute it would be raining or snowing, and the next minute it would be clear skies.

In other words, the weather in New England is a lot like Google’s algorithm; It’s constantly in flux, and it can seem nearly impossible to stay on top of all the updates. Whether you are new to SEO (search engine optimization) or your rankings have recently slipped, you might have gone looking for answers only to become overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice. If you are feeling frustrated and confused, don’t worry because you are not alone!

Fortunately, no matter how many new updates Google rolls out, following the fundamental best practices of good SEO should keep you ahead of the power curve. Here are the 3 steps to achieving and maintaining a spot at the top of the rankings.

1. Research
No matter what else you do, choosing the right target keywords is the most important step for your success. Begin your research for free with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. As you study the available keywords, look for the ones that best meet 2 separate but related criteria:
• A) Search Volume: This refers to how many people are searching for that particular keyword. A higher search volume means more potential eyeballs for your page.
• B) Relevance: You want to focus on the keywords that draw customers who are ready to buy. Later, you can expand your reach to include “tire kickers,” or prospects who are in the early stages of considering a purchase. But for now, you want to bring in people who want your product or service today.

While the “perfect” target keywords include both high search volume and high relevance, those can be tough or even impossible to find. For now, focus on those that hit a “bullseye” for relevance, even if the search volume is not quite as high.

2. Relevance
Once you have a list of target keywords, you need to make sure Google considers your website as relevant to those keywords. At one time, “keyword stuffing,” or unnaturally forcing the keyword all over the site, was a common strategy. Today, this action is penalized with lower rankings. Instead, focus on naturally incorporating the keyword where it makes sense. There are two steps to improving your relevance:
• A) Website Structure: Match one keyword to each page of your website. This keeps the focus clean and helps Google recognize that the page is relevant. For your homepage, focus on your “dream” keyword—the one word or phrase that best describes your business and for which you would love to rank No. 1.
• B) Page Elements: Each web page contains numerous areas where you can add your keyword. These include the Title Tag, Meta Description, Header Tags (H1, H2, and H3), and Body Copy. Remember to use the keyword in the Title Tag and Meta Description, and to incorporate it only where it naturally fits in the Header Tags and Body Copy.
3. Reputation
Convincing Google that your website and its individual pages are relevant is not enough. You also need to demonstrate that you are a trusted authority on your particular target keywords. You do this by building your site’s reputation.

Traditionally, the best way to build reputation was through hyperlinks from other sites to yours. While this still remains very important, many old-school link building tactics are now penalized by Google. You need to focus on organic, natural relationships with other websites, rather than simply going on a campaign to build as many links as possible.

Social media is also becoming an increasingly important factor. Page referrals through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets are now weighed heavily in the new Google algorithms. In fact, some experts believe that social media signals will soon outstrip web links as the No. 1 factor in determining your domain reputation.

What Does All This Mean for You?
As Google continues to roll out new algorithms and updates, some SEO ranking techniques will disappear, and new ones will be developed. What will never change, however, is the importance of creating excellent content.

Rather than attempting to “trick” Google into giving you higher rankings than you deserve, focus on creating content that is worthy of being ranked No. 1. Add new content frequently, spruce up old content that has seen better days, and make quality your number one goal. This simple policy will help you weather any storms and ensure that your site receives high rankings for many years to come.

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss Phil Frost’s upcoming webinar “Old School SEO Is Dead: What you can do to adapt to Google and the new world of search marketing,” live on February 25. Click here to register.

Fortunately, we have developed a formula that allows you to plug in your numbers and calculate a realistic budget. It breaks down into two phases: Testing and ROI.

## Phase 1: Testing

When you begin your Google AdWords campaign, you will need to test several ideas to see what works for you and what doesn’t. While some campaigns are profitable right out of the gate, many others are not. Consider your testing phase to be a form of market research, and plan to invest those dollars without the expectation of getting them back.

Before you begin, gather the following information:

• Target Keywords Cost Per Click (CPC): Google AdWords follows a pay per click (PPC) model. No matter how many times your ad appears, you only pay when a prospect actually clicks on it. For each keyword, you will pay a different amount of money for that click. This is known as the CPC, or cost per click. For example, Google estimates that “coffee shop” costs \$2.90 per click, while “mortgage broker” costs \$13.76.

Make a list of the keywords that you want to test, and then use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to estimate the CPC for each of those keywords. Remember that this is just an estimate, so your actual cost may be higher or lower.

• Time Frame: How long can you spend in the testing phase before you need to see your results? This is partly dependent on your industry and the keywords you choose. Some keywords have a higher search volume than others, making it easier to get results in a shorter time frame. Also consider your normal sales cycle. Do customers tend to purchase in one day, or does it take months for them to make up their minds? The lower your search volume and the longer your sales cycle, the longer it will take for you to obtain accurate data.
• Sales Conversion Rates: As a general rule of thumb it’s safe to estimate that 1 in 100 people (1 percent) who view an AdWords ad will click on it, and 1 in 100 clicks (1 percent) will convert into a paying customer. These are estimates, and your ads might drive more or less traffic, but they work for planning purposes in the testing phase.

• Per Keyword Cost to Test: If you can turn 1 in 100 clicks into a customer, then the estimated cost per sale is the cost per click (CPC) divided by 1 percent. For example, a keyword that costs \$3 per click will cost you an estimated \$300 for one sale. Go through the same process for each keyword you want to test, and add up the results to get your total budget.
• Monthly Testing Budget: To generate a per-month Google AdWords budget, divide your total keyword costs to test by the number of months you want to allot to the testing phase. For example, if your total costs calculated earlier are \$2,000, then you could budget \$500 per month for 4 months. Or if you wanted to test faster, then \$1,000 per month for 2 months.

## Phase 2: ROI

Once your testing phase is complete, and you have generated a handful of sales from your ads, then it’s time to move into the ROI phase. The goal here is obviously to maximize return on investment from AdWords.

What should your budget be in the ROI phase? If your ads are profitable, then the answer is you should ditch your budget altogether! If every dollar you spend nets you more than a dollar in sales, it only makes sense to invest as many dollars as possible.

While many businesses focus on writing better ads, which improves the AdWords quality score and reduces the cost per click (CPC), that’s only half of the equation. The real magic comes from the EPC, or earnings per click.

To find your EPC, just multiply your customer value times your conversion rate. Your Customer Value is the average amount that one customer spends on your product or service minus your fulfillment costs. Your conversion rate is the percentage of clicks that become paying customers. So if the customer value is \$100 and you have a 1 percent conversion rate, your EPC is \$1.00.

## Why Is EPC so important?

Well, it tells you exactly how much you can afford to pay per click for every single keyword in your account! If you pay more than your EPC, then you’ll be unprofitable. If you pay less, then you’re profitable. It’s as simple as that.

## A Few of My Thoughts on SEO

This is going to be a short post. First, a caveat: No one SEO tactic is the end-all be-all, in and of itself. It is part of a bigger picture using other SEO tactics. So, emphasizing keywords alone will be useless. Several SEO tactics need to be part of your overall SEO plan. Second, I’d like to clarify that there are different points of view on this. However, many webmasters still believe certain tactics—such as alt tags/attributes and keyword emphasis, such as bold, underline, italics—although they aren’t critical to overall SEO, certainly don’t hurt efforts.

This is going to be a short post.

First, a caveat: No one SEO tactic is the end-all be-all, in and of itself. It is part of a bigger picture using other SEO tactics. So, emphasizing keywords alone will be useless. Several SEO tactics need to be part of your overall SEO plan.

Second, I’d like to clarify that there are different points of view on this.

However, many webmasters still believe certain tactics—such as alt tags/attributes and keyword emphasis, such as bold, underline, italics—although they aren’t critical to overall SEO, certainly don’t hurt efforts.

In addition, many webmasters and SEO experts who do agree with subtle use of keyword emphasis think it’s okay to underline if another element is used, such as italics, to distinguish it from a text hyperlink. Also, it’s recommended if you underline text, don’t use blue font (again, to avoid confusion with hyperlinked text).