Has It Has Really Been a Quarter Century?

Early search marketers literally created on-the-fly the methodologies that are still in use today. Clever developers constantly wrote and marketed new tools that would gather the data more rapidly that we needed for deeper insights and better campaign performance.

Most early Internet marketers came into the online space accidentally. I was no exception. We all raised our hands at an opportune moment. We stepped off the edge into a void. For me, building a website seemed like a good way to increase the reach of a public relations client’s message. It was a good idea. It was 1995 — a quarter of a century ago. In fact, this good idea launched the second half of my marketing career, with a focus on search marketing.

Lots of Energy and Sharing

Early search marketers literally created on-the-fly the methodologies that are still in use today. Clever developers constantly wrote and marketed new tools that would gather the data more rapidly that we needed for deeper insights and better campaign performance.

There were numerous search engines and directories all vying for dominance, and Google wasn’t even founded until 1998. The big names were Alta Vista, Yahoo! As the industry has matured, it has lost the edginess of the early days. Today there are monoliths that dominate the search industry.

Early on, the sharing of information was essential. The industry grew through sharing what was online in forums like Webmaster World, in person at conferences bearing titles like Search Engine Strategies (that by the title alone clearly gave the prospective attendee a clear picture of what might be learned from attending), and in the written word through numerous online and print publications. I trained to be a college professor, albeit not in technology, but I jumped at any chance to teach/share with my colleagues (and anyone who would listen) my digital marketing insights and discoveries.

It was a wonderful heady ride, but for me the carousel of speaking and traveling came to an abrupt halt five-plus years ago when I returned home from a Pubcon in Las Vegas with my arthritic knees too painful to walk through the airport. I decided to hang up my spurs and stay at my desk and write instead of speaking at conferences; to travel less and train smaller groups.

Grateful for the Opportunity

An opportunity met my decision to focus on writing when I was approached to write a search marketing regular column for Target Marketing. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to continue having my voice heard without the stress and strain of travel. I will confess that writing a regular column has often forced me to think more deeply about strategies my clients might use — a bonus. I am grateful for this opportunity.

Not Yet Over

Writing a monthly column about search marketing is an excellent discipline, but it can be a distraction. I have found myself increasingly unwilling to let it distract me from other writing tasks. So, as you may have guessed, I am signing off. I am not gone yet, for I am working on a monograph on search and have other writing projects outlined that are calling me. For now, let me say thank you once again for listening to my conference panels and reading my columns.

SEOs, Stay the Course Through Google Algorithm Updates

Any volatility in search results sets off tremors in the search marketing community, for it usually signals a change in the Google algorithm. There have been many significant updates as Google continues to search for how to deliver the best set of results to its users.

Any volatility in search results sets off tremors in the search marketing community, for it usually signals a change in the Google algorithm. There have been many significant updates as Google continues to search for how to deliver the best set of results to its users.

The most recent shift has been dubbed “Valentine’s Day Update.” Many of its predecessors were named Panda, Penguin, Pigeon or, more prosaically, Medic and Fred. Each targets a specific search problem — bad links, duplicate/thin content, aggressive monetization, etc.

A major algorithm change does not roll out across the worldwide search landscape all at once. It may take days or even weeks. Sometimes, webmasters will detect changes before Google acknowledges that an update is occurring or has already occurred. The big question to me has always been: How much attention should I pay to these updates and how should I respond?

Why Google Updates Matter?

Search technology and artificial learning have entered a new age. With the heavy computing power available today, the entire site is used in the ranking algorithm.

Unless an SEO watches the changes and the discussions of what is the intent of each major algorithm change, it is easy to miss how the search ranking process is changing. For those who want to stay well-informed about the future and are of a technical bent, it also pays to read the expert analysis and discussions about recent patents granted to Google. The patents often portend what is in the more distant future.

In short, even if your site is not impacted by a change, it is important to pay attention to what the updates are targeting.

How to Respond to an Algorithm Update?

When an update occurs, it is like a storm has rolled through the search results. Rankings may appear to lurch, as though buffeted by winds as major algorithmic changes spread through the system.

The big storm is usually followed by a period of instability, as the engineers do additional minor tuning of the algorithm.

Once the storm has passed, there is usually a readjustment, as quality sites return to their more accustomed positions. The process winnows out those that are less worthy.

Here is where it gets tricky. If you have a solid site, built and optimized in accordance with best practices, you have little to fear from an update. By monitoring your site’s performance in the Search Console, staying abreast of recommended enhancements, you place yourself out of peril. The real danger is negligence of what is today’s best practice and looking for the easy way to the top rankings. With solid SEO in place, the storm can rage around you. Let the storm pass. Wait 10 to 15 days before making any changes to your SEO tactics. By then, it will be easier to see what the intent of the change was.

If your results don’t return to previous levels in a week or so and your site has in fact been penalized in an update, corrective action taken too soon may actually make the situation more confused.

Once the storm created by the update has passed, then, you should make adjustments, corrections and improvements. Algorithmic updates, while inconvenient, usually improve the search user’s experience and provide SEOs solid guidance.

An Introduction to Voice Engine Optimization (VEO)

Marketers should be looking at voice engine optimization (VEO) as a growing and important part of their digital marketing. But that doesn’t mean you need to run out tomorrow to add VEO to your arsenal. How quickly VEO becomes critical to your business depends on what business you’re in.

Marketers should be looking at voice engine optimization (VEO) as a growing and important part of their digital marketing.

I will admit that for a guy who has spent most of his career in close proximity to “The Next Big Things” in technology, I can be a bit of a cranky Luddite. Which is what keeps me from inviting, Alexa, Google, or Siri into my home in the form of a voice-activitated digital assistant.

And though my privacy paranoia may seem prudent given recent headlines about Facebook’s sharing of personal data, voice-activated digital assistants like the big three and others are not going away.

Nor are tie-ins to these voice-activated assistants built into other devices like our phones and televisions.

Clearly, I’m swimming against the tide and so are you if, as a marketer, you’re not looking at voice engine optimization as a growing and important part of your digital marketing.

What Businesses Will VEO Impact Most?

That doesn’t mean you need to run out tomorrow to add VEO to your arsenal. How quickly VEO becomes critical to your business depends on what business you’re in. For location-based and time-dependent businesses like local retail, you’re already late to the party. Most B2B businesses have some time before VEO becomes critical.

Before you get too comfortable waiting, recognize that voice-driven search already goes beyond the now-familiar, “Hey, Google. Where can I get a pizza right now?” Unexpected examples include universities using smart speakers to allow students to check schedules, set alarms, and review meal plan details and balances.

Similarly, hotel chains are piloting smart speakers to let guests adjust room lighting and HVAC in addition to finding local attractions, eateries, and transportation.

Why VEO Stakes Are Higher

Getting VEO right is even more critical than getting SEO right. Yes, we’d all like the very top organic spot on search engine results pages, but there’s still hope for spots 2-10. They typically garner about two-thirds of search clicks.

But VEO has only the top spot. If you’re not in it, you’re not anywhere.

How do we improve our odds of being in that one-and-only spot? Here are a few ideas.

Easily Understandable Content

Usually, when we talk about content that’s easy to understand, it’s the human audience for whom we want content that’s easy to digest. In this case, it’s the search engines that need to grasp it quickly and easily. Tools like Semantic HTML 5 and structured data markup make it much more likely that the search engines will understand what your web page is about. These tools can help provide context for everything from your contact information to details about the products or services you offer.

This is particularly true for Google. According to Tim Peter, the e-commerce and Internet marketing expert, “For Google Home, the key is less about voice specifically and more about targeting the featured snippet in Google’s search results or ranking well in local, depending on the nature of the query and the searcher’s intent. Your goal is to improve your ranking for the feature box or the local pack to ensure you’re offered as an answer in voice search. The great thing there is that you then gain the benefit from both voice and traditional search.”

Longer Search Queries / Question Answers

Voice search is frequently done in the form of fully-formed questions rather than the shorthand so many of us have been trained to use by our earliest search experiences. (Though that’s far less necessary now.) More conversational content can help you perform better in voice searches.

Website Performance

Though true for SEO, as well, site performance is even more important for VEO. The underlying reasons are very much the same as for mobile SEO. This is partly because, as Mr. Peter notes, “Many voice searches are conducted via mobile and tend to have either an explicit or implicit location intent.” Ranking better for local search will help in voice search, and fast-loading pages will help for both.

Test, Test, Test

If your business depends on VEO – or soon will – don’t be a cranky privacy paranoiac like me. Buy one – or all – of the voice assistants and test how well you perform for the customer questions you hear most frequently. If your competitors are outperforming you, reverse engineer their success and improve your own results.

One last note: it will be interesting to see how nomenclature and acronyms develop over time. “VEO” is actually “VEO™” as it is a registered trademark of Chatmeter. I get the sense this may wind up joining “Kleenex” and “Xerox” (and “Google” as a verb …) in popular usage.

Search Marketing in 2019 Will Focus on the User

As each year ends and the new year is about to roll in, it is time to think “big thoughts” about what will define search marketing in the coming year.

As each year ends and the new year is about to roll in, it is time to think “big thoughts” about what will define search marketing in the coming year.

Last year looking at the challenges ahead, I thought that the defining trends would be Google’s move to mobile-first indexing and the growing use of voice search. This, coupled with changed SERPs, were anticipated to make 2018 a year with mostly incremental change.

These 2018 predictions have come to pass.

Mobile has continued to grow, voice search has gained momentum and the changes to the SERP have shown an intense focus on keeping the user on the page, while directly answering the query.

In 2019, what trends will impact search? This year, perhaps it is time to look to the user and away from the search engine itself. How are users changing and how will this change SEO? Machine learning and AI have made it easier for Google to understand user intent and provide search results that directly address their queries.

The Questions Yield the Answers

Understanding user intent and delivering semantically accurate search results have long been the Holy Grail of search. The advances in AI and machine learning have made it possible for Google to develop a much keener understanding of the user’s intent. What did the user really want to know? All those questions in the SERPs pages have surely yielded a treasure trove of data on user intent. It is now time in 2019 for SEOs to target our messages more directly to the user. It is time to question whether just targeting keywords is the answer. In my opinion, it is time in 2019 to marry keywords to user intent and our marketing messages.

Content Still Reigns, Better Content Conquests

Recent years have shown that for search, content is king. But now, it is imperative to move beyond content for content’s sake into a new realm. Content must be highly valuable and directed with surgical precision to the user. For those who expect to drive sales from search, this will mean creating content that attracts the visitor and addresses the precise need. In my opinion, the value of winning the SERP for the so-called head terms will decline as users demand answers to increasingly specific queries. Voice and mobile searchers no longer fill their queries with Boolean strings of keywords. They want the answer to a specific question now, not after plowing through pages and pages of search results. Content that addresses the user’s immediate query will conquest over imprecise, generic content.

Users Will Broaden Where They Search

In October, I urged readers to optimize their Amazon product listings. This was in response to data that has shown that users begin their product searches on Amazon, not at Google product search. There is a lesson to be learned here: Users will shift where they search to where they believe they will get the best answer. This will continue into 2019, and it is imperative for marketers to broaden their focus to embrace changing user behavior.

Customer Privacy Concerns Will Creep Into Search

The data breaches and wholesale exchange and use of highly personalized data across some big tech firms can be expected to have a corrosive impact on consumer trust. This is particularly important as search becomes more able to target exactly what consumers want. In my opinion, it will be increasingly important in 2019 to build brand recognition and trust so that when your brand appears in the search results, consumers feel confident that yours is a brand they can trust.

User Focus Still Requires Optimal Site Performance

It is not enough to just focus search marketing efforts on meeting users’ needs, but the site itself should not get lost in the shuffle. Solid technical search is still going to be needed. Mobile optimization is essential. So, too, are site speed improvements and adding more rich text. This means that you must not take your foot off the gas on site optimization. While you are at it, consider enhancing your metrics expertise and technology so that you can determine how well all your efforts are working.

3 Things SEOs Should Be Thankful For

The holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving and ending on Jan. 1, are a time for reflection on what SEOs have accomplished over the year and for gratitude for all of our blessings. From my grub’s eye view, the working SEO should be thankful for many things.

The holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving and ending on Jan. 1, are a time for reflection on what SEOs have accomplished over the year and for gratitude for all of our blessings. From my grub’s eye view, the working SEO should be thankful for many things.

  • Most notably, we should be thankful that we work in a changing industry, which is filled with challenges and requires constant learning.
  • Those of us who work as consultants, should be particularly grateful for the clients who seek our advice and trust us with their success.
  • Third, from a more personal view, a debt of gratitude is owed to our industry colleagues who willingly and broadly share their knowledge and insights.

The list of what SEOs should be thankful for is actually much longer; but these are, in my opinion, the highlights.

SEO Is Reported Dead – It Just Plays Possum

For years, decades even, pundits and authors have proclaimed that SEO is dead. Each time an obituary is written, or a eulogy delivered, SEO has evolved or morphed to meet the ever-changing environment.

SEO does not die, it just plays possum — until the talented and innovative individuals working in SEO make changes to their tactics to make sure that their sites or their client’s sites are still visible in search engines. The tactics used are constantly changing in response to each new turn or twist in the search technology.

Because the goal remains the same — making useful content visible to users — all that changes is how we accomplish the goal. Responding to change requires constant learning and innovation. For many SEOs, meeting the challenges presented by the constant change makes the job interesting.

SEO is a job that is never boring and will never become mundane or routine. For this, I am personally thankful and eagerly await what the next year of change will bring.

Revere Client Trust

The marketing power of SEO is well-established.

Most companies consider search marketing an integral part of their marketing efforts. When a client engages an SEO consultant, the client is entrusting a key to their business success to the consultant. Not all consultants are created equal. Most are ethical and vary in competence; however, some use unethical practices and work harm to their clients’ sites and, by extension, to their businesses.

Yes! One could argue that “caveat emptor” applies to buying SEO services. The problem is that executives are not sure what evaluation criteria to use.

As an SEO, I like to treat my clients’ sites by the Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This means following ethical search guidelines to the letter and advising clients when they are about to stray into trouble. They do not always take the advice, but it would be unconscionable not to provide such advice.

My gratitude is to those who think enough of my skills and respect my values to take my advice. There would be no livelihood for SEO consultants without clients willing to take the risk of seeking our advice. For this, I am grateful.

Industry Colleagues — A Treasure

Without the wealth of information that flows across the industry daily, it would be impossible to do this job.

Although there are many training programs and courses, SEO is not a discipline that can be learned in school. It is constantly changing, and practitioners are always passing information along about the changes or how to address them.

Industry conferences — like PubCon and SMX — bubble with ideas. Even after more than 15 years as an SEO, I still learn from my colleagues. Without their willingness to share their ideas, my own learning would be stunted and my practice less dynamic.

For this, I am grateful.

As the new year begins, I will be looking for what changes are afoot in the industry and will share my own ideas for how to make search more profitable for my readers.

Are You in the Organic Search Game?

Successful organic SEO programs are in many ways like winning basketball teams. The players must know how to execute the fundamentals. They must be willing to make rapid changes of direction and evaluate the risk accompanying every shot taken.

the search game is like basketballSuccessful organic SEO programs are in many ways like winning basketball teams. The players must know how to execute the fundamentals. They must be willing to make rapid changes of direction and evaluate the risk accompanying every shot taken.

I refereed high school basketball for about 15 years and can assure you that the very best teams, even those with tremendous talent on the floor, don’t just roll the ball out and play. That type of game is reserved for playground pick-up games. The best teams protect the ball as they move it down the court, work the ball on the offensive end, and look for the open shot. They have scripted offenses and clear defensive schemes. Today’s game has placed a lot of emphasis on the three-point shot, but even the best three-point shooters are more likely to miss at that range than the player making an at-the-rim slam dunk.

SEOs don’t get many open rim shots, so we must constantly look for the best shot.

Game Plan

The best search teams focus on the making sure that the fundamental elements of organic search are properly executed.

  • Are all key pages optimized?
  • Is there a consistent formula for stress-free optimization?
  • Can new pages be added seamlessly?
  • Is there a clearly articulated content creation scheme?

That is the equivalent of good ball-handling. Nimble SEO teams have in place the processes that let them move the SEO ball, their site optimization, down the court without dribbling it off of their foot.

With the complexity of today’s sites, making sure that the procedures are in place to ensure consistent high-quality initial optimization is an essential and complex task. As an SEO consultant, I have encountered a number of organizations where the essential routines for optimization are not codified and the processes are ad hoc. These organizations are playing the equivalent of pick-up ball with their SEO.

Execution

Just like today’s basketball defenses, search engines have evolved from easy-to-manipulate to very complex multi-layered technologies. Every successful search marketer has to be able to evaluate the impact each new change will have on their site and then adjust.

  • Is it worth the cost and effort to make the site secure?
  • How deep should the commitment be to mobile optimization?
  • What about making improvements to site speed?

Making the decisions that go into these are analogous to working the ball on offense. Not every team can run-and-gun. Each must work to their own strengths. It is easy to be driven off-track by the newest shiny object and lose sight of the overall goal: more qualified traffic.

Post-Game Review

College basketball uses a shot clock, and teams on offense sometimes let valuable seconds on the clock tick away while they seem to aimlessly move the ball around. With no time left, they either turn the ball over or put up a bad shot. They either had no real plan or could not adjust to the defense.

Google, in particular, usually signals major changes with enough time to allow site owners to react. The search marketing team must read the defense and adjust. When a major change is hinted, you and your search team are on the clock. Plan your offense early and know that the clock is ticking. If you do, then you will get your shot off with plenty of time left on the clock.

Evaluating, revisiting and tweaking your optimization will ensure more open shots and slam dunks. Your evaluation should be holistic, the site audit process is broadly used. This will uncover weaknesses and areas that may need immediate attention. Highly specific actions should focus on areas where minimal effort will yield large gains.

Creation of optimized content and re-optimization of individual pages can be very specific and result in almost immediate traffic boosts. These are your slam dunks. They only come from using your analytical tools in concert with a well thought-out game plan.

Just like basketball, search is competitive. Don’t just roll the ball out. Build a team and a plan that makes your search team a winner.

‘Tickle’ Content: No Feathers Needed

Marketers understand triggers, no problem. But what about tickles? Let me show you a photo of one of my homemade cupcakes. Are you hungry now? Craving something sweet?

Cupcakes by Melissa
Mocha cupcakes dipped in chocolate ganache, topped with vanilla bean buttercream and finished with a salted caramel drizzle … drooooooooool.

Hungry now? Craving something sweet?

Or maybe cute animals are more your thing …

Apollo the CatI want a kitty!

Apollo the CatI WANT A KITTY!

Apollo the CatGIMME THAT KITTY RIGHT NOW!

So, what was all of that, aside from cupcake and cat photos? (Both of which are mine, no stock photos here … meet my hobby and my furball sidekick, Apollo.)

Those were “tickles.”

As Grant Simmons explained during his C3 session, “It Ain’t Over Till the Cat Lady Sings: Content Beyond Kittens & Other Search Strategies,” marketers understand triggers: Trigger content answers questions, and connects with existing searches.

Your car broke down? You need to find a mechanic to fix it. Pretty simple. Triggers happen without the marketer doing anything. Instead, the marketer is on the other end of the search, providing the solution to a consumer who has been forced into a “need” mindset by the issue/trigger.

Tickles are a different story. Grant explains:

“Tickles are the stimuli of needs and desires. Marketers can ‘tickle’ a consumer into wanting or needing.”

At the beginning of this post, I showed you a photo of a delicious cupcake. And because I showed it to you, I tickled the idea into your head that you wanted one.

Where's my cupcake?It’s crucial for marketers to understand the stimuli that will influence and inspire users into buying desire. To craft tickles, a marketer needs to be prepared to be visible, gain consumer awareness and essentially inspire a search.

Yes, that’s right … you need to think about what your customer needs and optimize your content for that, not what is going to get you a higher ranking on a search engine results page. Upsetting, I’m sure.

I highly recommend checking out the short post Grant wrote for the Conductor blog in the lead up to C3 about triggers and tickles, and I’ll leave you with what Grant called a “Grantism”:

“Good content connects with behavior, great content inspires behavior.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Succeed Long-Term With SEO, Focus on Relationships

While the word “best” is still a bit nebulous, Google is basically looking for rich, deep content by subject matter experts who are trustworthy and credible. To meet that description, stop chasing techniques and start focusing on relationships. Here are three relationships that can transform your SEO strategy and keep your rankings high.

As Google algorithms continue to change at a tremendous rate, it can be tempting to chase after the latest SEO (search engine optimization) tips and techniques. The Internet is full of conflicting and confusing advice, and trying to keep up can feel like a full-time job. To get out of this loop, try thinking of SEO in a whole new way. Google’s fundamental goal is to provide the best search results. While the word “best” is still a bit nebulous, Google is basically looking for rich, deep content by subject matter experts who are trustworthy and credible. To meet that description, stop chasing techniques and start focusing on relationships. Here are three relationships that can transform your SEO strategy and keep your rankings high.

1. Your Relationship With Google
Many company owners and web masters have an adversarial relationship with Google. Yet if Google succeeds in its mission, everyone benefits, from conscientious business owners to potential customers. Look at Google as your partner in the quest to deliver the best, most useful information to your buyers and prospects. The more you understand Google’s mission, the easier it will be for you to align your website and content to rank higher in the search results.

2. Your Relationship With the Searcher
Building relationships with web searchers is at the heart of both improving your conversions (turning a prospect into a buyer) and boosting your Google rankings. The concept is extremely simple. Provide an excellent user experience from the moment a searcher clicks on your website. Deliver on your promises, describe the benefits of your product or service, present an irresistible offer, and use a clear call to action.

A big part of this is also providing a great mobile experience on your website. Today’s searchers move rapidly between computer, tablet, and smart phone, and they expect your website to move with them. Make sure that every web page is mobile friendly, and that your website functions properly in all devices. Pay particular attention to page load times, playability, and providing an experience on mobile devices that is as rich and complete as your full computer-optimized site.

3. Your Relationship With Other Websites
Ongoing relationships with other websites help you earn organic links, build referral traffic, and send signals to Google that your website is trustworthy. All of these factors improve your Google rankings. Yet they are not enough on their own. Increasingly, building strong rankings requires you to develop human relationships with brand advocates, social media followers, and especially influencers.

An influencer is a person with a strong online following, generally through a popular blog. Influencers typically focus on a niche market, and have become respected experts within their niche. Whether they are actual subject matter experts or not, they heavily influence trends and can be invaluable in spreading the word about your product or service.

To connect with influencers, search for bloggers that cover your industry. Drill down to see how active the blogger is, how many followers he or she has, and how active the followers are in commenting on posts. When you have a short list of potential influencers, start following them. Tag them in your social media posts, comment on their posts, and become part of their community.

Finally, reach out via email to the bloggers you like and explain why you think it makes sense to work together. Most will likely not work out so approach this like dating. You may need to kiss a few frogs to find your prince!

Today, SEO is no longer an individual pursuit. While it is important to continue to follow the basic SEO best practices, many tactics are giving way to relationships. Building relationships is not fast or easy, but when done correctly, it is a key factor to improving your Google rankings.

SEO Is Really an Acronym: [S]ocial Media, User [E]xperience, and Content [O]ptimization

In times not so long ago, SEO (search engine optimization) was an isolated marketing tactic. The best practices changed over time, evolving through the Google Panda and Penguin updates from keyword stuffing to long-tail keywords and everything in between. Today, however, while SEO remains an important part of an overall strategy, it can no longer be rigidly defined and segmented. Today’s SEO should blend seamlessly with social media, user experience, and content marketing. Here are 5 reasons why.

  1. User Experience:
    Internet users today are savvy and demanding. They expect an excellent experience that answers their questions, solves a problem, or provides the opportunity for further research. Blogs, videos, and other multimedia or interactive tools increase engagement and make it more likely for users to return to the site in the future. Even more importantly for SEO, users tend to share those websites that they deem high-quality with their friends, often through social media. Rather than simply trying to attract visitors to your site by ranking high in Google search, you can now tap into the power of the shared Internet experience to drive traffic. These tools work hand in hand, as increased sharing can lead to more backlinks and higher Google rankings, while a highly ranked site is more likely to be shared.
  1. Link Building:
    Link building, or getting other sites to link to yours, is a vital component of SEO. While its importance has not significantly changed, the best practices for developing those links have. Instead of investing in old-school, manual (or even automated) link building tactics, focus on creating quality content that can be easily shared around the Internet. As your content is passed around via social media, more and more authoritative sites will naturally link to yours.
  1. Bounce Rates:
    The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that immediately click away from your website and try another listing. This number is important to the Google algorithm, because it indicates which sites users find the most helpful and relevant. To reduce your bounce rates, you’ll need to make sure your webpages are 100 percent relevant, engaging, and easy to use. In other words, focus on usability and the user experience so that your visitors don’t get confused and click back away from your website.
  1. Time on Site:
    Time on site is how long users remain on your site. It takes only a few seconds for a web searcher to decide whether a site is worth exploring in more detail. Therefore, Google takes the bounce rate a step further. If users do not spend much time on your site, it counts against you more than if they remain on the site for several minutes before moving on. Therefore, engaging users for a longer period of time is critical to retaining high Google rankings.
  1. Quality Content:
    The Google Quality Update launched in early May 2015, but Google kept mum on the subject in the first few weeks. The company is still holding its cards close, but has admitted that its latest algorithm update affects site rankings based on perceived quality. We don’t know exactly what factors the algorithm considers, but the following likely play a critical role:
  • Richness and credibility: Each page should be expertly written and filled with deep content. If the writer or sponsoring organization is a recognized subject matter expert, or quotes those that are, the page may get a boost. An easy way to boost your credibility is to provide full, accurate contact information on your site.
  • Value: Find an angle that makes your content unique, while maintaining the highest quality standards, and you should have no trouble passing the value test.
  • Professionalism: In addition to using spelling and grammar checkers, make sure to proofread each page manually to avoid simple mistakes. Also, quickly remove spam comments in your blog or forum, and build up any pages that have thin or outdated information.

As you can see SEO has not gone away, but it has fundamentally changed over the past few years. To be successful, you now need to incorporate social media, website user experience, and content optimization.

Want even more SEO tips? Click here to get my SEO Checklist, which walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your rankings and traffic.

Applying Paid Search Optimization Techniques Beyond the Search Engine Results Page

In 2010, Forrester’s The Future of Search Marketing report predicted that “search marketing will become an umbrella term that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser get found.” Forrester was right. It’s now clear that search isn’t limited to being a channel.

In 2010, Forrester’s The Future of Search Marketing report predicted that “search marketing will become an umbrella term that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser get found.” Forrester was right. It’s now clear that search isn’t limited to being a channel.

Search is the science of understanding intent and acting on it to efficiently connect people to your brand — no matter if that connection is made on a search engine, social networking site, display network, affiliate network or other emerging medium. To foster these connections, search engine marketing best practices can be extended well beyond the search engine results page.

First, I’ll consider how traditional paid search techniques can be applied to display advertising to drive new-to-file customers. Like search, biddable display provides advertisers with targeting capabilities to find the right customer at the right price. While search marketers create segmentation via keywords to find the right audience, display marketers create segmentation via data sources.

For example, during back-to-school season this past year, one of Performics’ apparel retailer clients sought to efficiently boost year-over-year daily sales though performance display. Like we do with search campaigns, we restructured the retailer’s display campaign at a more granular level (31 different ads in 2011 versus 6 ads in 2010) to support product/offer testing.

The restructure revealed deeper audience insights, helping us buy only the impressions we wanted (i.e., the right placements at the right price). We also increased relevance through site retargeting (i.e., serving display ads to people who visited the advertiser’s website but didn’t take action). These strategies resulted in a 211 percent year-over-year increase in average daily sales at a 120 percent return on investment.

Likewise, paid search techniques can be applied to social media advertising. The obvious paid search/Facebook similarities are that Facebook cost-per-click ads are bid based, keyword triggered by likes/interests in users’ profiles and optimized through copy/creative testing. The obvious paid search/Twitter similarities are that Promoted Tweets are bid based, triggered by Twitter users’ search keywords and optimized through copy testing.

There are also less obvious similarities. For example, using paid search campaign structure best practices to boost Twitter followers via Promoted Accounts, which enable advertisers to recommend their account to particular Twitter users who may be interested in following them. For an advertiser’s account to be recommended, the advertiser targets Twitter users via keywords and bids on a cost-per-follower (CPF) basis. One of Performics’ clients sought to use Promoted Accounts to increase followers at a low CPF.

Borrowing from paid search, Performics restructured and relaunched the client’s Promoted Accounts campaign. We increased the account’s size from one campaign to 11 campaigns to include more granular, demographically relevant keywords. Like in paid search, more targeted keywords caused Twitter’s algorithm to recommend our client’s account to a more relevant Twitter audience. Post-optimization, the client achieved a 1,473 percent increase in followers at a 69 percent decrease in CPF.

Search will surely continue to evolve well beyond typing keywords in a search box (think asking Siri to find you an answer or using a mobile augmented reality app to see product reviews while walking through a store). Notwithstanding this evolution, time-tested paid search optimization techniques relentlessly focused on structuring campaigns to deliver the most relevant audiences at the lowest cost will always drive performance.