THE MAGAZINE FOR ONLINE MARKETING STRATEGIES
Winter 2013 | $9.95
that May Bury Your Affiliate Program By Geno Prussakov
Creating a Social Media Substance Strategy
By John Broadbent
Sharing Intellectual Property in Search Marketing
By Rob Laporte
Important Google Analytics Metrics to Monitor
By Roman Viliavin
06 Editorâ€™s Note
Read all about the latest happenings with this growing magazine.
08 Featured CEO: Jay Swansson
Marketing differently is Jay Swanssonâ€™s mantra. Read further to find out more as the CEO and Co-Founder at iAcquire shares his success story.
11 Quarterly Round-Up
Snapshots of all that is happening in the world of internet marketing. Get the newest update on all the news and views in the world of internet marketing. Latest news related to products, tools and strategies being revealed.
20 Legal Corner
Have questions about the legal aspects of Internet marketing? Tune into this section to get your answers.
36 Product Review: SEO Engine
SEO Engine is a platform worth reading. Find out more about how this enterprise platform is packed with simplicity, yet has everything your heart desires.
46 Vendor Spotlight
Seth Turin of Seth Turin Media sheds some light on how automation mindset can be instilled across your organization for growth.
60 Upcoming Conferences
A guide to upcoming internet marketing related conferences around the globe. At these conferences, you can listen to the insightful experiences of the leading names from the internet marketing industry.
25 Losing Thousands in “Adwords Oblivion”
Navigating the vast word of search engines is not always an easy task. Josh Dalton looks at how you can steer clear of the potholes in the Google Ecosystem.
30 The Right Approach to Landing Page Optimization? Just Do It! David Rodnitzky takes a look at the different ways a marketer should approach landing page optimization for increased conversion rates.
32 Should Retailers Buy Web Marketing Agencies?
Rob Laporte delves into this very pertinent question that many marketers are look for an answer to.
43 10 Mistakes that May Bury Your Affiliate Program
You must learn from the mistakes of others precisely because you can make them all yourself, burying your affiliate program in the process, warns Geno Prussakov.
55 Compelling Your Most Difficult Online Customers To Buy Something…Right Now!
It might be hard to believe, but it’s true! Brad Beiermann brings to the fore the problems that even the biggest e-commerce companies are facing today and tells you how to tackle them.
WINTER 2013 www.visibilitymagazine.com
55 Winter 2013
editor ’ s note Hello Readers! As the holiday season nears, there is a lot of excitement in the air. It’s been an eventful year with a lot of new trends. Companies like Apple and Google had much to offer and the internet has been buzzing with comments, reviews, and feedback on the latest technology, especially smart phones and tablets. One item that has been of particular interest within the internet marketing world is Local SEO. This has definitely been a growing trend and as the year progressed we have seen more conversation around it. With this edition, we incorporate the topic of local SEO into the articles and the updates that we bring to you. To give you a taste of what we have in store for you, here is a little peek into the articles that we have lined up. You can get insight into “Should Retailers Buy Web Marketing Agencies?” by Robert Laporte, followed by Brad Beiermann’s “Compelling Your Most Difficult Online Customers To Buy Something…Right Now!”, Geno Prussakov’s “10 Mistakes that May Bury Your Affiliate Program”; and Josh Danton’s “Losing Thousands in Adwords Oblivion” and David Rodnitzky’s “The Right Approach to Landing Page Optimization? Just do it!”. Other pieces of interest include our CEO Spotlight featuring Jay Swansson, CEO of iAguire and the Product Review focusing on SEO Engine. This edition of Visibility Magazine is filled cover to cover with entertainment and information. Our effort is always to make our output relevant to your interests and needs. Please do stop by our website to share your comments and feedback. And, of course, we welcome your submissions for our next issue of Visibility. On behalf of the entire Visibility Team, I would like to wish you Happy Holidays!
Visibility EDITOR Julie Lynn EXECUTIVE EDITOR Jeev Trika SENIOR PROJECT EDITOR Neeraj Kumar ASSISTANT TO THE EDITOR Cameron Kriss PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Juneyeta Mattix STAFF WRITER Ajay Govind SENIOR DESIGNER Armando Rangel CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Brad Beiermann | Cimstrat Inc. Christy Belden | Courier-Journal Media Alex Cleanthous | Web Profits Josh Dalton | Netmark Joann Dettman & Kaysha Kalkofen | tSunela Amanda DiSilvestro | Higher Visibility Caitlin Dodds | Web Talent Marketing Craig Dudenhoeffer | Stained Glass Labs Melissa King | SEOP Rob Laporte | Disc, Inc. Abu Noaman | Elliance Geno Prussakov | AM Navigator David Rodnitzky | 3Q Digital
Julie Lynn Editor Visibility Magazine
Scott Stouffer | SEO Engine Solomon Thimothy | OneIMS
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CEO and Co-Founder at iAcquire Tell us about your background and your role in the company:
I graduated from law school in 2004, taken the bar exam, and not soon after I moved to Cincinnati to become one of the founding members of an Internet marketing startup. Here, I was able to help build a scalable startup business that included only 5 employees with 60,000 clients. The rapid growth eventually led to the acquisition of our company. In 2009, Joe Griffin (my business partner) and I saw an opportunity to do marketing differently. We wanted to serve brands and help them compete in digital – with that in mind we started iAcquire. Today more than 100 midsized to Fortune 100 companies partner with us to support their earned media needs.
ay Swansson is the CEO and Co-founder at iAcquire, a digital marketing agency based in New York City and Phoenix. After graduating from law school in 2004, Jay joined a boutique search marketing agency as one of its founding members. In this role, Jay fostered the growth of the company to become an SEO industry market leader and helped lead the company to acquisition. In 2009, Jay partnered with SEO industry veteran, Joe Griffin to start iAcquire. The selffunded company now employs 100 digital marketers in New York and Phoenix to provide full-service digital marketing strategy to 150+ clients worldwide. Jay earned his Bachelor’s degree while playing baseball for Butler University and later received his Juris Doctor degree from William Mitchell College of Law. He resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Day-to-day, Joe and I work daily to drive our agency’s growth through business and product development, marketing, recruitment, company vision, and culture. We work with our leadership team to ensure all the pieces are in place to dominate their jobs and help our clients amplify their digital reach and conversion.
What are your main services?
iAcquire is an earned media marketing agency with a focus on digital brand strategy. We help brands develop and implement strategies in social, SEO, market research, and content. Our tagline:
Become a True Content Brand. Meet The New Digital Agency. iAcquire is in the business of content marketing—and, inevitably, so is your brand. We create content that powers your business, and develop strategies that forge the road ahead. Using market research, we ensure your brand’s content aligns with what your users are looking for in search and
talking about in social. Welcome to the new way of doing content. We recently launched a new brand called ClearVoice. We’ve created a software platform very unique to the market with a simple goal -to connect the world’s best brands, publishers, and content creators. We’ve created a rating system to allow all sides to interact freely in a true marketplace setting. The ClearVoice platform helps brands and content strategists develop great content to enhance search, social, digital PR, reputation management, and branding.
What makes your firm different from other companies competing in your industry?
As an agency, iAcquire helps brands develop digital brand strategies. Our strategies are unique to each client to help them connect with their audience in a meaningful way. We use a combination of search, social and paid media to help amplify content strategy and traditional marketing. Our comprehensive content marketing solution is one area we differentiate from many agencies as we can be a partner, vendor, or holistic strategist with our agency model. We’ve developed a technology called iRank that allows us to filter and find quality publishers at scale. We also have an in-house editorial, creative, and journalism team that works to develop great content for our brands and publishers. ClearVoice will allow us to have the best publishing arm in search and will allow us to branch out into more traditional digital marketing areas. We’re a self-funded company. Joe and I started iAcquire when I was living and working out of a Starbucks in Manhattan and Joe had a oneroom office AZ. We worked hard to sell, deliver,
and build and are now really proud to have a brand new office on Park Avenue in Manhattan (only a block from the Starbucks I used to work from in our early days only four years prior), satellite offices in Minnesota and San Diego, along with our headquarters here in Phoenix. We’ve worked hard and reinvested into leadership, clients, and technology. The next 3-5 years of iACQ will be about continued innovation and aggressive growth. In 2013, we’ve been recognition by U.S. Search Awards, PR News - Digital PR Awards, Phoenix Business Journal, and The Stevie Awards. In the past year, we’ve hired more than 30 team members to support the demand for content marketing, reputation management, and social media. We recently hired the former Founding Editor of East West Magazine, Anita Malik, as Director of Content Operations, who runs a team of best-in-class journalists and outreach coordinators.
According to you, what are the most important questions a potential customer should ask a company before choosing a vendor like you? We’ve been asked this question many times before, and it all comes down to these things:
Gain insight into the internal culture: Make sure that your company culture meshes with the
prospective agency. Your agency will serve as an arm to your company’s overall marketing team. Make them prove their value: It’s important to find an agency that is going to be obsessed with your brand and act as an extension of your team. Are you just another client or is the agency truly engaged in developing unique strategies to help you compete in an ever-changing digital age. Ask about track record: An agency’s true value can be shown in their “numbers”. Client results and ROI are true measure of success. Ask for references: Ask for two to three references from past clients. Ask questions similar to those you would the actual agency and compare answers.
What are some of the myths in your field? One myth is that SEO is dead or is dying and to that I say -- the rumors of SEO’s death have been greatly exaggerated. SEO is changing and it’s changing for the better. CMO’s are looking for integrated strategies that combine on-page SEO and content strategy with off-page content marketing, social, paid media, and even TV and print. In this scenario SEO becomes less of a siloed department and more of a foundational piece of the overall marketing strategy.
How do you develop your skills in this continuously changing environment?
Read, read, read: Moz, SEOBook, the Content Marketing Institute and Search Engine Land are the best places to start reading. Then it’s time to start ‘do-ing.’ There’s no better industry for entrepreneurs. Get out there and do it.
What do you see as the future of the industry? What will be the challenges? Do you anticipate any drastic changes? The search industry is and will continue to converge with supporting traditional marketing and practices including social, PR, market research, and content. Brands need to be wherever their consumer is, whenever they are collecting information and making decisions. So, brands that have content that supports the consumer at every pathway are those who will win in the end.
Where do you see your firm in the next 5 years? What about you personally? We’re growing fast. We nearly doubled our revenue in 2013 and expect to continue or exceed that trajectory. We want to continue to focus our efforts in content marketing. I see iAcquire, with support of ClearVoice, growing to be among the top five interactive agencies internationally. n
FREE SEO Analysis and Quote Call Now! 901-672-7243
quarterly round up Prescription Google Glass Looking for January Launch Exciting news about Google Glass has been making the rounds for a while. And those of us, who have an eye – no pun intended - for the finer technology trends have certainly had Google Glass on our minds. The good news is that a New York based company, Rochester Optical, will be ready with their version of the Google Glass prescription lens by January 2014. The company has come out with an announcement saying that they will be launching prescription lens add on for Google Glass. Though Rochester Optical have clarified that these prescription lens are
not part of Google itself, this new product will work as an add-on for those who are interested in using Google Glass. The product is currently available and those interested just have to do is go on to their website, from where they can chose a matching color for their existing device and provide their prescription information. That is all that will be required for the lens to be shipped to you in two business days! The other bit of good news is that these lenses will be priced in the same range as the regular prescription lens.
Chromebooks is Good News, Say Experts You may remember that Chromebooks have been on the receiving end of quite a bit of slack. There are some techies who have sworn that Chromebooks will not see the light of day, but the laptops sales data is throwing up an entirely new story. Chromebooks have seen a good run so far and, mostly because of its competitive pricing, have been selling at top rate. Experts are saying that the holiday season is going to bring some more good news for the makers of Chromebooks. “We expect Chromebooks to continue to have a substantial presence in the entry-level price bands during the holidays. They have consistently accounted for 20-25 percent of the entry-level market for consumer notebooks in 2013 and given the typical consumer (and
channel) price sensitivity during the holiday they are very well-positioned to expand that share over the holiday period. The significant marketing and advertising support Google is providing its partners is likely to be a key a feature in helping continue to raise awareness of the product and show consumers that it is a reasonably priced alternative to a tablet”, said Stephen Baker, Vice President of Industry Analysis for Consumer Technology for NPD group, a retail analysis group. This is a particularly interesting point to note as the Chromebook seems to be competition not only to other laptops, but to the tablet market also. It has also been noticed that the Chromebook has been doing good with students and saw a lurch in sales during the Back to School season.
9.3 Billion Mobile Phones by 2019, Says Ericsson Mobility Report A recent report released by Ericsson says that by the year 2019, the number of mobile phone subscriptions would go up to 9.3 billion. Given this whopping number, it would not come as much of a surprise that 60% of these mobile phones – amounting to 5.6 million – would be smart phones. Though it does seem like everywhere you look everyone has a smart phone, what might, however, come as a surprise to you is that smart phones make up only 25-30% of current mobile phone subscriptions globally. The global landscape for mobile phones, especially smart phones, is changing at a very fast pace. “The rapid pace of smart phone uptake has been phenomenal and is set to continue. It took more than five years to reach the first billion smart phone subscriptions, but it will take less than two to hit the 2 billion mark. Between now and 2019, smart phone subscriptions will triple”, said Douglas Gilstrap, Senior Vice President and Head of Strategy at Ericsson. Here are some other interesting findings featured in the report: • 90 percent of the world’s population will be covered by WCDMA/HSPA in 2019 and 65 percent will be covered by LTE • Smartphone subscriptions will triple and smart phone traffic will increase 10 times between 2013 and 2019 • Video is growing 55 percent annually, and will represent more than 50 percent of the mobile data traffic, while social networking and web services will account for around 10 percent each in 2019.
Top 7 Ways to Get Around “Not Provided” OR Why Google’s “Not Provided” Isn’t the End of the World
t seemed like the end of the world on September 23rd when the SEO community realized that Google had pushed all users to secure search (http://searchengineland.com/post-prism-google-securesearches-172487). It was the confirmation of the end of keyword data as we know it, and marketers who had survived on keyword data, and acknowledged the growing (not provided) percentage like ostriches with their heads in the sand, were challenged to find new ways of tracking keywords. This change for Google was so important that the searchmarketing world seemed more focused on this update than on the impending US government shutdown. As with any controversial decision, there are differing opinions on Google’s move. Some marketers believe that it was an effort by Google to monetize keyword data and force people into AdWords. Others maintain that it was a move towards better information security for users. Regardless of your take on the subject, we all face the same problem: finding an alternative way to measure keyword data. At our agency, we’ve come up with several different ways of reporting on keyword data and using different tools to get coveted keyword information. 1. Google Webmaster Tools. GWT reports on the search queries that are bringing traffic to your website and breaks it down by clicks and impressions. It will also give you the click-through-rates and your average position in the search results. While not as user-friendly as Google Analytics, it’s still better than nothing. 2. Cross Reference Analytics & WMT. It’s a complicated process, but it can provide good data. First use Analytics to determine which pages receive the highest number of visitors. Then cross-reference these pages with WMT to see the number of visits generated from specific queries. Cross-reference these two reports to gain new insights. 3. Use AdWords Keyword Planner and Content Page Reports. You won’t get awesome data for your website, but this could give you a general idea. Use the keyword planner to optimize for a term on a page and then monitor that page’s change in traffic to determine whether that keyword phrase is driving more people to your site. 4. Compare Paid and Organic Traffic. If your company is already using AdWords, you have access to the organic keyword data for the terms you are bidding on. This is best used to analyze how your paid and organic SEO efforts work together. To see this report in
your AdWords account, you have to first link Google Webmaster Tools to AdWords. You can find this report by clicking on the “Dimensions” tab for the Campaign/Ad Group and selecting “Paid & Organic” from the “View” menu. 5. Try Bing! Granted, Bing isn’t driving a huge portion of your website traffic, but the keyword data is probably along the same lines as Google’s, so it’s an easy substitute. 6. In-Site Search Engines. Does your website have a search feature enabled on it? It’s not the exact same as the keyword data, but it will provide some valuable insights as to what people are looking for on your site. 7. Track your rankings. What keywords were you ranking for? What keywords would you like to rank for? Enter those keywords into a tool like Moz or SEMRush and track changes over time. You can see how altering the page text, changing meta descriptions or page titles, and adding content can affect your rankings. One good thing about Google securing organic keyword data is that it forces us to be creative and think outside the box. It may even inspire you to focus on improving brand recognition outside of Google. A quick Google search for “insurance” brings up a Wikipedia page, a list of local insurance providers in my area, and then the big name brands: Progressive, Nationwide, Esurance, Travelers, etc. You know what company was dead last on page one? Geico. But when I think of insurance – the first company I think of is Geico. Why? Because they’ve done an awesome job of branding themselves and building awareness. Geico doesn’t have to depend solely on rankings in the SERPs since they’ve done a great job of building brand awareness elsewhere. I miss keyword data, too. I think it helped my company create great content for clients and get into the mind of the consumer a little better. However, not having keyword data can be viewed as an opportunity to get creative with our SEO efforts and become better marketers. I think we’ll all be better off that way. n
Caitlin Dodds is a SEO Specialist at Internet marketing firm, Web Talent Marketing. Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Web Talent Marketing offers search engine-marketing services to clients nationwide. For more information visit www.webtalentmarketing.com.
Inbound Marketing: Ten Lessons From the Field
nbound marketing is the new rage in marketing, but it is harder than it looks on the surface. Effort does not always translate to results and ROI. Before sharing the lessons from the field, let’s define inbound marketing.
edge over other product design firms. Seth Godin, of the “Purple Cow” fame, urges marketers to create remarkable products, which will create rabid fans willing to chat up your product. Think Apple and Harley.
What is Inbound Marketing?
2. Rudderless without a Keyword Guide. Know the keywords that you need to own and rightfully belong to your brand. Organize them into logical buckets such as product/service names, reputational group, geographic set, and decisioning cluster. Know how frequently they are searched using keyword research tools. You can’t own all the keywords, so prioritize the ones that matter the most to you and that are attainable in a reasonable timeframe. That’s your Keyword Guide. Don’t begin your inbound marketing plan without this and refer to it often to stay on track.
Inbound marketing involves the continuous creation of relevant and high quality content, such as articles, social posts, blog posts, videos, infographics, white papers, press releases and thought leadership events, and igniting that content through promotion and conversation-starters to encourage peer-to-peer sharing. Carefully curated content is distributed through channels you control (your “owned” media, such as your website and social networks) and the channels you don’t control (the social media of people/organizations in your network). The goal of inbound marketing is for a brand to be discovered via search engines, social media, and word-of-mouth. Inbound marketers earn attention and trust by providing valuable content stands in sharp contrast to traditional outbound marketers, who rely heavily on interrupting prospective customers with advertising, direct mail, etc.
Why Inbound Marketing? As this foundation of trust is established, the cost to build upon it naturally drops. This translates into a very strong ROI over time for inbound marketing. In our experience, this promise is hard to realize without disciplined practice, from where we have learned these ten lessons.
Ten Lessons from The Field
1. Begin with a remarkable product or service. Better product, not better marketing, gave Google an edge over Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. Better craftsmanship, not better marketing, gave IDEO an
3. Good content is destiny. Winning people’s hearts and wallets demands that inbound marketers cultivate an appetite for creating content around a brand’s one strong-toimpenetrable differentiation and learning to speak with their one true brand voice. 4. Choice of media matters. Variety is truly the spice of life. One can tell great stories with words, photographs, charts, infographics, or videos, but it’s best to mix it up. The ultimate: to combine all of the above to create content for the left brainers and right brainers alike and for the Millennials and Boomers alike. Successful inbound marketers know their goals and target audiences well, and produce the media that will best resonate with their audience. 5. Invest in igniting the content. Metaphorically speaking, creating content is like gathering firewood and sharing it is like lighting a fire that sends smoke signals. For most inbound marketing campaigns, creating the content is far easier than getting it shared. However, igniting the content gets easier as you build a following of fans and a reputation for
creating quality content. Successful inbound marketers nurture relationships with influencers who are hubs and connectors on social media. 6. Brands still rule. In the world of business, an economic vote is much harder to get than an emotional vote. Prospects tend to buy from brands they trust and are more familiar. For our clients, we routinely see leads being generated, but the best converting leads tend to be prospects who are more familiar and trust the brand. 7. Keep you nose in the numbers. As in life, adaptation is a key survival skill. Successful inbound marketing campaigns always have a data scientist guiding the process of evolution and adaptation of strategies. Without a cycle of rapid observation and tuning, the ROI and success will remain elusive. 8. Follow-up is everything. To squander leads generated from tireless effort in content creation is sheer folly. Hard-earned leads must be nurtured with follow-up email/call campaigns, invitations to special events, and other escalation tactics to move hot prospects towards a close. 9. Boots on the ground still indispensable. Military strategists know it. Political campaigners live it. Without a strong ground game to augment the inbound marketing campaign, success will remain elusive. Another case of good alone, better together.
10. It takes a champion and a pool of talent. Inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Without a champion armed with a sensible editorial calendar, the initiative will lose steam as immediate priorities take over. And without a pool of talent, you will produce boring and tired content that simply won’t ignite. And you will find yourself running a content factory that doesn’t translate into economic benefit and ROI. A typical inbound marketing team is comprised of a project champion/strategist, SEO marketer, storyteller, interactive designer, photographer/ videographer, community manager, and a data scientist.
Inbound Marketing or Paid Marketing?
The popularity of inbound marketing raises the question of whether marketers should give higher priority to inbound marketing over traditional paid marketing. Our answer is that they are good alone, but better together. While paid marketing gives a short-term boost, inbound marketing creates an enduring foundation. In reality, with inbound marketing as part of the mix, marketers can reduce their paid marketing spend over time. n
Abu Noaman is the CEO of Elliance, named one of the top digital marketing agencies by Interactive Media Awards. He has contributed to Search Engine Land and is a regular speaker at AMA, SMX, Higher Education, Manufacturing and Banking conferences. He was named the “e-Marketer of the Year” in 2010 by the Business Marketing Association. www.elliance.com or 412.586.1480.
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ADI KAMDAR Winter 2013
For Small Businesses and Startups: Is an SEO Company Still the Answer in 2014?
hen it comes to SEO, the age-old debate is SEO Company or in-house SEO. Which route you want to take when it comes to your SEO efforts typically depends upon your business structure, niche, prior knowledge, budget, etc. In the past, many companies chose to work with an SEO company in order to keep up with the ever-changing search world. This then brings about that inevitable question: Is 2014 still going to be a good time to use an SEO company?
The Debate: SEO Company vs. In-House SEO Whether you’re considering making a switch to your SEO efforts in 2014 or you are looking for the first time, the biggest thing to keep in mind is the idea that search is always changing. Your business might seem steadier than when you got started with SEO, but that doesn’t mean the SEO world is slowing down. Just this year we’ve already had 14 Google updates, including a Hummingbird update, which many are saying was the first of its kind. Consider some of the positives and negatives to hiring an SEO company versus an in-house expert or team of experts: The Case for an SEO Company • A team of experts typically works with an SEO agency, which means they have the resources and minds needed to tackle any problem. An agency is used to working together, and this is something you might not get if you try to create your own in-house team (not to mention the fact that you may only be able to hire one expert at first). • An agency has their own resources, so you will not need to change your business or disrupt your company to make room for a new department.
• Previous relationships and experience are usually already built-in to an established agency. These are the relationships you need to succeed in SEO, and while an in-house expert could have connections as well, you’re sure to get more with an agency. Some of the disadvantages include sometimes being more expensive or a possible miscommunication between the agency and your company. The Case for In-House SEO • It’s often less expensive to hire someone in-house as opposed to an agency. However, this isn’t always the case and an expert can be more expensive depending on the advanced work you want him/her to do. • There is better communication when someone is sitting right in your office as opposed to another location. If you’re working with an agency, you’ll need a real plan as to how you’re going to stay in touch. • You have more control over an in-house expert not only because he/she is in your office, but also because they are working on your company and your company only. It’s all about your target audience and staying focused. Some of the disadvantages to working with just a few in-house experts is that it might be more difficult to spot a mistake (especially if there is only one person in the department), which can be risky. Because it takes time to see SEO results, it takes time before those mistakes are seen.
The Verdict: 2014 Still Warrants an SEO Agency for Many As with any good debate, it depends on your personal needs and goals as a company. For most startups and small businesses, working with an agency is the best route to go because it ensures that you have a solid team working on something as important as SEO as opposed to an expert who may or may not be learning on the job.
That agency has its entire company on the line when it signs up to work for you, that expert could likely find another job easily (SEOs are in demand—another reason you could get someone who is still learning). An agency hires the best in the business and knows how to spot if someone understands SEO. In 2014, putting your trust in an agency is usually going to be you’re safest and most successful bet.
a company who is guaranteeing you results, especially after a specific amount of time. SEO is unpredictable and a good agency will tell you that. 4. How will you incorporate social media? If they get into management tools and promoting content on many different platforms, they’re off to a good start. 5. Can we talk with any of your current clients? Good agencies have a few clients they have a good relationship with who can vouch for them. Do your own research, but make sure they have a current client who is willing to talk.
How to Make Sure You’re Choosing the Right SEO Company The first thing you need to do when finding an SEO company is have your goals set in place. Know what you really want out of your SEO before making any decisions. Do you want to focus on local? Do you need better content and link building/guest blogging? Are you a franchise that needs help managing the SEO of several branches? Different agencies specialize in different aspects of SEO, so find one that’s tailored toward your goals. Once you know what you’re looking for, ask these following questions to make sure you’re finding someone reputable: 1. What are your plans regarding on-site as well as off-site SEO? The answer here should make it clear that one is not more important than the other, but on-site SEO should come before off-site SEO (such as link building). 2. How are you going to measure your success? Tools such as Google Analytics are going to be a good way to answer this question. 3. When will we start to see results? Make sure you never work with
It definitely helps to look at online reviews and see what others are saying about the agency. If you don’t know much about SEO, try to bring someone from your marketing department who knows a little bit more when you’re giving that initial interview. There are SEO agency scams out there, but if you’re paying attention they should be pretty easy to spot. Have you ever used an SEO agency in the past? What have you found to be beneficial, and how did you find the agency you’re working with? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below. n
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO agency HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.
P-091_HPAd_eventures 09/10/2013 16:14 Page 1
SMi presents the 6th annual conference on...
Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry Marriott Hotel, Regents Park London, UK
WHY ATTEND THIS EVENT: • HEAR presentations from representatives from the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. • LEARN from a dedicated session of social media case studies and analyse how strategies can be successfully implemented. • ASSESS the technological developments in media platforms and mobile applications and discover their role in maximising patient engagement. • DISCOVER how to use social media to enhance marketing campaigns, in targeted advertising, patient recruitment, two-way communication, and more.
22 - 23
JAN 2014 PLUS AN INTERACTIVE POST-CONFERENCE WORKSHOP Wednesday 22nd January 2014, Marriott Regents Park London, UK
A: Unleash the Power of Social Intelligence in your Organisation Workshop Leaders: Dr. Alfred R. Steinhardt, Founder, Alfred Steinhardt Consulting 8.30am – 12.30pm
B: Social Media & Pharma – Making it happen?
Workshop Leaders: Gary Monk, Director of Strategy & Innovation, Havas Lynx 1.00pm – 4.30pm
How to book
www.social-media-pharma.com 18 |
Alternatively contact John Collins on telephone +44 (0) 20 7827 6734 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Secret to Long-Lasting SEO Results
iscover your voice.” I bet you didn’t hear to expect that again after finishing 12th grade English, but when people ask me the secret to SEO, that’s the answer I give them. People see the success we’ve had at SEOP producing rankings for our clients and assume we must have a connection at Google. I am here to tell you that the conventional wisdom that states there is no substitute for hard work still holds true today. There are no shortcuts – no combination of linking and black hat SEO techniques – that will skyrocket you to the first page of SERPs. The secret to long-lasting SEO results is to know how to reach your customer base and, more importantly, how they will reach you. You must first put yourself in your customer’s shoes. A complete understanding of your demographic is essential to your profits and, by no coincidence, your rankings. What’s your elevator pitch? Job applicants are encouraged to remember a combination of words, short and to-the-point, that best describes who they are and what they offer the world. But this idea should not be limited to those seeking employment. If you found yourself in an elevator with a total stranger, how would you describe your product or service in such a way as to convert him or her from a total stranger to a potential customer, and ultimately into a brand fanatic?
staggering. Attaining organic rankings is a long-term proposition, much like changing direction on a steamship. Negative changes seem to occur overnight, whereas positive changes take months of hard work. Beware the agency that promises results overnight, for this is tantamount to stealing. You must be prepared to commit to this for the long haul; positive organic rankings will take no less than six months to gain traction. For a quick jolt to your lead generation in the interim, consider supplementing your SEO campaign by investing in a PPC (pay-perclick) campaign. Not only is a winning bid guaranteed space atop the organic search results, but it comes with the added bonus of access to Google Analytics, where you can study your customer’s habits in depth. There you will find how long they stayed on your website, what pages they visited, and what page led them to leave (“bounce out”).
In the world of SEO, your keyword is your elevator pitch. What short combination of words will your potential customers type into their search engine of choice to find you? Assume everyone in your industry is competing for the same piece of real estate. The broader the term, the more competition there will be. I come across clients who tried the scattershot approach, targeting dozens, if not hundreds, of keywords either on their own or with the “help” of an agency. This is counterproductive. Often, less is more. Any SEO agency worth their salt will tell you that it is far better to rank on the first page for one keyword than to rank on the third page for three keywords. An SEO agency will take a good idea and make it great, but we can’t optimize air. You might think every man, woman, and child from Los Angeles to Timbuktu should purchase one of your winter parkas, but be rational. If most of your sales come from the Midwest or New England, consider geographically-specific keywords.
So how will discovering your voice lead to SEO results that last? Consider search engine optimization an extension of your brand marketing. Visiting a website should be as enjoyable and informational an experience as visiting a brick-and-mortar location. Have you ever been impressed by a salesman who took the time to go above and beyond your expectations? The content you produce must serve this purpose. Google’s ranking algorithm prefers websites that are updated frequently with fresh content. Kill two birds with one stone by starting a blog. The steady flow of new content will lead the search engines to conclude that your website is authoritative in your industry; engaging, practical, and informational content will give your customers something to latch onto, or share with their friends and family. Incorporate social media in order to not just make the sale, but to keep your customers interacting and coming back. At SEOP, we create content for our clients when they prefer, but we encourage them to write their own material that we then optimize for their targeted keywords. We have found the best results come from balancing their insights with our expertise. An SEO agency can’t tell you what to say, but we can find the people who want to hear it, and we can give you the megaphone you need to ensure your message is heard loud and clear.
Businesses that thrive can be found on the first pages of the SERPs. Businesses that survive can be found on the second page of the SERPs. Anything beyond that is in jeopardy of being weeded out through the process of natural selection, with Matt Cutts playing the part of Charles Darwin. The bottom-line difference between occupying space on the first, second, or third page on the SERPs is
Melissa King is a Senior Account Manager at SEOP.com in Irvine, California. Passionate about the ocean, football, travel, and all things digital marketing, she lives in Huntington Beach with her son.
California is taking the lead on privacy again. Have you made the necessary changes?
What are the new requirements for my relatively basic website? If you have a basic website that merely retains IP addresses and basic information, it is not clear whether you need to change your policy. Rather than live with the doubt, it makes sense to go ahead and comply with the new disclosures. The ambiguity exists because the law only applies to the use of personally identifiable information (PII). If you aren’t keeping PII, then no need to worry.
So, what is PII? The law defines PII as “individually identifiable information about an individual consumer collected online by the operator from that individual and maintained by the operator in an accessible form, including any of the following: (1) A first and last name; (2) A home or other physical address, including street name and name of a city or town; (3) An e-mail address; (4) A telephone number; (5) A social security number; or (6) Any other identifier that permits the physical or online contacting of a specific individual.” The California Attorney General says she defines PII as “any data linked to a person or persistently linked to a mobile device: data that can identify a person via personal information or a device via a unique identifier. Included are user-entered data, as well as automatically collected data.”
Written by: Travis Crabtree
If the AG enforces the law in a way broader than the definition in the statute, an IP address would likely be covered by the statute. Therefore, we are recommending that almost all websites should add the required disclosures rather than live with the ambiguity.
What do I have to disclose? The amendment is about disclosure and not action. You do not have to change your behavior and honor “do not track” requests — you simply have to disclose what you do about it. It’s a middle ground that requires disclosures, but does not prevent advertisers from tracking or targeting ads or retaining and using any PII.
But I rely upon my outside marketing firms. . . The new law also applies if your site allows third parties such as ad networks to collect PII. You have “to disclose whether other parties” collect PII regarding a consumer’s “online activities over time and across different Web sites when a consumer uses the operator’s Web site or service.” It means you also need to know what your marketing firms are doing. If you have Google AdSense ads on your site or use the service yourself to place ads on other sites, you have to make the disclosure–not your outside marketing firm.
So, what if I don’t change? If you violate CA OPPA, even if you are not based in California, the California Attorney General can bring a civil action against you or someone in California can bring a class action lawsuit against you. Granted, you will receive a notice of noncompliance and have 30 days to fix it, but why wait for the notice of noncompliance? Amend your privacy policies now disclosing what you do, if anything, about do not track requests.
Data Breaches and Dealing with Minors California also expanded the data breach notification requirements to include any inadvertent disclosure of email or user name in combination with a password or a security question. This adds to the list of various combinations of name, social security number, driver’s license number, financial account, medical information or health insurance information as disclosures that require notification. Finally, there are two new laws regarding minors that become effective January 1, 2015. The first prohibits the marketing of alcohol, firearms, tobacco and other similar types of products on website that are directed to minors or a site that is “predominantly comprised of minors, and is not intended for a more general audience comprised of adults.” The second law will require sites to allow minors to access and delete information they posted commonly known as the “eraser button.” n
Do you have a legal question you want answered in the next column? Send your questions to email@example.com.
Delivering on the promise of
big data SAN FRANCISCO
MARCH Eric Siegel
Founding Chair Predictive Analytics World The Prediction Effect, the Data Effect, and the Persuasion Effect
Dr. John Elder
VP of Advanced Analytics Orbitz Worldwide Blackjack Analytics: A Surprising Teacher from which All Businesses Can Learn
Former CTO Sears Holdings Corporation Big Data, Big Discovery, Endless Possibilities
CEO & Founder Elder Research, Inc. General Lessons We Can Learn from Blackbox Trading
social media marketing
Making Social Media Effective in a B2B Industry
he benefits of social networking for B2B businesses have been so extensively documented that by now, participation is no longer just recommended—it’s virtually mandatory. These businesses can use social media to connect with their plugged-in audiences, forming relationships, building authority and becoming interactive fixtures in their lives. But what about B2B companies? What’s the point of investing in social media for the wide range of businesses that the average consumer has no need for? Can it actually help? That depends. According to an October 2013 report from CMI and MarketingProfs, 91 percent of B2B marketers are using at least one social media network to distribute content. Out of 10 different networks, though, only one—LinkedIn—is considered effective by the majority of B2B marketers using it. How do we bridge the gap between using social media for B2B companies and actually using it effectively?
Know every network as well as you know your own business LinkedIn is the top social network for B2B marketing, but it’s far from the only effective one. Just like it allows you to connect and interact with thought leaders and major influencers in your industry—and to become known as one yourself—other networks have their own advantages and disadvantages wholly unique to them, as well. With its advanced search options and emphasis on free and open communication, Twitter is a useful tool for client discovery. Google+, which only 21 percent of B2B marketers find effective, is actually a valuable resource for targeting and connecting with specific decision makers. Think of each social network as an employee, with its own voice, strengths and limitations—it’s up to you to know them and work with them accordingly.
Have a personality Your brand has an established voice for written communication. And just like that voice allows you to articulate your values in print, your voice on social media opens lines of communication—or inadvertently cuts them off. B2B industries can be dry and technical, but your voice can keep them from becoming boring. Don’t be bland, lifeless or robotic—be engaging. No matter how interesting your content may be, the execution of your delivery can make or break its effectiveness.
Find ways to stand out The great communication philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message,” positing that the way you share a message is just as critical to its effectiveness as the message itself. Apply this theory to your content marketing strategy, and stretch the limits of what your medium can do. Take advantage of social media’s unique capabilities to deliver engaging messages, rather than just a linking to your latest blog entry or whitepaper. Use Vine, for example, to broadcast product demos, or Instagram video to shoot and share mini tutorials. The more you focus on content production and not just content sharing, the more your social media can do.
Invest a little, gain a lot Not sure how to find and connect with a relevant audience on social media? Sponsored updates make your messaging more efficient by putting it in front of the decision makers you want to reach. LinkedIn sponsored updates, for example, allow you to broadcast updates to users outside of your network, filtering them by criteria like seniority level and job title. This makes it easier to share content like downloads, infographics and videos with the right decision makers and higher ups, establishing your identity and opening up new networking opportunities.
Twitter also offers sponsored updates, which allow you to target users based on keywords they use and geographic location. Experimenting with these tools makes it easier to connect with a highly focused, relevant audience that may have otherwise been lost in a network of hundreds of millions of users.
Pay attention to your analytics One reason that many B2B companies struggle with social media is that they can’t quantify its usefulness or develop an analytics-based strategy. While it may seem like little more than guesswork, knowing how to monitor your social analytics can make your account management significantly more efficient. Track your numbers every few weeks to see how users are interacting with your business online. What types of posts get the most shares, or website traffic, or conversions? What time of day gets you the most responses? Which networks deliver a higher concentration of converted leads? You may be surprised by what you find out—and you can save a lot of time by tailoring your approach.
Be consistent One of the most important things for a B2B company to do on social media is also one of the most important things for any other type of business: remain consistent. Commit to running your social media accounts with the understanding that they may not yield results for weeks, or months. But weeks, months or even years from now, when
a prospect visits one of your account pages, they will see the content you’ve produced in as much time—and that gives you a significant amount of authority. Creating and abandoning a social media strategy reflects poorly on your business, whether you’re B2B or B2C. Sticking with it, on the other hand, gives you the momentum you need—however slowly—to become a highly visible name in your field.
Your first step By understanding the strategies that make social media marketing as useful for B2B companies as it is for B2C, you can better prepare yourself to experiment on your own. Developing this understanding before you begin to work with social media can give you a significant advantage, and put you in the minority of B2B marketers who recognize and benefit from the potential of these valuable tools at their disposal. n
Solomon Thimothy is the founder and CEO of OneIMS, a leader in integrated marketing. Thimothy has over a decade of experience helping businesses reach their potential through innovative integrated marketing strategies. Based out of Chicago, Illinois, OneIMS and its sister B2B marketing company, ClickXPosure have been top ranked nationally for quality and performance. Founded on the principles of helping clients achieve marketing milestones, OneIMS works with clients of all sizes in all industries.
Supporting media partner:
23 – 24 April 2014 Level 4, Suntec Singapore www.terrapinn.com/cardspaymentsasiaops
Get involved in Asia’s largest cards and payments marketplace! “Cards & Payments Asia has been a great platform for us to show all that we’ve done and what we are doing for the next 12 months. We’re looking at participating next year as well, and for us in the region, this seems to be the most important event for the mobile wallets and transactions.”
Cards & Payments Asia, along with its co-located brands, is Asia’s largest and most holistic smart cards and payments business event. It is a platform for the convergence of the entire cards and payments ecosystem. You will have the opportunity to meet all your key stakeholders from technology providers to system integrators and key customers across the banking, retail, telecoms, government and many more sectors.
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“The value that you have here is really the interaction. Having a ‘live’ event like this, putting up a ‘live’ on-floor seminar, it’s really quite interesting to see that there are audiences you’ve targeted that you’ve not seen before.”
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www.visibilitymagazine.com Winteryou 2013 to | Visibility | From hosting a private networking event at the exhibition to 1-2-1 partnering opportunities, there are various ways for be involved. Contact Ms. Melissa Ang at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org or +65 6322 2756 for the latest participation options.
Losing Thousands in
“Adwords Oblivion” By Josh Dalton
s a trusted search engine, a premier advertising medium, and a lucrative investment, Google become one of the most influential companies to ever grace our planet. Google’s reach has grown so substantially over the past decade that they’ve even inspired societal transformations, not to mention their name has literally become the modern eponym for “search.” Yet in spite of this ubiquitous like influence, most individuals that affiliate regularly with Google fall into one of three groups: searchers, advertisers, and/or stockholders. Although these three groups are broadly defined, each is important because of the unique roles they play in Google’s “digital ecosystem,” commonly referred to as: Google.com. I find the word “ecosystem” to be a good description of Google.com because of the symbiotic relationships formed as a result of its presence. Allow me to elaborate so that this very important concept is clearly understood. Each of the three groups mentioned above have different expectations resulting from their affiliation with Google. Searchers expect Google to deliver search results when they perform a search. Advertisers expect Google to show their ads to searchers based on predefined criteria. And lastly, stockholders expect their investment in Google to provide some kind of future return. Stated another way, advertisers need searchers to search, searchers need advertisers to show up in the results, and investors need both to engage with one another. These interdependencies create several unique challenges for Google, the biggest being the development and maintenance of a system that successfully balances the interests of all three parties mentioned above. A slightly more
descriptive summary of Google’s paid search model exemplifies this point very well: 1. Searchers expect Google to show advertisements that are both high quality and relevant to their individual search queries. 2. Advertisers expect Google to show their ads to highly targeted searchers that have a statistically higher probability of becoming their customers. 3. Stockholders expect Google to maximize the value of each transaction that occurs between advertisers and searchers so that their investment continues to grow. From the descriptions above, it’s easy to see that one party’s unique expectation has the potential to easily conflict with another party’s unique expectation because of the differences inherent in each parties’ goals. This is where Google’s role is really made manifest in the ecosystem. Google has successfully created a system that protects each parties’ interests by actively promoting equitable transactions for each unique search performed on their search engine. They’ve done this by creating a new “quasi-equity type equalizer” variable they call “quality score.” This proprietary score, and its underlying algorithms, evaluates how appropriate it is for an advertiser to participate in an ad auction, and at what level, for any given search. Google represents quality score to advertisers on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being the absolute lowest possible score and 10 being the highest.
On its website, Google defines quality score as the usefulness and relevance of an ad, a keyword, and a landing page to a user’s search query. More is known, but in the end, Google keeps its descriptions of quality score pretty vague in an effort to protect the interests of its owners’. For this reason, it often helps marketers to think of what quality score represents rather than focusing solely on its definition. Consider an analogy with the stock market. A stock listed on a stock exchange creates value in two ways: (1) cash now in the form of dividends; (2) cash later in the form of stock price increases due to the underlying company’s growth over time. These two attributes help investors to decide what price they’re willing to pay, and therefore bid, for any given stock available. This is similar to the consideration Google gives each bidder every time there’s an Adwords auction.
Google looks at advertiser bids like investors look at dividends. Like dividends, these keyword bids result in payments to Google now rather than in the future. On the other hand, Google looks at an advertiser’s quality score like investors look at the growth potential in a company’s stock price over time. Quality score is therefore a representation of the value Google estimates a bidder, campaign, ad group, or keyword to contribute to its own growth over time. As you can imagine, Google assigns high quality scores to advertisers that provide “high quality” experiences to the individuals using their search engine. Google’s intent is to promote the long-term use of their search engine through continued usage from their users, which also supplements future revenues expected from paid clicks, and a marketplace that continues to be highly competitive. Together, an advertiser’s quality score and keyword bid combine to form Ad Rank, or going back to our stock market analogy, an advertiser’s “stock price.” As a search advertiser, Ad Rank is one of the most important concepts to fully wrap your head around. Google uses Ad Rank in each of its ad auctions to do two things: 1. Assign ad positions in its sponsored results to participating advertisers 2. Determine the cost-per-click of each participating advertiser in the event an ad is clicked
It’s important to not that an advertiser’s ad is positioned in decreasing order of Ad Rank, while the cost-per-click is determined by this formula:
Bidder One’s CPC = Bidder Two’s Ad Rank / Bidder One’s Quality Score
There are two real takeaways here. The first is that an advertiser’s Ad Rank ultimately determines an advertiser’s position for any given ad auction. And roughly speaking, the better an advertiser’s Ad Rank, the better their position in the sponsored search results. The second key takeaway is that an advertiser’s shortcoming in quality score has to be made up by the costper-click they’re charged for the position their ad placed in. Because quality score is believed to be a base number and not an exponent, the following table can be constructed and used to illustrate the additional charges an advertiser incurs when a keyword scores below a 10 in an ad auction relative to what the charges would have been had they scored a 10 instead.
The stated cost differences in table above are astounding, but the real costs are likely even greater than what the advertiser initially realizes. Consider the two primary options available to an advertiser that has a keyword with a quality score that’s actively increasing: 1. The advertiser can maintain their ad position for the keyword by decreasing their bid, resulting in a lower cost-per-
click and a higher profit margin. 2. The advertiser can increase their ad position by maintaining their bid for the keyword, resulting in additional clicks from searchers. The first point is self-evident for the majority of people reading this article, so I’ll turn my attention to the second point. Research has shown that search engine click-through-rates have a tendency to follow a Zipf-like distribution, with ad position on the x-axis and click-through-rate on the y-axis. This means that an increase in an advertiser’s ad position generally results in an even greater increase in click-through-rate. This type of relationship results in either “exponential growth” or “exponential decay” for the advertiser, depending on the direction he’s moving. This is enough of an understanding to now define both costs incurred by an advertiser plagued with a poor keyword quality score: 1. A linear decrease in a keyword’s profitability. 2. An exponential decrease in an ad’s click-through-rate. Both of these effects combined together spell disaster for an Adwords campaign. Why? Receiving fewer clicks at a higher rate generally
leads advertisers into a self-perpetuating problem they cannot work their way out of. Once caught in this devastating cycle, advertisers sometimes have no choice but to decrease their keyword CPCs in an effort to maintain a profit, but this also lowers their ad positions even further as a result. At the same time, these same advertisers also have a tendency to start vigorously searching for additional keywords they can add to their campaign in an attempt to either substitute or supplement existing keywords. In my experience, an advertiser’s initial keyword selection almost always outperforms those keywords added to a campaign later. What’s worse is that these new keywords then have the potential to create additional quality score issues for everything else at the campaign or ad group level.
So how does an advertiser resolve this problem once they’re in it, or even better, how do they avoid it altogether? The statistics team at Netmark recently spent some time studying this issue and found some interesting correlations. I’ve provided 6 of the variables they examined in their study, and their associated correlations to keyword quality score, separated into two groups below: Group 1: 1. Click-Through-Rate: 0.4002 2. Bounce Rate: -0.4576 3. Pages-Per-Visit: 0.5928 4. Average Visitor Duration: 0.4393 Group 2: 1. Maximum CPC (Keyword Bid): -0.5458 2. Average CPC: -0.5535 Although Netmark’s statistics team could not determine causation in their study,
it’s believed that group one is made up of variables more likely to influence a keyword’s quality score, while group two is made up of variables more likely to be influenced by a keyword’s quality score. These results provide keen insight into the constituents of a keyword’s quality score and their effects. From the data above, it appears that an advertiser’s best strategy is to be relevant to a searcher’s query and to provide a good user experience. We would be wise as advertisers to learn from these results. What do you think? n
Josh Dalton and Terry Hansen consult with companies all over the world to improve customer lifetime value. They are partners in Netmark.com, a top ranking internet marketing agency located in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
2014 Digital Marketing Outlook
s a new year approaches, part of our client strategy discussions involve how we think the digital marketing industry will evolve in 2014. Will the same strategies work? What will be different? How will the changes affect our clients and the overall marketing landscape? Below are the top 5 items that need to be on your radar for 2014. 1. Google Cozies Up to Consumers, SEO Firms Get Resourceful: In late 2013, Google began blocking keyword referral data in Google Analytics. Before, you used to be able to see which keywords users entered to bring them to your site and how many visitors came from each key word. This data is no longer available through Google Analytics; Google’s position on this change is that they are “protecting” the consumer. As identity theft and cyber security dominate the headlines, this is Google’s way of making sure consumers feel safe using Google products and platforms. However, the data is still available to Google, just not to digital marketers who rely on their analytics program. In 2014, SEO firms will discover new ways to uncover this data (there are several options). Firms will get more creative with how to access and interpret keyword data because it remains a large part of SEO strategy. After all, knowing how visitors are searching helps firms to better understand their target markets and create a better user experience on the website—the foundation of a solid SEO strategy. 2. The Bird Interprets Words: Hummingbird, Google’s new search algorithm introduced at the end of September 2013, improves how your search results are pulled. According to Google’s search chief, Amit Singhal, this is the biggest algorithm change since 2001. Hummingbird pulls from different data points so that search results are more refined and conversationally sequential. For example, before this update, if you typed in “Where is the closest place to my home to buy an iPhone5?” search results would have focused on pages that included the words “buy” and “iPhone5.” Hummingbird focuses on the meaning behind these words and would first identify your location and then the businesses around said
location that mention iPhone5 sales on their sites. In addition, if you next typed “How do I get there from here?” Hummingbird would interpret several data points to understand that “there” means the store that sells the iPhone5 from the page you just visited and that “here” means your home. The point is to improve how Google pulls in the pages for search results by mapping relationships. This, in turn, means more relevant results— and less clicking and scrolling—for the user. Hummingbird has no SEO implications and will, in fact, favor sites with original, high-quality content. 3. Talk to Me! Voice Search Improves: Hummingbird foreshadows Google’s attempt to become more like a real person; this algorithm will improve the results users get when using voice search. As a result, more people will begin relying on voice search and the demand will cause the technology to improve. Users will become accustomed to this more natural way of interacting with technology; as such, the focus on mechanical SEO will decrease and an industry emphasis will be placed on connecting relevant topics and people. 4. Facebook—from Content Creation to Content Consumption: In 2013, we saw an outstanding growth of users on social media. From 2011, Twitter has grown from 200M users to 500M users, Facebook from 600M to 800M and LinkedIn from 119M to 238M! In 2014, we predict that Facebook will be used more as a resource for information; its utility will increase for brands and decrease for individuals. People will use Facebook to research organizations, products, and services. As such, full optimization of your business’s Facebook page description and inclusion of “Like” and “Share” buttons on your business’s website will become even more important. 5. The Moving Target: And by moving we mean mobile. Mobile marketing will dominate innovations in 2014. Companies will discover new ways to target mobile devices and users; in fact, 2014 will be the year that the mobile user is thoroughly researched and understood as a distinct entity from the desktop user. Organizations will begin to build on their understanding that the mobile user needs information that will make them act quickly, without having to scroll or click. Companies will invest in refining their mobile presence and we will see additional mobile payment methods and mobile marketing campaigns. 2014 will prove to be an interesting year for digital marketers and consumers alike. As Google becomes more “human” in its ability to interpret user’s needs while searching, content remains king in the world of search engine optimization. Data will provide the key to competitive advantage, providing insight as to how the social media network user is changing and the mobile user is evolving. Search results will get increasingly refined and relevant as website experiences continue to improve. Hang on—2014 will provide an exciting ride. n
Kaysha Kalkofen and JoAnna Dettmann are co-founders of tSunela, a digital marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization, mobile search marketing, paid search marketing, local search optimization, web analytics, and social media marketing. tSunela is headquartered in St. Louis, MO, with an additional office in Portland, Oregon. For more information: www.tSunela.com or call 314.721.8813.
Marketing in a World of Wearable Devices
earable devices are creeping into the mobile world. High-tech glasses, fitness trackers, and watches make up the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem of today; however, the horizon is glowing with new connected devices. Wearables are equipped with advanced sensors that bring new utility to users and gather unique data. The large amount of data generated by wearables will be used to drive marketing efforts. Personal data collected from wearable devices will advance the future of pinpoint marketing and create new marketing strategies. Juniper Research predicts that this growing market will reach $19 billion dollars over the next 5 years.1 It will be crucial for marketing teams to anticipate wearable trends in order to stay ahead of competitors. Sensors serve two roles for wearables, to bring utility to the device and to attain information about the user. Wearable data serves as a gateway for marketers to push personalized advertisements to consumers.2 There are already sensors in both Google Glass and Plantronics headsets which allow for directionally-aware devices. Though this functionality is not activated in Glass yet, it will lead to more detailed information about a consumerâ€™s location and even exactly where they are looking. With consumers connected to the internet at all times, understanding when to advertise will become increasingly important. Directional sensors coupled with geofencing and augmented reality will make it possible to push information to customers as they view products in real time, opening new marketing avenues. New sensors lead to new data, and new data directly correlates with new marketing insight. The Eye Tribe has developed retinal tracking sensors, which will actually show where peopleâ€™s eyes are focused while browsing websites.3 Forget Pay-per-click, trackers will be able to detect if consumers have glanced at ads, read them, or completely overlooked them. Using these sensors in connected eyewear would be particularly useful for advertisers. Sensors in fitness trackers and watches already provide data on heart rate, physical activity, skin temperature, body perspiration, sleep quality, and even stress levels. With so many data points and insights into consumer habits, mobile advertising platforms like Kiip integrate to wearable platforms will have more data but this will also lead to new privacy issues.
levels. What will incentivize consumers to use wearables and share private information with corporations? The utility of the device must be more valuable to the consumer than the privacy they lose.4 When talking with Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer at Rackspace, he said that people tend to trade privacy for convenience. He then highlighted the use of credit cards as an example. Companies walk a fine line of providing a service, while also using the personal information of consumers. Having such a large amount of personal data could land companies in hot water. The misuse of personal information by a company would be a disaster for its public image, so companies must use this data responsibly. Even though Mobile advertising has been around for years its strategies are far from perfect, and as the industry evolves to include wearables, the companies who are quick to adapt will reap the rewards and those that ignore the trends will suffer losses. Marketing organizations need to be aware of the personal data that wearables will deliver, in order to design the marketing strategies of the future.5 Even in its infancy there are many differences in wearable displays. Optimizing advertisements to capture the attention of consumers with a variety of wearable platforms is a challenge marketers need to overcome. Marketing to consumers using Google Glass will be completely different than marketing to someone who has a device with a screenless display. Solving wearable optimization challenges in advance is a necessity for companies, because wearables are 10 seconds closer to the consumer and in the age of E-commerce, consumers can purchase items instantly online anywhere, so every second counts. Stained Glass Labs is the first incubator/accelerator focused on Glass and wearable technologies, giving entrepreneurs go to market strategies, mentorship and space to succeed in the new technology landscape. n Written by Craig Dudenhoeffer, writer for Stained Glass Lab
Social media and mobile phones have already begun making private data more public, but now wearables will take detailed personal data to new
The Right Approach to
Landing Page Optimization?
Just Do It! By David Rotnizky
often challenge my online marketing clients with a simple proposition: do one landing page test a month for twelve months and I guarantee that you’ll see a 20% increase in your conversion rate. Note that I don’t tell clients to do a specific test or work on a particularly important part of their conversion funnel – I just tell them to run the tests and they’ll eventually see positive results. Do I really expect all clients to see a 20% lift in conversion rate – of course not. People will inevitably test elements of a page that don’t impact conversion rate, or use inexperienced designers, or not give the tests enough time to determine statistical significance. That said, as a general rule, if you create a culture of landing page testing at your company, you will eventually see positive results for your business. So assuming you want to start “institutionalizing” landing page testing in your company, how should you get started? Fortunately there are dozens of books and Web sites dedicated to LPO to give you a head start. There are three LPO pros that I’ve followed for many years that I think are worth discussing. After you learn about each of these experts’ techniques, I’ll give you a hint as to which approach I think it truly the most optimal process.
Tim Ash – Predictive Heat Maps Tim Ash is the founder of SiteTuners.com (an LPO agency), AttentionWizard.com (LPO technology), an author on LPO, and the founder of Conversion Conference (conversioncon.com). In other words, he’s a pretty busy guy!
The great thing about this technology is that it gets you super-quick results at a very reasonable price, especially when compared to using actually eye-tracking software and waiting weeks to get enough data to be significant. This sort of landing page testing is basically a type of predictive analytics – based on reams of algorithmic data gathered from other sites, the system attempts to predict how people will interact with your site. You can then use this data to guide your LPO testing priorities.
Chris Goward – A Simple Model for Consistent LPO Success Chris Goward is the founder of Wider Funnel, an LPO agency in Vancouver, CA. Like Tim Ash, he’s also published a book (with the awesome title, “You Should Test That”) and is a frequent LPO speaker. Chris developed a cool LPO framework he calls the “L.I.F.T. Model”, which is graphically represented here:
What I want to focus on in this article is his Attention Wizard technology. Attention Wizard creates simulated heat maps that show you how an average user is likely to engage with your landing page. As noted on the Web site: “The computer model used to generate Attention Wizard heatmaps is a composition of several algorithms from neuro-science studies of Natural Vision Processing, Computational Attention, eye-tracking sessions, perception and cognition of humans. The model seeks to answer the simple question: “What people are looking at?” Pretty cool stuff, and definitely beyond my little brain’s ability to build myself. If you put your Web site through the Attention Wizard system, you’ll get an output that looks something like this:
What I like about this model is its simplicity – avoid anxiety and distraction on your landing page, create a strong value proposition that is clear and relevant to the user, and use urgency to close the sale. Obviously, I’m not doing justice to the richness of this model in this article, but I’ve used these basic tenants time and time again to evaluate and improve landing page performance. For example, probably the #1 mistake I see on landing pages is a page with dozens of links to pages irrelevant to the purchase at hand (things like “customer login”, “investor relations”) – these are classic “distractions” that Goward calls out with his methodology. Like Tim Ash’s Attention Wizard, you can use the L.I.F.T. model as a starting point for your LPO testing and hopefully avoid going down too many dead ends.
Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg – Personas FTW! The Eisenberg brothers are true LPO old-timers, having been in the space at least as long as I’ve been an online marketing (+15 years!). They’ve written a slew of books (my favorite of them all is “Waiting for Your Cat to Bark!) and will also be found keynoting LPO events.
an approach from one of the many other LPO experts writing on the subject. Don’t spend too much time, however, deciding on the perfect test and the perfect theory to use to craft your test. Just get started! n
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital, a position he has held since the Company’s inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digitals, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals. com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up.David is a regular speaker at major SEM conferences and has contributed to numerous inf luential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and Search Engine Land, Media Post, and Search Marketing Standard.David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.
The Eisenbergs introduced me to the notion of “personas” online. In other words, different pages of your Web site are going to be effective to different types of people. A busy mom might want to make a decision really quickly and thus want a page with one big call to action and few choices. A nerdy computer engineer, on the other hand, might want to visit a page with oodles of product manuals available for download and a long video outlining the pros and cons of your product. Understanding these different personas can enable you to build landing pages that speak to relevant audiences and hence improve conversion rates. In just a few paragraphs, we’ve looked at ideas from incredibly talented LPO experts. Virtual heat maps, repeatable testing elements, persona identification – if you had all the time in the world to test LPO, you could apply all of these and drive amazing results. Of course, you don’t have the time nor the budget to do everything, so you’ve got to start somewhere. So which approach should you choose? The answer is – like my bet about 20% growth from repeated landing page testing – it doesn’t matter! The most important thing is to find a methodology that works for you and just start applying it. The number one problem I’ve seen in LPO is a lack of commitment to testing. Sometimes this is due to an ornery engineering team unwilling to upload new versions of a Web site, other times its due to the “HIPPO” (highest paid person’s opinion) who believes that no amount of testing can trump his or her intuitive knowledge of what customers want. Whatever the reason, to paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, you’ll fail every landing page test you never start (he said “I missed every shot I never took”). For this reason, I recommend you choose an LPO methodology you like and just get going. It could be one of the ones I discussed in this article, or it could be
Buy Web Marketing Agencies? By Rob Laporte
Executive Summary If a retailer needs years of at least thirty weekly hours for one of the seven specialties within web marketing, buying an agency is certainly better than contracting with one and probably better than hiring in house. Acquisition helps the agency too, though at the cost of forfeiting a possible higher price in the future. The agency’s projected profits, which the retailer will own, can and should equal or exceed the purchase payments that are spread out over a few years. I focus on retail as opposed to business-tobusiness because usually retailers must spend more on marketing and can’t omit any of the seven parts of web marketing. However, the rationale often holds true for B2B companies as well. I discuss salient pros and cons for both retailer and agency. I conclude with sound mathematics for determining the maximum price a retailer should pay and the minimum an agency should accept.
Micro- and Macro-Economic Background My Winter 2012 Visibility Magazine article on the Freakonomics of search marketing shows that a modest increase in competition for top search listings--in any searched medium, from search engines through social to video-greatly increases any one competitor’s costs, with the notable exception of conversion rate optimization (search “Rob Laporte” on VisibilityMagazine.com). This means that ever larger businesses can’t afford adequate web marketing if paying the typical hourly rates of good agencies. Hiring in house cuts hourly rates, but the accelerating sophistication within sub-specialties of web marketing makes it difficult and rare, if not impossible, for one employee to master even two of the top four main areas of web marketing listed below. 1. SEO, including link marketing 2. PPC and other paid media placements 3. Social/Local/Mobile (SoLoMo) marketing 4. conversion rate optimization
5. email marketing 6. affiliate and other online partnership marketing 7. ROI reporting and subsequent rebalancing of the web marketing mix * (Currently one pro probably can master the final three areas). If the retailer wants all this work in-house, it would need to hire at least three full time specialists to cover the first and most important three, maybe four, of the above. With luck, one or more of these three specialists will have some competence in the bottom three areas of web marketing, enabling the retailer to buy fewer hours of outside consulting. Otherwise, the retailer must hire more than those first three employees. Hiring--and keeping--these employees will be expensive if one buys talented experience sufficient to beat most of the competition. A retailer’s decision to buy an agency depends in part on how much labor time is needed. Published statistics on average US expenditures likely lag current and future needs because the channels and sophistication of web marketing grow monthly and because most executives fear investing in what is new, complex, and unfamiliar. Nonetheless, past statistics will serve our purpose here. Let’s posit a retailer with one hundred million of annual sales: 1. The US average retail marketing budget is 15% of sales, of which 21% goes to digital marketing. (I discuss these statistics and their sources at www.2disc.com/blog/howshould-you-budget-for-digital-marketing.) This equals $3,150,000 for digital marketing. 2. The larger the digital marketing budget, the smaller the percent of labor vs. online ad spend. Let’s assume that for a retailer around the $100M category,
labor is 20%, which is $630,000, rounded to 600,000 even. 3. A retailer with only ten million in annual sales would need to allocate more like 40% of the digital marketing budget to labor, which comes to $126,500. 4. It is better to build a marketing budget bottom up (from costs of needed work) rather than top down by broad US averages, but top down is sufficient to get a general idea of the labor budget for web marketing that wins. This budget in turn helps decide how many specialists to secure by hiring people or acquiring a firm or balancing both.
The great flood of Fed money printing (or “quantitative easing”) and interest rate suppression means that retailers with good credit can acquire agencies at historically low costs of capital. This money printing will end badly for most everyone, but that day of reckoning is three to eight years away, despite what the gloom and doomers decry. (I wish I had room to explain this here.) In any case, money is very cheap for solvent larger corporations, and that can buy ownership of plenty of valuable and necessary web marketing resources. Of course this logic applies outside of web marketing as well, and indeed US M&A (mergers and acquisitions) have been climbing handsomely since 2010.
Advantages for the Retailer When buying a good agency, the retailer immediately deploys highly qualified, battle-tested professionals. There’s a huge shortage of qualified web marketing professionals: see www.wantedanalytics. com/insight/2013/10/30/ digital-marketing-skillsgrow-in-demand-becomingharder-to-recruit/. Agencies keep records of past work for clients, so the retailer can see the successes of each specialist. The typical stipulation that purchase payments span years and depend on agency specialists remaining those years means there’s much less risk of loosing an employee to a competitor or another job. The retailer’s proprietary marketing data and plans are kept confidential. An unowned agency could later work for the retailer’s competition if a current contract is terminated or not renewed. Or worse, the unowned agency may manage PPC for both the retailer and a competitor of the retailer, bidding one against the other. (I’ve often wondered how large agencies handle this-do they really restrict themselves to only one of each kind of client? And what about those agencies that boast of specializing in a certain industry?) This conflict of interest is especially vivid in PPC, but it applies somewhat to other web marketing too. Agencies have non-human intellectual capital which they are accustomed to using, and this increases performance as compared with a new employee walking into the retailer’s offices.
To prevent sticker shock, agencies have to offer what sells and often what fits into a few month contract that is too small to accomplish all that should be done, rather than offer what is best for clients. Even a one year contract, never mind the common 3-6 month engagements, requires that the agency omit a coordinated sequence of tasks that reinforce one another over months and years. Owning the agency enables immediate boosts in performance to synch with tactics that must wait for months and years until prerequisites are in place. If the retailer’s situation changes unexpectedly, the owned agency can change tactics quickly, whereas an unowned agency may not want to revise and re-sell the contract’s work orders. When owned by the retailer, the agency is more likely to cleave to the retailer’s interests because the agency partners get paid regardless of how much work the retailer agrees to. The retailer gets people who are used to working together productively and with synergies. This kind of harmony will take time to develop among new in-house employees, and it may not happen well or at all. If the agency needs to hire, it typically has proven training programs in place (assuming they’ve been in business for a few years). Most retailers don’t have such programs. The agency has incentive to learn and implement tactics that are promising but hard to sell to clients, thus perfecting service for the retailer and other clients and producing more profit for the retailer. Good specialists want to do their best work completely, rather than be restrained to what fits into a (typically insufficient) contract. Doing lots of work for one client over years satisfies the drive to build a prosperous empire, increasing motivation and productivity. Agency specialists, as opposed to in-house specialists without recent agency employment, tend to have more familiarity with other areas of web marketing because they have dealt with a variety of clients and had to integrate with client’s other web marketing, if not work on those other areas directly. The big retailer has many business connections that could lead to rapid growth of the agency, which over time leads to higher profits and asset value for both the agency and its new owner.
Disadvantages for the Retailer Assuming that the purchase and sale agreement is done right and the retailer ascertained that the agency’s people are effective, the main disadvantage for the retailer is that in at least the first year and probably first few years, the total cash outlay is higher than when hiring in house. True, the retailer owns the agency’s profit, which at least equals the yearly purchase payments. And yes, in theory the cost of owning the agency is counterbalanced by the retailer’s ownership of the exactly corresponding value of the new asset. But still, more cash is required during the years of purchase payments than is required when hiring in-house (unless the agency rapidly grows more profit from other clients).
home infomercials, most people actually want a good boss. For long-time owners, the change can be invigorating.
Disadvantages for the Agency The agency surrenders the opportunity for a higher sale price in the future. This bears repeating: the million now could forfeit ten million in a few years. The specialists who are bound to the terms of the acquisition can’t take better employment opportunities that may arise
If the agency does not perform well for the retailer, replacing the agency’s work with either in-house hires or another agency means that the bought agency will have to acquire lots more business to replace the owner’s withdrawn business and to thereby make enough profit to equal the retailer’s yearly purchase payments.
Advantages for the Agency The owners of the agency will yield more cash, at least in the first two years if not all years of purchase payments. The agency does not have to spend as much time or money in sales and marketing because the retailer brings lots of work. Agency specialists inevitably get involved in sales, whether or not there is sales staff, and most specialists prefer to wield their core skills rather then stuff their heads in sales hats that rarely fit well. The empire building discussed above bestows more job satisfaction. Having a new boss could be either a plus or a minus, depending on the predilections of the agency’s owner or vested partners. It can be lonely at the top, and contrary to work-at-
during the years of purchase payments without loosing those payments. The agency depends on the financial health of the retailer. If the retailer is over-leveraged or incurs other financial problems, it may default on the annual payments. A fair purchase and sale agreement will mitigate but probably not eliminate this damage.
The Mathematics of a Deal Warning: this section is dense reading that compacts and elides a lot of important details deserving a spreadsheet and an accountant. Most of the inputs in the math below apply equally to hiring in-house and buying an agency. So please don’t be distracted by the likes of the 100G salaries--they could be higher or lower without altering the essential math. The purchase and sale agreement can and should be structured so that the projected annual profit of the agency at least equals the retailer’s five annual payments. One must factor the annual payments’ interest not accrued to the retailer (the “discount rate”), but such details aren’t important in this general illustration. So, in this math the purchase price washes out of the equation for the first five years. After that time, of course, the agency’s profits go directly to the retailer’s bottom line, but here too this admittedly important detail distracts us from understanding the essential math structuring the deal. This math assumes that the retailer pays the agency’s standard hourly rates for work over the years, which we’ll posit at $150 per hour. A retailer’s in-house specialist costing $110,000 per year (~$10,000 in benefits and taxes and $100,000 salary) costs about $75 per hour, assuming that specialists, whether at the retailer or agency, can do 30 hours of directly productive labor per 40 hour week. This means that the in-house person can do twice as much labor per retailer dollar spent. Said another way, the retailer pays $200,000 in agency labor for every $100,000 of the same specialists employed directly by the retailer. Let’s illustrate this math by comparing the hiring of three in-house specialists vs. buying an agency with three such specialists. After buying the agency, the retailer will have to spend an additional $300,000 per year to get the
same amount of web marketing work done by in-house employees. This means that the price of the agency should not exceed $1,500,000, which is 5 years x $300,000. Well, interest on that additional $300,000 paid each year might make the maximum price more like $1,400,000, and God (or a good CPA) knows how tax issues weigh in. In other words, each agency specialist to be owned for five years equates to a maximum of ~$466,000 in agency sale price. This maximum should be lowered to projected annual profit x 5 years, if that figure is lower than $1,400,000. The agency should not accept less than this lowered amount. This formula requires that some of the agency’s profit must come from work done by agency employees or subcontractors being paid less than the specialists, and/or from selling to clients other than the retailer packages which demanded lots of labor to produce the first time and much less labor to implement subsequently,
as in software and training packages. Most seasoned web marketing agencies have such packages, and/or have systems enabling less experienced, lower paid workers to contribute to the specialists’ work without compromising quality or efficiency.
Conclusion That math does not account for the substantial advantages to the retailer discussed above. Those advantages may argue for a higher purchase price. Of course myriad situational factors influence viability, valuation, and structure of an acquisition. Urgency of needed web marketing may require just paying a firm for services, or paying an acquisition target now and folding those payments into a subsequent deal. If a retailer needs only thirty hours per week, the target firm with one specialist may be too small to realize the retailer’s advantages sketched above. Much
of the decision to acquire an agency depends on discovering the amount of web marketing work needed. The first order of business is learning what those needs are and about how many hours of professional labor they require. The known unknowns are tough enough, but the unknown unknowns can become a void which the freakish speed and Freakonomic nature of change in web marketing will fill with victorious competition.
Rob Laporte is founder and President of DISC, Inc., which has specialized in search marketing since 1997. Espousing trust above all else, DISC has clients worldwide, of all types and sizes. DISC prioritizes by ROI, and implements SEO, paid search, conversion rate optimization, social media marketing, SEO’d site design and build, and training. www.2disc.com, email@example.com, 413-584-6500.
SEO Engine EDITOR RATING
ncreasing revenues is on the top of mind for any business person. And when we are talking about online businesses, there is a range of options and solutions that are available. The discerning marketer will tell you, however, that all that glitters isn’t gold. This is exactly where it is important to have an in depth understanding of the technology you are using, if you are serious about finding an effective online solution to improve your business. Thankfully there are products out there that can actually give you a boost if you use it properly. The trend, it seems, is that technology developers understand that not all online business owners are also technology savvy. Keeping this fact in mind, many products that are created now are easy to understand, learn, and use. This is really a boon to many out there because those who need to use these kinds of technologies come from a variety of backgrounds and their requirements also vary. So while the technology is easy to use, it is also very important that it is adaptable and can be used in the way that the business needs. One such product to watch out for is SEO Engine. This product is all the more of interest because the company was recently named as a top 25 Enterprise SEO Solution by Website Magazine and was voted #1 at DataWeek ‘13 San Francisco out of 60 Big Data Startups by judges from Oracle, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Xignite. With these credentials by its side, it becomes clear that this is a product worth exploring more. The idea behind the product is also very interesting and takes into consideration requirements that are top of mind for customers right now. SEO Engine has created and patented the first Google Simulator - combining big data with analytics to deliver neverbefore-seen search metrics to CMOs and digital marketing teams. Enterprise packages include access to the SEO Engine’s a cloud-based Data Explorer, enterprise-grade support/ integration/training, and API access. It is also interesting to note that SEO Engine just finished its public BETA and they had over 60,000 marketing professionals and big brands participating. In addition to this, its core patent was also just recently issued. Now ready for adoption by the end user, SEO Engine is a complete solution for the enterprise customer, providing the CMO with a predictive platform to increase revenues with organic search ranking and subsequently reduce expenditures in Pay-Per-Click (PPC). Just as Google Analytics gives you a flashback into what has happened with your website, the SEO Engine shows you what is going to happen. This can be a very useful tool for those who take strategic planning seriously. With this tool, CMOs are now able to accurately budget, allocate, and PREDICT their Google Rankings and with Google’s removal of Keyword Data on Google Analytics, SEO Engine is now the only source for this key metric. By utilizing only 10% of a brand’s existing PPC spend, SEO Engine is able to generate a 2x ROI by delivering never-before-seen metrics to CMOs and their team, allowing them to literally predict their Google Rankings. n
Bottom Line www.seoengine.com
Pricing • Enterprise Packages start at $5k/month • 12 month commitment • Brands and Agencies can apply at http:// www.seoengine.com/make-contact.htm
Features • Full blown search engine, crawling millions of pages each day • Curve fits core algorithms that Google and other major search engines employ • Google simulator paired with A/B Testing + Ranking Predictors • Website codes changeable and changes can be seen instantly • On-Boarding – Brand Analysis and Initial Setup of campaign parameters • Enterprise Grade support, training and integration • Competitive Landscape – State of Digital Presence (Strengths/Weaknesses) • Reverse engineering of competitor’s websites • A/B Testing and Verification – “On-Demand” Verification • Make changes and re-score for predictive feedback • Budget Allocation – Balance Link Flow • See exactly how much link flow each page needs based on competition • Uncover exactly how much link value a website needs to remain competitive • Control Neighborhood – Predictive Alerts Help Prevent Blacklisting • See the value for both incoming and outgoing link neighborhoods • Gain Value – The Link Neighborhood Provides the Best Future Linking Partners • See exactly how much value a link will bring to a page • Find only the most relevant linking partners for each vertical • Prove ROI – Determine Exact Values to Prove ROI for SEO • Show potential value vs. utilized value and produce a realistic ROI model for SEO
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Should SEO Split?
EO has fundamentally changed. Granted, SEO has been changing since the advent of Universal Search in 2009. However, nothing has shifted the way we think about SEO as drastically as the Panda and Penguin updates. The most recent Hummingbird update has moved our thinking even more. The mantra of â€œSEO is deadâ€? could be said with more gusto from our most ardent detractors than ever before. SEO is not dead. It is alive and well. The ability to distribute a marketing message within a search engine is fundamental in the digital space. It is the tactics, and even strategies, those practicing in SEO have employed in the past have to change. Google has been explicit in they must change and as the driver of 65% of the search traffic in the U.S., SEO practitioners must heed the advice. SEO has traditionally been divided into two components: onsite and offsite. Others will call these components a little differently but what they comprise of are relatively the same. Onsite handles any of the technical details comprising of the website: URL, copy, meta content, title tag, alt tags, headers, and so forth. Offsite, as the name implies, handles all of the activities outside of the website. In many cases, this means linkbuilding. Strategies range in SEO but they mostly surround a percent between onsite and offsite. Ranges exist between 20%/80%, 40%/60%, even 0%/100% splits between onsite and offsite. All designed to maximize the opportunity in the search space for clients.
It is not bad thinking. For those practicing SEO, this way of thinking has work, and continues to work to drive results. However, the game has changed. No longer can one just rely on acquiring (or buying) links. A site cannot just have meta content data to survive. The skills of those practicing SEO have advanced so much that it may be time to split off our traditional thinking of onsite and offsite into two distinct core competencies: technical SEO and integrated marketing communications SEO.
Technical SEO A lot of the traditional onsite SEO falls within this category. What changes is the level of sophistication the technical SEO will have to face moving forward. SEOâ€™s will need to be able to isolate pieces of data, in the vein of Schema.org, and code those properly so they give Google the most accurate picture available of the elements on the web page. Each element - navigation, product types, articles, categories - existing on a page should be labeled. It is much easier to make these adjustments as one is coding a website. The development of websites - from site structure, hosting, to server redirects - is increasingly becoming more complicated. Site owners want visually appealing, highly functioning sites. This could take an enormous amount of effort to code correctly for SEO. It is much easier to code it in the beginning for SEO instead of reengineering it down the road. As legacy systems have to be incorporated with newer technologies, how sites are transitioned and re-appropriated are critical to website performance.
SEO across mobile remains complicated. As devices move from desktops, tablets to smartphones to TV’s, cars and refrigerators, it will take a whole new of development in delivering exactly what a user wants as they search. Thus, the need exists for someone to have a constant and consistent eye for SEO at a very highly technical level. Expectations: Incremental gains, short time frame.
Integrated Marketing Communications SEO Link building is dead - or what we know of link building is dead. What exists today is the need to build a digital communication strategy, largely focused around content. Content, whether that be text, video, images, graphics or anything else, shapes how the Internet consumes a brand’s message online. Content must now meet four criteria: relevant, engaging, discoverable, and sharable. Relevant and engaging are not new concepts when it comes to content. Google has stressed digital content must embody these tenets for years. However, the bar has been raised. Google will now penalize a site for low-quality content. Content creation takes ideation, planning, and skilled execution. It is not for the faint of heart. Discoverable content contains two elements. The first is in the traditional SEO sense. The piece must be optimized to capture those keywords appropriate for the brand and for the content piece. The second element is in allowing the content to be discovered via a distribution plan. The effectiveness of a piece of content to drive traffic to a website is dependent upon how a user finds an article. The most likely place will not be on a brand’s domain but on a related site. Thus the ability to spread the word by placing content on as many places as possible will improve the effectiveness of the piece.
and analytical. Whereas the integrated marketing communications SEO is communicative and engaging. What brings the two together, and makes it hard for them to split up, are the keywords. At the end of the day, both have the same goal - search ranking. Since search ranking remains the goal, it seems fitting these two areas would remain together. However, Google has shown it is pushing the goal much more towards traffic driving, especially since the removal of keyword level data in Google Analytics. If the goal moves from search ranking to traffic driving, then the two become distinct disciplines much like email marketing or display advertising. Instead of one person handling SEO, you have two people handling SEO. Two people, two different mindsets, two distinct skillsets, both with the ability to increase awareness of a brand and drive traffic to a website. The split between these two will continue to grow and one does not supersede the other. Time and effort into both sides is crucial for success - the best way coming from a complete, but amicable, split. n
Christy Belden is the Senior Integrated Marketing Strategist for Courier-Journal Media, a Gannett Company. Christy brings integrated marketing strategies to market. She has been in marketing for 12 years working with clients on traditional and digital marketing. Christy writes and speak on marketing topics, specifically digital marketing. In addition, Christy is an adjunct professor teaching digital marketing at Spalding University. Connect with her on Twitter at @christy_belden.
Finally, if the content is placed on hundreds of websites, but only a handful of people click on it, the strategy is not successful. The content must be passed along, shared, with others. Using digital ‘word of mouth’ will enhance traffic and drive SEO results. Thus, one must have writing, PR and social media skills to fully drive traffic increases which can impact search rankings. Expectations: Large gains, long time frame. Technical SEO and integrated marketing communication SEO come from very different perspectives. The technical SEO is a developer, data driven
A New Era in SEO Why Building Your Brand Might be the Best SEO Strategy for Ranking in 2014 and Beyond
oogle’s Penguin algorithm update targeted over-optimized backlink profiles, but it’s main focus was on helping the bigger brands rank naturally in organic search.
Where we’ve come from Before Penguin, SEO was all about building as many links to your website as possible with the keyword you wanted to rank for in the links. The problem was, the bigger brands weren’t ranking on the first page of Google because they weren’t implementing this type of linking strategy. That’s what Penguin was about… ranking websites based on the ‘natural’ link profiles of bigger brands. The first step in the process was to reduce the dependence of rankings on keyword-rich links, as most of the bigger brands didn’t have keywords in most of their links. This also meant a reversing of previous ranking requirements. Now, having too many keyword-rich links actually holds you back from ranking. The second step was to ensure authority is only passed through relevant links - links that were not solely for SEO purposes. This was a much bigger challenge for Google but they’re a smart bunch and they came up with something very elegant - focus on branded links and look very closely at keyword-rich links. Think about it… most of the bigger brands have a lot of links with their brand name in them, and only a few that have keywords in them. Google also introduced the Disavow Tool that basically had the SEO industry doing their work by getting them to submit all the links they thought were ‘unnatural’ - which are essentially all of the links built
purely for SEO purposes. Google can then just exclude them from their ranking formula. Smart. Google is also focusing on brand citations, which is where a brand in mentioned online (like in an article or through social media) without a link to their site. Google uses the context of the citation to help it figure out what to rank a website for.
Where we’re going The future of SEO is about brand building. The bigger your brand is, the more likely it will rank at the top of Google and maintain its ranking over the long term. With that in mind, it’s important to focus your online marketing strategy on building your brand. Integrate social media, paid advertising, social media marketing, email marketing and content marketing into your mix. That’s one part. The other part is to focus your SEO on getting your brand out there. Google doesn’t need keywords in the links to know what to rank your website for. What you need instead is to build up as many links as you can with your brand name in them - we’ve seen sites rank for keywords without any links that contain the keyword they’re ranking for in them. Building links with your brand name in them is a lot easier than building links with keywords in them. Think about how many times you’ve seen articles online with keywords you knew were only inserted for SEO purposes, and weren’t really required. Now that same article can have a branded link at the end of it through the Author Bio and be even more effective. That’s just one example. You might be part of industry associations that list you on their website. Or you may have won an award, and your site is listed on the ‘winners’ page. There might be industry directories or local directories that your prospects use to find service providers. Or there might be coupon sites that online shoppers use to find deals on products they want to buy. You get the idea. The future of SEO is about your brand. The more links you have with your brand in them, and the more places your brand is mentioned, the higher you’ll rank on Google. Just make sure you have a page for each keyword you want to rank for because Google (currently) uses onsite relevance to rank a web page for a particular keyword. n
Alex Cleanthous is chief strategist at Web Profits. With more than 10 years experience in conversion rate optimization, Alex ensures that Web Profits and its clients remain ahead of the curve. Follow him @alexcleanthous
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By Geno Prussakov
omedian Sam Levenson is known for saying that one must learn from the mistakes of others because we simply can’t possibly live long enough to make them all ourselves. In the context of affiliate program management, this statement would have to be slightly reworded. I’d say that you must learn from the mistakes of others precisely because you can make them all yourself, burying your affiliate program in the process. In this article I’d like us to look at 10 deadly mistakes which merchants and affiliate program managers routinely commit. Sometimes the below mistakes occur when merchants have a limited understanding of the importance that the affiliate channel really has, while in other cases, they happen because merchants simply do not fully comprehend the consequences that some of their actions (or lack thereof) may have on their affiliate program.
I have limited the list only to those that can do most damage to the development of your affiliate program.
do not get any compensation for it (because the only one Google is paying in this case is you).
Mistake 1: Leaky Websites
Affiliate Links/Amazon Widgets Although it may seem obvious to some, there are merchants that do not see how having these on their sites hurts their affiliate program. Reason? It’s the same as for AdSense units!
Leaks constitute conditions within the advertiser’s website, which may lead the affiliate-referred user to actions for which the affiliate will not get compensation. They come in all sorts of shapes and forms, but the essence is always the same—the merchant benefits from them, while the affiliates who refer traffic to the merchant do not. Some of the most common types of leaks are as follows: Telephone Number/Live Chat You are making it possible or even encouraging the end user to place their order by phone or via an instant chat system, bypassing affiliate tracking. Ads (e.g. AdSense, AdChoices) You are “monetizing” the traffic that is being sent to you by affiliates, but affiliates
Links to “Network” Stores/Sites If you have a “family” of web stores and are interlinking them, make sure your affiliate platform tracks transactions across all of these stores—so that if an affiliate refers a customer to one online store of yours but the shopper makes a purchase from another one you’ve linked to, the affiliate still gets compensated. Links to Other Merchants I understand the benefit of link exchanges,
banner swaps, and other types of link partnerships, but look at things through your affiliates’ eyes: If the traffic they refer can go to another merchant that does not compensate them for their work, it’s a leak. If you absolutely must have some of the above-quoted “leaks,” make sure they are invisible to affiliate-referred traffic. With phone numbers: you do not have to suppress it if you can track calls as well. Look into platforms like Invoca, Freespee, or talk to your affiliate network/solution provider.
Mistake 2: “Autopilot” Approach to Affiliate Program In a Fall 2013 blog post Mitch Joel of Twist Image pointed out to the problem with modern advertising. Things used to be easy, but “as the industry evolved, grew and matured, things changed” and most advertisers now look like they are “asleep at the wheel” running their marketing the old auto-piloted way, which no longer works. Unfortunately, it is no different in affiliate marketing. However, you must flee from “automatically steering” your affiliate program. It cannot be run on autopilot or cruise control. It must be managed. Otherwise, it may become a gateway to all sorts of unwanted “marketing” activity, which will not only hinder the healthy growth of your affiliate marketing channel but also cannibalize the other channels of digital marketing that you are involved in.
Mistake 3: Unclear or Absent Program TOS Your program’s Terms of Service (TOS) agreement is one of the best defensive mechanisms to deal with rogue players. Make sure you have a good one in place. Refer to http://amnavigator.com/TOS.html for a sample of one. And once you have one in place, make sure you also actively police affiliate compliance with your TOS.
Mistake 4: Nonexistent PPC Policy Although paid search rules and restrictions that you want your affiliates to abide by are an integral part of the terms of service agreement, it isn’t unusual for a merchant to have the agreement in place but lack clarity on what’s permitted and what’s forbidden for PPC affiliates to do while aboard your program. With this thought in mind, I’m singling this one out as a mistake of its own. It is one of the most important parts of your agreement. Don’t leave it out!
Mistake 5: Noncompliance With FTC Rules on Endorsements & Testimonials Are your affiliates disclosing their relationship with you on their websites? In the Federal Trade Commission’s eyes, they are your “endorsers” while you are their “sponsor.” The FTC is clear on their expectations of both you and them. In 2011 we saw how an advertiser ended up facing a fine of “$250,000 for deceptively representing endorsements … that were posted on blogs or other websites created by affiliates.” You may read more about how to comply at http://bit.ly/FTCGuides
Mistake 6: Embarrassing Commission Rates With larger etailers, it isn’t unusual to see commission rates ranging from 1 percent to 4 percent. Following them by example, some smaller merchants set their commission rates significantly lower than they could in reality afford. For help in deciding on the optimum commission/payout rates, do your competitive intelligence – to see what your direct competitors are offering their affiliates. Do not skim your salespeople of the commission that you can easily pay them. With the larger and more wellknown brands, whose affiliates enjoy conversion rates as beautiful as 10 percent or even 20 percent, lower commission rates still attract affiliates. The strategy of low commission/payout rates may not necessarily be the best idea for smaller brands/advertisers, though.
Mistake 7: Short Cookie Life Again, looking at some of the larger brands (see the table below), some merchants think one to three days is enough of a cookie life for an affiliate program. Table: Shortest cookie lives
The data on end user cookie retention rates, as well as distribution of affiliatereferred orders by return days, speaks in favor of building affiliatefriendly cookie duration terms by setting cookie life at 90 days or more.
Mistake 8: Commission Drops A smart affiliate program manager will warn a merchant from doing this, but some merchants will still do it. Here is an example of an email text one merchant sent to their affiliates: As a valued [Merchant Name] affiliate partner, I wanted to let you know that we are currently working to make our program, and our partnerships, as successful as possible. In order to continue to support the success of our current partnership we are unable to continue to offer you a flat 4 percent commission on all goods. Starting at the end of February, our new offer will be lowered to 1.5 percent on all goods. [underlining mine] Speaking of how much you value your affiliates and want to support the success of the partnership between you while doing exactly the opposite is paradoxical and illogical. In fact, it is destructive to your relationship/ partnership. Think and calculate your expenses thoroughly before you launch the program,
5 Hours or Less
Toys R Us
Nordstrom.com (12 hrs)
Dell (3 days)
Babies R Us
Enterprise Rent-A-Car (23 hrs)
Walmart (4 days)
Coldwater Creek (23 hrs)
Barnes & Noble (4 days)
Amazon (24 hours)
Sears (5 days)
Apple iTunes (24 hours)
Kmart (5 days)
Sephora (24 hours)
DKNY (5 days)
Guthy Renker Corp (24 hours) Note: Data collected on November 2, 2013.
and not after it has picked up, and you’re trying to increase your profit margin at the expense of your “valued affiliate partners.” Unless, of course, you want them to turn around and switch their links to your competitors
Mistake 9: Late Payments No excuses. “We can’t pay you until they pay us” is never an excuse to withhold payment from your affiliates. This always reminds me of the way salaries were, and still are, paid in the former Soviet Union: People would work for months without pay, not getting their January paycheck until July. No “Soviet Union excuses” in affiliate marketing, please!
Mistake 10: Tampering with Tracking Code Everyone who in your company has access to the pages that contain the tracking components of your affiliate program must be instructed on the importance
of these pieces of code. More than once I have seen web designers and SEO folks delete or mess up the affiliate tracking pixels on the merchant side. This immediately resulted in untracked transactions and major problems with the affiliate program. Never let anyone tamper with your affiliate program’s tracking code. As Otto von Bismarck put it, “Any fool can profit from his own mistakes. The wise man profits from those of others.” Learn from the above ones, and may your affiliate program be healthy and beautiful! n
Award-winning affiliate marketing expert Evgenii “Geno” Prussakov is the founder of AM Navigator affiliate management agency, and chair of Affiliate Management Days conference -- the first and only professional forum on affiliate program management. He authored bestselling A Practical Guide to Affiliate Marketing (2007), Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day (2011), and Quick Start Guide to Affiliate Marketing (2013) and is an internationally-acclaimed speaker, consultant, and affiliate marketing evangelist.
UBot Studio In marketing campaign execution and management, it’s often the little things that count the most. Comprehensive marketing automation systems are great for getting a better view into your SEO, CRM, PPC (and a dozen other acronyms), helping you make sense of your campaigns and their effectiveness. But automating your marketing is not just about dashboards, charts and graphs that give company executives a 30,000 foot overview of your marketing efforts. A boots-on-the-ground approach to get back the money that you’re leaving on the table in every division of your company – especially across all your marketing tasks – is the secret to automation done well. It is often the missing link for many companies. For example, imagine if you harnessed the 500,000,000,000 gigabytes of web and social media data that is expanding daily in a way that would uniquely matter to your business. Sixty-five percent of companies cited in a recent Forbes Insight and Turn survey said they used the web to collect customer data, making it the most popular source for information (eMarketer). The web is easy to use. So, shouldn’t even an intern be able to search across all the dynamic information on Twitter -- and analyze the content of specific tweets against certain keywords? Or, let’s say you worked in lead generation for a small real estate company or a large nationwide retailer and wanted to find an easy way to source prospective customers. You would be able to turbo-charge your marketing if, using this type of simple automation tool, your social media team could identify Twitter account holders in a given location who were in the market for your products or services. The next step would be to continuously engage those customers. What if an equally simple tool could scrape certain websites, collect the news-of-the-day -- headlines from popular news media outlets, aggregate them into an e-newsletter template (using a tool like MailChimp or Constant Contact) and then send it out to your email list? And after automating your Twitter and Facebook postings, wouldn’t it be great if you could more efficiently post content to certain online communities – and then monitor what is said across all your social interactions online? True marketing automation means automating any repetitive task involved in every online marketing function – so you can spend more of your time having the meaningful interactions and conversations that will drive revenue for your business. Many marketers believe that implementing one, or several, standard marketing automation suites is the way to grow their business and measure growth. They expect this to lead to an avalanche of leads, greater customer engagement and a significant improvement in conversion rates. They fail to realize the power and availability of customized solutions that address the needs of their unique business.
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Automation tools that adjust to the needs of every marketer – from entry level to executive -- can add so much more value. When marketing teams empower every staff member to automate their own tasks -- at a grass-roots level -- the possibilities grow almost overnight. Look for repetitive actions that are part of your unique process, such as sending email, communicating with affiliates and posting relevant content to a variety of directories. Task everyone with getting more done in less time, and give them the tools to do it. Marketing automation software should help you run a leaner operation, not a more complex one. At its very best, it will allow you to focus on the time-intensive tasks that make up the guts of your efforts – not just the framework for your strategy. Instill the automation mindset across your marketing organization to save money and time. It’s the single most important step you can take towards customizing a solution that is right for your business. n
MASTERING THE MANAGEMENT OF AFFILATE PROGRAMS FEATURED SPEAKERS
Chair, Affiliate Management Days
Co-Founder, Impact Radius
Founder & Managing Director, Acceleration Partners
Founder & CEO, ReferLocal.com
By Scott Stouffer
goes to the dark side
The insatiable push for more Pay-Per-Click (PPC) revenue may just be the downfall of the greatest search engine on Earth.
nce a pure and altruistic young company, focused on great search results with an uncanny ability to deliver organic answers, Google has in recent times lost its true north, and now mistakenly thinks that it can continue to thrive long-term as a “shopping engine”.
Larry Page, for all of the remarkable accomplishments that he has brought to Google and the rest of the world, has not been the born leader that Eric Schmidt was, and has regrettably allowed Google to be pulled down the path of the “dark side” by outside market forces.
In English Lit 101, it would have been told as a “foreshadowing” of things to come – the woman behind Google’s now famous AdWords product, Marissa Mayer, leaves the nest to run Yahoo!, a direct competitor. Now CEO of Yahoo!, Mayer was once the leader of Google’s AdWords team. AdWords was Google’s groundbreaking system which linked advertisers’ keywords to search results, and helped convert the traffic from its amazing search results into almost all of the company’s revenues in the last decade. Google has seen its profits rise on the back of AdWords with the rise of its market share in search, and they have never looked back.
Remarkably, Google has forgotten how it came to sell its AdWords system in the first place: its amazing organic search results.
Now the AdWords system may be its own downfall. It’s not just Mayer leaving: times are changing at Google Headquarters in Mountain View. Google has grown up, is now a publicly traded entity, and the shift to mobile has quickly shrunk its billboard space for its AdWords advertisements. In response, Google has overcompensated with its AdWords system, diluting the very search results that drove their traffic and market share in the first place. With the departure of Eric Schmidt, its former CEO, Google now seems rudderless, sailing under the brilliant but distracted Montessori-schooled Larry Page, who once claimed that Google should “trade goats for PPC ads” in certain countries, if need be.
Perfect Organic Search Results Let me explain my unique perspective. I graduated in 1999 with a Masters Degree in both Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Carnegie Institute of Technology at Carnegie Mellon University. Ever since I was six years old and received my first computer, a Commodore 64, I have been programming. I have worked for large companies like IBM, but have found myself most at home in the start-up environment. My first start-up out of college began when one of my Carnegie Mellon colleagues convinced me to relocate to Palo Alto, CA to start a mobile locationbased software company. As a Palo Alto resident, I remember the early days of Google very clearly (they were literally down the street, after all). I also remember AltaVista, and their lightning fast search engine. Like many of you, I recall playing around with this new search engine called Google, which seemed to just have better search results than AltaVista every time I did a search. I even remember seeing those silly Google advertisements in the AMC Theatres on Van Ness in San Francisco. Having been
an early user of Google, and seeing this ad, I remember turning to my girlfriend at the time and telling her that this would be the next IBM or Microsoft. They had figured out search – with Larry Page’s “PageRank” system – and they were able to start filtering out the keyword stuffing and other SPAM that had started to overtake AltaVista’s search results. The early days of Google were defined by pure quality and innocence. It wasn’t that Google didn’t care about making money, they were just more focused on making search better. And boy did they. Update after update, they continued to build a spectacular engine that would go unmatched for decades to come. It was Google’s perfect organic search results that defeated all newcomers, both friendly and hostile, and was the foundation for its AdWords system that would launch itself into the most profitable business in history.
Google Grows Up In August of 2004, the gavel swiftly swung on the New York Stock Exchange, at $85 per share. Google had now become a publicly traded entity. Google’s profit machine was producing $3.19B in revenue, with their AdWords system accounting for roughly $3.14B of that – 98.4% of the total in fact, something that surprisingly would not change much throughout Google’s history. I had been through my first few startups out of college by now, and had been extremely impressed with Google and their technology, as many techies and engineers were. Their business model was awesome – the AdWords system was non-obtrusive,
off to the side (as it should be) and their organic results never looked better. I remember thinking, “life must be perfect down the road in Mountain View.” In 2006, I ran into a former business partner that wanted to automate many of the things he had been doing for years (manually), in order to “trick” Google into thinking that his website should come up as #1 for his keywords. He showed me the huge profits that came from doing this, and the technical challenge that had to be overcome, and I was sold. I had been designing trading algorithms for the NYSE and NASDAQ. Coming from the enterprise software world, and having a passion for anything related to automation or artificial intelligence, there couldn’t be a more perfect fit. I jumped ship and devoted all my efforts to this new Internet Marketing start-up. I didn’t really know that it was even possible to “trick” Google or how it was done, but I would soon learn from this industry insider. Little did I know that years before, Google had launched the first salvo in a war against these very same insiders, releasing updates to their algorithms, with benign sounding names like the “Florida” and “Supplemental” updates. I had unknowingly joined a years-long war between a bunch of Davids and Goliath. Over the span of a year, I got a crash course on Google’s search index, algorithmic updates, and the “black hat” world of SEO. By this time Google was stronger than ever – their search results remained #1 in the world, and I now had a front row seat to a battle that was being waged behind the scenes for a lot of cash.
Google Loses Focus It was towards the middle of 2007 when I started to realize the futility of what my business partner was trying to do. It was a losing battle. I should have known – it was my own Carnegie Mellon alumni at Google that we were battling against, and I knew the only way to actually start understanding what was going on was to start building the components of a search engine myself. So I did. By the end of 2007, I had literally put together all of the core components of a search engine, not for the purpose of launching a new search engine, but to reverse engineer what was going on behind the scenes. We filed our provisional on this new “transparent” search engine, and over
the next 6 years it would become my life’s mission to show others what I had found. In 2008, I helped launch the first alpha version of our new type of search engine, which would eventually turn into a full blown “Google Simulator”. It was about that time that I started to realize what a silly situation Google had gotten itself into. Why was Google hiding its algorithms and playing this “cat and mouse” game with just a relatively small number of people? By making itself a “black box”, Google had to continually create hundreds of new algorithms to eliminate loopholes that would be exploited by a small number of spammers, many of whom were grossly undercapitalized. You see, the spammers were and have always been, far outnumbered. In fact, had Google decided to open their “black box”, and show the world exactly what it had expected from webmasters, the spammers would have been overwhelmed. What was #1 in the offline world would naturally become #1 in the online world, in effect helping improve Google’s very own search index. This was the first time that having a company full of engineers hurt Google. Google effectively got caught up in a sexy engineering war, instead of improving search. They had created a no-win situation for themselves (and the brands that they would continually depend on for their revenues). Google had created a duplicitous situation – one which required that they play the cop and the salesman all at once. It was a conflict of interest, and my entrepreneurial years had taught me that, eventually, this would not end well.
increasing much. And with the expansion of mobile, their average advertising space was shrinking dramatically. Something had to be done to satisfy its shareholders. Luckily, Google had a secret weapon: “personalized search”. With personalized search, everyone got a different version of the search results. This wasn’t new, of course. Google had been personalizing search results for years, in an attempt to create a better user experience. But here was a solution to their revenue problems: what was once 100 marketplaces for AdWords, now became 100,000 marketplaces. This was great! Google forced brands to enter more bidding marketplaces, and users received more customized search results. Revenue problem solved…at least temporarily. Meanwhile, for the industry insiders trying to figure out Google’s algorithms, this was a complete disaster. No longer could you “scrape” Google’s results and define a clear connection to the changes that were being made to alter those results. For the first time, the process of optimizing links and content (called search engine optimization, or SEO for short) was on the ropes. At the same time, the provisional patent
Great Organic Results OR… More Profit? As publicly traded companies mature, the demand for more profit each quarter often derails even the most viable business models. Google has been no exception. By 2010, Google’s moneymaker, its AdWords system, was getting saturated. Most of its competitive keywords were being bid on, and the top bids weren’t
that we had filed on this new type of search engine all of a sudden became very important. It was serendipitous that 3 years earlier, we had created our own search engine to discover the connections between changes to a website and Google’s results. With this new “Google Simulator”, we could easily remove the query layer of the search engine – all of the “personalization” that, in effect, was causing a tremendous amount of noise for brands (trying to understand what was going on inside of Google). Of course, the only way to remove this query layer was to start from the ground up – you had to build your own search engine.
More, More, More Profit! You have to understand one thing about shareholders. Not every shareholder starts at the beginning with you. And some of the biggest shareholders might just be the newest ones. It is for this reason that shareholders DEMAND that revenues and profit grow each quarter, even if the last quarter was the best ever. If they don’t get that…well…then they invest in your competitors who WILL grow revenues each quarter (no matter what). There was only one problem. At this point, Google had already doubled-down on its AdWords system, increasing its marketplaces by
personalizing results. And remember, even after a decade, Google still relied almost entirely on its AdWords system for its revenue. It was early 2011 and the beta release of our new search engine was now in full swing. We had made the bet that Google would soon shut off its organic data to the SEO world, and would cause everyone to need a “Google Simulator” to make their organic (SEO) marketing decisions. It was about this time that we started to see some peculiar things happening to Google’s search results. Namely, they were COVERED with ads. Now almost three quarters of the screen above the fold (the portion of the screen before you scroll down) were AdWords placements. And even the ads that were on the left side of the screen, the side that had been historically reserved for organic or natural results, had been made to seem as if they belonged there. You see, Google used to put its ads in a yellow box, something that was easily noticeable and told the user “hey, this is an ad, not like our pure organic results below this.” But now that yellow box was more like an off-white box, barely noticeable to the user. It was so bad that they got into major trouble with foreign governments, where they were eventually forced to place bright yellow ad markers next to their ads. There were so many ads it looked ridiculous. What had happened? Were increased profits this important? Surely, I thought, the engineers over at Google couldn’t approve. Watching its AdWords system overtake Google’s very own organic results was a sad moment for me as a computer scientist. I had observed the most amazing search engine grow up over the last decade: from crawling on its knees to running a marathon. And now, before my very own eyes, it seemed to morph
overnight into a grumpy old man. The Google search engine had turned into the Google shopping engine. “This isn’t going to last”, I told my friends. “They are just trying some new things out.” But almost 3 years later, it hadn’t slowed down. It was clear where this was headed. On one hand, the search engine that I knew and loved was missing, and on the other hand my startup’s business model was handed to us on a silver platter.
Brands and SEOs: No Soup for You! For even more profit, there was only one last thing to do to squeeze the final drop of revenue out of this dried lemon. Many of the brands that were ranking organically on the Google search results didn’t even have to pay Google’s AdWords system to appear at the top. They had smartly made a long-term decision to invest in SEO instead of PPC. But what if Google started shutting off all of the data related to ranking naturally? They had been a “black box” for a decade, keeping their (perceived) enemy closer by offering up streams of keyword data and other insider information through the likes of Matt Cutts, the head of their Web SPAM team. Cutts would appear regularly at trade shows that I and many others would attend, occasionally offering nuggets of information to the SEO world on how to better rank naturally (this, by the way, had always been very strange thing to watch – having created a search engine, having already understood what Cutts knew himself, and then seeing him try to “filter” his responses to the industry, which were always vague and unactionable). But in 2013, the party was over. Matt Cutts, once put on a pedestal by the SEO industry for being its “gatekeeper” of information, was now literally hung out to dry, as Google started cutting off every source of organic data it could think of – driving brands into the wilderness and forcing every CMO to shift their budgets from SEO to Google’s pricey AdWords PPC system. I couldn’t believe it. My startup’s entire business model was predicated on the notion that “someday”, you wouldn’t be able to do SEO without your own “Google Simulator”. And Google was literally handing us our business. We had fortune 500 CMOs across the boardroom staring at us, as if we owned the last
drop of water in the desert. Let me be perfectly clear – we anticipated that Google was going to get “more complicated” – not completely shut off its data. We were expecting a light rain, and we got a hail storm. It was the final battle line for Google. It made sense. It was the only way to get the final group of companies, who had invested in SEO, to come over to the AdWords system. And it worked. Somehow Larry Page and the other top executives had decided that it was more important to sell ads than to provide quality organic search results. They had unknowingly decided that the Google search engine was now going to be the “Google shopping engine”. Where does Google go from here? Nobody can accurately predict that. But for some of us, who have seen the fundamental battles that have
been taking place behind the scenes all these years, the story is all but written. How long can a search engine, whose entire prominence was based off of organic, natural results, last in an age where their search listings have been taken over by paid ads and shopping results? How long can a search engine last without the help of legitimate brands and their SEO teams? It has been clear to me and many others that the more of a “black box” Google’s search engine is, the more the balance shifts towards the few spammers that can figure out these highly complex algorithms, and the less relevant their organic results will be.
The Next Decade of Search I view the next decade of search a bit differently – one that includes users AND brands. Instead of fighting brands, why not
enable those brands to do the dirty work for you? After all, these brands have way more resources and talent than the spammers. They will always be able to adhere better to the algorithms that demand quality content and produce relevant results. Who knows, maybe we will just turn our “Google Simulator” into what SHOULD have been Google 2.0. Until that day, the rest of the world is stuck with the Google shopping results. n
Scott Stouffer is the Co-Founder and CTO of SEO Engine (www.seoengine.com), the world’s first Google Simulator. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University where he earned a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Engineering as well as a B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering. Scott was actively involved in the CMU Robotics Club, and his love for artificial intelligence plays a key role in the SEO Engine’s competitive advantage. He holds several software patents, including one in the search space.
BIG DATA INNOVATION SUMMIT April 9 & 10 Santa Clara, 2014 Speakers Include:
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Compelling Your Most Difficult Online
Customers To Buy Something…
By Brad Beiermann
T h g i R Now!
et ready. The following statement might rub you the wrong way. Here it comes…Today, there is very little happening to compel customers to buy a product on a major corporate ecommerce site. One more time… Today, there is very little happening to compel customers to buy a product on a major corporate ecommerce site. Some of you are probably already thinking, “Get real. The major corporate ecommerce sites are making millions. What are you smoking? I’m not reading any further.” Well stick around, because there is something going to be revealed in the paragraphs to come that will have some shock value and a solution. Let’s now get to the point.
Some large ecommerce sites like Staples, Lowes, CDW, and Kohl’s have embraced lean UI front ends so much that the product page now only gives product name, SKU number, product image, and a price. This has been occurring for quite a while. Question: What is compelling the customer to buy with such a stripped down product preview on our ecommerce store front? Is a product image and price enough? If you are selling a commodity like coffee, paper, and tin foil, or items you can find easily somewhere else, then price will surely be a focus. Why spend valuable time providing extra info about the product? This brings us to the point that is being made here. Copyright is often tossed out when you have a product nobody needs an introduction to. Remember the long time marketing saying: Facts only tell, but stories sell. In our quest to perfect the user experience, have we focused too much on making shopping easy? If a customer does not want the product, will it matter how easy our site is to do a
transaction? For the customer to buy, they first must want the product. Yet, many large online commerce sites have taken out the story from the product page or preview. If we were shopping for green tea on a major ecommerce site, we could expect to see a product preview in the search results to show four things: 1. Product Name 2. Item Number 3. Product Picture 4. Price These are facts about the product. These are usually the only things making the cut because real-estate on the screen comes at a premium. This is especially true in the world of mobile ecommerce where the practice of lean UI design has been the rule of thumb when putting together the mobile store. If we were to click or tap on the green tea product, it would take us to the SKU page. This page would have the same four points of info as mentioned above.
However, we would see details about it being caffeinated or decaf, cut of leaf, manufacturer’s name and perhaps the weight of the carton containing the tea bags. There would be info about how many bags come in a carton. So far, these are facts about the product. Next we might even see more product images showing the box label or pictures of the tea bags themselves. Most SKU pages often have a tab called Specifications. Here we would see nutritional information or the type of fiber the bags are made of. Again these are more facts.
site. If they leave our site, is there a guarantee that they will come back to buy the product? Not likely. Think about this, what did it take to get them to our site in the first place? We might have obtained this online customer from an SEM PPC ad on Google we just paid $5 per click to get. Not to mention all the UI and UX work to drive them to our green tea section. Bottom line: We have invested money to get this customer here. We need to keep them and convert them. Give them what they want, not what you are simply offering.
Where is the product story?
It has been often said that people come to the Web for only three things: Entertainment, Information, or to Socialize. Before they buy, they need information about the product. We want to convert them into a paying customer. Simply offering facts is not quite as compelling as reading something that draws in somebody’s emotions. This is hard to measure. In this day and age of analytics, SEO, A/B testing, and big data, ecommerce executives want something they can set metrics upon. Simply stirring emotions runs counter to today’s online trends in conversion techniques. If it is not easily quantifiable, then it is sometimes categorized as
As of late, the customer might see just one sentence of copyright in the Description section of the SKU page. It might say something like: Get the healthy benefits of antioxidants found in green tea. Beyond this statement, the amount of sales copy could be few and far between. Why? As we pointed out earlier, this commodity type of product can be easily found elsewhere. Many ecommerce managers have come to the opinion that, if you need more info about green tea you can find it elsewhere on sites like Wikipedia or a review site. While this is true, the problem with this thinking is the willingness to give up a customer to another
risky by managers. In this case we are talking about providing a story about the product, re-iterating the brand, or providing copy that can get attention with a call to action. If we provide these elements on the SKU page it gains several things that help our chances to convert. 1. Story Telling – Our description section should have great copy that gets attention, shows an advantage, provides proof, gets the reader to grasp the advantage, and finally asks them to buy. If our green tea was grown from the farthest reaches of Earth by the most caring of people, it should be stated. If our green tea leaves are cut in a certain way by hand, that should be stated. If our green tea has the highest amount of minerals and produces a calming effect, it should be stated. It is more about the story the customer tells themselves. We merely want to give them the ideas to form the story. 2. Search Engine Content – The more that is said about the product the more relevant content the search engine will find on our store pages. This is going beyond SEO tags and keywords. It is
truly information about a subject (or product in this case) which is what customers need before they buy a product. Content is still king. 3. Yes Question Headlines – Instead of having a simple product title on the SKU page or product title found in the search results, preface the product listing with a question. As an example instead of having “Lipton Green Tea” as the product title, make it say, “Looking for great tasting green tea?” This is not only a question, but a question with a “Yes” response attached to it. Sub-consciously it weighs much better than a question with a “No” response.
4. Keeping The Customer – The customer only buys two things: Solutions to their problems, and good feelings. Good feelings come from trust and credibility. Sites that are information rich are notoriously high in credibility scores. Think Wiki-like sites and their ability keep people coming back for trustworthy info. Online ecommerce stores that pride themselves in having easy navigation and smooth checkout often misplace this as the core of conversion. While it does play an important role, one must remember this rule of thumb: If the customer does not want the product, they are not going to buy it no matter how easy it is to buy on a site. While sales copy
is not the latest and greatest in ecommerce trends, it should not be discarded. Particularly in this era of information hungry consumer who love a great story about a product. In the end, a customer does not need a product from your site, they have to want it. Give them what they want. n
Brad Beiermann is the co-founder and president of Cimstrat Inc., a consulting firm focused on ecommerce management and marketing for S&P 500 firms. He has over twenty-two years of experience as a business leader, author, speaker and entrepreneur. Beiermann holds a doctorate degree in Management Information Systems along with an emphasis on web based marketing. www.cimstratcorp.com.
The 2014 South by Southwest Interactive Conference & Festival REGISTER TO ATTEND
Go to sxsw.com/attend now to take advantage of current registration discounts and to book your hotel. Next discount deadline is January 10, 2014.
Austin Kleon to deliver opening keynote on March 7, 2014. Check out the latest programming announcements, news, info and distinguished speaker line-up at sxsw.com/interactive.
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upcoming conferences Refer to this guide for upcoming internet marketing conferences from across the globe.
February 7th, 2014 | Big Data and Enterprise Mobility
January 12 - 15, 2014 | Netresearch App Factory AG
Big Data is high-volume, high-velocity and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective and innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making for achieving business success. Traditionally, Enterprise Mobility initiatives focused on voice communications and email access – In the ever changing futuristic dynamic Indian business landscape - With smart business users demanding access to corporate data anytime, anywhere, mobility devices and solutions will become integral components of the overall technology strategy.
The Snow Edition 2014 of the leading Magento developers conference Developers Paradise takes place again in Kaprun, Austria. During the day there is enough time for skiing and snowboarding. In the late afternoon and the evening attendees improve their Magento-knowhow by qualified speakers. Important knowledge and experiences get exchanged. Next to the lectures and workshops the international audience has enough time for networking and talk shop.
The Lalit Mumbai, India.
March 11 - 12, 2014 | World Communication Forum Davos, Switzerland
Heard about it already? - Then it’s high time to check it out! Provocative interactive discussions on the advanced development of digital communications and their social impact viewed in the context of modern PR and Communications and from the angle of diverse areas of business, media, innovations, internet, and public administration. Focus on the new specific requirements to Communicators 3.0 and due steps in changemanagement with regards to the new challenges to the profession.
January 22 - 23, 2014 | SMi Group London, UK
March 20, 2014 | Global Leading Conferences NH Danube Hotel, Vienna
SMi is pleased to present the 6th instalment in the sell out Social Media Pharmaceutical conference series which returns to London on 22nd and 23rd January 2014. With health at the top of any patient’s agenda the opportunity for health professionals to utilise social media to provide personalised care is abundant and with mobile devices becoming increasingly prolific, this personal contact is fast becoming continuous. Media is no longer simply a tool for companies to broadcast their own message, but has transformed into a means in which pharma are able to provide round the clock care, through active monitoring and remote diagnosis.
January 28 - 31, 2014 | Mobile Payments Conference
Pharma Industry has recently been facing increasing pressure from governmental and private stakeholders, such as patients, physicians and public payers as well. The increasing costs of today’s healthcare environment and austerity issues place a big burden on pharma companies. Balancing the price successfully while meeting economic and social requirements is the key to reach the planned number of potential patients. A well-planned and strong market access strategy is getting into the focus-point. Attendees will be given the opportunity to find out about latest updates about HTA regulations as well as ideas on how to handle them while achieving cost-effectiveness. Additionally, participants will be introduced to the strategies and trends of the Big Five and how they handle the 4th hurdle of P&R. The event will highlight the prospects of pharma industry following recent trends and expectations.
Miami, FL, USA
The Mobile Payments Conference has collocated their event, for the first time with ITEXPO, one of the nation’s largest technologyoriented conferences in Miami, Florida, January 28 -31, 2014. ITEXPO expects to draw 7,000 attendees from a variety of sectors, including enterprises, service providers, government, resellers, manufacturers and developers. The 2014 Mobile Payments Conference will highlight the new mobile commerce solutions that continue to enter the market. http://mobilepaymentconference.com/
April 23 - 24, 2014 | Cards & Payments Asia Suntec, Singapore
Cards & Payments Asia, along with its co-located events (Future Bank Asia, NFC World Asia, Digital ID World Asia, RFID World Asia, Retail World Asia, e-Commerce Show Asia and Digital Signage World Asia) , is Asia’s largest and most holistic smart cards and payments business event: an exhibition, a series of seminars and strategic conferences.
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