Search Marketing – What’s New?

December 28, 2011 Filed under: Internet Marketing,Local Search,SEO — Tags: , ,

Much has been happening in the world of Internet Marketing lately, so here is a brief synopsis of what’s new, and what it means for small businesses looking to market themselves on the web.

Growth of online advertising.  Internet advertising will be 2nd only to TV advertising in revenues by 2014 and will surpass newspaper ad revenues by 2013.  While representing 14.4% of all advertising today, Internet advertising is projected to grow to 21% of all ad revenues by 2014, growing by roughly $10B a year for the next 3 years.  Read more.

Google ads everywhereGoogle puts online ads everywhere.    Online real estate is limited and growing more scarce.  So, Google is trying to squeeze ad real estate out of every corner they can.  Here are 6 new paid search products that Google has introduced to offer still more opportunities to advertise online.  Read more.

Google deals.    It appears that Google is planning to roll out a ‘check-in’ feature for its Google Place Pages so that companies can offer coupons & deals like they do with Groupon, Living Social and other deal competitors that are growing in popularity.  Can Google really compete in this space, even after earlier failed attempts?  Will sharing offers on Google+ make the difference for them?  Read more.

Onsite Review Stations…go for it!  We’ve advised many clients with walk-in businesses to put a computer in their lobby to encourage customers to post reviews, since it helps improve their local search ranking.  Some industry pundits have written that Google would frown on this and find a way to penalize such behavior, but Mike Blumenthal reports that Google is now publicly encouraging the practice.  If you’re not doing this already, why wait?  Read more.

Negative reviews – keep your cool.   While we’re talking about reviews, I always like to pass on good advice about how best to handle any negative online reviews posted about your business.  It’s always a delicate situation, and one to be handled carefully.  Here’s some good advice from industry veteran Andrew Shotland.  Read more.

Location targeting for mobile is hot.  Mobile internet use is exploding with the growth in smart phones, and Google last May announced that 40 percent of mobile searches are for local businesses.  Advertisers are jumping on this trend by targeting their ads by location.  BIA Kelsey blog estimates that 29 percent of mobile campaigns today are targeted locally, and that it’ll grow to 69 percent of mobile ad spending by 2015. Time for you to jump on the bandwagon?  Read more.

PPC ads drive offline sales, big-time.  New research shows that PPC ads drive 6 times more business in in-store sales than in ecommerce sales, with an average PPC click worth $15 in in-store sales.  Unfortunately, this good news is often difficult to track, so it goes unnoticed and unreported.  But retail marketing firm RevTrack has developed some clever methods for tracking and measuring offline results.  Read more.

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How to Manage Your Search Marketing Agency: No More “Go Do It Please”

There’s no doubt about it – marketing as a profession is undergoing massive changes, right now, in real-time.   When you’re in the midst of change, it’s hard enough to shift your perceptions, and even harder to alter long-established practices.   But in marketing as in anything else, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need to acknowledge that things aren’t what they used to be, and then be willing to reset your expectations as well as your plans.

I’ve been a marketing professional for over 20 years, and for the first 17-18 years, the practice of marketing didn’t change much.  Companies determined their product (or service) strategy, created marketing materials, attended conferences, hired ad agencies to run ad campaigns and PR agencies to pitch stories to the press.   (Gross generalization, I admit, but roughly true).  When you hired an agency, you expected the ‘creative types’ to go off, think creatively, and come back with some cool-looking ads or some punchy story ideas to pitch to journalists.  The implicit expectation: “just go do it for me, please.”

The new world of search marketing and social media is much different.  If your job is to market your company’s products, you can’t expect an agency to just “go do it” for you.  Why not?  There are 3 main reasons, as I see it:

Content Freshness. Your online image is only as fresh as your content.  While an outside marketing agency may know lots about your company or product, they’re just not as close as you are to what’s new and interesting about it.  You’ll need to keep the content coming, and keep the news fresh.  An outside agency can, however, be a terrific brainstorming partner, content management advisor, ghost writer, editor, content optimizer, writing coach, and even blog “personal trainer” (ask me about this if you don’t know what I mean).   Online marketing is fast evolving into content marketing, and an agency can be a valuable partner in helping your company to make this transition.

The Personal Touch.  Social media is all about connecting directly with your customers and prospects, and an authentic voice is critical to establishing trust.  It’s therefore a good idea to develop your own company “voice” and to build a credible presence on social media.  An outside agency can be a key partner in helping you set goals for your social media strategy, understand the different social media channels and which are best suited to your goals and audience, and coach you on how to get started.  They can also help you tie your social media strategy to a larger Content Marketing strategy, and measure your effectiveness across the board.

Quick Response.   It’s likely your company is being talked about online.  Whether it’s online customer reviews, social media discussions, or blog comments, your company name – and hence your online reputation – is out there.  If you want a chance to respond, shape your image, or even just track what’s being said, you’ll need to tune in to this chatter.  A company representative is once again your best online voice, although a marketing agency can track and measure what’s being said and point you to the trouble spots that need your immediate attention.

Success for a marketer in the current online environment starts with engagement.  Engagement is becoming an over-used word, but it’s an apt one nonetheless.  If you don’t engage with your customers, you’ll lose their online attention; and for a growing number of consumers, online is where their attention is increasingly focused.

Does this mean you shouldn’t hire a marketing agency?  No, that’s certainly not what I’m suggesting (disclosure: I AM a marketing agency).  And you should still expect creative ideas, solid strategic thinking, and excellence in execution, as good marketing agencies have always provided.  But I am suggesting you alter your “just do it for me” expectation.  To help you succeed, an Internet Marketing agency needs your deep involvement.   While there are agencies who’ll encourage you to outsource everything to them, a more effective approach is a partnership.

If you want to portray an authentic online presence, you’ll need to develop your own unique voice in social media, generate unique content on a frequent basis, and respond in a timely manner to your online fans and reviewers.  These are big tasks, and an online marketing agency can help – as coach, editor, organizer, strategizer, ghost writer, metrics tracker and analyst, and more.  But they can’t “just go do it” without you.

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Search Marketing: Content, Credibility and Call-to-Action

September 21, 2010 Filed under: Content Marketing,SEO — Tags: ,

SEO and search spiderSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) has only been around for 10 years, but in that time it has proven its value as an important new marketing discipline, a wealth of training and information resources have become available, and thousands of practitioners (yours truly included) have turned it into a viable profession.   To be sure, there’s a lot to learn, the tools and techniques are changing and evolving rapidly, and implementation details need to be managed carefully to ensure success.  But there are some simple, broad-brush principles to keep in mind, and they relate directly to the basic principles of traditional marketing.  Keeping these in mind will help you integrate SEO as a core component of your overall marketing strategy, and link it naturally with your other marketing tactics.

Any marketer can tell you their primary job is to achieve three simple goals in generating new business for the company:

  1. Communicate a unique selling proposition to potential (and existing) customers
  2. Establish credibility for the product, service or brand
  3. Motivate people to take a desired action

All successful marketing tactics are built around one or more of these goals, and most marketing disciplines (advertising, PR, email marketing, etc) keep them actively in their sights at all times.  Search marketing should be no different.  However, since it’s a relatively new discipline, there’s a dizzying amount of advice circulating about it, and it’s not always practiced by people with a marketing background, SEO can sometimes lose sight of these goals.  Here’s a quick primer on how SEO can keep “the big picture” in its sights.

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Google Instant And The Small Business Owner

September 10, 2010 Filed under: Internet Marketing,Local Search — Tags: ,
SEO and Google Instant

source: Google

If you pay attention to the Search Engine Marketing industry (which I do), it’s hard to miss this week’s news about Google Instant, the new Google feature that shows search results in real time, letter by letter, as you’re typing in the search box.  This is one step beyond Bing’s already-existing type-ahead feature, which guesses what search term you’re typing and offers a list of probable word matches; Google guesses a word match and also displays a page of search results to go with it, then changes those results as you type each new letter to reveal your full intent.  The idea is you can click on a relevant search result before you’ve even got your search term fully formed.  The assumption by Google is that people can think and read faster than they can type — and will appreciate Google keeping up with their mind rather than waiting for their typing finger.  No more having to hit that pesky <Search> button before getting your list of choices.

There’s been lots published in the first 2 days to analyze what this means — for searchers, for website owners, and for the SEO practitioner.  But what does it mean for your small business, if you’re looking to improve your search ranking for a handful of keyword terms?  Here’s a roundup of opinions from across the web, and my overlay of comments from a small biz perspective.

1. It’s great for searchers – provides helpful suggestions, broadens your search experience, and is more efficient.  This undoubtedly describes Google’s intention, as the new feature is positioned to improve the search experience and create the best match between the searcher’s intent and the list of search results.  If you’re a small business and your site is well optimized for keywords that do a good job of describing your business, this is good news for you.  It may even direct users to your site by moving you up from page 2 to page 1, because the result page will be changing dynamically and refreshing instantly as the user continues to type  and narrow their search.  In the course of typing a 2-word search term, for example, a user will see a different list of search results for each letter they type, rather than just a single static list after they click <Search>.  This makes it even more imperative that your website is super-well optimized for the keyword terms most important to your potential customers.

2.  Popular keywords will become even more popular. Lots of initial reaction to this new feature suggests that search volume will increase for the most popular keywords, because Google will “suggest” the most common ways to complete the searcher’s query.  In the short term, this may give more search prominence (and hence more traffic) to the most established brands, as they are more likely to be “suggested” by Google.  However, if the suggested results don’t deliver what the user is looking for, this result may subside over time.  Implications for small business?  Don’t be too quick to judge whether this gives unfair advantage to the big players.  Ultimately, it’s more likely to send more qualified leads your way.

3. Google Instant means no one will see the same web anymore, making it virtually impossible to optimize your site for your intended audience. Real-time feedback will personalize every search so there’s no predictability to people’s search behaviors.  This is certainly true, but it doesn’t mean site optimization is no longer valuable.  It does mean, however, that you can’t “game” the system to trick the search engines.  Instead, Google will reward (as it’s always tried to do) the websites that most clearly explain what they’re about, by sending them searchers who are looking for them.  If a searcher knows what they want, and you’ve optimized your pages for what they want, your chances of being found will be better.

4.  There will be less traffic for long tail keywords. This is SEO-speak meaning that search terms with multiple words (a “long tail”) will become less common because searchers will find a relevant result before they type the 3d or 4th word.  Makes sense.  This could be bad for small businesses, as conventional wisdom in search marketing circles has been that longer, and more specific, search terms are less competitive and therefore offer a niche for small businesses to compete with more established brands.  If you’re in a well-defined niche business, you may continue to draw long-tail keyword searchers; if not, you may indeed see a dip in your search traffic.

5. This new feature is not that new, and is annoying besides…it won’t change much of anything. Like any new feature, this one has critics as well as fans.  Recognizing this, Google has made it easy to turn off the feature, though a good percentage of people, even if they find it annoying, won’t do this.  If you’re a small business, this means things may not change at all for you.   (…and here’s my favorite comment from a not-too-impressed user:  ”Great. Like we’re not lazy enough. Thanks Google. Those few extra nanoseconds come in real handy.”)

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