Google Press Conference Event One “You Won’t Want to Miss.”

Google press release to launch on Wednesday

Google is on the brink of announcing one of its biggest advancements in recent years. Trouble is, no one seems to know just what that advancement is.  Speculation has centered around Google’s search algorithm, with some suggesting that the way we search may be changed forever. However, Google has kept its cards very close to its, no doubt, diamond-encrusted chest and has so far been able to keep its big news under wraps.

Search engine optimization, as an entity, is forever evolving. Those smart, athletic, and physically attractive folks who work in the SEO industry recognize that any news from Google is worth paying attention to–after all, Google is essentially their office, employer, and god.  And this news, Google claims, is big.

However, it’s more likely that the announcement - which as been touted by Google as “an event you won’t want to miss”- will be a disappointment and more of a technical tweak than process overhaul. Still, there is enough of a buzz around those involved in the world of search engine optimization to suggest that the news will be worthy of note.  Whether it will have an effect on the structure of internet marketing companies is another question.

Time to speculate then, I think you’ll agree.

Google's new "doodle" a clue on press release details?

Google's new "doodle" a clue on press release details?

Well, there are a few clues as to what Google’s big announcement might be.  First is their latest “doodle” that was released today and features an array of different colored balloons that fly across the screen when you tease them with your cursor.  Some have theorized that this is to with the transmission of the first ever TV tube picture, which occurred on September 7–in 1927.  Another clue might center on the location of the press release–San Francisco’s art museum.  Art, balloons…What does it all mean?

We’ll find out tomorrow, and so will you by keeping track of our live blog.

Analytics, Blog, Paid Search, SEO, Social Media, The Lighter Side of eVisibility, The Weekly Insider, Uncategorized, eVisibility News No Comments

SEO: A Never-Ending (Almost) Story

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Is a Forever-Changing Industry

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Is a Forever-Changing Industry

Of all modern marketing strategies, few are as pliable, fast-paced, and prone to change as Search Engine Optimization. So unpredictable is this industry that internet marketing agencies are forever tracking the most relevant blogs to ensure they don’t miss out on the next game-changing development. Considering the nature of the business, then, it is easy to imagine the difference that a month, year, or decade can make to the process of “SEO.” So, if you’ll not mind humoring me, I’d like to take a trip down memory lane.

It’s the year 2000. Search Engine Optimization is in its fledgling stage, having sprung up as a method of online marketing at some point in the mid-1990s. At least, that’s when the process began being referred to as “SEO.” At this time, DMOZ was - and arguably still is - the leader in web directories and considered a much coveted opportunity for SEO back linking. Search engines commonly used a decade ago included Lycos, AltaVista, Excite, Snap, LookSmart, Go, and Hotbot—all of which are now at least redundant, if not long dead.  There was one other that stood out: Google. The year 2000 was the time that Google began to assert itself as the top dog in the realm of search engines due, in large part, to its much faster and more efficient spidering process. Still though, none of the search engines, including Google, were able to index dynamic URLs effectively, if at all. Plug-ins were not – and still, to an extent, are not – available to help read and translate dynamic URLs, an issue that remains a point of frustration among SEO experts to this day. One thing that was born in 2000 and has remained a staple of SEO a decade later is the importance of link popularity; specifically, the need for a balance between the quality and quantity of back links.

Next up is 2002, a year in which some predicted the death of SEO. That was until Google launched AdWords and changed the face of internet marketing forever. Offering pay-per-click and site-targeted advertising for text, banner, and rich-media ads, AdWords is the feather in the cap of Google’s empire, and today contributes a large majority of the company’s multi-billion dollar advertising revenue. Google AdWords is a product of 2002 that is still very much alive today, unlike: Yahoo Directory Submissions, which hiked its price up to almost $300 a year, and is now a seldom-used resource; Paid Inclusion in Google, which was done away with in 2006; and search engine minnow AltaVista, which was basically doomed before 2002 even hit the calendar.

2003 saw the beginning of WordPress. This was bitter sweet for both SEO people and the search engines as it allowed for a flood of blogs to populate the internet, but also created an instant breeding ground for spammers. Spam became an epidemic for at least a year after. Google’s release of AdSense didn’t help either, as it led to the creation of millions of “made-for-AdSense” websites that would plague search engines for years to come.

In 2004, something incredible happened: SEO experts suddenly became internet marketers! A glut of spam generated in 2003 paved the way for the year of “professional SEO.” Internet marketing agencies were now responsible for much more than just the ranking of a client’s site, forcing them to expand their general marketing endeavors—essentially allowing for massive growth. Paid inclusion was still extremely popular, and 301-redirects – the process of permanently moving a site while retaining all search engine rankings – were becoming contemporary facets of SEO. 2004 was also the year that Google established its role as the ONLY search engine worthy of note. Simply put, Google became the undisputed source for all searches, making it the number one target for website rankings through SEO.

2005: The launch of Google Analytics. Search Engine Optimization would be forever changed by Google’s latest addition to its line of free services which allowed the user to generate detailed reports about the traffic that was visiting a given site. Analytics was designed to be used by marketers, rather than webmasters, and quickly took off. It is now the most widely used website statistics service in the world. Analytics is used in conjunction with Google’s 2002 addition, AdWords, allowing the marketer full access to data on sales, lead generation, page views, and conversions. In no uncertain terms, the process of measuring SEO success had been reshaped, and remains largely the same today. In ’05, Google also launched its “nofollow” link attribute that allowed people to differentiate between paid and non-paid links in a search engine. It basically served to combat blog comment spam, but SEO experts began attempting to use “nofollow” in their optimization of website architecture—with mixed, but mostly muted success.

2007 saw “targeted traffic” begin to take hold as more and more people involved with SEO started to recognize that it is far superior to random, non-specified traffic. Search engine optimization became more driven by targeted traffic and its specific benefits—that is to highlight the importance of targeting long tail keywords, promoting quality over quantity in terms of visits.

A forum for like-minded SEO experts was launched in the form of “Sphinn” which allowed people to share their theories on search engine optimization in a semi-competitive environment in which other users get to vote on their favorite articles. Sphinn is still going strong today, and has become a source of forward-thinking, industry-altering ideas, and has presented a very passable road to recognition for up-and-comers in the world of SEO. 2007 also saw paid links take another beating at the hands of Google. Toolbar page ranks were secured for non-paid links even further, roughly to the level they are today.

’07 was significant for one of the modern behemoths of internet search, Wikipedia. Wikipedia was able to hit two million articles of information, and was, by now, ranking for almost everything. As domain authority began to eclipse all other SEO factors, Wikipedia quickly became the go-to site for nearly any search. The importance of domain authority was clear, changing SEO tactics forever.

Social Media Playing Bigger Part in SEO

Social Media Playing Bigger Part in SEO

In 2008, social media – which had been gathering momentum since 2004, when Facebook joined MySpace and began the race to become kings of social networking – made its way to the fore. Facebook, of course, won that battle. However, another site joined the ranks in 2006 and quickly made social media relevant for SEO purposes, grabbing the attention of internet marketing agencies the world over. Twitter had arrived; this “microblogging” service rapidly transcended the reaches of established social media (which was mostly used by young people and restricted them primarily to interaction with friends) and gave a public forum for celebrities, professionals, and teens alike to share their thoughts with a diverse – and potentially infinite – network. Of course, any self-respecting internet marketing agency began using social media long before Twitter, but the emergence of such a social media phenomenon paved the way for a whole new sector within internet marketing. Now, anyone looking to market a website absolutely must use social media as one of their main resources. With around 130,000,000 Google results for the term “social media marketing,” it is clear that social media’s place within the world of search engine optimization strategy is very much solidified, and in truth, is only getting stronger.

2009 brought much of the same, with Twitter and Facebook continuing to lead the social media reinvention of modern SEO and internet marketing. Microsoft and Google both signed deals with Twitter allowing them search engine access to “tweets.” However, in SEO, another question quickly arose: “Are you optimizing for Bing?” Claiming to be a different kind of resource than the other search engines, “decision engine,” Bing, became the latest plaything of tech giants Microsoft, who were rumored to have splashed over $100 million on elaborate advertising for the new search engine. And in a sense it paid off. Bing is sleek and stylish and appeals to the younger generations. However, the marketing dollars are sure to fade soon, and questions will remain as to whether Bing can hold on to its users. One became even more abundantly clear though—Google will not be supplanted any time soon.

So, here we are, then, finally back to modern times. We are literally (yes, I understand the proper use of the word, but this is a blog post, not an editorial) standing at the cutting edge of SEO advancements. Until tomorrow, that is, when it could change all over again. In order to spare myself the indignity of missing the most important SEO news of this year, hence leaving my words suspended in a purgatory of half-finished works, perhaps I’ll wait until December to write 2010…

Analytics, Paid Search, SEO 1 Comment

Is it a Sheep or a Pig? : Adwords Quality Score Sheared & Comprehended

Sheep pig photo

From the back, this creature looks like any ordinary sheep, as it wheels about you can tell that it is a very special animal. Compared to the common barnyard sow the sheep-pig is a creature that may seem like something conjured out of a drug-laden dream. Just looking at the sheep-pig it makes the whole world a little bit more confusing, but if shaved there is no mistake, this animal is a pig.

If you are beginning research on Google Adwords Quality Score, be forewarned that understanding the intricacies of this relevancy indicator may seem intimidating but underneath its wooly exterior is just another way for Google to bring home the bacon (relevancy to searchers).

Google’s Adword’s Quality Score by definition “helps ensure that only the most relevant ads appear to users on Google and the Google Network”. Before we go into more detail about what Quality Score is, let’s discuss why it was implemented in the first place. From the very beginning the Pay per Click model was built similar to an auction platform. This platform is where people would go to bid on items and whomever was willing to pay the most would win that time. For the pay per click model it was keywords that people were bidding on and the item they would win would be highest placement in the sponsored listings section. The higher up you were placed then the more likely your ad would be clicked on. What this meant was that the company with the most money wins. Not only were the companies who were willing to spend more money making more money, Google was making money off the click arbitrage. Google saw recognized flaws in their Adwords platform as they received complaints from advertisers.

bid management

This model was very similar to the Organic Search model that positioned companies at the top of the Search Engine’s based on an algorithm that could easily be manipulated. For organic search they changed the algorithm to give favoritism to those who met a certain criteria that provided better results for the consumer. This triggered Google to change their paid search program so that ads for products/services that best matched what the consumer was searching for would be served up at or near the top even if they did not have the highest bid. This is known as “Google’s Adwords Quality Score”, which by focusing on this, your company could run a more cost effective.

Here are just a few ways that you can feed your sheep-pig to keep it happy and healthy:

happy-pig

* Matching landing page heading and text header
* Landing page loads quickly
* Picture of products and/or services displayed on landing page
* Picture of products and/or services displayed on landing page
* Optimal path from landing page to conversion goal

These items are components of the three most important factors to determining quality score; click through rate, relevance, and landing page. CTR is arguably the most important criteria, and the best way to improve this is by writing better ad text and testing. By following these guidelines you will not only achieve a higher quality score but you will achieve higher conversion profit potential. When quality score goes up, you ad position goes up and your cost per click goes down. Any English speaking pig will clearly illustrate that when the feeding trough is lowered for them it’s easier to feed. Higher “Ad Rank” and a lower “Cost per Click” you can run a more successful campaign at a lower cost.

Here is a formula to help determine Ad Rank which defines Cost per Click.

Ad Rank = Max CPC Bid x Quality Score

In the examples below, you will see that Quality Score can affect not only your Ad Rank but also your cost per click. Example 1 shows that although you have the third highest bid you can still achieve the #1 position with a high quality score. Example 2 shows that by increasing your Quality Score while your bid remains the same you cost per click goes down as well as your Ad Rank goes up. Higher ad placement due to relevancy will result in higher click through rate which in turn should increase conversions.

quality score example

As you can see, it is now more important to meet the guidelines of the perfect quality score than to have highest budget. That is, if you want to run a highly optimized and successful paid search campaign in Google.

In shaving the proverbial sheep-pig, you can see that at its core, the qualitative factors of Google’s quality score is the same stinky pig that we’ve been dealing with in one form or another over the last decade. Take the time to understand how relevancy relates to bid cost and position and you’ll find yourself harvesting top quality pork products at your farm.

References

Retrieved April 3rd, 2010, from Google Adwords website:
http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=10215
Retrieved April 3, 2010, from Search Engine Land website:
http://searchengineland.com/is-the-hype-over-google-adwords-quality-score-justified-18031

Advertising, Paid Search No Comments

Google’s Dropping Dimes with the Adwords Search Funnel

The Value of the Assist

Google Adwords Search Funnel Day 1 Review & Reactions

Included Below:

  • Key Features & Charts
  • The Google Assist
  • New Keyword Discovery
  • Bid Competition Lessening
  • Content Network Integration

It’s only natural that we would eventually have the opportunity to review a more complete attribution modeling. OMMA reports that that average searcher conducts 3.3 searches per session as an average and an average 74 searches per month. Yet, as any data junkie can attest, the principle of 80-20 is very much alive and well on the Internuts. That is, 20% of our keywords are providing 80% of our conversions. Call it instinct, trust, or Omniture, but most of us have known for quite some time that it’s simply not possible that last click tracking can tell us the whole story. There’s no chance that people simply rise out of a slumber and think to search for a brand or product SKU number.

Search Funnel Key Features & Charts

pathlength

Path Length& Time Lag: Can be used to illustrate how many impressions or clicks are necessary to balance information asymmetry. These charts can be actionable in a number of ways. For example; if your impressions are FAR outweighing the amount of clicks it takes to get a conversion, you may need to review your ad headlines.

assistclicks1

Assist Clicks & Impressions: This is really the meat and potatoes of this release because it finally opens up attributive data once thought to be a figment of marketer’s imaginations. Google teased us in 09 with a view-through patch, but this takes us a step closer to a live engagement map aligning last click metrics with assist points so that our keyword bid strategy can become more artistic.

GOOGLE Supply’s the Assist

In comes the mighty Google on a day when most people are discussing the iPad. Under the radar, Google released a reporting patch called ‘Search Funnels’. If you’re not familiar, Search Funnel snapshots allow you to not only see last click conversions, but also give a first click analysis and path analysis. For the first time you can see the string of paid search impressions and clicks that brought a user to convert on your site, amongst other things.

magic_johnson

What It Means For the Future

Though it is a relatively innocuous reporting tool, the ramifications of Search Funnel Reporting are huge. Broad match search will now serve as a greater resource for discovering more distant levels of paid search influence. Paid search marketers will have the opportunity to discover only marginally relevant keywords that have a chain of influence factor without driving a last click conversion. This will mean that you could use Adwords as less of a primary direct marketing channel and implement prospecting standards. Keyword sets could be isolated based on their ability to fill the top of the funnel and drive later interest.

john-stockton-keeping-it-real-300x296

Competition Dispersion

Keywords are one of the most expensive buys you can make on the web; More so than display ads, SEO, or sponsored blogging. It’s not uncommon these days to see double digit CPCs for ‘must-have’ keywords. With the ability to see a greater extent of attributive keywords to conversions, there will be a vaster dispersing of keyword competition. Ad dollars can be spent more evenly in places that were otherwise unknown as resources.

kidd

Channel Integration

Adding search funnel capability was a major step in drawing in a full integrative marketing system, which is undoubtedly the core goal for Google Analytics. It’s a free service that longs to be thought of in the same regard as the more robust and exteriorly capable tracking and reporting platforms. This launch was pushed forth without an integration of the content network sourcing. Because everything seems to be sourced from the same legacy code, it’s a bit confusing why this release doesn’t have any content integration. Hopefully this is just a starting point and later features/channels will be amended.

robertson_275

As any of history’s greatest point guards will tell you, in the game of basketball you can win a game without ever scoring a single point. The same now holds true for a successful keyword. Long live the assist and the future of the search funnel.

Advertising, Analytics, Paid Search No Comments

Marketing Integration & The Internet’s Influence

marketinginfluence1

This presentation is an exploratory to further progress conversation on marketing integration as it specifically pertains to Internet channels. This is a reaction to perceived mixed web expectations by both advertisers and vendors alike.

marketinginfluence2

Quite often internet advertisers stare at numbers and pour over data, but forget to connect numbers to behavior and if the trends you’re seeing can be translated into a typical human response. Once we realize that there is more to data than meets the eye, we have to ask ourselves is there a way to harness this trend and refine it?

marketinginfluence3

…Or anything else for that matter. When was the last time you were rushed out of bed to conduct a search? This may seem like a silly concept, but it’s important to digest this baseline when thinking about how we influence consumers.

marketinginfluence4

There are likely thousands, if not millions, of things in this world that can influence people. Sometimes its as simple as someone looking in the mirror and saying I’m fat or a combination of being exposed to a series of ads across many different mediums over a period of time, an overbearing mother, and an old pair of suspenders that brings a person to a resolution. One thing is certain, until consumers have Intel chips imbedded deep in their brains, there will be no way to confidently know how people are influenced and to what degree.

marketinginfluence5

Though we love the space that we are in, it’s understood that the Internet is not an isolated influencer. Meaning; that an entire product/brand education progression does not occur in a single web session. On average U.S. based surfers are spending just over 10 hours per month online and they have tons of other influencing variables between web sessions.

marketinginfluence6

I’ve taken up a lot of digital real estate with influence mumbo-jumbo. But what’s the point? Influence doesn’t keep the lights on or pay employees. No, but influence leads to top of mind presence for brands and products, which manifests as transactions when influence reaches a critical mass. In other words, a consumer remembers you and only you at the time of end-game impulse.

marketinginfluence7

Image Credit:http://www.consumerpsychologist.com/cb_Decision_Making.html

So, let’s now take and apply what we know about influence and apply it to decision making, because this is where the money is made. This is a basic model that illustrates in a very simplified way how people, over a span of time, arrive at the decision to purchase, and some of the complications that may arise. Here’s an example: My mom says Wow, your shoes smell. I have just identified a problem that needs a solution. I wonder if there are any new styles out there that I like and for that I scour the net looking for something that catches my eye. I see a TV ad for Zappos and decide to shop them. Once I find a style, maybe I check my finances and decide ok, cool, I’ll have the funds by next pay period, so in the meantime, let me find a good deal. At this stage, I’m aggressively looking for that particular SKU or style by name, look for any promo codes, hitting up my friends for recommendations. Pay day arrives and I finish the purchase that has been sitting in my cart for a week. After I purchase, I wear the shoes to work, maybe my boss thinks they’re ok but the hot chick in accounting just rolls her eyes. This stage is where we, of course, risk getting buyers remorse and the importance of post-sale mindshare is magnified.

marketinginfluence8

Image Credit: http://www.bruceclay.com/newsletter/volume72/funnel.jpg+

Now, lets take this process one step further and apply it to the tried and true AIDA funnel. Notice when we superimpose these two graphics you can see the emotional aspect of buying intersecting with the influence of advertising. Aligning this graphic with campaign goals you now have the opportunity to ‘plug-in’ marketing channels not only for push or pull effectiveness but consider behavior as a stage in the education process. Data review and analysis is the great revolution in marketing that has been born and raised on the internet, but it must be translated into human activity for its full scope to be realized.

marketinginfluence9

Its critical to realize that because there are so many distractions, including things that happen between internet sessions that we HAVE to be top of mind at every single stage. If you are not actively reaching out and moving people into the subsequent stage of education, you run the risks of losing prospects to competitors or other priorities. And then you get this funny looking out of balance funnel where your collection engines (SEM) are constricted by a lack of prospects entering the Desire phase. We can share industry stories of clients/prospects saying “I’m spending as much as I can in PPC but have reached the ceiling/I’m ranking #1 for everything and need more” or “I have great site visitation from my traffic, but my conversion rate is super low” Both are imbalanced funnels. A well oiled machine will keep influenced people searching for you at many stages and consumers buying your product in a growing trend and telling their friends about you post purchase.

marketinginfluence10

With this in mind, how should we address people at different stages of the funnel? The answer may not be the same for every marketing campaign, but above is an example of what a draft media strategy might look like using this approach. This could be speculative and later refined as a campaign matures but it gives you an integrated testing point.

If you have had the experience of being able to optimize a campaign based on behavior or have feedback on targeting consumers based on their education stage, please share a comment.

Advertising, Analytics, Media, Paid Search, SEO No Comments

MTV’s Jersey Shore Marketing Secrets

What MTV’s Jersey Shore can teach us about Internet Marketing

It’s not all fun and games at the Seaside house. The cast of brazen characters on the Jersey Shore are a wild bunch of misfits that can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Whether it be toxic affairs, overly dramatic rivalries, or local xenophobia; this young crew’s frivolous management of relationships and their own personal well-being opens a window for the outsider to build a guide on how-to not ruin marketing campaigns. If you’re not sure how the two match up, keep reading…

MTV's Jersey Shore Snookie

MTV's Jersey Shore Snookie

Snookie- The lovable, sassy, self-proclaimed guidette loves nothing more than tanning herself and making out with boys, but she also has a bit of a Napoleon complex. Being slight of stature but unafraid of a fight, she’s been punched more times than Kool-Aid. For some reason, the poor girl isn’t aware enough to know when trouble is brewing.

Learn from Snookie- It’s important to have a certain amount of real self-realization when considering online marketing channels. In SEM there are plenty of instances where you’ll simply be too outmatched to engage in a battle. The competitive landscape in both PPC and SEO and maybe such an uphill climb for newcomer businesses that lower barriers of entry can be found elsewhere. This wouldn’t mean abandoning either tactic, but simply revising it so that you are leveling the playing field. You may consider going strictly long-tail if your keyword sets are deep enough and using the same optimization practice to wage war against lesser opponents. This would be the equivalent of Snookie picking a fight with midgets and kindergartners rather than strung out hookers and roided out monkeys.

MTV's Jersey Shore Pauly D

MTV's Jersey Shore Pauly D

Pauly D- The ladies man known most commonly for his signature blowout haircut. Pauly had a pretty successful time meeting girls at the bar for later conquest. His total operation is centered on meeting easy women. The Ed Hardy gear, the gym regiment, the haircut, it’s all focused on one goal.

Learn from Pauly- What Pauly might not realize is that his product is too geo focused to ever have success out of his home market. In order to scale nationally he would need to substantially overhaul his approach. It’s important to realize that different markets will not only react differently to marketing cues and product benefits. This can differ in regions as tight as neighboring cities. Thankfully geo-locatable advertising mediums online give us the ability to isolate and exploit. Marketers fall in love with national level A/B testing, which is imperative, and forget about regional testing. A/B testing can and should be separated at a regional level and independent markets should dictate their own testing schedule. Think about the local influence of broadcast news and how coverage may differ from Los Angeles to Boston.

MTV's Jersey Shore Mike 'The Situation'

MTV's Jersey Shore Mike 'The Situation'

Mike ‘The Situation’- Shortly after meeting Mike, you’ll be bound to know why he is the best thing to hit the Jersey Shore since spaghetti Bolognese. His callous desire to be the center of attention at all given times wears on everyone’s nerve. You can only take so much of ‘The Situation’ before you’re thoroughly sick of him.

Learn from The Situation- It’s plain and simple; there IS a sweet spot for ad frequency. Over serving ads, saturating channels, and riding a single set of creative for too long will not only erode short term returns, but erode brand equity you’ve built over time. Moderation is the key to all sorts of nice things: growing old, not getting too drunk, staying out of jail, and keeping your advertising fresher longer if you don’t have the luxury of an in-house creative team.

MTV's Jersey Shores Ronnie

MTV's Jersey Shores Ronnie

Ronnie- The bear-like young man that tears up dance-floors and opponents faces like a ravenous…bear. Though he exhibits a tender and caring side, Ronnie’s testosterone get’s the best of him at times and he can’t control getting himself in dangerous situations. He naturally spends some time in jail.

Learn from Ronnie- Karma is a b**** sometimes. Maybe you’re not the only party at fault, but if you are getting pulled into affiliate programs that don’t give you any active voice in the management of your brand identity, then you could have your hands full. I’ve personally negotiated CPA based deals with networks only to find out that publishers were allowed to run wild with unapproved creative. Imagine the punch in the face I received when I checked my voicemail and had messages of people calling me a racist. You think that management fee and flat rate agency relationships are a gamble? Relinquishing all of your moderation authority to someone motivated by the almighty dollar could be a bet made with really unfortunate odds. Take that chance and you may get burned.

Think I’m way off? Go ahead and make a marketing parallel with J-Wow, Angelina, Sammie, or Vinny and post it below.


Advertising, Media, Paid Search, SEO, Social Media 4 Comments

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