You know the Old Spice social media campaign that exploded in the end of July? Lots of online views, and low ROI (well, according to the preliminary reports from outside of the Old Spice camp). I’ve read enough articles calling this a failure for the low impact to revenue. Whether true or not***, all I know is that Old Spice, which I always considered (for whatever reason) a low quality, old fashioned product, is now on my radar. This is momentum, and this is a rare gem today. A lot of marketing fails to gain any attention at all. When you succeed, and cut through some noise, consider that a success. Now, in 2010, you need to ‘level up’ on that success, or you might as well have not even tried. Some success isn’t enough success.
SEO is marketing and branding, too. Getting routine rankings for similar queries helps the searcher buy into your brand. Your customers spend a lot of time in Google. Typically more unique visitors come to your site from a Google search than any other medium. Maybe you’re not getting the sales you’re hoping for from natural search, but you may be building your mindshare just by appearing frequently in the search engine result pages. A lot of searchers trust Google. If Google constantly shows your webpage to the same searcher, the perception may be that Google knows something you don’t know. A lot of people actually think that Google ranks based on traffic and popularity. Whatever the reason, that semi-conscious thought goes a long way in online marketing. It could even influence offline foot traffic or sales through your other online marketing channels. With good rankings comes good brand visibility.
My goal isn’t to convince you to ignore ROI in SEO (or any online marketing), but I do want to help you think about it differently if you’re one of the people who say, “my campaign failed because it didn’t turn a profit.” I want you to remember that marketing is more than just immediate sales. Sales is an important piece dependent on the components of your strategy. Brands that concentrate on branding do so because they know the value. Just because we’re online with amazing abilities to cookie and track, doesn’t mean we should forget the original definition of marketing and branding.
As a postscript, and as far as Old Spice goes, I was walking through the grocery store last week. I did stop and pause at the deodorant. I didn’t need any. But I was semi-consciously influenced, and I this time I caught it. If Old Spice keeps up their momentum, I might stop next and buy when I am in the market for deodorant. If they don’t keep it up, that stop may have been it for me.
***Update – Per the beginning of this article, it looks like the reports I was reading of low ROI for the Old Spice campaign have been, well, wrong. Hard stats are in. According to BrandWeek, Old Spice’s sales increased 107% over last month and 55% over the course of the past 3 months. Nice.
Today I was asked to look at a site and explain why it’s not ranking. The answer… the site was whispering.
If you don’t have content, Google won’t know what your site is about. But I don’t mean any old content. I mean HTML text.
Oh… you say you have HTML content? Let’s see if Google can hear it.
1. Perform a search in Google to get your page to show up.
2. Click the ‘cached’ link.
3. Click the ‘text-only version’ link.
4. Find a sixth grader and ask them to explain what this page is about.
I once heard that Google has a reading comprehension of a sixth grader. If that’s true, then you need to speak to Google like a sixth grader. Give simple context, but be specific. Speak up! Promote your message, hammer it home. Don’t mumble (and spam your pages with junk content).
Granted there are a several ways you can add contextual relevance to a site, it doesn’t need to just be in the body. Tags and links still play a big part, sure. But why be shy in the body of your website? Is it that “text is ugly?” Is it that “people don’t read online?” All untrue. You read this post, and frankly, I think it looks rather beautiful.
Form vs. function, my friends. Form vs. function.
I often see new features, or hear rumors about other experiments going on in the sidebar (including some social or real time things coming – shhh…), but I really wonder why Google wants to use this property. This long block is where Google makes a good chunk of change. Will new features bring more eyeballs to it, or dilute their click throughs?
I understand maybe using it when there are no ads to place – which they do – but why give other clickable options that take away ad share? Maybe Google’s last redesign was still too traditional after all? Maybe they just don’t have enough space in this format to try everything they want.
Take a look at this search for Technorati. See? No ad – but there was one! I just didn’t get a screen grab, and now can’t recreate it. I hate that. So even if they were only testing something, I don’t understand the logic on this one. I know as an AdWords advertiser, it makes me a little grumpy to have to compete with more noise in this column.
Keep your eyes open. Maybe they’ll go the Ask.com route after all?
Note: The title is not How To Trick Google. I am not a spammer – not in the slightest. It’s just not the side of the fence I reside in. But, as someone who breathes SEO, I do get curious about understanding blackhat techniques from time to time.
With all the technology that makes up webpages, and incredibly smart techies working as SEOs, it’s interesting to see what clever things SEOs still come up with. Obviously Google engineers eventually learn all these new tactics, but are they really able to defend against them? They provide guidelines on their Google site, but these guidelines are usually written loosely. They often raise more questions then they answer. And per the tactic above, I’m pretty sure that’s why – loosely, Google is able to take the stance against this tactic, without addressing (or even knowing about) this tactic.
As a whitehat SEO, I talk to link building tactics that “are against Google’s guidelines”, or CSS tricks that “are against Google’s guidelines.” Not because I think that Google is definitely able to catch them automatically, but because there’s a possibility. There are humans behind Google’s rankings – they might hear about it. A competitor might report you. Google’s toolbar, that’s on one of your visitor’s browser, may report back a different experience than the Google spiders report back.
Even though I fall for the loose guidelines, it does sounds like a big if though. If Googlet wants to thwart spammers, maybe it’s time to get more clear. Spend the time specifying the guidelines. Is it fear that specified guidelines will act as blueprints to spam techniques? Maybe – but it also might thwart SEOs from walking in the gray.
It has begun.
If you didn’t hear, Bing and Yahoo have merged to a degree. Bing search will begin powering Yahoo.com’s search function. This merge also includes paid search (which is the real monetary motivator for this merger). The transition timelines are now out there.
Apparently it should be done between August and September.
Read more at Search Engine Roundtable.
Google recently announced that loading speed is a signal to improved rankings. They even gave us a free tool to gauge it.
It’s always been assumed, but with this announcement it was made truly official. Did we really need Google to tell us? Couldn’t we figure out that Google wants to serve fast loading sites? Of course we could. Just about anything that is good for a user is good for Google.
But before you go running tests in a panic, think about your site. Have you been good to your visitors? Have you been sensible with redirects? Have you been mindful of bloated code and huge files (image, Flash, and otherwise)? Do you have a good webhost? If all of this is true, you’re probably fine. Sure, run the test, but I wouldn’t panic and put in projects to fix prematurely.
Another note – above I recommended watching your page weight. I like a good site validated to standards, but I’m not that kind of SEO anymore. I’m quite sure it’s OK to be a little noisy in code. Semantics in code is great, but don’t worry about a little bloated code. Again, run the speed test. See if Google thinks you have a problem. It probably won’t be from tag soup.
The idea for this post was from a string I just read on Webmaster World. I heard a webmaster talk about recoding to err on the side of caution. Many agreed without the test, simply because they got swept up in Google’s announcement, but not reality. I thought that was a really useless waste of time without some sort of real reason. The bottom line – if your page is chunking while it’s loading, on several fast connections, you have a problem. But I’m sure you knew that.