ATG (a large commerce platform) just put out some interesting studies. 53% (of 1,002 total people) cited search engines as their key source for discovering new products.
Is this news? Not really. But I was interested to see how competitive email still is. I was also interested to see where social media (as a channel) resides. Social is under In-store displays and offline signs. Wow. Even though it’s fertile, this is a reminder that social still has a long road until full maturity.
Check out Search Engine Land for more stats.
Many business owners ask the common question, “Do I need SEO?” When I’m asked, I’m likely to recite any of the following.
- Because the internet demands you sync it with other online/offline marketing initiatives. What are you missing if you spend $1m for a Super Bowl commercial about a monkey jumping out of a car trunk and beating up a thief if you can’t find “monkey super bowl commercial” in Google?
- Because the ROI of SEO is that you’ll be around in a year. Sound like hype? Well, you’re competitors who are heavily focusing on SEO hope you take it that way.
- Because what a user sees and what a spider sees can be very different. Google has a sixth grade education, and you may not be teaching them anything in a language they can understand.
- Because you’re only rock stars in your own mind.
- Because if I see your listing in the top 5, and it looks like cheap promotion to me, I’ll skip.
- Because your paid search quality score will likely improve. Maybe you could actually afford bidding on those non-brand terms and introducing your site to brand agnostic visitors. Remember advertising?
- Because Google owns your site, not you. This goes for even the biggest brands. Think about it – even if someone knows your URL, they’re still probably going to type it into Google to find you for the first time (check your analytics). It would be a damn shame if you didn’t show up.
- Because without SEO, you won’t know the missed opportunities. Search is a function of demand. With a little R&D, you’ll be able to not only develop functioning landing pages, but create products. Remember marketing?
- A fuller semantic web is the future of SEO, and I don’t mean just mean programmatically. Semantic indexing! I personally believe the hype, and I write for it. I think it at least helps my readers, so that’s a good thing.
- Because SEO bloggers need something more substantial to write about over, and over, and over again.
In the meantime I’m working on a case study with a family member’s family law office in Reading, PA. Should have some data soon to really show the before and after of a 6 month SEO campaign. So far it’s pretty compelling.
Here are a few little tricks you can do to customize or filter Google results. These 4 are clutch tricks for me. I end up using these more than most other tricks in my arsenal (oh, there are plenty…):
Enter -site: to remove sites from the SERPs: If you’re looking for competitors for a popular product, and keep seeing the big players, comparison shopping engines or affiliates, and would like to get a better feel for the other players in the landscape, this trick works well.To see this work, search for a key phrase like Wilson Official NCAA Football. You may see sites like Amazon.com, Nextag.com, and Bizrate.Try the search again like this -site:www.amazon.com -site:www.nextag.com -site:www.bizrate.com Wilson Official NCAA Football. See the difference? There are several ways you can use this iltering for your competitive education.
Discover related keywords: Google has the ability to show pages with keywords related to the actual keywords you searched. They’ll do this when their algorithms suggest it’s a better result. To get a feeling of what keywords variation Google is thinking about, at a tilda (~) to the query. For example, Google ~sofa. At the very least this can inspire your keyword research.
Find File Types in a site: Doing a quick audit and want to see if a site is using a particular file type (like Flash)? This will give you some insight: site:www.nike.com filetype:swf
Figure out where those indented links really rank: Today a Google search (on my computer) for Frank Zappa will show you Zappa.com with an indented link for Zappa.com/whatsnew in the #2 position. Indented links are pages from the same domain that can show up anywhere in the bracket of 10 results, except Google groups them together for user value. In other words, although Zappa.com/whatsnew is ranked at #2, it’s not really the second result. It could be the fifth, or the seventh, or the tenth.When working towards SERP domination, it’s important to know exactly where all the pages lie so you have a better idea of who you need to beat. Add &num=x to the end of the Google search query URL, where “x” is a number less than 10 (remember – without using Advanced Search, there are only 10 true listings in natural results on any given SERP). Keep experimenting with lower numbers for “x” until the indented link is gone. Once it’s gone, you’ll be able to surmise where the actual position of the listing.
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.
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.