Archive for July, 2010

5 Ways to Get Out of the Pay-Per-Click Weeds

PPC weedsWe see this happen time and time again: In the midst of managing a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, marketers get bogged down in the details of the campaign without paying attention to what actually matters.  What actually matters? PPC return on investment (ROI), of course.  If you’re managing a PPC campaign, you need to understand how all the little bits of data can play together and help you achieve a better ROI.  To do this, you should consider a few things:

  • What are your priorities? Your priorities tend to reflect on what you’re being measured, and we hope you’re being measured primarily on generating high quality leads.  If you’re not, perhaps you need to examine why.  Do you have a long enough sales cycle that you can get a more immediate measure from number of leads generated or click-throughs?  Whatever your priority is, keep that in mind throughout measuring your campaign.  You should be asking yourself the question, “Am I getting closer to my goal?”
  • What words are you going after? One of the biggest PPC mistakes we see is when folks go after expensive, popular words rather than long-tail, more relevant ones.  Should you really go after “running shoes” when your product is only peripherally related to them? Probably not.
  • When you tweak, what are you tweaking for? We have seen people add random lingo in order to increase their relevance score without thinking about what phrases would generate quality traffic for them.  Perhaps you are obsessing about impressions, but never getting any click-throughs.  Make sure you aren’t optimizing for clicks without making sure the visitors would be quality leads.  It’s very easy to fall into the “I must do better at one metric” trap without keeping your high-level goals in mind.
  • Are you paying attention to your ads? It’s easy to get caught up in the words you’re targeting and let your ads languish.  Are you aggressively A/B testing your ads?  If you’re not, you can do this easily in AdWords by running two ads per campaign in balanced views (don’t let Google manage impressions for you), and when you have a good number of impressions each, pause the one with fewer click-throughs and write a new one.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  You should also always remember that effective ads include offers–in essence, they’re calls to action.
  • Where are you sending your traffic? One of the most common PPC errors is to dump all the traffic onto your main homepage.  A better idea is to send them straight to landing pages so that you can get that click (that you paid for) to convert to a lead much sooner!

Overall, you have to keep your eye on the prize when it comes to PPC.  Make sure you’re not getting lost in the budget, impressions, and clicks weeds–what do these little things matter in the big picture of generating quality leads?  PPC involves so many little details and tweaks, that it’s incredibly ea.  Keep your goal in mind and keep working at it and you’ll be sure to improve your lead quality.

Photo courtesy of sanderovski & linda.

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Whiteboard Friday – Outsourcing Content Creation

Posted by Danny Dover

 This week on Whiteboard Friday, Rand Fishkin describes the methods he recommends for outsourcing content creation. Content is extremely important for SEO and users alike so these best practices are important for those of us without the luxury of an in-house staff of copywriters.


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Rand starts this presentation by setting context with his favorite SEO diagram. You can read more about the SEO Pyramid here.

Step 1: Requirements Gathering

Decide what you are trying to accomplish. Are you doing this for sales? SEO? Engagement? Traffic? Brand awareness? Be clear and write down what you want to accomplish along with the metrics you will use to measure them.

Step 2: Locating Potential Resources

You have plenty of options for finding potential resources. You can go offshore, in-house or hire web contractors. For web contractors, you can use the traditional services like Craigslist, oDesk, Elance, Guru or tap into the world of writing communities and long tail bloggers. These last two recommendations while not as established can many times provide superior quality writing with lower budgets.

Step 3: Research Writing Quality & Voice Match

In order to do this, we highly recommend you set up a voice document (a written record of how you would like to sound in your company’s written communications and promotions). Give this to the writer before getting a sample and use this as the yardstick after they submit their first sample. This will help you gauge if this person is a good fit for your organization.

Step 4: Scale, Evaluate, Track

Now that you have established a process, you need to put checks into place to make sure the writer is hitting their targets. Look back at the goals you created in the first step and use them to track and improve upon the related metrics.

Remember, from both an SEO and from a human perspective, writing is about quality over quantity. Having one great article that engages readers and earns links far outweighs 100 poorly written articles.

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Study: Two-Thirds of Marketers Integrate Social Media and Email Marketing

social emailWith the rise in popularity of social media and its use for marketing, there has been some debate about whether email is dying in the face of social media.  In fact, Ben & Jerry’s recently decided to drop email marketing in favor of social media in the UK.  

Just because social media may be a new addition to your marketing mix doesn’t mean email marketing should be eliminated.  In fact, social media can help to enhance your email marketing efforts.

Luckily, it looks as though marketers are starting to figure this out. As reported by eMarketer today, in an April 2010 survey by email marketing agency, eROI, two-thirds of US marketers are now integrating social media into their email marketing campaigns.  In addition, email marketing and social media marketing solution provider, StrongMail indicated that the percentage of marketers who had integrated social and email (or planned to this year) is 71% worldwide, based on June 2010 research.

Other Key Research Findings:

  • 71% of business executives surveyed worldwide indicated they were promoting their Twitter, Facebook or other social media presence in their email marketing messages (Source: StrongMail research).
  • 63% of those surveyed said they were enabling email recipients to share email content with their social networks (Source: StrongMail research). In eROI’s April research earlier this year, the survey revealed a slightly smaller proportion of US marketers — 59.1% — using “share with your network” buttons.

eMarketer email marketing research chart

  • When surveyed about the types of social media tools integrated in email marketing, 91% of marketers incorporating social media into email marketing used Facebook in their campaigns, followed by Twitter at 83.9% and LinkedIn at 48% (Source: eROI research).

eMarketer social email tools

Marketers: Use Social Media to Complement Email Marketing

As a marketer, you shouldn’t undermine the importance of email marketing — email is an effective lead generation tool.  If you’re still not convinced, read this great guest post we published about why email is so important.

Instead of dropping email for social media, use social media as a way to complement your email marketing efforts.  Without social media, the limit of your email marketing campaigns depends on the size of your email list. When you incorporate social media into your emails, you’re essentially expanding the potential reach of your email campaigns beyond that list.  By adding social media, you’re enabling email recipients to share and spread your content to people who aren’t on your email list.  How great is that?

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7 Cutting Edge Web Design Trends (that Can Actually Improve SEO)

Posted by randfish

As the worlds of web design and SEO merge ever closer, we’ve been seeing design-specific elements produce a positive impact on SEO for the sites that employ them. It’s terrific news for SEOs who love design and are capable of and passionate about making it part of their repertoire. It’s also great for designers who find that as they evolved from Flash designs to machine-readable CSS and separated markup from content, they’ve earned more links and more organic search love.

Synergy between Design & SEO 1997-2010

In this post, I’ll walk through examples of those design practices in use and describe how they can help improve your opportunity for organic search rankings and traffic.

#1 – Designing that Elicits & Conveys Emotion

A phenomenal article from Aarron Walter of Mailchimp on ThinkVitamin – Emotional Interface Design: The Gateway to Passionate Users – deeply explores the trend of designers using their talents to imprint emotion on users. Personally, I love this practice, and professionally, I see it as incredibly valuable for SEO, too.

Rather than simply providing a user with information, these sites attempt to convey a sense of the companies, products and services they represent in a tangible way.

For McMiller’s Sweets, below, the website expresses the brand’s humor, whimsy and obsession with their product. I only wish I could buy online – there’d be a few boxes headed for the SEOmoz offices right now.

McMillers Sweets Emporium, an enterprise-focused software company, aims to achieve an air of simplicity and a feeling of the ease that comes from using a basic, consumer application but targeted at a business audience. Their redesign has me convinced – it’s light and airy, it’s up in the clouds (perhaps a double-meaning since they host in "the cloud") and it even calls out the "sexiness" of the application. Homepage

When users are emotionally invested in the websites they visit, they’re more likely to:

  • Link
  • Share
  • Contribute Content
  • Participate
  • Remain Loyal
  • Invest in the Experience
  • Browse more Pages

All of these have either first or second-order impacts on SEO in a positive way.

#2 – The Scroll-Triggered Call-to-Action

Sometimes, you don’t want to overwhelm content with calls-to-action… At least, not until you’re fairly certain your visitor has finished reading. That’s where the brilliance of the scroll-triggered call-to-action comes in.

Browse any article on the New York Times website and you’ll see this behavior in action, driving you to read the next article in the series only after you’ve reached the bottom of the current piece:

Scroll-Triggered Call to Action on NYTimes

It’s great for boosting page views, but also drives more awareness of those pieces, improving links and driving up visibility for previously less-well-publicized works. My guess is that clicks are quite high.

In the next example, the OKCupid Blog leverages precisely the same tactic:

OKCupid Blog's Scroll-Triggered Sharing

This use case might be even more brilliant. After wrapping up a remarkable article about what statistics tell us not to do in online dating, my first instinct is to share the piece with some single friends. OKCupid’s flawlessly timed, dropdown overlay synchs with this internal compulsion and makes it easy to tweet, like, stumble or buzz away.

Scrolling + triggers = more browsing, more awareness and more sharing (and I think the potential applications for SEO are far greater in quantity than just what’s been shared above).

#3 – User Badges

If your users are passionate about your site and their experience or participation, why not make it easy to share?

For years, sites have been offering users the virtual incentives of points, badges and status to encourage greater participation. Andrew Follet from Concept Feedback authored a brilliant piece analyzing this precise behavior and exposing some terrific examples.

We’ve noticed an interesting behavior as it relates to user badges as well, and it’s spurred me to whiteboard the following chart numerous times for those who have online communities considering SEO:

Badge Adoption Graph

The lesson? Make great communities, encourage participation and reward your users with badges that will make their sites look good. It’s the online equivalent of giving out high quality, well designed t-shirts – fans won’t just wear them to bed; they’ll actually show off your brand.

#4 – The Animated HTML Multiheader

I wrote about the multiheader a long time ago, and the evolution of design has made them tremendously more compelling and useful since then. Case-in-point, Unbounce, who has 5 different messages/features on their homepage all accessible to engines and all part of a single multiheader. I’ve screencaptured them elegantly "swooshing" in and out of the headline position:

Unbounce Homepage

Unbounce Homepage 2

The advantage is two-fold – more content on the homepage that’s accessible to search engines (thanks to clever CSS/HTML usage) and everyone who links to any one version is concentrating the link juice singularly on the home page. In some cases, that could cause problems, but in others, it’s a great opportunity to leverage design to focus the links you acquire where you need them most.

BTW – Speaking of Unbounce, If you have yet to read Oli Gardner’s 12-Step Landing Page Rehab Program, you’re seriously missing out.

#5 – Sexy, Embeddable Infographics

Infographic linkbait is certainly all the rage these days, and I think it’s a well-justified trend. The brilliant part is that you benefit by producing the infographic and other bloggers benefit by sharing it and attracting views, attention and links of their own. So long as the embed works seemlessly and the infographic is compelling, you’re off to the link acquisition races.

Some examples I enjoyed came from Smashing Magazine, who put together this piece on programming (and the how-to behind it’s creation):

And this smart contribution from Visual Economics:

What are We Eating Infographic

As with badges, the "beauty rule" applies – the sexier your infographic (and the most interesting/useful/compelling the content), the higher adoption will be.

#6 – Designing Around Illustration (with CSS)

It used to be that I’d see a website built around illustrations and artistry and shake my head in sadness, knowing that the beauty of the UI was unlikely to be experienced by anyone except those coming via type-in. Today, with the amazing progress of CSS, sites like Carbon Made can have their design cake and eat their SEO, too.

Google’s "text only" cache shows every word you can see in the screenshot – we’ve come a long way indeed. And, darn it if that design doesn’t make me want to just climb a mountain and jump off a cliff into an octopus-filled lake below… errr.. make an online portfolio (yeah, that’s the one!)

For another look, check out Ruby on Rails developers, Pioneers:

Pioneers Homepage

Pretty, accessible and indexable, what more could an SEO ask?

#7 – Creative Content Formats Unleashed

Sometimes, you visit a site that stands out from everything else you’ve seen on the web in the past. Historically, many of those sites have also been tragically obscured from search engines. Nowadays, a new breed is emerging, showing off massive creativity, brilliance in design innovation and a compelling combination of link-worthiness and search-accessibility.

A few of my favorite recent stumbles into this realm include:

Grain and Gram

Above: Grain and Gram Gentleman’s Journal

Sanctuary T Shop Homepage

Above: Sanctuary T Shop (who knew a small e-commerce shop could be this pretty?)

Heart Directed Blogs Homepage

Above: Heart Directed (a great place to find more remarkable creative formats, though lacking the machine readable content to be an SEO example itself)

It’s a great time to be on the web, thinking about SEO, design and the brilliant things that can happen when they overlap strategically. Here’s to hoping that more of us who invest in organic search traffic will bolster that task with the power amazing design can bring. It’s not just more links – it’s greater engagement and a higher liklihood that sharing of all kinds will occur. However the search engines evolve, you can be sure this is the type of behavior they’ll seek to reward.

p.s. If design inspires you, I’d recommend checking out Drawar and Six Revisions list of 10 Fresh Galleries for Inspiration

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Facebook Explains How To Get More "Likes" and Clicks

Facebook Media LogoAre you taking advantage of best practices when it comes to promoting news about your business on Facebook?  Now you can check with Facebook’s new Facebook + Media page, which launched Monday.  The new page — geared toward journalists but with implications for all businesses on Facebook — includes best practices, tools to drive traffic and other insights for promoting news on Facebook.

To determine the best practices compiled on the page, Facebook analyzed 100 top media sites that use Facebook’s social plugins.

Okay — so you may not be a media company.  But if you publish news about your company on Facebook, Facebook’s new page should be very applicable to you.  While the Media Page offers advice to journalists for driving traffic on Facebook, it also includes tips for driving engagement and interaction.  If you’re a marketer, these tips can be especially helpful as you try to increase interaction on your business’ Facebook page.

Social News Best Practices for Marketers

Check out our marketers’ guide to Facebook social plugins if you’re unfamiliar with them.  Then review some of the most applicable best practices for marketers we pulled from Facebook’s new Media Page.  Here they are!

To drive audience and interaction:

  • Implement the Like Button social plugin on your website.  Implement the version that includes thumbnails of friends, enables comments, and place it at the top and bottom of articles and near visual content like videos/graphics.  According to Facebook, websites that followed these best practices experienced 3-5x greater click-through rates on the Like Button.
  • Publish to users through Pages and Like button connections. (Click here to find out how.)  Status updates asking simple questions or encouraging a user to Like the story have 2-3x the activity.  In addition, stories that are published in the early morning or just before bed have higher engagement.
  • Run promotions on your Page using FBML tabs.

To increase engagement:

  • Implement the Activity Feed and Recommendations social plugins. Place these plugins above the fold of your website and on multiple pages to generate more engagement. Sites that placed the Activity Feed on the front page as well as other content pages received 2-10x more clicks per user than sites with plugins only on the front page.
  • Planning a live event, webinar or webcast? Use the Live Stream box to capture real-time engagement. 
  • Keep your pages timely and regularly updated with fresh content to keep people engaged.  Update the status on your page often.

Don’t forget Insights!

  • Facebook offers basic insights into your Facebook page’s growth, fans and interactivity via Facebook Insights.  Your page’s Insights Dashboard will provide metrics to help you understand and analyze trends within user growth and demographics, consumption of content, and creation of content.  Keep track of your business page’s performance to determine what works, what doesn’t and learn how best to engage your fans.

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How to Benchmark in Analytics

Posted by JoannaLord

We have a lot of changes going on at SEOmoz (feel free to get excited, we sure are!) and with all of these changes to the site comes the need to focus on tracking. Internally we have spent the last few months redirecting our attention to not only the best practices regarding analytics and data mining, but really pushing ourselves to revisit our analytical processes.

You know what we realized? There sure is a lot of data. While I have always appreciated the reporting features in GA, I find that too often people take the reports at face value and fail to go deeper. It’s unfortunate since it is in those deep dives that you usually discover the data that can change your current course of action. So this post is going to tackle an approach to analytics that is often overlooked and (thanks to Google and their silly naming convention decisions) is rarely used to its fullest capacity. Get excited folks we are going to talk about benchmarking {Woohoo! Insert audience applause here}.

All of you excel spreadsheet lovers out there know plenty of ways to extract data and pinpoint specific red flags or recent successes. In fact, most people use analytics to simply analyze the current state of their account. While this is certainly a priority, it really is one dimensional. Instead of stopping there, why not go further? Why not better understand where your data was, and how you are measuring up? In fact, why not use this data to help inform your internal decisions as a company? It’s like an analytical epiphany—“using past and current data to help guide you moving forward.” Glorious.

While many of the analytics platforms out there have given us a number of ways to compare historical data to current data, we are still limited to two distinct time ranges (for the most part). It’s great to see those two ranges stack up against each other, but that still leaves a lot to be desired. Without going further you miss the "interaction" between those two distinct time ranges.

Benchmarking your data is a great way to discover more about this, often overlooked, gray area. Benchmarking simply means you set a standard at which you compare something else to. When used for data mining, it means you plot two distinct variables (time ranges, metrics, dimensions, etc.) over a period of time and then use these “benchmarks” to infer conclusions when making decisions.

You can then see  a more complete picture of your site’s momentum. In my opinion, understanding your site’s momentum is one of the most powerful metrics an analyst can calculate. If you can say with authority that you know how your site is doing and how it will likely be doing in the next week, month, few months, etc., you are in an ideal place. With data like that you can take more calculated risks.

*First, I want to throw out a disclaimer—a little over a year ago Google decided to integrate “Benchmarking” into their Visitors tab in GA. This just made things confusing in my opinion. The GA feature actually shows your site in comparison to a {very very very limited} industry pool of similarly {not really} sized sites. There is a lot wrong with the assumptions of this feature, but for our purposes here, when I say “benchmarking” I mean the act of plotting two distinct variables over time to extract insight…not the {ridiculous-I-can’t-believe-they-took-it-out-of-beta} GA feature.

Benchmarking on SEOmoz in GA
The "benchmarking" feature in GA on SEOmoz

Okay now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about how you can benchmark your data to hopefully gather some insight into your site’s performance.

Know your bottom-line (and your "high-line" –yes, I just made that word up)

This is probably the most common approach to benchmarking. It’s a pretty simple way to analyze the current state of your account. You should know your extremes for every metric. For example if you are a company that sells a seasonally successful product, you should know what your lowest conversion rate is for the year, as well as your peak conversion performance. In understanding the extremes you can make better assumptions on how your off season stats are trending. While not the most accurate approach to data mining, benchmarking the extremes of your account enables you to speak intelligently, at any given moment, on how your site is currently performing.

Know your ratios & relationships

Am I the only one that always reads “ratio” as “radio”? I digress. Knowing your metric ratios and how they relate to each other, is a great way to quickly detect when things are headed south. Often, as analysts, we don’t realize something has gone wrong until we see sales are down. While that is an effective method of pinpointing mistakes, it certainly isn’t ideal. Wouldn’t it be nice to quickly identify issues as they actually become issues? Crazy, I know. Well this is exactly what benchmarking the ratios of your site’s metrics can do. At SEOmoz, we use ratio/relationship benchmarking to keep our traffic stats in check. We don’t just plot out how many visitors each section of the site brings in out of the total visitors; we compare those percentages against each other. This gives us a ballpark value to guide us. An example; “the X part of the site brings in roughly twice as much as Y, which brings in about 1/3 of the traffic as Z.”

The great part about this method of benchmarking is you can easily turn it into a visual representation of the different pieces of the pie, and isolate out when things start to shift. Below is an actual example Rand pulled together earlier this week (yes he does that sort of thing for fun! A true data-head!). In this chart we have graphed out the top trafficked pages on our site, and then plotted them against each other to show how they are performing in relation to each other.

Traffic by Section on SEOmoz
Also see a larger, detailed version

You can see the significant drop in the blue segment (our Tools page), which was due to a redirect mistake we made (oops…Rand talks more about that here). By visually representing these sections, we can easily identify shifts in the relationships, which can guide us on where we should focus our attentions (aka fix our silly SEO mistake ASAP!).

Know the norm

Okay I know, I know…I talked a whole lot of trash above on the GA benchmarking feature, and here I am talking about “knowing the norm,” but approaching data analysis this way can be insightful. Knowing and using industry standards in benchmarking can efficiently identify low hanging fruit.

However, the actual GA benchmarking tab is a poor example of this. Keep in mind that sites have to opt into the benchmarking, so (a.) this feature might not even have your industry represented and (b.) you have no way of knowing how many sites these “standards” are calculated on. Also keep in mind there are only three buckets for website “size” in this feature—small, medium, and large. WTF right? Yeah, since when do all websites fit into those three sizes? What am I ordering a latte over here?

With that said, it’s worth knowing the vital metric standards for your industry. If you see that similar sites to your own have a bounce rate of around 40% and you are chilling around 65%, while all the other metrics look closer in range, then you can assume this metric is where you should direct your optimization efforts. This approach isn’t as scalable or as accurate as other benchmarking methods, but it’s definitely worth a mention, if only for peace of mind.

Know the limits

While benchmarking is incredibly effective for things like trending, projecting, and exploring the data, it’s important to know the limits of the process. It is meant to be a discovery process, not a scientific formula. Just like anything else you take away from the data, it is just an insight, not a guarantee. You are making assumptions based on past performances, and performances change. So one word of caution to all of you data-heads out there—benchmarking is a great tool to add to your bag of tricks, but it is only one of many you should be using. Don’t get so caught up in forming relationships between the metrics and dimensions of your site that you lose perspective on the independent variables themselves.

In conclusion

Get in there. I mean it, seriously. I know we are all crazy busy, but that shouldn’t translate into a two minute GA log-in, a quick glance at the vital metrics and a few automated reports. Our analytics are meant to be explored. Benchmarking is one of those processes that may take an extra hour or two, but discoveries made during those few hours can be instrumental in guiding your company’s decisions.

Confession: At SEOmoz we haven’t always been the best with analytics and tracking, but in the past half a year we have refocused our energies on truly knowing what our users are doing, how our site is performing, and finding opportunities within the data. It’s time consuming, and tricky, and what you discover is not always fun to find out, but it has certainly helped us redirect resources where they are needed.

Over the next few months we are rolling out all sorts of good stuff, {the Chrome toolbar launch was just a teaser my friends }. We are using processes like benchmarking to better prepare us for these changes. Taking on new challenges as a company is an awesome thing, but doing it with a little data to steer you, makes the ride even more fun.

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