Archive for the ‘SEO’ category

The SEO Tactics Chart: Tips to Dominate Your Search Category

November 15, 2011

By Ryan Woolley, Vice President of Client Services, Response Mine Interactive

Over the past 10 years, RMI has delivered hundreds of millions of dollars in organic revenue for our clients. The world of organic search has evolved dramatically, as has the search engines results page (SERP), and therefore also the tactics required to achieve success in this space.

Even with the dynamic evolution of the channel, we’ve found principles that work time and time again throughout the years. These include to:

  • Apply a direct response methodology to organic search
  • Go granular in keyword-level data analysis
  • Strive for quality, not quantity

Companies that are driving large-scale, sustainable revenue and customer acquisition through the organic channel have embraced these main beliefs. In many cases, they treat and measure search engine optimizations much like a paid search program – with discipline around testing, experimentation, and granular analysis.

RMI’s SEO Tactics Chart unveils many of the tactics that we’ve executed as a result of this way of thinking. Here are some of the key attributes addressed in the chart to help you dominate your search category.

Keywords: Conversion Intent
It’s critical to consider the mindset of consumers in their decision-making process and the impact this has on conversion. In the keyword realm, we often speak of this as Head, Torso, and Long Tail keywords. Think of it as a spectrum, where Head terms commonly drive the volume and brand exposure, but not necessarily the end goal of conversion as they are more research-driven. Moving through Torso to Long Tail and SKU-level terms you’ll find the volume begins to thin out as the conversion rate increases. Building revenue opportunity models that factor volume and conversion will usually lead you to a focused set of keywords that include a healthy mix of each keyword type in your program.

On-Site: Content & Quality
Simply adding content can be a challenge in many cases, particularly when dealing with e-commerce sites in the retail space. Sometimes it’s a platform restriction, other times there are concerns that adding content will distract the user or push product down the page thus negatively impacting conversion. All are relevant concerns. What’s worked best for us is placing a small amount of keyword-focused content above the product table near the top of the page while adding several short paragraphs of content below the product table near the bottom of the page. This usually satisfies the business, the end user, and the engine.

One of the cornerstones to successful on-site optimization is authentic, quality content. By authentic we are referring to the uniqueness of the content. Again using retail as the example, it’s common to find businesses selling tens of thousands of SKUs, each with a dedicated page on their site. The idea of adding product-level content for each page can be a time-consuming proposition.

A common quick fix that businesses will apply is to repurpose or “borrow” content about that product from the manufacture website. Most often this content adds little to no value to the retailer’s organic efforts, as it was not the original publisher of the content. Unique content that is first published on your own site is what you should be striving for when evaluating the value that your content will bring from an organic perspective.

Off-site: Diversification
You absolutely must have a data-driven keyword strategy in place to drive results from your link building efforts. Identify keywords that have the highest likelihood of driving incremental online conversions and set those terms as your target.

These keywords become the genesis of your anchor text. But, don’t fall into the trap that many SEOs do. Here’s a common problem:  “I want to rank for “men’s jackets” and in doing so I’ve determined that all of the links that I will attain will be targeted with “men’s jackets” as the anchor text.” This is a mistake. While you certainly need some focus on the primary keywords within your anchor text, it’s equally as important to work with derivatives of that keyword.

Moderation and diversification are important principles in anchor text selection. Do your homework and identify a set of valuable derivates such as “men’s winter jackets” and “cheap men’s jackets.” Diversifying the keywords within your link profile will help it in appearing natural.

An anchor text usage rule of thumb that we’ve seen success with looks something like this:

  • 50% containing the exact match keyword
  • 30% to 40% containing keyword derivatives
  • 10% to 20% containing brand terms/URL

Reporting & Analytics
Conversions, then Traffic, then Rankings. This is the mindset used when we approach any SEO program. Focusing attention on keywords that have the highest likelihood to convert to a sale or lead is not always synonymous with high traffic terms. Spend the time in your analytics package to understand the difference and apply more pressure to keywords that will increase revenue/leads.

And don’t forget about tracking the activity that is occurring in your call center as a result of your organic efforts. In our experience, more than 90% of the businesses we’ve encountered have overlooked this – even in instances where they are tracking call center conversions from paid search. The technology is there (we have had success with ClickPath,) and if your business model is reliant on call center activity for conversions, the information available through this tracking typically opens up new opportunities and gives you a much more accurate view on the entirety of the results you are driving.

About the Author

Ryan Woolley is vice president of client services for RMI, an award-winning digital agency that helps companies acquire more customers using lead generation programs. For more than a decade, RMI has generated billions of dollars in revenue for world-renowned brands in the b2b, healthcare, travel, and home services channels using its strategic customer acquisition approaches.

Competitive SEO Intelligence: How to Benchmark Rankings Success vs. Your Competition

September 7, 2011

By Ryan Woolley*, Vice President of Client Services, Response Mine Interactive

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you knew how many keywords your competitors rank for, what those exact keywords are, and how your website stacks up against those competitors? It would be even better if you could get some insight into how they are doing it. And what if it didn’t take an SEO guru to get to these answers? What if you could do it right now, spend less than a morning doing it, and spend less money on it than you’ll spend on dinner out this weekend?

If you’re not an SEO guru and want or need these answers, then this article is for you. If you are responsible at any level for the performance of your digital marketing program than I encourage you to take the time to explore the tools and tips referenced here.

One of the first questions I am asked when discussing search engine optimization with a business is “how do I stack up to my competitors?” For those of us who are truly passionate about our business, the questions around competitive landscape are some of the most burning questions that we have. Most don’t realize how easy it is to answer this question as it pertains to organic search.

Let’s begin by defining what “competition” is within organic search. Don’t assume that your organic competition is the same as what you would usually rattle off when someone asks you who your top competitors are. Search engine optimization and the ways in which Google ranks websites has created a much more level playing field than people realize. You don’t have to be the biggest brand, have the largest footprint, or have the largest marketing budget to dominate the natural rankings.

Identify Organic Competitors
Do some investigation when identifying your organic competition. There are two quick ways to do this:

  1. Go straight to the search engine results page (SERP) on Google. Take your top 10 traffic-driving keywords and your top 10 converting keywords, and record the sites that rank ahead of you. A picture will begin to emerge quickly, and you may be surprised by what you find.
  1. Save some time by using www.SEMRush.com. Type your top keywords into the search box. You’ll get the same output as you would by going to the SERP, but you can export the information directly in Excel, which can be very handy. There’s a small fee to utilize some of the exporting features and deeper data dives on this site but the information you can access makes it well worth it.

Benchmark Yourself vs. Competitors
Now it’s time to see how you measure up. We are going to stick with www.SEMRush.com here as well since it gives us some powerful insight that is easy to access.

See what you and your competitors rank for by simply entering your domain into the main search box. Under “Organic keywords” you will be presented with keywords you rank for within the top 20 positions. Click the “Full Report” link and you can export this information into Excel. Do the same for your competitor’s websites and you will have a robust picture of the quantity and exact keywords that you and they rank for.

Compare first page rankings versus your competitors to benchmark yourself. The majority of organic traffic is coming off of the first page of rankings. Also take a look at positions 11 through 15 (which would be at the top of page 2 in the rankings). These are great potential traffic drivers for you. With a little organic focus, these can be moved to page one quickly.

There are some great trending graphs as well. You’ll see a thumbnail of the trending graph off to the left side. Click it to compare your rankings versus the competition over time. Here’s an example:

 

Gain Insight Into How Your Competitors Are Winning
It’s important to note that there are many factors that impact how a website ranks for a given keyword, and this will not be the end-all factor as to why one site is outranking another. However, looking at the number and types of inbound links that a website has pointing to it will help uncover some of the how and why. It will certainly give you enough information to understand if you are running at a deficit, or if you are crushing your competitors.

Like with SEMRush, this is pretty straightforward. Start off by going to www.OpenSiteExplorer.org and click on “Compare Pages.” Add your site URL, and your competitors. Have a look at “External Followed Links.” This is the number of web pages that are linking to you. Also look at “Total Linking Root Domains,” which is the number of unique sites that are linking to you.

Google sees links pointing to your site as a vote of confidence. It values quality, relevance and authority – it’s not just a pure numbers game as to the total number of links. And if you want to understand the relevancy and quality, just click the “Inbound Links” tab to see which sites are linking to you and your competitors. Or click the “Anchor Text” tab to see what words other websites use when they link to you, as they impact your ability to rank for these terms.

Spending just a little time with this information will help give you an understanding of what is happening with off-site aspects that impact you and your competition’s rankings.

So, if you have the itch that your organic program is not up to snuff but are having a difficult time arming yourself with empirical evidence to prove it, you now have some quick and easy tools in your arsenal. While at the end of the day you may need to call in the professionals to conduct a much deeper dive into all of this, you can at least get the ball rolling by being an advocate for improving your organic rankings. Remember, life’s too short for crappy rankings.

*Ryan Woolley is vice president of client services for RMI, an award-winning digital agency that helps companies acquire more customers using lead generation programs. For more than a decade, RMI has generated billions of dollars in revenue for world-renowned brands in the b2b, healthcare, travel, and home services channels using its strategic customer acquisition approaches.

Rethink SEO: Five Direct Response Approaches to Transform Your Organic Search Program

July 5, 2011

By Ryan Woolley*, Vice President of Client Services, Response Mine Interactive

The search engine results page (SERP) has changed wildly over the past year. The dynamic nature of the page, and the tactics required to be successful in the organic space evolve at a quick pace. This makes it a fascinating challenge for those who manage SEO programs while at the same time somewhat confusing to those who are responsible for it as one of many digital marketing channels within their program.
Having followed this space closely since the late 1990s, I’ve taken comfort in knowing that while organic search is rapidly changing, fundamental principles do exist. These principles have held true for years and will remain relevant for years to come.
Companies that are driving large-scale revenue and lead volume through organic search have shifted their approach and mindset when looking at this channel. They’ve begun to build strategies and analyze their SEO program in a similar way to how one would look at paid search – applying a direct response methodology with granularity in keyword-level data analysis.
Here are five principles that when applied, drive remarkable results for companies:

1. Stop obsessing over rankings
Could you imagine analyzing the performance of your paid search program by saying “let’s start off by looking at our Average Position report?” Absurd.

A keyword rankings report is one of the last things you should look at when evaluating the performance of your organic efforts. We used to live and die by these back in the early 2000s and a remarkably large number of companies still do. The SERP is fluid and dynamic. It’s personalized to your behaviors, preferences and location. Between personalization of the SERP, and the fact that rankings are subject to a high degree of volatility, it’s a mistake to put too much emphasis on a particular ranking for a particular keyword at any particular time.

Yes rankings are the ultimate path to conversions, but there are more impactful reports to spend your time with. A rankings report is never going to capture the real story of the program because it is usually only a sample of keywords that your site is ranking for. There could be hundreds or thousands of keywords that are driving traffic and conversions to your site that aren’t even being tracked in a rankings report. If you’re looking at keyword-level data, get right to the heart of it and study keyword-level conversions, not rankings.

2. Mine data to drive keyword selection
Formulating your SEO strategy by analyzing keyword-level conversion data is the cornerstone to organic success. Look at your top paid search converters as a starting point. In most cases their organic counterparts will not convert as high in comparison. But, keywords with a higher likelihood to convert will often times match up pretty well, on a relative scale. It’s a great starting point for your research. Pair this data with traffic potential and you’re moving in the right direction. Then bring margin into the mix and give more weight to high margin-driving keywords. When compounding these metrics you begin to create the roadmap for a very power organic program.

3. Measure incremental non brand lift
One of the biggest mistakes I see when presented with organic performance data is taking credit for revenue and traffic lifts that did indeed occur, but not as a result of organic efforts. For starters, clearly break out brand and non-brand data. Look at things granularly. If you say that you experienced a 54% month-over-month lift in organic traffic, ask yourself where it came from. Was the majority of that lift the result of brand increasing due to an aggressive offline campaign? These are important questions to ask. Consider seasonality as well. If revenue from non-brand keywords in aggregate decreased 18% month-over-month, was it the result of your rankings taking a hit, or is search query volume down that month for those terms? Google Insights for Search can help you answer that question.

4. Use direct response tactics in titles and descriptions
Persuasive, DR-focused copy seems to be forgotten when it comes to most organic search programs. Incorporate attributes like this into your titles and descriptions, and you’ll have a good chance to garner the click even if you’re showing in a lower position than your competitors:

• Price point
• Percentage off
• 100% guarantee
• Free shipping
• Order now
• Hurry, save now
Here’s a great example:
google search example

 

 

 

5. Predetermine your landing pages
Remembering that you are focused on conversions and not rankings, it’s time to map out exactly which page you want users to land on when they conduct a search and click your listing. Pair up keywords and landing pages from the get-go. We’ve conducted many tests around this, and the home page is usually not the page you want a user to land on, especially on a non- branded search. Get the searcher away from the home page and to the most relevant sub category or product page when appropriate and you’ll feel the uptick in conversions.

There are a lot of ways to migrate home page rankings to a deeper and more relevant page within your site. It comes down to your internal linking strategy and offsite efforts. Create a mapping guide, and stick to it.

A lot of companies are afraid to execute this switch in the fear of their rankings vanishing completely during the migration process. That’s almost never the case when done correctly. A very short-term dip may occur, but because your conversion rate will increase by ranking the deeper page it always pays to pull the trigger and execute this strategy.

No matter how fluid the world of organic search, applying these principles will increase the output of your program. They’ve just seldom been used within organic search. Take the plunge and change the way you think about your organic program, and you’ll reap the benefits that companies who have changed their mindset are experiencing right now.

*About the Author
Ryan Woolley is vice president of client services for RMI, an award-winning digital agency that helps companies acquire more customers using lead generation programs. For more than a decade, RMI has generated billions of dollars in revenue for world-renowned brands in the b2b, healthcare, travel, and home services channels using its strategic customer acquisition approaches.

Is Your Website at Risk of Google’s Panda Attack? How to Check Your Vulnerability and What to Do

April 12, 2011

Credit: AIS MEDIA. "Panda is on the attack"

by Thomas Harpointner – CEO of AIS Media, Inc.

Nearly all consumers (97 percent) now research products or services online before making a purchase, according to a study by BIA/Kelsey. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing website content to maximize its ranking potential on organic (free) search engine results pages (SERPs).

Search engines award high rankings to websites with high-quality content and high credibility while “de-ranking” or “de-listing” websites with low quality content or low credibility. Panda, Google’s latest algorithm update, aims to do just that. Over 12% of all U.S. websites have already been affected, sending shockwaves through the industry.

While Panda’s aim is to take down content aggregator/spam sites, link farms and websites with poorly written content or low credibility, many legitimate, high-quality websites have unfortunately also reported being adversely affected. Many websites have been severely “de-ranked” and even “de-listed” altogether.

To make matters worse, many smaller businesses and brands that aren’t aware of the Panda update may suddenly find themselves suffering from lower website traffic. If your website is hit by Panda, your organic traffic could literally get cut in half overnight, or worse!

What makes your website vulnerable to the Panda attack? Although Google keeps complete details of its algorithm a secret, the two Google engineers heading the Panda program, Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal, gave strong clues in their March 3, 2011 interview with Wired.

Panda attacks websites or web page considered “low-quality” i.e. websites with low quality content or a high percentage of duplicate content, low amount of original content, high bounce rates, low visit times, low percentage of visitors return rates, low quality of inbound links and other factors.

How to know if your website has been hit by Panda or is vulnerable to an attack The best way to tell if your website has been hit by Panda is to conduct a deep analysis of your website analytics. If your overall website traffic has declined, especially from organic search engine results pages (SERPs), it’s time to take a deeper look and prepare to make some changes.

• Look at the overall number or unique website visitors.

• What is your overall website bounce rate?

• What’s the average time visitors stay on your website before leaving?

• Do all of your web pages have proper titles and descriptions – do they match your website content?

• Does your website contain high-quality inbound links?
• Is your website properly connected to your social media networks?

• Are your social media networks properly integrated into your website?

What to do if your website has been hit by Panda If you feel Google may label your website “low quality” or “low credibility”, it’s time to make some changes – fast. After all, Google is the #1 used search engine in the world. If you rely on your website to generate sales or leads, a low ranking or a de-listing could be devastating and difficult to recover from. Here are the top steps to take right away:

1. Review your site content. Make sure each webpage is labeled with appropriate page titles, descriptions and key words. The name of the webpage in the URL should also be consistent with the page content.

2. Link only to credible, high-quality websites and review the websites linking to you. Request that any low-quality websites remove links to yours. Focus on cultivating backlinks only from high-quality websites.

3. Create high-quality, original content that captivates readers and keeps them on your website. Lower website bounce rates and higher visit times help increase your website quality score.

4. If you haven’t done so already, set up a blog within your website. It’s a great way to continually add original content and keep your website fresh. Be sure to integrate your blog content with your social media network profiles. Both Google and Bing have recently confirmed that search engine results are now connected to user ratings, recommendations and interactions.

If your business or brand lacks the internal resources or expertise to properly search engine optimize your website, develop quality content or integrate social media, consider consulting an expert or aligning yourself with a specialized agency. As digital marketing continues to evolve and become increasingly complex, it’s no longer a task that can be assigned to an intern or something you try at home.

 

By Thomas Harpointner is founder and CEO of AIS Media, Inc,  an Atlanta-based, award-winning digital engagement agency. AIS Media connects leading businesses and brands with customers through performance-driven digital and social media marketing. AIS Media’s capabilities include digital strategy, creative design, application development, search, email and social media marketing.