Archive for the ‘Website’ category

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.

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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.

 

 

How to Make sure 77% of Your First Time Visitors Don’t Miss Important Information About Your Company

March 10, 2011

by Jamie Turner – Chief Content Officer, 60 Second Marketer

Did you know that only 23% of first-time visitors to your website scroll
down the home page?  That means 77% of your first-time visitors are missing important information if it’s located below the fold.

What This Means for You:

Try to put the most important information about your products or
services towards the top of your website. If you don’t, the majority of
first-time visitors will miss it and you may be missing opportunities to
increase your revenue.

Some Other Important Website Tips to Improve Your Response Rates:

People instinctively look at faces on websites. That’s why the 60 Second Marketer home page has photographs of people as part of our design.  Studies also show that if the faces in the photographs are looking at key headlines on the web page, your visitor’s eyes will navigate from the photograph of the face to the headline the face is looking at.

A study by the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab found that good, simple, crisp web design increases engagement and credibility.

Other factors that influence credibility are the quality of the website’s content, amount of errors, rate of updates, ease-of-use and trustworthiness of authors.

Research by Nielsen Norman Group found that when a website is re-designed with a focus on usability, key business metrics increase by an average of 83%.

 

Side note:

If you’re interested in improving your website’s usability,
you might want to investigate BKV’s iMap System. It’s not cheap, but
if you’re a large company that relies on your website to drive revenue,
it could be worth investigating.

by Jamie Turner, Chief Content Officer of the 60 Second Marketer, the
online magazine of BKV Digital and Direct Response. Jamie is also the
co-author of How to Make Money with Social Media.

10 Steps to Doubling Print Advertising ROI with Digital Marketing

March 10, 2011

by Thomas Harpointner – CEO of AIS Media, Inc,

“Half my advertising money is wasted. The problem is that I don’t
know which half”, said William Lever, founder of Lever Soap Company
back in 1886. Sadly, well over a century later, it’s estimated that 50
percent of advertising budgets are still wasted on programs that don’t
produce a meaningful response. Yet, marketing executives are being
held increasingly accountable to deliver greater, more predictable,
and measurable returns on investment from their advertising spend,
according to Forrester Research.
While some marketers grow increasingly frustrated with declines in
response rates to their traditional print advertising and shifting their
focus to digital channels, others have discovered how to “crack the
code” and are achieving new highs in response rates and returns
on investment through properly integrating offline and online
channels. This guide aims to provide the practical, yet frequently
overlooked tips and critical action steps to dramatically increase the
response rates and maximize the returns on investment from print
advertisements.

1. Use “eye candy” to grab readers’ attention.
With so many distractions today, capturing customers’ attention with
an ad has become as much science as art. While a great picture can
tell a thousand words, studies show that wandering eyes automatically
gravitate more toward pictures than words. Use a relevant, high
contrast image that supports your core message. So don’t make your
audience “work” – read more than is absolutely necessary. Use a
picture whenever possible to enhance your offer. Pictures of people
and smiling faces are very effective.

2. Gain your readers’ interest with a benefit-driven headline.
If your image succeeds in capturing your readers’ attention, the rest
of your ad copy must gain and keep their interest – that’s where your
headline plays a pivotal role. Think of your headline as “an ad for your
ad”. Its sole purpose is to captivate your audience and “sell” them
on reading the rest of your ad copy. Eyes automatically gravitate
toward large, bold text. Therefore, be sure your headline stands out
from the rest of your ad copy. Focus on your offer’s key benefits. Most
readers are “skimmers” and will make a split-second decision about
whether or not to keep reading. A “skimmer” should be able to get
the “gist” of what the ad is about by the picture and headline and
subtitles, if applicable. Books have been written on the topic of writing
effective headlines. Refer to a few and them by your side for creative
inspiration.

3. Use bullets and call-outs to build desire for your offer.
Readers are “skimmers”. Avoid long, small-type paragraphs. Instead,
bullet out your offer’s benefits whenever possible. Newspapers like the
New York Times and Wall Street Journal are written at an 8th grade
level to make the content easier to consume. So present your offer’s
benefits in an easy-to-digest manner. Use color and call-outs to deliver
the most relevant points.

4. Include a clear call-to-action (CTA) to drive response.
If your ad succeeds at capturing your audience’s attention and
interest, be sure to provide a clear, concise call-to-action; tell them
what to do next. Don’t leave it up to them to guess what they should
do next. If you want them to call a phone number or visit a website,
say so and be sure to include the benefit(s) of doing so. An extra
incentive can instantly increase response rates. For example by
applying an expiration date to your CTA, you can instill a sense of
urgency and further increase response. If you’re selling flowers, for
example, your CTA might be to visit your website and offer a coupon
code with an expiration date.

5. Offer readers multiple options to respond.
Providing readers multiple options to respond to your ad cannot only
dramatically increase your overall response rates but also increase the
value of your response. A Direct Marketing Association study found
that customers who buy from two channels (vs. just one) are between
20 and 60% more valuable, while triple-channel buyers are 60-125%
more valuable. Ads that provide readers the option to respond by
calling a phone number or by visiting a web page tend to get higher
responses than identical ads that offer only a single option.

6. Use unique phone numbers and call tracking.
Displaying your main company phone number in your ad is sure-fire
way to keep yourself guessing about the performance of your ad.
Instead, use unique phone numbers with call tracking. By assigning
a unique number to each of your ads, you can accurately test and
measure which ads generate the best response. You can view reports
to analyze the data and adjust your advertising to increase the overall
ROI. This is extremely important for new ad campaigns.

7. Use a landing page and pURL.
Most advertisers today already get it. Displaying a website address
in a print ad increases response rates. Where many ads fall short,
the advertiser displays the link to their website home page. For better results,
you can measure and repeat, drive customers to a unique web page,
specifically designed to complement your ad, also known as a “landing
page” or “micro site” using a personalized URL, or “pURL”. This
method is proven to provide a better user experience and increase
conversion rates. Sending customers to your home page and making
them hunt through your website for the offer in which they’re interested is a
sure-fire way to aggravate them and ultimately lose sales.

8. Build your “hot prospect” list and nurture it.
Studies have shown that the majority of prospects don’t convert
into customers the first time they’re exposed to a brand, product or
service. Conversions increase over time as prospects are repeatedly
exposed to an offer. Since the majority of visitors to your landing page
won’t immediately convert, provide incentives that will prompt them to provide their contact information.
Assuming 5 percent of visitors to your landing page immediately
convert and another 10% take advantage of incentives to share
their contact information, you end up building a highly valuable database of
prospects and customers. Nurturing those prospects with routine email
offers further increases conversion over time – effectively increasing
ROI from your print ad.

9. Test, measure and optimize.
The saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”, doesn’t
ring more true when it comes to direct response advertising. Create
variations of your offer using live A/B tests to determine the best
response. You might determine mid-campaign that one version of
your landing page is clearly outperforming the other and redirect all
traffic to the winner to maximize conversion. To make all this possible,
you must of course, properly install and configure a web analytics
program and understand how to interpret the data. Using pURLs, you
can clearly see how visitors behave; how long they stay, where they
click, how many convert, etc. – providing you the hard data you need
to eliminate guesswork.

10. Confidently modify your print ad for maximum performance.
Properly analyzing the data contained in web analytics and
performance reports will clearly indicate how visitors respond to
a given offer and interact with the content. This valuable insight
can be applied with confidence in designing future print ads that will
incrementally improve response rates and maximize advertising ROI.

 

Summary:
While any one of the above tactics can produce immediate and measurable
results, you can expect the greatest positive impact from a
comprehensive approach. I hope you’ll gain value from this guide and
that you’ll advertise with greater confidence.

By Thomas Harpointner is founder and CEO of AIS Media, Inc,
(www.aismedia.com) 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.