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Nailing Down Opportunities

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A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty

If you’re one of the many webmasters feeling hammered by Penguin and Panda, you’d be forgiven for thinking the best opportunities in search are long gone. Perhaps it’s all gotten just a bit too complicated.

In reality, internet marketing is still just a toddler taking baby steps. Opportunity abounds. It’s a case of looking for it, finding it and capitalizing on it.

So how?

In this post. we’ll look at the nature of opportunities, and how to spot them.

People Always Have Problems

If you look at these stories, you’ll notice a common thread.

Honest Tea solved a problem. People wanted bottled organic tea. VMail solved a problem. Small businesses needed a cheap VoIP solution. Ben and Jerry solved a problem. There was no ice cream shop in their town.

Opportunity is the chance to solve a problem. To fill a need. If no one is solving that problem, and that problem is a difficult one the customer, and the customer is desperate to solve it, then the stronger the marketing opportunity will be.

Are there any fewer needs than there were last year? Than before the financial crash? There are just as many needs, as there are just as many people, and as life grows ever more complex, their needs become greater. Their needs may change. They might want fewer luxury products and better deals on everyday products. Next year, it might be the other way around.

Where There Are Problems, There Are Marketing Opportunities

We find marketing opportunities – good ones – when there is a high probability we’ll satisfy a market need, and do so profitably.

  • Is it about finding a keyword with high search volumes?
  • Is it about doing what the the successful people are doing?
  • Is it about doing what everyone else is doing, but just being better at SEO than they are?

Possibly, but this type of thinking is more to do with tactics than opportunity. A marketing opportunity is better evaluated for a higher level. Take the 5,000 ft view.

Ask:

  • Can I supply something in short supply?
  • Can I improve on an existing product or service in way that is considerably superior?
  • Can I supply a genuinely new product of service?

For example, there is a market opportunity for search engine news. Is it a good opportunity for a new entrant? Probably not, as this market is saturated by established players. The audience already have their needs met.

However, there might be better opportunities for news on, say, 3d printers, or some other emerging technology where there is a need, but it isn’t well served. Of course, these opportunities can narrow over time as more and more people see the opportunity, and move into the space.

Perhaps the most lucrative opportunities score highly in each area. They are in short supply, they are relatively new, and you can improve on something people already do.

A good example would be the iPhone. When they came out, there was only one iPhone, they were new(ish) idea for the target market, and they integrated functions people already performed, but did so in a superior way. It’s little wonder Apple could charge such high margins on them, and it took competitors a long time to catch up. Anyone releasing a smartphone today would have to improve on those areas – price point is probably the obvious opportunity – in order to be able to compete.

How To Nail Down The Opportunities

There are various methods marketers do to test their conceptions. Let’s look at three.

One method is the problem detection method. Try asking people if they have any problems with their existing service. For example, a prospective SEO customer might say “I’d like to spend more on SEO, but I don’t know if my spend will be worthwhile”. The opportunity is to figure out a way to show it will be worthwhile if the customer spends more, which might involve offering a money-back guarantee, or a pay on performance arrangement, or some other way to improve that problem the customer has with existing services.

Another way is the ideal method. Ask the customer what would be their ideal product or service. Often, customers will describe fanciful things, but listening to their whims can help you think of products and services you may not have thought of yourself, as it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking within the constraints of your industry. At one time, a customer may have wanted no time delay between ordered a meal and receiving the meal. This probably sounded like an impossible ideal to a restaurateur at the turn of the century, used to waiters and a kitchen staff, but an opportunity to Mr McDonald, who thought more in terms of an industrial process. And Ray Kroc scaled it from there.

Another method is the consumption chain method. You track the consumption of the product or service from start to finish, and see if there are any steps in the chain that can be improved upon. Questions to ask are how people become aware of the product or service, how do customers make their purchase decisions, if they need to consult someone else to make the purchase decision, how they get the product or service, where they store it, how often they use it, and so on. At each step in the chain, there is a chance to make a change, to optmize, and to make better.

We’ve only touched on the ideas on ways to seize opportunities. How have you discovered opportunities in the past? What is your process for spotting new opportunities? Please add them to the comments!

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SEO Book.com

3 Reasons Google Won’t Offer Car Insurance Comparisons in the US Anytime Soon

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The following is a guest column written by Rory Joyce from CoverHound.

Last week Google Advisor made its long-awaited debut in the car insurance vertical — in the UK. Given Google’s 2011 acquisition of BeatThatQuote.com, a UK comparison site, for 37.7 million pounds ($ 61.5 million US), it comes as little surprise that the company chose to enter the UK ahead of other markets. While some might suspect Google’s foray into the UK market is merely a trial balloon, and that an entrance into the US market is inevitable, I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath.

Here are three reasons Google will not be offering an insurance comparison product anytime soon in the US market:

1) High Opportunity Cost

Finance and insurance is the number one revenue – generating advertising vertical for Google, totaling $ 4 billion in 2011. While some of that $ 4 billion is made up of products like health insurance, life insurance and credit cards, the largest segment within the vertical is undoubtedly car insurance. The top 3 advertisers in the vertical as a whole are US carriers — State Farm, Progressive and Geico — spending a combined sum of $ 110 million in 2011.

The keyword landscape for the car insurance vertical is relatively dense. A vast majority of searches occur across 10-20 generic terms (ie – “car insurance,” “auto insurance,” “cheap auto insurance,” “auto insurance quotes,” etc). This is an important point because it helps explain the relatively high market CPC of car insurance keywords versus other verticals. All of the major advertisers are in the auction for a large majority of searches, resulting in higher prices. The top spot for head term searches can reach CPCs well over $ 40. The overall average revenue/click for Google is probably somewhere around $ 30. Having run run similar experiments with carrier click listing ads using SEM traffic, I can confidently assume that the click velocity (clicks per clicker) is around 1.5. So the average revenue per searcher who clicks is probably somewhere around $ 45 for Google.

Now, let’s speculate on Google’s potential revenues from advertisers in a comparison environment. Carriers’ marketing allowable is approximately $ 250 per new policy. When structuring pay-for-performance pricing deep in the funnel (or on a sold-policy basis), carriers are unlikely to stray from those fundamentals. In a fluid marketplace higher in the funnel (i.e.  Adwords PPC), they very often are managing to a marginal cost per policy that far exceeds even $ 500 (see $ 40 CPCs). While it may seem like irrational behavior, there are two reasons they are able to get away with this:

a) They are managing to an overall average cost per policy, meaning all direct response marketing channels benefit from “free,” or unattributable sales. With mega-brands like Geico, this can be a huge factor.

b) There are pressures to meet sales goals at all costs. Google presents the highest intent of any marketing channel available to insurance marketers. If marketers need to move the needle in a hurry, this is where they spend.

Regardless of how Google actually structures the pricing, the conversion point will be much more efficient for the consumer since they will be armed with rates and thus there will be less conversion velocity for Google. The net-net here is a much more efficient marketplace, and one where Google can expect average revenue to be about $ 250 per sold policy.

How does this match up against the $ 45 unit revenue they would significantly cannibalize? The most optimized and competitive carriers can convert as high as 10% of clicks into sales. Since Google would be presenting multiple policies we can expect that in a fully optimized state, they may see 50% higher conversion and thus 15% of clicks into sales. Here is a summary of the math:

With the Advisor product, in an optimized state, Google will make about $ 37.50 ($ 250 x .15) per clicker. Each cannibalized lead will thus cost Google $ 7.50 of unit revenue ($ 45 – $ 37.50). Given the dearth of compelling comparison options in insurance (that can afford AdWords), consumers would definitely be intrigued and so one can assume the penetration/cannibalization would be significant.

Of course there are other impacts to consider: How would this affect competition and average revenue for non-cannibalized clicks? Will responders to Advisor be incremental and therefore have zero opportunity cost?

2) Advisor Has Poor Traction in Other Verticals

Over the past couple of years, Google has rolled out its Advisor product in several verticals including: personal banking, mortgage, and flight search.

We know that at least mortgage didn’t work out very well. Rolled out in early 2011, it was not even a year before Google apparently shut the service down in January of 2012.

I personally don’t have a good grasp on the Mortgage vertical so I had a chat with a high-ranking executive at a leading mortgage site, an active AdWords advertiser. In talking to him it became clear that there were actually quite a bit of similarities between mortgage and insurance as it relates to Google including:

  1. Both industries are highly regulated in the US, at the state level.
  2. Both verticals are competitive and lucrative. CPCs in mortgage can exceed $ 40.
  3. Like insurance, Google tested Advisor in the UK market first.

Hoping he could serve as my crystal ball for insurance, I asked, “So why did Advisor for Mortgage fail?” His response was, “The chief issue was that the opportunity cost was unsustainably high. Google needed to be as or more efficient than direct marketers who had been doing this for years. They underestimated this learning curve and ultimately couldn’t sustain the lost revenue as a result of click cannibalization.”

Google better be sure it has a good understanding of the US insurance market before entering, or else history will repeat itself, which brings me to my next point…

3) They Don’t Yet Have Expertise

Let’s quickly review some key differences between the UK and US insurance markets:

  1. Approximately 80% of car insurance is purchased through comparison sites in the UK vs under 5% in the US.
  2. There is one very business-friendly pricing regulatory body in the UK versus state-level, sometimes aggressive, regulation in the US.
  3. The UK is an efficient market for consumers, the US is not. This means margins are tighter for UK advertisers, as evidenced by the fact that CPCs in the UK are about a third of what they are in the US.

As you can see, these markets are completely different animals. Despite the seemingly low barriers for entry in the UK, Google still felt compelled to acquire BeatThatQuote to better understand the market. Yet, it still took them a year and a half post acquisition before they launched Advisor.

I spoke with an executive at a top-tier UK insurance comparison site earlier this week about Google’s entry. He mentioned that Google wanted to acquire a UK entity primarily for its general knowledge of the market, technology, and infrastructure (API integrations). He said, “Given [Google’s] objectives, it didn’t make sense for them to acquire a top tier site (ie – gocompare, comparethemarket, moneysupermarket, confused) so they acquired BeatThatQuote, which was unknown to most consumers but had the infrastructure in place for Google to test the market effectively.”

It’s very unlikely BeatThatQuote will be of much use for the US market. Google will need to build its product from the ground up. Beyond accruing the knowledge of a very complex, and nuanced market, they will need to acquire or build out the infrastructure. In the US there are no public rate APIs for insurance carriers; very few insurance comparison sites actually publish instant, accurate, real-time rates. Google will need to understand and navigate its way to the rates (though it’s not impossible). It will take some time to get carriers comfortable and then of course build out the technology. Insurance carriers, like most financial service companies, can be painfully slow.

Conclusion

I do believe Google will do something with insurance at some point in the US. Of the various challenges the company currently faces, I believe the high opportunity cost is the toughest to overcome. However, the market will shift. As true insurance comparison options continue to mature, consumers will be searching exclusively for comparison sites (see travel), and carriers will no longer be able to effectively compete at the scale they are now — driving down the market for CPCs and thus lowering the opportunity cost.

This opportunity cost is much lower however for other search engines where average car insurance CPC’s are lower. If I am Microsoft or Yahoo, I am seriously considering using my valuable real estate to promote something worthwhile in insurance. There is currently a big void for consumers as it relates to shopping for insurance. A rival search engine can instantly differentiate themselves from Google overnight in one of the biggest verticals. This may be one of their best opportunities to regain some market share.

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SEO Book.com

SEO, Meet Marketing

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SEO, Meet Marketing was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Google is getting smarter. I caught an interview over the weekend with Ray Kurzweil, author, inventor and futurist who has been known to make accurate predictions about technology and where it’s headed. In this interview, he talked about concepts within his book, “How to Create a Mind” (which I’m putting on my wish list for the holidays, BTW).

Right now, Google might not be able to comprehend the content on a Web page in the human sense (hence the need for humans to tell Google what the page is about when we optimize it), but if Kurzweil’s predictions come true, it’s only a matter of time before Google can comprehend it.

Here’s Part 1 of the mind-bending interview if you want to catch a glimpse of Kurzweil’s insights:

Taking a step back from the future, SEO is evolving right now. Allow me to make the leap from Kurzweil and a smarter Google to how we look at marketing a website. Because ultimately, they are interconnected.

Right now, we are leaving the days behind where SEO means update a Meta tag here, get a link there – all for the sake of creating a “relevant” website Google can understand.

This of course is an oversimplification of the technical side of SEO, which is complicated and much needed at the moment. But the question is, at what point will some of these elements be obsolete as Google gets smarter? And at that point, what’s left to marketing a business online? These are some of the things we should be pondering now.

Today, we are already moving from those more granular tactics in SEO to a more holistic approach to marketing online. This is the natural progression of marketing in the digital age. And part of that is because Google is getting smarter, and as it evolves, our approach can evolve to meet it.

SEO Is Marketing … or at Least It Should Be Thought of That Way

In its most simple form, your website is the representation of your brand. Everything you do, including traditional SEO functions like optimizing pages, needs to take into account the brand, marketing and sales goals that are important to your business.

In SEO, this marketing fundamental starts as soon as you think about keyword research. For example, what products and services are important to the business that year, that quarter, that season? How can you architect the information on the site, including the topics and navigation, to support the business and its audience? How will you reach your audience?

Then there’s your brand. Your brand is demonstrated with the way you communicate and interact with your audience online: your community and your customers. Your brand should seep through every part of your website – including something as small as a Meta tag.

In fact, marketing and branding wisdom should be brought to every decision the SEO team makes. Ask, does the decision support the marketing and business goals — yes or no? Does it demonstrate the values of the brand — yes or no? And marketing and branding knowledge can be applied to make wiser decisions about the analytics data you have as well.

When Will SEO and Marketing Be One?

The shift from search engine optimization in the strictest sense of the word to a more developed “digital marketing” has been occurring for some time. As Google gets smarter, as we have access to more technology, channels and data that allow us to market differently, SEO and marketing become one.

And as SEO is adopted more and more by the mainstream (which is a cause-and-effect event as mainstream adoption allows SEO to progress due to the resources that are put into it and the scenarios it is put in), SEO and marketing becomes one.

Neither traditional marketing nor SEO can continue to exist within their individual bubbles. Whether traditional marketers like it or not, and whether SEOs like it or not, the two must merge:

  • Traditional marketing cannot exist without knowing how to market online; so traditional marketers must bring all their knowledge about how to market a company and a brand to the digital marketing team.
  • SEO cannot exist without knowing how to support a company’s marketing and branding objectives; so traditional SEOs must ask the right questions and listen intently to the things that are important to the business.
Hand Drawing a Marketing Quote on a Window

So, Who Is in Charge of the Business Online?

So where does that leave businesses that needs marketing — who do you hire? If you’re able to afford a team, you need a team of people working together to ensure your site is fulfilling both the technical and marketing requirements to compete in the digital space.

If you are looking for a solo consultant or staff member, try to find that person who understands not only how to market a business, but also how to create a healthy, crawlable, clean website that works within Google’s guidelines and recommendations. (And as Google evolves, so will these requirements.)

If you’re a professional stuck in the middle of these two worlds, it doesn’t mean you have to be a “Jack of All Trades.” There will always be a place for you on the digital marketing team with your specialized skill set.

And while you may not ever be a Kurzweil, understanding where your discipline is headed in the digital marketing age as technology changes will help you make predictions about the future of online marketing, add to your skill set and contribute at a much higher level to the success of a site.

Bruce Clay Blog

Insulating Ourselves From Google’s Whims

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Ranking well for our chosen keywords involves putting in a lot of effort up front, with no guarantee of ranking, or reward.

Even if we do attain rankings, and even if do get rewarded, there is no guarantee this situation will last. And this state of flux, for many seos, is only likely to get worse as Google advises that updates will be “jarring and julting for a while

Even more reason to make every visitor count.

If we can extract higher value from each visitor, by converting them from visitor to customers, and from short term customers to long term customers, then our businesses are less vulnerable to Google’s whims. We don’t need to be as focused on acquiring new visitors.

There is great value to be had in optimizing the entire marketing chain.

Hunting For Customers Vs Keeping Customers

It comes down to cost.

According to a Harvard Study a few years back, it can cost five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keeping a current customer happy. Of course, your mileage may vary, as whether it really costs five times as much, or three, or seven really depends what your cost structure.

However, this concept is an important one for search marketers, as it’s reasonable to assume that the cost of acquiring customers, via keyword targeting, is rising as Google makes the marketing process of keyword targeting more expensive than it has been in the past. This trend is set to continue.

If the cost of customer acquisition is rising, it can make sense to look at optimizing the offer, the conversion rates and optimizing the value of existing customers.

Underlying Fundamentals

If you have something a lot of people desperately need, and there isn’t much competition, it typically doesn’t cost much to land those customers. They come to you. If you have something genuinely scarce, or even artificially scarce, people will line up.

The problem is that most businesses don’t enjoy such demand. They must compete with other businesses offering similar products and services. So, if there is a scarcity issue, it’s a scarcity of customers, not service and product providers.

However, by focusing on a specific niche, businesses can eliminate a lot of competition, and thereby reduce the marketing cost. For example, a furniture manufacturer could conceivably make furniture for a wide variety of customers, from commercial offices, to industry, to the home.

But if they narrowed their focus to, say, private jet fit-outs, they eliminate a lot of their competition. They’d also have to determine if that niche is lucrative, of course, but as you can see, it’s a way of eliminating a lot of competition simply by adding focus and specialization.

By specializing, they are more likely to enjoy higher quality leads – i.e. leads that may result in a sale – than if they targeted broadly, as it is difficult to be all things to all people The cost of marketing to a broad target market can be higher, as can the level of competition in the search results pages, and the quality of leads can be lower.

Conversion Optimization

Once we’re focused on our niche, and we’ve got targeted visitors coming in, how can we ensure fewer visitors are wasted?

Those who do a lot of PPC will be familiar with conversion optimization, and we’ll dive deep into this fascinating area over the coming weeks, but it’s a good concept for those new to SEO, and internet marketing in general, to keep at front of mind.

You’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get people to your site, so make sure they don’t click back once they arrive!

Here’s a great case study by a company called Conversion Rate Experts. It outlines how to structure pages to improve conversion rates. Whilst the findings are the result of testing and adaptation, and are specific to each business, there are a few few key lessons here:

Length of the page. In this case, a long page improved conversion rates by 30%. Of course, it’s not a numbers game, more the fact that the longer page allowed more time to address objections and answer visitor questions.

As Conversion Rate Experts point out:

The media would have us believe that people no longer have any capacity to concentrate. In reality, you cannot have a page that’s too long—only one that’s too boring. In the case of Crazy Egg’s home page, visitors wanted their many questions answered and that’s what we delivered. (If you’d like more people to scroll down your long pages, see the guide we wrote on the topic.)”

It’s best to experiment, to see what works best in your own situation, but, generally speaking, it pays to offer the visitor as much timely information as possible, as opposed to short copy if there is a analytical, need-oriented motivation. Short copy can work better if the customer is impulsive.

As we see in the Crazy Egg case study, by anticipating and addressing specific objections, and moving the customer closer to the point of sale, the webpage is doing the job of the salesperson. This is an area where SEO and PPC, linked with conversion rate optimization, can add a ton of value.

The second interesting point was they optimized the long-term value of the customer to the company by making a time-sensitive offer.

The one-time offer test illustrates another important principle of conversion optimization: Don’t let the fear of a short-term loss stand in the way of a long-term gain

The offer they made turned a short-term customer into a long-term customer. If we have a lot of long term customers on our books, it can take some of the pressure off the need to constantly acquire new customers.

Optimize Everything

We engage in SEO because there are many similar sites.

The benefit of SEO is we can occupy premium real estate. If we appear high on the search result pages, we are more likely than our competitors to command the customers attention. But we stand to gain a lot more stability if we are not wholly reliant on occupying the top spots, and therefore less vulnerable to Google’s whims.

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SEO Book.com

The Death of SEO [Infographic]

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Over the weekend Google did an update which continues their trend of diminishing the value of domain names in an SEO strategy as they “pump up the brand.”

In light of that, we thought it would be a good time to get out in front of the tired “Death of SEO” meme that is sure to appear once again in the coming weeks. 😉

The font size is somewhat small in the below image, but if you click through to the archived page you can see it in it’s full glorious size.

The Death of SEO.

Want to syndicate this infographic? Embed code is here. We also created a PDF version.

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SEO Book.com

10 Gifts for the Internet Marketer in Your Life

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10 Gifts for the Internet Marketer in Your Life was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Cyber Monday is behind us which puts us squarely in shopping season. If you’re wondering what to get your high-tech honey for the holiday, I’ve got 10 ideas for you. This gift guide was created with the Internet marketer in mind, a gadget lover, professional perfectionist, and big kid at heart.

Timothy Ferriss's The 4-Hour Chef

Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Chef

1. The 4-Hour Chef

First Tim Ferriss told us how to own the work week in four hours. Then he showed us how to dominate the body in four hours. And now his patented method comes to the kitchen. Is Ferriss pulling one over on us or has he found a formula to win anything you put your time toward?

The new four-hour wonder from productivity guru Tim Ferriss is The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life. Along with the steps to culinary competency, in this book Tim provides what we’ve wanted all along: a Meta process of skill mastery that can be applied to anything.

2. External Battery

For a gift with a practical application, give the gift of power. Battery power, that is. An external battery can be a lifesaver when away from a wall outlet. It’s one of those gifts that everyone can use but can seem hard to justify putting that disposable income toward. Yet the external battery offers peace of mind and geek cool factor in an age when we’re on the go with electronics in tow.

3. Toys

This collection of toys, in my opinion, sells short the creative set by labeling these gifts as for kids. At the very least, these make good gifts for marketers who like to do activities with their little ones. From a Tetris stackable LED lamp to a fuel cell car science kit to a retro Atari gaming console, kids of all ages will get a kick from this list. I’ll also let you in on my favorite educational toy/game/craft site, Fat Brain Toys, for when you want to give an experience and not just stuff.

4. Crafty Gifts from the Heart

Homemade gifts hit the sweet spot of thoughtfulness and budget conscious. A collection of DIY projects on Lifehacker will set your creative juices flowing, and with step-by-step directions, prove these crafts won’t be too time consuming or complicated. For my friends I’m considering making the phone car mount made from binder clips, a smoker made from a hot plate and flower pots, and magnets made from Instagrams.

Screenshot from World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Screenshot from World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

5. Video Games

Every winter holiday has a lineup of video games just waiting to be gifted to the impassioned gamer set. Gaming has its overlap with the Internet marketing community, so if you’re looking for a new challenge to entertain a gamer in your life, check out the “it” games of the 2012 Christmas season. The most anticipated games for PS3, XBOX 360, Wii and PC make up this list. Did you know the first major update to World of Warcraft since 2010 is out this year? And this one’s more SEO-relevant than ever as it features (could you ever guess!) a world of pandas.

6. Mobile Accessories

Your mobile device is practically an extension of yourself. Our choice of mobile and the bling we dress it up with is an expression of personality. If you think you know your recipient’s style, gifting a phone case or skin will be like wrapping their external brain in a colorful hug. Headphones, Bluetooth earpiece or speakers are accessories that will get constant use, and spark grateful thoughts of you whenever they’re used. And gloves that allow for touchscreen tact are cozy, warm and practical — a winning combination of qualities for gifts.

7. Chromebook and Tablets

You don’t have to break the bank to give the gift of a computer. Hello iPad mini! With the 16GB version at $ 329 you’re getting bang for your buck on a time-tested tablet. If you’re looking for a larger device, check out the thin and portable Samsung Chromebook for $ 249. It’s got a webcam and microphone so it’s all set up for video chatting. It’s got 16GB of local SSD storage and also comes with 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years, a $ 120 value. Aside from limitations of processing power, reviewers like the new Chromebook as a second computer option.

8. Facebook Gifts

Did you notice that the favorite social network took a step outside the virtual world and into the physical with Facebook Gifts? This isn’t the virtual flare from 2007 I’m talking about. This is real-world gift giving through the network. Not everyone’s profile is yet equipped with the option to give gifts, but Facebook’s working on it. Home goods, clothing and, of course, sweet treats are the kinds of gifts currently available, as well as digital gifts, like newly added iTunes credits.

9. Gangnam Style Stardom

I know I’m not the only one who would be delighted to see myself as the featured dancer in the Gangnam Style music video. Thank you JibJab. Years of elf-itizing the Internet population and this year you’ve outdone yourself. If the gift you seek to give is a warm-fuzzy smile, seeing oneself as Psy provides inexplicable joy. Heck, it’s free. Make one for everyone you know.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

10. SEOToolSet Trial

Sign up your Internet marketing friends for a 30-day free trial of our SEOToolSet and you may be introducing them to a gift that keeps on giving. These tools save time, deliver actionable data insights and make daily life on the job a little easier. Remember it’s free, so sign up co-workers, search industry friends and yourself if you haven’t yet seen what the fastest Ranking Monitor on the market is capable of.

Bruce Clay Blog

The Content Marketer’s Shortest Day: Inspirations to Let Content Be Your Light

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The Content Marketer’s Shortest Day: Inspirations to Let Content Be Your Light was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

On this Shortest Day of 2012, I am a sad observer watching the aftermath of last week’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. The winter solstice also known in the northern hemisphere as the darkest time of the year has special meaning for me. While we celebrate the days that will slowly start getting longer, we must also acknowledge the darkness in the world around us. The solstice is my time to do that.

My social channels are jammed with messages that make it clear:  people are trying to make sense of this dark tragedy by creating and sharing content. We are not new to national tragedy, but we are new to a world where the aftermath and reaction is no longer localized. Social networks and new media tools are now vehicles for anger, sadness, solidarity, insight and more. What happens next is the result of how we participate — through content.

Content with intent is, after all, what we seek to do in the business world. There is much to be learned from the imaginative ways people have responded commemorate those who were lost:

With these examples of people (ordinary to famous) using content for change, there are elements we can take forward into our content marketing strategies for the New Year:

#1 Question creation. Sometimes the most engaging content is best produced by your customers. In 2008 I was part of a team that launched the Cisco Learning Network, a social learning resource for IT professionals pursuing Cisco certification. People worldwide signed up and their enthusiasm created a community for information and peer-to-peer education. We also seeded the community with original and technical learning content and hand-curated IT career information. But the peer-to-peer element made the site sticky and created brand loyalty. The community is now more than 500,000 members. Can you give your brand enthusiasts a stake in your content creation process?

#2 Human touch. Content is king because of the human touch. Content that you curate and publish should in some way carry your company’s perspective on why the information is important. If you’re a B2B company, make the information an integral resource your customer can use in his workday and you’ll reap the benefits. Brands are becoming publishers in part because customers are looking (and searching too, of course!) for content that helps them make buying decisions or informs. Content is your tool to assist them in the process. It’s no surprise that companies like Coca Cola are publicly declaring a shift from “creative excellence to content excellence.” Help your customers make sense of the industry around them.

#3 Filtered or curated? Both matter tremendously. In 2010 Gwen Bell predicted that the need for filtering technology would rise in the next 5-10 years. It’s happening even sooner than that. As brands become publishers, they do so in a realm where a Facebook “Like” = consent. Of course, that’s changing.  Like filtering, curation also reduces the overall volume of content but to instead include it in a mix. Both challenge marketers who must often compromise by investing in certain content channels (social networks, for example) and not others. Fresh (recent) content, new perspectives and original thought are the qualities that keep content value high, be it curated or original.

#4 Thought leadership. It’s not just for breakfast anymore. Thought leadership can be built from a compelling mix of original and curated content. More content increases the likelihood of SEO-positive audience engagement. The technologies you need to create your content mix are out there! LinkedIn’s recent launch of its Thought Leaders Program is a great example of a brand starting to publish as a way to engage its 187 million members in 200 countries. Their challenge is a double edged sword of opportunity (content attracts) and challenge (many industries are present in the LinkedIn network).

#5 Create collaboratively. More is in fact, merrier. Positive expression can be contagious. This summer, I participated in a flash mob convened by a local dance studio. The purpose? Just have fun. No marketing fliers or promotional materials, just joy — as much as we could muster for a bustling Saturday farmer’s market. We danced for 5 minutes to choreography and music curated from the instructors. Classes leading up to the event were practice embedded right into the product. In a recent article, David Cooperstein shared some interesting ideas about pushing digital into the physical realm. Does your industry offer an annual tradeshow where people gather in person? Who can you invite to collaborate to craft a memorable experience?

Wishing peace, healing and the return of the light upon those reading, grieving, creating and participating in the human experience as the wheel of the year turns.

Bruce Clay Blog

December Mozscape Index is Live!

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Posted by carinoverturf

Happy Holidays!! The December Mozscape index is now live! The latest index has just been released and you will see fresh Mozscape data in Open Site Explorer, the MozbarPRO campaigns, and the Mozscape API.

The Big Data team was hoping to provide a special holiday treat launching two indices in one month again, but, unfortunately processing was bitten by a full machine failure. We've had really good luck running Mozscape processing on the larger, high compute AWS machines, but, sadly, just a few days before the index was complete, an entire computing machine failed which forced us to have to re-run a few steps. Even with the failure, the December index is a few days earlier than our scheduled release date on December 27th – a pre-holiday treat for everyone!

In even bigger Big Data news – our private cloud is fully up and running in Virginia and we are about 25% done with our first production ready index! If all goes well, we'll be releasing the first Mozscape index created in our own private cloud in mid-January. What a way to bring in the new year!

Here are the metrics for this latest index:

  • 78,671,787,078 (78 billion) URLs
  • 687,827,137 (687 million) Subdomains
  • 136,539,340 (136 million) Root Domains
  • 917,094,026,686 (917 billion) Links
  • Followed vs. Nofollowed
    • 2.32% of all links found were nofollowed
    • 56.69% of nofollowed links are internal
    • 43.31% are external
  • Rel Canonical – 14.07% of all pages now employ a rel=canonical tag
  • The average page has 72 links on it
    •  61.38 internal links on average
    •  10.45 external links on average

And the following correlations with Google's US search results:

  • Page Authority – 0.36
  • Domain Authority – 0.19
  • MozRank – 0.24
  • Linking Root Domains – 0.30
  • Total Links – 0.25
  • External Links – 0.29

The histogram for the freshness of the index's crawl data shows a pretty high volume of fresh crawl data coming from middle of November. This index will have data ranging as old as the end of October, but a large volume of the data was crawled from the middle to end of November. 

We'll be keeping an eye on things over the holiday, so send us your feedback – we always love to hear your thoughts! And remember, if you're ever curious about when Mozscape is updating, you can check the calendar here. We also maintain a list of previous index updates with metrics here.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Persuasion Optimization

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There are many ways to optimize.

We optimize to align a site with search engine algorithms in order to gain higher rankings, which, in turn, leads to visitor traffic. Other forms of optimization occur after the visitor has landed on our pages.

One such optimization is called persuasion optimization.

After going to the effort of getting a visitor to land on our pages, the last thing we want them to do is to click back. We want them to read and act upon our messages.

There Are Many Ways To Persuade

Robert Cialdini, a Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, identified six categories into which persuasion techniques commonly fall: reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity.

We can use these techniques to optimize both our content and site design so that visitors are more likely to stay on our pages, and more likely to convert to desired action.

Whilst these techniques could be seen as being manipulative, it depends how they’re used. If used in good faith, they’re a natural part of the ritual involved in selling people on our point of view. On the other hand, being aware of these techniques makes them easy to spot if used against us!

1. Reciprocity

Reciprocity is when we give something to someone, and they return the favour. The act of reciprocity is so ingrained in our culture, it can occur whether the person asked for the favor or not, and whether the people involved previously knew each other, or not.

Reciprocity creates an obligation.

Examine your offer to see if you can give something of real value away. For example, some information product vendors give away large chunks of the product, or long trials. People may reciprocate by paying for the remaining sections or full product. They may have been less likely to do so if the vendor gave less value up front. Think about what you can do for your audience, rather than the other way around.

Another way of thinking about reciprocity is to provide a concession. If you concede something small, but do so early, the other party may feel obligated to concede something greater later on.

For example, ask for something significant. When this is turned down, ask for something moderate – the moderate request being what you wanted all along. The second request is more likely to be accepted as it appears you’ve already made a concession, so the other party feels obligated to do likewise.

2. Commitment and Consistency

People like people to be consistent.

People who lack consistency can be seen as untrustworthy or disorganized. If we’re consistent, it reduces complexity, because other people don’t have to re-evaluate us each time they need to make a decision about us. They merely need to remain consistent with their previous evaluation of us, and their previous decision. If we start acting differently, it forces a re-evaluation.

The same goes for websites.

Look for areas of your website where the messages may conflict. This could be as obvious as a mistake in the copy about the offer, or as subtle as a change in tone of voice. Each page should flow from one to the next in a consistent manner, using consistent tone and design, and the message should not contradict, or wander off on unexpected tangents.

There are exceptions of course. If you’re trying to shock people, or draw attention to something out of the ordinary, then playing against consistency can work. However, consistency would have to have been established first, before it’s possible to successfully play against it.

3. Social Proof

Does your site show evidence that other people find it valuable? Examples may include testimonials, reviews, and associations.

Social proof helps establish trust quickly by leveraging existing trust relationships. If someone trusts those associations you cite – say, “As seen in the New York Times” – or is merely inclined to trust the crowd over their own judgement, then the path of least resistance is to trust you, too.

Establishing trust quickly is critical online, because it’s easy for the user to click back, so social proof can be a very powerful technique.

It’s also easy to get wrong, as to can look contrived. People are most likely to be persuaded by social proof if the person or entity providing the proof is a known authority. Who does your audience already know and trust? Some sites make the mistake of using testimonials from non-entities.

4. Liking

People like to do business with those they like.

Attractive people, rightly or wrongly, can be persuasive, as others tend to assign them positive traits. At a base level, the use of physically attractive male and female models is a staple of the advertising industry. At a higher level, people respond to people who are like them. The attraction is based on similarity.

In terms of web marketing, your level of “likeability” will very much depend on the audience. A
site selling fashion is likely to be aspirational i.e. less like the actual audience, but exhibiting attractive traits to which the audience aspires. A site selling technical solutions will likely focus on familiarity and affinity. A site about weighty subjects will likely convey intellectualism. It’s all a way of mirroring the audience, either literally who they are or how they perceive they are, in order to be liked.

Another aspect of liking is association. Look at ways you can associate yourself with entities or people you visitors already like. Common tactics include aligning your site with a charity, celebrity or industry event.

5. Authority

People often respond to authority figures.

“Correct conduct” is a response to authority figures. For example, the “white hat/black hat” positioning in SEO is defined by an authority figure, in this case, the search engine and their representatives.

Authority on websites can be conveyed using symbols, qualifications and associations. However, these days, people tend to more cynical of authority than in times past. They will likely question authority by wanting to see evidence of claims made, and try to establish if the person telling them the information is trustworthy.

Does your site offer evidence and proof of your claims?

6. Scarcity

We tend to undervalue what is plentiful, and overvalue what is scarce.

An overt use of this tactic is to create artificial scarcity, particularly in the frauduct world. For example, I’m sure you’ve seen aggressive marketers claiming there are only so many places/products left, in an attempt to make you perceive scarcity, so you’re more inclined to act impulsively.

Cialdini notes:

“According to psychological reactance theory, people respond to the loss of freedom by wanting to have it more. This includes the freedom to have certain goods and services. As a motivator, psychological reactance is present throughout the great majority of a person’s life span. However, it is especially evident at a pair of ages: “the terrible twos” and the teenage years. Both of these periods are characterized by an emerging sense of individuality, which brings to prominence such issues as control, individual rights, and freedoms. People at these ages are especially sensitive to restrictions”.

People are most attracted to scarcity when they are newly scare i.e. they haven’t always been scarce, and secondly, when other people are competing for the same resources. In terms of a website, these two concepts could be combined. Time is both running out, and demand has been overwhelming. This is also a form of social proof, of course.

Summary

Seth Godin said “All Marketers Are Liars”

There are elements of manipulation and story-telling in marketing, and no doubt you can see these concepts in some of the worst examples of web marketing. But they also exist in some of the best. And no doubt we all use some of these techniques, possibly unknowingly, in our everyday lives.

These ideas can be very powerful when combined on a website. Try evaluating your competitors against each of the six categories. Have they used them well? Overused them? Then audit your own site, experiment and track changes.

A little effort spent on persuasion can go a long way to maximizing the value of the traffic you have already won.

Categories: 

SEO Book.com

Scroogled: The SEO Benefits of Bad-Mouthing a Competitor

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Scroogled: The SEO Benefits of Bad-Mouthing a Competitor was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

A couple weeks ago, Bing began running their “Scroogled” campaign in “an attempt to tell people not to get screwed over by Google this holiday shopping season”. Or in reality, a new way to draw attention to themselves by calling out their largest competitor.

While I’m not going to get into the merits of spending thousands of dollars on a hypocritical ad campaign, I will say this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a company do this and it certainly won’t be the last. So why not look at the positive side? Results!

When it comes to bad-mouthing competitors, one of the biggest benefits is the boost to your company’s SEO efforts through links & SERP real estate.

Links & Mentions

People love talking about controversy. It makes good news and don’t we all enjoy watching two giant companies battle it out? At the end of the day, controversy drives mentions and it drives links.

If we take a look at the Bing campaign, there are currently over 1,000 news stories listed in Google News and over 17,000 mentions on Twitter alone. The biggest thing to note is people are talking about the Scroogled campaign and Bing itself.

Scroogled Mentions

On top of that, many articles are featuring the video ad and even more are linking to the “Scroogled” microsite.

Scroogled Links

The site didn’t exist 30 days ago and now it has a good number of links from authority sites. Not bad, Bing.

SERP Real Estate

Over the past 18 months, GoDaddy has had its share of PR disasters. From the elephant shooting video to the company’s support of SOPA, the Internet has been none too kind to GoDaddy. Neither have their competitors.

While many competitors jumped to declare their stance on the issues, NameCheap took a different route, publicly calling out GoDaddy, offering discounts for domain transfers, and during the elephant debacle, donating $ 1 to Save the Elephants for every domain transferred from GoDaddy to NameCheap. The story was picked up everywhere, especially after 20,000 domains were transferred.

By calling out GoDaddy, NameCheap not only garnered mentions and links, but they were able to grab some real estate in the search results for the GoDaddy brand name. One year later, when you search NameCheap, you still see them being associated with GoDaddy in the related searches and competitive searches:

Namecheap vs Godaddy

Gaining search share against a major competitor can be next to impossible but by calling out GoDaddy and taking advantage of their errors, NameCheap was able to do just that.

So there you have it. Bad-mouthing a competitor may be bad for business but it can be great for SEO. The next time you’re struggling to come up with a link building strategy, look no further than the competitor you like the least.

Note: The author of this post does not condone bad-mouthing competitors for the sake of SEO. Happy Holidays!

Bruce Clay Blog

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