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No Effort Longtail SEO Revenues, from FindTheBest

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In our infographic about the sausage factory that is online journalism, we had a throw away line about how companies were partnering with FindTheBest to auto-generate subdomains full of recycled content. Apparently, a person named Brandon who claims to work for FindTheBest didn’t think our information was accurate:

Hi Aaron,
My name is Brandon. I have been with FindTheBest since 2010 (right after our launch), and I am really bummed you posted this Infographic without reaching out to our team. We don’t scrape data. We have a 40 person+ product team that works very closely with manufacturers, companies, and professionals to create useful information in a free and fair playing field. We some times use whole government databases, but it takes hundreds-of-thousands of hours to produce this content. We have a product manager that owns up to all the content in their vertical and takes the creation and maintenance very seriously. If you have any questions for them about how a piece of content was created, you should go to our team page and shoot them a email. Users can edit almost any listing, and we spend a ton of time approving or rejecting those edits. We do work with large publishers (something I am really proud of), but we certainly do not publish the same exact content. We allow the publishers to customize and edit the data presentation (look, style, feel) but since the majority of the content we produce is the factual data, it probably does look a little similar. Should we change the data? Should we not share our awesome content with as many users as possible? Not sure I can trust the rest of your “facts”, but great graphics!

I thought it was only fair that we aired his view on the main blog.

…but then that got me into doing a bit of research about FindTheBest…

In the past when searching for an issue related to our TV I saw a SERP that looked like this

Those mashed sites were subdomains on trusted sites like VentureBeat & TechCrunch.

Graphically the comparison pages appear appealing, but how strong is the editorial?

How does Find The Best describe their offering?

In a VentureBeat post (a FindTheBest content syndication partner) FTB’s CEO Kevin O’Connor was quoted as saying: “‘Human’ is dirty — it’s not scalable.”

Hmm. Is that a counter view to the above claimed 40 person editorial research team? Let’s dig in.

Looking at the top listed categories on the homepage of Find The best I counted 497 different verticals. So at 40 people on the editorial team that would mean that each person managed a dozen different verticals (if one doesn’t count all the outreach and partnership buildings as part of editorial & one ignores the parallel sites for death records, grave locations, find the coupons, find the company & find the listing).

Google shows that they have indexed 35,000,000 pages from FindTheBest.com, so this would mean each employee has “curated” about 800,000 pages (which is at least 200,000 pages a year over the past 4 years). Assuming they work 200 days a year that means they ensure curation of at least 1,000 “high quality” pages per day (and this is just the stuff in Google’s index on the main site…not including the stuff that is yet to be indexed, stuff indexed on 3rd party websites, or stuff indexed on FindTheCompanies.com, FindTheCoupons.com, FindTheListing, FindTheBest.es, FindTheBest.or.kr, or the death records or grave location sites).

Maybe I am still wrong to consider it a bulk scrape job. After all, it is not unreasonable to expect that a single person can edit 5,000 pages of high quality content daily.

Errr….then again…how many pages can you edit in a day?

Where they lost me though was with the “facts” angle. Speaking of not trusting the rest of “facts” … how crappy is the business information for SEO Book on FindTheBest that mentions that our site launched in 2011, we have $ 58,000 in sales, and we are a book wholesaler.

I realize I am afforded the opportunity to work for free to fix the errors of the scrape job, but if a page is full of automated incorrect trash then maybe it shouldn’t exist in the first place.

I am not saying that all pages on these sites are trash (some may be genuinely helpful), but I know if I automated content to the extent FTB does & then mass email other sites for syndication partnerships on the duplicate content (often full of incorrect information) that Google would have burned it to the ground already. They likely benefit from their CEO having sold DoubleClick to Google in the past & are exempt from the guidelines & editorial discrimination that the independent webmaster must deal with.

One of the ways you can tell if a company really cares about their product is by seeing if they dogfood it themselves.

Out of curiousity, I looked up FindTheBest on their FindTheCompany site.

They double-list themselves and neither profile is filled out.

That is like having 2 sentence of text on your “about us” page surrounded by 3 AdSense blocks. 😀

I think they should worry about fixing the grotesque errors before worrying about “sharing with as many people as possible” but maybe I am just old fashioned.

Certainly they took a different approach … one that I am sure that would get me burned if I tried it. An example sampling of some partner sites…

  • accountants.entrepreneur.com
  • acronyms.sciencedaily.com
  • alternative-fuel.cleantechnica.com
  • analytics-software.businessknowhow.com
  • antivirus.betanews.com
  • apps.edudemic.com
  • atvs.agriculture.com
  • autopedia.com/TireSchool/
  • autos.nydailynews.com
  • backup-software.venturebeat.com
  • bags.golfdigest.com
  • beer.womenshealthmag.com
  • best-run-states.247wallst.com
  • bestcolleges.collegenews.com
  • bikes.cxmagazine.com
  • bikes.triathlete.com
  • birds.findthelisting.com
  • birth-control.shape.com
  • brands.goodguide.com
  • breast-pumps.parenting.com
  • broker-dealers.minyanville.com
  • businessschools.college-scholarships.com
  • camcorders.techcrunch.com
  • cars.pricequotes.com
  • cats.petharbor.com
  • catskiing.tetongravity.com
  • chemical-elements.sciencedaily.com
  • comets-astroids.sciencedaily.com
  • companies.findthecompany.com
  • companies.goodguide.com
  • compare-video-editing-software.burnworld.com
  • compare.consumerbell.com
  • compare.guns.com
  • compare.roadcyclinguk.com
  • comparemotorbikes.motorbike-search-engine.co.uk
  • congressional-lookup.nationaljournal.com
  • courses.golfdigest.com
  • crm.venturebeat.com
  • cyclocross-bikes.cyclingdirt.org
  • dealers.gundigest.com
  • death-record.com
  • debt.humanevents.com
  • design-software.underworldmagazines.com
  • destination-finder.fishtrack.com
  • diet-programs.shape.com
  • digital-cameras.techcrunch.com
  • dinosaurs.sciencedaily.com
  • dirt-bikes.cycleworld.com
  • dogbreeds.petmd.com
  • dogs.petharbor.com
  • donors.csmonitor.com
  • e-readers.techcrunch.com
  • earmarks.humanevents.com
  • earthquakes.sciencedaily.com
  • ehr-software.technewsworld.com
  • fallacies.sciencedaily.com
  • fec-candidates.theblaze.com
  • fec-committees.theblaze.com
  • federal-debt.nationaljournal.com
  • fha-condos.realtor.org
  • fha.nuwireinvestor.com
  • financial-advisors.minyanville.com
  • findthebest.com
  • findthebest.motorcycleshows.com
  • findthecoupons.com
  • findthedata.com
  • firms.privateequity.com
  • franchises.fastfood.com
  • ftb.cebotics.com
  • game-consoles.tecca.com
  • game-consoles.venturebeat.com
  • gin.drinkhacker.com
  • golf-courses.bunkershot.com
  • gps-navigation.techcrunch.com
  • gps-navigation.venturebeat.com
  • green-cars.cleantechnica.com
  • guns.dailycaller.com
  • ham-radio.radiotower.com
  • hdtv.techcrunch.com
  • hdtv.venturebeat.com
  • headphones.techcrunch.com
  • headphones.venturebeat.com
  • high-chairs.parenting.com
  • highest-mountains.sciencedaily.com
  • hiv-stats.realclearworld.com
  • horsebreeds.petmd.com
  • hospital-ratings.lifescript.com
  • hr-jobs.findthelistings.com
  • inventors.sciencedaily.com
  • investment-advisors.minyanville.com
  • investment-banks.minyanville.com
  • iv-housing.dailynexus.com
  • laptops.mobiletechreview.com
  • laptops.techcrunch.com
  • laptops.venturebeat.com
  • lawschool.lawschoolexpert.com
  • locategrave.org
  • mammography-screening-centers.lifescript.com
  • mba-programs.dealbreaker.com
  • medigap-policies.findthedata.org
  • military-branches.nationaljournal.com
  • motorcycles.cycleworld.com
  • mountain-bikes.outsideonline.com
  • nannies.com
  • nobel-prize-winners.sciencedaily.com
  • nursing-homes.caregiverlist.com
  • nursing-homes.silvercensus.com
  • onlinecolleges.collegenews.com
  • phones.androidauthority.com
  • pickups.agriculture.com
  • planets.realclearscience.com
  • planets.sciencedaily.com
  • plants.backyardgardener.com
  • presidential-candidates.theblaze.com
  • presidents.nationaljournal.com
  • privateschools.parentinginformed.com
  • processors.betanews.com
  • project-management-software.venturebeat.com
  • projectors.techcrunch.com
  • pushcarts.golfdigest.com
  • recovery-and-reinvestment-act.theblaze.com
  • religions.theblaze.com
  • reviews.creditcardadvice.com
  • saving-accounts.bankingadvice.com
  • sb-marinas.noozhawk.com
  • sb-nonprofits.noozhawk.com
  • scheduling-software.venturebeat.com
  • scholarships.savingforcollege.com
  • schools.nycprivateschoolsblog.com
  • scooters.cycleworld.com
  • smartphones.techcrunch.com
  • smartphones.venturebeat.com
  • solarpanels.motherearthnews.com
  • sports-drinks.flotrack.org
  • stables.thehorse.com
  • state-economic-facts.nationaljournal.com
  • steppers.shape.com
  • strollers.parenting.com
  • supplements.womenshealthmag.com
  • tablets.androidauthority.com
  • tablets.techcrunch.com
  • tablets.venturebeat.com
  • tabletsandstuff.com/tablet-comparison-chart
  • tallest-buildings.sciencedaily.com
  • technology.searchenginewatch.com
  • telescopes.universetoday.com
  • tequila.proof66.com
  • texas-golf-courses.texasoutside.com
  • tires.agriculture.com
  • tractors.agriculture.com
  • tsunamies.sciencedaily.com
  • us-hurricanes.sciencedaily.com
  • video-cameras.venturebeat.com
  • volcanic-eruptions.com
  • waterheaters.motherearthnews.com
  • wetsuits.swellinfo.com
  • whiskey.cocktailenthusiast.com
  • whiskey.drinkoftheweek.com
  • white-house-visitors.theblaze.com
  • wineries.womenshealthmag.com



we have seen search results where a search engine didn’t robots.txt something out, or somebody takes a cookie cutter affiliate feed, they just warm it up and slap it out, there is no value add, there is no original content there and they say search results or some comparison shopping sites don’t put a lot of work into making it a useful site. They don’t add value. – Matt Cutts

That syndication partnership network also explains part of how FTB is able to get so many pages indexed by Google, as each of those syndication sources is linking back at FTB on (what I believe to be) every single page of the subdomains, and many of these subdomains are linked to from sitewide sidebar or footer links on the PR7 & PR8 tech blogs.

And so the PageRank shall flow 😉

Hundreds of thousands of hours (eg 200,000+) for 40 people is 5,000 hours per person. Considering that there are an average of 2,000 hours per work year, this would imply each employee spent 2.5 full years of work on this single aspect of the job. And that is if one ignores the (hundreds of?) millions of content pages on other sites.

How does TechCrunch describe the FTB partnership?

Here’s one reason to be excited: In its own small way, it combats the recent flood of crappy infographics. Most TechCrunch writers hate the infographics that show up in our inboxes— not because infographics have to be terrible, but because they’re often created by firms that are biased, have little expertise in the subject of the infographic, or both, so they pull random data from random sources to make their point.

Get that folks? TechCrunch hosting automated subdomains of syndicated content means less bad infographics. And more cat lives saved. Or something like that.

How does FTB describe this opportunity for publishers?

The gadget comparisons we built for TechCrunch are sticky and interactive resources comprised of thousands of SEO optimized pages. They help over 1 million visitors per month make informed decisions by providing accurate, clear and useful data.

SEO optimized pages? Hmm.

Your comparisons will include thousands of long-tail keywords and question/answer pages to ensure traffic is driven by a number of different search queries. Our proprietary Data Content Platform uses a mesh linking structure that maximizes the amount of pages indexed by search engines. Each month—mainly through organic search—our comparisons add millions of unique visitors to our partner’s websites.

Thousands of long-tail keyord & QnA pages? Mesh linking structure? Hmm.

If we expand the “view more” section at the footer of the page, what do we find?

Holy Batman.

Sorry that font is so small, the text needed reduced multiple sizes in order to fit on my extra large monitor, and then reduced again to fit the width of our blog.

Each listing in a comparison has a number of associated questions created around the data we collect.

For example, we collect data on the battery life of the Apple iPad.

An algorithm creates the question “How long does the Apple iPad tablet battery last?” and answers it

So now we have bots asking themselves questions that they answer themselves & then stuffing that in the index as content?

Yeah, sounds like human-driven editorial.

After all, it’s not like there are placeholder tokens on the auto-generated stuff

{parent_field}

Ooops.

Looks like I was wrong on that.

And automated “popular searches” pages? Nice!

As outrageous as the above is, they include undisclosed affiliate links in the content, and provided badge-based “awards” for things like the best casual dating sites, to help build links into their site.

That in turn led to them getting a bunch of porn backlinks.

If you submit an article to an article directory and someone else picks it up & posts it to a sketchy site you are a link spammer responsible for the actions of a third party.

But if you rate the best casual dating sites and get spammy porn links you are wonderful.

Content farming never really goes away. It only becomes more corporate.

Categories: 

SEO Book

Happy April Fool’s Day from Google

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Happy April Fool’s Day from Google was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

It’s April Fool’s Day and that means that the Google team has been very busy planning pranks. For more than a decade, Google has been making millions laugh with fictitious products, fake announcements and make-believe services, bringing laughs to the Web every April 1st.

Among today’s gags, Google debuted Google Nose, which enables Google user to search … for smells! Google proclaims that their flagship smell search boasts a “mobile aroma indexing program has been able to amass a 15 million scentibyte database from around the world.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 12.59.10 AM

Shiver me timbers! Google Maps introduces Treasure Mode, ye mateys.

Google Maps now features Treasure Mode. After discovering a 315-year-old pirate treasure map, Google has digitized the map so searchers can “work together to decipher the clues to Captain Kidd’s buried secrets.”

Instead of searching for hot searches on Google Trends, you can search for cold searches, like ” Y2K,” “prom scrunchies” or “step-by-step Macarena.”

Then there’s Gmail Blue. This revelatory version of Gmail features—wait for it—buttons, text, lines and even the background all in blue. Engineers explain “the inspiration of Blue came from nature. Ocean, sky, blue whales. A blue that was reminiscent of nature, but better than what nature created.”

The Google team was “faced with the challenge: how do we completely redesign and recreate something while keeping it exactly the same? The answer is Gmail Blue …  It’s Gmail, only bluer.”

antoine

YouTube stars like Antoine Dodson are featured in today’s April 1st prank video announcing the end of YouTube.

And did you know today is YouTube’s last day accepting entries? YouTube (owned by trickster Google) has actually just been an eight-year contest searching after the best video ever. The competition ends tonight. YouTube released a video announcing its end, featuring some of YouTube’s greatest stars.  A staff of 30,000 technicians will review all the videos amassed over the better part of a decade. YouTube will return in 2023, when the winning video will be revealed … and will be the sole video on YouTube.

Need a little laughter in your day-to-day communications? That’s why Google came up with Google Levity. The levity algorithm optimizes content and visuals to be more appealing and fun, utilizing a repository of 50 years of comedic material from Chicago’s renowned improv group, The Second City. Drafting an email entitled “HR Memo?” Google Levity changes the title to “The New Hotness.”

emoticon

Erik Murphy-Chutney’s Google+ photo, as optimized with emoticons for photos.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is an emoticon worth? And moreover, what is the value of a picture and an emoticon—combined? No need to wonder anymore, because Google+ has added emoticons to photos.

Need Google Fiber on the go? Google has a solution. Today, they have announced Google Fiber Poles. Google Fiber technology can now be found in utility poles. Pull up, plug in and download at Google Fiber speeds. Google Fiber isn’t just for the home anymore.

And in the Googler Spotlight, a new technology has been revealed: self-writing code. That’s right. Self-writing code.

A look back … 

Google began play April Fool’s jokes in 2000, and it’s a tradition they’ve kept up every year (except 2001 and 2003). Here is a history of Google‘s gags:

Kangaroo with head camera

Last year, one of Google’s fictitious rollouts was “Google Street Roo” which equipped kangaroos with cameras in an effort to document the Outback through the eyes of a kangaroo.

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2002

2000

Bruce Clay Blog

How to Free Your E-Commerce Site from Google’s Panda

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On Feb. 25, 2011, Google released Panda to wreak havoc on the web. While it may have been designed to take out content farms, it also took out scores of quality e-commerce sites. What do content farms and e-commerce sites have in common? Lots of pages. Many with zero or very few links. And on e-commerce sites with hundreds or thousands of products, the product pages may have a low quantity of content, making them appear as duplicate, low quality, or shallow to the Panda, thus a target for massive devaluation.

My e-commerce site was hit by Panda, causing a 60% drop in traffic overnight. But I was able to escape after many months of testing content and design changes. In this post, I’ll explain how we beat the Panda, and what you can do to get your site out if you’ve been hit.

The key to freeing your e-commerce site from Panda lies at the bottom of a post Google provided as guidance to Pandalized sites:

One other specific piece of guidance we’ve offered is that low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.

Panda doesn’t like what it thinks are “low quality” pages, and that includes “shallow pages”. Many larger e-commerce sites, and likely all of those that were hit by Panda, have a high number of product pages with either duplicate bits of descriptions or short descriptions, leading to the shallow pages label. In order to escape from the Panda devaluation, you’ll need to do something about that. Here are a few possible solutions:

Adding Content To Product Pages

If your site has a relatively small number of products, or if each product is unique enough to support entirely different descriptions and information, you may be able to thicken up the pages with unique, useful information. Product reviews can also serve the same purpose, but if your site is already hit by Panda you may not have the customers to leave enough reviews to make a difference. Additionally, some product types are such that customers are unlikely to leave reviews.

If you can add unique and useful information to each of your product pages, you should do so both to satisfy the Panda and your customers. It’s a win-win.

Using Variations To Decrease Product Pages

Some e-commerce sites have large numbers of products with slight variations. For example, if you’re selling t-shirts you may have one design in 5 different sizes and 10 different colors. If you’ve got 20 designs, you’ve got 1,000 unique products. However, it would be impossible to write 1,000 unique descriptions. At best, you’ll be able to write one for each design, or a total of 20. If your e-commerce site is set up so that each of the product variations has a single page, Panda isn’t going to like that. You’ve either got near 1,000 pages that look like duplicates, or you’ve got near 1,000 pages that look VERY shallow.

Many shopping carts allow for products to have variations, such that in the above situation you can have 20 product pages where a user can select size and color variations for each design. Switching to such a structure will probably cause the Panda to leave you alone and make shopping easier for your customers.

Removing Poor Performing Products

If your products aren’t sufficiently unique to add substantial content to each one, and they also don’t lend themselves to consolidation through selectable variations, you might consider deleting any that haven’t sold well historically. Panda doesn’t like too many pages. So if you’ve got pages that have never produced income, it’s time to remove them from your site.

Getting Rid of All Product Pages

This is a bold step, but the one we were forced to take in order to recover. A great many of our products are very similar. They’re variations of each other. But due to the limitations of our shopping cart combined with shipping issues, where each variation had different shipping costs that couldn’t be programed into the variations, it was the only viable choice we were left with.

In this option, you redesign your site so that products displayed on category pages are no longer clickable, removing links to all product pages. The information that was displayed on product pages gets moved to your category pages. Not only does this eliminate your product pages, which make up the vast majority of your site, but it also adds content to your category pages. Rather than having an “add to cart” or “buy now” button on the product page, it’s integrated into the category page right next to the product.

Making this move reduced our page count by nearly 90%. Our category pages became thicker, and we no longer had any shallow pages. A side benefit of this method is that customers have to make fewer clicks to purchase a product. And if your customers tend to purchase multiple products with each order, they avoid having to go from category page to product page, back to the category page, and into another product page. They can simply purchase a number of products with single clicks.

Noindexing Product Pages

If you do get rid of all links to your product pages but your cart is still generating them, you’ll want to add a “noindex, follow” tag to each of them. This can also be a solution for e-commerce sites where all traffic enters on category level pages rather than product pages. If you know your customers are searching for phrases that you target on your category pages, and not specifically searching for the products you sell, you can simply noindex all of your product pages with no loss in traffic.

If all of your products are in a specific folder, I’d recommend also disallowing that folder from Googlebot in your robots.txt file, and filing a removal request in Google Webmaster Tools, in order to make sure the pages are taken out of the index.

Other Considerations: Pagination & Search Results Pages

In addition to issues with singular product pages, your e-commerce site may have duplicate content issues or a very large number of similar pages in the index due to your on-site search and sorting features. Googlebot will fill in your search form and index your search results pages, potentially leading to thousands of similar pages in the index. Make sure your search results pages have a rel=”noindex, follow” tag or a rel=”canonical” tag to take care of this. Similarly, if your product pages have a variety of sorting options (price, best selling, etc.), you should make sure the rel=”canonical” tag points to the default page as the canonical version. Otherwise, each product page may exist in Google’s index in each variation.


Maxmoritz, a long time member of our SEO Community, has been working in SEO full time since 2005. He runs a variety of sites, including Hungry Piranha, where he blogs regularly.

Categories: 

SEO Book.com

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.

Categories: 

SEO Book.com

Business Lessons From Pumpkin Hackers

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Working nine to five can suck.

You might be working for a boss who is an idiot. You know he makes stupid decisions. When he’s off making yet another stupid decision, it’s you left doing all the work. As for job security – that’s a joke these days. He can fire you on a whim.

So why not cut out the weak link? Why not go into business for yourself?

The reality, of course, is that starting a business isn’t as easy as saying it. You’ll likely work longer hours, for less money, and there are no guarantees. While your friends are looking forward to the weekend, you might not see a weekend for a while. Most small businesses fail in their first five years, taking dreams and savings along with them.

Everything has a downside.

However, many businesses not only survive, they prosper. They make their founders wealthy. Even if they don’t make fortunes, they can provide lifestyle benefits that are near impossible to achieve with a regular job. There’s a lot to be said for being the master of your own destiny.

To achieve that, it’s best to start with some good advice.

Makin’ Mistakes

I’ve been running my own small business for a decade now. Whilst it’s been rewarding, and I achieved the goals I set for myself, there has also been a fair few missed opportunities and inevitable wrong turns. I jumped in blind, and like many in the search marketing industry, pretty much made it up as I went along.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But I wished I had understood a few fundamental truths first. I wished someone had imparted some profound wisdom, and I wished I had been smart enough to listen. Come to think of it – they did, and I wasn’t.

Such is life.

I’m in the process of setting new goals for the next few years. I’m restructuring. So I decided to reflect on the past, examine the good and the bad, and try to do more of the former, and less of the latter.

One of the problems I identified was that I was spreading myself way too thin over many projects. I have a *lot* of sites. I have domains I’d even forgotten I owned. I have domain names I keep renewing, vowing to do something with one day, yet never getting around to it.

In short, I was growing an awful lot of small pumpkins.

Getting The Fundamentals Right

I’ve decided to ditch almost all of what I have been doing in the past, and focus on a very narrow range of activities, one of which is working with Aaron on SEOBook.

One book I really wish I’d read when I was starting out – had it been available, which it wasn’t – is called “The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy To Grow A Remarkable Business“. I’d like to share the central theme of the book with you, because I think it’s a great lesson if you’re thinking of starting a business, or, like me, optimizing an existing one.

It’s the lesson I wished I’d understood when I started. I certainly hope it’s of help to someone else :)

If You Want To Prosper, Learn To Grow Pumpkins

There are geek farmers who obsess about growing huge pumpkins. They are the hackers of the vegetable world. In order to grow a huge pumpkin – weighing half a ton or more – you can’t just throw seeds on the ground. You can’t grow a whole lot of pumpkins and hope one of them turns out to be huge.

You’ve got to follow a process.

And here it is:

  • Step One: Plant promising seeds
  • Step Two: Water, water, water
  • Step Three: As they grow, routinely remove all of the diseased or damaged pumpkins
  • Step Four: Weed like a mad dog. Not a single green leaf or root permitted if it isn’t a pumpkin plant
  • Step Five: When they grow larger, identify the stronger faster growing pumpkins. Then, remove all the less promising pumpkins. Repeat until you have one pumpkin on each vine.
  • Step Six: Focus all of your attention on the big pumpkin. Nurture it around the clock like a baby and guard it like you would your first Mustang convertible
  • Step Seven: Watch it grow. In the last days of the season this will happen so fast you can actually see it happen

What’s this got to do with business? It’s a process for growing not just pumpkins, but businesses. Let’s apply it:

  • Step One: Identify and leverage your biggest natural strengths
  • Step Two: Sell, Sell, Sell
  • Step Three: As your business grows, fire all your small time, rotten clients
  • Step Four: Never, ever let distractions – often labelled as new opportunities – take hold. Weed them out fast.
  • Step Five: Identify your top clients and remove the rest of the less promising clients
  • Step Six: Focus all your attention on your top clients. Nurture and protect them. Find out what they want more than anything and if its in alignment with what you do best, give it to them. Then, replicate the same service or product for as many of the same types of top client as possible
  • Step Seven: Watch your company grow to a giant size

In essence, it’s about focusing on those things you do best. It’s about focusing on your very best customers, and ditching the rest. It’s about creating your own niche by identifying and solving the problems that no one else does.

None of this is new, of course. There are plenty of business advice books that say similar things. However, this is one of those great little stories I wish I had internalized earlier. Rather than grow a lot of small pumpkins, focus on growing those that matter.

Given recent changes at Google, I dare say a lot of SEOs – particularly those who run their own small sites – may be rethinking their approach. Unfortunately, the small guy is being squeezed and the rewards, like in most endevours, are increasingly flowing to large operations. Search conferences, which used to be the domain of the lone-wolf affiliate guy and mom and pop businesses are now jammed full of corporates and their staff. The entire landscape is shifting. New approaches are required, not just in terms of tactics, but in the underlying fundamentals.

It would be interesting to hear your lessons in business. What are the things you know now that you wished someone had told you when you started? Please share them in the comments.

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What Separates a "Good" Outreach Email from a "Great" One? – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

Outreach emails are sent for a variety of reasons, but the majority have one thing in common: they're structured too poorly to merit a reply. For every group of outreach emails we receive, usually only a few are worth opening.

However, creating "good" emails may not be the toughest part. To inspire a response, you have to get to "great." But what makes a great outreach email stand out from its "good" competitors? 

Today, Rand walks us through what it takes to create a great outreach email and gives his tips on making sure your next outreach goes into the "great" pile rather than into the trash.

 

Video Transcription

"Howdy SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to talk a little bit about outreach emails.
 
Outreach emails are sent for a variety of reasons. It could be business development. It could be some kind of advertising. It could be to try and get a link or a mention. It could be to encourage someone to share something that you've produced.
 
The problem is . . . I get a lot of these. I mean, I cannot tell you how many of these I get. I love helping people, so I want to respond to a lot of them. But so many of them are terrible. There are a few that are what I would call good. Some of them are quite solid. But only a very, very select number are truly great.
 
I've received a few of these over the last few months, and I thought, what is it that makes these ones special? How can I dissect the ones where I go, "Man, what a great email." I'm not only happy to help that person, I want to help them again in the future. I hope I can do more for them, because I just love the way that they outreached and connected with me.
 
So I've put together a standard formatting. I think virtually every outreach email I see, terrible, good, great, in between, all follow this. They start with a greeting, they go to an intro, they have some sort of ask involved in them, a giveback, usually the good ones and the great ones have a giveback of some kind, a close, and then a signature.
 
Let me walk you through what separates the good ones from the great ones. I'm going to try and use this as an example. This person starts their email by saying, "Hi Rand," which is totally fine. The things that you're aiming for here, this is not huge and big and important. It's personal and friendly.
 
The wrong way to do this is, "Dear Mr. Fishkin." That's my grandfather. Dear Mr. Fishkin? Who's that? And people who email with "Dear CEO" or "My Friend," it's clear that they don't know you. There are some that work, like "Hey dude" or "Hey Buddy." It sort of has that colloquial association.
 
If it's someone that I know closely and they don't use my name, but I already know them very well, no problem. But that greeting is a very important opening point, and a lot of people, myself included, will click Delete or Report Spam if they see something in here that's not obviously friendly and personal and clear that we know one another.
 
Next, the intro. This person says, "I heard you might be in L.A. next month. Please drop me a line if you make it. We'd love to see you and Geraldine." Great. Now they've established a few things. They show that they know me, they like me, they trust me, and they care. Not only that, they're sort of following my activities, so they know that I'm going to be in Los Angeles for a few days.
 
When you can do this, you don't have to do it in this fashion. Maybe you don't know the person well enough to actually invite them to go hang out with you or that kind of thing. But if you know, for example, they're going to be in Los Angeles and that they love scotch, for example, you could say, "Hey, they're having a scotch tasting in the Santa Monica Pier on such and such a date. If you're there for it, you should definitely check it out. If not, blah, blah." Show that you know them, you like them, you trust them, and you care. That's what you're trying to achieve in that intro paragraph there or the intro sentence.
 
Next up is the ask. This is obviously a very, very important part of the email. But if you don't surround the ask with something else, unless you know that person extremely closely and you know that they're happy to share already, or do whatever activity you want, you're not going to get this. If I just say, "Hi Rand, do this for me, bye," who answers that? No, that's not how communication in the human world works. You need to have some empathy in there.
 
This person says, "FYI, my start-up was nominated for XYZ award," some particular award. "It would mean a ton to me if you could tweet or share the link." There's the link. That's the ask right there. They've done a few very smart things here. They've kept the ask short and sweet. This is two sentences, extremely few number of words, very obvious what they want and need.
 
They made the links easy to click and to share. So now I don't have to do much work if I want to fulfill this ask. That's also very smart. Make sure those links are clickable. Make sure there's only one of them. Make sure you're not asking for a ton of different things all at once. Make that share activity, that request activity very simple.
 
Then the giveback. And by the way, you can definitely flip the order on the ask and the giveback. You can do the giveback first before you make the ask. For example, this person says, "Also, we recently wrote about blah, blah, blah on our blog in reference to your post on the topic, at this URL. The team here loves Moz.com/Rand, my new personal blog, which is not doing that well in terms of links and traffic and attention. So they probably know that, and they know that that will get my awareness and attention. I'll be like, "Oh, cool, they're helping to share my new site that I haven't done much with yet. Please keep it up."
 
Very, very smart tactic here. They've identified an area where I need help, and they proved that they are a reciprocator, someone who will help without being asked for it, on the chance that I might help them. This doesn't need to be directly . . . you don't want to go at this aggressively.
 
What you don't want to say is, "Hey Rand, we linked to you on our blog. Please link to us now." No, it's not going to happen. Communication isn't done in that fashion. You need to have that empathetic touch in your communication. Prove that you're a reciprocator, apart from the ask, and you need to show that you're giving value as well as asking for it. This is a smart way to do this. It's sensitive, and it knows what I need and what I like.
 
Next piece, the close. "Hope Seattle's new baked baked goods laws are treating you well. They know that marijuana, for example, is legalized in the state of Washington. They're making a play off of that. They're using humor, surprise, interest, or empathy to show the connection between us, and that connection is a great thing. When they can do this . . . I mean, I find this kind of stuff humorous. Hopefully, they know me, and they know that I will find it humorous. That's great. That is exactly what they're trying to tie in. They're trying to make that personal connection.
 
Then the last piece, the signature. "Sincerely, Tony, CEO and Founder of XYZwebsite.com." This is smart. It seems like this would be a very small piece, but it's actually a big one for a lot of people, and I'll tell you why. I don't always remember everyone that I've met and that I've said, "Sure, email me and I'll be happy to help out with something." So they are making sure, without being obvious, without being too like, "Well, I presume you don't remember who I am because you meet lots of people," but instead I'm going to have this little thing at the bottom, which makes sure you remember me and links off to my website, so that you can check us out and be like, "Oh, yeah. Okay, put the pieces together. I remember this guy now."
 
It's fine, too, to say something like "we met here," or "you know me through XYZ," whatever. But don't assume that the person is going to remember you. Have a clear and obvious identity that shows authenticity. That authenticity piece is critical. When I get emails from folks who clearly are not actually associated with the company, but are doing outreach on behalf of a PR firm, doing outreach on behalf of an SEO firm, no offense to SEO agencies and consultants, but sometimes we're the worst offenders of this kind of stuff.
 
If you can do all of these things, you can transform a good outreach email into a great one. When you do that, the conversion percentage goes tremendously upward, and the chance that your contact will be shared or linked to, or that whatever activity you need done by this helpful group, will be accomplished. That's what we want to try and help with.
 
All right, everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. I look forward to some great comments, and we'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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