Category Archives: SEM Info

SEM Info

Social networking budgets on the increase | Corporate blogging news digest

This week I want to highlight a report from eMarketer that reports small businesses intending to spend 25% more on social networking in 2009 than they did in 2008.

Perhaps more of this segment’s audience now uses these tools (another report this week states 35% of adults are members of a social network). Perhaps small businesses now understand more about this area. Either way, a glimmer of hope in the currently gloomy economic environment.

News highlights

HP’s Tac Anderson talks about social media tactics including corporate blogging
Some good tips from HPs social media evangelist, such as think about your target audience and build content appropriately.
“If your customers are CXO’s (CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO) then the reason you have a blog is because the two most influential factors to a CXO’s decision making process are the Two G’s: Google and Gartner. Google is speaking to the importance of all search and Gartner is speaking to the importance that analysts play. Blogs are great for reaching both. There’s no lower bang for your buck tactic to reach the two G’s than having a high quality blog.”

Google uses corporate blogs to announce cutbacks
The medium is the messsage here, rather than the story. Google has for some time been using its blogs to release information about the company that would normally have come from a press release. Will more companies start doing following suit?

Tools for monitoring blogs and other sites: Social Media Explorer
SEO Toolbar for Firefox gives you a good indication of how a blog (or any website) is ranked by Google in particular and the web in general. Go ahead, check yourself out.

Most influential advertising, marketing and media blogs – Advertising Age
The Power 150 list of the top blogs. You’ll find some choice reading on these sites. Trend data on the blogs also available here.

Adult participation in social networks now at 35 percent
This number has raised more than 300% over the last 3 years, according to research by Pew Research.

Corporate blogging: think about presentation as well as content
Design being such a subjective thing, I’m not sure I agree with all the changes recommended in this blog makeover, however there are some good points such as including a photo to make the blog more personable and organizing posts by categories.

HP study shows humans will pursue status over wealth
A report by social computing scientists at HP labs looks into what degree we will go to to obtain social status. Their findings? We will go as far as to give up monetary rewards, if we think we can gain status. Is this what powers participation in social networks?

GSK and Centocor Abandon Their Pioneering Corporate Drug Blogs
Citing the fact that these were personality-led blogs where the personalities concerned left the company, GSK has stopped updating its AlliConnect blog and the Johnson & Johnson-owned Centocor has let its CNTO411 blog wane. Both companies continue blogging in other parts of the organization.

Tips on blogging content from Your PR Guy
Focus on the stories that are most useful to your client base: success stories, problem solution stories and testimonials. These tips are aimed primarily at small businesses but should be considered by any corporate bloggers.

Social networking budgets on the increase according to eMarketer
Small businesses are expecting to spend more on social networking than on any other form of digital marketing over the coming year. Significantly, most of this group does not blog and apparently isn’t about to start.

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Making sure your YouTube videos rank

The Underground Confessions blog recently covered the thorny subject of driving more traffic to your YouTube video content. They suggest the term YouTube Ranking Optimization (YRO) as a description for this field, which I’m sure is set to grow – especially as more and more companies now take the plunge into using YouTube as a way of distributing video content (it’s something like the 5th most visited site on the planet).

So, how do you ensure that your video ranks highly? It’s pretty close to what you do to optimize web content (or a blog for that matter). Basic items they use:

  • The title of your video
  • The description of your video
  • The tags that you assign to your video

By offering this basic advice, the post has attracted a great deal of comments by those asking questions or offering their own experience of YouTube optimization.

One particular comment stands out, together with Jeff’s response:

Chris says:
Hey Jeff thanks for the post.
I just checked your profile on Youtube and saw your videos that reviewed the Casio Exilim under the search term ‘Casio Exilim ex-z1080?.
I saw that you were kind of split testing the results.
And the newer version of the same video put up 1 month ago is ranking higher than the one that was put up 6 months ago – YET the 6month old video is actually rated 3 stars compared to the 1 month old video.
The only other difference is that the newer video has more comments than the older.
It’d be interesting in the test results.
1. Do newer videos get more preference than older?
2. Are videos ranked according to the number of comments?
3. Do the contents of the other videos in your profile (tags, titles and descriptions) as well as your profile name, play a role in the ranking of your video amongst others for the same/similar keyword?
It’d be interesting to find the test results. It could possibly be a combination of all of the above.
Maybe finding that out will help you put out your ooined term ‘YRO’ in the internet marketing realm. Anyway, thanks for the heads up.
Jeff Johnson says: Here are the answers to your questions:
1. No, newer videos do not necessarily rank higher than old ones. It has to do with many, many factors including incoming links, comments, tags, the number of sites that host it outside of youtube, the quality of those sites, etc.
2. Yes, commenting helps but is not the only thing that matters.
3. Yes, the only way the engines know what is in the video is by what you tell them is in it by use of your incoming link text, the title tags, your description, and any of the words found on the pages surrounding it.
That pretty much means you should optimize the pages that your videos on in the same way you would for a regular page.

I was interested to hear that the quantity and quality of external sites hosting the video plays a part in the ranking algorithm.

I don’t have any concrete evidence for this, but one thing that does appear to happen is that channels with a lot of content tend to outrank lesser channels (much like the way, as a vast generalization, Google favors sites with more content rather than less).

If anyone does have more definitive answers, please let me know.

Read the post from Underground Confessions

Usability: the Google way

With all the recent hype surrounding Google SearchWiki and the ensuing row over whether the changes add or detract from Google’s core search offering, it makes you wander to what extent Google trial this services prior to launch.

In this post on the art of field study, you get an idea into what Google does in the realm of usability (they are not alone given that they have one of the most used interfaces on the planet – check out this early eye-tracking study).

They perform surveys:

It turns out that people are masters of saying one thing and doing another, particularly when it comes to nearly automatic behavior.

They undertake eye-tracking studies:

Notice how methodically the gaze moves from result title to title, occasionally inspecting the snippet text to gain more detail about the result.

And generally spend time with users getting to grips with what they do. The post is thoughtful in that it also considers some of the limitations of usability testing – particularly in the lab scenario.

One of the questions that springs to mind though is what exactly is the link between the usability team and the engineering guys? Just how much teeth do these usability testers have? I’m not advocating that they should have more control of the interface – after all, it’s refreshing that counting in web years, the Google interface has hardly changed in a millenium. The design just hasn’t swung with every whim of the crowd. We need some standards in this life.

Read more about Google’s usability studies

Google SearchWiki: more power to the people

Google today unveiled what it’s calling Google SearchWiki – a way for you, the user, to move its results up or down or add your own comments to results pages. Whilst these changes will by default only be seen by you, there is the option to open this up and see all comments anyone has made on a search page. Google is touting this feature as a way to give you more control over the search results you see. In order to use this service, you need a Google account and need to be logged in.

Little icons next to each result give you the ability to mark these up or down.

You can also add comments for each result, giving you a way to store information about common searches.

What this means for searchers

People use Google in many ways. For alot of these searches (eg. a navigational search to find the online site for ‘Best Buy’) this feature adds little value as Google generally gets these right. It is definitely more important for those doing research – perhaps working their way through each link down a results page looking for a potential product/service. In this instance you can potentially rank the providers and leave notes on those you find most useful.

I would expect the feature to be potentially more useful for ranking down bad results rather than promoting good ones – on the basis that it’s difficult to rank a result unless you have visited the site. A compelling site would hold you there – so you may never make it back to Google SearchWiki to leave your feedback.

Given that you can access all your comments on one screen, you can also use Google SearchWiki to build a history of web searches – in one, web-based location that hou can access from anywhere: home, at work, on the go. Hopefully in time Google will add some social capabilities to this, like a Del.icio.us or Friendfeed synch, so others can follow what searches you record.

What this means for website owners

For website owners, there is increasing pressure to produce good content – it’s not just about getting the top ranking (whether it ever has been is debatable). However, now, If you’re not giving the audience what it wants it’ll rank against you.

To ensure the ranking remains robust, it is definitely in Google’s interest to ensure the system can check spam and the votes of the unscrupulous. It’s the same cat-and-mouse game search engines have been playing against hardcore SEOs since search began, albeit with a social dimension.

Another aspect is that it is getting more difficult to know exactly what the audience sees – ranking reports are less accurate. Although a site owner may see them self rank highly for a given search, there is no guarantee their audience will see the same thing.

What this means for Google

Even if a very small percentage of users participate, Google will gain some valuable insight into how users perceive its rankings. As ZDNet put it:

“Google has the scale to take all of that user input, analyze it and potentially refine its algorithms. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll use this too much, but Google has millions of users that may contribute. Rivals may have the same technology for these search tools, but Google has the scale to actually get a lot of data to mine.”

Google themselves are obviously playing up the additional benefit to their customer: the search user base. According to Juergen Galler, director of product management at Google:

“We’ve always said that the best search engine is the one that understands what the individual user wants”
(Quote from the UK Telegraph)

So, just in time for Thanksgiving here in the US, Google rolls out the biggest improvement to search since Universal (or Blended) Search appeared 18 months ago. This gives the other search engines something more than turkey to ruminate over in this holiday season.

Read the Google release

ROMO: a new era needs new marketing metrics

I was fortunate enough to attend the TechTarget Online ROI summit in San Francisco recently. I can definitely recommend this event as one of the best places to meet like-minded individuals if you happen to work in tech marketing.

ROMO: your flexible friend
In the opening presentation, TechTarget’s Marilou Barsam, SVP of Client Consulting and Corporate Marketing highlighted what she sees as the big changes in online marketing to IT professionals. She brought up the interesting point that the metrics we use to measure campaigns do have a significant impact on the way we plan, execute and decide whether or not we see our campaigns as successful.

We are now developing campaigns more as interactive spaces rather than just simple point-and-click download documents. Throw social media into the mix and you have much more immersive experiences for the audience. For a given topic (say SOA integration), you may have video demos, blog posts, white papers and standard web pages. All work well to generate awareness and promote engagement, but cannot easily be measured using old school direct response techniques. You need metrics that measure engagement and awareness. This is the move away from ROI (return on investment) towards ROMO (return on marketing objectives). This metric is more fluid and can be adapted to the situation.

As far as I can tell, Marilou is advocating a move towards the metrics used by the media industry: average time on site, returning visitor ratio (and what those visitors who visit regularly do) and average page views per visit. Video and audio content introduce their own demands: rather than just clicks, you need to know the length of time people spend on these media. This makes particular sense for campaigns that are driving either awareness or interest. The one drawback I see in moving to this more flexible ROMO framework is how to compare different campaigns. If you aren’t using consistent metrics site-wide, then how can you gauge relative success?

Marketing is oh so passe, dahling
Somewhat related to ROMO is the move in marketing content towards media models. The argument here is that the straightforward logic (that underpins so many marketing campaigns targeting IT professionals) is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The campaigns that win out are the ones that include both logic and emotion. In this context, drama and humor have a strong part to play.

I suspect we’ll see this trend play out in the next few years. Company websites will start to borrow more from online media sites – both in terms of the type of content on offer and how that content is presented. For instance over the last few years we have seen a proliferation in video footage, blogs, podcasts – just for starters, all these tools need to be more fully integrated into corporate websites.

Search Engine Strategies San Jose 2008 Sessions

Google engineers talking openly about the latest challenges in indexing web content. Search marketers getting their heads around building promotions on Twitter.  Lunch networking sessions exploring obscure tips and tricks. This year’s San Jose SES had it all, with a glow-in-the-dark Google Dance to boot.

Although SES hosts events around the globe, the San Jose event has traditionally attracted considerable attention due to its proximity to the campuses of the major search engines. This year was no exception, with a notable presence from Google, Yahoo and to a lesser extent, Microsoft.

Certain trends jumped out at this year’s event, permeating many of the panel presentations.

Universal (blended) search

Over the last year, all the major engines have rolled out different variations of universal search: mixing up the search result pages (SERPs) with video, news, blogs and other content. While each engine has a slightly different approach, the overall affect on search engine optimization (SEO) strategies is the same: you need to concentrate on optimizing more than just web pages. You need to think about creating and optimizing multimedia content, news and other forms of web content.
Relevant sessions:
Universal Search: representatives from each of the engines talk their developments in this space
Semantic search: a distant cousin of universal search, semantic search has similar implications for SEO practitioners

News optimization

The distinction between PR professionals and search engine marketing (SEM) experts is forever blurring. More and more journalists are using news search engines to source and build stories. Companies can take steps to ensure they have maximum visibility in this space. On your own site, there is work you can do to ensure your PR content (often a good source of fresh content) is as optimized for search as possible.
Relevant sessions:
Optimizing for news search: PR professionals and providers of online news wires discuss making the most of your releases

Conversion optimization

In the paid search space, average pay-per-click (PPC) is increasing as more marketers take to this medium. Therefore it’s increasingly necessary to increase efficiency of campaigns, drive up ROI and outperform the competition. Focussing on the traffic delivered by search can really help in this respect. For instance, making your landing pages more attractive to your target audience and improving a registration form can really make a significant difference to campaign performance.
Relevant sessions:
Pay per conversation: creating real engagement with your audience
Storyteller marketing: weaving a story around your information
Post-click marketing: tips for landing page optimization, including segmentation

Social media optimization

Social media is becoming an integral part of our online culture. SEM professionals should be aware of what this means for the way we find information online. Whereas the traditional search engines still remain important, sites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have become credible sources of information. In addition, more and more companies are incorporating social media networks into their own sites, which presents its own unique challenges for search.
Relevant sessions:
Facebook, feeds and micro-blogging: the impact of new online technologies on search

I haven’t included mobile search in this list of trends, although there were numerous sessions on this topic. To me this seems less of a trend – more of an entrenched part of the search landscape.

View all sessions from SES San Jose 2008

Post-Click Marketing: Converting Search Engine Traffic

There were many sessions at SES San Jose 2008 on getting more value from SEM traffic and improving the usability of SEM landing pages. Although not so well attended (being the last day of the conference), this session did contain many useful tips and tricks for landing page optimization.

Moderator:
Anna Maria Virzi, Executive Editor, ClickZ

Speakers:
Carrie Hill, Search Engine Watch Expert & Certified Search Engine Marketing & Promotion Account Manager, Blizzard Internet Marketing
Laura Wilson, Senior Manager of Audience Development, New England Journal of Medicine
Scott Brinker, President & Chief Technology Officer, ion interactive
Tom Leung, Senior Business Product Manager, Google

Carrie:

In the eCommerce space, buyers will place emphasis on words that relate to their query. These should be considered trigger words throughout the landing page experience.

Beyond the keyword, make sure the Ad Text is backed up in the copy eg. if you mention ‘free shipping’ in the ad, this should definitely be highlighted on the first page the visitor sees. The ultimate goal is to let the user design their own experience (could we call this Landing Page 2.0 development?)

Laura:

You can often use the landing page as a medium to upsell. You can offer something free upfront, but on the landing page provide an additional link to premium resources.

Make sure you test everything, including any registration process. What you consider intuitive often doesn’t work out, or may not be the ideal path.

Scott:

A key to getting better conversions is creating more landing pages. The more focussed these become, the better will be the results.

Remember that you are attracting lots of different kinds of people. Use meaningful segmentation to find out more about the audience. Scott shows examples where the landing page is purely navigational – with only 2-3 big links that segment the audience towards relevant content. He outlines a number of reasons why 2 clicks are better than 1:

  • Easy engagement – 5 secs on ad and 5 secs on first page
  • Self-identification – easy for people to categorize themselves
  • More focussed content when they drill down (signalling helps create a rich experience)
  • Market research – find out which segments are most popular

Tom:

Following on with the theme of let your users decide what is the optimum content, Tom recommends turning your website into a living lab (what he calls the democratization of web design). He goes so far as to say “the only opinions that matter are the opinions of people who visit your site”.

Another common theme is to concentrate on microconversions – ie. specifying and testing goals at every stage along a process (eg. shopping cart). Whenever you implement a new feature, make sure you don’t hurt your site (eg. the length of a registration form could negatively impact conversion rates).

There are a few basics you should consider upfront. Think whether you are building trust – does the site look legitimate? Also, is it intelligible in a few seconds? Is it simple to go through the conversion process? 

Questions:

Scott: when it comes to implementation, work in a sandbox first – run a small A/B test and then show the reports. Roll out across the organization in this manner.

Tom: don’t run a test shorter than 2 weeks (to eliminate weekly traffic trends) and ideally wait for at least 100 conversions through each channel (if you are segmenting the audience).

Creating a Cohesive Search Strategy Across Multiple Business Units

If you have ever grappled with trying to create SEM strategies for companies with more than one business unit or how to sell in the value of SEM to upper management, then this session was for you!

David Roth did a particularly good job of explaining how he created the current SEM strategy for Yahoo (to be clear, these are campaigns to increase Yahoo’s visibility through search – he is a marketer working for Yahoo, not a representative of the engine technology).

Introduction by:
Amanda Watlington, Owner, Searching for Profit

Speakers:
Eduardo Llach, Chief Marketing Officer & Co-founder, SearchRev
David Roth, Director of Search Marketing, Yahoo!

David:

The challenge is to do a few things well across a large scope. You really have to pick your battles.
Yahoo is a particularly complex case : every form of advertising – CPM Media, transactional, lead generation, B2B campaigns, B2C campaigns.

The only way to compare campaigns is to look at the lifetime value of the customer.

One big takeaway is to work out the money you are not making from doing SEO – the opportunity cost. David shows the spreadsheet he uses to formulate this. He works out what are the rankings they are currently not getting. Using data from paid search and other tools, he works out how much traffic this translates to, and finally using conversion data, works out the lifetime value of these customers. The numbers will not be exact, however you should try and ensure that they are somewhat realistic.

For the SEO stratgy, the message for projects of this size is to not fix what’s out there. David focusses on the new stuff being built. This works well in a world of limited resources, and over time all assets are optimized.

David offers the mantra: “if you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist”. With this strong emphasis on metrics, Yahoo reforecast every month to ensure campaigns are on target. This is a considerable task with workflow to manage the process across marketing, sales and finance.

Measuring success
Use a marketing scorecard to compare different campaigns.
Create an SEO dashboard that is available to upper management.
Ensure there is a strong relationship between marketing and finance (in Yahoo’s case, the Markops finance team) to create LTV figures and keep on top of budget management.

Eduardo:

Perform the optimization across the frontend (traffic, or the data you would find in Google Adwords interface) and backend (site, the data you would find in your web analytics).
Successful traffic optimization involves finding the difference between geo (or metro) targetting, network and creative. Eduardo advocates the use of optimization algorithms to figure this out across large data sets.
For site conversions, track microconversion points (ie. look at each click along the path). By optimizing for lifetime value, it has been possible to increase campaign performance by 20% for same traffic level.
For ad creative, don’t just look at CTR, also consider conversion rate. The CTR could be low yet the messaging could still produce quality traffic.

Questions:

David: when considering brand terms think of canabalization and lift (what do you gain by adding these?)
Eduardo: on the thorny question of market attribution (which marketing channel gets the credit for the sale when many channels have been involved?) – Eduardo recommends thinking of search as closing the loop – in particular look for SEO traffic uplift from offline activities to help build a case for this.
David: take people out to lunch, even your competitors
Eduardo: concentrate on the top terms