Saturday, August 20, 2011

Link Building: Value Calculation Variables

The link value calculation variables are always changing. Some of the traditional link building tactics no longer hold value. Google is putting more value on freshness of links (Social Media, Blog Articles, Facebook, Twitter, etc). Google still puts value in authority, but the paid link companies have taken away some of the value from authority sites since too many authority sites sold link value through text link brokers.

Raw number of links is still a good indicator of increased link value, but more is not always better. Another variable is the amount of external link endorsements the website that links to you has. The more link endorsements a website gives the less that endorsement is worth.

Google also puts value in keyword phrases in the anchor text but again too many paid text links have reduced the value of keywords in anchor text. Something that is harder to fake is the theme of the website and web page offering a link to your website. Stick to the basics of link building just remember that the variables are always changing and it is your responsibility to keep up.

Link Value Calculation Variable #1: Freshness

Yahoo! Directory Listing
With the Panda update, did Yahoo! Directory listings loose link value? In the past both the Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ directory were duplicated thousands of times across the Internet. Did this actually hurt directory listing links?

I recently did a controlled experiment with a website and the purchase of a Yahoo! Directory Listing. I stopped building links one month prior to purchasing of the Yahoo! Directory listing, for $299. I have not seen any increase in rankings or traffic from the Yahoo! Directory listing purchase and it has been 3 months. Do Yahoo! Directory listings still give link value? Are the categories getting too filled and now all new listings are showing up on page 5+ of each sub-category? Directory Listings
Even those at suggest that 90% of the clicks to external websites from comes from the top three ad units on every page. Those are purchased directly from

Link Value Calculation Variable #2: Link Authority

Link Authority is calculated by the amount of link value pointed to a website three links deep. It is not just about the website that links to you, but the next few websites that link to that site and so on.

Link Value Calculation Variable #3: Raw Amount of Links

Since too many websites have created ridiculous amounts of links unnaturally, Google can track the raw number of links built and if unnatural will not give value to rankings. For example, getting a link from a blog that has that link located on every page of the blog. You would assume that more links are better, but one link on the home page is much more valuable than one link on every page of the blog.

Link Value Calculation Variable #4: Link Endorsements by External Website

It goes without saying that if you have 1 of 10 external links from a website, you get more link value than if you are 1 of 100 external links. Whether you get 10x more link value is however not as clear cut. Google sees external links as votes, a vote in favor of an external website's authority. The more someone is willing to endorse another website the less that endorsement is worth, especially in the eyes of Google (concerning link value).

Link Value Calculation Variable #5: Keyword Themed Link Text

Another variable Google puts a lot of value in is having keyword phrases in the link anchor text. However, too many people are building or paying for links with exact keyword phrases that they want to rank on in the link text. Remember that the keyword doesn't have to be exact, Google understands keywords semantically. Even a keyword in the anchor text with the same theme will offer keyword ranking link value.

Link Value Calculation Variable #6: Landing Page Keyword Theme

The theme of the page that links to your website is almost as important as the keyword anchor text. The website and web page must be relevant to the theme of your website to offer any link value.

Links are still the most important way to increase organic rankings. However, it is growing much harder to increase Google organic rankings because of irrelevant links, paid text links and large amounts of links. Your best bet is to get as many quality links from authoritative sites as you can, remembering that you need to continue to get new links to satisfy the freshness variable.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Google Adwords: Competitive PPC Biding

Bidding can be an easy process when using Google Adwords or Google Adwords Editor. Pick a cost that you are willing to pay for a click, sounds simple. However, in reality PPC bidding is much more strategic & competitive.

Here are a few strategies to consider when bidding competitively:

The Daily Curve PPC Strategy

Daily Curve: Hide bid intentions
In a very competitive industry, it may be important to hide your actual bid to keep a competitive advantage. One way to do this is by changing bids throughout the day using the Google Adwords bid adjustment. Starting at the initial bid, adjust up to the peak of the day (and the most you are willing to bid for a click) and then back down to the original bid by the end of the day.

Daily Curve: Bid When Customer Service is Open

If hiding your intent to competitors is not important, you can use the Daily Curve to bid more aggressively when your customer service is taking calls. Or of course the reverse, if your customer service department is known to be overloaded during a certain period of the day (a reverse daily curve). Work with your sales team and customer service to bid accordingly.

This strategy can also be used during special promotions and/or sales. Bidding higher during peak hours will show your sale PPC ads higher in search results and catch your competitors off-guard. The sale will be over before they know what hit them, plus your competitor will not know the exact bid (only the Average Daily Bid).

Random Bids

Another way to hide your bidding intention is to bid randomly. Many campaigns are created with a campaign-wide max bid or a PPC Expert will use a standard starting bid ($2, $3, etc). Once your competitor profiles you to a set max bid, they will use the 1 cent less strategy to save loads of money.

1 Cent Less Bid Strategy

One way to lower a bid position just below your competitors is to bid 1 cent less than your average daily bid. Although not an exact science, at least you are moving in the right direction to bid competitively. Hopefully this will reduce your bid enough to move down one position with a lowered CPC, making your competitor pay the most they can pay for a CPC. Make sure you also take in consideration Quality Score when using this strategy.

Bid to Position 1

By bidding to position 1 you are giving Google or your bidding software the signal that you want Position 1, and you are willing to pay whatever you can to get it. Imagine your competitor is asking Google the same thing. Google would love to have this situation happen. This will unnecessarily increase the bid for position 1 until someone is no longer willing to pay any more for the click.

Top 3 Positions

For your most important keywords, keep bids at a level that will keep your ads showing in the top 3 positions. All three ad positions show above organic search results, making Position 3 the best value (costing the least to be shown just above organic search results).

Top 5 Positions (Above the Fold)

Don’t count out Position 4 & 5, these positions are still above the fold. Many searchers still view these ads, but don’t go too far down the page. Position 6 thru 9 are hardly seen by searchers and can still cost you money, especially if your click-through rate is low. The next best location for your ad after position 5 is the first position on page 2 (another good value and a better CTR).

Buy Cycle Bidding

A must is to bid more aggressively on keywords lower on the conversion funnel and less for keywords on the top of the conversion funnel. Not necessarily anything new but a good reminder for bidding strategically. This will allow you to bid on keywords you know are more likely to convert, improving your ROAS.

The Bottom Line

Your PPC bidding should be well thought out, take in consideration competitors and your own companies’ sales and customer service team. Never settle on a standard max bid and do your best to hide your true bid strategy. Plus, use these strategies to get a competitive advantage and pay less for each click in the process. Remember that bidding is a strategy that goes beyond your own CPC goals.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Google Adwords: Advanced Geographic Targeting

Geographic Location Targeting is a great way to further refine your PPC campaigns, as long as it is implemented properly. You can set specific geographic locations in both Google Adwords and MSN Adcenter (However Google's geographic targeting is much more accurate and reliable than MSN Adcenter).

Q: But Google Adwords already identifies geo-locations that work with your campaign and bids accordingly.

A: Precisely, Google will begin lowering bids (even stop showing ads) in specific geographic locations that you are not beating your competitors in Ad Quality (or CTR). The only way to confirm that you are showing your ads to a specific geographic location (on a consistent basis) is to create a campaign and then identify your Impression Share. Just because CTR is low doesn't mean conversion rate is low (or ROAS for that matter). By segmenting by geographic location you can better control your visibility, CPC, CTR, Conversion Rate & ROAS in the geographic locations that you perform best in.

Setting up new Campaigns with Geographic Settings

Many PPC experts will just create a few campaigns by brand or product line and decide to geo-target the campaigns with the geography that has the best CTR or the most conversions. This is a good idea but when segmenting your PPC accounts, make sure to have a national campaign and then start a new campaign for each geo-location. Geographic settings can only be set at the campaign level so each geographic location should have its own campaign.

Set the campaigns up by geographic location plus individual brand. This set up will help you better isolate the geographies that are performing better and you are able to increase your keyword bids by geography. The better your Click-Through-Rate the lower your Cost-Per-Click (CPC).

Caution: If you set up your campaigns by brand and added all the geographies that the brand converts well in, you won't be able to identify which geo-locations do better than the rest. This set up segments by brand not by geo-location. Make sure to create a unique campaign for every geo-location (New York, Southern California, Northern California, Chicago Metro, etc).

Geo-Location Exclusion

Make sure to exclude any locations in your specific geo-location PPC campaigns from the national campaign. Even though Google will choose the keyword with the best Quality Score (if that keyword appears twice in the same account for multiple campaigns), Google likes to test different combinations about 10% of the time (they are always testing something). This will show the national campaign version approximately 1 out of 10 times, hurting your CTR (plus is counter productive).

Choosing a Geographic Area

You have many choices when using Google Adwords to Geo-Target. Bundle, choose a country, state, or specific city; plus you can choose a metro area. If you want to get creative, you can make a custom area using multiple map coordinates.

I have tried them all and the choices that worked the best are choosing specific country, state, city and metropolitan areas. Why? Google is not as sophisticated in identifying search traffic with the custom map coordinates as it is with standard locations. The custom map works better when Google can identify an IP address, however Google also uses Google account registration information and identifies searches by intent so the search queries with geo-location specific keywords (e.g. Seattle Apartments) may not trigger your ad if you use a custom mapping.

Keyword Selection

Consider using head terms and mid-tail terms in your geographic specific campaigns. I have tried to dump all keywords from a brand campaign (long-tail included) into multiple geo-targeted campaigns and it becomes unmanageable. Furthermore, the National campaign should already offer a good CTR for long-tail keywords, its the head terms and mid-tail terms that would benefit the most from segmentation.

Geographic Segmentation Tools

Google Ad Preview Tool - "With the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool, you can search for your ad just like you would on a regular Google search results page, without accruing any impressions. Use the drop-down menus below to configure additional options for your search (including geographic location)."

Google Insights for Search - "With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties."

Google Adwords Keyword Tool - Get new keyword ideas based on your current keyword list, plus use Advanced Options and Filters to identify specific keyword usage by Geography and Device (desktop, mobile phone, etc)