Friday, December 16, 2011

Local Marketing: Don't Forget Promotional Items

With all the fancy new ways to promote a new local restaurant, I find some obvious marketing tactics have been largely over-looked. In today's world, when I say local marketing everyone thinks Yelp, SuperPages, and Google Local Merchant. These are still important vehicles to promote a new local restaurant on the Internet but what are we missing?

Promotional items, maybe logoed pens and t-shirts but that might be too expensive. I walked into Dickey's Barbecue Pit for the first time and was transformed into a Texas style barbeque. The picnic table clothes in checkered blue and white, the smell of barbeque and a big yellow cup? At first I thought that drinking out of a big yellow cup wasn't part of the experience but then I thought, "Hmm, you drink beer & coke out of 32 ounce tumblers when you are at a barbecue or ball game."

On the bottom of the cup's front side it says "Take me home! I'm a Souvenir Cup. Big Yellow Cup. Reusable. Recyclable. Dishwasher & Microwave Safe." Next time I have the guys over to watch football and I am drinking out of my new, 32 ounce tumbler, Boss Hogg will ask, "You been down to Dickey's Barbecue Pit? Hot damn! How was it?" Then the perfect advertising happens, Word of Mouth from a close friend or family member.

I tell Boss Hogg that me and Luke took out the General Lee to pick up Bo and head over to Dickey's Barbecue Pit. Of course we saw Rosco P Coltrane at Dickey's! We traded some Moonshine for a rack of Dickey's ribs and a side of macaroni & cheese. 10-4 Good Buddy! That's some good eats!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My cQualified Website was Hacked

This is a warning to all that run a website, regardless of the platform you use. It is very important to review your site once a week to make sure that your website has not been hacked (or that you don't have broken links, steady reduction in traffic, no index tags or website redirect loops).

My cQualified Website was Hacked

Thanks to Atlantic Drugs online atlantic-drugs(dot)net, I found three links in one of my blog articles to their website. Of course I didn't let them do this. How can you prevent this from happening?

1) Use a password with upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols
2) Change your login on a regular basis
3) Try not to use robot password tools
4) Don't keep files on your computer titled "My Passwords"

SEO is Ranking Insurance too

Not only is SEO about improving search rankings, an SEO consultant can also monitor your ranking and traffic to identify problems. I have seen homepages get "too many redirects" causing a redirect loop. A few years ago, a client blocked their whole website with a robots.txt file (when updating your website with a dev site, make sure to not upload the dev site's robots.txt).

Getting de-indexed from Google by spam tactics is not the only reason your URLs disappear from the index. Without an SEO consultant your website is in jeopardy. I have seen it all. We know what steps to take and places to look if your website rankings, traffic, or URLs disappear from Google organic search results.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ghost Mall Phenomenon

As a young boy, the Mall was the center of my universe. A place to watch movies, play video games, shop for clothes and meet friends after school and on the weekends. With the local Mall being the only outlet for most products, it was the center of commerce as well.

Ghost Mall Phenomenon
With the poor economy and the migration of customers to the Internet, many Brick & Mortar retailers and product manufacturers are seeing a major decrease in sales at Malls around the US. Malls are becoming ghost towns and the customers that are shopping probably have iPhone in hand doing comparison shopping for better deals by scanning barcodes.

Looking to the Internet to regain sales levels, these companies have a large learning curve and can spend tens of thousands of dollars learning how to marketing products on the Internet.

Mall Store = Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is similar to paying for mall space. The new mall is Google. Instead of people visiting malls they are visiting Google to search for the products they want to purchase. Getting listed among organic search results in Google is critical for the success of an Internet retailer or manufacturer that wants to sell direct on the Internet.

Local Advertising = Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
Instead of purchasing newspaper ads or regional television ads, Google offers paid advertising for both national and local visibility. Start advertising without delay and quickly promote a sale or special promotion. However, before paying for visitors, make sure the conversion process is flawless. There is no reason to pay for customers if you know they are not going to convert.

If you are in this situation, cQualified has helped retailers transition successfully to the Internet, helped weave SEO into their Companies DNA, and put them back on the road to success. Email us to talk more about this opportunity.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Google Remarketing: A One-To-One Conversation

If you have driven down the interstate in the last 50 years you would see billboards promoting restaurants and amenities all along your trip. My favorite is the drive to Las Vegas right before you get to Jean, Nevada. You see a succession of signs promoting everything you can do when you visit the casinos in this city.

Google Remarketing
Google Remarketing works in this way as well. You know that the customer has visited your website (or intends to pass it on the interstate) and they are interested in your product/service. It is now time to convert those potential customers.

One-To-One Conversation
Talk directly to the customer and identify the Benefit to the Customer if they purchase. Then, create a succession of banner ads to educate them on your product/service and entice them to return and convert. For example, eBay would have banners with themes like; save money, browse a wide variety of products, ship it today, etc. Figure out what will motivate your customers and create a set of banners and improve your conversion rate.

Banner Blindness
Be sure to rotate in new banner ads on a regular basis. After 4 impressions a day, most banners become white noise. Also consider different color backgrounds since most blogs and websites are built on white backgrounds. This will give your banner ads more pop.

Google Remarketing gives you the opportunity to advertise to interested customers. Speak directly to your customers and tell them what they will get if they purchase. Don't waste the opportunity!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels: Last-Click Attribution is Dead

If a tree falls in the forest and Google Analytics is their to hear it, does it make an impression. Corney, I know but this is a great example of the issue with last-click attribution. We all know that most conversions take more than one touchpoint. Just because Google Analytics doesn't record those touchpoints for conversion click-paths doesn't mean you shouldn't spend time and money on those top of funnel search queries.

Google is now a player in multi-attribution analytics. With the full roll-out of the new Google Analytics features including the My Conversion tab on Google Analytics it is much easier to understand the click-path of a conversion. Obviously Google Analytics needs much more work to compete with other specialty analytics packages that can tell you the exact search query that triggered the multi-touch.

First-Click & Last-Click Attribution is Dead
Just because Google doesn't attribute conversions to general organic search queries, Google Remarketing and other top of funnel search queries doesn't mean that they are not integral in the conversion process. This at least confirms that the first-click, last-click attribution models are dead.

Traditional Marketing Executives

Before Internet Marketing, most marketing executives would say, "I know I am wasting 50% of my budget but I don't know which half." Well now you have a little bit more insight into the conversion process and that it is made up of multiple touchpoints from multiple channels.

Multi-Channel Buying Cycle
Don't forget that the buying cycle includes more than just online channels. Consider all online and offline channels when building multi-channel funnels.

Attend the Google Analytics Webinar on Multi-Channel Funnels October 11, 2011.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SEO Keyword Selection Best Practices

Picking keywords to target with SEO efforts is much more complicated than it looks. Many variables should be taken in consideration when choosing keywords to keep track of SEO success.

One distinction I would like to make is for small websites, the SEO keyword list should be all inclusive. On small websites, with under 100 Web pages, each page of the website should be mapped to an individual keyword. Large websites, with over 300 Web pages, should pick keywords to report on that best represent different sections of the website. Each URL should still be mapped to one keyword but you will only report on under 300 keywords (any more can be un-manageable).

When creating your SEO keyword list:

1) Theme Relevance - Create a list of URLs and their corresponding keyword theme. Make sure to include a keyword that is relevant to current content. You can also add keywords to the SEO keyword list that you plan on optimizing for in the future.

2) Google Impression Share - You want to make sure that the keywords you add to the list have some Google impressions. However, don't get trapped in the selection of very generic keywords just because they have a lot of impressions. Consider the following variables to refine your keyword list, after impression share is identified.

3) Competitiveness - The keywords you choose must allow you to rank in the top 5 rankings. See who ranks in the top positions, are they websites that own the top spot or can you break into the top 5 spots. The majority of Google users will only look at the organic search results above the fold (make sure you can get ranked here).

4) Revenue Generation - There is no reason for you to try and rank on a keyword that doesn't offer revenue (or the goal you are trying to receive). I have ranked in Position 1 for very generic keywords that have a lot of impressions, however we didn't get any conversions. You want quality as well as quantity.

The difference between SEO & PPC keyword list creation is with SEO you want to map one keyword per URL. Whereas, with PPC, the goal is to exhaust the different combinations of keywords that your customers would use to search for your website. Same idea but a different strategy.

Don't forget to revisit those SEO keywords every 6 months, you may find that the keywords you thought would work don't.

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)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Ripple Effect: SEO is Not Just a Set of Tasks

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a well orchestrated strategy, not a set of tasks. Many SEO agencies offer up a cookie cutter Statement of Work and plan that starts a new task each week. Sometimes they think about starting with Low Hanging Fruit (tasks that are easy and will improve rankings quickly, making them look good). However, SEO is about momentum. With SEO you start a ripple and then carefully increase that ripple into a wave. If you do it right you will have a virtual tsunami hitting your target market and sustaining their participation in your product or service over the long haul.

The Initial Ripple
Start by finding every place on the Internet that is relevant for your product or service. Identify all your current positive articles and bookmark them. Create all the social profiles that make sense and start participating. Join relevant forums, create directory listings, start commenting on blogs, answer questions at Yahoo! Answers and Linkedin, and start a blog with good content. Start a press section on your website and link to all the mentions of your website (that you want to promote) for everyone to find when doing research about your company.

Turn the Ripple into a Wave
Send out a press release over the wire that includes an interesting topic, company milestone or other press release worthy information. Bookmark all the new articles and locations for that press release. Continue to create ripples with social media participation, blog comments, new blog articles, directory listings and Q&A participation.

Turn a Wave into a Bigger Set of Waves
Continue sending out a couple more press releases that are interesting and informative. Continue to promote them on the Internet with bookmarking, social media, directories, blog articles and Q&A. Get a fair amount of visibility everywhere your customers and relevant industry online journalist will look to find additional info about your company and website.

The Tipping Point
Once you have created a pretty good set of SEO waves, launch a press release that is monumental, offers information that is a must have for anyone to read about, or choose a topic that you know will get major syndication in your industry. Now that you have created a bunch of waves and everywhere an online journalist goes they see your website, it is time for the Tsunami. Push the monumental press release with as much external power as you can (bookmarks, social media, a blog article, etc). Contact the who's who in your industry about this serious press release. Leave no opportunity on the table, this is the tipping point.

Keep the Waves Going
Most SEO professionals will stop and say, "I have done everything what else do I do now?" Don't let the momentum fall off. Keep promoting your press releases, positive articles and press section. Keep getting links, mentions & trackbacks. Keep finding new articles about your website and promote them externally. It is much easier (and cost effective) to sustain SEO momentum, than it is to create it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New PPC Campaigns Don't Start from Scratch

Did you take over a PPC campaign from some else? Do you have a collective Quality Score that is below average? Want to start from scratch but don't want to start from scratch?

New PPC Campaigns & Quality Score
Don't worry, Google Adwords understands that sometimes an account history is doomed and the only way to salvage the PPC account is to start from scratch. That is a completely new account, new email address access, new billing information; a completely new Google Adwords PPC account.

So you ask, "Why don't PPC accounts start from scratch when it comes to quality score?" Google Adwords starts new accounts at the industry average, then during the first few weeks or so Google will identify the true quality score of the new PPC account and make the change. This will give you a chance to compete in your industry, especially if you are an advanced PPC expert starting with a brand new PPC account.

How to Start a New Account (Step-by-Step)

Step 1 - Make sure to have completely new Display URLs (Google has a Display URL Quality Score). Use non-www display URLs or add keywords after the slash in the Display URL (e.g. or

Step 2 - Create the complete account with Google best practices, you want to catch your competitors off guard with a complete account upgrade. They won't know what hit them. Fully Sync your campaign and ad groups, use the keyword themes in the ad headline, display URL and keyword theme of the landing page. Keep your ad group keyword themes tight (3 to 5 keywords per ad group max; usually plural and non-plural versions of the same keyword).

Step 3 - Before the campaign goes live, make sure you have the correct settings. This can kill any account or campaign. Pick the right location (e.g. geographic area), language, devices and network (always keep content and search network campaigns separate, they have different successful CTR and the content will hurt the search quality score if not separated).

Step 4 - Pick a minimal budget amount & standard ad delivery method so you can control budget initially. There is always one keyword that has multiple meanings, you could spend thousands even before you see initial campaign results (Google has an hour delay since they are not able to show statics in real-time).

Step 5 - Create ad groups separately for Exact & Phrase Match keyword themes. If you have time put the exact match negative keyword in the same phrase match keyword ad group, do it. This will take out the guess work from Google and give you better CTR & lower CPC. Google naturally tests paid search results 10% of the time, which means unless you have negative exact match in the phrase match campaign the phrase match ad group will show for the exact match keyword 10% of the time. Bad for quality score, CTR & CPC.

Step 6 - Initially, bid higher to capture more clicks, try your best to pick keywords that you can rank on in position 1 to 3 for the cost you are willing to pay. The better your CTR, the better your Quality Score, the lower you pay CPC. The initial increased cost will result in a higher CTR, giving you a lower long-term CPC.

Step 7 - Start identifying negative keywords after the first 3 hours your PPC account goes live. This will also help your CTR. It is also ok to create a list of negative keywords even before the campaign starts, just make sure they will not restrict your initial visibility.

Constant Improvement
Don't make a change unless you have a good idea of how it will improve your PPC campaign. Make sure to ad new text ads into the ad rotation and look at "See Search Terms" report to identify new keywords you can add to Exact Match.

Measured Risk
It is ok to try new things but introduce new risk a little at a time. You don't want to hurt your PPC campaign CTR and Quality Score with a bunch of crazy ideas. That is why you started from scratch in the first place. If you have the time use the Experiment tool or Google Conversion Optimizer or Google Website Optimizer. These tools will help reduce risk and test new ideas at the same time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Similar Users Beta, Deep URL PPC Beta & Google Adwords Express

Have you noticed that Google is making it too easy to mess up your great PPC strategy, quality scores and campaigns?

Similar Users Beta
Introduced a couple months ago was the Similar Users Beta for Google Adwords. This Beta looked at your Remarketing audience and served PPC ads to similar users in the Google Content Network. I call it Modified Broad Match Content Advertising. Still just a shotgun blast at the Google Content Network however it is based on a profile of your Remarketing audience.

Deep URL PPC Beta
Recently Google had introduced a new Beta that offers the ability for Google Adwords to crawl your website and PPC campaigns to identify deep pages on your website that are similar to your PPC campaign but not showing optimally for long-tail search queries. The idea is to match up long-tail search queries with your deep content to pay less for a click. That is instead of paying Phrase Match CPC prices, you would magically pay Exact Match CPC prices. All that is going to happen is your PPC campaign will get a bunch more clicks (Hooray for Google!) and you are going to need a ridiculous amount of negative keywords.

Google Adwords Express
Put your local adwords ad into Google Adwords Express and allow Google to choose when to show your ad in local search results. Google Adwords promises that it will only show your ads when it is relevant to a searches query. Again, a modified broad match style of local advertising on Google.

My Advice
If you don't have time to build out your PPC campaigns properly and have to use the preceding Betas and new local advertising interface, you are wasting money. How much you are wasting depends on the spend, geo-targeting of your PPC campaigns. As well as the amount of pages indexed for the Deep URL PPC Beta.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Free Opt-in Advertising from Remarketing Audience

Getting email addresses for opt-in email advertising and newsletters is gold. There is nothing better than someone opting in to get an advertising messages from you. But what about the other 99% of people that visit your website but don’t create an account or sign up for your newsletters.

You may have heard about Google Remarketing and thought, great another way to spend more money on PPC advertising. I only want organic search traffic.

Remarketing Audience = 540 days to Decide on Qualified Advertising

Did you know that you can accumulate an audience of your website visitors and choose to remarketing to them (or not) for the next 540 days? 1 ½ years worth of customers visiting the Google Network and all the while you are racking up hundreds of thousands of unique visitors in your Remarketing audience.

Ready to have a sale? Identified a product or service that complements your current offerings? Why wait until you need to create an audience of visitors to start remarketing? Create your remarketing account now and use it later, or not. At least you are giving yourself a future opportunity to advertise to qualified customers.

Remarketing Setup Step-by-Step

Step 1 – Create a Google Adwords account.

Step 2 – Create a Remarketing Audience, choose to cookie website visitors with the opportunity to remarketing to them for 540 days (the max amount of duration).

Step 3 – Add the remarketing code to all your pages visited by users whom you'd like to add to this list. Add to every page on your website. Decide whether you want one big pool of customers or smaller sized categories of customers (multiple tags).

Step 4 – Create a Content Campaign, fill in the budget, create ad text (if you are just creating a pool of customers but don’t want to remarketing right now, use one text ad, no banner ads, this will allow a few impressions without worrying about spending any money on clicks)

Step 5 – In the Audience tab of the new Ad Group: Choose the Remarketing list tab, Pick Your Remarketing Audience

Step 6 – Keep your Content/Remarketing account live, make the max CPC $.50 and a frequency of no more than 1 impression per campaign per day. You will show a couple impressions a day and capture every customer that visits your website for remarketing now or later.

Step 7 – Check the “Number of Users” in the “Shared Library” and “Audience” section. Make sure it is growing in size based on the amount of unique traffic you are receiving. There is a delay so don’t get worried if it is not exact, plus a unique visitor is not always a non-cookie visitor.

Now you are set up for future Remarketing and "not paying" to create a pool of qualified customers to advertise to on demand.

SEO is a Company-Wide Initiative

Good SEO starts from the top and works its way down the company. The SEO Expert needs help from everyone at a company to get the most out of SEO. SEO is a company-wide initiative. There are many departments outside of the Search Engine Marketing Department that can help with SEO.

IT Department
Much of what this department does is directly related to SEO. When uploading products to a website, the most important SEO variables are under their control. This team will supply the URL structure, Meta Data, and Body Content. Without proper training for SEO best practices, you end up doing every task twice.

This department is also responsible for getting the website crawled properly and the decision on whether to use AJAX, JavaScript, Flash, CSS or traditional HTML. They are also responsible for on-site sitemaps and XML sitemaps. This is a great opportunity to improve website crawlability to improve indexing.

Advertising Department
Links are the life blood of organic rankings, in the eyes of Google. This department has a direct link with industry websites, blogs, and industry experts. If they are not asking for added value links for sponsorships and print advertising, SEO will suffer greatly.

Public Relations Department
Another important link building tactic, press releases. Without knowledge of proper SEO optimization of a press release, you might as well just throw the $300 for a press release distribution out the window.

Merchandising & Promotions Department
This department is responsible for sponsorships and in-person displays. Link building from these activities can also help with SEO rankings.

The Bottom Line

SEO is a company-wide initiative that needs to be a priority for everyone. Google organic rankings are important for any company. Without the help of everyone at a company thinking about SEO best practices as they work, your organic rankings will suffer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tablet SEO: Similar Algorithm, Different Search Intent

Many are calling an end to Mobile SEO with the introduction of smartphones and Tablets. Long gone are the days of SMS optimization & .mobi domain extensions, but one thing remains true, search intent is unique to the device.

Local Search Intent
Many of us that are using smartphones to access Google are still looking for local restaurants, bars, shopping & auto repair (to name a few). A customer may not want to buy a $1,000 Home Theater from Best Buy on their mobile phone but they do want to know the closest store that has that item in stock. We are still accessing Google search to find organic listings that help us with local tasks. Whether a first generation smartphone or iPhone 4, we still need to use SEO on our mobile website to fill a need that the mobile user wants to fill.

Mobile Search Intent
Many consider Desktops and Laptops as similar search intent when accessing Google search. The laptop is more mobile than a desktop and can be used at a local starbucks or at home on a wireless modem. Both are used in a similar fashion, the laptop giving more freedom to log on anywhere where as most desktops are in a fixed location. SEO for desktops and laptops is very similar in nature.

Tablet SEO
Tablets are starting to take over for Laptops, giving us even more flexibility to go about our business without a bulky laptop in tow. The tablet, being more like a smartphone, is more attractive to those using a smartphone but need a bigger interface similar to a laptop. This brings new challenges for SEO, more than just clicking the button in Google Adwords to include iPads for search campaign ads. The search intent and use is much different, and warrants a new SEO department, Tablet SEO.

The Tablet offers more freedom to use during work and play. It is not portable enough to replace the iPhone in your pocket but is easier to use than a laptop in your everyday life, especially if you are out and about a lot. Many people are using Tablets for purchasing & price comparison while performing inventory control. It is a much better interface for a salesperson to show off a web-based product on the showroom floor or at conventions. And many Tablet users are performing searches relevant to these tasks, and need a completely different set of search results.

The Tablet user doesn't want to research every option for a new $1,000 Home Theater (Desktop/Laptop), they may not be looking for the closest location (Smartphone), but they do want to compare prices, place bulk orders, control inventory or even show off cool videos to potential customers. Tablet SEO brings with it a new search funnel and set of keywords, while still utilizing the same old algorithm that Google offers to Desktop & Laptop users.

The Bottom Line
Figure out the search intent of your Tablet users, how they find your website, and why they use your website; then use your SEO knowledge to harvest this search opportunity. If nothing else, start thinking differently about smartphone, tablet, laptop & desktop users. They may use the same search keywords but they all have different search intent. The trick is to serve all four intents at the same time with similar Google search results.

MSN AdCenter Quality Score Algorithm Really Revealed

Ever since the beginning of Pay-Per-Click advertising, we have been looking for the holy grail to decipher the paid search algorithm. Google offered a cumulative quality score to show how much you would end up paying per click versus competitors and in what position. However, in an attempt of desperation, MSN AdCenter has revealed the complete quality score variables to all of your keywords in PPC for Bing & Yahoo, kind of.

MSN AdCenter vs Google AdWords
Both offer a "Quality Score" from 1 to 10, both offer a Landing Page Quality Score of 1 or 2 (problem or no problem), Google offers a "Page Load Time" score (problem or no problem; Landing Page User Experience? from MSN), Landing Page Quality of 1 or 2 (Landing Page Relevance? from MSN) and the only difference seems to be that you can't use MSN AdCenter in Google Chrome (oh and the fact that MSN AdCenter Quality Scores are wrong, way off). The variables seem to match up:

MSN AdCenter

  • Quality Score (1 to 10) = Position of Ad in Paid Ad Array (Position 10 to 1 inversely)

  • Keyword Relevance (1, 2 or 3) = Raw CTR

  • Landing Page Relevance (1 or 2) = Did you keyword stuff your page with all the keywords listed in your Ad Group?

  • Landing Page User Experience (1 or 2) = Spammy, too many ads? Or are they saying too many external requests (for ads) causing page load time to be above a threshold?


  • Quality Score (1 to 10) = a Score that is calculated by a complex algorithm taking the following 3 variables, plus many others.

  • Keyword Relevance (Problem or No Problem) = Real Relevance to Keyword based on theme used in Text Ad, Display URL, etc.

  • Landing Page Quality (Problem or No Problem) = Semantically Relevant

  • Landing Page Load Time (Problem or No Problem) = Minimum 1.5 seconds to load page from server is FAST

However, if the Keyword is "keyword #1" and all the elements of the ad are "keyword #1" themed, and the keyword relevance is the highest (2), how can the quality score be 1 in MSN AdCenter? It would be around 4 in Google Adwords.

It seems that MSN Adcenter is not measuring keyword relevance versus competitors, only by the Click-Through-Rate as a raw number. I also suspect that the Quality Score closely ties to the location of the keyword in the paid search array, whether in position 1 or 10.

Yahoo Panama
I think it took Yahoo (now Bing) years to catch up to Google in calculating a CPC that wasn't based solely on max CPC. And now you think MSN Adcenter's Quality Score is as good as Google's Adwords Quality Score, Nope! Google's response? To laugh and say nice try, Bing.

The Bottom Line
Google's Quality score is calculated every time a search is performed, and with lightning speed figures out the most appropriate ads to show, in the right position. Whereas, the MSN AdCenter Quality Score transparency only looks good but after digging deeper, it is not even 1/10 the complexity of Google Adwords Quality Score. The MSN AdCenter Quality Score is a loose estimate of SEO variables re-purposed for PPC optimization. But this is the same as the SEO search algorithm, Google's is far superior.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google Product Search Feed Mandatory Update

New Basic Required Attributes

Google is now requiring a new set of "basic" required attributes, as well as attributes which are required for certain product categories and target countries. Here is a link to the new Feeds Specification. If you don't have time to read a full article see the new requirements in table form.

Starting September 22, 2011, accounts that do not comply with the new Google Product Search requirements will be suspended. For more information about how Google will enforce the new policies, visit this Help Center article.Google will continue to regularly check feeds for accuracy of pricing, availability, and general product information, and take action against accounts that violate the standards.

Summary of Changes

1) Google would like a user to be able to find your products even when they are out of stock. For this reason, the [availability] status of all your items will be required.

2) Google has added a new required high-level attribute called [google_product_category] that contains the category of the item in Google’s taxonomy. This is in addition to the current [product_type] attribute.

3) Google is making [image_link] required and you can submit up to 10 additional product images through [additional_image_link].

For apparel only, In order to create a better experience for product variants that are available in multiple colors or sizes, Google asks you to include information like [size] and [color] in your product feed. In addition, Google requires you to provide [gender] and [age_group].

Basic Required Attributes (As of Sept 22nd, 2011)

1) id [id] - An identifier of the item
2) title [title] - Title of the item
3) description [description] - Description of the item
4) google product category [google_product_category] - Google's category of the item
5) product type [product_type] - Your category of the item
6) link [link] - URL directly linking to your item's page on your website
7) image link [image_link] - URL of an image of the item
8) additional image link [additional_image_link] - Additional URLs of images of the item
9) condition [condition] - Condition or state of the item
10) price [price] - Price of the item as listed on your Website
11) sale price [sale_price] - Advertised sale price of the item
12) unique product indicator [GTIN] - Unique Product Indicator (UPC, ISBN, or Manufacturer Part Number [MPN] with Brand [brand]
13) availability [availability] - Whether the item is in stock or not (allowing customers to still find your products even when out of stock).
14) product image link [image_link] Link to the product's image

Unique Product Identifiers are Mandatory

As of May 3rd, 2011, unique product identifiers are required for all products (except those products in the apparel category and custom made goods).

Product Identifiers:

- Universal Product Code (UPC)
- European Article Number (EAN)
- Japanese Article Number (JAN)
- International Standard Book Number (ISBN)
- Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) if accompanied by a Brand Attribute

It is recommended that you update your account settings or data feeds as soon as possible to ensure that you are complying with these new requirements by September 22nd.

What is Google Product Search?

Formerly known as Froogle, Google Product Search is a search engine for you to find products to shop for and buy. Like Google Search Network, you search for a product and are presented with listings. These listings can be sorted by many different attributes (price, category, brand, etc). Like a comparison shopping engine, Google Product Search allows you to compare prices and click through to the listings third-party Website to purchase the product. Products are not purchased within Google Product Search but on the website that has submitted the feed.

Why Submit Your Products to Google Product Search?

For retailers, Google Product Search is another great "and free" way to promote your products on the Internet. Google Product Search listings are searchable and show up in regular Google Search Network organic search results.

How Do I Submit My Google Product Search Feed?

You can start a Google Product Search feed with all the basic attributes and upload directly to Google Merchant Center. Google Merchant Center is also a place to add your retail locations to Google Search and Google Maps for your customers to find you on the Internet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The US Impact From Canadian Postal Strike

With a Canadian Postal Strike dragging on, my first question is; How much are US Internet Retailers losing because of this postal strike? Granted you can ship your products UPS or FedEx but what about all those smaller items; DVDs, jewelry, t-shirts & other low shipping cost items? Amazon, eBay, Overstock and other such websites are probably seeing a reduction in sales from the US to Canada, not to mention within Canada.

Cost of UPS Standard International

So you think, UPS must be loving this. Well retailers certainly are not. It costs $23.87 to ship a 1 pound box from California to British Columbia, Canada (a 6” x 6” x 2” package with a declared cost of $40). USPS would charge anywhere from $4 to $7 depending on the exact location. That is a 300% mark-up, what other options do we have?

USPS is in the Red

The USPS is running heavily in the red. CNN Money reports, “The U.S. Postal Service reported a $3.8 billion loss in the 2009 fiscal year, and plans to propose to Congress in 2010 that it drop Saturday delivery.” Well, the Post Office still delivers on Saturday.

Clearly the Postal Service is not a successful company, “The Postal Service reported operating revenue of $68.1 billion, down 9% from last year, while its operating expenses fell to $71.8 billion, down 7% from 2008.” Maybe some changes need to be made? You think?

UPS Hearts Canada Postal Service

According to Reuters, “United Parcel Service, the world's largest package delivery company, reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates and forecast record-high profits in 2011, sending its shares up more than 4 percent.”

Not all package delivery companies are thriving in the US, DHL, after an acquisition of AirBorne Express not only lost $10 billion in 5 years but destroyed a US town in the process. In 2008, Deutsche Post's U.S. division closed its 18 main distribution hubs and laid off most of its workers in the US, according to BusinessWeek.

Moral of the Story

In the “Global Economy” even local Mom and Pop Internet retailers can get hit hard by foreign economic crisis. We have learned from recent events that the economics of the US is balanced with the world economy. The Canadian Postal strike is sending ripples through the US economy, whether they know it or not.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Facebook Stand-Alone Retail Stores?

Facebook is the #1 social network in the US, and probably the world (Twitter being a close 2nd). Why? You can add substance to Facebook and have the community really interact.

Facebook Advertising
Everyone knows that you can advertise on Facebook, with very specific criteria. You can choose to target audiences that favorite certain brands or publications, living in a specific Geo location, that is a certain gender and age. But, now you can take it even one step further.

Facebook Internet Retail Store
What you may not know is you can start a stand-alone Facebook Internet Retail store. What? You say! Our favorite program, Flash offers an ability to create an interactive Facebook page. You can talk about your music band, show off your portfolio, and even sell products on a stand-alone Facebook store. Integrate a shopping cart into your Flash website and you have the cheapest, most highly targeted platform to sell any product under the sun.

Facebook Flash CMS Templates are full-fledged Flash websites, delivered within Facebook. The Facebook Flash Website is meant to be used as a custom brand page on Facebook and now is transformed into an Internet retail website.

Where can I buy a Facebook Website Template?
Although there are a few template sellers on the Internet, I find Dreamweaver Templates has a good selection, adds new website templates all the time and has the most reasonable prices.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Color Marketing, the iPod Generation

Many new products take after the smartest marketer of Y2K, Apple's iPod Collection. With sleek lines and a color pallet that will catch anyone's attention, the Apple iPod is a staple in how to creating a Wow Factor with "Color Marketing."

Color Marketing Nostalgia
We all remember studies in the 50s & 60s about the identification of colors that best induce hunger and thirst, by our fellow fast food industry giants. Red, Yellow, Orange & Brown (and calm shades of blue) winning the color fast food race, we are now inundated with fast food restaurants looking to find the color holy grail. McDonald's with Yellow & Red, Burger King choosing Orange & Brown (and a calm blue), plus KFC dawning a bright red. Many restaurants followed in the fast food giants footsteps, using Color Marketing to win the fast food franchise war.

The iPod Generation
Color Marketing can be seen in many new product lines in all product categories. No longer is email, display, search, and traditional marketing the platform for many new products; Color is taking the drivers seat. Reviving the old Fast Food style of color Marketing, Apple has created revolutionary brands around color and design.

A Color Revolution
Not surprisingly, the Apple iPad 2 continues the tradition of color marketing. Apple let's you take your pick of ten bright colors — five in rich, aniline-dyed Italian leather.

The Flux Chair
A company that has taken a page from the iPod color pallet is Flux, the creator of the Flux Chair. On the basis of building a modern classic out of a unique design and bright color, Flux is following in the footsteps of one of the more notorious Color Marketers of our generation, Apple.

With a unique origami twist on the modern outdoor chair, the Flux Chair comes in a color pallet Apple would be proud of. And at only $199, you have a choice of buying an iPod that will be outdated in the next few years or owning a new Modern Classic from Flux.

With color playing an even bigger role in the marketing world, I am surprised we don't see more marketing experts working on their psychology degree. We all can admit that we have a favorite color and I am one to raise my hand and say, "I don't know why I like a color over another, I guess it just feels right."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nova sceinceNow Wednesday on PBS

Although it has been on air for centuries it is still as good as ever. You may laugh that Nova is "the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television" but it is a much watch.

What's The Next Big Thing?

Is it Science Fiction or Reality? Built in the vision of cars from many a sci-fi movie, including Minority Report (but not as sleek and sexy), the "Next Big Thing" in cars is the GM EN-V, a two-wheeled, battery-powered car that drives autonomously. Enjoy this click from PBS:

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA scienceNOW.

Social Robots - "Would you want a robotic friend who could chitchat, do chores, even take care of you? Such bots may be here soon." Talk about the movie iRobot, Will Smith would be worried. Nova talks about the future of social electronics and a very smart grid. Futuristic or a world we already live in...Droid.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA scienceNOW.

Social Media: The Next Generation

Social Media is going where no one has gone before, well maybe a few. A couple of social media communities that have been around for a while but are finally starting to get some buzz behind them are Groupon & Foursquare.

Groupon - Hit the ground running during the 2011 Super Bowl with an ad placement costing millions. With many copy cats, Groupon improved on an idea many companies like Woot currently tout. It seems Groupon has become the Google of community discounts.

Foursquare - Hit my radar when I was watching Nova ScienceNow on PBS and saw Forsquare co-promoted with the History Channel. Apparently they have been working together since April 2010. Must have been living under a rock. Foursquare could be a Twitter killer? The bottom line is Foursquare actually offers information, discounts, as well as community connection. Taking Twitter's idea of 140 characters and your imagination to the next level (generation), Foursquare is offering something everyone might use for more than a couple months.

Two social media communities to check out and to reach more of your customers online or smartphone. Live long and prosper!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

SEOMoz: New Pro Level TBA

I <3 SEO moz

As a smaller advertiser I find the Pro subscription to track 250 keywords is not enough to get rankings for my complete SEO keyword list, but paying for the Pro Elite subscription for $499 a month to track 2,000 keywords is also a no go.

New Pro Level TBA in 2011
After talking with a SEOMoz Rep, she informed me that SEOMoz is considering an intermediate subscription costing $199 a month (tracking 1,000 keywords). I said, "Yes please." However, SEOMoz is still contemplating offering this subscription level. Like me, if you want this subscription level, please contact your SEOMoz Rep and tell them Alan asked you to request this $199 subscription level. The more money they see on the table, the quicker they will roll out this new Pro subscription level to all of us!

Open Explorer Tool
If you haven't yet tried SEOMoz Tools and Pro Dashboard, you have to take the 30 day free trial. Just the Open Explorer Tool alone (for link building) is worth the $99 a month, plus you get access to 30 other SEM tools. That is better than a poke from a stick in the eye!

4 SEM Books You Should Have Read

Weading through the massive amount of books written on Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing and Search Engine Optimization can be difficult and time consuming. Here are the 4 SEM books you should have read by now:

1) The Art of SEO - Although published in early 2010, this SEO book is still a must read and a great companion when a refresher is needed on any SEO topic.

2) Advanced Google Adwords - Start to finish, the most you will ever learn about PPC from a book. You have to go out and do it to become a true Advanced Google Adwords professional, but this is a great book to get you to an intermediate level.

3) Social Media Marketing The Next Generation of Business Engagement - This is the first book that goes beyond just defining social media (like the hundreds of books published on social media before) and actually offers a plan of action. A great all around social media knowledge center, taking social media beyond Facebook & Twitter.

4) Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day - Dropping April 2011, I already pre-ordered this book from Sybex. Can't wait to crack this sucker open.