Is your marketing plan scoring ROI points, or are you just playing defense?

Readers of this blog, by and large, are marketing people. You understand that marketing is an investment that can pay significant returns. However, many of you report to non-marketing people who may regard marketing as an expense. This post is for you. It’s going to help you explain to your boss why investing in marketing is a really profitable idea.

Let’s do a little thought experiment.

Imagine a company that spends absolutely nothing on marketing. Now imagine another company that spends 100% of its revenue on marketing. Neither of these companies is going to be around for very long. The first company won’t have any marketing-related expenses, but they also won’t have much in the way of sales. The second company might get a lot of sales, but their marketing expenses will wipe out all their profits.

Obviously, these are extreme, hypothetical examples. However, as we move away from these opposing ends of the spectrum, we can create a picture that illustrates the “right” amount of marketing investment.

The point of increasing returns

Everyone understands the concept of the point of diminishing returns. It’s the point where spending more money begins to result in smaller and smaller gains. We don’t talk about it as often, but it stands to reason that there’s also a point of increasing returns.

Are you playing defense or offense?

Now let’s put some numbers on that curve and consider how it relates to ROI. As you can see, in this hypothetical example, an investment of $30,000 results in a return of $30,722. Increasing the investment to $32,500 yields a return of $49,248. A further increase to $35,000 results in a return of $74,057.

Calculating the ROI of these investments, we find that the $30,000 investment has an ROI of 2%. Pretty much a wash. This is what I consider “defensive marketing”. Defensive marketing doesn’t significantly increase sales; it simply gets an organization “in the game” and allows it to conduct business. At $32,500, the ROI increases substantially to 52%. Increasing the investment by another $2,500 more than doubles the ROI to 112%. At this point, the marketing effort has gone on “offense” by bringing in profits that significantly exceed the marketing expenses.

Incremental ROI

Here’s where things get really eye-opening. When we increased our hypothetical marketing investment from $30,000 to $32,500, the return increased by $18,526. The incremental ROI of that $2,500 increase was 741%. And it continues to get better. Our next $2,500 bump will increase the return by $24,810, which means its incremental ROI will be 992%!

So what does this mean?

Most digital marketing investments are scalable; we get to choose how much or how little of them we want to do, and how much we want to spend to do them well. This is true of SEO, pay-per-click advertising, social media, blogging, and video. Similarly, if you’ve been through a website redesign, you know that costs can range from less than $10,000 to well over $100,000. It all depends on what you want to accomplish and how important marketing is to the overall success of your business.

The point of this exercise is to illustrate how important it is to invest the right amount of money in your marketing efforts. As the graphs above show, a small increase in your investment can have a dramatic effect on your ROI. On a related note, we can also see how important it is to invest in the right number of marketing tactics. Spreading our investments thinly across a large number of tactics keeps us down on the defensive part of the ROI curve. Instead, we should focus on a core set of integrated marketing tactics and invest enough resources in them to go on the offensive.

Putting it into practice – with a caveat

I have a dilemma. I want this post to contain some practical application advice. At the same time, I don’t want to get too “salesy”. So, if you get what I’m saying and you have a clear idea for how to put it into practice, stop reading right here.

I’m going to be real frank with those of you who are still reading. Too many of us settle for defensive marketing, especially when it comes to our websites. I’ve been guilty of it myself. A website build or re-build is a major undertaking, and it usually costs a sizable chunk of our marketing budgets. We get a lot of pressure from the well-meaning holders of the purse-strings, so we try to keep the cost to a minimum. But when we do that, we end up with a website that doesn’t do a good enough job at attracting traffic, creating a favorable brand impression, giving visitors a really good experience, and making it easy and rewarding for them to take a step forward in the buying process.

So here’s my advice to you: use this article as a tool to demonstrate the value and the necessity for things like search engine marketing, digital advertising, user testing, social media, and content marketing. Although these things add cost to your marketing budget, they will quickly accelerate your results up the steep part of the ROI curve. Ultimately, those results will help your fiscally-responsible stakeholders understand and appreciate how marketing truly is an investment that helps increase your profits, not just an expense that diminishes them.

Posted in Conversion, Marketing, PPC, ROI, SEO, Social Media, Usability, content marketing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Google Pulling Paid Search Keyword Data From Analytics

According to this report posted by Search Engine Land, several sources are reporting that Google is going to stop passing paid search keyword data to analytics, replacing it with the dreaded (not provided).

Now according to these sources, the keyword data will still be available in AdWords, so this will prevent a “PPC is dead!” over-reaction from the search community that occurred when the same thing happened to organic search terms. However, it got me thinking about the ramifications outside of soon-to-be inconvenient reporting for paid search specialists.

Two of the reports that I still find valuable (if a site has a long enough history in Google Analytics) are the Organic and Paid Keyword reports under the Acquisition menu.Google Analytics Keyword Reports

These reports house valuable historical (in the case of organic) and current (paid) data on search queries used to access your site. It has been speculated for a while that the Organic Keyword Report would be phased out by Google, especially with the shift to 100% secured searches from Google. I believe that Google has kept it around because they didn’t want their Paid Keyword Report to be lonely. Now with both channels providing no valuable data whatsoever, I envision these reports are on the fast track to be removed from our lives forever.

“Why does that matter?” you ask. Well if you’re a brand new site or are just being introduced to Google Analytics, it does not mean a whole lot and you should focus your time on learning to unlock the valuable data that Google Analytics still provides. But for those of us who have been around long enough, it means losing all that precious historical data that can still be put to good use. And I don’t mean to get all Andy Rooney on you, but it’s like losing a part of your past, when you could turn to Google Analytics to find exactly which search terms were driving traffic, and you could use that data to improve your website. The nostalgic loss will be the most devastating (at least for me).

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Salespeople Are an Untapped Resource For Content Creation

Salespeople are an integral part of any organization. They generate leads, manage relationships, and help ensure the company continually generates revenue.

They are also on the front line with most companies’ end-users. Because of that, they can be an excellent resource for expanding the content on your website.

Most web pages list the products specifications and features, which is very important. As a search marketer, I’ve seen data that shows that Google is rewarding sites that have more in-depth content. This means that you need to go beyond the basic information about your products. That’s where your sales staff can be an excellent resource.

Answering the Customer’s Questions
During their course of their communication with potential customers, sales people get asked a variety of questions about the products their company offers.
• What separates your equipment from your competition?
• How long will we be able to use the product before needing to replace it?
• Is it difficult to get replacement parts quickly?
• Can anyone service this equipment?
• Is the product compatible with X?

This insight gained through these questions is very valuable because it helps you better understand what the customer wants to know about your products rather than relying on assumptions. By answering some of these common questions, you will be able to build content that you know will appeal to your target audience.

Generating Revenue & Content
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, identifies the Virginia-based in-ground pool company, River Pools, as a prime example of how effectively this tactic can be. River Pools’ owner, Marcus Sheridan, tracked every question his customers asked and then wrote a blog post for each one. One of the posts he created, about the cost of a fiberglass pool, is estimated to have delivered more than $1 million in revenue, according to Pulizzi. (Source: “Epic Content Marketing“)

Partnering with Your Sales Reps
So next time you are struggling to come up with new content ideas, why not make a sales call to one of your sales reps, and ask them what they are hearing from your clients? Or better yet, do a ride-along. You never know what insights – and new content ideas – will result.

Posted in Content, Copywriting, Marketing, SEO, content marketing | Leave a comment

SEO Versus Engagement Metrics: Correlation or Causation?

Recently, one of the SEO specialists here at Top Floor pointed out that he was seeing a correlation between engagement metrics, specifically Average Visit Duration, and SEO success. That is, in sites that are experiencing growth in Organic Traffic, a corresponding increase in Average Visit Duration was apparent. So we wanted to take a closer look for a connection between a site’s Engagement Metrics (Pages/Visit, Average Visit Duration, and Bounce Rate) and the performance of the website in Organic Search.

I’m An SEO, Why Should I Care About Engagement Metrics?

SEO at its very core is about driving traffic to a website, and there is still a strong sentiment in certain areas of the SEO community that once a user gets to the site, an SEO’s job is complete. I haven’t been in SEO long enough to know if that mind-frame was appropriate or accurate in the early days of SEO. All I know is that SEOs can no longer afford to think that way as search engines get smarter and continue to rely on relevancy and searchers’ intentions. So analyzing what users do once they get to your site is the best way to gauge your site’s relevancy.

At first glance, this makes perfect sense. Google wants to provide their users with the best user experience (read: search results) and the more a user is engaged with the content that was served up by a search result, the better the user experience. When a user returns to the search results and clicks on a different link, this is an indicator that the first link was not what they were looking for. This type of action is referred to as “Pogo-Sticking” and is believed to be a metric that is factored into search engine algorithms.

Rand Fishkin over at Moz had a great Whiteboard Friday presentation on Pogo-Sticking. In the video Rand discusses how Pogo-Sticking may be calculated.

Google measures these kinds of things. So does Bing. They measure this pogo-sticking … X% of people pogo stick away from IT Boston in their first 5 seconds of visiting the site, Y% do it for this BuzzFeed page, and Z% do it for IT 101. We’re going to calculate some average, the average pogo-sticking as sorted and weighted by the ranking position for this particular search result.

Long story short, user engagement is/will be a factor that needs to be monitored by SEOs.

How We Gathered The Data (And Some Disclaimers)

As an agency, we are in a unique position in that we have access to hundreds of Google Analytics accounts so there is quite a bit of data available at our fingertips. For the purposes of this research, we selected 50 sites so the data set was large enough to draw preliminary conclusions.

We chose from sites that had no major updates (redesigns, restructurings, or additions like a blog or knowledge center) over the most recent six month period and compared that data year-over-year to remove any seasonality.

We looked at changes in Organic Traffic, Pages Per Visit, Average Visit Duration, and Bounce Rate.

And now for a couple of disclaimers. We deal primarily with Industrial and Manufacturing clientele that are largely B2B. Data was collected anonymously and any specific performance metrics have been stripped of labels to further ensure anonymity.

What I Expected To Find (Hypothesis)

Given this perceived insight into the search engines’ algorithm, I expected to find a somewhat direct correlation between Organic Visits and the three Engagement Metrics. If a site has a lower Bounce Rate, more Pages Per Vists, and a longer Average Visit Duration, there will be less pogo-sticking and the site should receive more Organic Traffic.

That being said, with the hundreds of ranking factors that go into SEO, we do not have the expectation of finding the “Magic Bullet” to SEO in one of these metrics. We are simply looking for potential relationships across a wide data set.

Now let’s get to the data…

Pages Per Visit

Data

Correlational Coefficient: -0.44

Pages Per Visits Correlation Graph

Analysis

Initially, I was a bit surprised that there was a pretty significant negative correlation between Organic Visits and Pages Per Visit. But the more I thought about it, the more this makes sense. If an SEO campaign is effective in targeting the right audience with the appropriate content, a user should find the majority of what they were searching for on their entry page. There’s less time spent searching through the website to find what they seek.

Average Visit Duration

Data

Correlational Coefficient: -0.28

Average Visit Duration Correlation Graph

Analysis

This is a much weaker negative correlation, but negative nonetheless. As you can see from the chart, the data is not as grouped as in the Pages/Visit graph, with many more outliers. Another factor to take into consideration is that Bounce Visits are tracked in Google Analytics as having 0:00 visit duration. As we make the shift towards trying to answer all of the user may have with the content on a landing page (as Cyrus Shepard of Moz suggests here and here), users may be spending more time digesting the content provided before leaving via a “Bounce”. Especially when you are working within a B2B vertical where the buying process is very long, these types of visits are not necessarily a failure.

Bounce Rate

Data

Correlational Coefficient: +0.22

Bounce Rate Correlation Graph

Analysis

Now this is the data that surprised me most. While it is a very weak correlation, there is still a positive correlation in that as Organic Traffic increased, so did the Bounce Rate. As mentioned in the previous analyses, this may not be troubling. Searchers are typically looking for very specific information, and if we successfully provide that on the landing page, they may have no further need for our site during that visit. Also, with the inability to track how long a user was on site, these Bounces could have occurred after 5 seconds, or 5 minutes.

Summary Of Findings

While the data did not support my hypothesis it still shed some light on how these sites are being utilized after a searcher arrives. I think as SEOs, we owe it to ourselves and our clients to look at the entire package from Visit to Conversion and everything in between. When a marketer works to improve engagement metrics, they are putting the user first and catering a web experience to them. And when you sort through all the vague statements, repetition and actions taken by search engines in the recent years and months; that is what they are looking for. A truly great experience for their customers.

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10 Guidelines to Creating a Social Media Policy

Writing a social media policy is similar to writing a will. Everyone needs to have one, it is important to make sure it includes all of the necessary legal components, and most people do not have one when it is needed. According to an article published by Bloomberg Law, “75 percent of their workforce access social media daily on the job, but only 23 percent of the employees, however had received a social media policy from their employers.”

source: gatheryourcrowd.com

  • A social media policy outlines guidelines for employees when communicating online. Write a complete policy that addresses every social media platform and how an employee should interact on each platform available.
  • Similar to updating a will, update a social media policy as needed and adjust accordingly.

Mario Sundar, a LinkedIn evangelist explains, “Social media may be a huge opportunity for your employees to help build your company’s brand, but let’s not forget that there also exists a tremendous risk for individual employees to inadvertently damage the company’s brand, and by defining a set of guidelines you help mitigate that risk.”

Below are ten guidelines to follow when creating a social media policy:

  1. Define “Social Media” – Clearly define what social media means in the organization. This may include social networking websites, blogs, forums, and any other form of digital communication. Creating a policy that clearly outlines which platforms are used for the company brand. By crafting a policy you can, improve the effectiveness of your social media campaign and limit the risk of potential issues moving forward.
  2. Have a Social Voice – Develop a social media voice that is consistent among all employees. This is key to brand consistency. Either have the tone of voice clearly defined in the social media policy or have all posts filtered through a marketing or community manager.
  3. Know Your Audience – Consider what information the audience is searching for and how to provide that information through social media platforms. For a guide to developing audience personas, reference our slides from February’s webinar.
  4. Use Good Judgment – Have an opinion; however, refraining from comments that could be viewed as slurs, demeaning, or inflammatory is always a sound policy. “Bottom line: good judgment is paramount regardless of whether an employee’s online comments relate directly to their job,” reflects Sharyln Lauby who is a human resources professional speaker.
  5. Follow the Law – Always give proper credit for work that is referenced or shared. Follow privacy, fair use, financial disclosure and all applicable laws.
  6. Protect Internal and Confidential Material – Outline what information is acceptable to share and what is to remain protected by the company. The community or marketing manager protects any confidential or proprietary information to the company.
  7. Create a Balance – Allowing employees to engage and interact on social media is imperative to creating brand advocates, but writing out a clear outline of the desired balance between social media and other work sets expectations throughout the workplace.
  8. Fit Within your Organization – Draft a social media policy that follows the current core competencies, employment policies, and reflects the organization’s business objectives.
  9. Focus on what Employees can do on Social Media rather than what they cannot; this will encourage employees to become brand advocates.
  10. Create Clear Sets of Expectations for personal use versus company use. For example, a company may want to require that if an employee states on their personal Twitter account that they are an employee of a company that the things they tweet are no the opinions of the company. Conversely, companies should require that employees identify themselves as a company representative.

Once your social media policy is created, it is important to make all employees aware of the policy and address any questions or concerns up front to avoid any mishaps. For examples of well-written social media policies explore the Social Media Governance Policy Database.


Posted in LinkedIn, Marketing, Media, ROI, Seminars and Events, Social Media, Uncategorized, content marketing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Content Marketing: A Mindset for Strategic Marketing

In 2014, investing in a cohesive content marketing strategy is essential to your overall marketing strategy. According to “B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends-North America,” 78% of content marketers believe that custom content is the future of marketing.

In this post, Top Floor Technologies explains what content marketing is, why it is beneficial, how to utilize it, and how to measure its effectiveness.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is any form of marketing that focuses on communicating ideas and answering clients’ questions. The content produced needs to be high-quality, relevant, and interesting for your audience. Instead of concentrating on selling to clients, content marketing aims to provide valuable information to clients. Seventy-two percent of marketers think that branded content is more effective than traditional marketing, stated in“B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends-North America.”

Content marketing is not a new idea; however, now all major marketers want to take part in the trend. Hubspot.com states that 73% of B2B companies produced more content in 2013 than in previous years. These companies are planning on increasing their budgets and creating 58% more content in 2014. Compelling and relevant content builds relationships between your clients and your business. These relationships build trust in your brand and, in turn, increase revenue.

Know your Audience

Knowing your audience and understanding what types of content they are looking for is key to a successful content marketing strategy. According to Hubspot.com, people spend an average of 50% of their time online reading content shared from companies. Using analytics to audit your current audience enables you to build out an audience profile that informs you of trends and creates an increased target audience. A free, useful tool is simplymeasured.com; this tool provides basic analytics for your current social media followers and their engagement with your brand. This information can be used to create relevant content that caters to your audience.

Create an Editorial Calendar

So, now that we know content marketing is important and necessary, how do we implement it? That is where an editorial calendar comes into play. An editorial calendar is a high-level plan for developing relevant content. Start by looking at your year as a whole and fill in important dates, trends, and events for your company and your customers. This will create themes for your content and, thus, what you should share with your audience. Next, break that down monthly and choose a general idea or theme for each month. Then, as each month approaches, you can break down the content even more finely into specific tactics, such as social media posts, website content, blog posts, etc.

Share your Content

It is essential that content is shared and distributed correctly to insure the information is easy to find. Within your editorial calendar, include your posts for each platform using best practices. For example, a Facebook campaign that discusses a particular topic should be shared with an image and link back to your original source, i.e. your website or blog.

Content, Content, Connection, Community

This image illustrates the idea that content is the center of your marketing strategies. Putting that content in the right context, and then connecting that information will build your community.

Measure Effectiveness

After the content is shared and you have built your community, how do you measure its success? Part of content marketing is setting goals for creating content. These goals should fit within your overall marketing initiatives. Examples of content marketing goals are: to build awareness of your brand, provide better customer service, generate leads, and engage your audience. For instance, if your goal is to increase awareness, an indication of success would be an increase in Twitter followers, replies, and retweets.

Conclusions

Research from Newscred.com indicates that investing in content marketing is critical to building your business. Content marketing is the central idea to managing all of your marketing initiatives as they relate to your business goals. Per dollar spent, content marketing generates approximately three times as many leads as traditional marketing. Creating content that is relevant, timely, and interesting will leverage your online presence.

Want to find about more about content marketing, editorial calendar creation, and developing customer personas? Join Top Floor Technologies at our webinar, Content Marketing: Your New Year’s Revolution, on Thursday, January 30, 2014, from noon to 12:45PM.

Posted in Content, Marketing, Seminars and Events, Social Media, content marketing, industrial marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hummingbird & the Changing Face of Google’s SERP

Hummingbirds, Penguins & Pandas…Oh my!

In late August, Google launched Hummingbird, one of its most aggressive changes since the company released Caffeine in 2010.  Unlike Panda and Penguin — which have gotten a great deal of press during the last year — Hummingbird isn’t just an update, it’s an entirely new algorithm.

I believe that this new algorithm represents the next phase in the evolution of what we can expect from Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

One Search Engine – Many Different Faces

For a long time, Google’s SERP was very basic – it just returned a list of websites that matched the visitors search query.

Over time, the SERP became more involved, with ads at the top and along the sidebar.  Recently, however, Google has taken the look of its SERP to an entirely new level, adding new features like the Knowledge Graph and the Carousel.

Knowledge Graph

Knowledge Graph is part of the semantic-search trend, where information from a variety of sources is analyzed to make educated guesses about the searcher’s intent. Using the Knowledge Graph, Google adds information to the right-side of the SERP that is related to the search query.  This is designed to provide connections to other items Google is seeing related to the query, so that the user gets more meaningful results from their search.

The Carousel

The data from its Knowledge Graph is enabling Google to augment the SERP with things like the Carousel.  This is a visual representation of related information that appears at the top of the SERP. In addition to giving users more information, it makes the SERP much more dynamic and visually appealing.

Cutting Out the Middle Man

Search engines have typically been somewhat of an intermediary.  Visitors use them to find other websites.  Knowledge Graph, the Carousel and other changes seem to indicate that Google wants its SERP to be destination.  For example, Google is now starting to answer basic questions in the Knowledge Graph, as well as providing lists that are regularly searched.

Let’s Talk

The most recent link in the evolution of SERPs and search engines is conversational search – a driving motivation behind Google’s Hummingbird.  People will continue to become more reliant on mobile devices – from smart phones to web-enabled cars.  This dependency is going to change the way we search for websites and information.

Currently, most people still tend to enter information into a search engine via a keyboard.  This results single words and short phrases (known as head terms in search-engine-optimization) being entered into a search engine – that’s because we naturally think of the briefest way to get to the point.

However, conversational search seems more formal, like the way we talk.  Most people don’t bark two word requests at Siri.  Rather, we try to be polite and as clear as possible, generally forming complete sentences.

In addition, with conversational search, it will be very difficult to for Siri (or Google voice search) to offer up autocomplete.

A Shift Towards Long-Tail Searches

Conversational search should mean that long-tail searches – searches with 4 or more keywords – should start to see more traffic in the future.  It also means that sites with more content should do better because they will have more words for Google to index and use when searching for the right websites to present to its users.

How this Change Affects Me

Seeing all these changes, the obvious question is how does this affect my web strategy? The answer is not so obvious.

First, we don’t recommend that you chase the algorithm changes.  Change is a constant for Google.  In 2013, they seemed to average more than two significant algorithm updates monthly, as well as numerous minor tweaks throughout the year.  If you try to make modifications based on one change, you may be positioning your site to get hurt as soon as Google makes another change.

Second, we recommend following Google’s and Bing’s webmaster guidelines.  These guidelines give you an excellent blueprint for managing your site in a way that is going to help you safely navigate continuing evolution of Google’s algorithm changes.

Third, don’t panic or jump to conclusions.  If your site’s search traffic has taken a dip in recent weeks, it may or may not be related to Google’s launch of Hummingbird (or another change to its algorithm).  Loss in traffic can be caused by many different things including pages not loading correctly, issues with your host server or even the Google Analytics code not loading correctly.

Things to check

When trying to diagnose a problem, it’s important to look at a variety of sources.  Use Google and Bing Webmaster Tools to identify crawl & sitemap issues and other warnings.  Review Google Analytics to see what landing pages had the greatest decrease in visits.  Use tools such as the Firebug page speed tool.  Also, take a look at your website’s HTML code to make sure you have your Google Analytics code set up properly.

The bottom line

Hummingbird is just the latest of many Google search algorithm updates. Each update has affected users and site administrators differently, but the intention is always the same – to improve the accessibility of valuable information. If your site contains valuable information, and especially if it contains more valuable information than competing sites, the Hummingbird update should be music to your ears.

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Organic Keywords Not Provided In Google Analytics

In 2011, Google began to restrict the keyword data they report through Google Analytics. This meant that when a user performed a search while logged into a Google account, Google withheld the search term and simply reported “not provided” in Google Analytics. This has made it challenging to track keyword performance and create meaningful reports for our clients as the keywords used in search have been such an important part of SEO reporting. Analyzing this data and identifying which terms were driving traffic and which terms should have more priority over others has been a cornerstone of SEO since the beginning.

We have been monitoring our clients’ Google Analytics accounts since Google began to implement this change. Currently, as much as 70% of their search queires are being withheld. Not Provided Count, a website that  has been tracking withheld search terms across 60 separate websites, reports that the percent of search terms withheld by Google increased from 40% in late July to over 75% in late September. Not Provided Count estimates that 100% of search terms will be withheld by early December.

Source: www.notprovidedcount.com

Here at Top Floor, we have known for a while that this was coming, so we’ve been taking appropriate steps to focus our analysis and reporting on the landing pages which are driving traffic to clients’ sites. By optimizing landing pages for specific keywords and measuring the traffic to those pages, we can infer which terms are accounting for that traffic. We then use keyword ranking reports to confirm our conclusions.

I’m proud of the way that we, as a team, have responded to this monumental change. It allows us to continue to provide valuable insights to our clients and to successfully drive traffic to their websites. It also makes our jobs more challenging, but that’s the nature of digital marketing. We have to be proactive and focus on the future rather than trying to hold on to what we hoped would never change. It’s our job to stay on top of these changes and make sure that we are prepared for our clients and our own sanity!

Is it Time SEO & Paid Search Teamed Up?

One thing that isn’t changing is Google’s reporting of keywords in paid search campaigns. Now that organic search terms are being withheld, combining a paid search campaign with an organic search optimization campaign can be an effective means of obtaining specific keyword insights. An integrated approach like this can help us to understand which keywords are most effective and which keywords to focus our efforts on. I guess this is a good example of the old saying, “You get what you pay for,” right?

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How will wearable technology affect search?

Samsung recently introduced the Galaxy Gear, a “smartwatch” that runs on a version of the Android mobile operating system. Apple is expected to announce a smartwatch of its own in the near future.

It got me wondering how wearable technology like these and Google Glass will change the way we conduct searches. Here are some thoughts.

Searches will become less about typing and more about talking. People using voice-recognition technology use different search terms than they do when they’re at a keyboard. Voice searches tend to be longer, more conversational, and more specific. For example, if I was sitting at my computer, wondering who served the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago, I might type, “deep dish pizza chicago”. On the other hand, if I were driving around in Chicago, I might ask my phone, “what’s the best pizza place near here?” Takeaway: be sure your SEO and PPC efforts include long-tail search terms, geographic keywords, and verbal language.

Searches will become less about words and more about images. One of Google’s less well known services is Goggles, a function of Google’s mobile app that allows you to use your phone’s camera to perform searches. Currently, the results are limited primarily to well-known landmarks. It’s a safe bet, though, that Google is working to grow its database of images and its image-recognition technology.  As it does, its ability to recognize ordinary objects will become tremendously powerful. Takeaway: be sure your site uses lots of images, especially if you sell tangible products. Also, be sure your images have title and description tags to help Google recognize them.

The notion of searching will be fundamentally transformed. As our devices become smarter and more integrated into our persons, they will develop the ability to anticipate the kind of information we desire. Instead of waiting for us to ask for information, they may begin to offer it proactively. Imagine you’re at an airport. Your smartphone knows you have two hours before your flight boards, and your Google Glass display notices that you’re looking at the airport Chili’s. It could alert you to the fact that Chili’s is running a free appetizer special. Maybe after you reach your destination, you go to a bar. The GPS in your phone knows where you are, and your smartwatch knows how frequently you raise your hand to your mouth. At a certain point, your phone might suggest the phone numbers of some local cab companies. Takeaway: get ready for a new wave of behavior-based push marketing. Also, be careful which hand you hold your beer with.

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A peek behind the SEO curtain

Google Behind the CurtainIf you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance that you either haven’t given SEO (search engine optimization) a second thought or you think there’s some sort of “magic” going on behind the scenes to ensure a website makes it onto the 1st page of search engine results.

I’ve had the chance to peek behind the curtain since joining the team at Top Floor and I’ve learned that there’s no wizard pulling levers and pushing buttons behind the SEO curtain.  In the case of our team, it’s a really talented, experienced group working hard and employing a combination of process, creativity and technology to produce results for our clients and then keeping on top of ever-changing search algorithms to ensure those results aren’t short-lived.

So what’s the secret you ask?  Truth is there is none, although there are three basic tenets that, if adhered to by a talented team, can lead you down the yellow brick road to success:  Code, Content & Connection

-       Code is making sure that the search engines (yes, like Google) can clearly see or find your website so that each page can be “indexed” correctly.

-       Content is making sure that your website is written and organized so that the content or text is comprised of “keywords” which will correspond with the “search terms” entered into Google when your target customer’s use when looking for a product or service like yours.

-       Connection is making sure that your website has links to and from many other sites that are relevant or influential in your particular area of business or expertise.  These links are telling those search engines that you are a big deal and should be “ranked” higher within their results.

So there you have it.  No wizard.  No special sauce.  No magic.  Just a great SEO team at Top Floor employing process, creativity and technology to get the results you need to improve your bottom line.

(…and none of those scary flying monkeys either)

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