Chap#3: Why Search Engine Marketing is essential?

Here we come with the 3rd Chapter of SEO Guide.

As you guys know, Search Engine Optimization is the process of taking a page built by humans and making it easily consumable for both other humans and for search engine robots. This section details some of the compromises you will need to make in order to satisfy these two very important kinds of user. In short this section will tell you why do you need Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Lets begin!

One of the most common issues we hear from folks on both the business and technology sides of a company goes something like this:

“No smart engineer would ever build a search engine that requires websites to follow certain rules or principles in order to be ranked or indexed. Anyone with half a brain would want a system that can crawl through any architecture, parse any amount of complex or imperfect code and still find a way to return the best and most relevant results, not the ones that have been “optimized” by unlicensed search marketing experts.”

Sounds Brutal…

Initially, this argument can seem like a tough obstacle to overcome, but the more you’re able to explain details and examine the inner-workings of the engines, the less powerful this argument becomes.

Limitations x3

Limitations of Search Engine Technology

The major search engines all operate on the same principles, as explained in Chapter 1. Automated search bots crawl the web, following links and indexing content in massive databases. But, modern search technology is not all-powerful. There are technical limitations of all kinds that can cause immense problems in both inclusion and rankings. We’ve enumerated some of the most common of these below:

1. Spidering and Indexing Problems

  • Search engines cannot fill out online forms, and thus any content contained behind them will remain hidden.
  • Poor link structures can lead to search engines failing to reach all of the content contained on a website, or allow them to spider it, but leave it so minimally exposed that it’s deemed “unimportant” by the engines’ index.
  • Web pages that use Flash, frames, Java applets, plug-in content, audio files & video have content that search engines cannot access.

Interpreting Non-Text Content

  • Text that is not in HTML format in the parse-able code of a web page is inherently invisible to search engines.
  • This can include text in Flash files, images, photos, video, audio & plug-in content.

2. Content to Query Matching

  • Text that is not written in terms that users use to search in the major search engines. For example, writing about refrigerators when people actually search for “fridges”. We had a client once who used the phrase “Climate Connections” to refer to Global Warming.
  • Language and internationalization subtleties. For example, color vs colour. When in doubt, check what people are searching for and use exact matches in your content.
  • Language. For example, writing content in Polish when the majority of the people who would visit your website are from Japan.

3. The “Tree Falls in a Forest” Effect

This is perhaps the most important concept to grasp about the functionality of search engines & the importance of search marketers. Even when the technical details of search-engine friendly web development are correct, content can remain virtually invisible to search engines. This is due to the inherent nature of modern search technology, which rely on the aforementioned metrics of relevance and importance to display results.

The “tree falls in a forest” adage postulates that if no one is around to hear the sound, it may not exist at all – and this translates perfectly to search engines and web content. The major engines have no inherent gauge of quality or notability and no potential way to discover and make visible fantastic pieces of writing, art or multimedia on the web. Only humans have this power – to discover, react, comment and (most important for search engines) link. Thus, it is only natural that great content cannot simply be created – it must be marketed. Search engines already do a great job of promoting high quality content on popular websites or on individual web pages that have become popular, but they cannot generate this popularity – this is a task that demands talented Internet marketers.

The competitive nature of search engines

Take a look at any search results page and you’ll find the answer to why search marketing, as a practice, has a long, healthy life ahead.

10 positions, ordered by rank, with click-through traffic based on their relative position & ability to attract searchers. The fact that so much traffic goes to so few listings for any given search means that there will always be a financial incentive for search engine rankings. No matter what variables may make up the algorithms of the future, websites and businesses will contend with one another for this traffic, branding, marketing & sales goals it provides.

A constantly shifting lanscape

When search marketing began in the mid-1990’s, manual submission, the meta keywords tag and keyword stuffing were all regular parts of the tactics necessary to rank well. In 2004, link bombing with anchor text, buying hordes of links from automated blog comment spam injectors and the construction of inter-linking farms of websites could all be leveraged for traffic. In 2010, social media marketing and vertical search inclusion are mainstream methods for conducting search engine optimization.

The future may be uncertain, but in the world of search, change is a constant. For this reason, along with all the many others listed above, search marketing will remain a steadfast need in the diet of those who wish to remain competitive on the web. Others have mounted an effective defense of search engine optimization in the past, but as we see it, there’s no need for a defense other than simple logic – websites and pages compete for attention and placement in the search engines, and those with the best knowledge and experience with these rankings will receive the benefits of increased traffic and visibility.

How to track website content on Pinterest?

n order to track what is being pinned from your site, and to engage with those pins further, try funneling that Pinterest content into a handy RSS feed.
For starters, see what is being pinned from your own site by using the following URL:
http://pinterest.com/source/Your…
As simple as it may seem, the trick is actually pure gold. By checking the URL often, you can give your site pins more boost.

  • Always Like and sometimes comment on pins from your site to give them better ranking and increase their reach.
  • Repin some of the most interesting and unique images. You can even repin user comments.
  • Follow your promoters (those who pin your pages), encouraging them return to your site.

SEE ALSO: How to Track Traffic From Pinterest in Google Analytics
While it’s a great tool for bloggers and marketers, the “source” page can be limited. The major drawback is that it has no RSS subscription option, which would make tracking much easier. So, let’s create one!
Feed Your Domain “Source” Page from Pinterest
The Feed43 tool can turn any page into an RSS feed. Register an account at Feed43 and provide your blog source URL from Pinterest to scrape.
Then, in the “Item (repeatable) Search Pattern” field, provide the following.
<a href=”http://pinterest.com/pin/{%}“>{*}
<p>{%}</p>{*}
<a href=”{%}” title=”{%}”>{*}
This will extract the following repeatable information from the page.

  • The pin page unique ID
  • The pinner’s comment on the image
  • The pinner’s username and Pinterest profile URL

Finally, in the “RSS item properties” field, define the following structure of your feed (replicate the screenshot below).
You’re done! Previewing your feed should give you the following.
Play with Your New RSS Feed
If you’re not sure what to do with your new RSS feed, try these cool ideas.
1. Import RSS Feed into Your WordPress Blog Sidebar widget: Invite your blog readers to like and repin your content on Pinterest. It has the potential to increase your reach and traffic dramatically.
2. Archive Pins from Your Domain: Your pinterest.com/source/YOUR DOMAIN HERE/ URL is fun to look through. You can repin and comment on your pins right from there. But the bad thing is that there’s no way tosearch through the pins that originate from your blog. It is also unclear how far back the archive will ultimately go — will Pinterest save your source archive forever?
Archiving your site pins with Google Reader allows you to do two things: Save your archive forever (from the moment you created it), and search through your pins (e.g. find all pins from any of your pages).
3. Create a folder for your Pinterest RSS feed and install Google Reader’s “Next bookmarklet” to your toolbar. This is especially helpful for actively pinned websites.
Now, whenever you have a moment, just start clicking that bookmarklet to see pins from your site load in the browser one by one (in the reverse order).
Similar to StumbleUpon’s “Stumble” button, click “Next” whenever you want to go to the next pin of your site. It’s a great way to spend an idle minute or two checking what is being pinned from your site, and sharing those pins further.

Can you think of any more cool uses of the Pinterest “source” page? Please share them in the comments.

courtesy of Ann Smarty

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

New to SEO? Need to polish up your knowledge? My blogs related to SEO are crux from “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO” that has been read over 1 million times and provides comprehensive information you need to get on the road to professional quality SEO. Lets come back to some basics!

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is the active practice of optimizing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines. Firms that practice SEO can vary; some have a highly specialized focus, while others take a more broad and general approach. Optimizing a web site for search engines can require looking at so many unique elements that many practitioners of SEO (SEOs) consider themselves to be in the broad field of website optimization (since so many of those elements intertwine).

This guide is designed to describe all areas of SEO – from discovery of the terms and phrases that will generate traffic, to making a site search engine friendly, to building the links and marketing the unique value of the site/organization’s offerings. Don’t worry, if you are confused about this stuff, you are not alone.

Search Engine Market Share

Why does my company/organization/website need SEO?

The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines – GoogleBing andYahoo!. If your site cannot be found by search engines or your content cannot be put into their databases, you miss out on the incredible opportunities available to websites provided via search – people who want what you have visiting your site. Whether your site provides content, services, products, or information, search engines are a primary method of navigation for almost all Internet users. (See: Search Engine Market Share below)

Search queries, the words that users type into the search box which contain terms and phrases best suited to your site, carry extraordinary value. Experience has shown that search engine traffic can make (or break) an organization’s success. Targeted visitors to a website can provide publicity, revenue, and exposure like no other. Investing in SEO, whether through time or finances, can have an exceptional rate of return.

Search Engine Traffic

Why can’t the search engines figure out my site without SEO help?

Search engines are always working towards improving their technology to crawl the web more deeply and return increasingly relevant results to users. However, there is and will always be a limit to how search engines can operate. Whereas, the right moves can net you thousands of visitors and attention, the wrong moves can hide or bury your site deep in the search results where visibility is minimal. In addition to making content available to search engines, SEO can also help boost rankings so that content that has been found will be placed where searchers will more readily see it. The online environment is becoming increasingly competitive, and those companies who perform SEO will have a decided advantage in visitors and customers.

How much of this article do I need to read?

If you are serious about improving search traffic and are unfamiliar with SEO, I recommend reading articles i posted in my blog. There’s a printable PDF version for those who’d prefer, and dozens of linked-to resources on other sites and pages that are worthy of your attention. Although this guide is long, I am attempted to remain faithful to Mr. William Strunk’s famous quote:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

Every section and topic in this report is critical to understanding the best known and most effective practices of search engine optimization.

Courtesy  of seomoz.org

Chap#2: How You Interact With Search Engines!

One of the most important elements to building an online marketing strategy around SEO and search rankings is feeling empathy for your audience. Once you grasp how the average searcher, and more specifically, your target market, uses search, you can more effectively reach and keep those users.

Search engine usage has evolved over the years but the primary principles of conducting a search remain largely unchanged. Listed here are the steps that comprise most search processes:

Experience the need for an answer, solution or piece of information.

Formulate that need in a string of words and phrases, also known as “the query.”

Execute the query at a search engine.

Browse through the results for a match.

Click on a result.

Scan for a solution, or a link to that solution.

If unsatisfied, return to the search results and browse for another link or…

Perform a new search with refinements to the query.

Robot Evolution

When this process results in the satisfactory completion of a task, a positive experience is created, both with the search engine and the site providing the information or result. Since the inception of web search, the activity has grown to heights of great popularity, such that in December of 2005, the Pew Internet & American Life Project (PDF Study in Conjunction with ComScore) found that 90% of online men and 91% of online women used search engines. Of these, 42% of the men and 39% of the women reported using search engines every day and more than 85% of both groups say they “found the information they were looking for.”

A Broad Picture with Fascinating Data

When looking at the broad picture of search engine usage, fascinating data is available from a multitude of sources. I’ve extracted those that are recent, relevant, and valuable, not only for understanding how users search, but in presenting a compelling argument about the power of search (which I suspect many readers of this guide may need to do for their managers):

A Broad Picture

An April 2010 study by comScore found:

  • Google Sites led the U.S. core search market in April with 64.4 percent of the searches conducted, followed by Yahoo! Sites (up 0.8 percentage points to 17.7 percent), and Microsoft Sites (up 0.1 percentage points to 11.8 percent).
  • Americans conducted 15.5 billion searches in April, up slightly from March. Google Sites accounted for 10 billion searches, followed by Yahoo! Sites (2.8 billion), Microsoft Sites (1.8 billion), Ask Network (574 million) and AOL LLC (371 million).
  • In the April analysis of the top properties where search activity is observed, Google Sites led the search market with 14.0 billion search queries, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 2.8 billion queries and Microsoft Sites with 1.9 billion. Amazon Sites experienced sizeable growth during the month with an 8-percent increase to 245 million searches, rounding off the top 10 ranking.

View Online

An August 2008 PEW Internet Study revealed:

  • The percentage of Internet users who use search engines on a typical day has been steadily rising from about one-third of all users in 2002, to a new high of just under one-half (49 percent).
  • With this increase, the number of those using a search engine on a typical day is pulling ever closer to the 60 percent of Internet users who use e-mail, arguably the Internet’s all-time killer app, on a typical day.

A EightFoldLogic (formally Enquisite) report from 2009 on click-through traffic in the US showed:

  • Google sends 78.43% of traffic.
  • Yahoo! sends 9.73% of traffic.
  • Bing sends 7.86% of traffic.

A July 2009 Forrester report remarked:

  • Interactive marketing will near $55 billion in 2014.
  • This spend will represent 21% of all marketing budgets.

A Yahoo! study from 2007 showed:

  • Online advertising drives in-store sales at a 6:1 ratio to online sales.
  • Consumers in the study spent $16 offline (in stores) to every $1 spent online.

Webvisible & Nielsen produced a 2007 report on local search that noted:

  • 74% of respondents used search engines to find local business information vs. 65% who turned to print yellow pages, 50% who used Internet yellow pages, and 44% who used traditional newspapers.
  • 86% surveyed said they have used the Internet to find a local business, a rise from the 70% figure reported last year (2006.)
  • 80% reported researching a product or service online, then making that purchase offline from a local business.

A study on data leaked from AOL’s search query logs reveals:

  • The first ranking position in the search results receives 42.25% of all click-through traffic
  • The second position receives 11.94%, the third 8.47%, the fourth 6.05%, and all others are under 5%
  • The first ten results received 89.71% of all click-through traffic, the next 10 results (normally listed on the second page of results) received 4.37%, the third page – 2.42%, and the fifth – 1.07%. All other pages of results received less than 1% of total search traffic clicks.

That's Some Spicey Data You Got There

All of this impressive research data leads us to some important conclusions about web search and marketing through search engines. In particular, we’re able to make the following assumptions with relative surety:

  • Search is very, very popular. It reaches nearly every online American, and billions of people around the world.
  • Being listed in the first few results is critical to visibility.
  • Being listed at the top of the results not only provides the greatest amount of traffic, but instills trust in consumers as to the worthiness and relative importance of the company/website.
  • An incredible amount of offline economic activity is driven by searches on the web

As marketers, the Internet as a whole and search, specifically, are undoubtedly one of the best and most important ways to reach consumers and build a business, no matter the size, reach, or focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEO Pricing Models: How Much Should You Charge?

As other founders do I’ve maintained one additional role, that I soon hope to relinquish.

Salesperson!

My reluctance in hiring a salesperson is that finding the right person for the job can be quite a challenge. “Selling” search engine optimization (SEO) is a very consultative venture and one that I’m loath to turn over to someone mostly motivated by a commission check.

Selling SEO requires that you know the space well, and that you’re able to balance the need to bring revenue into the company while ensuring that you’re bringing in business which won’t lead to future headaches, because:

  • Expectations weren’t set appropriately.
  • The prospect lacks an understanding of the process.
  • There aren’t enough resources on the client’s side (or not enough money to outsource) for generating content, addressing issues, and implementing recommendations.
  • The work isn’t properly scoped out so that we can gain a solid estimation as to the work that will be involved (so that the work doesn’t end up being unprofitable).

It’s that last piece that I’m going to address, today.

Scoping Out and Pricing an SEO Effort

In order to survive as a well-run business, we must make sure that we operate profitably. Just as I might look at the probability of generating a positive ROI for prospects that come seeking SEO services, so too must I focus on ensuring that my company also runs profitably.

To that end, I made a decision, years ago, to hire a head of operations who also happened to have a background in process improvement. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s a CPA. Her name is Kim Patterson, and she also happens to be my wife’s cousin (so you headhunters can just keep on looking).

Kim came to the company with no background in SEO. Over the years, she has learned the process and has put in place measurements of effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability that I believe had been sorely lacking in our industry.

Another major component of bringing Kim on was to make sure that we were charging a fair rate (one which was within Industry standards, one which helped us to reach our profitability goals and one which would be reasonable, based upon what value we bring to our clients).

I asked Kim what formula she uses to price our SEO initiatives. Her response:

First, you need to determine your profit goals (15 percent; 20 percent; 30 percent; more?). You calculate your fixed overhead costs (costs that you pay no matter what your sales are), variable costs (what costs go up as sales go up – and what the relationship is to the sale dollar; not all relationships are the same for each sector of your biz) and direct costs (what actual direct labor, direct services, etc) for the actual job and make sure when it all is put together you end up with your targeted profit.

The real tricky part here is determining the direct costs. SEO projects can’t be precisely scoped out for everything that you might do for the next 12 months. Part of SEO is analysis and recommendations, based upon what we see in the SERPs, analytics, competitive analysis, and industry changes/opportunities, among other things.

Pricing SEO is one of the great challenges, because most prospects still have a basic understanding of search engine optimization and the time/work involved in the efforts. The best that anyone can do is get a sense for how much time may be required to spend adequate time to address specific goals.

Rand Fishkin provided a tremendous value when, in 2007, he wrote a quality post on pricing SEO. Granted, this was written over four years ago.

Can you think of much that is cheaper today than it was four years ago? If supply and demand are the drivers for pricing, I would suggest that demand far exceeds (good) supply. There are many people who lay claim to being good at SEO, and a scarce few who truly do it well.

Today, I hope to peel back the onion just a bit, to help you to understand how search engine optimization is priced and how you, too, might want to consider your pricing models for SEO.

SEO Pricing Structure

Many firms still offer package rates for SEO. In fact, there’s one firm that is driving me absolutely crazy because they’re spamming a client of mine with emails. Here’s an example of one such email:

I just got the details from XXX management on our July SEO Special, and here they are…… “Summer Gold Rush” Special

Our National Gold Plan – Regularly Priced at $2750 per month will be greatly discounted for ONLY 30 new clients starting July 11

The 2011 Summer SPECIAL:

  • Only $1999/mo for the life of the account 
  • That’s a $751 monthly savings 
  • That’s approx 27% off each month for 30 lucky clients 
  • Equal to saving over $9,000 per year 
  • Clients can purchase multiple specials

*Starts as a 3-month agreement, then runs month-to-month

To me, an SEO effort isn’t a package of tactical deliverables. Unless you’re simply hiring a company to merely provide tactical work (keyword research, site structure analysis, competitive analysis, SEO audit, analytics review, usability consulting), SEO is something that is unique to every website, competitive environment, client goal(s), and assets (news, blog, product search, local, video, image, etc.) and is ongoing with review and “optimization” (there is a reason that “O” exists in “SEO”).

Just as you’d expect to scope out a website design and development project, so too must you scope out a search engine optimization effort.

  • Who’s going to write the content?
  • Who is responsible for PR efforts?
  • Who is handling social marketing?
  • Who’s doing link building?
  • Who’s restructuring the website, as necessary?

Today’s SEO is about bringing together many facets of your marketing, web design/development and PR/social efforts so that they work well together.

All of these things go to “scope” and each requires time (either the agency’s time or the company’s time). And, yes – time is money.

Setting Pricing Structure

When we go through the process of determining how much a search engine optimization effort might be, it goes directly to how much time we have to spend on the initiative.

Yes, we have some basic templates to follow, in terms of what is generally included in most SEO efforts, but then we need to dig deeper into the time that might be needed to address items which the prospect has mentioned are “goals” of the effort, and address any human resource allocation that we may need to provide because the prospect isn’t adequately staffed.

Cost of Talent

We’ve all seen the ads: “$400/Month for SEO.” How can one firm be charging $400 per month while another is proposing a monthly cost of $20,000 per month? What’s the difference?

In most cases, it comes down to people. In my past, I was the president of an SEO firm that had over 30 “employees” (contractors) offshore. We paid those folks $300-$400 per month for full-time employment.

I won’t speak for all offshore firms/contractors, but our experience with these contractors wasn’t very positive. A couple guys were good, but more often than not, the work would need to be redone by our staff in the U.S., or otherwise we sold the services so cheaply that the client’s expectations were low and so “it worked.”

It depends on your expectations.

If you think that the $400 a month guys are doing “the same thing” as the $20,000 a month guys, you’re probably going to be wrong. Chances are the $20,000 a month guys are hiring people that cost more than $400 a month. While the deliverables may seem the same (anyone can get their hands on the $20,000 a month company’s proposal, and find/replace with their company name and say “we do the same thing”), at the end of the day, you’re paying for the people/process/software/experience of the firm(s).

Cost of Software

There are plenty of great free SEO tools. Due to the length of this post, I can’t get into them all.

Then, there are plenty of great tools that cost significant amounts of money. The firms charging $20,000 per month may very well be using software for management of the efforts that cost $10,000 a month. It’s something to consider. Some of these pieces of software are slick, and I can see that larger companies would want this type of information/dashboard/reporting, because they need to work with a firm that is very polished and professional.

Amount of Talent Needed

Small effort? Perhaps we only need one person.

Small-ish effort, but the client has no webmaster, copywriter, PR folks, link builder, etc.? We may need to put a lot of resources into a project that would cost quite a bit of money and the ROI may simply not be there, for this small business.

If a project is properly scoped, you should be able to get a general sense as to how much time/work/effort may need to come from the client, and how much will need to come from the agency. Some efforts can become quite complex, with web designers, developers, copywriters, PR staff, social marketing, video optimization, SEO analysts, link builders, analytics specialists, usability consultants, etc.

If you need more resources, you’ll be paying more (whether it’s to your in-house team or to your agency).

ROI Estimation

As I mentioned above, many times, the effort needed for an SEO effort, and the time needed to realize results, can prevent many companies from affordably investing in search engine optimization. And, there are many times when companies are infatuated with “free” search engine traffic that they don’t realize that there are simply not that many searches for keywords that are relevant to their business.

If there are no fish in the pond, no amount of bait in the world is going to catch you a fish. Comprendé?

This is why one of my favorite tools is SEMRush. You can check out the estimated value of the organic traffic for your competitors, and compare that with where your website is currently, and get a sense as to whether there will be value available to you in your efforts.

If you see that all of your identified competitors are getting $200 a month “worth” of organic search traffic each month, it’s going to be hard to justify spending any amount of money on organic search. You might be best off to invest in a pay-per-click effort. At least with paid search, you’re guaranteed to pay only when you actually get a click.

Amortization of Efforts

The real value of SEO efforts are, generally, not realized in the first month(s) of the effort. Folks ask me all the time, “how soon until we see results?” The honest answer is “hard to say, but our guess is ____.”

We don’t own the search engines, so we can’t make guarantees. But, if a search engine optimization firm has dug into the competitive landscape and done a fair amount of research, they should be able to determine whether an opportunity to have a profitable SEO effort is possible, even if it may take some time. This is where you should be considering the lifetime value of the effort.

You didn’t get into business thinking that you’d start and be profitable, right away (at least, not most of you). In fact, when I started my company, I didn’t take a salary for over a year and I expected that there was a price to pay to be in business.

With search engine optimization, it’s kind of the same way. There will be a period of time (perhaps as small as a couple of months, and perhaps as long as many years) when money and time is going out, and there’s not an equal amount of value coming in. But, if you’ve done your homework, and know that the opportunity for great value is there, and you “plan your work and work your plan,” you can realize gains that can far exceed the value in “pay per click” models.

One such company in an extremely competitive industry for SEO was being charged $6,000 per month for SEO and was getting OK value for a couple of years, and now – five years later – realizes an approximate value of $319,000 “worth” of organic search traffic each month. Even if they were getting “no” value whatsoever for the first two years (invested $144,000 total) to one day realize a monthly value of $319,000 (each and every month), you’d say that this is a pretty good investment, right?

It doesn’t always come to these types of valuations. Just like the TV ads say, “results will vary.” For this particular client, they happen to be in a space which people search for these keywords veryoften.

For the local business owner, that’s one of the critical pieces in determining whether SEO is for you. What is the “search universe”? How many times are people searching for your keywords?

So, How Do You Price Your SEO Efforts?

Do you know if the efforts are profitable? How do you measure profitability?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, in the comments section below.

An article posted by Mark Jackson