Big SEO Projects – A Strategy To Get Them

By Marios Alexandrou.

Ask 10 search engine optimizers if they know the difference between a strategy and a tactic and I bet all 10 of them will nod their heads. If you then asked those same 10 people to give you an example of a strategy, 9 of them would in fact describe tactics instead and not even realize they did so.

Pointing out their error would likely elicit a response along the lines of, “It doesn’t matter if I don’t know the difference. I can optimize a site better than anyone!” Except it does matter because one day they’re going to have to compete for the opportunity to work on a very large SEO project and what’s going to really help them land the project is understanding the language that senior management uses. This understanding will help them craft a message that resonates with executives who are then more likely to sign the contract.

Vision, Strategy, and Tactics
When a big SEO project comes your way, it’s often accompanied by a vision from the project stakeholders that goes beyond the “get me more traffic” requests common of mom-and-pop sites. The vision will probably be something along the lines of “be the leader of such-and-such” or “be the most respected for this-and-that”. The best response to a vision statement is a strategy that describes the overarching approach to achieve the vision. And only when the strategy is vetted and has received general approval should you dive in to the actual steps i.e. the tactics that you’ll use to fulfill the objectives of the strategy.

I’ll admit that I once had a hard time wrapping my head around what having a strategy really meant. Yes, I was one of the 9 optimizers that would list tactics when asked for a strategy. What actually helped me understand the difference was working backwards. First, I listed all the things I do as a professional SEO such as keyword research, writing keyword-rich titles, removing session IDs from URLs, submitting links to directories, and analyzing web traffic reports. The list, as you can imagine, ended up being quite long. The light bulb started to brighten when I moved to the second step of marking each item as either being a tactic or a strategy. Much to my chagrin, not one of them qualified as a strategy. It then all came together with one simple question that popped into my head. If I executed a selected set of tactics perfectly and the results were as expected, how would the client’s situation change over a period of 6 to 12 months? The answer to that question is the strategy that, had it been identified up-front, would’ve led to an appropriate list of tactics.

Strategy in the Real-World
The problem is that while this backward approach is helpful for understanding concepts, it can be a time waster in practice since a lot of thinking can go in to figuring out the tactics that end up leading to a strategy that fails to address the vision. Instead, it is much more effective to start with a strategy and work your way through to the tactics.

Are you still unsure of the difference? Here are a couple of generic, but hopefully illustrative examples:

The Client’s Vision: The CMO of Company A has been charged with making her company the market share leader for the recently developed Product A.

Your Analysis of the Situation: Company B’s web site which sells Product B is such an established authority that Company A’s web site will never rank #1 for relevant, high volume keywords.

Your SEO Strategy v1: Increase the perception of quality of Product A so that more people will buy from Company A.

Partial List of Tactics v1: Build a comprehensive resource around why Product A is better than Product B and use SEO best practices to obtain first page rankings. Use catchy browser titles to draw attention away from Product B’s #1 ranking.

Your SEO Strategy v2: Build awareness for Product A with potential customers when they are in the research phase of the buying cycle so that when ready, they’ll buy it instead of Product B.

Partial List of Tactics v2: Publish an information site that discusses issues and trends in the industry. Apply SEO techniques to the site to obtain search engine traffic. Place banner ads in highly visible locations on the information site to drive buyers to a site where they can purchase Product A.

Depending on the scope and budget, you could have multiple strategies and most certainly your list of tactics would be longer than my examples. You might also find that with your SEO projects there is significant overlap between the tactics used for different strategies and visions. Overlap is to be expected given that there’s only a limited set of SEO tactics and many are closely related. The key idea is that a strategy will help you win the backing of senior management in a way that droning on and on about duplicate content, h1 tags, and PageRank will not. In addition, explicitly developing a strategy will help guide your team’s thought processes and decision-making throughout the engagement.

So, what’s your strategy?

So You Wanna Be a Search Marketer

By Nicole St. Martin.

The search marketing industry is still in it’s infancy, now more the ever companies are realizing that they need to incorporate aspects of search marketing in order to compete in today’s saturated online marketplace.

Search marketers are in demand; there are more available search marketing positions then qualified search marketers to fill them. This is great news for those wannabe’s wishing to join the fascinating and ever evolving world of search engine marketing.

I found search marketing purely by accident. One day I was asked by my then marketing manager to “figure out how to get our websites listed in Google” from that day forward I immersed myself in anything and everything industry related. I would imagine that’s how many of today’s search marketers learned SEO.

Search marketing requires knowledge in many different areas but if you profile any of today’s successful search marketers, their savvy soft skills are what makes them leaders in the search marketing industry.

5 Must Have Qualities for a Search Marketer

1. Passion & Eagerness to Learn

Having a marketing background is helpful but certainly not necessary so please don’t go creating student loans when you don’t have to – The beauty of the search marketing industry is that it is full of chatter boxes that love to talk shop.

2. Thinking Outside the Box

It’s unfortunate that people today tend to over simplify what search marketing is. Regardless of what you’ve probably read online, search marketing is not about Meta tags, keyword stuffing, hidden text, or search engine submissions. True search marketing is about “making your website the best it can be for your website visitors and the search engines”. Quote: Jill Whalen of High Rankings

Search marketing is very strategic in nature and immensely difficult. Search marketers are constantly analyzing information in order to improve search campaigns. Search techniques are never black and white so you must be able to think outside the box.

3. Dedication

Search marketing requires you to have a massive amount of knowledge and of course dedication to keeping up to one of the fasting moving industries around. You absolutely must be up for the challenge of continual growth.

Get involved with search marketing associations such as SEMPO. Attend popular search marketing conferences and seminars; Search engine strategies is currently the premier search marketing event. Last but not least, never under estimate the power of networking, what else are you going to use your business cards for?

4. Listening Skills

Be humble, listen and take advice from your peers; they might just have the solution to a problem you’ve been trying to solve for a month. Unlike other snobbish industries, search marketing professionals are happy to share their findings and ideas.

5. Patience

Educating others on the “known’s and unknowns” (thanks Donald Rumsfeld) of search marketing requires a great deal of patience, as well as dealing with the constant natural up’s and down’s of any search marketing campaign.

Last but not least, never be afraid to surround yourself with people who know more then you do. With a little hard work, determination and know-how, you too can become a search marketer.

Creating an SEM Sidekick that Would Make Batman Jealous!

By Taylor Pratt.

Being the best usually means working with the best. Where would Johnny Carson have been without the support of Ed McMahon? You think Batman had a serious chance against Two-Face without Robin (assuming he isn’t played by Chris O’Donnell, of course)?

Creating a sidekick with Chewbacca caliber seems impossible, but what if it was as easy as installing a few lines of code or typing in a username and password? Wouldn’t it be great if you could figure out what keywords people actually are typing into the Search Engines and clicking through to your site? And how about what pages they are clicking through to the most? Hallelujah! It really is that easy to access this kind of information.

Most websites today have some type of analytics installed that their SEM is overlooking (Holy missed opportunity Batman!) While your eyes are glazing over at the thought of reading an article about analytics, I’d like to make an argument that they are more than just numbers. Analytics tell a story, and they just might be the sidekick you’re looking for.

I like to consider my customer’s analytics data as a story, with 4 major chapters that build off of one another:

Chapter 1: Keyword Analysis

Chapter 2: Tracking Your Visitors

Chapter 3: Page Analysis

Chapter 4: Measuring ROI

Chapter 1: Keyword Analysis. Looking through the thousands of keywords (hopefully) that visitors clicked through to your site on, can provide you with a wealth of information that should strongly impact your SEM campaign. At the beginning you can use these keywords as suggestions as to what you should be targeting. It is a great way to dive into the mind of the customer and get a better understanding as to what language they use when describing your product or services.

Your internal search engine is like a golden ticket into the mind of your customer. You know they are interested in your services, and now you get to see what they think right keywords are. Closely analyze these keywords, and see where you could be targeting them and if they would bring in enough traffic to merit such a focus.

During your campaign, these keywords are a great measurement to determine how effectively you are using your targeted terms on your site. Analyze the long tail keywords, and make sure you are focusing on the best terms. But how can you tell which terms are the most important? We learn that in Chapter 2.

Chapter 2: Tracking Your Visitors. What good is ranking number 1 in Google for “Batman” if none of your visitors take action or “convert.” Your best keywords are the keywords that lead the visitor to your page, and once they get there, they click through to the rest of your site. Your analytics make it simple for you: 50 visitors came from Google searching for “Batman,” and 0 clicked through. 15 visitors came from Google searching for “batmobile die cast car” and 10 of them clicked through. Data like this tells us we need to refocus our SEM campaign to focus on the language the customer is using, not just the terms that bring in the most traffic.

Don’t overlook what keywords your visitors are coming in on from the other search engines either. Obviously most search engines have their own ranking algorithms. Use that to your advantage by analyzing the keywords your visitors are coming in from on each the engines. I’ve found great keywords that I didn’t even know I was ranking for in MSN, but I was nowhere to be found in Google. Once I knew it was important, I was able to work it into my SEM campaign.

Also included in Chapter 2, is tracking where your visitors came from. Are your paid links actually sending targeted traffic to your site? Are your links doing anything more than improving your rankings?

Chapter 3: Page Analysis. Your Analytics sidekick also gives you the invaluable information of learning at what point the customer leaves your site. Was it something they didn’t like on the page? Did they think your shopping cart process was frustrating? If you find enough people leaving your site at the same point, you should put up a red flag and take another look at your page. Your best option might be to do some user testing. Regardless, you want more than traffic, you want conversions.

Looking at the pages that your visitors are clicking away from should also raise a few eyebrows. Are they finding their answers on this page? Should we expand on our content? What relevant internal pages should we be linking to in order to make it easier for the customer to find what they want?

And while you are tracking your visitors click path, you should be able to calculate the ROI of your current SEM strategy.

Chapter 4: Measuring ROI. Identifying which keywords, search engines, links, and even e-mail marketing campaigns are generating the highest conversions from the traffic they send, is a great way to measure your campaign ROI. If conversions are down, or aren’t improving the way you want them too, then you might want to consider modifying your current campaign.

Are the costs of your SEM project justifying themselves? If you’re like P.Diddy and writing lots of checks and still aren’t going platinum, then you should be reconsidering your strategy and your investment in general.

Having the ability to see which keywords and sources are bringing you the best traffic is an invaluable resource. You need to know where to increase spending and where to focus.

Analytics are a constant measurement resource identifying which search strategies are working and which strategies are failing (or making no impact at all.) Don’t try and fight your competition shorthanded, you have an invaluable sidekick just waiting to help you. Don’t ignore your analytics. There are plenty of great free resources and great analytics blogs to keep you from being frustrated, and to maximize your analytics potential.

The first 100 impressions: What your paid keywords can tell you

By Stephanie M. Cockerl.

How often do you check the status of your search engine marketing (SEM) and/or pay-per-click (PPC) keywords? Do you check them every month, every week or everyday? What about checking the status of your keywords after the first 100 impressions or ad views?

What if there are no clicks for a keyword after 100 impressions? This could also apply if the click-through rate (CTR) for a particular keyword is below 1%. Since the likelihood of having direct contact with the users who viewed the ads is nil, the next best thing is to deduce why searchers have not clicked.

Increase Conversion Rates with the Google Website Optimizer?

By Jeff Horsager.

Testing is critical to the success of any marketing campaign. Testing provides actionable data that translates into increased ROI. It is results oriented and provides insights that allow you to improve any marketing campaign in ways that are measurable.

Split Testing and Multivariate Testing

Basic testing of ad campaign elements (such as ad copy) is often done through what is known as split or a/b testing. Split testing is simply testing two advertising elements against each other under similar conditions to see which performs better.

An example of split testing is taking identical PPC ad copy and driving it to two different landing pages to see which page converts better, or creating two PPC ad copy variants and sending them to the same landing page to see which variant gives you a higher CTR (click-through rate).

10 Biggest Master Baiters in the Search Industry

By Dustin Woodard.

Link baiting is all the buzz these days in the SEO industry. It’s really nothing new, people have been baiting for years. In fact, I’d say 98% of us would admit to baiting from time to time—and the other 2% are lying.

What does it take to be a master baiter? Besides hands and a keyboard, a master baiter should have a creative mind, marketing skills and, obviously, be web savvy. I also believe link baiting should be intentional—none of this my-hand-slipped-and-I-got-lucky crap.

Below is a list of people I think are the biggest Master Baiters in the search industry. These are the people who seem to be able to hook even those who know they are baiting them. I’m sure there are other private baiters out there, hidden under a corporate brand that might be able to rival these guys, but they don’t bait in public like these guys do. I admit that I’ve been baiting in private until this post.

The 7 Deadly Sins that Hurt You as an SEO or SEM

By Daniel Tynski.

1.) Don’t underestimate the intelligence of your viewers.

It is not an uncommon mistake for many marketers, both on and offline, to inaccurately assess the intelligence of their target audience.  While it seems that bad estimations run in both directions,  it is a grave error to assume you know more about your visitors than you actually do — more than anything, you must not assume your visitors are stupid.  Its easy to clump your visitors into a large nameless blob, to think of them as cattle, susceptible to your clever gimmicks and likely to fall into the traps you’ve set.  The reality is that your readers are individuals.  If anything, they’re especially single minded on the net.  Many people feel empowered by the web, not only to be who they are, but also to assert themselves, their opinions, and their way of doing things.  To this end, your visitors are about as far from a herd of followers as you can get.  And while it may be prudent to make certain predictions about their behavior, it is a major mistake to assume too much about those you intend to draw to your website.  This is why analytics are so important to your efforts. The following sites can help you get an idea about what your visitors are actually doing on your site.