Search Engine Marketing - 3/4 - Digital Marketing Agency

Estimating Search Traffic by Rank

By | Search Engine Marketing | No Comments

Most search marketers would know that in 2006, AOL accidentally leaked users search data, which led to outrage regarding privacy, and also tonnes of analysis into what it all meant.

By crunching the numbers, analysts were able to estimate what percentage of search traffic could be gained by being at rank 1, 2, etc. Some results were obvious, showing rank 1 to be way out in front,  and some not so, like the fact that rank 9 brought slightly less traffic than rank 10. (Rank 10, with white space underneath, is probably more eye-catching than rank 9).

This data has since been used to try and estimate the relative merit in ranking at different positions, in different search engines, for different terms.

Of course, this is inaccurate. Google is different to AOL. Commercial terms would react differently to non-commercial. It depends on your brand strength, the presence of ads, who is ranking around you and even your ad copy.

However, like many other search marketers and web analysts, I went about compiling my own database of data, based on client rankings and traffic, to compare against the AOL ratios, and see how accurate it was. It turned out that, for some terms, these ratios are remarkably accurate.

My tests have shown that it varies largely depending on brand – e.g. if you brand is stronger in one of your products than another, you will likely get a higher click through for the same rank with the different products.

The point is – if you are interested in estimating traffic by rank for different terms – whether this would be for estimating targets for clients or just your own interest, it can be done. Some steps you might want to remember when starting on this project:

  1. Collect your traffic and rank information over time (make sure to restrict traffic to the organic and only from the search engine you are studying.
  2. Compare to AOL ratios, or start from scratch with your own ratios
  3. Try to identify multipliers for things like brand strength by product
  4. Don’t forget to take into account whether there is ad bidding going on for those terms
  5. Note the competitors surrounding you in the rankings, and the influence they have on your market share
  6. Remember to take seasonality into account, just because your traffic went down doesn’t mean you lost market share

Yes, there are a million things to take into account, and no one says it will be easy, but trying to figure it out is an interesting challenge that could keep you occupied for months…

Why You Shouldn't Cut Your Marketing Spend

By | Search Engine Marketing, Uncategorized | No Comments

Last night while driving I heard the following advertisement on the radio (it isn’t exactly verbatim, but you will get the gist…)

We would like to announce a change to tonights advertisement schedule. Due to the Global Financial Crisis, the intended advertiser has decided to cut their marketing budget, and therefore abandon this ad space. This ad space will now be occupied by their competitor

Or something like that. The point was, of course, to advertise radio ad space and to emphasise to marketers the importance of keeping your marketing spend up during a recession or financial crisis.

During a financial crisis, consumers, like companies, want to rationalise their spend. They want to cut back on consumption, or change brands to save money. The big revenue pie will shrink during these times, meaning everyone gets a smaller piece.

What makes this worse for businesses is if they also decide that this is the time to cut their marketing spend. In this case, not only has the pie decreased, but their proportion has decreased also, meaning that they are hit even harder than their competitors. Then, when the good times do come again, it is uncertain whether people will return to their old spending habits, or if by that time they will have become won over, and accustomed to their new brand.

This is even more pertinent for SEO spend. The reason being, that SEO is a long term strategy, it benefits early adopters. The cuts you make now, will influence your rankings many months from now. By cutting your spend today you are not only delaying your high rankings, but it isn’t like you can just switch it on later as soon as the economy has recovered. Once you increase your marketing spend in the future, THEN it will be months before the effects take place.

Meanwhile, your competitors may continue their SEO campaign, entrenching them at the top of the rankings, gaining market share, and making it difficult for you to knock them off the top spot in the future.

Despite this, many marketers will decide, or will be forced to, cut their marketing spend at this time. Since online marketing, and SEO in particular, is such a new area of marketing for Australian companies, it may feel the chop more than most (despite it being one of the most measurable of all advertising mediums).

This can work to the advantage of savvy marketers. By investing in SEO now, while others are cutting back, it could be easier for your site to make it to the top of the rankings, and increase your online market share.  This will hold you in good stead for the future, as high ranking sites, with sustainable SEO campaigns, are difficult to remove from the top spots.

SEO – Now develop a linking strategy

By | Search Engine Marketing, SEO, Uncategorized | No Comments

When I get on a train of thought, I can’t stop myself, and since yesterdays post was about the very elemental basics of keyword research, I thought I would do a follow up post today on the very elemental basics of link building.

The purpose of both these posts is to show that neither of these seemingly easy and innocuous SEO tasks are actually that straight forward. Sure they can be – but for suboptimal results. It is like saying that doing your tax return is easy – it sure is, if you don’t mind getting fleeced. Doing it effectively and for the maximum benefit takes a lot more time and consideration.

Before we get started, a very brief introduction for those newly initiated into the world of SEO. The bottom line is this – Google will recommend your site, if others recommend it first. This means, to get high rankings in Google, Google needs to know that others find your site useful. How does a search spider know what people think about your site? Links. If people are linking through to your site, the Google spider will think your site is well liked. If relevant sites are linking through to you, this is even better, because Google will consider you to be an authority on this topic.

So, how do you go about getting the nice mix of links that Google might consider appropriate? Well, you can just dive in and submit your site everywhere you can think of.  Or you can take the longer, more well thought-out way around…

1. Before you even start – look at who your client is. What is and isn’t going to be effective for them? Where and where wouldn’t they want to be seen? You need to know exactly what the limitations of your link building strategy are going to be. For example, if you have a government body as a client, you are going to have to think VERY conservatively.  Similarly for national brands or straightlace industries like insurance. On the other hand, start ups, media and online retail might be more willing to take risks. You need to note all this down, and make a memo of what kind of strategy you will be following. This is particularly important if you are sharing this client work with others.

2. Which brings me my next point – assigning the work. Link building is often assigned to junior staff, or as a starting task. Now, sure, it might seem like brainless work – but if your junior gets an irrelevant or inappropriate link for your client, and your client or a competitor sees it, you will have a lot of explaining to do. Please make sure that the person doing your links has some experience, and has read your client memo.

3. Now, in the interests of corporate knowledge and continuity, it is also recommended that you keep good records of every link you do for your client. No, not so you can copy this strategy for the next client (see point 1.- client suitability!), but so that you can go back and see what has worked and what hasn’t.  Going hand in hand with this is the obvious monitoring of rankings to see how your efforts are affecting them.

4. Step 3 will help you with step 4. Evolution. You can’t just get links and then stop. This isn’t what your competitors are doing you know. You need to constantly increase, improve and diversify your sources of links. This takes creativity and experience, and is yet ANOTHER reason why the most junior people in your organisation shouldn’t always be given linking to do. As part of evolution you need to monitor your progress, learn more about your client and keep up with their latest developments (look for linking opportunities), and also keep on top of general SEO industry developments.

This is the general overview of how a linking strategy should be undertaken. Sure it is a lot more complicated than just submitting your site to link farms, or sending out a mass email, but SEO is about having the edge over your competitor, and these steps will help you get there.

If this advice is too vague for you, here are some more specific do’s and don’ts:

  • Do use relevent anchor text, which helps Google to know what exactly it is you are an expert about.
  • Don’t use ‘click here’ as your link – ever!
  • Do try to diversify your links – 100 links from one site isn’t the same as 100 different links
  • Don’t use irrelevant links – Google can spot this a mile off, and may penalise you. Also, it just doesn’t look good if you want to retain some dignity for your brand
  • Do try and generate buzz with good content so that links will come to you naturally
  • Don’t undertake any paid links without thinking very very carefully about the implications
  • Do contribute valuable content/comments/reviews to other sites, with links embedded
  • Don’t try and contribute spammy content with embedded links

Go forth and link responsibly.

Google Offers Even More Insight

By | Google News, Search Engine Marketing, Uncategorized | No Comments

I have always been a big fan of Google Trends, which then morphed into Google Insights for Search. Both of these tools are great at giving you insight into trends on search terms, websites, competitors or related sites, across countries and time periods.

Google UK’s Advertising Toolkit has a different ‘insight’ offering, which I think I love just as much. What it does is, it collates stories for industries regarding online news. For example, for Finance, if you look at ‘study’, you can see two papers you might be interested in “Understanding finance consumer’s online research strategies”  and “how does the credit crunch impact online financial advertisers?”

Then, if you click on summary instead, it will give you things like (for the finance industry) – credit card summary, home insurance summary, etc. with some great explanations about how those industries work online and what the trends are like for that sector. It shows colourful easy to follow graphs, not just tonnes of boring numbers.

So, you just choose your industry, then Google will give you a list of possible studies on it, which are all related to online marketing.

Alternatively, you can choose ‘all’ and see some great papers and presentations on general online marketing tips, like ‘how to use search as a branding tool’.

Here is yet another distraction for me, I could read this stuff all day…

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