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Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing
Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Search Engine Guide
  • Have you started running your marketing by the numbers?

    by Mike Moran

    One time, many years back, I ran into a famous public speaker. The speaker had one single product that made him rich: a single speech, delivered flawlessly, over and over again for years. It may seem appealing as a way to make a living, but to me it sounded rather boring. I like moving onto new ideas, not repeating the same ones over and over. 

    Yet there is one subject I have been talking about in various forms since 1999 when I first brought it up at IBM, and I can't seem to stop talking about it. It's about digital marketing decisions based on metrics. No matter how long I've been discussing this subject, it feels like there are always more companies that need to hear the message.

    At first, I thought it was understandable. After all, this web marketing stuff was new (back in 1999) and it makes sense that not everyone understood how to apply direct marketing principles to digital marketing.

    But it's 16 years later. I'm starting to believe that there's a never-ending supply of companies that still are marketing by the seat of the pants. In 1999, it was almost all companies. Within a few years, the e-Commerce companies had caught on. Later, the retailers caught on, whether they sold online or offline. In recent years, I've found that many B2C companies have caught on, but that leaves a big, yawning gap.

    Those B2B marketers are still hearing the same stuff from me that I was saying inside IBM in 1999. Identify your Web conversions. Test your marketing. Make decisions based on results.

    It's not easy, but it is simple. The principles are simple, but because it is difficult, we'd all rather think about something else. It's human nature to be in denial of problems that we can't solve. Many B2B companies are so overwhelmed at the idea of measuring its marketing and sales that we act as though the problem does not exist. It makes us feel better not to have to dwell on a failure this large.

    Now, it doesn't make the situation any better. It doesn't improve our business results. It just makes us all feel better. So, the question is whether you are willing to risk feeling bad. Can you cope with feeling a little overwhelmed if the payoff is vastly improved business results?

    I'll challenge you with this question: "Have you started running your marketers by the numbers?" If not, why not?

    It's not a rhetorical question. Make a list of all the problems and ask yourself how you could take just one step to solve one of them. If even that is too overwhelming, then take a different approach. Fast forward yourself three years into the future and imagine that this problem is completely solved. (If three years seems unrealistic, make it five years.) Then ask yourself what had to happen to solve the problem. At this point, you can't throw up your hands and say it is impossible, because we already said that it is solved. Don't dwell on how unrealistic it is-this is your imagination. What must have happened to get you to the point where you can make your marketing decisions based on numbers?

    No matter how difficult this, it's too important to just give up. Do one thing to solve the problem. Then do something else. Before you know it, you might be able to make one kind of decision based on numbers, even if they aren't the greatest numbers.

    I'm begging you not to sentence me to this same speech 16 years from now.

    Originally posted on Biznology

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • Are Keywords Relevant in 2015?

    by Jayson DeMers

    SEO best practices frequently get revised as new algorithm updates are released by Google and Bing. These changes render some tactics more popular, and others entirely irrelevant. Keyword research, and the obsession with keywords when it comes to SEO campaigns, is a prime example of this. Years ago, prior to the April 2012 launch of Google's Penguin algorithm, using the right keywords strategically within your website content as well as within the anchor text of inbound links to your website was the best way to increase your rankings for those specific keywords. 

    However, a number of factors have reduced the usefulness and popularity of keyword-focused SEO, including the release of the Penguin algorithm and other updates designed to level the playing field for non-SEO-savvy businesses, along with the stiff competition many high-value keywords now face in organic search. This shift has many SEO strategists wondering if keywords should be considered at all as part of their SEO campaign in 2015 and beyond. 

    In the past, keywords were everything. Google would collect data from blog posts and web pages and rank them according to the amount of specific keywords used within the page. It didn't take long for companies to realize that relationship and begin stuffing keywords throughout every article they published. 

    That worked beautifully for a while until Google caught on and began penalizing the over-use of keywords. Now, the use of keywords is much more complicated. Keyword stuffing may be a thing of the past, but that doesn't meant that the use of targeted words for ranking results is entirely dead. 

    A Greater Focus on Placement 

    Search engines still value keywords within a page--if they're placed properly. Keywords are useful for search engines in determining how to categorize a web page when users enter a search query. However, they pay far more attention now to where those keywords are placed rather than how many times they're used. In fact, too many uses of keywords (known as a high 'keyword density') can actually lead to the page suffering in the rankings due to perceived manipulation of the algorithm.

    To get around the keyword stuffing problem, focus on placing them strategically in specific areas of your page. Generally, Google looks for a specific keyword within the title, heading, and first subheading (title, h1, and h2 meta tags) of your articles. Such meta data takes priority over copy, side bars, and footers. 

    Quality Articles Go a Long Way 

    Search engines are developing a certain sophistication that many companies are struggling to understand. When Google, for example, scans your webpage, it doesn't stop at the title. In fact, nowadays, Google will often disregard the title if the body content differs significantly from the title.

    Search engines can detect the main topic of your articles in order to deliver accurate search results for users. Search engines focus more on the meaning of the article than on the individual keywords or phrases found within the content itself, which explains why when you search for the phrase "roof maintenance," you'll see several articles within the top 10 results that don't have the words "roof maintenance" in the title. 

    This sophisticated form of categorizing articles is also used to help searchers find articles that may be relevant, even if their search query doesn't specifically match keywords within an article. Using a method known as "semantic search," which detects the actual meaning of a user's search query rather than the exact wording, Google makes the user experience even better. This brilliant move on the part of search engines makes it integral for businesses to seriously consider the meaning of each article when inserting keywords. 

    For a good example of this method, take a look at this chart from 42 Floors. Its focus is on local SEO, so it includes geographical information in the title and in subsequent headings. It also includes information that can be used in semantic search while picking up on the meaning, rather than just the keywords. 

    Structure Matters When It Comes to Keywords 

    When you think of keyword use, you'll need to think about more than just the wording. Structure of a webpage makes a bigger difference than most people realize. Begin by looking at the big picture of your website. Attractive design, easy navigation, and great search features within the site will reward you in the eyes of Google. They appreciate anything your website does to accommodate users. 

    Take a look at your existing website and make any necessary changes to improve the functionality and user experience. If it loads slowly, speed it up. If it lacks proper security and encryption, take the steps to make users feel safer. Adding site maps and static footers that contain useful links and contact information can also be beneficial.

    Keywords themselves are becoming less important in SEO as search engines learn to decipher semantic meaning behind content rather than simple keyword phrases, but there are some new and valuable lessons worth learning in order to improve your digital marketing campaign. The term "keyword" has evolved to more closely denote the meaning or purpose of your content and website than anything else. Focus less on using keywords and focus more on publishing only relevant, high-quality content that provides value to your readers, while maintaining topical relevance to the keyword phrases you wish you rank for in organic search results.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • Is regulation an adverse event for pharmaceutical social listening?

    by Mike Moran

    Every industry has its unique issues. Yet some regulated industries have special concerns when they embark on social media listening. I'm talking specfically here about pharmaceutical companies. Many have taken the plunge, but others sit on the sidelines, spooked by the requirement to report all "adverse events" from medications. What do the listening companies know that the sidelined companies don't?

    First off, I don't want to minimize the regulatory concerns of pharmaceutical companies. It is indeed true that they have a duty to report to the FDA any reports they become aware of that one of their drugs has produced an adverse event in a patient. Typically, they become aware of such incidents when the patient calls them to report a problem, and they have well-worn processes to collect the information and make the proper report to authorities.

    But what do they do in social media? How do they report that @patient tweeted that she felt dizzy after taking brand-name-drug? Some companies believed that they could protect themselves from liability by intentionally NOT listening to such chatter. If they are not aware of the report, then they are under no compunction to report it. It's logical from a legal point of view, but does it make sense? I mean, the same lawyers could just as easily disconnect the phones to call centers to remove the risk of hearing of adverse events by phone.

    Clearly, pharmaceutical companies must do more. The leading companies are taking the same approach in social media that they do for any other contact with patients, but it takes some thinking. When a patient phones you to ask a question or report a symptom, the company can make sure that all of the questions are answered so that a complete report can be filed. In social media, that's not so easy.

    One study shows that 0.3% of social media conversations contained any report of adverse effects from brand name drugs, and that, of those, only 14% contain enough information to file an official report with the FDA.  So, the companies were not required to file reports in the rest of those cases. What's more, because the companies have all the processes in place to file reports from other sources of information, all that was needed was a mechanism that identifies those events and triggers the existing reporting function. This triggering mechanism is not unlike the training that phone reps get as to when they should be asking questions on the phone to file a report.

    As with most things in social media, problems that start out seeming big usually turn out to just take a bit of extra thinking. Now, the FDA might at some point change its regulations and impose even more requirements on what is expected of companies in social media. Perhaps companies will be required to have listening programs. Maybe the government will even go so far as to require companies to reach out in dialogue to gather more information from the 86% of people who report adverse events without meeting the reporting requirement, just as they expect a phone caller to be asked enough questions to file an adverse event report. If that happens, the companies who have already taken steps in social media listening will be ahead of the game.

    But even if the regulations do not change, the vast majority of conversation about pharmaceuticals is NOT about adverse events, so companies ignoring this conversation are missing a wealth of information that could help them make better business decisions today.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • The Need for Small Businesses to Build a Conversion-Friendly Website

    by Kevin Johnson

    When it comes to the world of Web development, it seems that trends and opinions on the most effective options are constantly in flux. Responsive Web design? Parallax? But at the end of the day, only one thing should really matter for small businesses hoping to improve their online business efforts: making conversions.

    Just like any other aspect of a small business, a website's ultimate goal should be to spur potential consumers to action. Whether that action is a sale, an online query or something else is determined by the business's goals, but either way, the website needs to lead consumers into taking some form of action.

    While this may seem easier said than done for many small business owners, the truth of the matter is that investing in a high-quality, easy-to-navigate Web design can ultimately be every bit as important as (if not even more so) investing in SEO and other forms of marketing that drive traffic to the site in the first place.

    Basic Choices
    Creating a successful website that will generate leads begins with choosing a design that is visually engaging to the audience and logically guides them to the call to action in a clear and direct manner.

    Web development agency Fusion 360 recommends making a minimalist site that is easily scanned by readers, as most Web content is browsed rather than read word-for-word. This entails avoiding the creation of text-heavy pages that can quickly become overwhelming to Web browsers (particularly mobile users) who are trying to access desired information as quickly as possible.

    All text should be clear and concise in helping consumers understand how a company's product or services meet their needs while simultaneously guiding them through the conversion process. This includes making calls to action clear and direct. It doesn't help to use over-the-top, hyped language that doesn't adequately address a potential customer's concerns.

    Stylistic choices should also remain consistent throughout the site, allowing for easy navigation. Different areas of the site should be clearly labelled, and navigation menus should be placed logically so users can get where they want to go. Generally speaking, the most important information should be placed "above the fold"--or near the top of the screen, before a user would need to scroll down to view more content.

    Including a search option is another important consideration that can help users more easily find the content they are seeking. The easier a website is to use and navigate, the more likely users will follow through on the site's call to action, generating sales leads and other actions that fulfill the site's purpose.

    Other Conversion Tools
    Beyond these Web design basics, other useful features can make a big difference when properly implemented. Business 2 Community recommends utilizing such features as customer reviews, offering live chat customer assistance, and email capture services.

    The benefit of such features stems from the additional ease-of-use provided to customers. For example, enabling customers to leave reviews of particular products builds a sense of trust and transparency that makes potential consumers more confident in their purchase (just look at how much Amazon relies on customer reviews for its successful business model).

    Providing live chat assistance can also help when customers have questions or concerns that they want addressed immediately while browsing the site, but small businesses should be sure they have the resources available to such a feature before fully implementing it on a site.

    Email capture helps deal with the surprisingly common problem of "cart abandonment"--or users filling an online cart with items, then leaving the site before actually completing the purchase. Widgets such as Rejoiner enable email capture of these uncompleted transactions, which then allows for business owners to email customers to remind them of it (hopefully prompting the sale to actually take place).

    Experimentation and Testing
    However, while an initial design and its accompanying features may appear to get the job done properly, adapting to current Web design trends is a must for a company's site to remain relevant and useful to consumers. What was popular in 2010 is not necessarily still the best choice for 2015. Before even launching a site, it is recommended to invest in A/B testing to determine which of two competing designs will ultimately yield the best results.

    While not every small business will have the budget to perform extensive A/B testing on website designs, every company should test their site before launch to ensure that it truly is going to be effective in leading consumers to take the desired action.

    The more testing that can be done prior to a website launch, the better. These tests can allow designers to identify which elements of a site's layout are not appealing to users, and where improvements can be made to better enable a smooth user experience. What may seem like a great idea while in development may ultimately not provide the best functionality for users.

    Even after a website has been successfully launched, businesses would be wise to stay up-to-date on the constantly changing trends of the industry. User experience continues to evolve (as the rise of smartphones has already demonstrated), and design and layout changes will likely be a future necessity to ensure the continued effectiveness of a site.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • Searchmetrics Releases New Content Performance Research Tool

    by Jayson DeMers

    When more than 5,000 marketers were asked, "Does your organization use content marketing?" for the fifth annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends--North America report, an astounding 86% responded with, "yes." However, when asked, "How successful is your organization at tracking the ROI of its content marketing program?" only 21% said that they were successful.

    So, why would you continue to spend money on a content marketing budget if you aren't able to effectively measure its performance?

    In most cases, you wouldn't. But on July 15, 2015, Searchmetrics announced a new solution called Content Performance within its Research Cloud that not only lets you check your website's traffic, it also gives you the ability to view holistic KPIs on a page-by-page level, as well as measure the competitors who are outperforming you, providing the "whole" story of a website. It's described as "an ad-hoc analysis solution on a URL basis within the biggest search and content data pool available."

    What is the Research Cloud?

    Searchmetrics has revamped its software; you can now enter a domain into the search field and receive relevant metrics in one overview page. The changes are aimed at helping SEOs, bloggers, and marketers answer two important questions; "Where am I currently positioned?" and "What can I achieve?"

    The backbone of this new feature is the large data pool that includes billions of pieces of information from more than 100 million domains, SEO, PPC, content, backlinks, and social data available within the Research Cloud.

    Introducing Content Performance

    Content Performance, within the Research Cloud, allows users to create a better and more detailed picture of any website, which shows all the relevant performance metrics along with a unique solution to analyze landing pages. 

    What makes Content Performance so useful is that it focuses on holistic content as opposed to single keywords. While it may have been acceptable to focus solely on keywords in the past, Content Performance also explores a URL. This is important because landing pages that contain a wide-range of content clusters and topics rank better in Google organic search results. 

    Additionally, with an overview of a URL, you can better understand the web projects that your competitors are working on, and even analyze every page from hundreds of millions of domains in just a matter of seconds. This includes:

    • Competitor's top pages
    • Inbound links that refer to the top pages
    • The keywords that your competition ranks for
    • If there are any secondary keywords that are being targeted
    • The strongest inbound links
    • Competitor's social media strategy
    Besides allowing you to understand your competitor's web projects and use them to your advantage, Content Performance gives you the ability to analyze the environment of your market in a matter of seconds. 

    Research Cloud Features

    Besides Content Performance, the Research Cloud also contains the following features:

    • Mojo and Desktop vs Mobile Visibility
    The "mojo" feature allows you to see if a domain has strong search traffic, but is under-performing in other areas, such as social media traffic, at a glance.

    • Visibility and Google Updates
    Underneath the mojo is a graph that illustrates historical organic search visibility and paid visibility. If you're using the free version, you can only review the last 3 months. Registered members, however, have access to years of historical data.

    Another exciting new feature is "Google Updates," which allows you to see instantly all previous Google algorithm updates.

    • Geography
    This is another new feature that allows you to view differences between specific countries. For example, you could compare the SEO visibility for the top ten countries for your brand. This information allows you to analyze various global markets.

    • Rankings
    This feature provides the national SEO Rank or PPC Rank of your domain. It also provides the quantity, value, and position of keywords for which the domain ranks in organic search. With this data, you can see the relationship between SEO and PPC behavior and keyword distribution of a domain.

    There's also a "most important keywords" as well as a "winners/losers list" that can be used for answering any ROI-related questions.

    • Mobile Performance
    This gives you a glimpse into the performance of a domain across mobile devices.

    • Market Analysis and Industries
    This module allows users to conduct a competitor analysis where you can find how a keyword ranks for a specific domain.

    • Links and Social
    This feature gives you a holistic view that examines inbound links metrics, as well as an overview of your domain's social rank, social signal quality, and visibility on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.


    With the addition of Content Performance, Searchmetrics' Research Cloud is a fantastic suite of tools for online marketers. If you're interested in giving Searchmetrics Research Cloud a try, head over to Searchmetrics and see what new insights you can gain from this set of tools.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

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