Archive for the 'Search Marketing' Category

Online Marketing: Focusing on the “And” Instead of the “Or”

Monday, August 31st, 2009

choicesToo often there is a discussion about which is the ‘best’ online marketing tactic or channel (e.g. Facebook vs. Twitter or social vs. email) as if we can only choose one.  As marketers, we need to focus on having conversations with our consumers how they want and where they want.  For some, that is still email and for others it might be Twitter, Facebook, or something entirely different.  The more places we can be providing relevant content and useful information, the more successful we will be.

We recently conducted a number of online surveys for one of our clients in order to get a better sense of the audience overlap among their Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and email newsletter subscribers. What we found was interesting:

  • 40% of Twitter followers didn’t subscribe to the email newsletter and 60% weren’t Facebook fans
  • 50% of Facebook fans didn’t subscribe to the email newsletter and only 5% were Twitter followers

While there is some overlap, our client is getting a much greater reach by embracing all three channels than if they were only using any single one.

So instead of focusing on the ‘or’ (e.g. is Twitter or Facebook better), think about the ‘and’ – how we can best use all of channels and tactics like Facebook AND Twitter AND email AND video AND ….

Content, Content, Content

Monday, June 29th, 2009
Photo: Sharyn Morrow

Photo: Sharyn Morrow

No matter what type of marketing you are engaged in (search marketing, email marketing, social marketing, etc.), the first, and perhaps most important, thing you can do is ensure you are providing relevant and useful content.

Most companies could benefit by spending more time thinking about what they can do to continually provide value to their customers, followers, fans, etc.  Marketing is made so much easier if you have something of interest.  Content is still king.

Help from Search Engines

Friday, June 12th, 2009

In order to drive traffic from search engines, those search engines have to be able to find your pages.  Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all provide free webmaster tools that help you determine how much of your site is being crawled and indexed and identify potential problems (plus other valuable information).

If you haven’t checked them out yet, you should:

Free Website Traffic Estimation Services – How Accurate Are They?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

There are several reasons why an online marketer wants to know how much traffic a site other than their own is receiving:

  • You may want to compare how much traffic a competitors’ site is getting.
  • In reviewing the landscape of sites your target customers are visiting, you may want to ballpark the volume of traffic to each in order to get a sense of their relative prominence.
  • When reviewing the sources of traffic to your website, you may identify a new source that has had good conversion success and you may want to determine if they have a significant audience and would like to see if that audience is growing. If so, you may want to pursue a more in-depth relationship with that source.
  • It may also help to provide focus in trying to establish high quality links to your site for SEO purposes.

There are now several free traffic estimation services (Amit Agarwal did a nice job of outlining these options in his article, Find Out How Much Traffic a Website is Getting). However, one obvious question is how accurate is the data?

In order to help answer that question, we evaluated the quality of these estimation services against the web analytics data collected through Omniture, Google, etc. for a subset of our clients. We thought that the quality of those estimates might vary significantly depending upon how heavy the volume of traffic was to the site being estimated. As such, we grouped the results based on site activity: heavy, moderate, and light. When available, we also evaluated how accurately the services reflected the trend of the site traffic as well as the volume of visits and visitors for the following traffic estimation services: Alexa, Compete, Google Ad Planner, Google Trends, QuantCast, and StatBrain.

The following table shows how the free sources compared to the data collected by our clients’ analytics programs (e.g. Compete’s estimation of traffic for moderate sites was lower than reported by the analytics tools used by those sites).

Free Traffic Estimation Comparisons

I should note that this was not a formal study, was based upon a relatively small sample set, and other factors may impact the results (e.g. relative volume of paid search marketing may influence the accuracy of some sites versus others).

A few observations/conclusions:

  1. Not surprisingly, the quality of the estimates is considerably better for higher volume websites.
  2. At this point, there does not seem to be a reliable source for viewing site trends for lower volume websites and the trends for moderate traffic websites are not much better.
  3. The growing volume of incremental demographic information being provided by some of these services is encouraging. Most of the demographic information is fairly rudimentary, but it is definitely more than what has been available in the past.
  4. You should definitely review In addition to pulling in data from Alexa, Compete, and QuantCast, this service displays other non-traffic related data such as Google Page Rank and Twitter posts related to the site.
  5. Given that none of the free services provided accurate estimates in every scenario, you may be able to use our findings to make adjustments for your specific situation.

Has anyone else conducted a similar comparison? If so, what type of results did you find?

Partnering With Your Search Marketer

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

You know you need to improve your search marketing.  You also know that mastering search engine optimization and paid search can be a bit like the students at Hogwarts trying to master the Dark Arts.  So you figure all you need to do is hire a great search marketing company, schedule a kick-off meeting, and then you don’t ever have to worry about search marketing again – other than being able to report how wildly successful the program is.  However, like trying to stop Voldermort with a stupefy spell (the last Harry Potter reference, I promise), that’s not a plan for success.

The more that a client is engaged and truly partners with a search marketing company, the more likely the success of the project.  That doesn’t imply that a client should continually exert control - you need to leave the driving to the experts.  However, you should be an active participant in strategy discussions, dedicate time to review reports and ask questions, and provide updates as to patterns in overall sales, results of other marketing initiatives, new promotions, trends in the market, etc.  Also, your active interest will help hold the search marketing team to a high level of accountability.

Don’t forget that no matter how good a vendor is they are not going to know your company, industry, or customers as well as you do.  A good search marketing company is going to value your participation because they know that can help them succeed.  So, when you hire a search marketing company, don’t forget to set aside some of your time to work with the team – it’ll be worth it.  The whole partnering thing helped Harry (I know I promised, but I couldn’t resist).


Know Thy Consumer

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

If you have gone through a web redesign in the last couple of years, you are probably familiar with user personas.  Fortunately, most interactive agencies have integrated persona development into their standard design process.  In case you haven’t worked with user personas before, they are usually written descriptions of fictional characters who represent key target audiences.  Personas bring ‘users to life’ by communicating motivations, needs, objectives, and expectations that drive their online behavior.

Personas provide extremely useful insights and work like a compass to help guide your marketing efforts.   They need to part of your marketing planning for a number of reasons:

  1. The process of developing personas should reinforce that neither you nor anyone in your company is your target consumer.  Even if you are a user of your organization’s product or service, working at your company, especially if you are a marketer, creates biases that make you different.
  2. Creating personas help you think of your consumers in terms of needs, wants, and motivations, instead of gender, age, and household income.  Personas create a much richer picture of your consumer than any demographic could.  To me, knowing that someone looks at the purchase of a high-end boat as a status symbol is much more useful than knowing that the average household income of yacht purchasers is $10 million (I made-up number – all I know is that I am not part of that target audience).
  3. Through persona development, you segment your target audience into groups that allow you customize your marketing and tailor your offerings in a way that you couldn’t if you focused only on the notion of a single, average user.  For example, Wal-Mart has identified a group of consumers who will probably never buy clothes from its stores but who are excellent targets for electronics.  Email campaigns that focus specifically on DVD players, plasma TVs, mp3 players, etc. are going to be much more effective in attracting that group than general, ‘Sunday Circular’ types of email blasts.

Know thy consumer is one of the commandments of marketing and personas are a great tool in helping you refining your understanding of key target consumers. If you haven’t created personas, you should.  If you have created personas, make sure that you are using your personas for all of your online marketing efforts, including email campaigns, banner advertising, and search marketing. 

The following are some resources on developing personas:


5 Considerations When Looking For a PPC Management Company

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Finding a company to manage your paid search campaigns can be a daunting experience.  First, you have know how to tell the difference between a company that provides paid search services and one that can do it well and then you need to find the company that is the best fit for your organization.

While there are a number of great providers, we need to take into the unique needs of the particular client when we help clients find a search marketing vendor and that is why we have worked with multiple search marketing companies over the years.  The reality is that no one firm is best for all situations.  The following are five things you should consider when looking for a paid search vendor.

  1. Specialization in Paid Search Marketing.  Over the last few years, many interactive agencies have added paid search  to their list of services, however, just because a company provides the service, it doesn’t mean that you should use it.  Paid search marketing is one of the most dynamic marketing disciplines and, therefore, you need to find a company that dedicates the necessary resources to staying current on emerging trends and has a singular focus on PPC.  Look for companies that generate at least 75% of their revenues from search marketing and has considerable experience with paid search.
  2. Size of Company Is A Good Fit.  If your paid search budget is going to be larger (e.g. $100,000/month), you need to find someone who can dedicate the appropriate amount of resources to managing your campaigns.  A small, boutique provider will likely be overwhelmed by your business.  If you have a smaller budget (e.g. $10,000/month), you don’t want to be the ‘low man on the totem pole’ in terms of getting the best and brighest that a company has to offer, so consider smaller firms who will truly value your business.
  3. Focuses on Your Goals. You need to partner with a provider who is going to be focused on the same goals that you are and one who knows that their success is based on you reaching those goals.  Providers that do this will talk to you about how you define success, what conversions you are trying to generate, the cost of customer acquistion, your minimal required return on adverstising/marketing spend, etc.
  4. Applicable Experience.  Converting business-to-business sales leads can be very different than business-to-consumer e-commerce so search for a company who has had success clients similar to you.
  5. Wants to Partner.  You need to find a company whose process includes more than just picking some keywords, writing ad copy, and setting some business rules in their automated management tool.  You want a company that views the relationship as a true partnership and is willing to spend time getting to know your business, including your products and/or services, your competitors, and your customers.  A good firm will see the project as an ongoing entity and will regularly engage with you (e.g. monthly meetings) to discuss progress, lessons learned, and opportunities.