Tuesday, 30 November 2010

How to Make Video Content Work For You

An increasing number of companies are publishing videos onto their websites as they strive to give demanding consumers the content they want. 

In fact, a number of studies have shown that more and more top retailers are using online video to engage with their visitors, and drive up repeat visits and sales.

A study by eMarketer earlier this year even suggested that video content could help reduce shopping cart abandonment -- an attractive proposition for any online retailer.

So how can you make use of video? 

How Could Your Company Use Video Content?
It's all very well deciding your business should leap onto the video content bandwagon, but what do you actually intend to use it for and what kind of content best suits that?

There are many options. You could publish video news, industry guides, interviews, or simply funny, industry-relevant content.

Some of these are easier to do than others -- it's comparatively simple to create a straightforward interview with your CEO or a product development manager.

However, it takes real skill to create something funny that people will want to share and stands a chance of going viral.

There's nothing worse than seeing a failed attempt at humor on a corporate website, particularly if it's badly shot and edited. It's like watching your Dad dance the Macarena.

Outsource if You Need to
Let's be frank, videos filmed on your mobile phone and edited using some basic home editing package are not going to look professional.

Publishing shoddy content onto your site devalues your brand and undermines your online marketing campaign.

If you have the budget, bring some creatives into the company and let them run with their ideas. As the money flows out of traditional media roles like newspapers and TV, more creative graduates are leaving university and looking for marketing roles.

You can easily find talented staff capable of filming, starring in and editing your content for not much more than you'd pay a junior copywriter.

However, if you aren't willing to hire a qualified team then outsource your video needs to one of the many new agencies that have sprung up to provide tailored content to large companies.

It will cost money, but it's worth it for the professional feel a well scripted, filmed, and edited video provides.

Use Video Content to Impact Universal Search & SEO
Although the search engines are getting better at reading video content, your videos can still work hard for your organic search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

This can be because people are linking to the videos, or because they're embedding them on their own sites and linking to yours. You can also add transcript and keyword-rich descriptions to reinforce the relevancy of the page.

All of this will clearly help to boost the relevancy of these videos in the search engines and their listings in universal search results.

Keep it Short to Keep Them Sweet
Don't expect viewers to sit through four or five minutes of video content, because in general they won't. The vast majority will click away and you'll lose the sale you were trying to drive them towards.
Ideally, your videos should be under a minute long, two minutes at the most. Video is easy to digest and that's why it's popular, so there's no point trying to cram mountains of content in.
Bigger definitely isn't better.

Want a Viral Video? Dig Deep Into Your Budget
Achieving viral success is part luck, part big budget. You need to invest in promoting your video content almost as much as you invest in creating it.

Advertise and promote your content. Encourage sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and any other social platform that your typical customers use and spend money getting it seen.

If the content is good, then this will ignite online interest and your video will soon be seen across the world.
One good example I recently saw on Twitter was simply called Kitten wearing a tiny hat eats a tiny ice-cream cone. It's advertising some U.S. ice cream company, but you don't even see the logo until the end.

However, because of the "awww" factor and some decent investment, it's now being tweeted to SEO techies in Oxfordshire! That's some brand reach and is worth the initial investment. 

source: searchenginewatch.com

Friday, 19 November 2010

20 Questions Marketing Managers should be asking about their Online Marketing Strategy

It’s very easy to get caught up with getting a website launched and agreeing on the content, any content, just to get the site launched. 

After a site is launched many companies get caught up withe bottom line numbers, i.e. how much revenue are we making from the website in the case of an E-commerce site, or for a service driven site, the typical stats are how much traffic did we get this month or what what our rankings this month.

Getting too focused on these metrics will probably result  in long term disappointment. I’ve listed 20 questions below that any marketing manager  should feel at ease in answering, and that will provide a whole new level of understanding about a company’s online strategy and performance.

This greater questioning and understanding of your online marketing strategy will  lead to making ongoing changes and improvements that positively impact on the ROI for any business engaging online.

1. Where are our customers coming from? What is our customer acquisition strategy?
2. What is the conversation rate on our website?
3. What are the goals for our website?
4. Are we actively tracking our goals with our analytics package?
5. What keywords are driving the highest revenue/goals?
6. What is our content strategy?
7. How do we plan to build the authority of our website, linking building or link marketing?
8.  Where do we get our traffic from? Are we getting traffic from sources that is of low value?
9. How much do we pay for our traffic? Should we be paying more/less?
10. Do we have a social media strategy? What is it? Does it reflect our company brand?
11. Do we have an email marketing strategy? Do we measure the success of it? How? What software do we use?
12. What is our web channel development strategy? How do we build partners/reseller online?
13. What is our online advertising strategy?
14. Who is responsible for the website? IT, Marketing, Sales?
15. Do we have a data back-up strategy? What happen if our website goes down? Who do we contact?
16. How does our website perform? Do we have bandwidth issues with our hosting company or with the plan we are on?
17. Who registered our company’s domain name? Who is getting notification that it’s about to expire?
18. Are we targeting the right keywords on our website? How do we know? What keyword software was used?
19. Who are our keyword competitors online? Are they different to our high street competitors?
20. Are we doing any A/B or multivariate testing to improve our conversion rate? If not why not? Is this type of testing it suitable for our business?

Only 20 questions, there are of course a lot more.

What about your online marketing strategy?
What questions would you add?
What questions would you expect your marketing manager to know the answer to?

source: www.interleado.com

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

5 Website Changes That Will Hurt Your SEO

One of the biggest factors in the traffic you get from search engines is the inbound link profile to your site. When you make a significant change to your site, one question that the search engines need to consider is whether those links are still valid. 

Would the person who linked to your site still link to it if they looked at it again now? If the answer is no, the search engine doesn't want to count that link.

Of course, the search engine can't determine the answer to that question, but they can choose to initially reduce the effective value of those inbound links for a period of time, until they see whether people start removing links to your site after you make a large change.

This filtering process helps protect them from spammers who look to buy domains with lots of link authority, and then change them into entirely different web sites (e.g., buying a domain that used to be for an educational institution and turning it into an auto insurance site). The people who linked to the educational institution certainly didn't mean to endorse an auto insurance site.

Let's look at a few cases where the search engine may consider a change large enough to reconsider how they treat your site.

1. Domain
Many website publishers make the decision to change their domain. For example, maybe they started out with a ".net" domain and they were able to obtain the ".com" variant of the same domain. Or perhaps they are simply rebranding their company.

Whatever the reason, a domain change in potentially seen as a huge change by the search engines, particularly if you do a site redesign, change the URL structure, change the content significantly, and change the WhoIs all at once.

Even if all you do is a simple domain change, the search engines have reason enough to contemplate the possibility that people who linked to the old domain would no longer choose to link to you. With a simple domain change and proper implementation of 301 redirects, your risk of a significant setback is relatively low. But the risk is still there.

2. URL Structure
It isn't uncommon for sites to go through complete redesigns, or to implement a new content management system (CMS) without making significant changes to the content at the same time. However, it takes time for the search engine to understand the new site structure to determine what is on the new version of the site.

All the intricate relationships between the pages of the site have been restructured, and this may take weeks or even months for the search engine to understand. In the meantime, they may feel a need to devalue your site somewhat. Implementing 301 redirects from the old pages to the new pages will help with this problem, but it doesn't eliminate it entirely.

3. Content
Significant changes in content can also give a search engine a reason to ponder how it treats your web site. Even if the basic topic matter is unchanged, it can take some time for the search engine to make that determination.

4. Whois
When you make a change to the Whois record for a domain, even when no change is made to the domain itself, this can be an indicator of a change of the owner of the site.

To the search engines, much of the reason why one web site may link to another may be very much related to their trust in the owner. If the owner changes, is that trust still there? In many cases, the answer may be no.

Simply changing the e-mail address of the administrative contact isn't likely to be seen as such a signal, but changing the name or address of the registrant is likely to be interpreted as a change in owner.

Making such changes often goes without a hitch, particularly if you don't make other significant changes at the same time. Combining a major change to a web site and the registrant at the same time, however, starts to be quite a bit riskier.

Ultimately, the best way to change the registrant is to do it in isolation. Just wait a while before you make other significant changes to the site.

5. Theme
Changes in theme can take many forms. For example, if you have a site that is about auto insurance, and you then add a new large section on home insurance, it will certainly take a while for the home insurance section to receive the trust and authority conveyed by the inbound links. The value of the links to the auto insurance section of the site may also be devalued.

The type of change that would be seen as a theme change could even be a lot more subtle. For example, if you had a site that was purely a directory of links to auto insurance resources, with little text content on them, and you suddenly start putting lots content on those pages, this may also be seen as a significant change.

It gets back to core principle: Would the links that were given to a directory site still be given now that you've made a deep content site, even though it's on exactly the same topic?

Summary
Learn to consider the possibility of changes to your inbound link profile when you make changes to your site.

Will the change you're considering possibly impact those links? Even if the answer is no, you should also ponder whether the search engine will see the change as large enough that the search engine will question the ongoing value of those historical links.

Remember that the search engines use algorithms to make their determinations, and algorithms aren't as smart as humans are at figuring out what is a material change to a potential linker.

source: searchenginewatch.com

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Facebook Announces Email Service Launch

Facebook announced the launch of its much discussed email service. So now anyone on Facebook can get an @facebook.com email address.

And they must be geared up to deal with a lot of email as they are offering the service to anyone who has a Facebook - over 500 million users.

Guess a gmail account may no longer be as popular as it used to be with this launch. How many people take advantage of the service has yet to be seen, but smartly Facebook has incorporated it with existing accounts and their messaging system.

"Today I'm excited to announce the next evolution of Messages. You decide how you want to talk to your friends: via SMS, chat, email or Messages. They will receive your message through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and you can both have a conversation in real time. You shouldn't have to remember who prefers IM over email or worry about which technology to use. Simply choose their name and type a message.

We are also providing an @facebook.com email address to every person on Facebook who wants one. Now people can share with friends over email, whether they're on Facebook or not. To be clear, Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation," Joel Seligstein a Facebook stated in the company release.

See the facebook video: blog.facebook.com

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Building a Social Media Predictive Model

Social media success can be measured using a variety of methods. But successful social media efforts generally don't occur by broadcasting to the widest audience possible.

Instead, success entails moving beyond reaching your audience to engaging them and ultimately leading them to take action. The difficult part is gaining an understanding of what it will take to get enough of your audience to take the required actions that will allow you to reach your goals.

Define Your Business Objectives
Without clearly defining business objectives that map to social media goals, you're really just setting sail without a destination and will end up lost out in the vast sea of social media. Once you have defined goals and objectives, you need to begin to understand what it will take to meet them.
Sure, gaining a thousand new Likes of your Facebook page or topping a thousand followers on Twitter is exciting. But you need to analyze how these additional likes and followers impact the business.

Create a Predictive Model
Your model should start with your goals and works its way back up to your social media engagement and your overall social media reach. By creating a model like this, you'll be able to start predicting the volume of engaged users, the number of connections, and the level of social media reach needed to accomplish your goals.

Take, for example, a company where online sales have been laid out as the ultimate goal for social media. If you're going to generate X number of online sales, you need to understand what it will take to generate those sales. You can't just start playing around with Facebook, Twitter, or any other social channel and hope your efforts will eventually lead to more sales.

In most cases, it's unlikely that you're going to drive a large volume of direct online sales from social media, so you need to understand the micro conversions that take place, which eventually may turn into a sale. These may include downloading a white paper, attending a webinar, or utilizing a free trial offer. Your model should be able to tell you how many of these micro conversions are needed in order to reach your online sales goals.
Reach Online Sales
What it Takes to Generate the Required Number of Micro Conversions
This is where it can start to become a bit more difficult to build your model. However, using these six key social media metrics will help you get started.

Essentially, what you need to understand is what goes into generating a micro conversion and work backward. For each type of micro conversion, you'll need to determine how many social media referrals it takes to generate a conversion. You'll then need to determine what it takes to generate a social media referral.
Once you've completed your model, you'll be able to begin to understand what it will take to meet your social media goals. One key piece to understand is that all Connections, or all My Engagements, or each part that makes up any of the other metrics, aren't equal.

social-media-model.png

To build a more accurate model, you'll want to evaluate the metrics that go into each of the metrics in the chart above. You may find that Facebook page likes are more valuable than Twitter followers or that a link you place as part of a post on a particular forum is more valuable than one on Facebook or your blog.

Impact of Your Social Media Efforts on Direct Traffic, Brand Search Referrals
Any correlations between your social media reach and direct or brand search referrals should be noted and analyzed to better understand if your social media efforts are impacting these key indicators of brand awareness.

The more finely tuned your model is in terms of the metrics that are inputted and the amount of data that's been collected, the more accurate it will be at predicting results. It should always be an ongoing process of evaluating and tweaking your model to continually refine it so that you'll be able to more accurately understand what it will take to meet your social media objectives.

At the outset, your social media predictive model likely won't be as accurate as you'd like. In time, though, you'll be able to continually fine tune the model to eventually get to the point where you can go to your boss and confidently tell them what it's going to take to meet your social media goals.

source: searchenginewatch.com

Monday, 15 November 2010

Search Engine Keywords – Simple technique for finding keywords for your business.

One of the most mis-understood and important tasks when it comes to marketing your business online through ‘organic’ channels is keyword selection.

Businesses tend to have a very one dimensional view of what keywords they should be targeting and tend to think in terms of what they already know. The most obvious sign of this is businesses using their own language when it comes to promoting their services and products.

Another limitation in thinking, is the medium they are using to market through, i.e. traditional search engines, Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Let’s take an example of an IT company targeting the UK market. How would this company start thinking about the keywords they need to target?

The introduction of Google Instant has probably changed where I would recommend starting to look for keywords to target. Google Instant is effectively the latest keyword suggestion tool. When a searcher is using Google with Instant turned on, they see the results as they type. Although now backed up yet with hard data, I believe the knock on impact on this functionality is that searcher will be much more likely to use the ‘Scroll To Search’ and auto suggestion feature, much more that they have up to now.

If you start with the basic keyword ‘IT Companies‘, type this into Google (with Instant turned on). You’ll see that you are given several options in the ‘Scroll To Search’ drop down list, see the image below:

Example of Scroll To Search in Google Instant
 Google Instant 'Scroll to Search' Example

You can see that there are some examples listed by Google. Just by typing in ‘IT Companies’ you can see that Google is giving users some keyword suggestions, all related to geographic locations.
So, first point to note, see what Google returns with the ‘Scroll To Search’ auto-suggestion. As these keywords are related to locations, Google Local search is going to be very important for IT companies.
If you click on one of the sugegstions above you’ll get Google Local results on the SERP, as below;

Google Local Search Listings Example
Google Local Search Listings Example

The next technique you can try out for using Google Instant as a keyword tool is to go through the alphabet to give you some keyword suggestions. The example below shows you how to use Google Instant to go through the alphabet to get new keywords to target.



So, that’s how you use the Google SERP as a keyword tool.
Have you used Google Instant as a keyword suggestion tool? What results have you being getting?

source: www.interleado.com

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Don't Know What to Make of Blekko? Overview & 2 SEO Ninja Tactics

Blekko may be little more than a week old, but in order for it to achieve its aim to be the third voice in search, it is going to have to deliver a pretty sweet search experience to differentiate itself in the market. It need only look to Bing, Yahoo, and Ask to gauge the challenge ahead. Search is an expensive business and getting users to switch is challenging. Despite Microsoft's deep pockets, Bing is fighting for a percentage point here and there while Google continues to gain ground in core search market share. However, having been born in the era of cloud computing, Blekko is able to take advantage of the Amazon EC2 cloud to significantly reduce the costs of crawling the web. Furthermore, Blekko has a pretty unique philosophy with some neat tricks up its sleeve.

The Sweet Spot
The new search engine on the block is bringing large scale human curation to the web, and, in its own words, is "combining wikipedia model with search algorithms to focus results on high quality content sources."

However, in stark contrast to Google and Bing, Blekko takes a bit of getting your head around. In fact, Blekko has all the appeal of Ikea flat packfurniture - looks simple and elegant in the showroom, but upon returning home to build it yourself, you find the instructions are in Swedish. However, this is not a spurious analogy - if you think of it like a flat packed search engine, you'll be able to really get to grips with what Blekko is trying to do.

The Flat Packed Search Engine
Much like flat packed furniture, Blekko's index is made up of lots of standardized components which can be combined together for different results. Broadly speaking, these components are essentially content sources, content curators, content types, and content views - all of which are activated via "slashtags."

Blekko's raison d'etre is to deliver "results from high quality sites and leaving behind spammers, aggregators and content farms" by harnessing the power of users who will curate the best sources on the web. While Blekko's crawler indexes the web itself, the social layer built into the service gives users the power to create their own search engine. In effect, a user can create their own list of searchable sources on the fly and share them with other users. So, rather than having to search the entire web you can search a small curated subset of it.

Slash the Web
Slashtags are essentially these mini indexes - content buckets, or sets of sites that cover a particular niche, that are rendered searchable and sortable by Blekko's ranker. Users can follow each others slashtags. To get the best results, it's worth following experts or looking for the expertise of your friends - it's a bit like going to your buddy's house and perusing their library or music collection.

There are also public slashtags that everyone can use and with their exit from private beta another feature has been enabled called "auto-slashing." Auto-slashing occurs when Blekko detects an overwhelming amount of spam in the index, or an over-engineered set of results (which it calls "gray-spam"), and it defaults to a public slashtag it has on the same topic. A classic example it cites is "cure for headaches," which triggers auto-slashing to "/health." Blekko's category cites many medical authorities whereas the same search on Google delivers how-to sites, herbal remedies, and exact match domain type results. Botox even appears - which seems a bit of an extreme cure! It's this kind of "editorial voice" based on the link graph that Blekko wants to challenge.

Blekko's search results are personalized to your user profile - but not in a behavioral sense. Whatever query you enter performs a lookup on your own slashtags and the slashtags you are following. If no relevant slashtags appear, then Blekko defaults to it's own index or auto slashing.

Slashtags are key to understanding what you can achieve with Blekko. And they're really not that complicated. The allusion by name to Twitter's hashtags is a useful one as Blekko's slashtags function in much the same way. Just like Twitter, they resemble a command line syntax that enable key events and to activate them, as for retweets and hashtags, you have to get the syntax right. Slashtags must always be appended to your initial search query. You can also add as many slashtags as required to get the view of the web you want.

The formula goes something like this:
"your search query" /slashtag
"your search query" /slashtag /slashtag
A working example might be to track the latest coverage on Google on this website:
"Google /date /searchenginewatch.com"

Blekko has a list of built-in slashtags that you can try. Below, is a list of ones that I have found useful:

/date
The simplest slashtag to get your head around is "/date." This command re-orders the index in descending order of latest content sorted by publishing date.

/map
The most obvious "flat pack" feature is /map. Whereas on other search engines you cannot necessarily predict when a map result is going to be triggered, on Blekko you can define when you want it to appear, simply by appending this slashtag.

/youtube + /flickr
Blekko's connections to other content source APIs means that you can search those sites directly from Blekko.

/anysourceURL.com
Similarly to the example above, you can also query content from a particular domain. While this feature works much the same way as Google's SITE:command, combine this slashtag with /date to get a view of the latest content from that site. I use this feature a lot as Google's own site index search results are not as easy to sort.

/link
Much like Google's "link:www.domain.com" command, appending /link to your domain search will show you all the site linking to that domain. However, it is more powerful than Google as you can query links to a specific page/URL.

/rank
One of Blekko's founding principles is openness and to that end the /rank command will display a summary view of what pages it is ranking for any given query.

/seo
Furthering openness, Blekko actually provides a display of all of the factors which contribute to your site ranking. Presumably since there are a fair share of ex-google developers at Blekko, there may be hints in here as to what Google is analyzing!

/rss
Transform the search results page into a feed.

2 Blekko Ninja Tactics
So now that you have got your head around just some of the nuts and bolts of Blekko, it's time to start building cool stuff! Below are some nifty query combinations that could help with SEO on for any search engine.

/source /link /date
This is an excellent query! Basically you can look at inbound links to any domain or any page URL in order of the most recent link.

Compare: link:http://searchenginewatch.com/3641 33 on Google.
To: http://searchenginewatch.com/3641233 /link /date on Blekko.
Powerful stuff for an SEO who wants to improve the link profile of their website.

Need more motivation to build links? Add '/rss' to the query (/source /link /date /rss) to get a real-time feed of every link generated to your site. Put the URL into your feedreader to track the link graph to your site as it happens. It's extremely rewarding!

source: blog.searchenginewatch.com

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Art and Science of SEO Site Audits

SEO site audits are of critical importance. It is an investigation, analysis, diagnosis, and strategic dive into a site from the SEO, usability, and information architecture perspectives (most audits leave off the last two) that produces (through hard work and experience) a set of well-vetted recommendations.

Site audits allow us to benchmark and baseline a site's strengths, weaknesses, and areas of opportunity; to prioritize the work that is necessary for a site to excel in organic search rankings; and to provide actionable, documented recommendations that guide a client's implementations.
In short, SEO audits are essential.

No matter how long you've been doing them, there are fresh challenges to find, new areas to uncover and explore, and new opportunities to be found. This is especially true in team settings.
Because of its subjective nature, SEO thrives in a collaborative environment. SEO teams working together build off one another's input in remarkable ways.

SEO Project Management Tool 
Project management tools make collaborating and documenting SEO audits efficient.

This article will explore the process of undertaking technical SEO audits that we've developed over the years. It will not be exhaustive, some things should stay confidential, but I will give you plenty of direction to start your own SEO auditing work. If you're already a SEO familiar with audits, hopefully you'll find one or two gems within this article.

SEO is Art & Science
"The first step in diagnosis is to find the root cause." - Vanessa Fox
SEO truly is both an art and a science, and audits reflect this dual nature. The issues documented in a SEO audit are reinforced with data and analysis.

But in most cases, these problems were arrived at by "following one's nose" and using experienced hunches to probe and poke until a problem shows itself.

This isn't always the case, and there is plenty of low-hanging fruit to pick out there for SEO: from title tags and meta data, to internal linking and 404 errors. But to find the really good stuff, that is where the artistic and even creative side of SEO is applied.

Yet, there is a scientific side to SEO, as well. Obviously, data and analytics are essential pieces of the work, along with disciplined testing and analyses. While many times it's the hunches a SEO has that allow her to discover things, the process cannot and will not stand up to a disorganized approach.

You must have a formal structure and procedure with which to work through things, because SEO audits (especially for large enterprise-level sites) can be severely complicated affairs.
There's no way to approach an audit formulaically, but using guides such as the following will allow you to cover the major areas needing consideration:
 
Partial List of SEO Factors Investigated

A partial list of factors investigated during SEO audit work. 
Checklists make the work more organized and structured.

This is only a partial list, but should give a good idea of the areas covered by a technical SEO site audit.

A Framework for SEO Audits
In addition to checklists such as the above, it helps to build a framework for approaching audits. Even small sites are easier to investigate in this way; for large, complicated sites, an organized approach is essential.

Consider breaking down your SEO audits into the following framework, which offers a conceptual model for breaking down (usually large) web sites into pieces. On a practical level as well, this makes things much easier.

The framework is as follows. Web sites consist primarily of the following patterns, which will need to be taken into account:

On-page
  • Domains: The top-level domain (TLD), which can have within it multiple sub-domains. 
  • Sections: These represent the organizational hubs where categories (and sometimes other sections) are located. 
  • Categories: These represent organizational reference points for pages and media (and sometimes other categories). 
  • Pages: Web documents in the form of whatever language -- xHTML, PHP, ASP, etc. and either static or dynamic (or a combination). 
  • Media: Images, videos, documents (such as PDFs), sound files, etc.
And, of course, URLs are the associated signature, or uniquely identifying piece, of each example of the above components.

For a full treatment of this topic, see my article, "The SEO Guide to Information Architecture."
In practice, each of these aspects are really part of the whole, like spokes on a wheel, so the SEO doesn't need to pick and choose which components to investigate separately. The work is more cohesive.

An SEO audit takes into account more than on-page factors, of course, so off-page criteria also must be accounted for. The following partial list covers the main factors:

Off-page
  • Backlinks: Quantity, quality, diversity, recency, freshness, stability.
  • Social Media Signals: Frequency, Sources, Diversity, Authority/Influence.
  • Cache Dates, Crawl Frequency, Crawl Thresholds: Content frequency and crawl efficiency, along with domain authority, are primary factors.
  • Indexed Pages: Unfortunately this metric can be a little flakey.
  • Related Sites: Your site's neighborhood is still meaningful mozRank. 
  • Toolbar PageRank.
You can go really deep into the link profile alone. Also, while toolbar PageRank is still useful for some types of analysis, mozRank is a better metric to use in general.

The Primary Factors
Every site is different; every site has a unique signature and carries with it strengths and weaknesses. However, the following short list is normally a good place to start:
  1. Content: Is there content, and does it have links? Does the content update frequently, and is it timely? Is the content more than just articles and blog posts, is it also interactive tools, games or resources? Does it represent a significant contribution to the web? Is the content optimized and structured well? 
  2. URL Structure, Consistency and Canonicalization: Are the URLs structured well, and devoid of session IDs and tracking parameters? Are they consistent? Are the URLs short and friendly to read, share, and list in SERPs? Is the canonical version consistently used? 
  3. Site Architecture & Navigation: What is the architecture of the site, and how do the various navigations interlink their sections and categories, pages and media? What is the average click depth of the various portions of the site? 
  4. Internal PageRank Flow: Are internal links consistent? How many links are given on pages, and what is the average number of links a given URL will secure on the site? How is nofollow and robots exclusion being addressed? What is the overall strength of various portions of the site? Where are the strongest URLs on the domain? 
  5. Site Performance: Is the site fast? Is it easy to use, and even fun to use?
How to Consolidate and Deliver the Reports
One aspect of SEO audits not usually given enough attention is the final deliverable. It is essential that this is clear, concise, and not overly complicated.

The document needs to be shared among diverse business units, from marketing and SEO teams, to development, content, IT and UX teams, so there cannot be an exclusive amount of "inside baseball" type of language.

The most important component is the prioritized summary of action items, with associated (estimated) level of effort. Each recommendation should have the problem documented, its impact explained, and the solution offered.

If it's possible to offer one or two alternative solutions, all the better. However, it's helpful to keep the deliverable concise and to the point: most of the discussion will take place on the review calls. Leave the audit deliverable as simple and precise as possible.

The Best SEO Audit Tools
The best audit tools are the ones you're experienced using. You won't be able to get all of these, some are proprietary, but there are worthy alternatives for everything listed here.
For large-scale SEO analysis, a robust crawling tool is essential. 

Tools such as SearchClu from Define offer excellent insight in a user-friendly interface.

SearchClu Site Analysis
 

The IIS SEO Toolkit is a splendid tool, and it's quite fast. Use it in place of Xenu for most auditing needs. This image is from SEO Gadget's excellent tutorial.

SEO Gadget Site Analysis Report
 

Xenu is a good choice for quick work, such as importing a small list of URLs (keep the total URLs Xenu crawls to under about 10,000 for best results) to view response codes.

Google Webmaster Tools is an SEO's best friend. Using the internal linking report, for example, can reveal weaknesses in a site's internal link graph:


Google Webmaster Tools Linking Report 

Using GWT data to show that over 75 percent of this (very large) website's pages has 10 internal links or less; almost 50 percent has only 1.

Sometimes the best tools available are advanced search operators at Google. Use them to your advantage.

For a quick look at a website the way a crawler will experience it, use Lynx or SEO-browser.com.
Charles is the go-to for diagnosing more advanced issues, such as conditional redirects and that sort of thing, and when you need to deeply investigate GET and POST sessions.

Web Page Speed and ySlow are the best tools for site performance checks.
For toolbars, the combination of SEO for Firefox, SEOBook toolbar, SEOmoz (now on Chrome!), and SEOQuakecan't be beat. Always use the Web Developer Toolbar, of course, and the WAVE toolbar can sometimes come in handy, too.

If you've got the chops, sometimes log file analysis leads to the best insights of all in SEO audits. Make use of log file parsing tools such as Splunk. Unix geeks like us can use AudetteMedia's own logfilt for SEO log file analysis, too.

Splunk Log File Analysis 

Using Splunk for SEO log file analysis.
A Site's Unique Signature
There is an important consequence of delving deeply into a site over a period of many hours: One begins to see the forest for the trees, begins to understand the sites overall internal PageRank flow, its special weaknesses, and areas of opportunity.

Mentally processing all of the little things encountered into a whole picture of a site, its special "stamp" or signature, provides special insight into what will be required to improve the site's traffic.

This unique signature influences how a site is crawled and ranked, and is the sum of all its various components, from scoring factors applied to a URL, to the crawl experience of a search engine spider.

source:  searchenginewatch.com

Thursday, 11 November 2010

8 very useful websites I recommend for you!

1. Check the sites PR and meta tags
http://www.seocentro.com/tools/search-engines/metatag-analyzer.html
(I also use this site for the PR - http://www.prchecker.info/)

2. Find out when the domain name was registered
http://www.dnc.org.nz/ For .com etc go to http://www.whois.net/

3. Find out who the business owners are
http://www.business.govt.nz/companies

4. Find out what New Zealanders are googling
https://adwords.google.com/select/main?cmd=KeywordSandbox

5. Find out when a site was last updated
http://www.archive.org/

6. An extremely detailed report on a website, with page load times etc.
http://www.websiteoptimization.com/

7. The Alexa website Traffic tool
http://www.alexa.com/

8. My blog on internet marketing
http://kiwiseonline.blogspot.com/

3 Ways to Analyze Your Competition

Competitive intelligence is one highly underestimated aspect of web analytics reporting. It really needs to accompany actionable insights in your web analytics reports.

Without competitive intelligence, your company's stakeholders won't know whether trends reported are good, bad, or really bad. Don't stop at just one source of competitive intelligence, such as competitive intelligence for social media. Consider at least a handful, and up to 8 different types!

How to Apply Competitive Intelligence From Panel Data
Using panel data isn't without its shortcomings, but companies such as Nielsen and comScore have come a long way to counteract problems in extrapolating smaller sample sizes in online behavior to larger populations across the worldwide web.

Even for higher-trafficked websites, competitive intelligence from panel data doesn't always match "real-deal" analytics metrics. To their credit, though, the data often does trend similarly.
Therefore, try to avoid inserting panel data points into any visualizations like graphs, but feel free to enrich observations to convince others of important competitive differentiators.

Example: "Despite a third straight month of lower unique visitors, according to comScore, October's declines lead market losses by a significant amount."

Translation: Don't fire the marketing guy yet. We suck, but aren't the worst.

How to Apply Competitive Intelligence From ISP Data
ISP data is good because competitive intelligence providers such asCompete and Hitwise do a great job of compiling data from competitors in a wide array of segments.

Sure, you can choose to only focus on the 30,000 foot view of your website's metrics, comparing page views, unique visitors, or funky calculated indices in an effort to gauge overall success or opportunities for growth, but the power of ISP data comes from determining how traffic to websites differ.

Slice and dice segments, such as visitors originating from organic or paid search marketing and even referral traffic (great for link building analysis). Use ISP data to support general statements and cut off inevitable "why" questions.

Example: "Traffic to our customer help portal increased significantly after the addition of several articles that covered iPhone 4 frequently asked questions. This month's analysis from Hitwise indicates Competitor 3 no longer captures the majority of organic search traffic for several phrases."

Translation: We really missed the boat on including content regarding the iPhone 4 so people went to a competitor's site instead. But now we have the missing content and people like us again.

How to Apply Competitive Intelligence From Search Engine Data
While ISP data is good, search engine data is awesome, mainly because most of their tools are free (or "provided at no cost to users").

One such tool that consistently blows my socks off is Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), which isn't really a competitive intelligence tool at all, but data available in reports from GWT can easily be paired with insights from Google Trends for WebsitesGoogle Adwords Keyword Tool, and Google/DoubleClick Ad Planner.

Example: "Increases to search terms such on our websites can be explained by data available through Google Webmaster Tools, which indicates that several pages historically ranking on the second and third page of Google Search now dominate the first page."

Translation: A trending topic sent us a lot of great new traffic.

Conclusion
Although this column only covered three sources of competitive intelligence, it's easy to apply several different types to any given report your organization uses to prioritize actionable insights and identify different areas of opportunity.

Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone of simply reporting the numbers and coming up with ideas in a vacuum of competitive intelligence.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Google Unveils Instant Previews: Visual Search Results

Google today announced a new feature called Instant Previews that allows searchers to fully preview a website within Google's search results before visiting it (an experiment we reported last month).

Clicking on a small magnifying glass next to the search result highlights the result in a blue background and will bring up a full preview of the website on the right sidebar, which as we noted before, will cover Google's ads and could do some damage to ad clicks. Clicking anywhere on the preview takes you directly to the site.


Instant Previews Test Drive: Introducing Call Outs
For example, here's a search for [conan o'brien tbs]:
googleinstantpreviews1.png
(Click screenshot for full view)

So in our example website here, The Huffington Post, you can see a snippet of text highlighted in an orange box that Google calls a "call out," which is basically an enlarged pop-up box showing what Google considers the "most relevant sections."

We previously reported that these snippets aren't the same as the ones found on the SERP. In this case, however, they are the same. But on other searches, you may get different snippets, such as this result for [buy sony google tv] for example:

googleinstantpreview3.png

(Click screenshot for full view)
Also, on the Conan search, these call outs didn't appear on the majority of the sites Google returned. It seems as though if "TBS" didn't appear on the page, it wouldn't generate a snippet.
googleinstantpreview2.png
(Click screenshot for full view)
On the Google TV search, most of the previews that featured snippets highlighted keywords like "Sony TV," "Google TV" or "Sony," in bold, although "buy" generally couldn't be found in the snippets unless it was in the context of Best Buy, which exclusively sells the TVs.

SEO & Website Design Notes
This has pretty big implications for search engine optimization. You definitely want searchers to find exactly what they're looking for on your site. Otherwise, they might just move on to another website.
Google says they "match your query with an index of the entire web, identify the relevant parts of each webpage, stitch them together and serve the resulting preview completely customized to your search--usually in under one-tenth of a second. Once you click the magnifying glass, we load previews for the other results in the background so you can flip through them without waiting."

In testing the feature, Google said that people using Instant Previews were 5 percent more likely to be satisfied with the results they clicked on because they were able to evaluate the site before visiting and find what they were looking for.

So this puts more emphasis on website design, as you want to entice users to your site. Obviously, there will be some issues. Google's advice:
  • Keep your pages clearly laid out and structured, with a minimum of distractions or extraneous content.
  • Try to avoid interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content. These elements could be picked up in your page preview, making the screenshots less attractive.
  • Many page previews are generated as part of Google's regular crawl process. Occasionally, Google generates screenshots on the fly when a user needs it, so in these instances Google will retrieve information from web pages using a new "Google Web Preview" user-agent.
  • Instant Previews doesn't change Google's search algorithm, rankings, or how clicks are tracked. If a user clicks on the title of a result and visits your site, it will count as a normal click, regardless of whether the result was previewed. Previewing a result doesn't count as a click.
  • If you add the nosnippet meta tag to your pages, they won't show a text snippet in Google's results. Pages with the nosnippet tag also won't show previews. Google advises against this because their studies showed that sites with previews were four times more likely to be clicked on. URLs that have been disallowed in the robots.txt file also won't show Instant Previews.
  • Some videos or Flash content in previews are appearing as a "puzzle piece" (as you can see in the third screenshot above of the Team Coco website) icon or a black square. Google is working on rendering these accurately.
Instant Ad Previews?
Will there be Instant ad previews? Yes, but it's unclear when, according to Search Engine Land. Google also downplayed the impact on paid search, telling SEL that:
...most people scan the search results page quickly. If they're interested in the unpaid "editorial" results, they'll tend to stay looking at them rather than going back and forth to the ads. In other words, previews aren't blocking ads because if someone decides they want to focus on editorial results, they're already ignoring the ads.
Old Previews
sew-preview.png

One other interesting note: Many of the preview images are a bit old. Search Engine Watch's main page preview is a week old (based on the columnists at the top, the images was grabbed last Tuesday), but there are reports floating around about previews being more than two weeks old. Got to wonder if smaller or less popular sites will get less frequent updates to their previews.

Not the First
Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com) previewed websites with Binoculars starting in 2004. A pair of binoculars would appear next to search results, allowing searchers to preview an image of a site before clicking. It appears this service is no longer available.

ask-binoculars.gif

In 2006, Snap.com began providing a two-column view of search results, with regular search results on the left and a preview of the selected result on the right.

snap-preview.png

Bing also introduced Quick Previews last year, which allowed searchers to mouseover results and see more information about a page to the right:

bing-preview.png

Microsoft noted at the time that up to 24 percent of clicks result in a quick click back to search results because searchers quickly realize a page isn't what they're looking for. Quick previews was created to help prevent those unnecessary clicks.

source: blog.searchenginewatch.com

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Diversifying your SEO

Some of you may have noticed recently that your top listings in Google may look a little different. It seems Google may be performing CTR analysis with your internal pages.

Listings that previously have held positions featuring the home page URL now feature the most relevant internal page. With this in mind, now is the time to start "spreading the love" across your site. Google is showing that we need to concentrate on search engine optimization (SEO) for our internal pages.
Two main site elements -- content and inbound links -- need to be spread evenly across a site looking for success in the SERPs.

Analyze this as you would for personal investment. Would you put all your money in a low yielding savings account? Would you place all your money in a high-risk stock?

No, of course not. You would diversify your assets across several different areas to conservatively grow what you put into the pot.

This analogy can ring very true in the world of SEO. People become obsessed with ranking their home page for their top term. This leaves the rest of the site neglected. In a worst-case scenario, if the competition comes calling or a major algorithm change breaks the ranking, then you've just lost your investment.

With this scary what-if in mind, please consider that in most cases your home page is your landing page, and your top keyword will likely drive less than half of your organic visits. So, why would you put all your eggs in one basket if it had a marginal return and was also very risky? This analogy is especially fitting when you hear a client mention one of the following:
  • "We've hired a copywriter to create blog posts for us." Why not a few blog posts, some articles, content on deeper pages of the site?

  • "We've been building a lot of links to the home page." And not to internal pages?
Pigeon-hole SEO can be a viable plan if you have a one page site or a two term keyword set. The other 99.9 percent of us have to consider how we get involve the entire site into the SEO mix.

When developing a content-building strategy, you have to look past the home page and the blog and consider other areas of the site you want to rank for. These include:
  • Internal category pages (i.e., services/products)
  • Articles
  • FAQ
  • Glossary pages
These pages can house meaningful content for your users, as well as search engines.
Reviewing your referrals by landing page from within your site analytics is also beneficial. This will show you how much of your incoming traffic is coming through your home page, as well as other top site pages you deem as important that may need to be of additional focus.
Within the other main diversifiable SEO element, which is link building, learn to forget your home page for a while. You may have 2,000 great links to your home page, but how many to you have to other important internal pages?

Look in your Google Webmaster Tools account at the Links to your Site section. You might be alarmed to find out that 90 percent of your site's link equity may be pointing to your home page.

This can reinforce the need for a deep linking initiative. Start off by accruing topically relevance links to your main category pages adjacent to the site root and then work your way down. This will help show the search engines that the rest of your site is trustworthy as is your home page.

As search engines change, test, and progress, we must pay close attention to what they show us and what they want from us. This means we have to concentrate on building search engine friendly sites, not just search engine friendly home pages.

source: searchenginewatch.com

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Importance of Localized Content - Local SEO Takes Center Stage

Localized content, or content that it is specific to users in specific geographies, has never been more important to search engine optimization (SEO) success than it is today. Search engines like Google and Bing have made localization a huge part of their ranking algorithms.

When you perform a search at Google or Bing, the results are significantly influenced by your physical location, even on queries where you don't specify a location. So if you're in New York and you search for [pizza], or [hot tubs] or [DMV], your results will be very different than if you do the same searches in San Diego.

Therefore, if you want your website to appear in search results for users in specific cities, it's very important to create content and link connectivity that sends the right signals to the search engines, telling them your site is relevant for users in those geographies. Here are some ideas on how to do that.

Creating Content Relevant for Local Searches
The idea in a localization content strategy is to identify what content segments are unique to each geographical area and highlight those on a state level, city level, and even micro local level by building dedicated pages for these audiences.
Here are a few excellent strategies for creating these types of pages. Highlight:
  • Shipping rates.
  • Sales tax differences.
  • Warranty repair locations.
  • Dealer locations.
  • Different uses for different climates.
  • Any other information that is specific to audiences in different locations.
The key is to provide true value to these end users by surfacing very relevant information that is specific to them based on their city or state. By doing so you not only increase your propensity to show up in organic search queries in those places, but you also potentially improve your conversion rate by creating a more custom experience for those users which speaks specifically to their needs. The higher value the information presented on these geo-centric pages, the more viable this strategy is.

Local Link Connectivity
Once you have content that is pertinent to the regions you're targeting, the next step is to create link connectivity to these pages (as well as the root domain) from sites that are relevant to those regions.
A number of potential types of sites that can be targeted within each location that will help the engines understand what regions your website is most relevant to including regionally focused directories, such as:
  • The local versions of Yahoo.
  • Local business directories.
  • Local bloggers' business websites.
  • Informational sites about specific regions.
If you want to make Google believe that your site is a great resource for people in New York, they expect to see sites that are relevant to New York linking to you.
Directories are often an easy way to start establishing this type of link connectivity. However, some of these directory sites won't list sub-pages, or require you to have a physical address in the city or region you're submitting to, or limit you to one listing per business.
But these sites are especially helpful if your business targets a specific region. Here's a list of local directories to jumpstart the localization efforts for your primary domain:
After you submit your site to these directories for your root domain, you'll still want to pursue link opportunities on a per city basis to your localized content pages. Having a high quality of localized content that is valuable to your users will help facilitate getting these kinds of links.

These geo-centric pages must not appear spammy, and must show exceptional value to users. They should become a seamless part of the user experience of your site for the best results.

The creativity that you use in identifying what content segments you will provide on these pages is oftentimes the competitive advantage that leads to more links and higher rankings.

Executing an Effective Local SEO Campaign
The goal of executing a local SEO campaign is to let the search engines know that you're one of the 10 best resources on the Internet for users in these localities, who are interested in topics that are relevant to your website. Make content that is good enough to rank in the top 10, and facilitate the kind of link connectivity that Google expects to see around that type of resource.

The end result will be a website that provides a better user experience based on targeted content and one that ranks well in search engines for relevant keywords. It's a win-win situation.

source: searchenginewatch.com