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A lot of time and effort goes into Search Engine Optimization, so it would be a real shame if after all that hard work, a user skips over your ranking result – even in the number one position, this is possible. While many would consider it unlikely for someone to skip over any results in the top ten, since the general idea is that these first results are the most relavant to their search, consider what the user is reading in that result.

When writing a Pay Per Click ad, you have full control over what the user sees for various searches. You choose the title, description, display URL and destination URL. This makes it easy to target specific users based on their search. However, when it comes to SEO, no one writes an ad to show up for searches – that information is automatically generated based on how the search engines view the page, and a well optimized site for search results can be just as important as a site well-optimized for ranking results.

Remaining consistant with the idea of comparing natural search results with Pay Per Click ads, consider the title of a PPC ad to be the title of your site, or that which lies between the title tags. This is the first thing the user generally see, since it is at the top of your result, plus it is highlighted and underlined as the link to your site. For this reason, it is important to on-site optimization for the name of each page to be relavant to your keywords, as well as the page they label.

The description of a Pay Per Click ad is comparable to text that shows up under the clickable link to your site in natural results. You might notice that some sites have a description that runs into “…” at the end of the second line. This would be like a Pay Per Click ad with it’s two description lines, but the second is incomplete. While less taxing than would be on the effectiveness of the PPC ad, for the natural search, these two lines are still important to your click through rate on natural searches. This short summary of your site is entirely up to you, however, as what is displayed here is what you choose to place between the meta description tags in your html, so choose wisely! The same principles of PPC can be applied here, as it may prove effective to include a call to action, or something that entices users to click on your site result first, regardless of its ranking position.

I’ve done plenty of searches where I don’t find what I’m looking for in that first result because I read these descriptions, and if I see one that sounds more accurate to that which I am searching, that will be the first one I click. Internet marketing is the sum of a lot of knowledge, a pinch of gut instincts and a lot of common sense, time and effort. It would be a shame to have all these things but suffer a much lower return on your investment because of a few facts overlooked.

To discuss the success of your online business with an experienced firm that knows the in’s and out’s of the Internet marketing world, please feel free to contact Reciprocal Consulting. You probably have questions, and we definitely have answers.

It occurred to me that a lot of the content on our blog assumes a lot about our readers. I’ve decided to skim the surface of Pay Per Click, or PPC, for those that are new to the concept. Whether an interested individual, PPC professional, or a potential client, the following is something we all should know. These are not the official definitions, necessarily, but rather a brief overview of the terms are commonly used in the world of Pay Per Click.

  • Pay Per Click– A service provided by a number of search engines, but most predominantly by Google, Yahoo, MSN and many more, and even social media sites like Myspace and Facebook offer PPC services. Pay Per Click services are a more controlled environment than natural searches, which focus on page content and external linking structure, in which one can reach potential customers or clients using keywords and key phrases relavant to their business or service. These keywords are setup to display various ads based on search queries and are intended to connect users with results that match their searches.
  • Return on Investment – This sums up the overall effectiveness of a given PPC campaign. The return on the investment put into PPC can depend on many factors, but a properly orchestrated campaign, as the sum of the elements of a well optimized campaign, is the best use of that investment.
  • Cost Per Conversion – Conversions are commonly measured by sales on product oriented sites, leads on sites which provide services, and can be measured by a number of other “goals”, many of which can be assigned to a single account. With the use of tracking codes attached to various pages, links, etc., a given PPC campaign can track numerous values, which are then measured against spend.
  • Spend – This is generally gauged monthly, and very simply put, it is how much money you spend on the sum of all ad clicks.
  • Cost Per Click – This is how much you pay when a user clicks on one of your ads. This also sums up the basic concept behind PPC, where by you only pay when a user actually visits your site via an ad you design to appear for the user’s search query, and therefore giving you a lot of control over your spend. Cost per click, or CPC, will be different for every keyword in your campaign, and the price you pay depends on many things, but is highly dependant on the competition for that keyword. The more specific the keyword, the less competition there will be, and the less you will pay when users click your ad. For example, a click on your ad for the search “personal injury lawyers in Philadelphia” will cost much less than a click on an ad for the search “lawyers”.
  • Clicks and Impressions – These numbers will more than likely be very far apart, as the number of people that actually click on your ads is bound to be far less than the number of people whos searched display your ad.
  • Click-Through Rate – This number is simply the percentage of people who click on your ads, based on how many see your ads. This number will generally be quite low for keywords that are far too specific or not commonly searched for, and high for more common keywords for which your ads show up closer to the first position. Average click-through rates change often and are different for every niche, and depend greatly on the ads you choose to display for certain keywords. Ads that are more relavant to your keywords will generally have a higher click-through rate.
  • Conversion Rate – This number sums up the success of your ads and their ability to attract customers that will buy your product or use your service. For a given number of people, this percentage converts – and remember that a conversion is predetermined to be a return on your investment. A higher conversion rate usually means that you are spending less on each conversion, but this is not always the case. Over-bidding can lead to unnecessary spend.

When it comes down to it, no one statistic will tell you how well your campaign is doing. It is the sum of all these values and the careful orchestration of your PPC campaign that will give yo the upper-hand on your competition. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that they can run a PPC campaign themself, and end up wasting a whole lot of money doing so. Others find what they think is a great deal, but end up handing their online success over to amateurs that know little to nothing about PPC and have very little experience.

It is important to know your Internet marketing firm before you trust them with your business – ask questions, and get answers. At Reciprocal Consulting, we like to get our clients involved in their own campaigns, because you know your business and we know how to get results.

I was showing a friend of mine some SEO basics the other day when Social Media Optimization became the topic of conversation. He was asking me how SMO really can help with natural search results in ways that Search Engine Optimization cannot, and in explaining this concept to him, I found myself repeating the same word over and over: Networking.

When it comes to optimization, a lot of us get carried away with the technical aspects of the trade. The truth is, many of us could debate the effectiveness of particular natural search marketing strategies all day long, but what it comes down to is your website’s worth on the Net, how the search engines view that worth, and respectively, when and where your site will be displayed in results. No matter what strategy you or your firm implements, and no matter what keywords best describe your business or service, I think one focus should always remain center stage, and that is the networking aspect of SMO.

Consider your businesses presence on the web. Is your name, brand or logo seen around the Internet, perhaps on various respectable sites, or are potential customers / clients seeing these things for the first time when they land on the the first page of your site (or whichever site their search brought them to)? The same applies to your particular services or products, and so on. The point here being, what are you doing to reach people, and not just making it easier for them to reach you?

When it comes to the world of Social Media Optimization, I believe networking is not only the right thing to do (since that is what these sites are for), but also a large part of the puzzle, and here’s why:

  • Consider results from sites like Myspace, Digg, Flickr!, etc. These are just a few of the Social Media sites available to the public, and for free. Within these results, I often see links that lead to personal profiles and pages. Have these people performed any sort of optimization for their profiles or pages? Probably not – and yet, they are showing up for searches, often times near the top of the first page. Why? Because they actively participate in the community – they network.
  • Going back to the idea of reaching your target market, and not just making it easier for them to reach you – what will a dormant profile on any Social Media site accomplish? Nothing. Interacting with the community regularly (not spamming!) shows interest in the community, and usually, this means that the community will take an interest in you. There’s a word for this sort of interaction…ah yes, networking.
  • Are image searches going to help bring targeted traffic to your site? Probably not – so how else are you going to get your brand and logo out there? Traditional marketing statistics show that branding has effectively brought many companies [additional] success over the years, and there is no reason why this concept should be ignored when it comes to Internet marketing, and it should be incorporated with an SMO campaign. Using your logo as a profile picture can get that image out there to a lot of people. Of course, the logo itself should be well designed and pleasant to look at – perhaps even entice a user to click on it for a closer view (and therefore view your profile). Bottom line – unless you have an active PPC campaign displaying image ads, or a lot of popular friends in your niche that will display your logo (and a link to you) on their site, there are very few other ways to have any control over who sees your brand or logo. Once again – networking is key to get this image out there and seen by the masses.

As has become commonplace for me, I must state that spamming, automated interaction (that is a program designed to visit and add friends, post comments, etc on other users’ profiles/pages), or anything of the like are extremely frowned upon, and furthermore, are not effective strategies. It boggles my mind that between all my blogs I receive about 20-40 spam comments a day.

The aforementioned is not supposed to be a step-by-step, nor a DIY on Social Media Optimization, but rather a polite suggestion to those that practice SMO. It may seem pointless to put the extra effort into a SMO campaign, but from experience, I have found simple interaction and contribution to these communities to be very satisfying, and often do help to achieve SMO goals.

I was speaking with a small business owner a few months back about a Search Engine Optimization firm he wanted to hire. His budget was small, his expectations were high, and he wanted my opinion on the matter. The first question he asked me was “Is it worth it?”, to which I had to ask, “What guarantees did they make?”

Think of an SEO firm as a retail store that sells handmade items. This shop will likely state that their inventory is subject to change, and that they cannot guarantee a particular item to be in stock. This is due to the nature of their product, and the fact that the supplier of a particular product may decide to stop making them. The problem here is that some potential customers might view this as unreliability on the seller’s part, and decide to take their business to a larger chain store which can make a guarantee like that, since their items are mass produced, and there will always be a model by which to make more. So would it be ethical for the smaller shop to make the same guarantee as the chain store in order to prevent customers from shopping elsewhere? No. Such a claim would be misleading, as the small store has no control over the claim they would be making.

However, there are no large chain stores in the Internet marketing world, and search engine results conditions apply to all firms, big or small. Because of this, every SEO service that a firm offers is subject to some change, and no firm can make a guarantee on your rankings, results, etc. This is just the way it is.

So going back to the initial question: “Is it worth it?” Well, that all depends on the firm with which you are dealing. Here are some things to look for in a prospective firm:

  • First and foremost, any firm that guarantees specific results or ranking is most likely uninformed, unethical, or about to take your money and run. This is a clear sign that a firm doesn’t know what they are doing, or their guarantee on said promised results are misleading, and they will not help your business at all.
  • A guarantee for rankings might be fulfilled, however, the keywords for which your site will rank will likely be irrelevant to your business and of little or no worth. A SEO firm cannot guarantee rankings on specific keywords, especially those applicable to a given niche, which is what SEO is all about in the first place.
  • A guarantee for results on specific search engines can be achieved, but don’t expect to show up in 94% of the results in the U.S., as this percentage makes up all search results on Google, Yahoo and MSN. That other 6% makes up the many smaller search engines, which are rarely used, and even showing up for the number one result on any of these engines will amount to nothing in terms of  conversions.
  • Ask a lot of questions about their plans concerning your SEO campaign. Any firm that makes guarantees but wont let the client in on what they plan to do is likely going to drive non-targeted traffic to the site.

However, there are guarantees that can be made. While firms may not be able to promise a number one spot on Google or a ranking position on a certain number of search engines, there are guarantees that you should expect from an Internet marketing firm.

  • The client will always be informed of what strategies are being implemented within an SEO campaign, including what links we are getting for them, and from which sites these links are coming.
  • The client knows how much of their budget is being spent on link building and how much is being spent elsewhere.
  • The client is given monthly reports containing all links aquired, including all details about those links.
  • Generally speaking, a firm can guarantee an increase in ranking. Effective SEO strategies are proven methods, and therefore, certain results should be expected. While a firm cannot guarantee a specific ranking, they should be able to guarantee an increase in ranking.
  • A firm must perform an analysis of the client’s website in order to determine the best strategy for the SEO campaign – this generally entails on-site optimization, which may involve additions, or subtractions, from on-site content.

If you’d like to speak with an Internet marketing firm that specializes in SEO and is open to all questions concerning your campaign, don’t hesitate to contact Reciprocal Consulting.

One can perform search, social media and pay per click optimization all day long, but without a properly designed and optimized landing page, your conversion rate will be far lower than your campaigns are working to achieve. Here are some tips for creating a good landing page for your site, and in turn, increasing your ROI.

  • Create Multiple Landing Pages– This is often overlooked because most people simply assume that a user will take it upon them self to find what they’re looking for. Sure, a well constructed site will make it easier to browse a site, but for anyone searching for specific products, services or information, they more than likely will prefer to be taken straight to what they are looking for. If you’re running an SEO campaign, your title, header and body tags will assist the search engines in finding the appropriate page to return in the result. For a Pay-Per-Click campaign, however, it is up to you to determine which ad brings the user to which page. This is why it is important to optimize your entire site, so that each product or service page can act as a landing page for those keywords specific to the product / service.
  • Call To Action– Informative ads are great, but a lot of times, ensuring your customer they can take action is a better way to get conversions. The difference between “Brand Name Toasters” and “Get Brand Name Toasters” can be great. Also, using more than one call to action within your site’s landing page can help your conversion rate. It is important as well to choose less abrasive calls to action, such as a “Try it Now” button instead of a simple “Buy” button.
  • Make it Easy to Contact You– We’ve found that a lot of times, users want information before buying, and furthermore, they don’t want to read your entire website in order to get that information. For things like quotes, price comparisons, etc., it may be a good idea to have an easy to find form on your landing page, which will encourage the user to make their inquiry right then and there. Just be sure not to ask for too much personal information, since many users are careful about what they reveal about themselves online.
  • Make Browsing an Enjoyable Experience – While the main goal is to take users directly to that for which they are searching, many times, they will want to see what else you have to offer. In this case, it is crucial to have a site that functions well, looks great and does not bombard the user with ads, flash movies and annoying images / sounds. Concerning sounds, there are very few reasons to ever play a sound on your website, and off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is to play music that the user is searching for, in which case there should be a fully functional player that can be stopped, or paused.
  • User Control – Just as important as the enjoyability of browsing your site, for a user to be able to browse the way they prefer is a good way to ensure they will not become annoyed and leave. There should be nothing upon landing that prevents the user from clicking links, scrolling, or reading information – including load time. It is good to keep your site simple, but if you must offer a flashy presentation about your product, link the user from the landing page. Your landing page should offer only essential information and graphics, with a link to those interested in learning more or viewing more relavant images. Otherwise, the user may feel forced, leave your site, and never come back
  • Thank You – This is key after the conversion. I’ve purchased products on sites that had no thank you message, and simply took me back to the product page after I purchased the item. This can confuse the user, and perhaps make them wonder if they even purchased the product. Additionally, saying thank you lets the user know you appreciate their business, and you can even add a polite call to action like “Please shop online again with us soon.” The key to the Thank You page is polite and, well, thankful.

Google Adwords is set up to be easy to use, easy to navigate, and with the option to edit campaigns and settings offline, with their Adwords Editor, Google has made it easy to make bulk changes, while still maintaining the same level of detail that allows an account to function well. However, many newcomers to the concept of Pay-Per-Click make the mistake of thinking that PPC itself is easy.

The most common mistake a PPC beginner can make is misuse of match types. While it may be more likely that their keywords are set to the default broad match type only, a lot of times, users can be too specific with match types on certain keywords. This is due to the user not fully understanding the premise of each match type. Many users simply choose broad match to cover a wider range of searches, but for future optimization, this can cause problems, since broad match keyword data is less precise. Generally speaking, when setting up a new campaign, it is a good idea to test all three match types, unless a very tight budget is the issue.

Another issue that may prove counter-productive later on is the structuring of the campaigns and adgroups. While some may have a tendancy to throw too many keywords into a single adgroup with a non-specific ad, others may be shooting themself in the foot by abusing tools like the keyword grouper and ending up with far too many adgroups, each with only a few keywords contained within. What it comes down to is that no one managing a pay-per-click campaign should cut any corners. You can think of building a PPC campaign like building a house – if you use too much material, chances are you’re using the wrong type, and it will cost you far more to build it than it should; and if you use too little material, well, your structure will be unstable and, chances are, your repair costs will be high. Furthermore, the structure and layout for your ads will either result in a high Click Through Rate with few conversions if the ads contain too much on fluff, and maintain a low CTR if you don’t give users a reason to click your ads (ie. ads that are relavant to their searches). This is another reason why match types can make a big difference.

Another big problem in campaigns created by inexperienced managers is the misuse, or lack, of negative keywords. There is a reason for negative keywords, and it’s rare that a campaign will preform better with no negative keywords in place. The beauty of broad and phrase match types with your “positive” keywords is the ability to possibly show up for a larger variety of searches. The beauty of being able to couple this range with a “filter” of sorts (aka negative keywords) is like paying nothing extra to have a bouncer at the front door of your website. For PPC ads, you only pay the cost-per-click (at least, it is recommend that you pay-per-click, and not by impression), much like a club-goer only needs to pay to get through the door. Negative keywords basically check all search terms and if the phrase for which the user searched does not meet the “dress code”, the bouncer tells them to take a hike, and you don’t have to pay for that click.

As you can see, there is much to learn when it comes to pay-per-click, so it is usually best to leave it to an Internet marketing firm like Reciprocal Consulting.