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If you are new to pay per click marketing, you might be wondering how important are keywords. In a word, they are very important. You can’t manage an effective PPC campaign without focusing on the right keywords for your campaign.

But how are keywords important?

Keywords in PPC are important in three ways:

  1. They ensure that your ad is shown for the right keyword queries in the search engines. Targeting. Plain and simple.
  2. Keywords are important for matching your ads with your landing pages. Your prospects will want to know that what they have queried is also what you are offering.
  3. Keywords are important for bidding and budgeting correctly. You’ll get to bid on your keywords, placing a value on each one. Consider this value carefully.

Don’t ignore the importance of keywords in PPC marketing. They are just as important as keywords for SEO.

Internet marketing has grown a lot over the years. And it seems to keep growing. Not just in the number of people participating in the game, but in the number of ways the game can be played. Let’s count them:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Search engine marketing
  • Opt-in newsletter
  • E-mail marketing
  • Blogging
  • Pay per click
  • Display advertising
  • Social bookmarking
  • Social networking
  • Article marketing
  • Forum marketing
  • Directory submissions
  • Twitter
  • Lifestreaming
  • Pay to click advertising
  • Link building
  • Video marketing
  • Podcasting
  • Viral marketing
  • Wiki editing
  • Yahoo! Answers
  • Google Knol
  • Squidoo Lenses
  • HubPages

OK, now I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of different ways to market a website online. Some of them are better than others and some are better when used in conjunction with other methods. The job for every Internet marketer is to figure out the best ways to reach your audience online and use those methods that show the most promise and deliver the best results. There’s really no better way to define Internet marketing.

Hitwise, one of the most credible companies reporting on competitive intelligence issues, cites some interesting stats from the past couple of months. First, if you are a part of certain industries such as automotive, sports, entertainment, business and finance, news and media, and social networking then your industry has experienced a double-digit increase in the percentage of traffic coming from search engines. The same industries also saw a double-digit increase in the amount of traffic coming from Google. These stats are a comparison between October 2008 and October 2009.

This just simply proves that search engine traffic is still good today. And it doesn’t look like any other traffic source will pass the search engines any time soon.

As far as competitive intelligence goes, the best way to use this information is as a benchmark. If you are below your industry average then perhaps you need to step up your search engine marketing. If you are well above your industry average then you can take that as a sign that you are doing well at search engine marketing. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t improve.

There is more than one way to gather useful competitive intelligence. One way is to get your hands on information that you can use as a benchmark. It may not reveal anything about any specific competitor, but if it helps you better understand where you fall within your industry then it’s good information.

One often overlooked source of competitive intelligence is public information documents. These are documents that are a matter of public record and you’ll often be surprised at what you can find in those places. Here’s an example:

(Source) We once found sales and profit numbers for a large privately held company that were included in the transcript of an Environmental Protection Agency hearing. The company was trying to show that it couldn’t afford a large EPA fine, and in doing so had sent its CFO to testify at the hearing. He brought along his spread sheets for the prior three years, which became part of the hearing, and subsequently became a matter of public record through the minutes of the hearing.

Sales and profit numbers are not the only data you might find through public information documents. You could also find web data that typically would not be pubic information. Just as in the case above, companies looking to impress others or engage in CYA tactics might use their private information to make an effort at persuasion in a public meeting. That data then becomes a matter of public record and is accessible to anyone for the asking. All you have to know is where to go to find it.

If you have government oversight agencies for your industry or regulation agencies in any country in which you do business then information from the meetings of these agencies could be public depending on the country. If that is the case then you can mind the meeting minutes of past meetings and see who in your industry made public presentations. Request that information from the agency through a formal information request and you could have your hands on some good competitive intelligence data.

WordPress has come a long way since its first introduction. Over the years the blogging software has earned a solid reputation for being an easy-to-use platform with better than average SEO benefits for users. One of the cool things about WordPress is its world class support and the never ending list of plugins available. But I’d say that in the last year WordPress has stepped out as one of the top content management systems on the market and one of the things that makes it so useful is the ability to design a great web site using only the tools available in the package.

In the old days web designers would borrow an off-the-shelf WordPress theme and that served a useful purpose. But in the last couple of years a few savvy web designers have developed premium themes that anyone can purchase and those themes offer benefits that are not available with off-the-shelf themes. One benefit is the ability to actually design a custom website with strong SEO benefits. WordPress can actually be used to build a website without a blogging feature, which makes it a robust content management system deserving of the best respect.

When it comes to web design today, you don’t even need to know HTML. You can use a CMS like WordPress with a snazzy premium theme and design your site like a pro. I think that’s awesome.

If you want to run a successful viral marketing campaign there are two absolutely essential nonnegotiable elements you must infuse into your content. If you have these two essential ingredients then your content may go viral. It isn’t guaranteed to go viral, but it is guaranteed NOT to go viral if your content does not have these two essential ingredients.

So what are they, these two ingredients?

The first absolutely essential ingredient to any viral marketing campaign is a message that resonates. You have to produce content that gets people emotional. It must anger them or make them fall in love. It can produce a positive feeling or a negative feeling, but it has to elicit a strong reaction. Otherwise, people will ignore it and your message will not go viral.

The second ingredient to a successful viral marketing campaign is easy accessibility. Your content must be accessible to anyone anywhere. In other words, it cannot be behind a paywall. If people have to jump through hoops to get to your content then they won’t share it with their friends. They won’t even experience it for themselves. You’ll kill your viral marketing campaign before it begins.

That’s it. Any viral marketing campaign that even hopes to succeed must, at a minimum, possess these two qualities. Otherwise, you might as well just hang up your viral hat.

News stories like this one remind us how social the web really is – and in truth, always has been. One term I’m seeing more and more is “hyperlocal.” But in this context, it has to do with social media.

The firm also says that even though the web is world-wide, its emerging power is hyperlocal.

What on earth could this mean?

I think it means that local small businesses trying to optimize for social media can relax and take in the breath of fresh air that social media is beginning to reach into its hyperlocal roots. That is, local small businesses can leverage social media to connect with local customers, drive more local traffic to their websites, and build relationships without getting too wrapped up in search engine lingo and the search marketing rat race. Instead, you can build a solid relationship with your neighbors on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter and take social media to the local level.

The next phase in social media optimization, I’m convinced of it, is hyperlocal.

Bing has announced a more enhanced video search platform and from what I can tell, it’s not bad.

While I don’t think this is a sweeping innovation by any stretch, I do give Bing kudos for making some changes this year that makes it more competitive – even if slightly – in the search market. While I don’t expect Bing Video Search to come anywhere near YouTube, Hulu, or Facebook in terms of volume of videos watched, I do see that Bing Video could capture some of the video search market from Google and Yahoo!

But not much.

The one advantage that Bing Video offers is organization. But the real question will be in SEO. Will Bing offer any SEO advantage to webmasters who use video? If so then you can expect Bing Video to be a major player in the SEO game. That’s possible, but is it likely? Only time will tell. I’m rooting for Bing on this one. We could use more video optimization opportunities.

It doesn’t seem possible, but this is one of those zen aphorisms that rings true because it’s so contradictory. Give up control and gain more control. That’s how search engine marketing works.

Typically, small businesses start off building their website knowing just where they want to go. And that’s the problem. They do the keyword research. Narrow down the list of keywords to target. Write great content for their website. Do the requisite promotions. And no one shows up to buy anything. Why?

The problem is you have too much control. Give it up.

And here’s how you give up control. You simply let the customer have it. They know what they want. They’ll search using the phrases that are important to them, not the ones you’ve picked out of a line up. Your customers will purchase what you have to offer if you offer what they are looking for. So quit guessing and ask what they are looking for. Then provide it.

The way to be successful at search engine marketing is to give up control and to let your customer have it. When you do that, you’ll gain control over your success in the best kind of way.

Few online marketing concepts are as misunderstood as online reputation management. It is often thought of as a reactive model, but in truth it is proactive. Reputation management in its best sense is nothing less than effective online branding.

A recent survey, shows the top online brands in 2009 are:

  1. Google
  2. Yahoo!
  3. Amazon
  4. Facebook
  5. Ebay
  6. Microsoft
  7. YouTube
  8. MySpace
  9. Apple
  10. Sony

The one thing that all of these companies have in common is a strong brand. Each one built its online reputation by building its brand. And the attributes that make them all reputable brands – and recognizable brands – are trustworthiness, helpfulness, and relevance.

The lesson here for the rest of us is to build trust by being helpful and being relevant. If you can do that in your niche then you will simultaneously be building your brand and your reputation. There’s no better reputation management than building a positive and recognizable brand in any niche.

Google is getting stricter with its quality score. Recently, the search engine announced that you will hurt your quality score if you try to target too many keywords with one ad. The search engine wants you to target a specific web page with each keyword. The result for many webmasters could be a new PPC campaign for every keyword they want to target.

But that’s not to say that you’ll have to target a different keyword for every PPC campaign under every circumstances. In most cases, a tight keyword group within a PPC campaign will boost your quality score and give you maximum performance,l but you have to manage the campaign in the right way.

Your targeted web pages should be managed around a tight keyword group consisting of keywords that are related. We’re talking about a small keyword group – about 5 or 6 keywords. If you try to manage a single PPC campaign around hundreds of keywords that are broadly related then you will hurt your quality score and your ad rankings and click-throughs will suffer.

A recent article in Marketing Pilgrim states that small businesses are abandoning banner advertising in favor of SEM, social media, and e-mail marketing. The big question is, Why?

It’s not hard to see, really. These are more effective ways of marketing a business online.

The Internet marketing industry has been aware of the declining value of online banner advertising for a few years now. It just doesn’t work. Mainly because of something called ad blindness. Websites users and searchers tend to block out those ads after they see them time and time again. But it’s hard to ignore your friends on social media, your captured audience in e-mail, and the higher ROI and response rates of SEM. The data proves these are just more effective means of Internet marketing.

Maybe we can say that small businesses are wising up to the ways of successful Internet marketing? If so then 2010 will likely be the year of SEM, SMO, and e-mail marketing. Do you think?

In any business you need the proper tools to succeed. That’s no less true for online marketing. And if you want to beat the competition then you need to rely on the proper tools for competitive intelligence. But what are those, exactly?

Competitive intelligence tools are tools that online marketers use to get a better handle on what their competition is up to and why. They range from the purely public – like Google Alerts – to the purely private. Espionage is one element that has been used to gain a competitive advantage, but at the risk of making it sound sexy and adventurous, it can be dangerous. The idea is to gain some inside knowledge on the competition’s processes, goals, and business workings that might help you be more competitive in the marketplace.

Spying on the competition, however, is not like living a James Bond movie. At its worst, it can employ illegal activities like bribery, blackmail, etc. At best, the tactics can be questionable.

With competitive intelligence, companies tend to stick with the more public information available about the competition. In most cases, you don’t have to resort to illegal means to gather information on your competition. Public documents and information tell a good story. But without the proper tools, even that can be a challenge.

Recent web design styles have websites showcasing multiple sidebars. In many cases, you’ll see two sidebars – one on the left and one on the right. But you might often see both sidebars on the same side of the page as well. Then there are the three sidebar styles. Rarer, but still common.

The question must arise when you are designing your website, how many sidebars do you need? It’s no easy answer, but it is worth some consideration.

There are many different reasons for building a website with multiple sidebars. You’ll have to consider your website’s needs. And your audience’s needs and expectations. Do you have a lot of pages on your site that you could link to from one of your sidebars. How about several sister websites in the same family? Or do you sell links or advertising on your website?

Sometimes, webmasters add sidebars that aren’t necessary. They choose a web design because of it’s coolness factor and not because of practical concerns. The most important thing is to design a website that meets the needs of your users. Everything else is a matter of taste.

You’ve likely heard enough of viral marketing that you are beginning to wonder whether or not it is all hype or whether you have any hope. Truth is, much of it is hype. But the flip side to the truth is it’s not all hype. You do have hope.

But pulling off a successful viral marketing campaign is not easy. You can’t just throw together an idea and in 24 hours see a groundswell of viral activity all because you rubbed a few stones together. It does take some thought and energy to pull a good viral marketing effort off and it helps to know a little bit about human psychology. What makes people tick? What would make someone want to help you spread your message?

Viral marketing is a bit of a double-edge sword. If it works, great. If it doesn’t it can also backfire. You could actually see some negative repercussions. That’s because you can’t predict how people are going to react to your efforts.

When it comes to viral marketing, there’s no one solution that will work for everyone. It takes good planning and a fair amount of trust in human nature.

There is a tendency to discuss reputation management and social media as if they are two separate subjects. Of course, they are – to an extent. But the two are really intertwined. Social media optimization is reputation management; and reputation management involves social media.

Just to illustrate how married the two are, consider this anecdote I recently came across while reading online. An author of an article detailed how she monitored the social media conversations of potential business partners. Her first step was to ascertain the usernames of some of their social media accounts. She then exercised some savvy and searched for more accounts under those usernames.

But the sneaky part was when she rolled up the feeds from all the social media profiles of those partners into one master feed. She then ran the feed through two filters. The first filter was a filter for important keywords related to their niche. No big deal there. But the second filter was a filter for negative reputation terms, or red flag words like “sex”, “party”, “drugs”, etc. Hmmm, now that’s sneaky.

There are two sides to this equation. The first is how easy it is to monitor someone else’s reputation and see if it is the type of person you want to do business with. The second side of that equation is how scary it is to know someone else can monitor your reputation that way.

Why is that scary? If you have nothing to hide it shouldn’t be. And that’s the point. Are you carrying yourself online as if you have nothing to hide?

In our view, social media is reputation management.

Sometimes the SEO world folds in upon itself and starts doing weird stuff. Such a thing happened just recently when Matt Cutts made an offhand remark about Michael Martinez sums it up pretty well.

If you read his blog post and come to the conclusion that you should NOT block because you don’t want to be accused of being a spammer then let’s go back to school. Matt Cutts wasn’t sending a signal that anyone who blocks is a spammer. On the other hand, simply blocking isn’t going to solve all your problems either.

Clearly, whether you block or not is a decision you have to make for yourself. There are legitimate reasons for doing so. Spammers – some spammers – do it, but they do it for a different reason.

When it comes to SEO, don’t follow the crowd. Don’t listen to the myths and turn them into religion. Just do what makes sense.

We’ve seen the integration of online marketing strategies and resources and they seem to be drawing closer together rather than further apart. Specifically, I’m talking about social media and search.

Facebook is the largest social media site online and many of its best features offer search engine benefits. Twitter is leading the way into a more robust and scalable social media environment online. Plus, each of the search engines is playing around with offering real-time search, a social media phenomenon. Social search is the next big thing.

But what about search engine marketing, or more specifically, pay per click marketing? Will PPC be integrated into that mix any time soon?

Strangely, fewer and fewer people are clicking on those ads. The search engines are actually looking for ways to increase click throughs. But the social networks do offer their own brands of pay per click marketing – Facebook and StumbleUpon have led the way in this regard though the results have been less than stellar. The world is still waiting to see what Twitter will do.

Nevertheless, we stand at a precipice. Social media and search engine marketing are coming together in a big way. There’s no telling where we will be in a couple of years.

There is never a fool proof way to do anything. No matter what you try, in reputation management as well as in SEO or anything else, there is always a way to fail. But there is one way to ensure that you manage your reputation online well and that you at least give it a full faith effort to remain spotless. That one method is to provide excellent customer service.

While good customer service can’t ensure that no one will ever accuse you falsely or take a legitimate claim public unnecessarily, it will reduce the chances drastically. After all, happy customers have no reason to complain.

You can perform all the SEO tricks in the world, be diligent in how you present your web pages to social media sites, and consistently pound away at search engine listings until you get them all. But none of it is a good substitute for great service. Provide great service and people will talk about you. Provide a lousy service and they’ll talk but no amount of SEO will undo the damage. Good reputation management means never having to clean up a mess in the first place.

Match types are a way to control ad spend and traffic with PPC. But you’ve got to put some thought into how you do it. First, let’s explain what they are:

  • Broad Match – Broad match means the search engine will return your ad for search queries that match any of the words within your targeted keyword phrase. For instance, your keyword phrase is “yellow sneakers”. Your ad may show a search query for “yellow geranium”, “big sneakers”, or “yellow sneakers”. It matches all variations of your keyword phrase.
  • Phrase Match – Phrase match is a little different. Your ad will be shown only for search queries that match your keyword phrase as you express it, but not limited only to how you express it. For instance, “yellow sneakers” will return your ad for a search query for “yellow sneakers”, “big yellow sneakers” or “red and yellow sneakers” but not for “yellow geranium”.
  • Exact Match – Exact match is the strictest. Your ad will be shown only for search queries that match your key phrase exactly. A search for “yellow sneakers” will return your ad for the targeted keyword “yellow sneakers” but not “big yellow sneakers”.

These are important distinctions and you need to think about your target market. What will they search for? If your market is likely to search for “yellow sneakers size ___” (fill in the blank) then you’ll want to make sure of the phrase match. After all, you don’t want to shut out “yellow sneakers”. But you don’t want to waste clicks on people searching for “yellow geraniums” either.

The bottom line on match types is to use the most limiting one possible without shutting out key members of your target market and use the broadest match possible without wasting money on unnecessary click throughs.