Friday, September 19, 2008

Sherpa Answers 15 Common SEO Questions

MarketingSherpa yesterday published an article titled Long-Tail Keywords Dead? We Answer This Question and 14 Others on SEO (open access on their site until September 25). Without summarizing the entire 5-page (at 9-point font size!) article, here are a few highlights and observations:

Paid vs. Organic Search

The article states that 95% of search clicks go to organic results, and only 5% to paid links. While there's no question that organic search results get more clicks than the associated ads, the contrast isn't quite that extreme. Lee Odden puts this breakout at closer to 60/40, HubSpot has it at 75/25, and Dynamic Digital says...a lot of things, but basically that organic results get 70-80% while paid links receive 20-30%.

Because organic links perform better, Sherpa advises focusing on SEO, then "only when you see natural search traffic going down should you look to paid search links to supplement that organic traffic." That's just plain wrong!

The first question you have to ask yourself is: what's the value of paid search to you? The closer your product is to the low-cost, tactical, single-decision maker end of the scale (e.g. computer network hardware), the better pay-per-click advertising works. For products that are very expensive, strategic and involve multiple decision makers (e.g. post-merger consulting services), the less effective search engine advertising is.

Second, there's an excellent argument to be made for using paid search first. It will show you which terms most successfully drive profitable traffic to your site much more quickly than natural SEO can. Then you can focus your SEO efforts on high-value terms that are easy to optimize for, and continue to use paid search for those terms which are very difficult to SEO.

Third, as Anne Holland always advises when faced with any question like this, the answer is to "test, test, test."
Average cost per click varies considerably by industry and product type.

Long-Tail Keywords rock. "The majority of searches (67%) are made up of one to three keywords. However, 82% of searchers said that they are likely to enter a few more words when they can’t find what they are looking for in a search. Phrases of four or more words are often used to deliver the targeted results that most searchers aren’t seeing with broader-based search terms. These terms can offer you higher conversion rates at a lower cost per click" when used in SEM campaigns, and are far easier to SEO than two-word or even three-word phrases.

Questionable advice on professional SEO: "If you’re a marketer who doesn’t have a good foundation in Web design, try to find a member of your IT or Web design team willing to undertake your SEO projects." Actually, that sentence would be fine if they had used the phrase "collaborate with you on" in place of the word "undertake." SEO is a mix of art and science. And I'd argue that its easier to teach a marketer the science than it is to teach at IT person the art.

SEO Frequency: The majority of your SEO work should happen up-front, during the website design phase. After that, you need to enact a policy of steadily adding to that framework with small pieces of new, optimized content...Aim to add at least one new element that builds on your SEO strategy every few days." Just need to add: the majority of the ongoing effort is link building, not onsite changes.

Blogging for SEO: "Blogs can be a tremendous piece of your search marketing strategy. Blog posts create an ongoing stream of new, keyword-rich content that often generates links from other sites back to your website." As long as the blogging team follows a few simple guidelines and avoids the seven deadly sins of blogging, then absolutely!


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom


KudoSurf Me!
Add to Technorati Favorites
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
AddThis Feed Button

eXTReMe Tracker