Monday, December 22, 2008

Can Social Media Save Detroit?

Roxanne Darling at Bare Feet Studios recently wrote an outstanding piece on the use of social media at Ford. In How Ford Can Ramp Up It’s Social Media Turnaround Story of 2009 (nicely summarized by John Cass on Social Media Today), she outlines a social media strategy to help Ford become more transparent and connect more effectively with customers. She recommends new initiatives (such as getting executives using Viddler to answer questions directly from consumers) as well as building on the social media efforts already being led by Scott Monty.

Ford-CarChristopher Barger at GM has also been innovative, not just at getting the company involved with bloggers, but in the underlying concept of social media in general: listening to consumers and responding with sincerity and transparency. For example, at one gathering he insisted on seating Hummer executives at the same table with green bloggers. While the two groups certainly didn't come away agreeing with each other, they did at least increase their understanding of the other group's point of view.

(Chrysler, meanwhile, still apparently doesn't get social media, at least according to Noah Mallin.)

Regardless of the final form and extent of the auto industry bailout, what's abundantly clear is that the Big 3 can't put a bandaid on their current troubles and then continue to do business the way they have for the last 30 years. Congressional meddling is unlikely to help, but social media is part of what can.

Beyond creating a dialog with consumers, the automakers need to understand how to use social media for competitive research, and most importantly, for labor relations.

While the causes of the current problems in Detroit and many and complex, a big part of the problem is labor issues. This isn't to bash the rank and file, but more of a pox on both their houses: for years, the unions have been making unrealistic demands, and management has been agreeing to them. Time magzine reports that "GM's combined pension and retiree-health-care costs run $7 billion annually and have cost GM more than $103 billion over the past 15 years," as employees can potentially collect more than $100,000 in healthcare benefits after leaving the company.

The adversarial model of labor relations is broken. And while no one expects Rick Wagoner, Alan Mulally and Bob Nardelli to launch into a dance routine with Ron Gettelfinger and sing We're All in This Together, social media could bring a transparency, immediacy and honesty to worker-management relations that's never been possible before. Imagine a production line employee asking a question online and getting a direct response from an auto company executive on Twitter or YouTube—instantly and publicly, with no filtering through layers of management or labor spokespersons. Even more powerfully, imagine one of these companies, instead of hiring a social media evangelist, turning all of its tens of thousands of employees into evangelists by communicating, and then living, a vision beyond creating the next hideous crossover vehicle.

Obviously, it's going to take far more than a Blogger account and a ShareThis button to fix 100 years of counter-productive adversarial labor relations. But if management and labor ever decide to step off that broken treadmill, social media tools can provide a platform for a transparent, direct dialog.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan : mike@digitalrdm.com

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting More Out of Each Click, Part 2: Docmetrics

It's a widespread and persistent quandary for marketers, particularly B2B marketers who use white papers as a lead generation incentive for response: on the one hand, if you place a contact form in front of your content, you'll get a very low conversion rate (on average, 95% of visitors will simply leave the site, and one-third of those who remain will enter bogus information). On the other, if you leave your PDF content open, more people will download your materials but you get no information: who are these visitors? Are they actually reading your content? Printing it? Passing it along? Leaving your content open may actually produce more leads in the long run, but you have no way to measure that with any precision (or even know for sure if that's the case).

How do you maximize the return on the investment you've made not only in producing valuable white papers and other content, but also in driving traffic to it through search engine advertising, email marketing, banner ads and other media? Particularly in this economy, when budgets are being squeezed and marketers are mandated to do more with less, how can you exceed "typical" results and get more than 2-3% of your visitors to raise their hands?

My first post on this topic looked at one possible answer, "post-click marketing" services that extract visitor IP information from your website log files, filter out ISPs and then match remaining network information to various databases to show you, in real time, who is visiting your website and what information they are viewing. Although the term "spyware" is unfair, these services still make some marketers uncomfortable as they are collecting information without the specific consent of visitors. Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to get a higher percentage of visitors to voluntarily provide you with their contact information?

Doc-Metrics A unique new SaaS offering from Vitrium Systems called Docmetrics may do exactly that.

How Docmetrics Works

Once you are set up with their online service (no software to install), you upload your PDFs—white papers, case studies, product data sheets etc.—to your Docmetrics account. Next, create custom Flash forms using Docmetrics tools to collect user information. Insert these forms into your documents; for a white paper, you may want to place the form on page 2 or 3; for content you wouldn't normally "gate" with a contact form, such as a product sheet, you can put the form at the end of the document. Finally, download your PDFs with the contact forms now inserted and upload these to your website.

Macklin-Financial-PDFWhen a visitor comes to your site, they can download any PDF without completing an on-site contact form. When they reach the page in your PDF with the Docmetrics Flash form inserted, the form will appear asking them for their contact information. You have the option of requiring completion of the form in order to read the remainder of the document (e.g. with a white paper), or providing a "skip" button on the form so the form submission is voluntary.

On the back end, the Docmetrics system collects all activity information. Typcially, you have no idea what happens to your PDFs once they are downloaded from your website. With Documetics, you get complete tracking—number of times the document was opened, how much time was spent on each page, number of times it was forwarded, printed etc.

Why It's Cool

The folks at Vitrium claim that Docmetrics dramatically increases—by up to 10X—lead capture rates for normally gated content (such as white papers), while for the first time enabling the collection of contact information from content that isn't normally gated (e.g. product sheets and case studies).

It also, as noted above, provides activity statistics on PDF content to help marketers improve their offerings. If white paper A has a much higher pass-along rate than white paper B, and gets printed more often, and users on average spend more time with it, then...develop more content like white paper A. That kind of data has just not previously been available for PDF content.

I'm still at the stage of working with selected clients to test this technology, so I can't vouch for the increase in lead capture rates—though I plan to write a follow-up post once I have that data. For now, it's sufficient to note that if the increase in conversion rate is even 20% of what Vitrium claims, the product will pay for itself. If Docmetrics provides half the increase in conversion rate claimed, it will make you a rock star with your boss or client.

What to Watch Out For

There really doesn't appear to be much in the way of a downside to this service. It is possible that your PDFs may not display properly for prospects using older versions of Flash, although 1) this should affect only about 5% of viewers according to Vitrium, and 2) the next release, planned for February, will resolve this problem. Docmetrics offers a free trial, so it's easy to test drive the software and draw your own conclusions.

Pricing

Monthly fees start at $100 and are based on the number of PDF documents tracked. Contact Vitrium to get more exact pricing for your situation.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan : mike@digitalrdm.com

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Best of 2008 (So Far) - Website Design, Part 2

What are the most important factors to consider when designing (or redesigning) a website? Where should you start? How can you ensure that your site works well on mobile devices as well as conventional browsers? Which tools can help make your efforts more productive and effective?

Get the answers to these questions and more in the pieces below, some of the best articles and blog posts from the past year.

The 4 Essential Elements of Web Design by Spinfield

Designer Jason Nester offers highly practical advice (i.e. Flash, widgets and Web 2.0 colors need not apply) about the most critical factors in site design. It's heartening that he refers to SEO as "probably THE most essential element of Web design."


Why Web Design Matters by SEO Book

SEO expert Peter Da Vanzo serves up his take on the 10 most important factors, beginning with "Purpose—Know Your Audience," which should be the starting point for ANY marketing activity. Clarity, branding and speed are also among the elements on this excellent pre-site redesign list.


10 Great Web Sites by BtoB magazine

A group of industry experts including Hoa Loranger from the Nielsen Norman Group, Alan Webber of Forrester Research and Dana Todd from Newsforce tell you what they like, and don't like, about 10 popular websites. Among their picks for great sites are the U.S. Postal Service, Adobe and Formway Furniture.


10 killer websites worth watching by iMedia Connection

In the same manner as the post above, here editor Nanette Marcus asks five experts including Ryan Buchanan from eROI, Doug Schumacher of Basement and David Friedman of Razorfish each to describe what's unique and what could be improved about two websites they think stand out from the crowd.


Custom 404 page and SEO: 10 things a Good 404 Error Page Should Contain by SeoblogR

Polish blogger Pawel Szulencki may not have absolutely perfect English ("No ads - they just stand in the way to deliver the right message to the user"), but he does have an outstanding list of items here to include on custom 404 error pages including a search box, links to the most important pages of your site, a link to the sitemap, and "a short message explaining why a user is seeing this web page...You should also apology for any inconveniences that caused. Dont blame the user for visiting your error page."


Is your website ready for a handheld world? by iMedia Connection

Consultant and author Robert Moskowitz asked Will Park from IntoMobile, Chris Spiek of Awecomm Technologies and Marty Dickinson from HereNextYear.com about designing websites for mobile devices. What are the most critical design factors to keep in mind? Do you need a .mobi domain? This article answers those questions and more.


16 Web Based Handy Web Designer Tools by Online Marketing Blog

Blogger Thomson Chemmanoor shares some of his favorite website design and development tools for tasks such as analyzing page load time, validating CSS files, finding broken links, generating rounded corner and gradients, and more.

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Guidance, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Guidance, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Search Engine Marketing, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Cool Web Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Social Media Optimization, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Blogging for Business, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Web Marketing Research, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Website Design, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Link Building
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Search Engine Marketing, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Social Media Optimization, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Guidance, Part 3
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Cool Web Tools, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Blogging for Business, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Web Marketing Research, Part 2

*****


Contact Mike Bannan : mike@digitalrdm.com

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Marketers Should Act Like 3-Year Olds

Granted, some people think we already do.

But, here's the thing—if you've ever had a three-year old try to carry on a conversation with you, you know it often goes something like this (and if you haven't, you can apparently buy a 3-year old on eBay; another example of why web marketers need to be careful with variable text insertion):

3-year old: Why is grass green?
Three-Year-Old-Marketers
You: Because it has chlorophyll in it.

3-year old: Why?

You: Because that's what helps it turn sunlight into food.

3-year old: Why?

You: So it can live.

3-year old: Why?

You: Because grass WANTS to live.

3-year old: Really?

This conversation often continues until either the three-year old loses interest or you decide it's time for an early cocktail.

Still, marketers could benefit from being more like this. No, not annoying, but tenaciously inquisitive.

For example, your online lead generation goes up this month (or down). Why? Well, because more (or fewer) people clicked on your ads. Why?

Sometimes the answer is obvious. If you've just launched a campaign for a new product and increased your search advertising budget, then one would expect leads to go up. On the other hand, if you sell primarily to the construction or real estate industries, your leads have probably been down for several months now—and you don't need a great deal of research or reflection to figure out why.

Sometimes the answer is a complete mystery; your CTR increased 50% this month even though you're running the same ads with the same keywords. Random variation? Phases of the moon? Change in the national mood? Or, most likely, something you did that was totally unrelated to SEM that nevertheless had an effect?

The trickiest situations are when there seems to be an obvious answer—but that answer isn't necessarily right. Those are the situations when tenacious inquisitiveness is really critical.

For example, keep in mind that, all other things being equal:

  • People are more likely to click on search ads for brands they are familiar with and trust than for unfamiliar names. Brand advertising—yes, even print ads—support SEM success.
  • Search-optimized press releases improve the search results position of your website. So do comments on blogs (provided they are do-follow blogs). These effects can be difficult to measure, but are nonetheless very real.
  • Social media participation helps drive business. Part of this effect is easy to measure (e.g. referral visits to your site from Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon etc.); but another part, the branding and credibility value that social media participation provides, is every bit as real but much tougher to quantify.

It's also critical to stay in touch with "cold" leads. It costs less to convert someone who is already familiar with your company and has already expressed an interest in your product(s) but just wasn't ready to buy immediately than it is to generate an entirely new prospect. Be creative, and mix it up between phone, snail mail and email. The effort is likely to pay off, even if its difficult to determine which call, message or collateral piece actually tipped the scales.

So be like a three-yar old. Use your imagination, be curious, and remember to share your toys.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan : mike@digitalrdm.com

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Getting More Out of Each Click with "Post-Click Marketing"

Post-Click-MarketingWith the economy now officially in a recession (as if we didn't know that), marketers are under increasing pressure to do more with less. On the interactive marketing side, few marketers will get budget increases enabling them to drive more clicks. The challenge, then, is to maximize marketing productivity—to get more leads out of the same number of clicks. This is the first of two posts that will look at how to improve conversion rates to get more value from each click.

One answer to this challenge is provided by "post-click marketing," a.k.a. lead automation management vendors. While the specifics of each service vary, all of them essentially:
  • automate the process of extracting visitor IP information from your log files;
  • match the IP address to an organization;
  • filter out ISPs; and
  • map the company name to one or more external databases to provide additional information (company size, industry, key contacts etc.).
The better services also use geo-location filtering to determine which city the visit came from, rather than providing only corporate headquarters information (e.g., someone from IBM visits your site; that's great, but it would helpful to know whether the visit came from Armonk or from one of IBM's hundreds of other office locations).

Critics of these services refer to them as "spyware," though that term isn't really fair. These services don't collect any information beyond what Google Analytics, WebTrends or other web analytics packages do. They can't identify the specific individual who visits a site, only the network location from which the visit originated. The distinction is that they filter out ISPs and supplement network location information with data from third-party sources.

What's key is how this information is used. If a marketing group uses the information collected to segment their market and provide relevant, targeted follow up messages, then the services ultimately benefit both buyers and sellers. But if used by sales to make an immediate call ("Hi Bob, I noticed that someone from your office just visited our website. Was that you? If so, I'd like to tell you about a special offer we have going..."), that's where the creepiness factor comes in.

These vendors are quick to point out that you've already paid for the traffic to your site through PPC, SEO, interactive PR, banner advertising or other activities; their services simply help you learn more about the 97% of visitors who don't immediately convert into a lead. They aren't so much "lead generation" as they are "lead extraction" services.

The bottom line is, with pressure to generate more leads with flat budgets, these services are likely to get increased interest. And again, if the used properly, they can be helpful in engaging site visitors who perhaps aren't quite ready to become a "lead."

The Vendors

Here are six services that offer post-click marketing analytics:

VisitorTrack, from netFactor—in the company's own words, VisitorTrack is"like caller ID for your website...(it) integrates Website Tracking, Business Intelligence and Sales CRM into a powerful on-demand application for capturing detailed information on your website's Business Visitors." VisitorTrack service provides robust geo-targeting (so you know exactly where visitors are coming from) and email notification, but it's biggest strength is detailed and customizable reporting capability. Contact names are available free through LinkedIn or on a pay-or-play basis from Jigsaw. Pricing starts at about $300 per month.

Demandbase—referring to its service as a "lead quality platform...that unlock(s) the potential of online advertising, search, CRM, and social networks," Demandbase provides both a desktop wideget similar to a stock ticker that displays website vistitor information in real-time, as well as daily summary emails and 90 days worth of visitor data for reporting. Demandbase is a simple, elegant lead enhancement solution with an affordable starting point at under $200 per month. You can use the widget for free, but won't get any data stored for reporting. The platform only provides data on North American visitors for now, though international tracking capability is in the pipeline.

LEADSExplorer from Engago Technologies is a powerful service that helps marketers discover who's visiting their site, identify their interests, segment visitors based on company size and industry, track results through reporting, and integrate visitor data with backend CRM systems.
Based in the U.K., the LEADSExplorer staff is sophisticated about website lead capture technologies and practices, and easy to work with for both U.S. and European countries.

LeadLander is one of the most mature providers of what they term "real-time customer intelligence." LeadLander is a robust, proven platform that shows you who's been visiting your site, what they've been looking at, how much time each visitor has committed to reviewing various pages of your online collateral, the search terms used to find your site and more. It's also fully integrated with Salesforce.com.

LeadGenesys offers broad functionality for tracking email campaigns and website visits. The service is integrated with Salesforce.com and is used by a blue chip customer base including RR Donnelly, Praxair and AMD.

Opentracker is a simple yet powerful service that provides real-time visitor monitoring, search term analysis, online reporting and other analytical capabilities. While it doesn't offer all the features of other services, Opentracker offers smaller companies an extremely affordable entry point into post-click marketing starting at about $20 per month.

Further Reading
Forrester's Laura Ramos provided an excellent summary of what she broadly termed lead automation management in August of this year, though it seems a bit odd to place Hubspot (inbound marketing / website optimization), Leadlander (site visitor tracking) and Zoominfo (an online directory / database) in the same group.

Other bloggers that have reviewed these services include:

Capture Website Visitors To Know Who Has Been Visiting - They Might Be Qualified Leads from ReadyContacts

Qualify Leads with VisitorTrack from Manoj Jasra at Web Analytics World

Turning Web Site Visitors into Paying Customers from Jim Berkowitz

Demandbase launches lead generation platform with Adobe funding from Enetlive.net

Visitr - No, I am not scared you know my location but dammit I respect you from 640K Ought to be enough for anybody

Demandbase Raises $8 Million For Online Lead Generation Platform from Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch

How Do I Build a List of Target Companies and Contacts? from Aaron Ross at Build a Sales Machine

*****

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Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Best of 2008 (So Far) - Web Marketing Research, Part 2

The best research tells you not only what's happening, but why. Check out these posts, more of the best so far in 2008, on web marketing and Internet research to sate your curiosity, make better marketing decisions, and arm yourself with online trivia knowledge.

Which blogs do reporters read? What are the top uses of the Internet after email and search? What type of online advertising is growing while banners and PPC ads flatline? What's the next big trend in blogging? Which information sources have the greatest influence on consumer purchasing decisions? Read on to learn all of this and more.

Top Blogs Used by Reporters & Journalists by Mequoda Daily

There are lots of "top" blog lists out there, but which blogs really have influence with traditional media? This article reports on a study of the blogs read by more than 450 reporters in technology, lifestyle, health care, travel, and politics. It would have been nice to see more than a handful of results in each category, but the results are interesting nevertheless.


Pew/Internet Search Engine Use Report by MIT Technology Review

A high-level overview of a recent study of search engine use conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Search engines are now used on daily basis by half of all Internet users. Search is the second-most common use of the Internet after email. More than twice as many people said they checked the weather on the Internet daily as reported visiting a social networking site (weird). There's lots more here for data junkies.


18 Ways to Power Search Google by The Inquisitr

Blogging evangelist Duncan Riley provides an excellent list of tricks for searching out specific types of information on Google, such as specific types of documents, backlinks, phone listings, movie times and metric conversions. Highly bookmarkable.


Is online advertising losing its luster? by iMedia Connection

Neal Leavitt reports on a recent study by market research firm Borrell Associates which contends that while spending on online display ads and search advertising will soon peak then begin falling, expenditures on online promotions (e.g., contests, giveaways, coupons, sales of half-price gift certificates) will triple over the next five years to become the biggest category in online marketing. Others (such as Rob Enderle) aren't so sure; promotions may be easy to measure, but without advertising support, they can lose a lot of effectiveness.


Porn passed over as Web users become social: author by Reuters

Reporter Belinda Goldsmith summarizes a few of the key findings revealed by author Bill Tancer in his new book Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters. Among the findings: ceiling fans are on the list of people's top fears alongside social intimacy and rejection; there's an annual spike in searches for anti-depression drugs around Thanksgiving time in the United States; and surfing for porn has dropped in teh last decade from 20% of searches to about 10%. The hottest Internet searches now are for social networking sites, and the biggest drop in porn interest is among 18-24 year olds.


What’s Next In Blogging? by Search For Blogging

Über blogger Mert Erkal reports some interesting stats on the continued growth and evolution of the Internet, and predicts that mobile blogging will be one of the hot new trends.


What causes webinar attendees to bail? by B2B Lead Generation Blog

In this concise but helpful post, b2b lead gen guru Brian Carroll summarizes the findings of a MarketingSherpa report on the top reasons that attendees bail out of webinars, including such common presentation faux pas as reading directly from the slides and starting the webinar with a sales pitch.


State of the Blogosphere 2008 by Technorati

Fascinating details about blogging, advertising and income. Driving home the point that blogging is a great hobby but a tough way to make a living, the median annual advertising income for all bloggers is about $200. The average annual revenue for the top 10% of bloggers is just $19,000.


Why do some companies choose to ignore social media? by Britopian

85% of Americans using social media think companies should have an active presence in the social media universe, yet only 74 of the Fortune 500 companies maintain active blogs. Michael Brito examines why this yawning disconnect persists between corporations and their customers.


Word of Mouth, Online Reviews Most Influential in Purchase Decisions by Marketing Pilgrim

Jordan McCollum summarizes a recent study by Rubicon Consulting which explores the biggest influences on purchasing decisions and consumer perceptions of various websites. Reading this post, you'll discover that Yahoo is the second-most valued website by consumers, Second Life and Twitter still reach only a few percent of Internet users, and lots of other interesting web trivia.


Search Engine Marketing Trumps Yellow Pages by NewSunSEO Blog

A study conducted in July of this year by TMP Directional Marketing revealed that in 2008, for the first time ever, consumers reported that they were more likely to use the Internet than the yellow pages to find information on local businesses. As someone who hasn't touched a yellow pages directory in years, other than to start a campfire or toss the old one into the recycling bin, the biggest surprise in this study is that it took until 2008 to reach this point.

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Guidance, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Guidance, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Search Engine Marketing, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Cool Web Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Social Media Optimization, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Blogging for Business, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Web Marketing Research, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Website Design, Part 1
Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Link Building
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Search Engine Marketing, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Social Media Optimization, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - SEO Guidance, Part 3
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Cool Web Tools, Part 2
Best of 2008 (So Far) - Blogging for Business, Part 2

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, December 01, 2008

SEO Is Not Dead, Just Changing: What This Means

"SEO is dead." Making a statement like that is a great way to generate lots of traffic, and comments, as Micah Baldwin and Mike McDonald have recently demonstrated. But it's still nonsense. As I noted in my comment to comment Michah's post on Learn to Duck, articles like this have been appearing since at least 2003, so if SEO is dying, it's an awfully slow death.

It is changing, however, as Google's plans for search personalization are rolled out. Using factors such as geographic location, "preferences" as indicated by your search history, and even integration of tools like SearchWiki and Google Friend Connect (nicely explained by TechCrunch), Google will customize search results for each user.

This means that, very soon, your site may show up at #1, #5, #12 or some other spot for any given search term depending on who is doing the searching. Already, automated position-checking tools like Rank Checker and SEO Chat produce erroneous results with Google; that soon won't matter as there will no "right" answer as to where your site appears on Google for a specific search phrase anyway, other than "it depends."

But again, none of this means that SEO is dead, only that it is changing (as it constantly does). Considering Google's move to make more of universal search and personalized search, here are some important points to keep in mind:
  • The basic principles of good SEO (proper use of on-page factors like title, meta tags, headlines and quality content with sufficient keyword density, along with building high-quality external links) principles still apply. Although your precise search position will vary depend on the searcher's location, demographics and other factors, it won't rank highly for anyone if it isn't well-optimized.

  • The changes may help local businesses. With more of an emphasis on location, even small company sites may appear more prominently in searches on broad, highly competitive phrases such as CRM consulting services in their local area. In the b2b realm, this could raise the profile of value-added resellers, systems integrators and managed service providers relative to software developers and hardware manufacturers, making strong channel relations more important than ever.

  • If Google's changes actually succeed in making search results more relevant, it could help both searchers and site owners. If you're the owner of Ace Dry Cleaners, for example, you really don't want traffic from people who are searching for Ace Insurance or Ace Hardware any more than those searchers want to find you. So, the end result could be less traffic, but more relevant traffic.

  • Google's moves are likely to have the greatest impact on broad, highly competitive, ambiguous words and phrases. There will be much less variation in search results between users for long tail and specific niche phrases—which is, again, why SEO is far from dead.

  • Since there will no longer be a reliable measure of search engine position for any individual site and search phrase, other metrics will become more important: overall search traffic, quality measures such as bounce rate, and SEO page grade as measured by tools such as HubSpot's Website Grader, the search engine optimization analysis tool from SEO Workers, or Traffic Travis. There will also likely be more emphasis on search-driven conversions, though this is, strictly speaking, more of a website optimization than an SEO issue.

  • SEO requires a mix of skills—coding, design, copywriting, link building, PR, social media optimization—that most organizations don't have in-house. Larger companies may be able to form internal SEO teams, but SMBs will still need to rely on outside agencies that can provide this mix of skills on an affordable, as-needed basis.

  • Search algorithms are constantly changing. One day the meta keywords tag is critical, the next it doesn't matter. First you should get linked in as many online directories as possible, then you needn't bother. A tactic that is white hat one day becomes gray hat, or even black hat, the next. Only specialists can keep on top of the constant change and assure that current best practices are being utilized.
Finally, SEO will gradually morph into web presence optimization (WPO)—a term so important I'm giving it its own category. There will be more to come on this soon. For now, rest assured that reports of the death of SEO have been greatly exaggerated.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan : mike@digitalrdm.com

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