Posts about search engine optimization

Why You Should Give Soccer & SEO a Chance

With the World Cup just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about my conversion to becoming a fan of the game. I like soccer and I’m not afraid to admit it! But, it wasn’t always that way. Growing up on the northwest side of Chicago during the late 70’s and early 80’s, soccer was not a popular sport in my neighborhood. Not that we disliked the game, we just weren’t exposed to it. Our sports were pretty much limited to football, basketball, baseball and hockey. My youngest daughter is the reason I’ve been exposed to the sport. She has been playing soccer since she was 6 years old, but in the beginning, I was not even close to appreciating the game. Read more

Why Inbound Marketing Conquers All

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-salesman-vintage-image29689455Are you a fan of the door-to-door salesman? What do you do if some stranger comes knocking while you’re in the middle of a meal or your favorite TV show …Ignore them? Most people do. What about annoying telemarketers that intrude on your dinner conversation? That’s what traditional outbound marketing is all about. Outbound marketing, also aptly named interruption marketing, attempts to approach people with no demonstrated interest in a product or service and reel them in. This type of marketing abruptly bursts into people’s lives uninvited and includes radio commercials, TV commercials, direct mail, telemarketing, door-to-door, spam or e-mail blasts, and even networking. It is also often ignored, just like the salesman.

 

Times Have Changed

Best-selling New York Times business author Daniel Pink who recently wrote To Sell is Human points out that this predatory approach to selling is quickly becoming outdated. He believes that sales has changed more in the past 10 years than it did in the last century, and most of this is due to the internet. Many adept marketers and business professionals have taken note of the same, and realize that the predatory approach is slowly being phased out of our culture. Most of us these days have a radar for aggressive sales tactics and don’t appreciate being hunted down like dogs. So, what is taking the place of these outdated, bothersome sales tactics? That would be inbound marketing, or inbound demand generation.

Rather than wasting time with trying to convince uninterested parties to take a second glance at your product or service, inbound marketing draws people who are already somewhat interested in your business, and they have the choice as to whether they want to listen to what you have to say or not. Creating inbound demand generation involves blogging, social media, SEO, and targeted emails. Does this really work? Companies that practice inbound marketing and marketing research institutes emphatically say that yes, it works even better than the old approach, and it’s less expensive to top it off.

Average cost per lead and cost per customer are lower with inbound marketing than with outbound –about 61% less according to the Search Engine Journal. Inbound marketing also generates more qualified leads through blogging and SEO:

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound 1

What Do Professional Marketers Think?

The majority of CEOs and marketing executives are devoting more of their marketing budgets each year to inbound marketing.  2013 budgets for inbound were around 50% higher than that of the previous year.  Almost every marketer realizes that SEO is a valuable aspect of inbound, with about 54% of clicks going to the first search result of search queries.  Apart from SEO, 60% of marketers dedicate at least 6 hours per week to social media. Interaction on social media platforms produces 2X more leads on average than trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, and even PPC. Companies report that social takes more time than blogging and email marketing, but most of them are putting aside the resources to do it for obvious reasons. Marketers also enjoy the fact that inbound marketing efforts are far easier to measure than traditional outbound efforts.

Why SEO is important

Customers Prefer Inbound Marketing over Traditional Advertising

On the side of the customer, 82% say that they enjoy reading relevant content from a brand. Over 70% would rather learn about a company or product by reading an article rather than seeing an ad. Wouldn’t you? Through inbound marketing, potential clients and current clients are able to learn about a company on their own time instead of having it shoved in their face, and they can explore products that revolve around their interests.

Switching over to a mostly inbound marketing system can be difficult and time consuming, but it’s definitely worth the effort. If you don’t rank on the first page of search results, or you’re not blogging or bothering with other inbound tactics, you’re missing out on a lot of traffic, leads, and revenue. Most companies can’t do it all on their own and get outside help from professionals. Drop us a line or give us a call to learn more about getting leads to come to you, not the other way around.

leads closed by source

*Data from the chart above compiled from Hubspot, The Houston Chronicle, & Smart Insights.

*Data throughout compiled by Hubspot unless otherwise indicated.

The Best Place to Hide a Dead Body

Goodfellas has gone down as one of the greatest mobster movies that doesn’t contain the word “Godfather” in the title. Watching it the other day, I drew some parallels to a unique incident that happens in our industry. Let me take you through it. In Goodfellas, Joe Pesci, playing the role of Tommy DeVito, shot someone (Spider for those who remember it) and then had this exchange with Jimmy Conway played by Robert Deniro. (Graphic language blocked out for the young ones.)

Jimmy Conway: You stupid b*****d, I can’t f****n’ believe you. Now, you’re gonna dig the f****n’ thing now. You’re gonna dig the hole. You’re gonna do it. I got no f****n’ lime. You’re gonna do it.

Tommy DeVito: Who the f**k cares? I’ll dig the f****n’ hole. I don’t give a f**k. What is it, the first hole I dug? Not the first time I dug a hole. I’ll f****n’ dig a hole. Where are the shovels?

What a great scene in a mobster movie! BUT what does that have to do with digital marketing? I’ll tell you what it has to do with digital marketing. Jimmy and Tommy spent a lot of time digging a hole to make a body disappear to never be seen again. But the best hiding place for a dead body is really on the 2nd page of Google or beyond. Studies have shown that about 91.5% of search engine click throughs occur on the first page of search results. The rest of results pages only make up a slender 8.5% of clicks.

Google_search

Even worse, recently, we have been approached by more and more companies that have been serviced by non-forward thinking SEO firms. These SEO firms pursue outdated and frankly lazy SEO tactics that put their clients’ sites in jeopardy. These tactics might have worked some time in the past but now, they do way more harm than good. Companies using these SEO providers have seen sharp declines in their organic traffic due to Google penalizing their site for spammy SEO tactics. In these cases, your site’s rankings go the way of Spider – buried on the second page of search results or far, far beyond that. We’ve even seen companies ranking on the 10th page of search results for their own brand names!

web-traffic-decline

More and more companies are facing sharp declines like this because their SEO agency took the easy way out. The road back to Google’s good graces is not a fun one and can leave your business struggling while the traffic is not coming in. Overall, when confronted with a penalty there are really only 3 approaches.

  1. Fix it – Go through the arduous process of fixing it and pleading with Google trying to convince them that you’ve sworn off anything spammy.
  2. Hybrid – Look for a place to move your site or fold it into an existing partner site. This will allow you to distance your site from the past practices but still build off the SEO value of an already existing site. An example of this approach is folding a penalized satellite site into a subdirectory of your main company site.
  3. Start over – The cleanest approach to get back your rankings over time is closing shop at your penalized domain and reopening on a different server with a different domain name. This is also perhaps the clearest path to success since the ball is in your court and not left to the whim of Google and the responsiveness of their web spam team.

Each of these approaches has pros and cons, but you have to determine the best approach for your business based on what the data is telling you to do. We are strong believers of the mindset that the data has all the answers and that the answers are just waiting to be uncovered. So the next time Goodfellas comes on, enjoy the movie, but you also might want to think about how close your site is to being buried in a deep, deep hole never to be seen again.

 

Suspect your site has been buried by a penalty?  REQUEST A FREE PENALTY AUDIT

 

Good Content Hasn’t Changed: How to Take Advantage as a Company

On a recent trip to Mexico, I pulled out the in-flight magazine and began to flip through the pages as I prepared for a couple of hours of boredom in the usual tiny, cramped space that airlines pass off as a seat these days. The content immediately got my attention, and I was soon immersed in the descriptive prose that revealed interesting tidbits about both obscure and commonplace travel destinations alike. The photography was vibrant and seducing. I wanted to experience these places immediately. Then it hit me: This is good content, and this is what good content has always been. This magazine was obviously compiled by businesses for advertising, but it was informative, powerful, and well-researched, just as any good journalistic periodical might be. It was really advertising at its best. Read more

Digital Marketing or Marketing in a Digital World?

The shift is coming and most of us already know it. The Don Draper dinosaur is extinct. Not only has most of advertising become digital, but the majority of marketing departments will also be digitally-focused. Let’s reflect on all the old mediums of advertising: radio, TV, and snail mail. All of these things are now functioning digitally through podcasts, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and of course e-mail. The future of TV and radio is through the internet, and so it is with all forms of communication, including the telephone. As the future of internet TV progresses, digital advertising will surely become more involved, and cable TV will slowly fade into the background. So as you can see, digital marketing IS marketing, the marketing of the future. Sure, you’ll still have the occasional hard copy of a newspaper, magazine, or brochure, but for the most part, marketing strategy will be internet-based and integrated. Any other marketing efforts will be secondary. Read more

Destination Marketing: Content that Captures the Imagination

These days the vacation decision-making process begins with a search query. A study by Google and Ipsos MediaCT showed that 65% of leisure travelers start their vacation search online with no idea of their next destination. So is the travel marketing industry really taking advantage of this? According to many experts in the field, they are not. Read more

Get More Traffic to Boost Holiday Profits

Holiday web traffic

Offer Time-Sensitive Deals

Offering a variety of deals that expire shortly give buyers a since of urgency, and is sure to get more traffic to your site. Maybe potential buyers already have one gift in mind that they’ve priced on several websites, including yours. Offering free shipping or a temporary 15% discount can drive them to finalize purchases sitting in their shopping carts, cutting out the competition in a matter of minutes. Advertise deals at the top of your site, in PPC ads, through e-mail campaigns, or all three.

Grab a Partner
Partner with a company that offers a product or service that compliments yours but is not direct competition. For instance, if you sell clothing, you could partner with a shoe store or website. Offer a $10 discount on a pair of shoes for buying your products while they do the same for you. This will get more traffic for both partners and help finalize sales.

Make Gift Suggestions
Many holiday shoppers are lazy or just don’t have the time to figure out what to get for their Uncle Tim or Aunt Jane. Even shopping for Dad can be difficult. Help them out with suggestions on your website or through your automated e-mail campaigns and save someone the time by coming up with a great gift idea for them.

Make Shopping Easy
If you’re missing product information or images on your website, now’s the time to get them up. Don’t lose holiday shoppers to competition just because they have more detailed information. Someone who can’t zoom in and see all angles of a product will go to a site where they can. Also, make sure the shopping cart or ordering process is fully optimized. The ease of ordering and customer service will bring shoppers back to your site. To get more traffic on top of that, make sure your site is optimized for mobile shoppers. 56% of Americans now own a smartphone while 4 out of 5 of these will use it at some point during the shopping process.

Google Trends
Utilize Google Trends to test search terms for your products, services or sales. Google Trends allows you to select your region and date range so that you can see how your search terms have performed historically around the holidays. This will give you a better idea of what to focus on when writing ads or web content to get more traffic over the holidays. You can also monitor current trends and create Google Alerts to notify you when your holiday search terms or terms related to your business escalate. Take advantage of the burst of traffic to post an ad or a time-sensitive deal.

Hub and Spoke Marketing: May the Force Be with You

Death star marketingHub and spoke marketing is quite simple in theory, but not so much in practice. Many marketers think of the company website as a hub, and the spokes are the possible channels through which leads may be attracted to your website such as social media, press releases, search engines, directories and advertising. The idea is to have as many different channels as possible leading to your site. Hub and spoke is an accurate depiction of this theory, but allow us to present a better one…

Presenting the Death Star Analogy
Rather than the hub and spoke theory, I prefer to think of the company website as the Death Star and all the other online channels make up the tractor beam that pulls the ships in. Not to say that your website is deadly, but it should be an effective conversion machine with attractive landing ports (pages) and enticing content. Here we’ll show you how to start catching those ships in your tractor beam.

Building Your Tractor Beam
You want your tractor beam to be as powerful as possible to attract the right leads and search engines. In order to make sure your pull is stronger than that of any other competing death stars, strategy-based content needs to be provided on multiple fronts.

  • Verbal Social Media & Blogs

Your blog should be SEO optimized and designed to pull traffic in through informative and engaging content about your industry. Many companies utilize sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to post brief content that can draw people into the website. Posting snippets from your blog, company or industry news, and information about events can motivate people to go to your site and check it out or share your information with hundreds of others, thereby increasing the reach of your tractor beam. Keep your keywords in mind when posting on social media as well.

  • Visual Social Media

Most marketers are aware that images and photographs can significantly boost conversion rate. Unlike verbal communication, visuals attract attention quickly and can draw people into your site with a one-second glance. Pull people into your tractor beam by sharing attractive and informative images on sites like Pinterest, Flickr or YouTube. By informative I mean that a consumer should be able to see what your product or service entails in your images. When it comes to a photo of your product or service, a picture really is worth 1,000 words.

  • Press & Directories

Getting an article about your company in the press, whether it’s traditional paper press or digital media, is a great way to get more traffic coming in. Start by finding a local industry blog or small publication that provides news from your industry and provide an informational piece. Or, find an industry site where you may be able to guest blog. There are also several online directories and consumer review sites where your company can be listed to pull in more traffic. Start with Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo Local, small business directories, and industry-specific directories.

  • Advertising

Good old advertising. PPC campaigns and Google Adwords may not be free like organic search. (Well, hopefully you do pay your content writers.) But, these ads are guaranteed to get people to your website and directly to one of your landing pages. Ads should never lead to your homepage. People who click on your ads already have a product or service in mind and should be directed to an informative landing page where they may be easily converted to a customer without much fuss. Make sure your landing page headline matches your ad campaign, or you may not end up with the droids you’re looking for.

Hub and Spoke, or the new and improved Death Star Theory, is a simple concept but it does require time and strategy. If you need help building your tractor beam, or you aren’t finding the droids you’re looking for, give us a call. We’ve got tractor beam engineers at the ready.

Keyword (Not Provided) – Adapting to the World of Google Secure Search

September 2013 was a big month for Google. Marking their 15th Anniversary, Google announced the major algorithm update Hummingbird, which will no doubt expand Google’s ability to parse search and lead to more exciting capabilities in the future.

While Google upgraded their algorithm, they downgraded the data webmasters can see in Google Analytics. Specifically, the keyword data associated with a search will not be provided to site owners. This change comes as a byproduct of Google switching all searches on its engine over to encrypted search.

Google started down this road in late 2011 by redirecting users signed into their Google accounts to secure search. Such searches appeared as “(not provided)” in web analytics packages, including Google Analytics. At first this was a fairly small percentage of searches. Now, it is 80-90%, soon to be 100%.

Why Google Made This Change

Google hasn’t offered much comment as to their motive for making this change. A Google representative commented to Search Engine Watch that they are “working to bring this extra protection [secure search] to more users who are not signed in.” It’s a simple explanation, but as with all things Google, any number of factors could be in play. For instance, keyword data is still available…in your AdWords account. If you’re willing to spend money with Google, they’re willing to let you know more about your industry space. Google is not a charity, but SEOs have taken note of this fact.

What You Can Do

Keyword data in Analytics served several purposes. You could compare keyword traffic projections to traffic realities. You could discover which keywords converted best organically, or find long-tail phrases to target with expanded content. You could also identify which keywords were bouncing most off of which page, and adjust your content strategy accordingly so searchers would be directed to a page on your site that better meets their needs.

These are all important functions, but many of these insights can be gained without the assistance of Google’s full keyword data. Google’s Webmaster Tools will provide some limited keyword data. Bounce rate will still be available, and the keyword data from engines like Yahoo & Bing can help you get a handle on how the page is being searched for. Rank trackers, while subject to inaccuracy due to personalization, still provide important clues to the nature of a site’s traffic. If anything, Rank Trackers will now be used more dynamically, not just for one or two word “head” terms, but more complex queries. Seeing your site underperform in the rankings on “red girl’s bicycle,” and perform well on “red boy’s bicycle,” will tell you where you need to add content and make you reconsider the focus of your page all the same.

For a long time now Google has been emphasizing to webmasters and SEOs that on-site content and on-site engagement are more important to them than any other factor, including links. Their technology continues to catch up to their stated aims. While we won’t be able to see, on a granular level, the keywords that are coming to your website from Google, the keys to getting traffic remain the same – provide a lot of content about something people like, and make the experience enjoyable, sharable, and memorable. This is perfectly in line with our values as a company, and at Leverage we’re excited to help our clients create such experiences for their users.

Google Announces New Algorithm: Hummingbird

As the world’s most widely used search service, Google is constantly making changes to adapt to new user needs and the technologies supporting and creating those needs. Mobile in particular has grown more influential, as more searches and different kinds of searches are being performed on mobile devices. In response to this new reality, Google has unveiled a brand new algorithm update for us all to get to know – Hummingbird.

How Does Google Hummingbird Compare to Penguin & Panda?

If you haven’t noticed any significant changes in traffic or rankings, it’s because this update isn’t aimed at devaluing certain kinds of links (Penguin) or devaluing and ignoring certain kinds of content (Panda). It’s not intended to eliminate spam or come down on black hat SEOs that go against Google’s guidelines (those guys are our enemies, too!). Instead this update is about new features, expanded functionality, and the Google search engine adapting to the contemporary search world.

Google’s last major update of this nature was Caffeine, an upgrade to the Google engine designed to index the massive amounts of content being produced each second online. Hummingbird is an update to the Google engine that is designed to answer more complex questions by interpreting the relationship between words in a query rather than just deliver a list of content containing keywords. For example, Google is addressing questions that deal with comparison or knowledge seeking such as, “Is sugar or Splenda better for me?” or “What is best way to get to the mall and avoid traffic?”

Voice Search Optimization

Google is heading towards the optimization of voice-based search, so that when someone asks a device complex and conversational questions, Google will be able to return accurate results. Hummingbird also focuses on remembering the topic at hand so that various questions may be asked about one item without repeating the subject. For example the question, “Where was Shakespeare born?” can be followed by “Where did he study?” and Google search will interpret he as Shakespeare.

What Does Google Hummingbird Mean for SEO?

This still means that original and relevant content is key, and SEO writing may become easier and definitely more natural as search engines will go about searching for answers as a human might go about research. Hummingbird will focus on the overall concept of a question rather than the individual words of the question. We’ll keep you up to date on more Google Hummingbird details as they come out.