Posts about search engine optimization

Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas: Make Customers your Sweetheart this Year

Read our new article on Valentine’s Day for updated information on Valentine’s Day Marketing!


As we all know (because retailers started promoting it before our Christmas trees were even brown) Valentine’s Day is upon us again.  This is typically seen as our annual reminder to parade our loved ones with affection, romance, and surely some sappy gifts, but it is also a much-overlooked opportunity for businesses to do the same and show they are smitten with customers. Here are some marketing ideas on how to say, “I love you,” and cultivate customer loyalty this Valentine’s Day.

Contests and giveaways

If staying in theme, hold a 14-day contest for a product or service giveaway via your website and social media. People love free stuff and are even willing to work for it. If in need of some feedback, ask that customers complete a brief survey to be entered into a drawing. There’s a strong likelihood that your contest will result in positive karma for your company in the form of some always welcome (and free) exposure from bloggers promoting the giveaway to their readers and customers sharing it with their network.

Develop a frequent shopper program

If you have a brick and mortar store, you can create a check-in program through Foursquare or Gowalla to offer a free or discounted product after a specified number of visits. For online retailers, you can offer a coupon code in your receipt or post-purchase email. Even lead gen operations can offer an incentive for referral love.

Coordinate a daily deal special

Hook up with Groupon, LivingSocial, Google Offers, or any number of these daily deal companies to offer a discount on product offerings. This can be especially lucrative if your product happens to be couples oriented, like a massage or water bike ride. This opportunity allows you to cozy up with both new and existing customers.

Promote a coupon or discount through email and social media

Even your most traditional ‘20% off with coupon code FREE’ can go a long way, especially when offering this incentive to current customers. Shoppers have become all too accustomed to seeing such promotions only offered to new customers.

Send sweet nothings and other messages of affection

Utilizing social media or an email newsletter, send out regular customer care oriented notes, letting customers know just how much they are appreciated.

Get festive

You can share Valentine’s cheer through in-store decorations or online by sweetening up your website or blog. A great example of this was Gilt Groupe, a discount designer website, which integrated hearts into their product detail pages for those items that could be delivered by the big day. Another impressive marketing move on Gilt’s part was the use of love letters hidden throughout the website. If you found all three, you were automatically entered into a drawing.

Create a themed application

Develop a complimentary app, game, or tool that customers can utilize for their own Valentine’s (or otherwise) pleasure. This may be a card template that users can customize and send out to the apple of their eye. It may also be a custom Facebook app that fans can share or play depending upon the functionality. This option would probably be the most time, labor, and cost intensive but may also have the greatest payoff and allow for high levels of creativity.

Keep in mind that there’s no reason to wait until Valentine’s Day to express love for all of your customers. This should be a year-round initiative.


Let me take this opportunity to say thanks to all of our Leverage Marketing clients and partners. Happy Valentine’s Day! Contact us at Leverage Marketing to learn more about how to take advantage of these Valentine’s Day marketing tips.

How to Leverage Pinterest for Your Brand or Company

 

 

 

Pin It

The new buzz going around the Internet world is Pinterest, a virtual cork board where you can save and share the things that interest you most. Find a recipe online you have to try?  Pin It. Find your favorite quote online? Pin It. From recipes to home décor to travel and creative ideas, Pinterest is the website to store it all.

What is Pinterest?

When you come across something you love while browsing the Internet, you no longer have to worry about bookmarking the page, emailing the link to yourself, or printing out a copy and saving it for a later date. With Pinterest, you can simply compile all of your great findings in one location online, available for you and whoever is following your pins to view at anytime. It’s made bookmarking into a social experience, more in line with how we use the Internet in 2012.  In addition to the followers viewing your pins, you can also view the pins of the people you are following and repin what your followers are posting. Pinterest provides the option to search for ideas or items that spark an interest. Browse through a live feed of items that are being pinned by strangers and repin them to the boards you have created.

How to Get Started? 

First things first, visit the Pinterest website to request an invite to create an account. Or if you know someone who currently has a Pinterest account, ask them to send you an invite, as this may be the quickest way to get an account started. Go ahead, ask me for an invite if you need one. Once you receive your invite, create your new Pinterest account using your current Facebook or Twitter account or by simply signing up. Now that you have your account set up, add the Pin It button found in the About section located in the top navigation bar to your bookmarks bar. This will allow you to pin anything from any page you visit online. Create your boards and start pinning.

How Can Pinterest be Used for SEO?

There are a few benefits that Pinterest can offer your SEO campaign.  Use Pinterest as part of your linkbuilding strategy. Links from Pinterest are “followed,” which means they pass particularly strong value. Once you create a new pin, your feed is instant and readily available for your followers to see. Pinterest allows you to create a pin that will provide a hyperlinked image, description, and link to your website on two pages of the Pinterest website. One page being the actual pin page and the second page being the board created for the pins. Make your pins interesting to your followers. You want your followers to repin what you have posted for your campaign, creating a viral SEO campaign through Pinterest.

Analyzing Your Pinterest Results

Now that you know what Pinterest is and how to use it, let’s take a look at the results we have seen so far for our clients. On top of the great ease of use, viral potential, and demographic targeting possible with Pinterest, another great facet of the hot social media site is how measureable it is. If you follow our Pinterest best practices, you should begin to see Pinterest.com pop up in your referral traffic reports in Google Analytics. Within this referral traffic report you can see the exact engagement metrics for traffic gained from Pinterest.com, and thus far, we have found that Pinterest traffic metrics can vary widely. However, the constant across Pinterest referral metrics is a high percentage of new visits. Additionally, we are seeing month-to-month increases in traffic from Pinterest. This is an indication that the adoption rate of this new social media platform could be increasing rapidly.

Also, if you dive deeper into Analytics you can break down the data even further. For instance, you can see which specific pin led to the most referral traffic, which page this pin was linked to, the specific engagement metrics garnered from traffic through that pin, conversions from that pin, and more. In fact, most all of the power of Analytics is applicable to Pinterest referral traffic since all pins have their own unique URL. By monitoring which pins drive the most traffic, what type of content is most successful on Pinterest, and other key metrics, you can begin to form strategies around how to improve success on Pinterest.

In Conclusion

Incorporating Pinterest into your social media and SEO strategy moving forward will only become more important as Pinterest gains users and market penetration. Pinterest has already become a household term and making sure your site is well optimized for this social media platform could lead to large impacts on your referral traffic, your conversions, and more. Happy pinning!

Coding Series: Part I – How To Install Google Analytics

This is the first post in what will likely be a five-part instructional series on valuable codes that can easily be installed, and if done so correctly, Google Analytics will provide substantial insight into your website traffic and your return on advertising dollars.

Google Analytics is one of Google’s free tools that allows advertisers to customize over 80 reports to track all activity on their website. Advertisers can gain key insights into what visitors do and how those actions contribute to the success of their business through these customizable reports focused on visitors, traffic sources, content, goals, and ecommerce.

Code Implementation: Google Analytics

Signing up for Google Analytics is simple and free, with four easy steps to complete before accessing a world of analytics. Go to https://www.google.com/analytics/provision/signup to get started. Once the account is set up, you can find your personal code snippet within the Profile Settings of your Google Analytics account.

To access your tracking code from Google Analytics:

  1. Log in at http://www.google.com/analytics.
  2. Select the profile from the accounts Overview page.
  3. From that profile’s Actions column, click ‘Edit.’
  4. At the top right of the ‘Main Website Profile Information’ box, click ‘Check Status.’
  5. The tracking code can be copied and pasted from the text box in the Instructions for Adding Tracking section.

Code snippet sample:

<script>
var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl/.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“”));
</script>
<script>
try{
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-xxxxxx-x”);
pageTracker._trackPageview();
} catch(err) {}
</script>

For basic installation, copy and paste the code segment into the bottom of your content, immediately before the </body> tag of each page you are planning to track. You will need to update the “xxxx-x” in the sample above with your own Google Analytics account number.

Gauging Performance: Google AdWords with Google Analytics

In Adwords, a user’s action is labeled a “conversion,” whereas the same activity in Analytics is listed as a “goal.” In order for Google Analytics to calculate goal conversion metrics, you must create one or more goals.

Before setting up a goal, make sure you have the following requirements.

  • Name the goal: Specify a name that you will recognize when viewing the goals within your reports. Examples of names you might use include ’email sign-up’ or ‘article ABC download.’
  • Define the funnel: While funnels are optional, defining one can help you map where visitors drop off during the path to completing a goal.
  • The value of the goal: Google Analytics uses an assigned goal value to calculate ROI, Average Score, and other metrics.

Setting up goals:

  1. Select the account that you’ll be creating goals for from the Overview page of Google Analytics.
  2. Find the profile for which you will be creating goals, and click ‘Edit’ under the ‘Actions’ column.
  3. Under the ‘Goals’ section, select one of the four sets to create the goal (each set contains up to five goals) and click ‘Add goal.’
  4. Enter the goal’s name so that you can quickly recognize it when viewing reports.
  5. Turn the goal ‘On’ or ‘Off.’
  6. Select the goal’s position. The pull-down menu allows you to select a goal’s position in a set so that you can control the order in which it appears from the ‘Goals’ tab in your reports.
  7. Decide which one of the three types of goals you want. This can be URL Destination, Time on Site, or Pages/Visit.
  8. Once you select the radio button for the goal type, a field for ‘Goal Details’ should appear.

Here’s a great example from Google on how to set the value of a goal:

“The value of the goal: Google Analytics uses an assigned goal value to calculate ROI, Average Score, and other metrics. A good way to value a goal is to evaluate how often the visitors who reach the goal become customers. If, for example, your sales team can close 10% of people who request to be contacted, and your average transaction is $500, you might assign $50 (i.e. 10% of $500) to your “Contact Me” goal. In contrast, if only 1% of mailing list signups result in a sale, you might only assign $5 to your “email sign-up” goal.”

Defining funnels:

After entering goal information, define a funnel if you’ve selected a ‘URL Destination’ goal type:

  1. Click ‘Yes, create a funnel for this goal.’
  2. Enter the ‘URL’ of the first page of your conversion funnel. This page should be one that is common to all users working their way towards your goal.
  3. Enter a ‘Name’ for this step.
  4. If this step is a ‘Required step’ in the conversion process, select the checkbox to the right of the step. If this checkbox is selected, users reaching your goal page without traveling through this funnel page will not be counted as conversions.
  5. Continue entering goal steps until your funnel has been completely defined. You may enter up to 10 funnel steps or as few as a single step.
  6. Click ‘Save Changes’ to create this goal and funnel.

Linking your AdWords account to Google Analytics will allow you to take advantage of extensive reporting options. It will also enable you to spot further ad opportunities by viewing AdWords conversions alongside Analytics goal/transactions. You can obtain detailed tracking information by creating customized statistics that will allow you to calculate return on investment.

To link:

  1. Add your AdWords username to your Analytics account as an Account Admin.
  2. In AdWords, select Reporting tab and choose ‘Google Analytics.’
  3. Select ‘I already have a Google Analytics account.’
  4. From the Existing Google Analytics Account drop-down menu, select the name of the Analytics account.
  5. Then, select ‘Link Accounts.’

Google Analytics is a smart web analytics solution that enables you to analyze website performance, gauge the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, and create better-performing advertisements. To find out more visit: http://www.google.com/analytics/. If you have any other questions about the functionality of Google Analytics or how to install the code, please feel free to contact us or follow up with your Leverage Marketing account manager.

What’s in a Report?

Working with an Agency – Reporting Expectations

In a recently conducted survey, we noted that 25% of the clients that we work with have never worked with an agency before. While working with an online agency can be exciting, you may get more out of the experience if you know what to expect and what you want out of the relationship.

There are many posts available if you do a quick Google search on what to expect work-wise, but what should you expect in terms of reporting? Reports are often one of the only ways that many businesses know what is working within their Pay Per Click account.

Frequency

Our agency used to report on a weekly basis to our clients. We found that this period of time was too brief, and often small daily fluctuations would show as spikes or decreases in overall weekly performance for our clients’ accounts. We have now found that providing our clients reporting every fifteen to thirty days is more actionable for our clients businesses. We still perform our more frequent internal reporting to make needed changes and modifications, but we do find that our mid-month and end- of month reports are a win-win for both our client and our agency.

Content

In February 2011, Google made updates to what type of information certain agencies should provide to clients. Google’s newly updated policies state that:

Third parties should at minimum provide advertisers with monthly data on Adwords costs, clicks and impressions at the account level.

While we agree that this is a nice start, there are many other metrics that you should receive in the periodic updates that your search team provides.

Cost/Conversion (Sometimes notated as CPC or CPA) – The price paid for each new conversion or acquisition. Conversions can be defined by the client as a sale, lead generated or visit to a particular page on a site. We suggest that instead of seeing a total lump sum for total CPA across your entire site, that instead you ask your search provider to provide this information on a product level that is more manageable. This is needed because the CPA that your business is willing to spend to acquire one overnight visitor at your hotel versus a convention may differ.

Later this week we will look at additional content that should be included within your reports and also the level of transparency you should receive from your agency.

Someone Just Updated your Local Listing and you Don’t Even Know About it!

I recently came upon a brilliant article, and it brought up some fears of how some business owners are leaving themselves ‘open’ for attacks to their online local listing data.

This great article initially caught my attention as it primarily discusses business listings data, which is admittedly a subset of all location information for business (i.e. location and contact information).

A few years back a concept was proposed as to whether there could be a Wikipedia of Yellow Pages and if it could be successful.  Greg Sterling in 2006 said:

“…until recently Wikipedia seemed a long shot and almost preposterous notion itself. And if the directory follows in the footsteps of Wikipedia it will become a highly successful (and visible) way for local businesses to be found. It could also be radically disruptive if successful.”

 

Greg noted that one such concept, Yellowikis, failed, although Brownbook and Bizwiki have continued with similar ideas.  To date these have not been successful in attracting consumer use, and properly structuring data in a way that other developers can use.

 

Now in 2010 the idea appears to be gaining ground.  More key players are interested in this Wiki of places and organizations are already working on a solution!

 

But the question stands… With this concept of Wiki places information will have to be sort of a open source.  So who will be in charge of centralizing this data?

Many people including myself, are in favor of data aggregation companies.  I like the fact we work with many local search data aggregators because we can easily update our clients local listing data and with frequent submissions of this data to over 100 local search sites, I never have to worry about who may be out there updating my local listings with out my knowledge.

How Google’s Real-Time Web and Personalized Search is Re-Shaping the Search Landscape

The internet is abuzz with news of Google’s real-time Web and personalized search queries and the potential implications for users and search marketers vary across the board. With live updates from Facebook, Twitter and Myspace appearing in the search results, marketers may need to add a stronger emphasis on social media to their rosters in the coming months.

In the initial rollout, the feeds show in a real-time scroll box above and below the fold. While these live updates don’t currently use a large amount of retail space, the ubiquitous nature of social media and the influence these feeds posses may urge retailers, especially business to consumer, to implement overarching and in-depth social media pushes. As the updates appear on the first page, this change could also push weaker sites to the second and third pages of search results indicating businesses may make a heavier push to PPC marketing to boost first-page present.

As the rollout for the real time search was only recently launched, only keywords such as Taylor Swift and Tiger Woods prompt the real time search.  Keywords such as Oprah and Obama SERP still do not contain the scroll box.  This demonstrates that although having the social media presence on the result page, that the real effects will not be seen until the update is fully integrated.  In the future if this real-time scroll bar does take up more real-estate, this will make the top organic listing highly competitive and a SEO campaign almost crucial for all online marketers.  It also seems that a social media marketing campaign is needed for online campaigns as well as top search results will show tweets from Twitter.  It almost seems that the roll out of this product creates the need for a blended online marketing campaign including PPC, SEO, and SMM.

2010 Online Advertising Forecast

Here is an interesting article that I came across.  The article takes a look at the forecast for online advertising for 2010.  You can read the full article and we have also listed some high level insights below:

Video Usage:

  • Senior Analyst David Hallerman suggests that more marketers will embrace online video advertising, and that more sites will support the growth of video.

Ad Targeting and Privacy

  • With the main stream availability of consumer behavior online comes more scrutiny about privacy policies:  What this means to us is users are becoming aware of ad-blocking software or add-ons and more deletion of cookies that makes the availability of what you’re doing, where you’ve been, and where you go online a lot harder to companies to gather.
  • On the government side there is potential for more federal legislation limiting website tracking
  • Again what does that mean: in order for search engines to get ahead of this legislation there needs to be a greater deal of transparency
  • In 2010 we should start seeing websites letting users know what data is being kept about them and give them access to remove themselves
  • Ultimately publishers will need to come up with better trade-offs if they want to garner any information from an individual

Search

  • Social sites and video results is something to change in search.  You will start seeing more of these results as part of general search queries.
  • Advertising is also predicated to continue increasing as we come closer to 2010
  • 2010 spend = $11.4 billion
  • 2011 spend = $12.2 billion
  • 2012 spend = $13.6 billion
  • 2014 spend = $15.8 billion

Internet Users and Usage

  • As we move into the new year internet usage is predicated to increase as the ease of accessing the internet continues to grow with the use of laptops, smartphones, and gaming consoles.
  • It is predicated that we see the most change within the adults ages 55 and older, who are now discovering social networks.
  • Number of internet users will begin to stabilize, as penetration reaches 66% of the US population, or 205.3 million people.

 

Google Removes PageRank in Webmaster Tools

Google uses more than 200 signals, including their patented PageRank algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important and shown to a user first.  Many business owners have thus become aware of their own PageRank and some may incorrectly believe that PageRank is THE metric that must be improved when vying for higher organic listings.  In October, Google removed this PageRank from their Webmaster toolkit.

What is PageRank:

In Laymans/Googles Terms – PageRank reflected Google’s view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. PageRank also considered the importance of each page that casted a vote, as votes from some pages were considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value.

Google’s newly released position on page rank is: We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.

If you are so inclined, an in-depth mathematical computation for page rank can be found online.

What are Google Webmaster Tools:

Google Webmaster Tools provides webmasters with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google. GWT allow webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites through organic search.

PageRank is still shown within Google Toolbar, so you can still view this metric. Page Rank within Google Toolbar sends the URLs of pages that opted-in searchers visit to display the importance ranking that Google assigns to a page.

This goes to show that what you see in Google Toolbar and what Google actually uses are two different things when it comes to indexing your site.

I know a guy who knows a guy who got his website ranking number one in Yahoo for “Sheep Shears Georgia”! – and it only took him a week!

And that guy is more than willing to take your money to do the same for you.  These guys are everywhere.  Some of them aren’t even guys.  Man or woman, they’ll happily promise you the world for a low flat fee – usually a couple hundred bucks.  And that’s far less than the rates Leverage Marketing charges for search engine optimization services.  And you’re free to pay them your money and test out their “guaranteed first page rankings.”  But before you do, here are some things to be very wary of (they’re scary!):

Look out for:

Reciprocal link building

This was extremely popular 5+ years ago and is one of the main reasons that sites used to have whole pages dedicated to outgoing links.  Just because it was popular (and somewhat effective) 5 years ago doesn’t mean you should do it now.  In fact, link schemes like this can throw up major red flags in the search engines and can have your site booted from the search results.

Paid directory link building

Many companies still base their “SEO” programs around this type of link building.  The basic premise here is handing over varying amounts of cash in return for a link back to your site.  In one way, this sounds like basic advertising and sounds relatively reasonable.  But dig a little deeper and evaluate the value of a link from the majority of sites that offer this deal, and you’ll find it’s rarely even close to worth it.  Many companies recommend that you give them $300 so they can submit you to Yahoo’s directory.  And you’re a yahoo if you fork it over!  This link will rarely generate traffic and won’t give your site any noticeable link value.  Add this to the fact that paid links are easily identified and devalued by search engines and you have an optimization tactic sure to disappoint.

Submission to search engines

Besides the fact that this can easily be done yourself by entering your URL in Google’s or Bing’s form, it is completely unnecessary for all but brand new sites.  Google and Yahoo are very good at finding your URLs on their own.  Ensuring that the important pages of your site can be found from a sitemap, however, is still a good idea.

Concentration on optimizing Meta keywords element

It used to be very common, and somewhat beneficial, to target specific keywords in the meta keywords element of your site as search engines used to look here to get an idea of what your site was about.  Of course this was and still is used by many people in hopes of improving their rankings.  If only it were that simple.  The value of working on this Meta Element is extremely low if at all.  Creating unique descriptions in the meta description element of your pages, however, is important – but for a completely different reason which will be a topic of another blog post.

Guaranteed rankings or guaranteed amounts of traffic

It’s hard not to be warmed over by a great sounding guarantee.  Let me guess, you want number one rankings for the highest search volume keywords that even remotely represent your offering and you want traffic by the thousands to come to your site, correct?  Well shoot, we can get that for you if you’ll just sign this twelve month contract.  Truth be told, great guarantees are hard to come by. And I have yet to see any SEO companies guarantee anything but wasted time, a lighter pocket book, and a grudge against SEO companies.  This need not be the case.  A quality SEO company will show exactly what they are working on and how it will impact your website.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.  I guarantee it!

The number of companies offering the above ‘services’ is not as high as it once was.  Many consumers have wised up to many of the above mentioned careless tactics but there still are many phony companies out there.  In fact, this post was prompted by a phony SEO company whose proposal was sent on to me – it included each of the above tactics as main offerings.  I’ll leave you with one important recommendation:  When considering an SEO company to establish a relationship with, grab your outlined goals for your business and with your B.S. cap firmly on, review the offerings.  Is there anything that seems too good to be true?  Have the company you are considering explain anything that doesn’t seem possible.  And by all means, choose with your head and not based on fantasy.  Lastly, how many people are searching for sheep shears Georgia, anyways?

Blogging for SEO: How to Speak to your Target Audience

As we spend the week discussing blogging and the power of demonstrating your brand’s voice, it’s important to give yourself a starting point. The real magic of creating a blog that is impactful is not starting with what you would like to share, but rather speaking to what your target market is looking for…

What I mean by this statement is that many blogs fail to speak to their audience because they do not answer the interests of their visitors/target market. While the blog posts may be very insightful, it fails to establish the credibility of the brand because nobody is “searching” for this information. How do you fix this problem? Simple keyword research will get your blog content going and allow your posts to speak to what your target audience is literally searching for. The easiest way to get this information is the Google Keyword Tool.

Google Keyword Tool

Google’s free keyword tool is a great place to start your research and find what people are looking for in your field of expertise. For the sake of our post, let’s use “blogging” as our focus. Here are some of the searches being run on Google per the keyword tool for the term blogging:

Google Keywords Tool(Click to enlarge)

In reviewing the results above, I can then populate the content or subject matter that I would like to tackle for my blog. These items would be:

  • Blogging Tips
  • How to Start A Blog
  • Business / Corporate Blog Set-Ups

Now that you have this list, you can start to build out your blog posts that focus on these areas. The importance of multiple posts per search query is that it will assist you in getting lift on these terms organically if done often enough. Think of Google’s algorithm as the human metabolism: the more blogs you feed it and update, the more often it gets hungry and comes back for more.

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