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To be a great online marketer, you have to be able to roll with change. The online world is full of constant change, that's what makes it such a great place. To be an effective SEO/online marketer you need to understand that change is a part of life and that change can lead to greater rewards and great success.
In a previous post, I mentioned that there will be four elements of change for SEO in 2009. The first one is refocusing on metrics that matter and the second one that I want to discuss today is that in 2009, I suspect that we will see a true understanding that SEO does in fact provide value.
SEO in 2009 Means Understanding the Value of SEO
There are still many who are reluctant to change. Yet there are others who embrace change freely. I believe that it is those who embrace change that will be the ones to have the greatest success. Think about the recent presidential election of the United States. Many people were looking for change. The politicians themselves are looking for change. As Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro pointed out, "Democracy Changed on November 4th". Part of the reason why Barack Obama was successful in the election was due to online savvyness. He had a great online strategy. For one, he is intune with the online world. He understands the value of social networks, of online environments and of PPC and of SEO. Try a search for "facebook" in Google, what do you see? For me in the number two organic listing, I see Barack Obama's facebook page. Mr. Obama's online strategy definitely helped him reach a number of voters that otherwise would have potentially been left unheard.
Speaking of "unheard", the understanding of the value of SEO has been "unheard" by many traditional managers who have not yet adopted the online marketing concept of SEO. In order to make SEO work, you have to realize that there is value associated with "organic online marketing efforts". Yup it's true, things like providing unique, informative, keyword rich content with optimized meta data that generates links can provide a lot of value for your brand or your business. Effective SEO can help you drive both branded and non-branded traffic to your site. From there, a well optimized site can lead to user engagement and eventually a sales transaction. Being found in the "natural/organic" portion of the search engines results page of Google or the other major engines can mean substantial traffic for your site. The most important part of this is that this is traffic that you didn't have to pay for.
With sponsored/PPC advertising you are bidding on keyword position. With SEO you are leveraging content (i.e. a webpage, a blog post, a video etc) to be found in the search results for a given keyword. The difference? PPC is instant whereas results from SEO take time. That is one of the greatest reasons why people are standoffish when it comes to SEO, it takes time to generate results. However once you get results, they are longer lasting and potentially the most cost effective form of marketing that you can find.
In 2008, we started to see it but in 2009 with the tough economic times, expect to see business who continue to use traditional marketing media take a good long look at SEO and search engine optimization. While there can be a cost up front, the cost tends to be a fraction of what you would spend say on a Superbowl ad, or a normal TV ad or even on what you would spend on a yearly PPC campaign.
In 2009, we are going to see more marketers, more managers and more C-Suite execs look towars SEO as a means to promote their products, services and brands. Sure they are going to have to cut marketing budget, but the smart ones will re-allocate pieces of this budget to the more cost effective SEO option. It only make sense and here's why:
SEO is cost effective, once implemented you can reduce your PPC spend on key phrases that you are ranking for organically.
SEO generates traffic to your site > which drives leads > which drive sales > which generate return on your investment
SEO can mean long term visibility - while this is changing a little with perosnalization and blended search, a strong organic presence can mean that you show up on a search results pages for months and even years with very little effort (once initial rankings are achieved)
Click-Through Rates - Depending on the source, 70-80% of click-throughs on a SERP are for organic listings
SEO works! SEO, although it can be difficult to measure at times, works. You just have to have the patience and understanding to begin with the fundamentals and evolve from their. You have to be willing to roll with change.
Organic search engine optimization is a medium for those with tight marketing budgets. In 2009, you can bet that there will be a lot of organizations with tight budgets. In fact I work with clients who have tight budgets and the SEO work and online strategies that we have worked together on have worked out very well for them. We have experienced great success with these clients, who for the most part undestand the value of SEO. If they don't understand it at first, they are quickly convinced once the return has been recognized.
Expect to see more organizations gain a true understanding of the value of SEO as we move into 2009 and beyond. Managers, marketers and business owners will be looking at cost effective ways of marketing their products, services and brand. SEO will be a viable option for these people in 2009.
In part one of our series on SEO in 2009, we served up our opinion as to where we see SEO going in 2009. You'll hear many suggest that SEO is dead and that rankings are dead. Well the name SEO may be dying, but really for me SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was a temporary label anyways. When I started in the Search Industry I saw myself as more of an online or digital marketer. This label SEO was new to me and as I quickly found out, would only be a part of my job. You see, my background is in marketing and more importantly in customer relations.
Some have suggested that I may be one of the "best" SEOs in Canada and on the planet. To them I would say no I'm not. I am an online marketer helping my clients with their online strategies. SEO is just a part of what I do. So I get a kick of all of these articles that suggest that SEOs need to become marketers in 2009, or SEOs need to stop focusing on tactics and look at the strategy. This is not new to me for I have been living that for the past five years that I have been involved in online marketing and SEO. Which brings me to the point of this piece. Over the past couple of years we have seen a shift in the metrics that have become important to site owners. Previously it was rankings and page views then it was organic traffic vs sponsored traffic. Well in 2009 the metrics that matter (just as they matter right now) are engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time spent and the like. In addition ROI and your return is a metric that is always in fashion.
SEO in 2009: Refocusing on Metrics that Matter
With the tough economic times throughout the planet, online marketers and SEOs will need to prove their value even more n 2009. The way to do this is not through ranking reports but it should be mentioned that organic rankings do provide some valuable insight on how a website is progressing on a keyword level. However in 2009 we are going to see more personalization and blended search results in the major search engines that began surfacing in the late spring of 2007.
Five SEO Related Search Engine Metrics that Will Continue to Matter in 2009
Non-Branded Search Engine (Organic) Referrals - for SEO, monitoring the traffic that comes in as a result of clicking on a natural (organic) listing from a search engine results page will continue to be a key factor to measure your online success in 2009. Add the non-branded element and you will be able to determine if you are doing an effective job at intercepting your online audience and addressing their need for information.
Bounce Rate - yup, Bounce Rate will still be a sexy metric in 2009. Lowering the bounce rate of your important pages on your site should be a priority in 2009. Searchers and people in general are being bombarded with online options to click on. Once they click on your site, you had better make sure that you are giving them what they are looking for.
Time Spent on Site - closely related to bounce rate is the amount of time spent on your site. This is another engagement metric that site owners should be monitoring to gain an understanding of how users are engaging with your site. It's as simple as monitoring the trends. If you notice that less time is being spent on your site now than in 2008, then perhaps that recent website redesign you just completed wasn't such a good idea. Understanding where users spend their time on your site can help you address their information needs by providing the content and data that they are searching for.
Subscribers to Your Content - personalization is becoming more and more popular with the average searcher. As a result, rankings in this sense are irrelevant. However one area that you will need to monitor as personalization and blended search become more common is tracking the users that are subscribing to your content. For example, your RSS feed subscribers to your blog(s), the number of followers that you have on Twitter, the number of people subscribing to your YouTube channel. These social subscribers can provide a lot of insight into how people are engaging with your web properties and with your brand online.
Site Search - how users are engaging with your site's search functionality. Besides Google, you would think that internal site search is a popular activity when users land on your site. This engagement metric provides you with additional insight into what keywords and topics people are looking for when they arrive on your site. The fact that they are using your internal site search may also be an indication that they are not finding the information that they are looking for when arriving on your site. In 2009, engagement metrics such as site search will become even more important in understanding the searching habits of your site visitors. Are they looking for demos? Perhaps they are looking for video content. Whatever the case may be, look for this metric to become more important in 2009.
While the first element of change for SEO in 2009 is refocusing on metrics that matter, one of the overdue elements of change is the understanding by companies that SEO does indeed provide value when leveraged correctly. This will be out topic of discussion in our next piece on SEO in 2009.
There has been some great discussion about SEO and where it is going in 2009. I find this both interesting and amusing. For months there have been some that have said that SEO is dead. (I'd sure hate to be one of their clients...) Others have suggested that SEO is transforming into more of an "online marketing" role in that SEO is not simply about "manipulating" the Search Engine Results Pages.
For me, SEO has always been about marketing, or online marketing. It is not just about rankings (I'll discuss my thoughts on rankings later in this series) but SEO is more about trying to help people find the information that they are looking for. Those of us who have been involved in the world of SEO for some time have witnessed a number of changes over the years. We have seen different KPIs and metrics come to rise while others have faded into oblivion. We have seen new tools become available for use in monitoring SEO success and progression. But where are we with SEO in late 2008, as we move into the next decade?
SEO in 2009: Four Elements of Change
There are four SEO-related areas where I see change happening in 2009. Many would say that we have already started down this path during the past couple of years, but I think that we will experience even more marketers going down this path.
Refocusing on Metrics that Matter
Understanding the SEO does in fact provide value
Shifting of Budget towards SEO
Personalization and Blended Search Results
I think that we are starting to see a shift in the understanding of SEO. Large companies are learning about the value of SEO as part of their online marketing strategy and as part of their overall marketing strategy. The greatest part about SEO is that, when done properly, SEO is a cost effective way of driving business to your company and improving your bottom line. Yet marketing managers continue to pour money into sponsored search and Pay Per Click efforts. Ask yourself this, how many of you feel that you have a proportional budget between SEO and PPC? How many of you have actual line items for SEO?
In these tough economic times, it only makes sense that marketers take a long hard look at SEO and the benefit it can provide. SEO is a relatively cheap and cost effective way of promoting your products, your services or your brand. When marketing budgets are cut, SEO may just be what the doctor ordered. As mentioned in our series on Organic Search: What is in it For You? series, SEO (or organic search as it is sometimes referred to) tends to provide longer lasting results in the search engine results pages that you do not have to pay for unlike PPC. Strong organic visibility once achieved can provide a fantastic return on your investment.
In our next piece we will begin our look at the four elements of change for SEO in 2009.
The Internet is global, so its understandable when businesses seek a Global online marketing strategy that they tend to start off scratching their heads. Establishing a global online marketing strategy is going to take a lot of planning. Where to begin? Well one of the first things that you will need to do is understand how the major search engines approach international search.
Here in North America, it so happens that Google happens to have the largest market share when it comes to Search. Therefore, for marketers in North America, a great place to begin then would be trying to understand Google's approach when it comes to International Search. A good place to start would be with Google's recent series on their approach to international search. Daphne Dembo, Engineering Director at Google had an excellent post on Google's approach to international search.
Dembo describes how:
Google uses statistical data as the basis for making sweeping algorithmic changes. Many of these changes can be rolled out across all languages that Google supports but not always.
Google search is used in many countries and languages where Google engineers have little personal knowledge.
Google goes through a series of steps to provide search support acrtoss different languages
Initially, the international search improvements were done by Search Quality engineers who were passionate about their languages and countries: Lina from Sweden improved our parsing of compound words in German and Swedish; Dimitra from Greece introduced diacritical support; Ishai from Israel worked on transliteration corrections for Hebrew and Arabic; Trystan from Australia created methods for identifying local search results and ranking them together with foreign ones from the same language; Alex, a bilingual Ukrainian and Russian, introduced morphological understanding of these languages. As the importance of our international search grew, we solicited help from Googlers in all our offices. Finally, we are leveraging an international network of search specialists who help us understand search within the unique combination of their language and country.
As online marketers trying to break into international markets, you'll need to do your homework like Google does to understand the native language of the market. For example, you will need to gain understanding of the local lingo including names, idioms, colloquial usage, and newly coined words not often found in static dictionaries. You'll need to understand the semantic factors that Google and other search engines incorporate into their algorithms.
The planning doesn't stop with Google though. Other markets may illustrate different search habits. For example, according to a report from comScore, did you know that 85% of Brazilian Internet users visited a social networking site in September of 2008? If one was trying to break into this market, you would probably want to have a social media strategy as part of your overall online strategy.
“For Internet users in Brazil, social networking continues to flourish as a hugely popular activity,” said Alex Banks, managing director of Latin America for comScore. “One likely reason for social networking’s success in Brazil is that its concept of online community closely aligns with the culture in Brazil, which is also centered on a strong sense of community and social activity.”
Breaking into international markets through the online world presents a unique set of dilemmas and obstacles for most businesses. The key is to understand the market that you are moving into. Understand the language and the semantics and online habits of search users in those markets.
Well one thing about the inevitable is that you always have something to look forward to. It was a sad day yesterday as Jerry Yang was finally forced to step down as CEO of Yahoo.
I tried visiting the Yodel Anecdotal blog which a frequent place to find posts from Jerry Yang and was returned with this:
Even the Yahoo - Yodel Anecdotal blog was having issues. Mr. Yang's post to announce his stepping down was brief:
Posted November 18th, 2008 at 9:09 am by Jerry Yang, CEO & Chief Yahoo
As you’ve no doubt already read, I’ve decided that I will step down from my role as Chief Executive Officer after my successor has been selected.
Ever since founding Yahoo! with David Filo 13 years ago, I’ve been passionate about this company, its brand, its employees, and the millions of people around the world who consider it their online home. That’s why I accepted the Board’s request to become CEO in June 2007, taking on the challenge of transforming Yahoo! at a time when the industry was evolving quickly and we needed to rethink and restructure our business.
And despite the tough external environment that we face, I truly believe we’ve made tangible progress in bringing our strategic vision to life. Most significantly, we’ve rewired our entire network to create a Yahoo! that has opened its doors to outside publishers and developers. We’ve launched an advertising platform that we think will transform how ads are bought and sold online. And we’ve continued to grow our audience –- standing first or second in more than 20 product categories and demonstrating that Yahoo! is the place users turn for major events like the Olympics and the Elections.
And now I believe the time is right for us to bring in a new leader –- someone who will build on the important pillars we’ve put in place and who will take the reins on the critical decisions our company faces. As for me, I’ll be returning to my role as Chief Yahoo and board member once my successor is named. I’ll go back to focusing on our global strategy, product excellence, technology innovation, and working with the Board and our executive team to help Yahoo! realize its full potential.
It’s been an extraordinary year here at Yahoo! –- for all of us. I’m really proud of the determination and resilience of Yahoos around the world who are so committed to giving you the best Internet experience possible. It is for them, and for you, that I will always bleed purple.
Chief Yahoo and CEO
It's a sad day as we can expect the speculation to begin. Here comes Microsoft, looking to pick up the pieces right? After the announcement of Yang's stepping down, TechCrunch reported that the market capitalization of Yahoo’s stock went up by $1.8 billion. Expect Microsoft to have a plan in place to try and acquire Yahoo now that Yahoo is looking for a new CEO. The fact is, as some are reporting, that perhaps Yahoo may be better off without a CEO right now, so that they can concentrate on their next steps. Jerry Yang fought a valiant attempt from a Microsoft acquisition but alas it appears that Microsoft may in fact acquire Yahoo's Search product.
The question becomes, what then? Does Microsoft have the innovation to compete with Google in Search? From what I have seen, not a chance. Would a Microsoft/Yahoo deal make it better for the Search user? Unlikely, at least not until they begin addressing the needs of the user and not just ways to generate revenue from online ads. Is Search in a better place than it was yesterday? I would suggest that no it's not.
Well as PubCon 2008 wraps up in Las Vegas, we have been reviewing the numerous reports from the desert. Another great source that we failed to mention is Top Rank Online Marketing Blog. Lee Odden and his team have done a nice job at covering the sessions from PubCon.
For a review of the sessions, check out:
Yesterday at Enquiro we held our latest B2B Expert Series Webinar, "Bringing SEO and PPC together around Common Business Objectives".
Bringing Seo And Ppc Together Around Common Business Objectives
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: hotchkiss gord)
Search is a connector that is triggered by a number of different items. In the B2B space these items can trigger something during the buying funnel with regards to how search is being used to find more information. We need to understand that Search is something that people do. It's not just a channel. Search is a human element of us doing something to find and request more information. Search connects a lot of channels. SEO is one channel, PPC is another. The strategy comes in when you try to leverage both as part of your online marketing endeavors.
We've featured a number of posts on the topic of website redesigns. The one item that we cannot emphasize strong enough is to take your time with your website redesign. Especially if you are looking to improve your SEO efforts. Taking your time will ensure that you do things right the first time and can save you time and resources post launch.
While there are a number of steps that take place during the planning stage as you can see by visiting our checklist for planning a website redesign, a number of these steps can be combined. Truth of the matter is, when planning a site redesign you need to consider the needs of your target audience. Content is a large part of any site redesign. so you want to ensure that you provide your audience for what they are looking for.
For those that are on a strict deadline, there are a couple of items that must be addressed prior to completing a site redesign. These items are:
Proper URL Structure - take the time to plan out proper page URLs. Keep them clean, short and make them search engine friendly and relevant to the page.
URL Mapping / Redirection - if you are changing URLs, you need proper redirection to point the search engines and the users from the old page to the new page. Do not assume that your existing rankings will simply transition over with the launch of the new site.
Understand your Visibility in the Search Landscape - this is critical. You need to understand where you are currently in terms of visibility in the search engines. Which terms are you ranking for? What keywords is your homepage ranking for? Begin by looking at your analytics to determine which pages are driving non-branded traffic to the site. Identify key phrases that are driving traffic to the site. With a site redesign, you will want to put measures in place to preserve these existing rankings. You cannot preserve what you are unaware of. Know how your site is ranking. Many might suggest that rankings do not mean that much. well in terms of a site redesign, your organic rankings are key if you are to preserve existing traffic with the new site.
From an SEO perspective, there are issues any time your consider performing a full blown redesign. There is the risk that you will lose some or even all of your rankings and non-branded traffic if you do not take precautionary measures. Those who suggest that a site redesign is a good thing every couple of months, need to understand the impact on Search. Carefully plan out your redesign, take the time to roll out the new site, measure the right metrics and you will experience success.
As usual Tamar and the team at SEOroundtable are doing a great job of informing us of the happenings at Pubcon being held this week in Las Vegas. Here's a list of some of their informative posts from some of the sessions thus far:
Kickoff Keynote Address, Shawn Rorick, Cirque de Soleil
Understanding The Complex Social Marketing Playing Field
Top-Shelf Organic SEO - this is a great review of this session. We'll have more of our thoughts on this subject (Organic SEO) later this week.
Discover Techniques Used by Enterprise-Level SEOs/SEMs
Video Search Engine Optimization - this is another favorite one of ours. Video optimization is something that we feel continues to become more and more important when trying to promote your content to your users and site visitors. Greg Markel, owner of Infuse Creative has a lot of great things to say about video optimization, if you get chance to check out one of his sessions, you will find it beneficial and informative.
Universal and Personal Search- This Changes Everything
Keyword Research, Selection and Optimization
Landing Page Optimization, Back Button Buzz Kill, & MultiVariate Testing
Large Scale Bid Management
Keynote Address by George Wright of Blendtec
If you cannot attend the show, SEOrountable is a great resource for those looking for a synopsis of the sessions that are taking place. Great stuff!
Due to our proximity to the US, being from Canada allows us to closely follow what happens with our neighbors to the south. All of the hoopla and hype of the US we hear. From how great the US is about this and how great the US is about that. Nothing against the US, but frankly I am happy to be Canadian. I think that Canada is the greatest nation on the planet. Aesthetically it's beautiful, our people and culture are diverse and we still look after the old, the less fortunate and the sick as best as we can.
Having said that, Tuesday, November 4th was a great day for the United States. Like many Canadians I watched with eager anticipation to see how the US election would play out. I actually wished that I could have voted and for the first time ever wished, even if for a moment, that I was a citizen of the United States of America. I was flipping channels to see which network had the best coverage but ultimately spent the majority of time on CNN and CNBC. The coverage was tremendous. The technology used by CNN was fascinating. A life-size hologram of Will.i.am was amazing.
As elated supporters of Barack Obama took to the streets of cities across the United States and the globe to celebrate Mr. Obama's presidential win, I wish there with them. The image from CNN above says it all. I was a part of history. I am proud of the citizens of the United States who have voted to have an African American as President. Congratulations to the people of the United States. You have already redeemed yourself in the eyes of many. Mr. Obama has a tough road ahead of him. He will need patience from the people of the United States. It will get worse before it gets better. However Barack Obama being elected as President of the United States is just what the country needed.
As I watched the progression of yesterday's events, I too had a tear in my eye. You could see the sense of relief on the faces of many in the crowds. You could feel the weight being lifted off of their shoulders. From images of Reverend Jessie Jackson as tears fell down his face to a young white male standing motionless in the crowd at Chicago holding a flag of the United States with a picture of Barack Obama in the center of it, to the streets of New York where an African American women was so emotional she felt to her knees overjoyed. I get choked up just thinking of these images as I type this post. History was made yesterday. I remember where I was when the people of the United States of America elected the 44th president of their country.
Something that should not be overlooked was how gracious John McCain was in defeat. He was professional, courteous and charming as he conceded defeat at his native state of Arizona.
While Mr. Obama's decisions may not always be the right ones as they pertain to my country of Canada. I can respect his desire to improve the United States and to make the world a better place. The US is a much better country than it was two days ago. I have not ever expressed interest in meeting an American President before. I do hope that in some point in my life I can meet Barack Obama and shake his hand. I wish that I was one of the 125,000 people who jammed in Grant Park in Chicago to witness Mr. Obama emerge as the new President-elect.
“Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans have sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of red states and blue states,” he said. “We have been and always will be the United States of America.
Well Tuesday is the big day. For our frineds to the South, Tuesday is the day where the nation goes to the polls and elects a new president of the United States. This election has generated a lot of interest to many of us here in Canada. No, not for the reasons you might think such as the candidates stance of foreign policy, the War or the economy. No not that. Canadians love Saturday Night Live, and SNL has experiened a strong resurgence with their entertaining skits on the new "political superstars", namely Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden and especially Sarah Palin. The skits have been tremendous. Here's a peek at the Palin Rap in case you missed it:
So with the election heating up, let's havea quick peek at the online search activity for the "big 4". According to Google Maps Sarah Palin has the greatest search activity over the past 30 days with Barack Obama second, John McCain third and Joe Biden fourth (as indicated by the green trendline below.)
Tomorrow (Monday, November 3, 2008) Saturday Night Live will be hosting what promises to be an entertaining 2 hour Presidential Bash 2008. This should be hilarious with Tina Fey's bang on impersonation of Sarah Palin and special guest appearances, expect the show to deliver some high ratings. This comes as just yesterday Senator John McCain appeared on SNL. According to the Hollywood Reporter, SNL averaged a 9.0 household rating/20 share in the metered markets, according to preliminary data released Sunday by Nielsen Media Research. With Palin on a few weeks ago, Saturday Night Live experienced their greatest viewership since 1994. I would hesitate a guess that we may see Barack Obama on SNL in upcoming weeks possibly as early as next week.