Monday, August 31, 2009

Discover Ways to Tap Into Searcher Intent

When people search on a broad keyword (EG: computer) it can be difficult to pinpoint what exactly they are looking for:
  • Are they looking for a PC or a Mac?
  • Are they looking for a desktop or a laptop?
  • Are they just browsing or buying?
For broad keywords like this, it is often good to point them to a top-level hub page, with a range of choices and call-to-actions spanning learn, buy and use.

Sometimes though, people use trigger words to narrow their search. Trigger words are words added to a keyword that better qualifies what it is exactly they are looking for. Trigger words are magic as they provide an insight into searcher intent.

When we know the intent of the searcher, we can organize our PPC adgroups in a way that better appeals to their needs, through relevant ad copy and more targeted landing pages.

On the whole, I've found that searchers can be grouped into 4 main intent categories, that can be closely mapped to the stages of the traditional buy cycle:

1. Seekers (Learn)
Seekers are in the learn phase of the buy cycle. They seek out basic information and learn about the different solutions that are available to a problem they are facing. With seekers, you better make sure that your site contains good, educational content to cater for this type of searcher. The thing to remember about seekers, is that it's not all about the hard sell.

2. Shoppers (Research)
Shoppers have a better idea as to what they are looking for. They are looking to compare different solutions, specifications and prices to get the best deal.

3. Buyers (Buy)
Buyers are looking to enter into a transaction. At this point, they have pinpointed exactly what they want, and are looking to get quotes, buy online or find a physical location where they can buy.

4. Servicers (Use)
Servicers are existing customers who have already bought a product and are looking for customer support, replacement parts, and product help. In addition to external search engines, servicers often conduct on-site searches on your website.

And finally, we can map different trigger words to the different stages of intent:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

3 Tips for Finding Golden Keywords

Every once in a while an Email shows up in my inbox that goes something along the lines of:

"Oh my God, we have a HUGE problem!! I searched on [enter some obscure 20 word phrase that no customer in their right mind would ever search on] and we're not even showing up for it! We need to fix this ASAP!"

Which brings me to the topic of my next post - Keywords. In particular:
  • How to identify keywords that customers are searching on
  • How to get the best return for the time you spend
The thing that people often forget when it comes to SEO keywords is the "key" part. SEO keywords are an elite set of words that you *must* show up for when a search is performed on an engine. Here are 3 keyword research tips to help you in this very important process.

1. Talk to People
Brainstorm keywords with different people, from different groups, inside and outside of your company. Even better, speak with some customers and ask them. Voice of the customer should always trump everyone else, and can help to validate (or invalidate) internal opinions.

2. Look at Keyword Volume
Once you have finished brainstorming, you need to consider keyword volume. A lot of people often underestimate the time and effort that goes into fully optimizing a page, so you don’t want to waste time optimizing for a keyword that no-one is searching on (see obscure 20 word example above!).

Google Adwords Keyword Tool is a free tool that helps you see approximately how many searches are being made for different keywords. It can also help you to discover a different keyword, or more keyword ideas, that you may not have considered before. When using this tool, I recommend setting the Match Type to "Phrase" match, rather than "Broad". And don't forget that you also have the option to select by "Language" and "Country".

3. Look at Quality Measures
As with anything, it is important to balance out quantity with quality. In my opinion, this is best done by utilizing data from your Paid Search Campaigns, in particular the Quality Score data.

A quality score provides us with an indication of how valuable a visitor to our site is, depending on the keyword that referred them. Typically, the higher quality action they take, the higher their score. For example, someone who purchases from your site - or indicates an intent to purchase (EG: by asking to be contacted for a demo) - is more valuable than someone who just clicks on a link and then leaves.

PPC is a good way to inform SEO in identifying quality keywords. If you're not sure about a certain "must-have" SEO keyword, then always test it out first on the PPC side to see the level of engagement of searchers coming in on that keyword, before you spend time optimizing a page for it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

How to Make Search Optimization a HABIT

In search, there are technical people and there are marketing people. My roots are in marketing, and one thing I know about us "Jack of All Trades" marketing-types, is that we aren't too good when it comes to technical stuff.

Many marketing people, whose primary role is not search marketing, often see search as black magic. HTML and GIF is about as technical as we get. Laugh as you may, but very often, these are the people who own and write the web content within companies. This is why it's important for content owners and writers to understand, and apply, the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). This way, everyone is a winner. The key is making optimization a habit so it becomes incorporated into people's everyday way of working.

Help is at hand. Time to pull out the HABIT checklist - A simple checklist that applies basic on-page optimization to help content owners optimize content, without having to get too bogged down in some of the technical aspects that we, the search marketers, can more easily influence. So without further ado, here's to making HABIT a habit.

The HABIT Checklist:

Make sure your keyword is included in your Headline. This is obvious, but you'd be amazed how many times I've had to pull people up about this.

Anchor Text
The Anchor Text is the label given to a link; essentially it's the link name. Make sure that when there are links pointing to your page content, that it matches the keyword you are optimizing your page for.

Body Copy
Make sure that your keyword appears in the first sentence of the Body Copy, as close to the beginning as possible.

Inbound Links
Make sure that there are links coming into your page from...
  • Easy: Important pages within your site (EG: Your homepage and popular hubpages)
  • Less easy: Prominent industry sites and sources (EG: .edu and .gov sites)
...and make sure these Inbound Links use the keyword in the Anchor Text. The more links into your page from prominent sources, the more important the search engine perceives your page to be, and so will rank it higher.

Title Tag
The Title Tag of your page also needs to include the keyword. The format that I've found works well is - [Company name] : [Keyword]

And finally, here's a bonus tip for the marketing people who want an extra power-up:

Meta Description
The Meta Description is the copy that appears when your listing shows up in organic search. Again, try to include the keyword as close to the beginning as possible, and try not to exceed 155 characters, making sure to include correct punctuation.

HABIT provides a really basic checklist that is easy to follow and apply. It does, however, assume that you know what keyword you are optimizing your page for. So in the next blog post, I will be providing some tips for keyword research.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Search Marketing Basics (Part 2) - The Digital Hook Up

Now that you are all clued up on the reading front, it's time to move on from old school methods of learning to something more fun.

One of the issues I've found is that things move so fast in the search and social world. This means that most printed materials get dated, and quickly. Even news that appears in an industry magazine ends up being "So two days ago". In this environment we need a real-time way to keep up to speed.

With this in mind, here are 3 tips to help you stay up-to-date in search and social media marketing:

1. Get Yourself on Twitter
Where better to learn about search and social media than in the place where the Industry cool kids all hang out? A place where news travels faster than earthquakes. I'm talking Twitter of course!

Contrary to popular belief, it isn't just about what your neighbor had for breakfast or the bowel movements of your colleagues. Twitter - by far - has been the most valuable learning tool for me.

The trick with Twitter is about following the right people. Try to go for quality over quantity (both in terms of followers and followees). Here are few great people to follow. There are many, many more, but this list is based on the people whose tweets I have "favorited" the most, of late:

The mashable machine just keeps pumping out real-time search and social news. Myself (and quite a few others, I've noticed) are guilty of retweeting a hell of a lot of mashable!

Jeremiah shares a ton of good insights, particularly in terms of what to expect from the future of social media. He also provides examples and case studies of companies successfully using social (lucky people!).

Matt is the Google Guy - we must play by his rules! He shares links to helpful Google Webmaster videos on YouTube that explain things like "Why are .com sites ranking highly in UK SERPs?"

Lots of interesting social media tweets, with little fluff. Just the way it should be!

Simon was a great find on Twitter. He's full of news and facts that span search, social and beyond. What's also nice is that he says thank you when you retweet him, and I'm a big fan of nice manners!

@eMarketer and @comScore
These guys provide useful data analysis reports on search and social. And as we know, facts and data are essential when backing up your points.

Finally, a special mention to Logan - an up and coming social media dude, who shares good ideas, advice and encouragement.

2. Subscribe to These Blogs

Biznology (Mike Moran)
Mike's on holiday right now until September (lucky bugger) but when he is about to write, he talks sense. He knows search engine marketing and he's all about using data to become better.

Occam's Razor (Avinash Kaushik)
Avinash is the master of web analytics. What may seem a boring and complicated subject, is suddenly transformed into something understandable and (dare I say it) quite fun when Avinash is around to explain it.

3. Go to this Conference
There are a bunch of conferences out there. But when times are tough and travel budgets get slashed, the one conference I choose to go to (if I can choose only one) is Search Engine Strategies (SES).

They provide multiple session tracks, so you can tailor sessions depending on your level and interest, and they always bag superstar speakers (superstars in "our" world, at least!). They also hold events all over the place, not just America.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Search Marketing Basics (Part 1) - 3 Essential Reads to Avoid Looking Clueless

When I first started in search marketing, there was no hand-over, in-house expert or all round rock star that I could turn to. Rather disappointingly, I was it. So I pulled up my sleeves and blindly set forth on the journey to enlightenment.

If you are new to search marketing, or if it is a part of your wider marketing/communications role, then here are a few tips to get you started. In this post (Part 1 of 2), I cover essential reading on the book front. Everyone has to start somewhere, and although reading academic books can suck sometimes, being clueless sucks more.

Commonsense Direct Marketing (Drayton Bird)
What does direct marketing have to do with search marketing? A lot more than you may realize. The classical direct marketers, particularly those within the catalog mailing world, are masters in their field. Why? Because they test, they measure, they apply... and then they test, measure and apply, again and again.

Data is used to continuously improve results by tweaking headlines and copy, optimizing layout and reply coupon placements, sending response rates and ROI figures through the roof. Data and measurement are key in the direct marketing field. The same can be said with Pay-Per-Click search marketing, but instead of responses and responses rates, we measure clicks, click-through rates and quality score (and if we are really lucky, then revenue and net profit). The added advantage is that testing and tweaking can be done a lot quicker and cheaper. That's one of the great things about search. In the wise words of Mike Moran: It's ok to do it wrong, but make sure you do it wrong quickly and learn from your mistakes so you don't do it again!

Drayton's book "Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing" is now in it's 5th Edition. He may be an old bean, but this old bean knows what he's talking about, and he's a master copywriter; the last of a dying breed. This book also contains everything you need to know about writing good copy. Afterall, you can't write good, optimized search copy, without being able to write plain old, good copy first. This book will help you on your way.

Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (Mike Moran and Bill Hunt)
This was the first (and still the best) search-specific book I've bought. It provides a step-by-step guide to setting up and managing a search campaign. Straight to the point and easy to read, it could easily be re-named, "A Fools Guide to Search".

Groundswell (Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff)
I'm still shocked at how many people in the marketing/social field haven't read this one yet. It's not specifically search, but essential reading if your role also involves social media - which is becoming a lot more common due to increased awareness about the link between search and social (it's about more than just link juice).

What makes this book different to many other social reads is that it focuses on setting the objectives and framework around your social strategy first, and then figuring out the tools to make it happen. This is what helps to make this book timeless - tools may come and go, but what you want to achieve, and why, remains. So the next time someone asks you, "What's your Twitter strategy?", you can tell them with confidence that Twitter is a tool, not a strategy. Let's talk goals first, not tactics.

So that was my Top 3 essential reads. If you have any other recommendations of books that have helped shape the way you approach search (or social), I would love to hear about it.

In Part 2, I'll be sharing some smart ways that can help you learn and stay up to date in the search and social field. In the meantime, here are links to each of the books:

Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing
Search Engine Marketing, Inc.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where's the booty?

For my first post, I want to set the record straight regarding the whole booty thing. In the context of this blog, "booty" is referring to a treasure rather than a behind. So if you've stumbled upon this looking for the latter, then my apologies. Maybe something like would be more up your alley.

If you are still reading this, then great, and welcome! Although I've worked in marketing for almost 10 years, I've only been fully focused on search engine marketing for less than two, so I am a relative newby to the scene. I am, however, quite an effective sponge. During this time I've been doing my homework, and from a combination of books, blogs, conferences, successes, failures, and (most recently) Twitter, I've managed to avoid the bullet and start to fully understand what I'm doing and why. With this in mind I welcome you and your thoughts. There is, afterall, much to learn.