Monday, December 21, 2009

3 Steps to Getting Optimized on a Global Scale

I challenge you to a test.
  • Take a selection (maybe 10) of your most important SEO keywords
  • Identify the local language equivalent in your most important markets, outside of the US
  • Get someone in your local country office to type in each keyword in the local engine (one Google, one other), and record your SEO rank
  • Then also get them to record your competitors' rank.

If you are ranking well, then no need to read any further - congratulations for being awesome. If, however, your results are on the scary side, then join the club. Here are 3 basic steps for helping you get back on track:

Step 1: Set up Local Language Sites
So I sort of lied - I know that this is far from a basic step, especially if you are starting up from scratch. But if you are a global company, then it's close to impossible to rank well organically for important local language keywords without having a local language site.

One work around (or cheat) would be to sponsor local language keywords in order to show up on the PPC side, also translating your adcopy. Of course, when this person then gets taken to an English language site, they will likely be a little pissed about it, and rightly so. So you should not be surprised when you see significantly lower conversions when doing this.

Step 2: Build Your SEO Keyword List
If you haven't already, then make sure you have an SEO Keyword List in English. This should consist of your most important keywords (and Prefered Landing Pages [PLPs]) that you want to be appearing for in the SERP.

Then take these English keywords and ask your local country contacts to help translate them into the appropriate local language(s). Now because several different translations may exist for the same English keyword, you want to make sure that you have identified the best one – best in terms of both volume and quality.

i. Volume
Check for estimate search volumes using the Google Keyword Tool, and the "Country" and "Language" toggles. Generally speaking, the higher the keyword volume, the better as you don’t want to be spending lots of time optimizing for a keyword translation that no-one is searching on. However, with this you also want to take into account quality, as high volume keywords can sometimes be too broad.

ii. Quality
The best way to check for quality, is to look at your PPC results (in particular, some kind of quality score or conversion indicator) for that keyword. If you’re not sponsoring the keyword already, then test it out in PPC first (about two week's of data is usually sufficient).

In addition to simply translating your English keywords, you can also get other good ideas for SEO keywords from PPC, so remember to check out PPC keyword performance for each language. You may come across a keyword that doesn't work well in terms of an "English keyword translation", but works fantastically within that particular country.

Important note: It’s really important to get your keyword list right (as you will spend a lot of time optimizing your site for these words), so don’t skimp on the time/effort to put these lists together - it will save time in the long-term.

3. Optimize Your Local Pages
Once you have your keyword list in place for each language, optimize each local language PLP according to the keyword. At a minimum, make sure you optimize according to the HABIT checklist.

Then of course, continue to monitor, optimize and add keywords to improve your placement and presence over time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Google gets Personal, Quick, and Snappy

...but have they also got sloppy? Last week, Google made three interesting announcements regarding search marketing. Here's a quick summary, and some thoughts around these:

1. Personalized Search
It seemed inevitable that search needed to evolve from a general to a more personalized level. Google's Personalized Search attempts to do just that by using past search history to serve up more relevant results for each individual. This is the case regardless of whether you are signed into Google or not, and it seems that Google have made the opt-out process quite difficult to figure out (not to mention that most searchers will likely be oblivious to it). This, of course, brings up the question of privacy, even more so since there has been talk of cookies being opt-in in Europe in 2011.

What does this mean for SEOs?
Results can now rank higher or lower based upon an individual's past click behaviour rather than just the search algorithm. This makes SEO harder to optimize for (even more so than before) and can make SEO measurement more complex; measures of success will need to move beyond a traditional rank metric.

To see more, watch Google's Personalized Search Video.

2. Real-Time Search
Relevance has always been a big factor in good search results, but with the continued rise of social media, recency is becoming more and more important.

Google's Real-Time Search results sit in the middle of the SERP and automatically flow as new information comes in, mainly from Twitter (though it also includes results from Google News, Google Blog Search, Friend Feed updates and others). Alternatively, you can also click on "Show options" and "Latest" to see a page just with real-time results. Here's what it looks like:

Example of Google Real-Time Search Results (Show Options > Latest)

Although the results are integrated into the SERP, execution doesn't seem to be the cleanest - which begs the question of whether Google launched real-time search as a knee jerk reaction to Bing. Many reviews I've read have also commented that the results are below par and can be easily influenced, though Google claim that only information that is highly relevant (and not spammy) are included... though actual results suggest otherwise.

Other questions also arise regarding Google's current implementation. For example, with the real-time search results appearing slap-bam in the middle of the SERP, will this mean more people investing in PPC in order to gain more control of their presence above the fold? And will it encourage people to spam more to try and influence real-time results?

What are the implications for search marketers?
Regardless of current execution (which will hopefully improve), search and social are becoming more and more intertwined. Quite simply, web marketers need to get their search marketing and social media strategies in order as the two continue to converge.

Read more about Real-Time Search.

3. Google Goggles
Google Goggles (launched in Google Labs) allows you to simply take a picture (with an Andorid phone) to search the web. It doesn't work for everything and a valuable business application right now is questionable. However, it is pretty neat in a geeky, experimental kind of way.

Some of the things you can do include:
  • Finding out what businesses are nearby
  • Identifying objects, places and landmarks
  • Identifying products through barcodes
See Google Goggles in action.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How to Achieve Success in PPC Reseller Programs

On more than a few occasions, I've been asked to take part in joint PPC programs with resellers. Sometimes the programs have worked really well, other times they have been less than inspiring.

Overall, I've seen mixed results. Here's a few thoughts on some of the lessons learned and what worked best:

Although having PPC placements by both you and your resellers mean less shelf-space available to your competitors, competing on bids with your resellers is not always the most efficient use of money, especially when budgets are tight. By pooling resources together you can work to improve placement and increase coverage throughout the day. Collaborating on day-parting can also work well to reduce bidding conflicts.

Probably the most important thing is to make sure your reseller has good site analytics in place. There's no point in driving your PPC traffic to the reseller site if they can't track what happens to these people once they hit their site. This may sound obvious, but shoddy, even non-existent, tracking has happened more times than I'd like to remember.

Resellers are exactly that; they are about selling. More often than not, the expectation is that resellers have e-commerce capabilities on their site. Therefore, targeting intent through specific "buy" phrases can work well to encourage online purchase (even more so if your own site lacks e-commerce). However, remember to make sure that your reseller's site can track your PPC investment through to online sale.

Dedicated Landing Page
Be prepared to drive traffic and key conversions for keywords away from your site to the reseller. This is ok, as long as they have tracking in place and searchers are being moved towards a sale. However, be sure that the reseller is landing searchers on a page focused just on your products (for example, a dedicated landing page or microsite). Remember that if the reseller also sells competitor products then you risk the visitor wandering towards competing products, from your paid ad.

Channel Conflict
If you have a number of resellers covering the same geographical areas and products, then you risk channel conflict issues, particularly if your PPC program is just with a selected few.

If this is the case, then sometimes it is best to make joint PPC programs a part of Reseller Certification. For example, companies with many resellers often organize their authorized resellers into different levels (such as Platinum, Gold, and Silver), depending on business requirements. The higher their level, the more support the partner receives. PPC Co-Op programs could be part of this support.

As an example, in order to benefit from joint PPC programs, the reseller has to:

  • Be a platinum-level partner
  • Have e-commerce capability
  • Have robust website analytics in place
  • Have a microsite dedicated to your products