Tom Levers

SEO is behavioral

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on January 5, 2009

 

semWhat does Web search have to do with behavior?

 

Everything!

 

Did you know that if you have a B 2 B site that has not been modified in 6 months you have lost significant readers, prospects and sales. This is because GOOGLE is becoming more and more behavioral. Behavior is the Google direction to improve the quality of their ranking algorithm.

 

I won’t go into who’s money funded these qualitative findings, or why, or how, or who in GOOGLE guided me (like deep throat) threw to the conclusions below. But my investigation was founded on other SEO experts that have made the same conclusions from their quantitative perspective. So, here are a few of the more current  issues that are now impacted by search algorithms.

 

For SEO professionals or The Person Who Got Stuck With SEO, its time to make sure you are focused on three areas:

  • Usability – Be helpful to those who have reached your site. Looking at how people get to your site is easy,  more importantly get more people to stay on your site.
  • Analytics – It is not just measuring if keywords work or do not work, you’d better be good at analyzing the metrics to identify why and where you should make site improvements.
  • Writing – Be a consultative thought leader not a blatant promoter.

Behavior is the Google direction to improve the quality of their ranking algorithm. Here are the facts to improving your web rankings:

 

Search Behavior Fact 1:  Impressions are Nothing and Click-Thru is everything.

People who click on a native search listing versus those who see it and don’t click will tell Google you are more accurately addressing “the search need”. Those who are chosen to fulfill the need are rewarded in ranking.  This means your copy should be aligned with the most relevant and current topics… obviously, but without getting into the details, if you have not changed your web copy / topics recently, you are being penalized.

 

Search Behavior Fact 2: Bounce Rate Impacts Ranking.

Search engines are  incorporating user behavior data, like bounce rate, into their algorithms. How many visitors from organic search look at one page and leave without clicking to another page? The more folks that leave, the higher your bounce rate. So don’t generate traffic that promotes hit and run, search algorithms will interpret it as abandoned visitors. A high bounce rate impacts your ranking.

 

Search Behavior Fact 3: Time On your Site Impacts Ranking.

The amount of time someone spends on your web site from their search query will impact ranking. This is why building thought leadership and good usability to flow through your site is critical.

 

I have heard from some very “in the know Google types”, and I am now reading it from other search experts that “time on the site” impsearch-engine-marketingroves organic rankings.  What you need to do is to deliver value to your reader: Clarify your offer, and watch your analytics.

Make sure your description and tags are aligned with your current site. To improved time on site give people what they expect when they click on your listing in the search results. Take a leadership role by educating to increase interest. Track your organic landing pages vs. your paid. Organic search engines pick the page they’ll list in the ranking, – you pick the landing page for paid search and track back promotion.  So watch the pages that draw search traffic and backtrack with an understanding of why it is behaving in a specific manner. Figure out the keywords that are generating traffic to those pages. Then adjust those pages so they make sense in a behavioral context.Use your analytics for more than PPC. Watch time spent on each organic landing page and test those pages. Find the best combination of headline, copy, layout and offer. Then do it again.Be creative. This means that the one product long tail company needs to get more creative than those competitive companies with many products and many reasons to navigate the site.

Search Behavior Fact 4: Social Networking will matter.

This one’s been evident for consumer companies for a while, but even B to B is moving in this direction: Search engines are  adding bookmarking, stumbles, Diggs, Technorati, and other information into the equation. If you can get more folks to live at your site, or promote it to the top of Google Search wiki, or bookmark your site on Del.icio.us, your ranking’s are going to improve.

 

Protected by Copyscape Original Content Checker

SEM Channel Partner Methods

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 14, 2008
partners3
by Tom Levers

Adding an SEM perspective to your partner programs can generate a better quality lead.

Today few corporate brand owners are thinking creatively when developing partner programs. While manufacturers and others offer traditional co-branding marketing programs, they often fail miserably at executing Search Engine Marketing.

The brand owner needs to know: Why is the partner not selling more?  How are they generating leads? What did they do with all the leads?  What’s the return on the co-op dollars they were given?  In general what is their marketing plan and tactics for the product?

Channel partners, on the other hand, often complain about the lack of support. We need more co-op dollars. Why don’t you give us more leads? The leads you give us aren’t qualified. What are you doing to improve promoting us?

Both sides are generally justified in their stance. The root issue, however, lies not in the money spent promoting channel partners, but in the effectiveness of channel partner initiatives. With all the evidence that search plays a huge role in B2B purchases, few brands have made the investment to properly optimize their own sites for search, let alone optimize their sites to promote or advise partner search marketing. Yet SEM can be one of the most effective, cost-efficient ways to drive traffic to channel partners and generate leads and sales.

It’s hard to explain topartner28 a partner how to optimize its site for search of your product. Typically, you cannot mandate how channel partners should do their PPC campaign. At the corporate brand level, it’s hard to justify pay-per-click campaigns that drive traffic to channel partners and not to the corporate brand (it would be like sending partners a check for every click). The answer lies, however, in organic optimization. A well-designed landing page for each channel partner on the corporate brand’s site is largely a one-time expense. Done right, it can generate channel partner leads in perpetuity with little to no ongoing investment.

SEM is still in the Wild West phase of marketing and the PPC range wars are not touched in partner marketing.  But with one unique page for each channel partner, one that speaks to their expertise and value as a partner can create a lot of business and improve overall keyword rankings. Too often, partner contact information is merely an address and a link that goes to each partner’s site or worse… nothing at all. There really isn’t much for the search engine to index. And that’s the problem. If you want to drive traffic to channel partners (and you should), you need to create optimized landing pages that speak to the prospect in key word searches that target your partners value add to your brand. These pages differentiate and add value beyond just the product feature set. Prospects often start their search by looking for solutions close to the solution, e.g., “software tools”, but often drill down to narrow thrier requirement. The partner page should provide more segmented keyword differentiation, “software testing tools and testing services in California.”

Also, make sure you use generic search terms. Don’t adopt the myopic and arrogant position that every person knows your brand and is going to use that brand name in every search. Yes, most dealers, reps, and distributors carry products from other companies, and optimizing channel partner landing pages using generic terms may send channel partners leads that ultimately buy another brand, but wouldn’t you rather drive traffic to your dealer. If your products are good, your partners will sell them. If they’re not, your problem likely isn’t your dealer network.

Try to support the partner on both their site and yours.  That’s right… you need to put it on your website as part of your reseller program. Often the execution of the Channel partner contact page can look very similar; the only thing that changes is the name of the channel partner and its contact information. This can lead to duplicate content issues. The key to avoiding these issues is simple. Don’t be lazy. If you choose to create a bunch of channel partner contact pages on your site, don’t use the same page for all channel partners by merely swapping the name of the next distributor or dealer. If you do, the search engines will likely only index one of these pages and consider all the others duplicate content.

Think of how much money you spend on supporting your channel partners through meetings, tradeshows, traditional co-branded print literature, developing relationships, travel, etc. The number gets big quickly. All you need to do is spend a little time to develop a unique, non-duplicate-content page for each partner? And doing so will not only speak volumes regarding your support of each partner, but it will also generate tangible returns for them, something you can clearly point to as evidence of contributing to their success.

Make sure your channel partner contact pages can be indexed. Too often, these pages are database-driven pages that can’t be indexed by the search engines. Make sure your site and its content are designed so the search engines crawlers scan and index each of the partner contact pages.

But there is even more you can do with partner blogs.

An optimized landing page for each channel partner on the corporate site is only one of the ways to help create demand in the channel. Don’t fpartner27orget about other ways, too. If you have a corporate blog, use it to promote happenings at the channel partner level. Be smart about your blog entries, ensuring the content of your posts is optimized for search terms that prospects in your channel partner’s market are likely to use.

The same is true for public relations efforts. Take advantage of optimized news releases that promote channel partner happenings. Perhaps your dealer or distributor is going to carry a new line of yours, open a new location, or doing something to further support your brand. Chances are your dealers may be less sophisticated regarding search marketing than you are. Effectively distributing optimized news releases is another way to ensure your channel partners are found by prospects in their markets.

The role of search marketing is about assisting in the evaluation process and generating sales. There are many ways you can use search marketing to do this. But remember, it’s not all about promoting you and your brand. It’s about having more touch points, and more people at the street level to recommend and close the sale. Smart search marketing promotes not only the brand, but also its channel partners. Make sure your search marketing efforts drive channel traffic to your partners. Driving prospects to channel partners will improve relationships and translate into driving sales to you.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Social Interaction and the Velocity of Change

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 11, 2008
megaphone22
by Tom Levers

Modern marketing methods need to adapt rather than just control

 

Adapting to constantly changing attitudes and behaviors can be overwhelming to the traditional organization, but there are realtime customer message correcting methods that can be used to improve effectiveness.

 

To keep up with the velocity of change marketers must have customer insight to define message development. These capabilities use marketing tactics that are interactive rather than static. Traditional marketing is all about control over advertising content, placement, and timing of your product, price, promotion and packaging. This is great except when the world is moving faster than you can anticipate.  You can reach your buyers using traditional methods, but you cannot participate when an outside variable hits… and you definitely cannot control external factors like the economy, you only adapt.

 

By using multi-audience skills  you can examine a situation from multiple perspectives adapting to meet the audiences’ various needs rapidly rather than at a snails pace. Rethinking marketing communications to build a new kind of function is key, a new kind of capability that will combine customer facing that builds a feedback loop to validate the adaptive customer message. Take a typical product and service organization. Many businesses are in a transformation process that tests assumptions of the modern multinational corporate model. Globalization, combined with the web impacts the ability to communicate in a linear method to customers and investors, using traditional methods, and is overturning the company’s ability to segment audiences and messages.

 together3

Change is rarely a gift from above. It comes out of struggles from below. Just as the barriers between business stakeholders have dissolved, the marketing effort must remove the barriers between communications functions. These functions include direct response, media, public relations, corporate communications, partner marketing, and eventually the company’s citizenship function (if there is one), which is responsible for promoting values and injecting the power of the marketing message in and outside the organization. The typical corporate structure, with sales and marketing to engage customers and a separate public relations team to communicate, plus handling communications to investors, and employees, the process cannot keep up with the correct direction when the organization with many products and many messages can not integrate a topical relevance. It is a marketing department tread mill that is always behind.

 

Traditional advertising and marketing approaches have not been rendered obsolete. TV advertising during live scheduled events, such as National Football League games, provide on-line searches that spike to 10-20 times their normal traffic during the broadcast creates a traditional strength to an interactive activity.

 

However, just one example of adapting to current trends indicated from the  August Simmons Multimedia Engagement Study finds that consumers are less likely to purchase products and services they see promoted on news media, and are less apt to say  products and services shown on news media are high quality.

 

There are five key dimensions of engagement that breaks down how media connects with its audience. The key is to integrate marketing so that Social Interaction is the foundation of theses other marketing dimensions.  

  1. Inspirational: Consumers are inspired by message and have an emotional connection to it
  2. Trustworthy: Consumers trust a particular program, radio talk, magazine or website and believe it is telling the truth without sensationalizing
  3. Life Enhancing: Consumers feel they are learning about new things and places from a particular program, magazine or website, helping to make better life decisions
  4. Personal Timeout: Provide an escape for consumers, who like to relax and unwind while reading, listening or watching media
  5. Social Interaction: Fodder for conversations with other friends and family.

 

It all argues for taking a much more non-linear and contemporary approach to the work of marketing and communications. It starts as a message that every employee owns, and is accountable for its relevant content… so that it drives through the employees social interaction with friends, family and business colegues that are part of the growing blogs, forums, wiki’s, social networks,  customer CRM communications, events, trade shows, Radio Talk Show call in’s, and TV guests appearances to deliver a message that blends with the topical social fabric. The message becomes part of the social  multiplyer of touch points, no matter what event may occur or new information is learned,.

 metrics

This all sounds great… but how is it done?  

 

1. There has to be a willingness to change the marketing process to look for ways to integrate experiential forms of  communicating. This will eventually change the corporate culture into a real time (direct response) culture that permeates the thinking of every employee and program. Doing something always works better than saying something. Use as much integrated social interaction in your marketing as you can.  Use these tactics together rather than in silos. Combine interactive promotions, user generated blogs, forums, social networks, contests, meet ups, road shows, breakfasts, user meetings, conferences,  public sporting events, encourage company pro bono efforts, special needs sponsorships…  in any marketing tactic. Add an element that generates participation with your prospects, customers, employees, and the brand experience.

 

2. Develop Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and  dashboards that indicate a roll up from employee and partner scorecards, that reflects how they are participating with customers not just force feeding them a message .

 

One thing is certain, advertising experts have refined the methods of building a message machine that moves a pitch from point A to point B very effectively. In the next few years the digital divide will hit the marketing organization by distinguishing between those brands that use technology to integrate social interaction (participate) verses broadcast their message. To manage change organizations need to build a mechanism to participate in conversations.  As a marketing organization, if you do nothing but broadcast your message you are not incorporating real-time customer listening into your message development. The key is to build a marketing method that incorporates these new interactive tactics so that the marketing organization can be part of the “experience” of changing product attitudes as the customer expresses their thoughts, hopes, and dreams… so we hear and can articulate the personalized attitudes and needs derived from the changing world and how it impacts our products and services… so that we as marketers can internalize change rather than watch it fly by.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Beyond Innovation

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 4, 2008

light-bulblight-bulb1light-bulb
 Beyond Innovation
by Tom Levers
Are you an Innovator or an Inventor?

Having the ability to convert ideas into new offerings and capabilities is the key to sustained innovation. This is why only organizations with many innovations move beyond the inventor stage.

Sure at the heart of an innovative company is its product and service design, but an innovative product does not make it a success. There have been many products that were better than their competitors, but still did not succeed! This is because their competitors were better innovators in other aspects of the business.

Certainly, innovative and unique products can capture a premium position and price in the market, but typically just product and service advantages are fleeting. To extend innovation requires employees to find ways to innovate in their department.  Changing the terms and conditions on sales contracts, new packaging, new marketing methods and channels of distribution, and better visibility into your business may all add value to customers.    

How about selling products as a service? One aircraft engine company does just that—they sell time in the air, not engines.  Or the cable TV company selling the DVR as a service rather than a $300 consumer electronic device. A paint company now runs the paint booth for an automotive customer.  Joint ventures like this are everywhere. These examples are larger enterprises.  Still, any company can leverage core expertise to reduce risk or operating costs for customers.  This type of innovation really increases the value—and allows the US to compete against low coschange-directiont off shore manufacturing and services by providing a premium the market will pay.

As the first buying decission leads to repeat purchases, these type of offerings reshape the market, so that the company is playing an entirely new (and profitable) game to which others must adapt. A number of game-changing innovators are operating today, including such household-name enterprises as Procter & Gamble, Nokia, the Lego Group, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Honeywell, DuPont, and General Electric. Wherever you see a steady flow of noteworthy innovations from one company, you can probably assume that it is an innovator, with the distinctive kinds of social connections, culture, and supporting behaviors that enable it to play that role.

Innovation works with organizations that want every employee constantly sharing and implementing new ideas. The key is to get people to focus on “how to make things happen” rather than “why things can’t happen.” A critical factor is to support innovation beyond the product or service applying the kind of leadership accross the organization necessary for profitable top-line growth as well as cost reduction.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Measuring the reponse of your Web Site

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 29, 2008
by Tom Levers

Are you testing your web site when you make changes?

Testing starts with a pllitehousean and a question that needs answering.  Just because you can test umpteen different variables at once doesn’t mean you should. Testing the elements that will produce the greatest effect first is still the best strategy, and where the Web is concerned, that means finding out what improves conversion to sale.

Homepage configuration, navigation, checkout pages – any element of the Web site that can be moved, repositioned, enhanced or versioned to influence site conversion – are candidates for testing. With the Web, the concept of testing the big things still applies, but the costs associated with those tests and the potential benefits of establishing better practices are tremendous.

Most hosting companies today have the ability to A/B split test content online in a manner that allows you to literally serve up a different version to every other customer or potential customer who comes to your site. Moreover, many of the testing capabilities allow you to establish heat map tests for visits that come from specific activities, such as PPC programs or affiliate links. And as more customers go to the Web to place their orders, testing online and establishing controls as well as efficient practices are critical.

E-mail testing, too, is easy to do and can reap extraordinary rewards.  personally love fiddling with heat maps… testing promotional offers, delivdinasourery time of day, delivery day of week, subject lines, total number of offers/click throughs, embedded navigation, rich media versus HTML versus text, content density, etc., all consist of relatively minor programming tweaks, which means, as tests, they’re very easy to execute.

The formula used to calculate the lower and upper bounds of a confidence interval is as follows:

  • Lower Bound = p – (Z)(  p(1-p)/n)
  • Upper Bound = p + (Z)(  p(1-p)/n)

p = test response rate
n = test sample size
Z = 1.65, 1.96 or 2.575 for a 90 percent, 95 percent and 99 percent confidence level, respectively

So Easy Its Hard

But are the tests so easy that the web site marketer gets overwhelmed and tests nothing or too much because its too easy? Regardless of the sophistication of your direct marketing objectives, you should be testing at every possible opportunity. If you’ve tested a concept in the past but the business has shifted, the brand has been repositioned, go back and retest those concepts. If you’ve run out of big things to test and established an ironclad control, work on testing the details, tightening the screws as it were to improve results all the more. In the science that is direct marketing, testing is the path to greater success. So remember to make a plan and only test until you see diminishing returns.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Web 3.0 could answer questions that Web 2.0 asks.

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on November 28, 2008

davetabler-art2 by Tom Levers

Where machines can read Web pages much as we humans read them.
A common definition of Web 3.0 uses something called the Semantic Web in its description, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the (first) World Wide Web. He explains, “The Semantic Web will be a place where machines can read Web pages much as we humans read them”… it is not like moving earth, where parsed data is dumped into a web page like a dump truck moving dirt into a land fill.
The few robots or software agents that troll the web today are Goggle, Yahoo, etc to create and feed the the Contextual 2.0 sites and personalized Mash Ups. Or the invisible back door hacker agents knocking on your sites doors and basement windows for unknown security flaws.

Social Networks are Psychographic Aggregators

Those who want to focus on the 3.0 revelation… seem to take the integration with social network APIs as the next step, by creating incremental add-ons. One thing for sure, the VC backed social network add-on big idea people are at least trying to answer problems beyond data indexing and formatting. By socializing numbers, text, pictures, sounds, and video threw a “birds of a feather” concept, all we are doing is aggregating psychographics rather than demographics. 3.0 will need to problem solve beyond aggregating information otherwise it is just incremental change of viewing (2.0).

Cloud computing services will be the platform for targeting various point 3.0 business and consumer requirements, but the key will be to use services around methodologies to inform and solve problems rather than create new questions.

How many times has an Internet browser sucked the inquisitive mind down the rabbit hole, only to never find an answer and waist large amounts of time buried in the complexity of spurious data?

By integrating Internet data, applying unique methodology at real time speeds, and using tools that compare historical data, a platform will be available for true point solutions to individual consumer needs or organizations that use this info to manage both internal and external change.

3.0 Requires New Web Services

Just as 2.0 required aggregation tools, the 3.0 web will need to achieve a level of change that equals Edwin A. Abbott’s classic tale of inter-dimensional experience. The square cannot see the cube in a 2 dimensional world… data, without methodology cannot be Web 3.0. The intervention of cloud based tools like Java script tools to graphically plot real time data sets on-the-fly in your browser will need to grow so that there is a foundation to wrap problem solving methods around the Semantic Web agents before heralding a new dimension of the internet.