Tom Levers

SEO is behavioral

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on January 5, 2009


semWhat does Web search have to do with behavior?




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, your ranking’s are going to improve.


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Using Search to Predict a 2009 Message

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 22, 2008

20094 Search can measure emotions

At the turn of the new millennium, experts started using the technique of viewing Search trend data to predict demand.  As the use of the internet grew, so did the confidence of Search forecasts. Just as you can use Search results for econometrics, you can also measure trend data of basic needs, behaviors and emotions.  With the release of Google “universal search” in late 2007, videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites can be retrieved to give real time results.

As the economy of 2008 comes to a close, we are looking at a more profoundly uncertain economic environment than most individuals and companies have ever faced. Now, even Keynesian alternatives such as the Austrian Economic model show significant trend data. Uncertainty surrounds not only the downturn’s depth and duration but also the very fear of a changing global economic order.  The unknown economic condition becomes a fertile ground where the emotion “fear” grows.  

Many of the relevant economic key word trends point to “Fear” as a rapidly growing behavior.  Because of fear, the transmission of our evolutionary hierarchy has downshifted consumers adollar2nd business into survival mode. 

Think Twice Before You Cut

If there is a budgetary choice, now is the time to grab market share. Time and again we have seen companies that market their way through a poor economy and end up coming out the other side with share gains and stronger brands compared to competition. While P& L is key, “When times are tough, it is time to invest, not cut. This comes from years of research dating back to Ogilvy’s Alex Biel and Millward Brown interaction surveys. Showing that if we cut marketing during these times, the impact is damaging and it can take you longer to get back to where you were.”

Is your marketing message communicating one of these benefits?  New, More, Bigger, Faster, Better. They do not work when fear exists.

We have switched our attitudes from acquiring to defending (the aggressor to the protector), and the search engine can be used as a quantitative research indicator that can guide your marketing message.  We’ve gone from dreaming about acquiring to worrying about defending when you run key word searches.  There are many examples, like the key word “New”, dropping significantly to just over 6 billion hits on Google. We are constantly looking for more … life, money, love. We are hardwired to look for more.  As Abraham Maslow pointed out, there is a hierarchy of human needs and drives, but “Fear” will always override the need to “Acquire.” Search used correctly shows the marketer our collective needs, behaviors, hopes, and wish fulfillment.

What questions are you asking?

There is a resistance from the manifestations of fear. As a result, marketers need to adapt the message to move beyond the promotion of  “Do Not Fear”. By looking at “Confidence”, “Safety”,” Protection”,” Stability”, and “Assurance”…. these key words are trending up,  but a successful message must have more.  Consider adding a “Dream” to your “Do Not Fear” message.

Just because we have gone into “Defend” mode, doesn’t mean we stop planning, and dreaming. Fear is the effect, but hope and aspirations are the mechanism. Our imagination has been an activity that is a historical favorite. Look at the boom of the movie industry through the depths of the Great Depression as an example.  When it comes to big investments even though a consumer can’t afford to buy a new car or a vacation, they can imagine.  So identifying that “we can still pretend”, is an activity that will also show up on analytics reports, (causing conversion ratios to decrease and interactive requests to never be taken) to the point where business thinkers scratch their heads with confusion.

The challenge is to “Motivate” in your message. How can we move the prospect to act on the need to “Acquire“, under the influence of “Fear“? If you have a web site you can apply multivariate testing or the more common split run testing methods to qualify your landing visitors. By using this method you can validate your quantitative search engine message to increase the bottom line.

We’ll adapt to the new reality and we’ll survive. That’s why fear exists. It allows us to marshal our resources, heighten our vigilance, and focus. Testing the many “Fear Not” key words in your message, can be a demand path to delivering the intellectual approval your prospect needs to “Acquire“. 


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Search Engine Trademark Best Practices… what every marketer should know.

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 5, 2008
on-the-back1by Tom Levers

Can you build awareness from other brands ? 

No matter if you are using a “professional  SEM agency” or you’re a “PPC Do It Yourself-er “, a brand has a lot of value, so remember that its critical to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of  SEM Trademark best practices.


Despite the recession in 2008, U.S. paid search advertisement revenue is expected to reach $15.52 billion. Even with the holiday melt down internet marketing represents a 31.9% increase over 2007.  Search advertising is not immune to the economy and will motivate many to squeeze more out of their ad spending. So now more than ever the PPC marketer should be vigilant about the utilization and protection of a brand. There have been many search engine court cases involving keyword usage and trademark protection, by knowing best practices, you don’t need to fear or wonder about trademark infringement. 


This article reviews the state of the law, search engine company policies, as well as, legal methods to protect your trademark or use another trademark to enhance your visibility on the web. Trademark infringement is a popular topic for any business that develops a brand. There are the 4 basic elements of a claim: 1. Ownership of valid trademark, 2. Priority – earliest use, 3. Use in commerce in connection with the sale of goods services. (If the advertiser buys the trademark as a keyword but doesn’t use the keyword in the ad copy, there’s a huge split in opinion on whether or not this infringes on a trademark.) There is also a geographic split – in New York it appears to be no, in the rest of the country it appears to be yes and finally, 4. Likelihood of consumer confusion.


A couple of courts say that if there is a purchase of a keyword without the keyword in the ad copy, it does not confuse the consumer. Another court says that consumers will always be confused and the plaintiff should always win. So presently the courts don’t really have consistent opinions. If a consumer is confused about brand representation, there are a variety of defenses; referencing the trademarked owner. For example in the Tiffany vs. Ebay case, Ebay was buying advertising on the Tiffany trademarked products, and was excused because the use was nominative – “Ebay is a great place to buy Tiffany products”.


There are some basic search engine trademark policies.  A summary of the top three search vendors reveals Yahoo and MSN have banned certain types of keyword and ad buys based on the trademark.  Google allows bidding on trademarked keywords, but does not allow reference of the trademark in the ad copy. This approach may be more helpful. Google trademark complaint procedures for US, UK, Ireland and Canada, won’t investigate keywords, only ad text. Outside the US, UK, Ireland and Canada, they will investigatex-os1usage in both keywords and ad text. Yahoo trademark approach has the opposite procedure; they don’t allow users to bid on trademarked keywords. Ebay has a complaint procedure, it’s called the VeRO program (Verified rights owner) and they can and will kick people out. You just fill out a form, it’s easy, and you don’t need an attorney.


How to use your mark so you don’t abandon or misuse: First always use proprietary notices: “this TM is registered”. Distinguish your mark in print perhaps. Use it in all caps, or use it with the first letter as the capital (though don’t use it is a proper noun because then it becomes generic. For example, Escalator lost trademark rights because they used it as a noun, and now an escalator is the generic word for “moving stairs”). Also don’t use it as a verb, like “TiVo your favorite TV show”, you should use it as an adjective, like I’ll use my TiVo DVR. Never change your mark. So if you update or modernize your mark, be cautious of the trademark implications.


How to legally use another company’s trademark: There are limits on how company A can use company B’s trademark. Trademark use is prohibited if it causes confusion. But there are ways you can use it. The issue of what is and isn’t likely can cause confusion – just ask yourself the question, why am I using someone else’s’ trademark? To identify a genuine product or service… To let users know you are offering a product or service… To make a comparison between your product and another, for example, you are marketing a generic version of a product…  There is no other readily identifiable way of identifying the trademarked products or services.


Infringement is created when a company is trying: 1.To get a search engine listing when your website has nothing to do with the trademarked product, 2.To get a more prominent organic listing when your website has nothing to do with the trademarked product, 3.To get more traffic to your site, 4.To divert a competitor’s traffic to your site


So if you have the right answer to “why I am using this trademark?” here are some permitted uses: 1.When your website sells the genuine trademarked product, 2.In a meta tag when the website sells the genuine product, 3. In a meta tag when the website sells the generic version of the trademarked product.=


Limits on use: You can say, “We have the best prices on TiVo DVRs”, or “Our Video Editor is better than NEROs”, or “We sell the generic version of Lipitor”. You can’t use the trademark more than necessary (Orbitz,Orbitz,Orbitz), or in a more prominent form than necessary. You can not overly exclaim a trademark (We are not Orbitz, We are not Orbitz, We are not Orbitz). You can’t use a trademarked logo instead of the word and you can’t falsely claim sponsorship. A new use is when a marketer writes about a product or service, and this comes up in the search listings results, when it has nothing to do with the site. The articles are usually written to drive traffic to the site. Presently there has not yet been any US case law, but if abused this will be addressed.


Your brand has a lot of value, so remember that its critical to be vigilant to the do’s and do not’s of SEM Trademarks. Now that more and more marketing is not on paper you need to protect your brand using contemporary methods. You may find that you could increase your results just by following these SEM trademark best practices.

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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.

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