Big Ideas For Small Sites & Small Budgets
Moderated by Anne Kennedy. I got in right as Jennifer Laycock was introduced for the first presentation. She is the Editor of the Search Engine Guide.
The Internet was supposed to be the “great equalizer.” The old saying was nobody knows you are a dog. That is not really the fact. Common sense is the great equalizer. Coming to SES means that you should learn how to use the common sense you already have, and convert that business acumen to the Internet. You are only as good as your ideas. Forget about “chasing the algorithm.” You do not have time to be the SEO experts, so you should have a philosophy of forgetting about magic formulas, and again, get back to common marketing sense.
“The Pinocchio Effect” The whole story is that P was a puppet, and wanted to be a little boy. SE’s want this same thing, wanting to be like a human instead of a mindless program. What SE’s have found, is that when you “create a magical formula,” others will reverse-engineer it. Keyword densities, etc… This is not the type of thing that can last long term (just the math). How does a computer make a judgment and how can you use your common sense to overcome any changes. Think about the past: progression of link analysis from numbers only to link text. The moved to link quality, since people learned to “play the system.” Now it’s not just what you say and how many you have, but do the others have “authority.” In the last year, we have seen Link Age becoming a bigger factor. What is the next step the search engines will use to replicate human judgment in regards to linking.
The Pinocchio effect in action now. How many have heard of Sandbox? Do you think it is affecting your site? The truth is that there is no sandbox. There would be no reason for an SE to say, if your site is brand new, you cannot rank. Let’s talk about a real life example from Columbia Ohio. If a new Chinese place opens, since there are already 50 of them, it may take a while for you to check it out. If, however, the first Ethiopian restaurant opens, it would more likely be visited first. From an SE POV, if you are one of a million sites that has “mortgages,” it will take a while. This is a “raised barrier of entry.” If, conversely, you have a brand new popular widget with not many competing sites, you will see results within a few weeks, probably.
Where is Pinocchio going in the future? Any number of things we as people use to judge the popularity/acceptability of sites. Perhaps G will start tracking click throughs, in the way that they do in the Google Quality Score for the paid search. Google is adding a feature where if you click on your back button, you may see an added box to the results which says “was this link helpful.” Very big news. If you are the number one listing and people click on it but often hit “Back,” it may need to be moved down?
Speaks briefly about Latent Semantic Indexing and how SE’s become more able to tell what a site is really about. It is all going to be about the old writing good content that people (and Pinocchio) like to read. Number one rule in organic Search: Speak the customer’s language. Let the businesses and PR/Legal department worry about including their terminologies, and add what people want to read. Next briefly touches on the search buying cycle. Depending on what you sell and how you sell it, you may want to target in any of the three cycle periods: Interest, research, and Purchase. Build yourself as a resource during the Interest area, for example. Use different keywords (longer tail” as yku move to research and purchase points. Understand the intent behind different searches and utilize that knowledge.
Number one rule of PPC…it’s not about buying clicks, it’s about buying customers! Just because it is a higher CPC does not mean it is converting better. You have to track actionable item interaction by visitors. If you do not know what converts best, you are wasting time. PPC without metrics is like launching tv, yellow pages, and direct mail on the same day without tracking them. #1 rule for small businesses when link building: It is relationship building! Must be treated like working with a local business association. Just like in person, the best referrals you will get are from people that you have built relationships with and that trust your site. A link is the same as an online referral – remember someone’s reputation is on the line. You would not walk into the business association meeting and just throw a bunch of business cards in the air and walk out. The best way to get a link si to earn it – let others do your linking for you.
You can catch more flies with honey. “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” This book by Dale Carnegie translates very well from 1936 to how Internet marketing works now. He spoke of viral marketing, talking in terms of other people’s interests, and even PR. Online reputation management applies very closely. If you are wrong, admit it quickly.
Matt McGee from One World Telecommunications So can small businesses compete? He is a firm believer based on experience that you can. Work smarter, work harder, and be more creative in your search engine marketing. Work smarter: first question: are you going to hire and SEO/SEM or do it yourself? Work harder: Small businesses can react much more quickly to opportunities. Be more creative: “Alternative SEM” and how to get away from the main SE’s.
Work Smarter: Choosing an SEO/SEM. 4 things: Trust (are you getting actual answers or just a sales pitch? Do not hesitate to ask for references – note some will not be able to tell you all of them due to NDA’s), risk comfort level (Black hat, White hat, grey hat, etc…fact is there are different levels of aggression when you are working on SEO or SEM. What is your risk comfort level?), Measuring success (think beyond getting the top ranking – use ROI, etc, to make sure you have clearly defined measurement goals), and Cost. Recommends some areas to find businesses, includes SEMPO, SEO Consultants Directory, SEO Dex, Top SEO’s, SEOPros.org, SEMList.com. Do some investigation and figure out what the qualifications process are to be in these types of lists.
Options for do-it-yourself SEO/SEM. Use books and training seminars. Plenty of good books include SEOBook (Aaron Wall), Small Business Guide To Search Engine Marketing (by fellow panelist Jennifer), Search Engine Marketing Guide (Dan Thies), most recently: Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day. (J. Grappone G. Couzin). Seminars: SES, Search Engine College, SEO Research Labs, Search Engine Workshops (one more I missed).
How is Local search a good way to “Work Harder?” Local search targets buyers! Lists a bunch of local search options from the big Yahoo’s down to Merchant Circle, Yelp, and TrueLocal. You do not know which of these will grow into a true power. Local search is not a big source of Direct traffic, but it can be valuable traffic. Briefly describes one success story from the use of local search. Reemphasizes that this is an area for good growth. Shows some good numbers but is moving through slides too quickly for me to catch while typing what he is saying (sorry).
Use Alternative SEM. Try participation marketing in message boards, discussion groups, social networking groups, etc, where people do not mind if you are talking about your business. Make sure that you connect, not alienate. One that he likes for Small Businesses to use is Flickr. This is a lot more than just photo sharing – there are groups for many different hobbies/industries. For example, if you own a pet shop, join pet/animal-related groups. How to market on Flickr? Use your URL when you create a screen name. Upload your logo as your buddy icon. Make your business profile not “spammy.” Don’t spam, you want to “market without making it look like you are marketing.” In conclusion, remember: work smarter, work harder, and be more creative. Go connect with your customers rather than waiting for them to come to you.
John Carcutt from AppliedSEO.com Will focus on PPC. He has found he can get past the big guys. You do not have to be Number 1, you do not need to beat Amazon. Define the goals that are profitable, and make your presence level a profitable one. You can find ways to outperform your larger competition . Use tighter product focus, you can keep in better touch wit your customers, and you have faster reaction time. All of this works organically as well as in PPC. In terms of competing in PPC, you can not let your competition pile cash on top of you and dominate the market. You have to stop this by predicting. “Become a Keyword Psychic” You need to know ahead of time what/how people are searching. Keep abreast of changes in “how people talk” (natural language keywords). Example: “Inkjet cartridge” could be a search for: HP 56, HP56 (no space), HP 56 black, remanufactured HP 56, etc…) so one inkjet cartridge has literally thousands of kw combinations.
Recommends using Yahoo’s exact match, since you can save more money this way. He describes how an exact match longer tail keyword will always outrank the broad match for that search, even if you only bid 10% of the broad match bid. (This was also explained on Monday very well in the Compare and Contrast – Ad program Strategies session by Patricia Hursh). Highly recommends Google Analytics as a free alternative to NetTracker, WebTrends, etc. Suggests Yahoo! Bid Maximizer free product that compares to Atlas Bid Maximizer.