Marketing

All things marketing related.

Client Testimonial: MyGuru, Test Preparation and Tutoring

This is a short “testimonial blog post” about the effectiveness of the investment I’ve made in working with Chris on local online marketing strategies. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about marketing strategies for my small but growing tutoring company. We’ve been around since 2009, and I’ve tried a lot of different stuff: inbound marketing through content, social media (of course), pay-per-click, and various offline strategies too. My goals are to both improve SEO rankings but also increase actual web-site traffic (through both organic search and referrals from particular web-sites). As a provider of 1-1 tutors in various cities with no physical locations (students meet tutors in coffee shops, libraries, etc.), we face a specific set of challenges. MyGuru has an elite team of tutors in Chicago, but we’ve expanded to many other cities as well. Our success is, in large part, a function of being known locally for having great tutors. At the same time, we are trying to build a brand that, regardless of location, is more generally known for offering excellent advice related to specific exams, like the ACT, SAT, GMAT, or GRE, as well as for academic skill development through better mindsets, academic planning, more effective study habits, or better time management. So, I worked with Chris and C.SEO to develop a three pronged strategy: Develop powerful, general content that’s not location specific and build links associated with that content Develop powerful, localized content, and build links associated with the content Use specific tools to cost effectively get local profiles up on the most important business directories, like Google Plus local, Yelp, Angie’s List, and more. I have been very pleased with the results of this effort. There are so many marketing options available to small businesses these days, and lots of ways to spend (and waste) money and time. By working with Chris, I not only get helpful advice, but someone who was able to dig in and set up Google Plus Local vs. Google Plus Brand profiles for me, or call Yext and negotiate on pricing, and many other major and minor things. The results have been nice. Organic traffic is about 50% higher after about 6 months of working together. MyGuru is flourishing in part due to Chris’ helpful advice and hard work. Mark Skoskiewicz Founder of MyGuru   — This is a guest post authored by Mark Skoskiewicz and posted by Chris Turner...

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Valuing SEO: How Much is a Good SEO Strategy Worth?!

Search Engine Optimization is commonplace now. In the earlier years of 2000, it was an after thought and not on many an organization’s radar. The search marketing industry has evolved along with digital technologies and now SEO incorporates several elements to include technical, content, social and graphical components. With that being the case how do businesses go about finding value in SEO and determining what is an appropriate cost for an organic optimization strategy, agency or SEO technician?   Organic Percentage Of search Before we talk prices, cost and value, common ground of where the results of SEO have to be accepted and understood. The search engine results page (SERP) is made up of a mix of organic listings, paid opportunities (ads), and local results. On average, the result page is made up of 50-70% strictly organic results. The SERP for each search engine varies and results for industry keywords can cause variations in the display. Query Comparison: “Outdoor Tents” vs “Used Cars Nashville” vs “Burgers” The examples above show how different the results pages can vary between industries and those industries’ keyword targets. In these examples, paid advertisements (PPC, pay-per-click ads) make up about 15-20% of the page with 25-30% of the page being local listings and local results. The rest of the SERP content is organic results. Not only that, but many of the recent local updates to Google’s local system have centered on applying organic value to local results; furthering the importance of organic optimization for both organic listings and local visibility.   Pricing SEO and The Individuals/Agencies Doing It Now that we have conveyed the importance of organic optimization (yes, SEO), how much does it cost? Well, it depends. As the SERPs vary per industry, per keyword, SEO for a specific business should and will often vary based on the strategic targets. One primary method use to gauge the cost of SEO uses the willingness of you and your competitors to pay for impressions and clicks from search; in other words, Adwords data. Using Google’s Keyword Planner, it is possible to get search information on how many impressions and clicks a marketer can expect on an individual or set of keywords. Let’s look at an example for pricing SEO: Business X is looking to invest $800 per month. In 10 keywords. Those keywords receive a total of 10,000 impressions and those keywords’ ads receive 100 clicks (K.I.S.S. here) then the investment in each keyword is $80 dollars with a cost per click of $12.50.   This doesn’t take into consideration that your SEM campaign may be focused on exposure along with actual click throughs. Ultimately, the business is investing $800 in 20-30% of the SERP. If we quantify the other 70-80% of the page with the same value ($800 x 1.7 or 1.8), the organization should be willing to invest $1,360 to $1,500 in the organic area of search. At this point, this is where SEOs (like us at C.SEO) often make the case that the work of optimizing a website will also provide better results on the paid side of the marketing strategy, but ultimately, doing both SEO and SEM is the key to maximizing search. Why wouldn’t you want to make the most of the SERP?! Obviously, there are budgets and conversion statistics to evaluate.   The Wrapper: SEO vs SEM Conclusions It is easier for business owners and decision makers to invest in paid marketing because it offers clear returns on the investment (ROI); for X dollars you received Y visits/calls/forms. Nevertheless, with proper tracking and systems in place organic optimization can offer clear...

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The Decay and Fall Of Guest Blogging… Because Matt Said So.

Case Study: MyBlogGuest.com In a blog post on his ‘personal’ website, Google’s head of the webspam team, Matt Cutts, announced that guest blogging was over. Dead in the water. The post from January (2014) was in response to several spam blog posts and thousands of low-quality guest blogging websites. Matt, himself, referenced an email he had recently received—unsolicited, from someone wanting to guest post on his blog in exchange for one link in the article. This type of activity isn’t new and has always been a violation of Google’s Quality Guidelines, because it isn’t quality (duh). Guest posting isn’t dead and it is still acceptable when done with clear connections. What does that mean? In search positioning, namely the 200+ factors used by Google’s ranking algorithm, social and authenticity are incorporated. When a guest post is published on a blog or website, there should be clear connections between the guest, the article, the website, and the hosting site’s owner or team. When these signals do not exist, users and search engines can assume that the post was generated for rank manipulation or the post was paid for; both of which violate guidelines of the major search engines. What sparked this latest guest blogging conversation? This did: Today we took action on a large guest blog network. A reminder about the spam risks of guest blogging: http://t.co/rc9O82fjfn — Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) March 19, 2014 In that announcement, Matt links to his January post. Over the course of the day, several guest blog websites and networks evaluated their index status. The sad winner here is believed to be MyBlogGuest.com, a guest blog network utilized by many in the SEO community to share updates, techniques and news. I say believed because no response has been given by Google as to the target. The principle of MyBlogGuest, Ann Smarty, offered this tweet and response while at PubCon New Orleans (c/o Search Engine Journal): [Official] Even though #myblogguest has been against paying for links (unlike other platforms), @mattcutts team decided to penalize us… — Ann Smarty (@seosmarty) March 19, 2014 Yes, we realize and recognize the problem of many people abusing our community. We have invested lots of effort in educating our community members on how to do guest blogging right. We have been fighting paid links, duplicate content issues, link farms, etc for years. We have had some awesome success stories from our members and we have always believed in adding value to the web. Have we deserved the “hit” (now I know what that means lol!)? I’ll let the community decide. So far we’ve had some amazing support from the community which I could not be more thankful for! The reality is, Matt Cutts is using us for the PR game: To get more people scared. We are the hugest guest blogging brand out there: He could not have got more publicity by hitting anyone else. The future? I’ll be honest. I am not sure yet. I am a human being and as much as I believe in doing the “right thing”, I am getting tired of all that publicity. We’ll re-brand out of “guest blogging” niche in the near future (we’ve been working on more functionality for a few months now and we have lots of features allowing to connect to influencers already in place now). We’ll keep supporting and helping our community members and advocates as much as we can. We have some great technology and we’ve build the most awesome team in the world. I’ll fight for them and you’ll hear more from us in the near future! The...

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Small / Medium Business Local Data: Citations & Map Listings

Citations are points of reference that point to a business. For some, it may be easy to remember having to cite resources used in a college report. In the same fashion, search platforms like Google use digital citations to determine accuracy of geographical information. Search engines are similar to encyclopedias or indices (the plural of index) that contain a number of reference points. In search 4.0, many platforms have moved beyond simply providing a reference into providing the answers themselves. But no matter the method, citations connect real world businesses with online assets; offering digital credibility to brick and mortar locations which extends to the website(s) associated with them.   Citation NAPs and SMBs NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. NAP information makes up the core of any business citations. Secondary details that can and often should be included are: Owner(s) names (Authorship connections are a Plus) Official email Website Logo/slogan. Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) don’t have the luxury of ignoring the popularity, usefulness, and necessity of online resources. Conversations are happening and users are searching and engaging; whether or not the business they are talking about are online or not.     Local Directories: What Is Yext?! This is where local directories come in. Local directories have two primary functions, aside from generating revenue from SMB subscriptions. First, they provide a digital version of a business index, similar to the Yellow Pages. Second, the number and consistency of the citations support the local results on several platforms. From a technical standpoint, there are data stacks on servers the maintain the ‘verified’ NAP information where a lot of websites, including search engines, get their information. A good example of this is Google’s Map system. Business listings within the platform are generated and given value from directories that contain the same NAP details. If you have a business, do you need to be on every known citation resource? No, but you need to be on the ones that matter to your users and matter to the local ecosystem. Based on trust, value, credibility, and usefulness, here are the top 15 citation locations:   Citation Name URL Authority Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ 100 Google Places (aka Google+ Local) http://www.google.com/+/business/ 100 Hotfrog.com http://www.hotfrog.com/ 100 Yahoo Directory http://dir.yahoo.com/ 100 Yahoo Local http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/local-listings/ 100 AOL Yellow Pages http://yellowpages.aol.com/ 99 BizJournals http://businessdirectory.bizjournals.com/ 97 DMOZ.org http://www.dmoz.org/ 97 BBB.org http://www.bbb.org/ 96 Yelp http://www.yelp.com/ 95 Foursquare http://foursquare.com/add_venue 93 Yellowpages.com http://www.yellowpages.com/ 93 Angieslist http://www.angieslist.com/ 92 Yellowbook http://www.yellowbook.com/ 91 MerchantCircle http://www.merchantcircle.com/ 90   Directory networks often contain over 100 citation websites like those listed above; some even span hundreds of partnered networks meaning that one management tool may have connections to thousands of citations. Names like Yodle, ReachLocal, and Yext are big in this local space. Yext has shown value for many of our clients. Yext is a directory management tool that operates on a network platform. Yext operates over 100 directory systems. Within the Yext network are a number of directories and citation websites that offer business information to users; the information on these web directories is not always accurate. Managing the information on many of these websites can only be done through Yext. While it is possible to connect social platforms to the tool, it is not recommended.   Directory Management: Is It Worth The Price? GoDaddy is joining the local business-listing vertical after acquiring Locu data system in August of last year (http://screenwerk.com/2014/01/27/godaddy-launches-get-found-listings-syndication-service/). The price point for GoDaddy starts at $4.49 per month, or $60 annual and can be as high as $330. In comparison, Yext offers packages starting at $16 per month, or $199 annually...

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Rank Tracking Returns to Raven

(Even though I hate the focus put on search ranking) – Mainly because: “From what we could gather on the phone, it was just from doing searches on Google.” STOP TALKING ABOUT RANKING! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ — AChrisTurner (@AChrisTurner) May 21, 2013 Raven has finally done what many of us devoted users have been asking since they removed scrapped data to remain compliant with Google’s API rules; they are going to import Google Webmaster Tools data!! This is huge. A little history for the uninitiated: late in the year (2012), Google made changes to their data policy that made using scrapped data with API data a violation. This meant that ranking data used in the Raven (and many other rank tracking tools) was no longer allowed if they wanted access to Google Adwords and other network information. Many credible companies went the route of compliance to retain the valuable, more accurate data Google provides via their APIs versus using the screen scrapped data; which can be woefully inaccurate due to the latest personalization changes in the search interfaces. Enter Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT) and the information available. In GWMT, webmasters can find ranking data along side page data for those pages providing the listing in the search engine result pages (SERP). In simpler terms, you can click on a keyword in GWMT and see what pages are ranking where. This is great data when evaluating ROI and determining strategy. Now the down side. After 90 days, the data is lost to the ether, also know as Google’s internal server spaces. This is why this latest announcement is so vital and valuable from a search engine optimization standpoint, it means Raven clients will have access to pretty accurate data related to rankings and they will archive the ranking data so users can have historic GWMT information! Other services provide this, I believe, but for us, we rely on Raven and have saved the GWMT manually; with much frustration. The update is important in also allowing Raven account holders to fill in some of the gaps created when trying to make the correlation between GWMT and Google Analytics. We perform a number of acrobatic maneuvers to fill in what we can for Google’s [not provided]. Google organic traffic makes up 70-80% of the traffic for most of our clients and 30-40% of this traffic falls into the [not provided] bucket. According to most of the recent statistics for market share, Google owns 70% of all searches. Determining branded and non-branded statistics for keywords hidden by the logged in status of users is necessary to a thorough and complete organic strategy. With longer views of this SERP details, Raven is making the ability to determine keyword relevancy, page quality and other stats more actionable. The Wrapper Raven is bringing back SERP tracking in a manner, making use of the data provided webmasters through GWMT. Are you excited? Do you currently use Raven? If not, what service are you using to monitor search position? I would love to know what other search tools have already incorporating GWMT data as a method of reporting on SERP positions. Have they done it successfully? We are excited to have this data at our finger tips and look forward to this change; which has been a long time...

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A word or two on the Yahoo acquisition of Tumblr.

It is always reassuring when a CEO in a merger/acquisition of a business says, “[we’re] not going to screw it up” when discussing changing the platform. Many of us are jaded by statements like this from past experiences, where one larger company buys a smaller one for some innovative system or awesome product only to find that they alter everything that made the smaller organization great. With that background: Yahoo has purchased Tumblr. for 1.1 billion dollars. In a tweet about the platform, Marissa Mayer stated: “900 posts [are made] a second on Tumblr. [This] means 2.3 Million new posts [were made] during our 42-minute investor call this morning :)” The decision was made during an executive meeting held on Sunday, May 19th and announced on Monday. What this conveys is that 1) the acquisition is focused on generating revenue and 2) targeting a powerful facet of the digital community. The internet has transitioned into a different community than the traditional one many baby boomers and middle aged individuals would define as ‘community.’ Advertising, content and media are consumed and generated at breakneck speeds now; with such constant growth, businesses are still trying to understand how to monetize some of the features of the internet, such as streaming blogs like Tumblr. I categorized this story under marketing because this move, aside from giving Yahoo access to a target (and profitable) demographic, is largely based on marketing. Namely, the ability of Tumblr to reach the 18-25 audience and deliver targeted ad content. This isn’t a technological or developmental move by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, it is a revenue generation one. According to Marketing Land’s report on this acquisition, Tumblr introduced minimal native ad units in early 2013 to the mobile version of the site. David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, has always focused on keeping ads and intrusive marketing to a minimum on the platform and has made statements to keep within that aspiration. Without knowing how to integrate a revenue generating stream into Tumblr, Yahoo is going the ‘traditional’ route of incorporating ads. This may included banners, text and sponsored links, but ads are coming to Tumblr. As Mayer put it, “we want the ads to be as great as the content.” I think this is exactly what they needed as well, fresh avenues for revenue and innovation, but a newer method of ad delivery would be nice. Yahoo sat back idly watching the ‘giants’ playing and waited for an opportunity to jump in the game, but waited too long and got close to AOL status. As for native ads, John Battlelle states it best when he says, “The reason native works is because the advertising is treated as a unit of content on the platform where it lives.” It’s about having ad content that is relevant to the content it competes with and hopefully works with. I believe that, as oppose to investing to develop new services and systems which would lead to fighting an uphill battle, Yahoo is looking to integrate where it makes the most sense. Investing in a successful platform is a good step (especially to keep other companies from picking them up). What matters now is how they use all the new tools and strategies. As well as whether they work as intended. Some evidence of this is the integrated personalization features Yahoo Newsfeeds which already incorporate using Twitter and associated profiles. In the feed, content consumers are able to directly interact with associated profiles by sharing the news story or following the author/publisher of the article. Will they integrate Tumblr in a...

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