SEO Keywords: A Few Words on Selecting Keywords to increase website traffic quality

  1. Connect With People.  Start by talking to your customers (or intended) and ask how did they discover your business.  Use the comments to help imagine your target audience, which dictates the primary direction of your website structure.  Benchmarking similar sites can infer some ideas – Compete and Quantcast are great sources for comparing sites.  But keep in mind, sites have unique visitor experiences and a specific business model (target customer, revenue) which may impact their content selection. So note what you see, but keep in mind the context in which the words or phrases used may be different than how you use it for your business.
  2. Write the words. Prepare a list of words and phrases that you think your audience might type into search engines when looking for your site. Don’t worry about being perfect: just be creative for brainstorming’s sake.
  3. Qualify your words with search results and online traffic Use online tools to qualify the words and refine phrases.
    Type a word into Google search page and see what appears on the SERP (search engine results page). (Update 9/2012 – Up until 2011 Google included a tool called Wonderwheel in the SERP results.  Wonderwheel provided additional suggested results that appear as spokes from your query.  Since its discontinuation, many businesses have come to rely on a additional tools, such a Searchmetrics Suite to examine keywords in more detail.  But other tools also exist.)
    Use Google Insights to determine the search trends indexed by volume and geo-location; Some regions search for “car” rather than “auto”, for example.  Word suggestions are also offer here as well.
    To gain an idea of which keywords to refine, use a keyword discovery tool like this online cloud checker — any results 3% and below could probably benefit from appearing more frequently in the content.  There are other site checkers available, such as DIYSEO, which can compare site content to competitor sites.  All of these can compliment tools that typically come with pay-per-click services, like the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator in Google Adwords. Paid solutions typically provide comparisons across all search engines and more nuanced selection features.  If you are a small business owner or blogger with little time, a great approach is to work with a free tool that focuses on the search engine initially and develop a budget for refining a broader selection of search engines.
  4. Choose Your Marketing Champaign: Create starter lists of keywords based on your marketing plan — ones for the site, a second for PPC ad (if used), then a third to be for potential social media usage (Twitter and/or blog content).  This will give a focused effort to each channel — words which can appear on the main website, words in a PPC ad, and tweets exposure on Twitter. As time goes forward, you will figure how to refine and play off each effort, as well as figure out what phrases could be extended as a long tail from the starter list. For example PPC categories are based on keywords selected for a balance of demand and cost.Moreover social and search combination is increasingly affecting conversion.  eMarketer posted a report on it in March 2011 — you can see it here.
  5. Consider how keywords appear on social media against your site content For a website content revision, keywords should appear thoughtfully though the site page – without overwhelming the site’s main message.  Meta tags have lost emphasis with search engines over time, but they still should be used.  More effective is the description tag which looks like the script below:<meta name=”description” lang=”en” content=”….” />The title tag on a webpage is also fair game for a keyword treatment         <title>…</title> Many search engine rely on the description and title to describe a page, so try using more keyword phrases, and if feasible use one or two keywords in the page name. Keep in mind that Google Instant has modified search behavior since its introduction in 2010: Many people select the SERP from the first 3 to 4 words. Also, Facebook, along with many sharing sites like BizSugar, Digg, and SeededBuzz, rely on the descriptions to explain blog posts, so including keyword and keyword phrases aid traffic discovery and help with posts within social media.Never keyword “stuff”, which is inserting keywords every other word in the body of the site.
  6. Consider a thorough overhaul of site keywords periodically Online demand for keyword traffic can change the effectiveness of keywords over time — consider a thorough overhaul of site keywords at least once a year if you are only running a site, more frequently with marketing media usage (offline & online ads, blogs, social media, etc) and monthly with e-commerce and online sales.  Apply knowledge of your offering, industry, and business operations to an analytics solution in order to guide update ideas.  Use the content dashboards in a web analytics solution (Google Analytics, Piwik, Yahoo Web Analytics, Going Up!, Woopra, etc.), as well as search results data, to consider effective phrases that produced average time on site, high conversion, and low bounce rate metrics.
  7. Never presume that just inserting the right keywords in a site is the silver bullet for all your online sales.  As implied in point 4, many ways exist to discover a site online — tweets, Facebook mentions, podcast mentions, mentions in online videos, sites for sharing posts, online presentations, and — wait for it — offline activity via attending trade shows, presentations, appearances.  There’s a good reason Google Analytics examines direct traffic, referral sources, search traffic and more — In short, your site can be discovered in many ways, so the days of just throwing up a website and expecting traffic are long gone (and I doubt they ever existed).  Moreover, search engine algorithms updates can change the amount of traffic arriving to your site, so a keyword review can insure that you are keeping up with the changes.  The best sites manage a number of traffic sources to successfully connect with people.

Taste of Technology Small Business series kicks off its sessions with cloud computing

This week in New York I had the pleasure of sitting in one of several Taste of Technology sessions. Held at the Samsung Experience retail store in the Time Warner building and hosted by Small Biz Technology editor Ramon Ray, the Taste of Technology sessions showcase new tools to help small businesses integrate technology in a meaningful, practical way and to discuss the direction the technology industry is heading as a whole.

The May 2010 session panel consisted of Jonathan Rochelle, Group Product Manager for Google; John Conklin, Business Productivity Solutions Specialist for Microsoft; and Steve Greenwood, Head of Products for start up DropIO.  Each covers how their products rely on the cloud to deliver quality service. Highlights included a review of Google Apps, discussion on the upcoming SkyDrive for Office Live (my personal favorite, it is additional storage and free features with Office 2010), and an explanation of DropIO, a new online storage service in which uploaded files & video which can be shared regardless of file format. Given the Apple-Adobe battle over Flash (A reminder was announced today as NBC and TBS declined to place their content on the iPad: see the Marketwatch article), DropIO gives a means to share video without concern about the format available to the user, although DropIO is used privately and meant for a few user,  as opposed to video sharing sites like YouTube.

Much of the discussion turned to browser usage, with many questions from the audience regarding reverse compatibility and how much that reverse compatibility — browser, internet capability — may hold back some segment of internet users.  Security of course came up as well.

There are other Taste of Technology Small Business sessions planned through the year, in New York City and soon to be announced locations. For more information, take a look at the Smallbiztechnology site for details.  Ramon is a great guy and excellent host, having attended the Small Biz Technology Summit earlier this year, which featured Seth Godin and a wide range of speakers.


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(2010) A Tweet from @avinashkaushik: “Don’t be Mr Average – why averages are a bad thing”

UPDATED:  June 16, 2012

This is a favorite tweet from Avinash Kaushik sent back in 2010: The idea is a that averages mask the characteristic of your audience. Take a group of 5 people. You give everyone except the fifth person a Euro. Person number five receives 10 Euros. The average is 2.80 Euros. But that average is not the characteristic of the group — most have 1 Euro, and the fifth person’s amount distorts what each individual has.

This is the point behind the tweet, and the idea behind some of the data examined. Yes, there are average time on site, but for other qualities of a group, a mean and mode would give a more precise idea of the the group composition.

For more of this statistics in action, check out Avinash’s Tweet.  “Don’t be Mr Average. Why averages are a bad, bad thing in Digital Marketing.” Read. Learn. Live.

How much are your clicks really worth?

Warren Buffett once said “Price is what you pay for; Value is what you get.”

This means the price does not define the worth of an item. Ask Lexus and Cadillac. Both brands offered hybrid versions of their highly desired vehicles, the Lexus LS450 and the Cadillac Escalade. The prices for the vehicles are significantly higher than their gasoline counterparts. The MSRP of a Lexus LS hyrbid starts at $106,000 while a gas-only LS starts at $63,825. So an owner is paying $40,000 for reduced gas consumption and better gas mileage, a difference that causes some to wonder if the choice is a poor economic one. Is a green image worth $40,000? For now the answer appears to be no, since Lexus and Cadillac are offering rebates on these hybrid models up to $10,000. You can read more about the hybrid rebate here at Autoblog.

I use the hybrid example of value to drive a point about overpaying for value, what you want or expect. Closer to the world of online marketing, the same sensibility can be extended to pay per click. Many business owners seek more traffic and conversions from SEO and PPC, but much thought is paid to how to value a bid? Is a PPC bid worth the cost?

Anastasia Holdren, of Sitening, put some real thought into that question and has developed a great method of valuing the worth of a click. A certified Adwords consultant, Anastasia teaches an excellent Adword training seminar (sponsored by the good folks at Google). She has managed web development projects, email marketing campaigns and search engine marketing (SEM) projects for clients including Osram Sylvania, Harvard Business School Executive Education, Cannondale, Air Jamaica, and countless others.

According to Anastasia, the Value Per Click (VPC) should be calculated. This means dividing the profit before advertising costs by the number of clicks. Say you make $100 gross profit. Take the amount and divide it by the number of clicks received in the same period, say 5. So $20 per click is the VPC. It is the maximum bid value; Exceeding it is essentially overpaying for profit-generating traffic! Again, price is what you pay for…value is what you get.

This approach is brilliant — it is similar thinking to valuing a stock against the expected cash flow from company earnings. This approach contributes a significant piece to the analytics puzzle — users must rely on analytic solutions to confirm the cost effectiveness of a campaign, to adjust the campaign accordingly, and accordingly, increase the value of their website, and increase the chance for profits.

You can check out Anastasia’s company Sitening, as well as her blog PPC Boot Camp for more pay per click tips and the schedule on upcoming Adword Seminars for Success.

What do you believe are any addition best practices for valuing the clicks your receive? Feel free to share here.

10 great retail website tips from Google

This tidbit came from a blog I am quickly embracing as a technology favorite, Digital Inspiration. The following is a Google UK brochure on best website practices. The suggestions are geared towards an online retailer, but all can gain insight from suggestions and factoids, such as 23% of checkout dropout happens because of registration forms attached to the checkout process. This may be useful to a retailer checkout cart at first blush, yet it can also apply to other conversion events (download a white paper, download a music file, etc).

Take a look at the suggestion brochure here.

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