SEO & SEM in the Competitive Automotive Space – Pubcon Liveblog

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SEO & SEM in the Competitive Automotive Space – Pubcon Liveblog was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

greg gifford and ira kates at pubcon

Greg Gifford and Ira Kates at Pubcon

The automotive industry is incredibly competitive when it comes to search engine marketing. To rise to the competition requires in-depth local SEO knowledge and PPC know-how. This session offers strategies for search marketing, both paid and organic, that all marketers can use. Our speakers are Ira Kates, who will speak to paid search, and Greg Gifford, who addresses organic local SEO.


  • Ira Kates, Senior Digital Business Strategist, 360i Canada (@IraKates)
  • Greg Gifford, Director of Search and Social, DealerOn (@GregGifford)

Ira Kates: Automotive Search: Lessons from the Kitchen

Ira cooked for 10 years and he’s noticed that lessons from chefs in the kitchen have application to search. Today he’ll use lessons from chefs he admires to illustrate ways to compete in PPC. It’s a crazy competitive time to be in the automotive PPC industry, Kates explains.

“Perfection is lots of little things done well.” –Fernand Point

basics of ppc marketing

Is the structure of your account contributing to the theme you want to tell your prospective car buyer?

The lifeblood of paid search is match type. You don’t want to compete against yourself. Funnel everything toward best performing keyword.

conversion funnel for auto ppc

If you break this funnel down, there are funnels within funnels.

  • At the national level, you’re looking at people viewing galleries, comparing specs, taking an action that they’re very interested in what the car is offering.
  • For dealer associations, ask questions of what the purpose of the organization is to support the funnel.
  • At the dealer level, he explains to customers that “these are the actions” we’re looking to get (book a test drive, contact dealer, search inventory).
  • “Aftercare” is a new area in the funnel that Ira’s added to this visual aid since last year’s presentations. Why not focus on this, especially with remarketing available?

If you’re acquiring a new PPC account, take the campaign down for a couple weeks and scrub the account to apply the fundamentals. Implementing a simple, revised negative keyword list, for example, can result in lower CPA and CPC and you can take that new funding to reinvest in winners.

Ad Copy

A meal tells a story of how it came to your plate. You eat with your eyes as well as your other senses. Your ad needs to tell the story of why someone needs to do something.

consumer micromoments

Write your ad for the moment. A year-long test across multiple competitive nameplates show the following (and the author’s take is that facts perform better than brand claims):

brand claims and nameplates

You can see a huge gap of almost doubled conversion rates in the results. Use the geo-gating built into AdWords and focus on people a mile or two within your lot. That’s how you can test claims like this.

Creative ads on competitor brand queries:

  • “Don’t Go Rogue – Escape the Mundane” – a search ad on the query “nissan rogue”
  • “Did You Mean Ford Focus? – Phew, Dodged That Bullet” – a search ad on the query “hyundai elantra”

These are fun headlines. For a national brand to do this adds character to the SERP. Don’t be afraid to test.

Testing and Learning

Start small and prove something with a little test on one ad group.

“Good food doesn’t come from following a recipe to the letter. It’s about having the confidence to experiment.” –Marco-Pierre White

This is especially true at the dealership level because 90% of competitors aren’t testing and experimenting; they aren’t rotating their ad creative out enough.

A year ago, his big takeaways was:

automotive ppc takeaway

Pay attention to things like “ga(require, displayfeatures)”. Build up audiences and bucket them. Now you can test your ad copy and speak to these people again.

Test remarketing audiences for search. He tested Remarketing Audiences in Google Analytics over a two-month period focusing on non-brand keywords.

remarketing for search

The conversions they’re driving are dealership leads.

Favorite research method: Use SEMRush to find competitor’s top SEO keywords that aren’t super competitive and focus limited conquest dollars against those keywords.

full scale RLSA slide

Jump on Google Customer Match – announced 2 weeks ago – to be ahead of the curve.  You can use this to stop your customers from going to a third-tier oil change business. The most powerful use case for Google Customer Match is you know exactly what customer is ending their lease in 3 months. Why not talk to them when they’re starting their research on search?

Finally, here are flags to watch out for if someone comes to your dealership and says they want your digital business. They should be able to speak to all these things.

Flags to watch out for:

  1. No examples of work
  2. Price slashing with no offer of how
  3. No clear vision of what your success is
  4. Not asking questions about the business
  5. Only PPC concern is bulking up accounts
  6. Can’t define CRO, new extensions or how they measure success
  7. Require you to purchase a website or any other service just for them to run PPC

Greg Gifford: SEO Lessons Learned from the Competitive Automotive Vertical

Or: You Suck at Local SEO

Get his full presentation here:

These local SEO tips will help your dealerships. Check out the weekly Wednesday workshop video on the DealerOn blog. Local SEO is a tough puzzle to crack. You can’t skate by because otherwise you’re blending into the background and will be invisible to customers. He’s going to show us the code behind the Google algo.

The automotive niche is crazy competitive, second only to maybe payday loans, bankruptcy attorneys and divorce attorneys. Every major market has 300-600 dealerships (used and new) competing for top SERP spots. No one understands local SEO is different than web search SEO.

A dealership called up complaining he wasn’t showing up in Google but really he meant Google Maps. He didn’t understand how Google works. Every dealer thinks they should be #1 and that SEO is “instant on.” Everyone thinks they’re so unique:

  • “We treat our customers like family.”
  • “We’re family owned.”
  • “We have a state-of-the-art showroom.”
  • “No haggle pricing/up front pricing.”

Every dealership says this. Automotive SEO vendors are just as bad. Things shady SEO vendors do:

  • Junk duplicated content (same content for every trim with year/make/model replaced)
  • Outdated SEO strategies (keyword stuffing meta description, multiple city names stuffed into a title tag, hidden text in a “read more” link)
  • Go 6 months without touching a site
  • X pages of content per month without a strategy

Local SEO is an easy win because no one is doing it. Do the extra stuff and blow past everyone not doing it. It changes all the time so it’s important to keep up to date and update your strategy.
Recent big updates important for local SEO:

  • Pigeon update (July 2014)
  • GMB Quality Guidelines update (December 2014)
    • Most importantly don’t include a descriptor in your GMB business name
    • Choose only the most specific categories (he suspects weight/value given to category choices)
    • Different departments with different pages must choose unique categories
  • New three-result local pack (August 2015) (read the BCI blog report of for the latest on this change)
  • Local Search Ranking Factors Study 2015 (released by Moz two weeks ago)

The restgreg-gifford-local-ranking-factors-pubcon of the presentation covers the findings of the newly released study Local Search Ranking Factors Study (LSRF). What’s changed since Pubcon 2014? See the image to the right.

  • Big drop in GMB pages
  • Drop in link signals
  • Drop in on-page
  • Increase in behavior and mobile

On-Site Signals – 23% of the LSRF

The most important question to ask is why do you deserve to rank? Content matters but don’t take that the wrong way. It’s quality of content and not quantity of content. Don’t push out so much junk.

This stuff sucks:

  • No home page content (like all jpeg images)
  • Only a few sentences on a page
  • Default page text – this is a pervasive problem in auto right now because an OEM like Audi requires all dealers to use a certain platform and the dealer never customizes the content so their site is made up of default content
  • Blatant keyword spamming
  • Awful title tags – this is the most important SEO element

Stop trying to fool the nerds at Google. Write your content for people, not search engines. For local search, when you put anything on your site, do it to make your website better for your customers. Be unique and useful.

PRO TIP: read your content out loud to someone else. This is how you can hear if the content is helpful.

Optimize content for local:

  • Include City, ST in
    • title tag – don’t put company name first (you don’t need to optimize for it)
    • alt text
    • body content
    • URLs
    • Meta description
  • Embedded GMB map (from GMB page, not from Maps)
  • Consistent NAP
  • You must have a blog (not a luxury)

Want to rank in nearby cities? Use local content silos.

Link Signals – 20% of the LSRF

  • Thanks to Penguin, links are no longer simply a numbers game
  • Get local links (example: small church websites) to local content pages (not all pointed to home page)
  • Take advantage of sponsorships, events, things you’re already doing in the community
  • Pay attention to internal linking!

GMB – 14.7% of the LSRF

  • The most important thing you can do is claim your GMB. If you’re having trouble getting the postcard or it’s claimed by an ex-employees personal account, use GMB phone support.
  • Choose the right categories
  • Upload custom user and cover image

Citation Signals

  • It’s your mentions of your NAP on other websites
  • Most dealers have a ton of citation problems. Your citations have to be 100% consistent.
  • Do a quick check of major citations with Moz Local
  • Use Whitespark to check all your citations

Review Signals – 8.4%

  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as reviews from friends or family.
  • 4 out of 5 people will decide not to do business with you if you have bad reviews. You can’t fake good reviews. You can’t fake caring about your customers. He turns down business from shady car dealerships. You have to be legit before you do SEO. Don’t ignore Yelp; it powers the stars on Apple Maps.
  • Read up on review strategy:
  • Make sure you have more reviews than your competitors. You need five before you get the aggregate star ratings. Get more reviews but not too many more; customers will think you’re faking results.

Bonus tip: Don’t tether Facebook and Twitter. Use any of the many tools that you can post to both at the same time without it looking to the user like it’s out of place in the native environment.

October 15th 2015 sem, SEO

105 Free SEO Resources

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toolkitIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of time-saving tools and short cuts that can make life easier for digital marketers.

On a recent trip down the rabbit hole of online marketing blogs, I came across the a tidy collection of SEO resources collated by Amar Hussain of website broking company FE International.

Pitched as the ultimate toolkit for digital marketers, the collection is unique in that all of the resources are free. This is great news for marketers on a budget and ideal for my SEO students, many of whom are still in college or on low incomes.

Each of the resources are categorized along the following themes:

  • A/B Testing
  • Analytics
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Content
  • Diagnostic
  • Email
  • Infographics
  • Keyword Research
  • Link Research  / Link Building
  • Local SEO
  • Resources
  • SERP Tracking
  • Speed
  • Technical
  • Toolbars / Extensions
  • WordPress Plugins

While there are many tools in the list that I know well, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number that I haven’t seen before and can add to my own toolkit. Of these, Optimizely, WordSmith and Five Second Test were the most exciting finds.


The post 105 Free SEO Resources appeared first on Ask Kalena.

September 16th 2015 sem, SEO, Tools

Q and A: What’s the difference between calls to action and action phrases in Google AdWords?

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QuestionHey Kalena

I’m creating my own ads in Google Adwords at the moment.  When reviewing what I’ve learnt in your Pay Per Click lessons, it says under the Appropriate Language section:  “Must not feature call to action phrases (Eg click here, visit this site)”.

Yet, when I visit the Google AdWords Help Centre, it encourages the use of Calls to Action – Under the heading “Empower customers to take action”.

Have I got this twisted? Which is right? Is there a difference between Calls to Action and Action Phrases?




Hi Stephanie

The editorial rules and recommendations for Google AdWords can be confusing at times, with some advice seemingly in direct conflict with recommendations found elsewhere.

In terms of call-to-action phrases – there are very specific rules regarding the use of particular phrases within your AdWords ads. For example, you can’t use “click here” in the ad text, but you are encouraged to use other call-to-action phrases such as “learn more about” or “download your lesson”.

So the advice under the *Appropriate Language* section relates specifically to editorial guidelines, while the advice in the AdWords Help Centre relates to recommended tactics you can use, rather than specific wording.

Hope that makes sense :-)

I recommend reviewing the more specific editorial guidelines for AdWords ads as well.


Like to teach yourself SEO? Access your Free SEO Lessons.


July 16th 2015 sem

Search Share: JackThreads

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Image from: JackThreads / Shutterstock

For this Search Share feature piece we will analyze search marketing data for In a previous analysis and blog post of the online men’s retailer, we found that the website was very successful in attracting, retaining, and getting its visitors to interact over the past few months. Now we will do another deep dive into the site’s digital presence with search share analysis, which is particularly important for a company that only operates on the digital platform.

The Process

We will take the top 100 search referrals, which are the keywords or phrases that lead search engine traffic to the website, and upload them into the Search Share feature in Compete PRO. Once uploaded, the Search Share feature will provide information on SEO and SEM success with paid and natural share and rate information over the past 4 weeks to tell a story about JackThreads’ performance against its competitors.

Nonbranded Clicks

Keep in mind that this list of search referrals includes the terms or keywords that are driving the most traffic to JackThreads, and it is a mix of branded and nonbranded terms. The branded keywords consisted of terms like “jackthreads” or “jack threads” that are extremely specific to the site. But a lot of keywords were nonbranded terms like “men’s fashion,” and “cheap clothes for men.” Why is this important? It can show how JackThreads compares against its competitors. If JackThreads comes in the top 10 clicks for nonbranded terms then it probably has a successful SEO or SEM strategy and people are finding it through searches for “men’s fashion,” and “cheap clothes for men”- which are relatively accurate to what the company portrays itself as. lands 5th on the brand paid clicks for this list of keywords, with 1.8% share of total paid clicks. This means that for the terms on this list, around 2 in every 100 paid clicks go to This speaks a lot to the success of its paid search strategy relative to its competitors. However, JackThreads does have some clear competition. was one competitor on the list of top 10 brand paid clicks. It had 11.2% of the paid share, significantly more than JackThreads. In other words, when people search for “men’s fashion” they are more likely to click on an ad for Old Navy than JackThreads. This means that Old Navy most likely bids on similar keywords and is successful at attracting more clicks. The clothing stores do operate in relatively similar spaces, but Old Navy is a much larger company that has established brand strength, unlike the fairly new JackThreads.

Brand Paid Clicks

Final Thoughts

Much like my conclusion in the last post on JackThreads, things are definitely exciting for the website. It is still relatively young, but most signs look positive. It will be interesting to see if JackThreads continues to build up its brand and how that will impact search marketing results. If you want to see how your search marketing stacks up against the competition, check out Compete PRO.

April 10th 2015 Search, sem, SEO

The Science of Digital Marketing

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by Todd Bailey

“There is no law except the law that there is no law” (John Archibald Wheeler), could not be more true in the digital marketing industry.  Sure, there are guidelines, best practices and policies but that isn’t to say that the industry as a whole is, and will always be, a science.

What is more important than achieving more online visits, sales, leads and brand amplification?  How do you achieve these goals when a true theory has yet to be proved and to be followed?  With so many blogs, resources and even credited educational courses how will we look back at our profession?
Early on we were hackers and lowly linkers.  Paid Search gave us a vertical to establish credibility.  Social Media and Digital PR made us cool and put us on stage instead of behind the scenes.  And analytics put us in the board room.  
Well rounded digital marketers that achieve results usually aren’t evangelists, industry news reporters or anyone we have actually even heard of.  They are experts in thinking, trying and learning.  Across all mediums of digital marketing we experiment based off countless variables; history, trends, expectations and knowledge.  
Digital Marketing as a Science is experimenting and observing.  In organic, the major search engines are our physical and material world.  But what general laws have we concluded to date?  The mass reports of the SEO practice continue to be speculation, conspiracy related to patents and their implications, small test models and algorithm update publications.
Marketing Scientists don’t have sanctioned (and controlled) associations for publishing advancements in the field.  We are at the mercy of a top ten list of for profit publishing platforms.  
Even more alarming is the Paid Search space.  Once the golden child in digital marketing filled with transparency and data but now subject to enhanced campaign modifications, lost keyword data and a sheer layer of complication forged in an algorithm set in place by publishing giants.  Easily, Paid Search does allow for better experiments and production of tangible documentation.  But, still no sanctioned (and controlled) association for publishing advancements in the field.
While still young, Social Media and Digital PR are not in a point in their evolution (or may never be) to be able to set forth general laws.  And Analytics is merely a mechanism for observing all experiments.  But then again, “If your experiment requires statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”  (Ernest Rutherford).
We may come to a point in the very near future where there are truths.  Where facts are published as laws.  But the art of marketing is still an evolution and to be evangelical about any of our practice is a business to itself.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

The Weekly Compete Pulse

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Happy Halloweekend! Failed digital marketing strategies can be scary, lucky for you these articles are here to help. Take a look at our favorite articles from the past week below.

Three Things Every Retailer Needs to Know About Search Marketing

Clickthrough rate is just one metric that you need to keep track of in order to understand search. Learn which others are important and what else you need to learn in order to better understand your consumers here.

Getting Mobile Wrong Has Real Consequences For Sales, Brand

If you aren’t yet #gettingmobileright, you could be doing even more damage to your brand than you think. New data shows that mobile consumers are increasingly likely to turn to your competitors’ sites if they experienced usability-related frustrations on your mobile site. Read more here.

Lead Generation Metrics – Here’s How the Top Performers Do It

It’s often hard to compare B2B stats, but there certainly are champions in each industry. Learn which metrics you need to keep track of in order to stack up to them in this article.

How to Use Google Analytics Behavior Reports to Optimize Your Content

Do you know how to assess the performance of your content on your website? If you’re not using Google Analytics Behavior, you’re missing out on valuable intel. This article will teach you how to use the tool to optimize your content.

Big Data: Best Practices for Success

Are you using big data to your advantage? It can be incredibly helpful when done correctly, but without a well thought-out plan it can be daunting. Learn how to be successful in your big data project here.

November 2nd 2014 B2B, Mobile, News, sem, SEO

Breaking Down PPC: Search Engine Advertising (SEM) for Beginners

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Image from: PPC / Shutterstock

Search engine advertising can be extraordinarily effective when implemented correctly, but the road to understanding this seemingly convoluted strategy can be long-winded. That’s why we’ve outlined the process to get you started.

Why do you want to launch a PPC campaign?

The first thing you need to do is set your criteria. What’s your budget? And more fundamentally, what are your goals for your PPC campaign? Sales? Brand awareness? What’s the end game? Take Jerry, for example. Jerry owns a chain of costume shops, and with Halloween approaching, he has set aside funds to develop a PPC campaign to increase his costume sales. The way he goes about this campaign will be likely be different from someone whose goal is to bring attention to his brand or cause.

Figure out the structure

Within your campaign, you’ll want to create multiple ad groups. Each ad group pertains to different aspects of your brand. You’ll likely want to structure your ad groups to mirror your website. For Jerry, he might want to separate his “adult costumes” ad group from his “children’s costumes.” Keep in mind that you can develop as many ad groups as you would like, but they can all fall under the same campaign, and therefore draw from the same budget.

PPC Account Structure

Image from: Search Engine Watch

Determine what’s relevant

Now that you have the skeleton on your campaign, you need to identify the keywords that will target your ads to the right shoppers. What topics are most relevant to your business? Your industry? Which of these words are most likely to help you achieve conversions? There are keyword tools to guide you through this process: take a look at Google Keywords and Wordtracket. Figuring out which keywords will work for your business can be a learning process – it takes time. Alternatively, by using competitive tools like Compete PRO our clients are able to quickly identify which keywords their competitors are working for their competitors and which aren’t. Once you understand the search tactics that are working in your industry, you’ve got a much better starting point and a leg up on other businesses just getting started with search.

For each of your ad groups, you’ll want a different group of keywords to maximize the number of clicks on the copy ads that your selected keywords will trigger. For his “adult costumes” ad group, Jerry should chose keywords such as “women’s costumes,” “sexy costumes,” and “couples costumes” whereas for his “children’s costumes” ad group, he should use “girl’s costumes,” “tween costume” or “kids costumes.” He also might want to branch out to more specifics, “girl’s princess costume,” “infant pumpkin costume,” “inexpensive kids costume.” Keywords like “Halloween costumes” could fall into either ad group, but to maximize the number of clicks, he should elect to use it for only one.

Vie for attention

Next, bid on those key words. Remember that budget? Here’s where it comes into play. Sift through that list of potential keywords and determine which ones you’re going to set bids on. Take a look at Google’s bid simulator and Traffic Estimator tools to get a sense of how much you should set them to be, keeping in mind the value of your potential conversions. Search engines then weigh the amount of your bid against your click-through rate to determine winning advertisers. This infographic should help to explain that process, but essentially what you need to keep in mind is that the advertiser who bids the most will not necessarily be the winning bidder. Jerry’s competitor may set a higher bid on the keyword “funny male costume” than Jerry does, but if his competitor traditionally has a lower click-through rate, Jerry may win the keyword auction.

Make yourself attractive

Just as important as selecting your keywords is crafting your advertisement. If Jerry’s copy ad is blasé, it won’t much matter that he won his top keyword bids. Make your ads as appealing as possible. Capitalize The First Letter of Each Word. Mention your unique selling points. Include keywords in the URL field (they’ll become bold and draw attention to your ad). Make sure your landing page is relevant to their keyword search. Taking visitors simply to your homepage is inconvenient for them, and ineffective for you. Above all, don’t try to fool visitors. If consumers click on your ad to find something different than they had expected, not only are you subjecting yourself to negative publicity, but you just paid for a click that didn’t yield a conversion and Google will drop your ad’s quality score

Keep up with it

Once you’ve created your PPC campaign, you work is far from over. PPC requires upkeep to maximize your ROI. You’ll need to regularly change your search and placement bids, add new keywords, test new copy ads, and reassess your landing page. It’s a process that requires maintenance, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be well on your way to #gettingdigitalright.

To learn more about how you can optimize your search marketing and to jump start your campaigns, download our ebook.

October 4th 2014 Google, Keywords, PPC, Search, sem

4 Things To Get Right Before You Pay For Traffic

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If you’re thinking about starting to pay for traffic or expanding an existing program, there are four core concepts to get right before you start burning cash. Determine: What’s a visit worth? Design for Conversion Get Your Message Right Establish an Organic Strategy Determine:…

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

July 8th 2014 Analytics, sem

20 Free Marketing eBooks You Need to Download Right Now

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Sssshhh!I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a sucker for free downloadable PDF eBooks and White Papers. Because they are usually organized into chapter form, they tend to be meatier and contain more valuable content than blog posts and articles. I’ve obtained an impressive collection of eBooks over the years and will often whip one out to share with a client or a Search Engine College student who might be struggling to understand a particular marketing or SEO concept.

So I thought I’d share with you my favorite free eBooks and White Papers, categorized by theme. Where possible, I’ve linked to the jump page from where you can access the PDF file, rather than linking to the PDF itself.

Top 5 Free Marketing Related eBooks

1) Definitive Guide to Marketing, Metrics and Analytics by Marketo – This chunky, 70 page eBook is a methodical guide for how to implement effective marketing measurement practices across your organization – big or small. It deals with that tricky subject of determining how your various marketing programs impact your revenue and profit so that you can decide which ones to focus on going forward.

2) The Email Marketing Showcase by Pollen Marketing – A recent discovery, this ROI-Driven email marketing guide by Natalie Giddings includes 50 published email examples compiled by experienced Internet marketers. It showcases stunning newsletter design elements, clever use of graphics and color and highly converting calls-to-action so you can learn from and implement them in your own email marketing programs. I read this in one sitting and then spent the weekend completely re-writing my follow up email series. I was so impressed, I contacted Natalie and offered her a tutor role at Search Engine College! (more about that soon).

3) A Guide to Marketing in 2014 by Vocus – How will you make the right choices for your 2014 digital marketing mix? This comprehensive guide will light the way for you. Written with a team of digital marketing’s foremost technologists and innovators, the guide explains 2014′s key marketing trends, what they will mean for you, and how to make them work with your brand’s strategy.

4) Take Your Business Online in 5 Hours for $26 by AWeber – You might be aware that I use AWeber for nearly all my online marketing activities. This includes email marketing campaigns, newsletter distribution and subscriber management needs. They just make it SO easy. So it makes sense for a company serving small and medium sized businesses to create a PDF guide to getting a biz online, fast. As they say in this guide, you can take your business online with just a basic website, an email series and some social network profiles. This step-by-step guide shows how to create an online presence for your business in only five hours for just $26.

5) The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Marketing by HubSpot – I just love Hubspot. They are very clever marketers and always seem to come up with a relevant eBook, right when I’m researching a particular marketing topic. This was one of the first eBooks I ever downloaded from Hubspot and I refer to it all the time. Whether you’re just getting started with internet marketing or you want to brush up on the basics, this ebook can serve as your essential guide to setting up and implementing a successful internet marketing strategy, step by step. Be sure to check out their free MS Excel-based Editorial Calendar as well.

Top 5 Free SEO Related eBooks

1) SEO Starter Guide by Google – First published in 2008, Google has recently updated their SEO Starter Guide and translated it into 40 different languages. The Guide was written in response to Google staff being inundated with the same question in various formats over many years: “What are some simple ways that I can improve my website’s performance in Google?” The result is a compact guide that lists best practices that webmasters can follow to improve their sites’ crawlability and indexing. The Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide covers a range of common site design and coding aspects that webmasters need to optimize, such as improving title and description meta tags, URL structure, site navigation, content creation, anchor text, and more. If you want to improve your rank in Google, downloading this eBook is a no-brainer.

2) Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz – Following on from Google’s SEO Guide, this Beginner’s Guide from Moz will fill in any gaps you may have in your SEO knowledge. Beautifully designed and divided into clear, logical sections, this Guide is an ideal starting point for webmasters who want to educate themselves about what makes a search compatible site. It’s viewable online or via downloadable PDF and because it is written in such an approachable format and regularly updated by the Moz team, I recommend this eBook to all my SEO students.

3) 17 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind by Hubspot – You’ll see Hubspot mentioned a few times in this article, for good reason. Their content is always timely and intuitive. Hubspot produced this eBook shortly after Google rolled out their confusing Panda algorithm update and webmasters were clambouring for some kind of guidance about how it would impact their SEO strategy. In the eBook, Hubspot debunk some of the most common SEO myths that still persist. After Google let loose their shiny new Hummingbird algorithm update, Hubspot cleverly updated this eBook to keep the advice fresh and relevant for the latest SEO methodologies.

4) The Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet by Moz – When I first started optimizing web sites for clients back in 1996, I actually wrote a similar Cheat Sheet of my own to give to web development staff to ensure they wouldn’t make any major SEO blunders and undo all my hard work. But Moz have taken the SEO Cheat Sheet concept to a whole new, beautiful level. Recently updated, all the geektastic SEO tips and shortcuts you’ll ever need while coding are in here, including metadata, sitemaps, pagination, authorship, user agents, robot syntax, canonicalization and much more. This one is permanently pinned to my office wall.

5) Microsoft Excel for SEOs by Distilled – This Guide is so much more than an eBook. Produced by London-based digital creative agency Distilled, Microsoft Excel for SEOs started life as a White Paper written up to help SEO professionals retrieve meaningful information from mountains of data, using MS Excel. It is now less of a White Paper and more of an extremely comprehensive mini course in how to use Microsoft Excel to revolutionize traditionally time-consuming Search Engine Optimization tasks. If your job involves data analysis of the marketing kind, give this Guide a look. It’s viewable online or via downloadable PDF and comes with an XLS Example Workbook to help cement your knowledge with practical examples.

Top 5 Free Social Media Related eBooks

1) The Marketer’s Guide to Social Media by Vocus – This guide is written for marketers to help them come to terms with where they should invest their time and money and what social media tactics will help them achieve the greatest ROI. The guide includes insights from social media butterflies Ekaterina Walter, Jason Falls and Michael Stelzner that will take you through the most pivotal social media marketing trends and show you how to leverage them to deploy winning campaigns.

2) The Definitive Guide to Social Marketing by Marketo – If you are looking for a comprehensive understanding of Social Media for business in under 100 pages, this visually splendid eBook won’t disappoint. Written from a strong business ROI perspective, this guide is the one eBook I recommend most often to all my Social Media Marketing workshop attendees.

3) How to Get 1000+ Followers on Twitter by Hubspot – If you’re a Twitter junkie like me, this snappy eBook will make light work of the problem of not having enough Twitter followers. The advice includes how to optimize your Twitter profile, how and when to follow people, how to use hash tags and what to retweet.

4) Do It Yourself Social Media Audit by – Did you know that you should conduct a social media audit quarterly? Well apparently you should. According to Social Media expert Janet Fouts, it’s a good idea to conduct a social media audit every so often to step back and take a benchmark of your performance. This allows you to see yourself as others might see you and judge if you are delivering the message you think you’re sending. It’s also a good way to evaluate what networks are working for you, which aren’t and if you are using social media efficiently. This eBook shows you what you need to do in order to audit your own Social Media activities and set a benchmark for the future.

5) Building a Killer Content Strategy by Hubspot – Everyone knows that great content is the foundation of highly trafficked sites. But how do you define *great*? How should you implement a content creation and publication strategy? This guide will teach you how to do all these things by giving you actionable advice, including how to understand your audience, map content to the buying cycle and build an editorial calendar.

Top 5 Free Advertising Related eBooks

1) AdWords Step by Step by Google – It’s amazing the number of marketers who abandon AdWords as a channel following a string of failed campaigns. The truth is that AdWords is a complex and tricky beast and you really need to educate yourself in campaign set up and planning before any of your ads go live. This free eBook by Google is a great starting point for both new advertisers and experienced marketers.

2) Google AdWords: A Brave New World by Google – Andrew Goodman wrote the first eBook on AdWords, over 10 years ago now. As Andrew states in his book, the world of AdWords changes frequently, even though many of the fundamental principles do not. Andrew’s original eBook eventually morphed into a 400 page published book that quickly became everyone’s favorite AdWords reference and has been updated several times. This pocket guide is a 40-page mini version of Andrew’s book, that offers a faster read for marketers in a hurry to understand the complexity lurking in Google’s advertising system.

3) Open the Black Box – Maximizing Success in Bid Automation by OptiMine – Bid automation software is essential for companies with complex paid-search programs. However, when using bid automation software it’s hard to determine the “why” behind their paid-search performance. This whitepaper looks at why companies need to use bid automation software that gives them transparency and control of their paid-search programs.

4) Conversion Secrets of a Million Dollar Landing Page by Conversion Rate Experts – This case study really put Conversation Rate Experts on the map. During the process of building a highly converting landing page for (now re-branded as, CRE obtained such phenomenal results, that they set a new conversion benchmark for the industry. This online case study (downloadable as a PDF) is another resource I refer my students to frequently. It contains invaluable advice on boosting your ad and landing page response rates and highlights all the key features of high-converting content.

and finally…

5) From Abandon to Conversion: Why Shoppers Abandon Carts and What Merchants Can Do About It by Bronto – Shopping cart abandonment is a major problem for online retailers, with rates averaging between 60-70 percent. Departing shoppers represent a significant amount of lost revenue and to reverse that trend, you need to understand customer motivations and reasons for abandonment. For this white paper, Bronto staff examined the carting experience and follow-up email strategies of 100 retailers to discover the reasons for abandonment and the top strategies for bringing those shoppers back.

Happy reading!

July 8th 2014 sem, SEO, Social Media, Tools

Why Usability Matters to Search Engine Marketing

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What came first, a website or a user friendly website?  If a website falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

Most people reading this have never seen what websites looked like in the early to mid-1990.  In those days, web pages were like black and white TV shows, devoid of color and flat as a cutting board.  The background colors were universally grey.  Images did not have transparent backgrounds, so if you placed an image on the page, that was how you got color on top of the grey background.  Reading black text against a grey background was difficult because of the poor color contrast.

About three minutes later, in web design-time, HTML improved to include background colors, about four font choices and tables to help place content.  Images could be hyperlinked to pages by creating image maps.  Designs could be more creative as designers experimented with tables and nested tables for placement of images and text.  The distance between objects was created by cell padding and cell spacing.  Something as simple as adding a border was a 123 step combination ordeal of tables, nested tables, cell spacing and color choices.

First Came the Web Page

Old Amazon siteIt was about all any of us could do to make one web page.  For starters, in those days, the very act of sending a file from your computer to a server took anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour, depending on your modem, where you lived, where the server was located and what the weather was like outside.

You think I’m kidding.

In the 1980’s, like 1984 to be exact, I worked in state’s Capitol for a consulting firm.  One of my jobs was to come in at night, place the phone into the phone modem, and send the day’s new Articles, Amendments and Bills to a database in Philadelphia.  If there was a thunderstorm between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, what was sent looked like this:

To !$Q@H be or NQ$^ to _&){T&NBVEQRE and heretofore and therefore R%YHWN HNB.

To me, in 1995, a webpage with a gray background that had content I could see and that made sense after I sent it to a server was a true miracle.

By 1997 I was into animation and creating 3D graphics for the websites I was making for my employer and freelancing.  There was no discussion, ever, about usability or the user experience.  The entire point of having a website was to prove your company was groovy and smarter than everybody else.  Now, in the year 2014, this is still largely true for most website owners.  Having a website is like having the best lawn on your street, or the largest RV in the entire campground, or having lost 60 pounds in a year.  It is something to show off.  It lets you boast your existence and helps you stand out from the crowd.

Next Came Search Engines

Old Yahoo Site
Search engines appeared almost immediately as soon as web pages were born.  Before search engines, there were chat rooms and email distribution lists that people on the Internet used to find information.  Everything was referral based.

I repeat. The way to find information at the dawn of the Internet was by recommendations and referrals by people who read the information first.

If you are a search engine marketer, this should send a secret signal to your cells and entire Being because it is the basic core algorithm for all search engines that still exists today.  It is why I keep saying that search engines want to know what people like.

People do not like badly made web sites with poorly presented, inaccurate information.  They will not refer them. People do not like web pages that present a merry-go-round of obstacles and distractions that prevent them from doing that thing they came to do. They don’t recommend bad user experiences to their friends.

If a website falls in the forest, does it make a sound?  The answer is yes, if it is loved by people and has ranked well in search engines because of this loyalty.  If Amazon were to suddenly call it quits, the forest would be squealing with each line of evaporating code.

Search engines changed the way web sites were designed because suddenly people were looking for them in ways outside AOL groups, Deja News and Usenet.  From the 1990’s to around 2010, there was competition between how web pages were coded too.  For a time, the babe was Cold Fusion, and for a time it was .asp.  I spent years working on MIVA developed applications when nobody had heard of MIVA.  When server side includes were invented, it was real relief until suddenly .PHP was simply how all design was done.  Tables were buried and replaced with CSS and CSS3. HTML advanced to HTML5. Animation, meanwhile, and 3D graphics, which I had loved to make, were tossed aside because they took too long to load and this crazy thing called usability became important.

Usability and User Experience Design Are Cousins

The past 20 years have been a crazy ride for anyone who makes websites.  Add to this programmers who make software applications like shopping carts, forms, surveys and creative ways to automate stuff we do on the Web, and you have an entire new area of technology, with careers and jobs.  As the hardware improves, we all must adjust to things like smaller screens and voice activation.

What does this mean to you?  It means you must understand what people do on websites from all the devices they use to access them.

Some of this knowledge has been gathered up into what is referred to as usability heuristics.  There are now several thousand usability heuristics, of which most companies heed about 20 total.  When a website performs poorly, they may hire a usability expert to figure out what happened to other 1980 web design actions they were supposed to take to make their website work for everyone.

User experience is always the very last possible item on anyone’s mind because it is something that requires information they don’t have or are willing to get.  When was the last time you saw a website that has a user feedback form for people to use if they have an issue with a website?  In the 1990′s, most web sites had a form link in their footer to contact the webmaster in case there was an issue with the site.

User experience means knowing who your visitors are, what they want, how they want it, why they want it, and where they want it.  It means building a web site that meets their expectations.  Usability is the way shower for how to improve web site user experience.  The data collected by the usability and human factors industry is based on user testing, neuroscience, information architecture research, search query behavior, eye tracking studies, click through data, cognitive walkthrough and other testing including functional and case studies.

Why Usability Matters to Internet Marketing

I recently read an article about landing pages and conversions lift and I could not get through the article because it was written in the format of a sales pitch.  This meant the article had very large headings, small chunks of content with videos and images nestled in them that required me to stop reading to look at them, followed by teaser, big headings, more images, more content about nothing and I gave up trying to find the part where they could prove there was a conversions lift.

I am an impatient user. I do not want to think.

Old Linkedin SiteEvery conversions lift claim is unique and has to be tested again by your specific set of user personas, customer needs, and target visitor requirements.  If you choose a design based on how a competitor’s web site looks and you create an entire Internet marketing strategy based on that other site’s content and layout, you are ignoring your specific site requirements, demographics, and user preferences.

I recently posted on Facebook my refusal to share an article from Forbes that a friend recommended becasue when I went to see why it was recommended, first I had to “skip the ad” or watch the video ad on the first page, and next, click off two additional banner ads covering up the content of the article. Clearly, Forbes does not want anybody to see or read their content. They do, however, want ad clicks. And for that, I refused to share their article.

Web design and the technology behind it will continue to change, and quickly.  Not every change is accepted by your web site visitors.  They will not return to your website, or recommend it, if you ignore them and their needs.

It is that simple.

Special thanks to Web Originals and their other page with more old time screen shots here.


The post Why Usability Matters to Search Engine Marketing appeared first on Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog.

June 28th 2014 sem, SEO