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Monday, April 24, 2006

WebmasterRadio.FM - A Little Something For Everybody

I admit it. I am a WebmasterRadio junkie. Not only do I listen to many of the live shows that they do on a weekly basis, I also find myself listening to archived shows as well. I absolutely love it. It allows me to not only keep abreast of the latest happenings in my industry very quickly, it also allows me to hear the audible voices of many folks that I already know online or have met in real life. If you frequent any of the popular search marketing forums or blogs or have attended conferences such as Search Engine Strategies, PubCon, AdTech and others, then surely you have heard of WebmasterRadio as well. In my opinion, they are very quickly becoming the audible voice of the search industry.

We already have a vast array of sites on the subject search engines and search. These include blogs, forums, resource sites and the like. Many have been around for years nöw, especially sites like Search Engine Watch which has been online since almost the birth of the search engines themselves. Even the trade shows have been around for quite some time nöw. However, lacking was a way to bring people together with audio and live chat outside the realm of a costly trade show or forum. That is where WebmasterRadio.FM fills the void.

WebmasterRadio is the creation of Daron Babin and Brandy Shapiro Babin, who are not only husband and wífe but partners in business. They officially launched in November 2004 at a Yahoo Party that was held during one of the PubCon conferences. It all started with a single show entitled RainMaker, an Internet radio broadcast that gained such favorable response from listeners and advertisers that more shows were soon added out of necessity. Daron and Brandy's goal in establishing WebmasterRadio is to not only get info from industry leaders to help people in their business but also to bring people together and connect them through live broadcasts and chat. They have done this very well with more shows and listeners coming on board all the time.

So what were Daron and Brandy doing before WebmasterRadio? Well for starters, Daron was one of the pioneers in the SEO industry, coming onto the scene in 1996 (one year before myself). He even earned the nickname "SEGuru" which he is still known for today. While WebmasterRadio occupies most of his time these days, he still does some SEO work. Before WMR, Daron was in television, working as a director at NBC for twelve years. The combination of his television/broadcasting experience combined with search marketing expertise is a perfect match for what WebmasterRadio currently offers.

Brandy comes from a public relations and business development background. Before WMR, she was the Director of PR for two of the largest independent advertising agencies in the country. Brandy's extensive background has allowed her to see both the client and vendor side of product development and promotion. This has allowed her to guide clients to success, helping them to maximize their earning and growth potential with a special focus on non-traditional revenue. Some of the companies Brandy has worked with include SouthWest Airlines, SunBeam Inc, Data General, Sun Microsystems, Clear Channel Communications, Paxson Communications, Silicon Graphics and many other industry leading organizations. Combined, Daron and Brandy make an awesome team, along with all their staff as well.

Whose voices have been heard on WebmasterRadio? How about names like Noel McMichael - Vice President of Search Marketing for Digital Impact, John Marshall - CEO of ClickTracks, Rob Grosshandler - EcomExpo, Michael Korda - Simon & Schuster, Bruce Clay - Founder of Bruce Clay Inc., Tobi Elkin - Executive Editor of MediaPost, Communications, Matt Cutts - Google, Lee Nadler - Founder of Sherpa Marketing, Amanda Watlington, Ph.D. - author of "Business Blogs - A Practical Guide", and the list goes on and on and on.

So what does WebmasterRadio have to offer? A variety of talk shows dealing with many different topics which I will summarize below. Before I provide a summary of current shows, keep in mind that WebmasterRadio is Internet based. That means anyone in the world can listen. The fact that they have a live chat room provides for an interactive experience when listening to live broadcasts. One can actually engage with others listening to the show at the same time as well as show hosts and guests themselves. The shows are also available as podcasts that you can listen on your iPod as well as mobile casts that you can listen on select mobile phones. So their reach is without borders. Here are some of the shows they have on their line up:

• The Daily SearchCast - This is my personal favorite. 30 minutes with Danny Sullivan as he recaps current events as well as throwing in a rant here or there. Daron usually hosts the show but occasionally Dave Naylor, Todd (Oilman) Friesen and Detlev Johnson fill in as hosts.

• RainMaker - The show that started it all. Daron and Brandy interview various guests or sometimes just talk among themselves about current events. Each week immerse yourself in a different facet of online business, ask questíons of the experts and hang out and have a great time.

• That's A Wrap - Ok, so its two of the old-timers, originals in the SEO industry, SEGuru (Daron Babin) and WebGuerrilla (Greg Boser). They are opinionated, bold and pull no punches. Expect their opinion of the current landscape in the world of technology, web, and life in general. Also expect to hear the dirt on the Search Marketing World and those who work in it. Its all a matter of opinion on this show... so everything is fair game.

• SEO Rockstars - Join Todd (Oilman) Friesen every week and have your eyes opened to the wide variety of search engine optimization tactics available to you. Covering the spectrum from low to high risk methods of online marketing, this show is guaranteed to make your head spin and keep you thinking.

• Strike Point - Hosts Mikkel deMib Svendsen & Dave Naylor bring you the first European show of its kind, addressing issues faced by European webmasters regarding search marketing and optimization. Expect to be informed on the nuances of maximizing earnings revenue from a European perspective. Irreverent, cocky and experienced... don't let the Eurotrash fool you! These guys are true experts and a show to not be missed.

• Cover Story - Host Brandy Shapiro-Babin reserves a headline for you. Each week she is joined with public relations powerhouses to share and discuss information which is vital and timely for you to maximize your public relations efforts.

• Affíliate Marketing Today - Each week hosts from Commission Junction share both advertiser and publisher perspectives ranging from basic to advanced on how to get the most out of your affïliate marketing program and often reach out to some of the industry’s top players. Listen in, learn what the other side is thinking, and make it a win-win.

• NextStuff Now - Hosted by Chris Tolles, vice president of Topix.Net; each week get a sneak peak behind closed doors to speak with the people who are developing new technology, products and services for the internet.

• Domain Masters - Hosted by Monte Cahn, founder and CEO of Moniker.com; learn how to be the master of your domain including lëgal rights, domain name monetization; ask questíons live from the pro's.

• Ms. Write - A content moments segment brought to you by InfoSearch Media's Sarah MacKay (Ms. Write). The show focuses on building quality content while illustrating its usefulness.

• ad:tech Connect - Join ad:tech chair Susan Bratton and guest hosts as they interview top marketing leaders of today in this candid, one hour, web radio program.

• GoodKarma - Hosted by Greg Niland (GoodROI); this show helps explain topics for newbies and can even help an old dog to learn some new tricks. During the show there will be prizes given away as well as the answers to the newbie questíons you were too embarrassed to ask.

• The Hook with Katie Kempner - Katie is VP and Director of Agency Communications at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The Hook charts the territory where advertising and public relations meet providing exclusive interviews with the industry's finest advertising and public relations gurus, creatives and journalists to discuss the latest news and strategy in the industry.

• Power Source - Tim Mayer and Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! Search are your hosts for a power hour surging with an exciting look at some of the Valleys newest and hottest companies. Tap into interviews and commentary from people working behind the scene plus, Tim and Jeremy will light it up with the latest happenings in the online world.

• The Fringe - This show will keep you in the know on what's hot and what's not, tracking the future of cool! Delve into an entertaining journey to the edge. Celebrity designer, TV personality and international DJ Nani Vinken takes you to the fringes of our culture. To a part of our culture, that most rarely see, to entertainment and insight into hip, cool and intriguing parts of everyday life before it occurs. Philosophers idea generators, rule-breakers, social divas, cultural studs.

That's a lot of shows. Time in between shows is filled with a wide variety of popular music. There are also commercials but nevër over-bearing like you would experience with most radio stations. As you can see by the titles above, there is just about something for everyone. It is rumored that a couple of new shows that will be coming online shortly will include Jennifer Slegg of JenSense and Michael Korda from Simon & Schuster.

Besides having a great line-up of talk shows, WebmasterRadio is the official radio for Search Engine Strategies, AdTech, PubCon and EcomXpo. They are present at all of these conferences, broadcasting live and bringing an inside view of these conferences for people that cannot attend in person. This makes for a heavy travel schedule for both Daron and Brandy but they seem to love it. Did I also mention that they are great at getting parties started as well? They recently organized a party at blues legend, Buddy Guy's club where Buddy himself made an appearance.

So if you haven't tuned in to WebmasterRadio yet, what are you waitïng for? They are truly creating a legacy. When interviewing Brandy for this article, she reflected that her and Daron feel overjoyed that they are responsible for bringing a community of people together. WMR is making a difference in people's lives, helping them improve their businesses and themselves. Listeners are also coming to depend on their daily dose of WMR. I know I am. For that, both Daron and Brandy are thrilled at what has transpired so far and look forward to a bright future.


About The Author
David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm providing keyword analysis, organic search engine optimization, link popularity enhancement, pay-per-click management, search engine friendly web design and ongoing campaign maintenance.

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:11 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 21, 2006

Google Under Fire, But Search Is Strong

Could the Sports Illustrated Jinx, where teams and athletes featured on the cover famously flounder soon after publication; have spread to their fellow Time, Inc. weekly Time Magazine? This week the boys from Google are gracing Time's cover and from their easy smiles (and a byline that mentions Internet domination) you'd think that the transformation is complete: Google has finally "pwned" us all! Well, a theory that there is some kind of jinx fits because Google seems to be getting it from all angles now. But with all the piling on, it's important to remember that Google's core business, search advertising, is still very much a winner.

In regards to lofty stöck prices, it's been said that the same breeze at the bottom of a mountain is a gale at the peak, meaning it doesn't take much negativity to knock a few dollars off the price of a stöck that's performed well. And Google's peak so far has been among the loftiest a corporation has ever experienced to date. Their success stuns - individuals netting billions, a stöck price (NASD: GOOG) skyrocketing to $475 as influential analysts hint at future valuations of $1,000, $2000. Runaway success has been associated with Google since even before their IPO in November, 2004. This aura, however, may have fostered a false sense of invulnerability for the giant Mountainside, CA-based search engine.

ICMediaDirect.com, by virtue of being an online advertising company, has much to thank Google for, particularly the interest they generated in our field. Their brand recognition alone has served as advertising for our industry in recent years. Google was so hot for so long, that just being in a related space may have opened doors for us that might have otherwise been closed.

There have been some cracks in Google's façade for some time, but little notice was given to them in the wake of relentless success. However, the record skipped last month when Google disappointed the public with their earnings and the stöck sold off about 25% from its high. Still, public scrutiny was more focused on Google's earnings, not their business.

That is, until Barron's, the influential weekly financial newspaper, featured Google this past weekend. There was nothing playful on their cover, just the familiar Google logo being submerged into water, like the Titanic. The article makes a compelling case that Google's success is overvalued.

Among the issues discussed was a genuine peril unique to search based advertising: click-fraud. Barron's wondered how anyone presently could gauge the depth of this problem when; a) this problem technically enriches Google, while robbing thousands of their customers, and b) it's almost impossible to distinguish how much is committed. If Google knows, they're not saying. So we see an incalculable problem within online advertising, the very business that's finally measurable. Go figure. But Barron's mentioned other problems that are vexing Google, as well. The very guys on the cover of Time, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page along with CEO Eric Schmidt, are feverishly selling their stakes in the company as is the rest of top management. While much of these insider sales registered and scheduled for execution long ago - what's truly disconcerting is that no insiders seem to be buying any stöck in their company. It's a spooky one-way street.

Even the puff piece in Time Magazine contained this loaded bon mot from Schmidt, "The company isn't run for the long-term value of our shareholders but for the long-term value of our end users." I had to read the quote twice to make sure I had actually read it correctly and then again to make sure I could figure out what he meant by "end users".

This is what the CEO of Google thinks of the people who've made him worth 10 figures. It made me think of Bill Murray's character's advice to the students at Rushmore Academy, "Take dead aim at the rich boys. Get them in the cross hairs, and take them down." Sorry, Eric, but this Robin Hood approach elicits this sort of reaction ... especially when it is directed at the people who made them rich.

I believe that Google was rabidly over-hyped and is still overpriced, but it's their chosen business, the one they perfected, and the one that I admire. Now that some Google bashing is somewhat en vogue, be sure some uninformed opinions will form. The same minds that assumed all things Internet were about to be ruled by King Google, they too will be claiming Internet advertising to be a false business, an unworthy venture.

This couldn't be more wrong. One of the signatures of the Web 1.0 bubble of 2000-2001 was that these overheated interactive companies weren't making monëy. Not only were they unprofitable, many couldn't even generate revenue. They were drenched with the promise of new technology and nothing else. Yes, the Internet was wondrous then, but making monëy off of it was not possible, at least not before some of those burn rates contributed to global warming. (Don't laugh; chëck out the data, it matches perfectly.)

Then along comes the search wonder of Google. Google is merely an overpriced stöck, not a collapsing bubble. Their contribution is both simple and stunning. They came up with little text boxes to correspond and link properly with searches on their network. That's all.

99% of Google's revenue comes from search advertising. While Barron's was right to question whether this technology really warrants partnership with NASA for space exploration, the article also boils Google down to a machine that is merely "hawking ads" in providing contrast to Google's self-billing as a global technology leader.

Search advertising made Google bigger than Coca-Cola in only a few short years. If that's the end result of "hawking ads", then Google is doing something right. Microsoft and Yahoo apparently want to hawk ads like Google, too, as Barron cites the increased and inevitable competition.

Google's lesson for us at ICMediaDirect.com, and for anyone in Internet advertising, is that you cannot separate Google's success from Google's search. Everything else is a side story. Stöck prices, jet planes, R&D (billions spent for that remaining 1%) - all of it serves to distract from this: 99% of Google's revenue is derived from search advertising. Search advertising works.

This isn't the next bubble burst, just a story of a company that did its job so blindingly well that the public overvalued its stöck. Now it's time for its stöck price to cool off. I'm happy to see the sector grow more competitive. That's terrific. I think that everyone, even Google's shareholders, view this as a healthy sign for the search advertising industry, if not a certified validation.


About The Author
Joseph Pratt Media Analyst ICMediaDirect.com. e: joseph@icmediadirect.com

posted by Scott Jones @ 2:05 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The A to Z Guide to Getting Website Traffïc

In September of 1999, Brett Tabke wrote "26 Steps to 15k a Day" in the Webmaster World forum. A lot has changed since then, and now is the time to consider a new 26-step plan that meets the current needs of webmasters in 2006. Some of the old ones still apply (writing new content everyday, for example), and some don't (submitting to the search engines is no longer necessary), and we're here to tell you which is which! As you probably already know, bringing in traffïc is not easy - it takes hard work, determination and lots of elbow grease. So if you're ready, roll up your sleeves and follow these 26 simple steps, and within just one year you will generate enough traffïc to keep you busy for a long, long time!

A) Keyword Research
Before you do anything else, use a keyword research tool and do an extensive job researching the right keyphrases to use for your site. What keyphrases are your direct competitors using? Are there any keyphrases that create a potential for market entry? Are there any that you can put a spin on and create a whole new niche with?

B) Domain Name
If you want to brand your company name, then choose a domain name that reflects it. If your company is Kawunga, then get www.kawunga.com. If it's taken, then get www.kawungawidgets.com. No dashes, and no more than two words in the domain if appropriate.

C) Avoid the Sandbox
Buy your domain name early, as soon as you have chosen your keyphrases and your company name. Get it hosted right away and put up a quick one page site saying a little about who you are, what you sell, and that there will be more to come soon. Make sure it gets crawled by Google and Yahoo (either submit it or link to it from another site).

D) Create Content
Create over 30 pages of real, original content on your site. This will give the spiders something to chew on. It will also give you more opportunities to been seen in the search engine results for a wide variety of keyphrases.

E) Site Design
Use the "Keep It Simple" principle. Employ an external CSS file, clean up any Java Scripts by referring to them off the page in an external file, don't use frames, use flash the way you would an image, and no matter what, do not create a flash site. Do not offer a busy site with lots of bells and whistles to your visitors. Keep things nice and simple. Make it easy for them to find what they are looking for and they'll have no reason to look anywhere else.

F) Page Size
The less kilobytes your page uses, the better - especially for the home page. Optimize your images and make sure the page loads quickly. Most people and businesses in the Western world may have high speed, but cell phones and other countries might not. If your site loads slowly, you may have already lost your visitor before they've even had a chance to browse around.

G) Usability
Make sure that your site follows good usability rules. Remember that people spend more time on other sites, so don't violate design conventions. Don't use PDF files for online reading. Change the colours for visited links, and use good headers. Look up usability for more tips and tricks, it will be worth your while.

H) On Site Optimization
Use the keyphrase you have chosen in your title (most important), your headers (when appropriate), and within the text. Make sure that your page/content is ABOUT your keyphrase. If you are selling widgets, than write about widgets. Don't just stick the word widgets into the text.

I) Globals
Globals are the links that remain the same on every page. They are the reference for new visitors to keep them from getting lost. Sometimes they are on the left of the page, sometimes they consist of tabs at the top. Often they are in the footer of the page as well. Make sure that you have an old style text version of your globals on every page. I usually create tabs at the top, and put the text versions in the footer at the bottom of the page. Find out what works best for you.

J) Headers
Use bold headers. On the Internet, people scan they don't read. So initially, all they will see are the headers. If your headers don't address their concerns, they won't stick around long enough to read your content. Use appropriate keyphrases when you can.

K) Site Map
Build a site map with a link to each of your pages. Keep it up to date. This will allow the spiders to get to every page. Put a text link to the site map on the main pages.

L) Content
Add a page every 2-3 days: 200-500 words. Create original content, don't copy others. The more original and useful it is, the more people will read it, link to it, and most importantly of all - like it enough to keep coming back for more.

M) White Hat Only
Stay away from black hat optimizing techniques. Black hat optimization consists of using any method to get higher rankings that the search engines would disapprove of, such as keyword stuffing, doorway pages, invisible text, cloaking and more. Stick to white hat methods for long-term success. People who use black hat optimization are usually there for the short-term, such as in pörn, gambling, and Vïagra markets (just look at your email sp@m for more black hat markets). These black hat industry sites are usually around just long enough to make a quick buck.

N) Competition Analysis
Who is linking to your competition? Use Yahoo's "link:" service to see the back links of your competition. For example, type in "link:http://www.yourdomain.com" into Yahoo search without the quotes). Try to get links from the same sites as your direct competitors. Better yet, see if you can replace them!

O) Submit
Submit to five groups of directories:

1. Dmoz.org and Yahoo (local, such as Yahoo.co.uk, or Yahoo.ca, etc... if you can).
2. Find directories in your field and get into them. Pay if you must, but only if the price is reasonable.
3. Local directories that relate to your country or region.
4. Any other directories that would be appropriate.
5. If you are targeting the local market, make sure that you are in the Yellow Pages and Superpages (because search engines use these listings to power local searches)

P) Blog
Start a blog about your industry and write a new entry at least once a week. Allow your visitors to comment or, better yet, write their own entries. This will create even more content on your site and will keep people coming back regularly to see what is new.

Q) Links From Other Sites
Simply submit your website to appropriate sites, asking that they link to your site as a reference because it will benefit their visitors. Don't spend too much time on this, if your content is good and original, they will find you and link to you naturally. Remember that Linking is Queen (http://www.redcarpetweb.com/promotion/0409.html#feature).
Stay away from reciprocal linking, links farms, link scams, and any other unnatural links. They may not necessarily hurt you, but Google tracks when you get a link, how long you have had a link, who links to the site that links to you, where you live, what you had for breakfast, and more (not really... but kind of).

R) Statistics
Make sure your server has a good statistics program. Use it! If you don't have access to a good program, then pay for one. Without the knowledge of who is coming to your site, from where, and how often, you will be missing out on some essential tools to improve your site.

S) Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
Sign up for Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing. Spend money getting people to your site. Use it for branding too. This will create a steady flow of visitors to your site, and will make your site more accessible to your potential clients. You don't have to be #1, you don't even have to be #5... just make sure you are on the first page of search results for most of your keyphrases, when the cost is right.

T) Look Ahead
Stay informed of what is coming up in your market. If a new product will be out next season, write about it now. Take advantage of being a first mover. The search engines, and linkers, will reward you.

U) Articles
Write an article once every week and get it published in as many online publications as you can (with a link back to your site). Include the article on your site. Not only will this create many links to your site, but it will also get people to click to your site, and most importantly you will become an expert in the eyes of your visitors. They may even begin looking for your site by querying your name!

V) Study Your Traffic
After 30 to 90 days you will have enough results to analyze in your statistics program. Go over them with a fine tooth comb. Get the answers to these questions:

Where are your visitors coming from?
Which search engines do they use?
What queries do they type in?
What pages on your site do they visit the most?
What are the entry pages on your site?
What are the exit pages?
What path do they follow when they browse your site?
Use this information to tweak your site.
Use the most popular page to encourage the visitors to make you money.
Adjust the paths they use to send them where you want them.
Figure out why they leave from the exit pages.
Also, see what search terms people use to find you, and fine tune your keyphrases. If you targeted "green widgets", but your visitors are finding you with the query "green leather widgets", then start creating content about "leather widgets"!

W) Verify Your Submissions
After 3-4 months, check that you got into Dmoz.org and all of the other directories that you submitted to. If you have not been included, then submit again, or better yet, write a polite email to the editor and ask why. Also, find any new directories that would be worthy of your submittal time and submit to them.

X) RSS Feeds
RSS (Real Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary) is becoming a powerful tool for Internet marketers. You can quickly and easily add fresh content to your website. Article feeds are updated frequently, so you can give your visitors (and the search engines) what they want - fresh content! You can use RSS to promote any new content, such as new pages, articles, blogs, press releases, and more!

Y) Press Releases
A press release is a written communication that you submit to journalists in the media (newspapers, radio, television, magazines) which are used to make announcements that are newsworthy. Create press releases announcing publication of any new articles or new company information or products. If it is interesting/original enough, a journalist may pick it up and write an article about it. Before you know it, your website address may get published in the NY Times.

Z) Keep Your Content Fresh
Remember to write a new page every 2-3 days. I only mentioned it briefly, but it is probably the most important point in this article. Keep writing! Without fresh content, your site will gradually drop in the search engine results. To stay on top, your content has to be the most up-to-date, freshest, and most interesting and original content in your field.

Follow these 26 simple steps and I assure you that within one year you will call your site a success. You will bring in a massive amount of traffic from within your industry and watch as your business grows!

So start writing, and write yourself to the top!


About The Author
Shawn Campbell is an enthusiastic player in the ecommerce marketplace, and co-founded Red Carpet Web Promotion, Inc.. He has been researching and developing marketing strategies to achieve more prominent listings in search engine results since 1998. Shawn is one of the earliest pioneers in the search engine optimization field.

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:13 am 0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 10, 2006

Is Google No. 1 Forever?

Google is without a doubt the world's number one search engine. According to the research firm Neilsen/NetRatings, Google's share of the global search market in February 2006 was 48.5%, more than double the 22.5% share its nearest rival Yahoo saw. Having been the engine of choice for nearly five years, Google is synonymous with search. Because Google is the first thing most folks think of when they think about search, it is the most important search marketing venue, at least for the vast majority of SEOs.

That might be changing in the coming years. There's a sense in the SEO sector that the horizons have expanded significantly and the search marketing map has gotten far largër. What the new landscape will look like exactly, and how large Google's footprint will be, is still unknown. The emerging online environment is still being explored, so to speak. As it is explored, it is evolving very quickly. In many ways, it feels like the early days of the commercial web where everyone knew that everything was about to change, but no one really knew exactly how.

While Google's influence is incredïble and its dominance appears unassailable, a number of newer products and changes in public perceptions have prompted subtle shifts in the habits of Internet users. Search marketers and online advertisers have started taking notice, putting more energy into helping clients understand and use tools such as blogs, images, press releases and video content as marketing devices.

The evolution of the Internet, in regards to search depends a lot on four unique groups; users, online marketers, search engine developers, and creative web developers. How each group reacts to these new user/marketing channels in the coming months and years will determine if Google's dominance is threatened. As it stands today, Google remains synonymous with search, however, users are starting to venture away from the Google brand, even if it is the most recognizable one in their minds.

A recent survey conducted by UK-based online marketing firm, Harvest Digital (reg. req.), shows that Google is almost universally recognized as the UK's leading search engine. (When thinking about North American search engine usage, similar results are assumed to be a somewhat safe assumption.)

When asked, "What search engine do you use?" 94% of respondents said Google. 40% said they used Yahoo, 39% said Ask Jeeves and 37% said MSN.

The answer clearly shows that Google is the first thing consumers think of when asked about search but it also shows that most search engine users are looking at more sources when looking for information. It also confirms that Ask continues to enjoy high popularity in the UK, even after dropping ex-pat butler Jeeves. Of the 205-person test group, only 24% said they only used one search engine with 56% using two or three search engines.

A large group of search engine users express less than stellar expectations from their experience with search engines. There appears to be a growing dissatisfaction among UK search engine users with only 22% of the survey group stating they felt "... confident that search engines would always give them the information that they needed." More often than not, users blamed themselves when searches produced less than useful results. 36% assumed they were using the wrong keywords. 32% figured the information they were looking for was too specialized. These statements should be noted by SEOs when thinking of creative keyword targets along with alternative search venues such as vertical and local search.

Interestingly, nearly a quarter of respondents said that advertisers paying for higher position are responsible. 24% agreed with the statement, "Advertisers are paying to come top of the results", is the reason "... some searches are less successful". While the survey draws the conclusion that this is a paid-search issue, it is unclear if respondents are noting PPC ads or well-optimized sites dominating organic results.

When choosing results to click on, 60% said it is because that result appeared on the first page with 17% tending towards the top results. 32% stated the description as an important factor when choosing which search results might best match their needs. Again, 78% of them will express some sense of dissatisfaction with the results.

Ultimately, the survey tells search marketers and their advertisers to spread their focuses to see the much wider horizon. Almost one third of respondents stated their search queries are too specialized to produce successful results. This suggests there is a lot of room for adoption of more targeted search tools such as the vertical search sector and local search engines.

Google is working to cover the vertical bases with its all-in-one solution, Google Base. Several search marketing forums have noted the appearance of Google Base results in searches conducted around the travel, home salës, and automotive industries. It is assumed by many SEOs that Google is trying to see if it can take a share of the market from popular advertising boards like Craigslist and e-commerce facilitators such as eBay.

Yahoo and Google continue to compete against each other and smaller firms such as A9, Ask, and even AOL, in the race to perfect a local search model. As Internet access is integrated in smaller portable devices, local search is seen as one of the greatest growth areas for search marketing.

Other search firms are moving to explore the expansive web as well. Last month, Lycos announced it was introducing a number of self-publishing and distribution options for content creators. It recently entered the VOIP market with Lycos Phöne and today announced the release of a desktop Blog editing tool, Lycos-Qumana.

Google has another problem on its plate in regards to user loyalty. Its footprint has grown large enough that at times, it sort of steps on people's expectations in the course of its operations, as is the case with Google's relationship with the Chinese Government. While the other major search engines are active players in the Chinese market, and actively make values-based compromises their Western users might find unacceptable, Google tends to attract the majority of user outrage. That's likely because users have come to expect Google to hold itself to a higher standard, one that goes beyond compromising fair search results. A minor migration from Google happens every time the tech-press cracks a shot across Google's bow.

As Internet usage increases, and the online environment evolves through growth, search engine users are being offered more options while becoming more educated about the medium. Social networks (which enjoy enormous traffïc) such as MySpace have search features that users turn to when logged in to the network.

The goal of online marketers is to drive traffïc to client websites or documents. For search marketers, the expanding horizons can bring a bounty of business. Today, the reality is that Google is the most difficult engine to achieve a high ranking on, but it is also the most effective search marketing venue. Google is the most popular search engine and continues to drive the most traffïc.

We expect that fact to remain the same but, at the same time, we are strongly advising our clients to think about other search marketing channels. The habits of Internet users are changing as the incredïble growth of MySpace demonstrates. There is a lot of new search marketing turf out there and it is time to work towards establishing a presence there.


About The Author
Jim Hedger is a writer, speaker and search engine marketing expert based in Victoria BC. Jim writes and edits full-time for StepForth and is also an editor for the Internet Search Engine Database. He has worked as an SEO for over 5 years and welcomes the opportunïty to share his experience through interviews, articles and speaking engagements. He can be reached at jimhedger@stepforth.com.

posted by Scott Jones @ 6:48 am 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Importance of Meta Tags: Providing the Human Touch

For the uninitiated, meta-tags are pieces of code within your website that contain information about each page. These tags are supposed to tell search engines and users what the page is about.
If you're a little rusty on your Internet jargon, here's a primer. There are essentially three types of meta-tags that concern most marketers:

Title - This is the text that appears in the title-bar of your web browser.
Description - This is a quick summary of the information on the page.
Keywords - These are words that are important in the page.

Up until about 4 years ago, there was a tremendous focus on meta-tags as a method of improving search engine rankings. Webmasters could stuff all sorts of words into the meta-tags to improve their search engine rankings for the words they wanted to rank well for.

It wasn't long before the search engines caught on to this little trick, and as a result the efficacy of "keyword-stuffed" meta-tags dwindled over time. Posts on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) boards heralded the demise of the meta-tag with posters claiming that Google all but ignored the meta-tags. It seemed that there was no use for meta-tags anymore - at least from the perspective of the online marketer.

Meta-tag Re-emergence

But then a funny thing happened. The search market started to fracture. Yahoo and MSN both spun up their own search engines and dropped Google's results from their engines. Both Yahoo and MSN's new engines seemed to use content from the Title and Description meta-tags to display in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

These observations appear to be the case even today. By running a query for the term, "Online Advertising" on MSN, I got some interesting results (screenshots available at http://www.profitchoice.com/articles/support/meta_msn.asp.

Now, if you look at the screenshots in the link above, you'll notice that the clickable link on the search engine matches the page's title tag verbatim, and the site's description in MSN starts off with the first sentence of the description tag. Yahoo operates in a very similar fashion. Many of the results on the SERPs of both search engines will use the content from the meta-tags heavily (as long as the pages have meta-tags at all).

Google is less predictable with regard to the use of meta-tags. Google often uses the title tag to determine the clickable link on it's results pages, but only occasionally uses the description tag content in the page summary that it displays.

Remember the Human Beings

Ok, now that I've put you to sleep with technical details and observations it's time to wake up, because there is a very important marketing point that I'm working towards here.

The point that I'm driving at is that although the search engines probably have devalued the SEO value of the meta-tag to a great extent, that doesn't mean that it isn't important.

When people search for keywords in your industry it isn't enough to be Number 1 on the list of results. You still need to convince those humans to click on your link. The way to do that is to design the most effective page description that can possibly appear in the SERPs.

Steps to Take To Improve Your Meta-Tags

As a general rule, Yahoo uses the first 25-30 words of your Meta Description tag in the site description it displays on your SERPs; MSN uses the first 15 or so.

Write out a 30-word description of each page of your website that is broken up into two parts. The first 15 words need to get across what the page is about - this is all the MSN searchers will see. The second 15 words should support the first - this will be visible to Yahoo searchers.

Google searchers will sometimes see the first 7 - 15 words as well (although you can't count on it). With meta-tags you have to just focus on the things you can control, and right now Google is an unknown quantity so it's probably best not to worry about optimizing for Google.

Don't Drop the Meta-Tags

Several years ago the search engines devalued the use of meta-tags in determining rankings. But because they use the meta-tags as page descriptions in their SERP pages, you must make special efforts to ensure that the content presented to searchers inspires them to click on your links rather than your competitors'.

If you don't put meta-tags on your website's pages, then Yahoo and MSN (with a combined market share of around 45%) will just guess at what to put in the description of your website. They will pull phrases out of context (much the way Google does) from your site and slap them in there. The result is not nearly as inviting as it could have been otherwise. That's why it is always beneficial to learn to write effective meta-tags.


About The Author
Matthew Coers has been building and marketing websites for 12 years. His website, ProfitChoice.com contains FR-E-E video tutorials and online courses designed to help entrepreneurs build a website and make monëy online.

posted by Scott Jones @ 11:10 am 0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 03, 2006

Google AdSense Tips

AdSense allows website publishers to display contextually relevant advertisements on their website. If a web visitor "clicks" on an advertisement, the web publisher will earn a percentage of the advertising revenue generated as a result of the clïck. Many webmasters have built content websites around the Google AdSense model. In many cases the specific intent of the webmaster is to profït from Google AdSense. Other webmasters use Google AdSense to supplement their revenue. Regardless of the webmaster's intent, the following tips will help webmasters looking to profït from AdSense.

Top AdSense Tips:

1. Niche Sites
Targeted niche sites that have a clear theme, tend to generate more advertising revenue simply because it is easier for these sites to achieve decent search engine placement. Be warned though, you want to choose a niche where there is a sufficient number of advertisements available.

2. Target Keywords
When determining the site's focus, consider how much advertisers pay for the advertisements. If the site is focused on ringtones, like Ringtone Central http://www.ringtones-central.com the payout per-click is going to be very small because ringtones are not high ticket items and advertisers will not spend a lot on pay-per-click advertisements. With less obvious markets use Overture to determine how much advertisers pay-per-keyword. It is usually similar on Google. Search Overture for a keyword then clïck "View Advertisers' Max Bids" in the top right corner. This will show the Overture inventory and how much is paid per keyword. Because the market has become very competitive, it is difficult to rank well in search engines with a new website that is optimized for the terms that have the highest payout. Consider targeting terms that are moderately priced.

3. Aged Sites / Time
Over time as a website is spidered by Google, advertisements will generally increase in relevance. In general, older websites will rank better in search engines. The closer the advertisements relate to the webpage's content; the higher the "click-through" the publishers will see.

4. Coding
In order to minimize a website's maintenance place the Google generated AdSense code in the website template or an include file. This will allow you to easily experiment with different advertisement sizes and ad placement, and keep web maintenance to a minimum.

5. Tracking Channels
In order to know how effective a specific website or ad placement is, use distinct channels and subchannels within Google. This will allow you to discern what performs best on a specific website. Using channels will tell you what sites are making monëy, what advertisements are making monëy and what ad position is the most profitable on a specific website. Keep in mind that you should run an advertisement for a full week, in order to properly test its effectiveness. Different days of the week will have varying web traffïc, so comparing one week to another will give the most accurate reflection of how effective a campaign performs.

The same is true when testing different advertisement sizes, placement or color schemes. Be sure to leave campaigns in place for one week. Again, different days will often result in web traffïc fluctuations. Comparing web traffïc, week to week will give a clear indication of what ad formats perform the best.

6. Integrated Ad Placement
Many webmasters have been successful at integrating advertisements into a website. The easiest way to integrate an advertisement into a website is to remove the advertisement border. This will allow the ads to better blend with the webpage. Google recommends contrasting the link colors with the website colors to increase click-throughs. It is also suggested that webmasters randomize the color of the advertisements, so that frequent users will not naturally "filter" the ads.

Examples of integrated ad placement:
http://www.golf-clubhouse.net or
http://www.security-protection.net

7. Number vs Value of Advertisements
Place up to three advertisements on each page. Additional advertisements drop in value and dilute ad inventory so publishers should be cautious in adding more advertisement units. In other words you want to serve the most expensive ads at all times.

8. Hot Spots
Like web copy, above the fold holds true with AdSense as well. This means that advertisements that appear without having to scroll will be read more frequently. Hot Spots are areas on a web page that result in a higher percentage of click-throughs. According to Google the highest paying advertisements are located on the hot spots.

Hot Spots Map:
http://www.small-business-software.net/heat-map.htm

Google does not indicate if image advertisements or text ads perform better, so webmasters are encouraged to experiment with both.

9. Highest Performing Ad Sizes
According to Google the 336 x 280 rectangle, the 300 x250 rectangle and the 160 x 600 sky scraper result in the highest number of click-throughs. Depending on the website's design and layout, publishers may experience different results with different ad sizes, placements and color schemes. Expirement and track the results for each website to maximize the AdSense payout.


About The Author
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage a wireless text messaging software company.

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:10 am 0 comments links to this post