SEO vs. SEM: Budgeting Your Online Presence
It’s a discussion that comes up all the time and one that we can’t take lightly with over 80% of Internet users finding their destination through a search engine. As a Boca Raton, FL internet marketing team focused on driving quality traffic to local websites, we often get asked whether budgets are better used as an investment in organic SEO or SEM spend- paid search advertisements like PPC, sponsored clicks or remarketing.
SEO is an investment in over 200 different ranking factors that takes time and strategic initiative, but having a truly optimized website isn’t an option if you value digital visibility. Over three quarters of the organic click-throughs happen within the top 5 organic results and that number continues to climb, so being high on the first page of a search engine result clearly speaks to the value of your site’s content. Certain on-site factors like meta data, URL structure and on page content, are just as important to your site experience as they are to the search engines, so slacking on them means losing potential customers no matter how you look at it.
The clicks speak for themselves: for every 1 click on a paid ad, organic search results generate 8.5 clicks. While paid click-through rate is 1.5x the rate of organic results, the result can be attributed to the optimization of ads and landing pages geared towards click through. If done correctly, though, organic ranking pages can be optimized for conversion as well and the results of your investment last much longer.
Depending on your industry, the competitiveness of search, the value of a customer, and many other factors, search engine marketing can be worth the investment to extend your reach. Many organizations utilize paid search for new businesses, branding, and the promotion of special events because of the ability to be on page one in a predictable amount of time but, as the numbers show, the cost can be high: industry wide, for every $10 billion spent on SEM, only $1 billion is spent on organic ranking. Top, side and bottom ads vary in click through rate as well, so monitoring spend to make sure your investment returns in quality clicks and not just impressions is a full time job. (Let’s be honest, how much attention do you pay to the ads, knowing that someone paid to be there?)
The truth is, search engine optimization and search engine marketing are not mutually exclusive. Where you invest your dollars should depend on your business and what you’re trying to promote, but organic optimization isn’t something to let slack. Yes, SEO results are less of a predictable timetable. However, the compounding of a quality on-site user experience and authentic out reach translates into high search engine results page rank as well as establishes you as an authority in your industry. Search engine marketing is best used as a strategic piece of your digital presence, not an isolated investment.
The Value of Facebook Likes
If you’re managing a Facebook page for your business, it’s worth asking whether having a lot of likes is going to help you.
On one hand, Facebook has morphed into the yellow pages of our socialized 21st century and having a substantial amount of likes leaves an impression. Having a lot of likes portrays being established and appreciated by fans of your brand. It says to a viewer “Other people are interested in what this company has to say.” That’s pretty damn valuable.
But how many Facebook likes is too many?
Facebook’s business model throws a wrench in the strategy. The social network profits in the way it manages a user’s feed, forcing pages like yours to pay to reach more of their audience. More people are sharing more content, so that means getting more crafty for pages looking to reach fans in a content saturated world.
When first introduced, page managers were spoiled because getting a like meant that our posts showed up in the follower’s feed.
Facebook pulled some givesies takesies to manage all that content, though.
Did you know your optimized posts, without any engagement or paid promotion, only reach about 10% of your followers?
Yes, some of the more substantial brands perform better and have a higher organic reach, but for small to mid-size businesses, there’s a point where likes are the equivalent of prom court votes.
Some social media gurus preach “paid organic” as a solution to the limited broadcasting ability. If you’re working on growing your exposure, having a paid campaign can translate into building a substantial brand, but it isn’t a one size fits all strategy.
There’s a point where the popularity contest needs to stop. The point of building likes is to build opportunity. The opportunity to reach more and spark the interest of a wider audience.
At a certain point, there is a need to ask whether your page’s Facebook likes are true, engaged people interested and loyal to you or just filler to portray an image. The real question is, where does that point lay for you?
Don’t Drop the New Year’s Ball!
The ball is dropping in Times Square in just a few hours. It’s the time of year when you’re going to read about all kinds of reviews, summaries of 2013 trends and predictions for new year resolutions.
Time goes by with or without our latest self-improvement fads, but there’s something miraculous about the idea that we can launch our efforts onto a clean slate. When it comes to running your business, though, it’s especially important that we keep that ball rolling.
Have you adjusted your projections to reflect the new and changing trends in business growth? If ever there’s a time when we should pause and evaluate, it’s now. The surplus of reviews makes it easier to identify where to focus our energies as we inspect the scope (breadth, depth, effectiveness and trends) of our reach on the internet.
In the past year, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the way online marketing tools like social, PPC and SEO will connect and convert customers. It doesn’t take a lengthy article about 2014 projections to know that more changes are coming, so it’s important that us small business owners stay on top of the big concepts that are popping up all over the web.
Some of the things that we need to adapt our techniques to include:
Regardless of how savvy you are with your internet marketing, or how much you depend on a select few to be savvy for you, you need to inspect the concept of local search, the importance of location specifics, and how your online presence represents your local presence.
Whether you believe location is pertinent to your business or not, (say e-commerce only verses a utilities service provider) business can only be enhanced by an acknowledgment of the place you live and work.
2014 Resolution: Get involved in your community and talk about it online.
Social media and Google have long rewarded multimedia pages with infotainment, or entertaining information, because of the popularity of the experience. Online video has been on the “trend” radar for a couple years now, but there’s nothing trendy about this content. Not convinced? See the explosion of video in your newsfeeds, the video oriented social networks like Vine and the blossoming popularity of Google+ Hangouts.
2014 Resolution: Keep an eye on your social engagement, on page clicks and conversion for evidence and clues as to where to focus your energies. Introduce your marketing team to a video producer that meets your budget requirements. Get some content that compliments your goals published.
Twitter, Google News and CNN aren’t the only places you’re going to find news. Pinterest, the billion dollar virtual cork board, made a lot of big changes this year that, while only helping to bring it to par with the other superstars of the web, set a great example of the big changes that we should be making as individual publishers. The biggest of which: current event boards.
The passing of Nelson Mandela met an enormous eulogy on the web. Pinterest did what Pinterest does best and collected pins featuring his thought-provoking quotes, iconic smile and inspirational photos to pay remembrance.
2014 Resolution: Take the necessary steps to becoming an authority in your field. Set up an RSS feed from news publishers that follow content relevant to your audience and react accordingly. Write, respond, share and publish in ways that fit your business and your audience. Don’t be afraid to try different things!
Topics (vs. Keywords) and the Not Provided:
This year saw a momentous development in the idea of the keyword. Souring the taste of SEO for many professionals in the industry and beyond, many people felt as though Google’s introduction of secure search, or the inability to easily track keywords in Google Analytics, was the death of the keyword.
While seeing “not provided” as a query result in your Google Analytics does make it more challenging to evaluate how people are finding your site, it most certainly is not the death of SEO. If anything, it’s fuel to the online marketing fire. The switch in focus encourages business owners and their marketers to refocus on the content consumer, on the idea they want to express or sell, and the topic of a site. Semantic search, or the ability for search algorithms to deduce meaning from words, is growing rapidly so the importance behind a single phrase becomes only as important as what people do with it.
Don’t give up on keywords, but change the way you treat them. If you’re concerned with more than AdWords (duh), then keywords should transition to topics. Remember those pesky thesis statements? Each page of your site should have a clear focus. As far as tracking goes, there’s a whole slew of solutions, included the incorporation of Webmaster Tools into your Google analytics to reveal some search queries, but just be aware- words aren’t the only thing Google considers when the tool returns your site as a search result.
There’s so much more, but these big concepts are game changers. Keep them in mind and don’t be afraid to take risks with your content and your evaluation.
Cheers to getting creative and trying new things (like publishing a video about the new community event that you sponsored) in 2014! Happy New Year, friends!
The Changing World and Marketing
What type of marketing does my company need? Where will my dollars be most well spent? These are common questions or concerns that come up when deciding where to allocate the funds available in your marketing budget.
So what’s the difference between Social Media Marketing or Online Marketing or Digital Marketing? How about Internet Marketing? All of these terms, forms of marketing, can create a bit of confusion at times. They are commonly used interchangeably but actually do have different meanings.
The difference basically lies within the type of marketing techniques that are used to get your message across and in turn gain market share. For example, Internet marketing uses only the Internet which can be quite effective at reaching and engaging with potential customers. Internet Marketing includes website optimization, link building, PPC (Pay Per Click), PPV (Pay Per View) and Banner Advertising, but can also include organic and paid social media marketing. Digital Marketing, on the other hand, may reference Internet Marketing but also includes other media channels such as television, email marketing and digital billboards. This allows for a much wider reach, but of course requires additional strategies and resources, including a larger budget to support campaigns on some of these other, more expensive channels.
Social media marketing refers to social platform marketing specifically and has gained a lot of ground as the popularity of the sites grows. Platforms such as Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter are used to engage with a specific audience and gain authority within your industry. Social media has become a very popular area in the advertising market due to the success that can be achieved as publishers produce easily shareable content and engage directly with their customers.
As technology advances and the way that people communicate changes, our strategies to engage with them as brands with a message must adapt. In order to offer synchronized, multimedia experiences that meet the needs of these behavioral changes, we see a trend in Internet Marketing companies transitioning to Digital Marketing. The change allows for more synergy between campaigns, but just as the needs of businesses are different, their marketing goals vary. The message and effective reach will differ between types of businesses.
If you have questions about the kind of services and most effective means of marketing for your business goals, we’re always happy to help and offer free consultations. Get in touch! We love to help.
Taking a Break from the Quick and Dirty
Newsfeeds, RSS feeds, TV feeds. We’re constantly bombarded with content in various forms, all vying for our attention. It’s the time of information overload.
But you already know that, with your phone attached to your hip, your computer on your lap and your tablet under your arm. Content on the web, or available through the web, ends up taking priority over print. (The slow death of the printed newspaper being enough proof for any Sunday morning news junkie.)
As we scan our daily content IV and chat about whatever’s latest viral story, fewer and fewer people admit to even picking up a book, let alone reading one from cover to cover. We’re used to articles that relay a story or idea in as few words as possible- and we still skim a lot, bouncing around from our different interests, our personal circles and current events.
Who has time for a book anymore?
Well, if the turn out at the 2013 Miami Book Fair International is any indication, that would be hundreds of thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands of people still savor the page turning, plot climaxing accounts sandwiched between covers.
With evening readings and a weekend full of author-lined streets, people turned out by the thousands to talk with their favorite authors from around the world and other fans. A true corporeal network, the Miami Book Fair International celebrated it’s 30th year of bringing together readers and authors.
Webmaster Radio spent the last week promoting the week-long festival with author interviews, informative spots, and plenty of other feed-worthy info, in case you missed it.
We’re currently passing around Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol and David Amerland’s Google Semantic Search. What about you? Are you smack in the middle of a page turner?
What is SEO?
Even though search engine optimization has been around since the beginning of search engines, its meaning is constantly evolving as the way people use the tool changes and the way creators evolve the tools.
Recent updates, like Hummingbird, Panda and Penguin and the rest of the zoo have morphed the meaning almost completely away from what it was, so it’s time to revisit the concept.
The foundation of SEO is leveraging the way your website is built as well as its content to meet the standards of major search providers. The goal here is to show up on search engine results pages, or SERPs, when search users look for something relevant to your business. For most business models, this is a vital component of digital visibility or their marketing plan because search is one of the most used tools to find information on the web. Most people, before purchasing a product or service or determining the quality of a group they want to work with, stop by the web to find more information.
SEO has a history of “black hat” strategy, the gaming or manipulating of search provider algorithms with disingenuous methods, like paid links or micro sites. Search algorithms, or the calculations that filter search result pages, are updated regularly to be smarter than the sketchy, quick answer techniques that have been used in the past.
As semantics and the quality of your brand’s online presence are taken into consideration with the most recent updates, SEO has become harder to fake.
In simple terms, SEO is technical website optimization, content that lives on your site or relates to your brand & the data that shows their effectiveness.
SEO is a W3C compliant website.
SEO websites are user friendly, robust with descriptive and resourceful content, and adhere to coding best practices. That means that the coding language that your website is built on adheres to search provider guidelines, uses the latest coding language and makes it easy for search engines to understand what kind of content lives on your pages. Some of the many factors that make up website optimization include easy to read web addresses or URLs, titles, page load time, meta tags and structured content that articulate the page’s focused and specific concept, alt tags, and internal or outbound links.
SEO is great, high quality content.
Content includes copy, images, and videos that are curated, original, or sponsored. SEO content lives on your website, in directories, on blogs, on social media, and other websites. Content on your website should be updated often, easy to interact with or understand and focused on the people who will be visiting it. Each page on your site should be focused on a specific concept. Keywords are still relevant in that they represent the semantics of each page or post’s focused concept. There’s special content like ebooks or whitepapers that offer extensive information and could be leveraged for lead generation on your site. Off your site, content manifests in many different forms depending on the purpose or intent of the message. There are controlled publishing platforms like blogs or article hubs like Squidoo, and there are places to share content, like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
True SEO content engages with your target and promotes interaction and sharing by content consumers. One of the many reasons quality trumps quantity when it comes to content and SEO strategy, is because quality content leads to the organic spread of your brand through links, shares, posts, and comments. These factors that represent users engaging with the content, are also factors that the search providers take into consideration when determining where a website should show up on a SERP.
SEO is leveraging data.
The third facet to search engine optimization are the results of your efforts, visible with the data that accumulates as people visit and interact with your site and content. Search providers look at things like how people get to your site, whether they’re able to find the content they were looking for, how they interact with it while they’re there and whether they convert. Tools like Google Analytics give insight to this type of information and offer webmasters and search marketers the ability to react and improve to a site’s effectiveness.
It’s that third facet that makes it so vital that whomever is managing your SEO is not only knowledgeable of your business goals and SEO best practices, but is also committed to creating strategy founded on data. Data is where the real leverage of creating an effective SEO campaign comes in.
The Importance of Content Marketing
What is Content Marketing?
Marketing your services with audio, video or words would fall into the category of Content Marketing. Although the term “Content Marketing” may be new to you, this is by no means a new concept. How will you gain the exposure needed to succeed on the web? Joust Consulting offers different types of services including but not limited to the following:
In an ever changing search engine environment, content marketing can replace a large percentage of your target market. This will in turn save you money. Large companies have adjusted their marketing budget to incorporate such a strategy, we suggest that you do the same.
Joust Consulting believes that an intelligent content marketing strategy will create a large return for small businesses. We will work with you independent of the size of your marketing budget because we know how effective focusing on such an initiative can be. Call us for a free consultation.
Like everything else, benefiting from content marketing will take a bit of time depending on your website and industry.
The beginner’s blogging guide.
To put a contemporary spin on the old saying, the best time to start a writing blog was 10 years ago. The second best time is today.
Old fashioned quality content is how we build relationships with our audience and having your own publishing platform is an invaluable channel to maintain that relationship. With the release of Hummingbird, the window of time to be anything other than invested and inspiring in your content has closed.
Don’t be intimidated by the robust libraries of your competitors. Be motivated by it.
Each author brings their own unique perspective to the table. No one has experienced life the way you have, so when you communicate your world views or your interests in your vocabulary, it’s unique unto you and could speak to a whole new audience.
Not sure where to start? We found some inspiration in our launch to put together a blogging guide that might help your project take off in the right direction.
- Start strong by schooling yourself on some best practices. Engaging headlines. Word counts. Vocabulary levels. Images.They’re constantly changing, influenced by your industry or interest community as well as the big players, like Google, Bing, WordPress and Schema.org. Don’t underestimate the importance of those big guys. They’ll play a huge role in how people uncover your content and how “valuable” your posts are, but figure out how to use them to project your content.
- Figure out who your audience is. Sometimes, it’s your customers, potential or existing; sometimes it’s members of your local community and sometimes it’s an interest community. Identify it. Figure out what they’re interested in, where they’re already communicating on the web, and how they find each other.
- Dive in head first. Find other people who are already discussing what you want to talk about and become part of their conversation. Read their stuff. Comment. Add them on Google+, Twitter, Facebook.
- Stay relevant and informed. Staying relevant and offering fresh content is important to keeping the interest of your audience. Set up a reader like Feedly and enter in news or forum feeds that will keep you up to date on all the right stuff.
- Keep an idea journal. How many times have you been on the cusp of falling asleep when the solution to world hunger pops into your head and you say “I’ll get back to it tomorrow”? Welcome a physical notebook, a note app, a voice recorder into your inner circle of awesome and keep track of those brilliant ideas.
- Write. Just do it.
- Repeat. You’re on the crazy train now, my friends! Keep it going.
There are a lot of people out there that tout the best way to do any one of these things and get into specific blogging guides. Some people specialize in targeting, some in writing and revising or SEO optimizing, some in topic research, but whoever manages your blog should be a master in all of them with a special understanding of your industry.
So, how about it? Are you publishing content? Who helps you or inspires you?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a widely offered service by many “SEO Experts”. There are many talented individuals out there that will provide you with top notch service and If you happen to come across one, take them on. The tough part is figuring out who’s for real and who’s not. Be aware of unrealistic promises. Do your research; know what you’re getting yourself into. The changes that have taken place in the search engine world over the last couple of years have been significant. It’s nearly impossible for the average business owner to stay on top of this stuff. They shouldn’t have to. Business owners need to concentrate of selling their product or service. Let those that specializes in SEO worry about SEO and create a strategy that will give your company more visibility on the web.
SEO is most of the time a tedious process and very involved. The process required to achieve great results requires effort. When done properly, search engine optimization requires a careful, strategic approach. The link building strategies that worked in the past will actually do more harm than good these days. I’ve seen sites that, within a matter of 24hrs experienced a 60% drop in there organic web traffic for taking these types of short cuts. A 60% in traffic could result in tremendous loss in revenue.
The following are some tips to keep in mind when shopping around for an online marketing company:
Tip-1: Conduct your own research. Check reviews. Be sure of what you’re getting yourself into. Cleanup will be tougher than starting off right.
Tip-2: Where do they rank on Google? If all you find are paid listings, it’s probably not worth it. They need to be able to optimize their own website in order to have the capability of ranking yours.
Tip-3: If you’re told that it’s going to take 6-12 months to see results, there’s usually something wrong. That of course depends on your site history. Some improvement should be noticed after about 30 days or so. After 45 days, real resultis should be noticed. If your website was just launched it could take a bit longer.
Tip 4: SEO companies that need PPC in order to move forward with your organic strategy should be questioned. PPC is usually used as part of a marketing strategy but should not be a necessity if optimization is done correctly.
Tip-5: Insist on a free SEO evaluation before signing the check. The evaluation will determine how in tune the company is with your goals.
Online marketing in a (not provided) world.
The history of search has long been intertwined with and fueled by the concept of keywords. Considered the magic link between a website and its traffic, webmasters, search engine optimizers and content writers eat, breathe and sleep the idea that the right placement of the right search words will translate into new leads and more customers. Over the years, we’ve rode Google’s roller coaster of search rank attributes, adjusting how we use these magic words to bring people to our virtual store front, but the ride has come to a bumpy, twirling, swirling halt.
In the most recent improvement to the ride, Google has announced that it’s removing keyword traffic data from its Google Analytics tool, the most common data tool in the world of online optimization. What can we do now? Now that our idea of search is dangling without it’s sturdy hitch?
Well, my friends, there are three answers: creative data, paid search and good ol’ white hat SEO.
1. Data crunching: Getting Creative with Data 201.
Believe it or not, keyword data was not the first data to be crunched in the world of marketing, and data crunching extends far beyond organic keyword traffic metrics.
For starters, do you know who you’re targeting?
Do you know what kind of content your customers will take 10 minutes out of their day to view? Where they go to get that content when they’re on or off the web? Do you know when your customers are browsing the web? What kind of purchases they have made? How many times they visited or researched a purchase before making it? Where and how they research a product or service before they buy?
Google is shaping the search clean-up, removing the ability to “game” the system. Don’t fret. Teams of brilliant analysts and programmers haven’t been twiddling their thumbs as advertising dollars have shifted from traditional marketing to digital.
There’s no shortage of tools out there to help us identify who the existing/potential customer is and the best ways to reach them. Webmasters and business owners are realizing how relevant and important data and understanding the audience are to online marketing. (Is your marketing department on the bandwagon?)
2. Paid keywords: paid ad metrics are still showing what converts and what doesn’t.
Google Ads and PPC campaigns continue to give insight into which keywords drive traffic to a site. They also still hold some sexy real estate on a search engine results page. They’re above the fold, even when Google returns a knowledge carousel and graph. They’re still responsive to keyword searches and they still convey messages about targeting.
However, this safety net is only temporary. Let me elaborate.
Hummingbird, like Dave mentions, is Google’s most drastic search upgrade in a while. It gears results to accommodate more semantic queries. In other words, the stuff that gets typed into Google now is more often “What is semantic search?” then it is “semantic search.” Google needs to understand the concepts related to a web page, not just the isolated words, to keep up with what its users are looking for.
Just remember, if Google is adjusting organic search to deliver the most relevant results, regular paid campaigns on the platform won’t remain as relevant. Ultimately, it becomes more and more important that paid search marketing is used as a tool to follow up on search traffic and help move visitors down the sales funnel.
Which brings me to my final point…
3. Wave the white hat for the win.
What all of this translates into is that, whether digital or traditional, the foundation of marketing is still the same: understanding what will be meaningful to your audience/niche/customer is the most important part of marketing.
Relevancy is vital, regardless of the channel or methods of execution and evaluation.
To Google’s spam team, if webmasters focus on creating pages relevant to our audiences, then search will do it’s job naturally. We won’t have to target through search. After all, search isn’t the only way that our customers find us. Sure, it’s a huge opportunity for discovery, but establishing a presence in the network of websites and social communities will generate meaningful traffic. (It’s no wonder the correlation between these things and our SERP ranking.) The more we invest in creating focused, quality content, the less relevant a keyword becomes.
Other than being frustrated by the forced re-direction, how are your marketing plans changing? What kind of data are you looking for to gain insight into the relevancy or effectiveness of your digital marketing?
If you’re not sure where to look, get in touch with us.