Search marketing, search engine optimisation, pay per click advertising. It can all seem a little overwhelming. But it really needn’t. No longer are all these fields the domain of tech-geeks and IT wizards. More and more, they really are becoming part of mainstream marketing. And, once you know the basics, all these concepts are very easy to get your head around.
What is Search Marketing?
Search marketing is a type of online marketing. It covers all efforts to gain traffic and visibility from the search engines (like Google) through both organic (search engine optimisation or SEO) and paid (search engine marketing or SEM) efforts.
Search marketing is all about ensuring that, when Internet users type your targeted search term into Google, your website ranks as high as humanly possible.
Tips for Successful Search Engine Optimisation
Contrary to popular belief, here at Marketing.com.au, we believe that search engine optimisation (or SEO) is something everyone can do. It’s not witchcraft or dark arts. There’s no secret handshake or initiation ceremony. SEO is simply another aspect of marketing. While we don’t expect that everyone will be able to become an expert, we do believe that everyone can get a handle on the basics.
The goal of SEO is not to game, or cheat, the search engines. Rather, it is to create an enjoyable, seamless user experience and to communicate to the search engines that your website is relevant, and includes high-quality material, related to specific subjects.
Like the rest of us, search engines (whether its Google or Yahoo or Bing) just want to do their job as best they can. The job of a search engine is to refer users to high-quality websites with the most relevant content. So, let’s take at look at the factors that the search engines examine in determining whether a site is high-quality.
SEO Factor #1: Content
The search engines are on the hunt for high-quality, well-written content. Content with clear, specific headings and titles. Content that hasn’t been duplicated from elsewhere on the web. Content that makes sense. Content that is updated, or added to (like through blog articles) regularly.
What to do: Are you awake? This is our biggest tip when it comes to SEO. If you do nothing else, and take nothing else away from this article, just remember this: make sure you have clear, specific page titles and headings. Every page must have a h1 (but no more than one h1). Your h1 should contain the keyword(s) for which you are trying to rank. Every page should also include h2s, that reference your keywords. If you do no other SEO than audit your page headings, then our work here is done!
SEO Factor #2: Performance
Google is not going to send its users to a poor-performing website. If your website is painfully slow to load, or times out, you are in hot water. Users are no longer willing to wait around. They will bounce. Google does not like websites with high bounce-rates. The longer your website takes to load, the further down the search results your site will be pushed.
What to do: If you have one, speak to your web developer. Find out what it is that is slowing down your site. If it’s a rotating, flaming logo on the homepage, remove it. Compress all the images on your site to as small a file size as possible. Remove extraneous files and pages and graphics and animations. Good developers love to build fast websites, so make sure you’ve got a good developer!
SEO Factor #3: User Experience
This factor is a little broader. It encompasses all aspects of what makes your website a pleasure (or a pain) to visit. It includes things like the look and feel of website. Does your website look safe? Or is the homepage covered in spammy-looking links and thousands of advertisements? This factor includes the navigation of your website: is it easy-to-use, is it intuitive? A word of advice here, even though you think it might be cute or trendy, don’t use vague or abstract main menu titles. Don’t use ‘Ping Me’ instead of ‘Contact Us’. Don’t use ‘The Deets’ when you really mean ‘About Us’. Go with convention wherever possible.
What do to: When you (or your web developer) are building your website, think about it from the perspective of your users. What is going to make their lives easier? What conventions or navigation or design is going to best help guide their journey through the pages of your website? Once you have that sussed, implement it.
SEO Factor #4: Authority
Are you, or your website, an authority on any given topic? Are other high-quality websites linking back to the content on your website? Have you published content or data or information that isn’t available anywhere else? Do you have authoritative bloggers writing for you? All these elements help build the authority of your website, and therefore your ranking within a Google search.
What to do: Focus on improving the authority and the quality of the content on your website (this is also obvious closely intertwined with SEO Factor #1: Content). Great ways to do this include conducting your own surveys (use Survey Monkey – it’s free, easy to use and provides detailed reports) and reporting on the data, interviewing thought-leaders within your particular niche, writing white papers, and publishing ebooks.
A couple of quick tips on what the search engines are not looking for (apart from the antithesis of all the factors that we have covered above):
- Keyword stuffing: do not cram as many instances of your chosen keyword into your web content as possible. With the ‘Hummingbird’ update changes, Google is much more intuitive. It can draw conclusions from the context of the content on your page. You no longer need to have exact text matches to rank for a particular keyword or phrase.
- Purchased or spammy links: with all SEO tactics, you should be thinking long-term. While purchased and spammy links might provide a quick rankings boost, long-term you will suffer penalties. Don’t purchase links and don’t exchange links with spammy sites.
Tips for Successful Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) is focused mainly on per pay click (PPC) advertising. In this model, website owners pay the search engines when users click on their ads and arrive at their website. Pay per click ads appear above, and to the right-hand side, of organic search results on a search engine results page.
Website owners are able to pick and choose which keywords and keyword phrases they want to trigger their ads. Then, they select the maximum price they are willing to pay to have an Internet user click their ad. Generally speaking, there will be a whole raft of companies bidding on the same keyword, making this form of online advertising quite competitive.
SEM Tip #1: Do Some Keyword Research
Make sure that your PPC campaign is backed by a solid foundation of keyword research. Use Google’s free online Keyword Planner. Ideally, you want to opt for keywords with high traffic and low competition. Then, create landing pages on your website that target each of these keywords. Ensure that your PPC adverts send users directly to the relevant page.
SEM Tip #2: Keep an Eye on Your Competition
Before launching any SEM campaign, enter your top five or ten keywords or keyword phrases into Google. Take a look at the websites that are ranking highly. These are your competition. Know whom it is that you are up against. How are they using keywords? What do their PPC adverts look like?
SEM Tip #3: Be Willing to Test Out Different Ad Copy
Your first PPC advertising campaign might be a bust. So might your second campaign. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to success. So, you might need to test the waters on your first couple of campaigns. Use them to work out what works best for your product, for your brand, for your target market. Just be sure to set a cap on your campaign budget. You don’t want to end up with a huge bill overnight.
SEM Tip #4: Track Conversions and Return on Investment
As with any type of marketing campaign, it is vital to measure the success of your PPC campaign. Google has free conversion tracking features for your website – it’s some basic scripting that you add so you know that a visitor has purchased a product, or signed up to your newsletter. Use conversion tracking. Similarly, if you aren’t getting the ROI you need, change things up. Be smart. Change your bids. Focus on other keywords.
At this conference both online marketers, SEO & PPC gurus can grow and learn from each other and global search engine marketing experts. Whether you’re new to the world of search marketing or deep into implementation, tactics and campaigns this is one conference you don’t want to miss that will help you boost your search marketing results and skills.
Writing compelling online copy is a tough job. Not only do you have to create effective copy for an easily distracted audience (that has an enormous amount of information at their fingertips), you also have to please the Google Gods. So, in order to achieve this, you have to craft compelling copy, copy that is engaging enough to make the browser sit up, pay attention, and keep reading.
When writing online copy you have to remember that you’re always writing for two audiences – the potential reader and Google. Ignore SEO best practice and your copy will be relegated to the back pages of Google, meaning all your hard work has basically come to nothing. Online copy is only compelling if it compels Google to put it on the first page. SEO is an in-depth topic in its own right and it is well worth the effort to take a course, or pick up a book on the ins and outs of SEO. We’d also recommend checking out this recent article on Marketing.com.au which summarised Rand Fishkin’s presentation on SEO at Problogger last year.
Creating a headline that grabs attention is perhaps the most important skill a copywriter can have. It’s not easy to grab the attention of an online reader. They are easily distracted and always on the hunt for the next page, the next article, the next product. This is what makes the headline so important. There’s no point in spending hours crafting and honing perfect prose for your copy if your headline isn’t good enough to make someone read your article or page. Your headline is your first, and usually only, chance to be recognised, so spend some time on it.
Write to your audience. The online reader is impatient, they want you to get to the point and get to it quickly. Online copy is not the place for flowery prose. Compelling online copy is about short, sharp, punchy sentences. Every sentence should contribute to the overall aim of the copy. One tedious, unnecessary sentence is all it takes for a reader to lose interest and move on.
In the online world the image always wins. It doesn’t matter how good your copy is, or how interesting every sentence is, you still need imagery to hold interest. If an image can demonstrate what you’re trying to write, use it. Combining imagery with compelling text heightens your chance of being remembered. If the copy didn’t work, the image might.
Call to Action
Every piece of copy should be designed to elicit a specific reaction in the reader; your copy is only successful if the reader acts out the desired action. Understanding the psychology of the online reader is key in making this happen. The online reader is impatient, easily distracted, lazy and easily led. The online reader likes to be told what to do and how to do it. Don’t be afraid to marry your words with action. End the copy with a call to buy the product, try the service or call the number and make it easy to do so. Have a hyperlink direct them to the purchasing page, make your page mobile-friendly so they can automatically call by clicking on the number. The lazy online reader loves all these things, so give them what they want.
Psychology and advertising have always been inextricably linked. You have to know who you’re selling to, and when it comes to copy you have to know who you’re writing for. Writing online copy is a mammoth task, but, if you get it right all the things that make it difficult become advantages. Yes, the reader is easily distracted but once you’ve got their attention they’re easy to sell to. Yes, there is a mountain of information to compete with but once you have the skills you can ensure your copy stands on top, where it’s easy for the lazy browser to find you.
For some further reading, make sure you check out this recent Marketing.com.au article on The Content Marketing Matrix and How to Satisfy Your Readers Needs (as well as SEO Considerations).
At this month’s meetup, Brad Forster from News Corp Australia will discuss how News Corp Australia optimizes their Content Marketing assets for news portals like News.com.au.
Also, a presentation from James Norquay who is the Director at Prosperity Media that works with well known startups & ASX listed companies to expand SEO and Content Marketing efforts in the Australian market.
Brian Ritchie who is a Growth Hacker at Ex-GoCatch (a taxi booking app) will be talking about advanced growth hacking strategies for mobile apps and also the fierce fight against the market dominating Uber by a local, home grown competitor. Brian will share his secrets and tactics that insure continued growth of GoCatch’s user base and also repeat usage of the taxi booking app.
Obviously, when you first start blogging, you quickly come to realise that your business niche is constrained and you need readers. So, your content should center on the areas in which your readers are interested. Your content should help your readers, provide valuable information, give them an engaging read or simply market a good idea to them. The end result is twofold: it focuses on the reader’s needs, and also targets your specific business niche.
Enter SEO. This is where things become really interesting.
Once you have to take SEO into consideration, where does your content criterion fit? How do you write content that is focused on your readers needs, targets your specific business niche, and incorporates SEO considerations?
Some experts have devised a solution to this problem: metrics and divisions. Some experts have discussed the idea of dividing content according to what the writer is trying to achieve; others divide it based on reader or visitor needs.
This infographic should shed more light on the kinds of divisions to which I am referring:
For the purposes of this post, I will focus on reader needs, because I believe these are more important to address.
Educating Your Readers
This is the most basic, and often the most difficult, type of content to publish these days—not because of the nature of your readers—but because writers and marketers often end up misunderstanding the dynamics of content. Educating, informing or delivering helpful information to readers, whilst remaining in line with marketing objectives, is not easy by any stretch of imagination.
Informing readers involves one thing and one thing only: analysis. Whatever your topic might be, ensure that you guide your reader through your content bit-by-bit, explaining any aspects that may need further information. For example, if you decide to write about ‘Why Link Building via Blogging is Changing’, then you need to explain the elements of good link building, as well as why blogging alone is not enough anymore. The whole idea of informing a reader is to help them understand the topic about which you write. And, if someone understands what your content is all about, then they are much more likely to look upon it favorable, and take your expert advice onboard.
Inspiring Your Readers
Now, this objective is somewhat different. When it comes to inspiring your readers, your content needs to be a bit more promotional, and a bit less educational, in nature. Although, you still have to inform. You want to focus on eliciting a reaction out of your reader that makes them more favourable towards your subject, rather than just simply being aware of it. This is where design centered posts and infographics come into play. Like an emotively lifting piece of music, a graphic piece connects the reader to your brand.
Entertaining Your Readers
The third major kind of content that you should know about is that which entertains. This niche is most useful for visual arts and media related businesses. Purposes aside, media content has to engage your readers and draw them into what you are doing and saying. Hence, your content may go a little way off the usual course. You can be a little more symbolic, you can use metaphors, and visual aids, and be more creative. Different niche; different strategy. Ultimately, as long as your readers interacts with your content, you have achieved your aims.
Your market will never remain static. Moreover, you will have to dig deeper into your market categories to really determine what kind of content you need: educational, inspirational, or entertaining. Keep in mind though, content writing is too open and limitless to remain ingrained within set definitions. How well you market and share your content ends up depending a lot upon the kind of ingenuity and uniqueness with which you go about approaching your readers. Think outside the box after looking at it and you will be rewarded.
Learn how to measure and improve your online channels with Google certified experts from Loves Data.
Whether you’re new to online marketing and measurement, studying to take your individual qualification exams, in need of a refresher or wanting to boost your skills, these classroom-style courses will help take your knowledge to the next level. Loves Data provides comprehensive education programs which cover the latest features, present real world solutions and are Google approved.
Why should I attend?
- You will learn essential skills and techniques in a small classroom setting. Get answers to your questions from Google certified experts and network with peers during breaks.
- Google selects Loves Data to train their clients – so should you!
- Accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive product training
- Real world solutions presented by Google certified experts
- Learn Google’s own best practices from setup to advanced features
This event runs over two days. Participants can choose to attend both, or just the one.
Anyone reasonably familiar with social media and other internet forums would already know that keyword optimisation is an essential ingredient in the online marketing mix. Whether it’s for a business website or your LinkedIn profile, using keywords that align with what others are looking for (aka search engine optimisation*) is known to increase your chances of being ‘found’.
Avoid Keyword ‘Overuse Abuse’
The use of keywords needs to be strategically thought out in most online marketing content. Their overuse can interrupt the flow of your writing. They could also distract readers from the marketing messages you’re trying to send them. The aim is to attract potential customers and followers through keyword usage, and to then inform and connect with them via the written content.
Involve Target Audience Needs
Really think about your potential audience’s needs when assessing what keywords are best for your online marketing content. What are the services you’re offering that will address their requirements, and how do these tie in with the wording they’re likely to type in during online searches. Although keep in mind that there’s no point using keywords that don’t properly connect with your online marketing content. Such keyword misuse will most likely disrupt the ‘search and take action cycle’.
Keep Monitoring Your Keywords
Coming up with keywords shouldn’t be a one-off procedure for organic online marketing content, such as your website. To ensure your keyword usage is reeling in as many online bites as possible, it’s worth conducting keyword analysis on a routine basis. Your keyword database should continually shift and grow based on regular assessment of what words draw in traffic and what needs to be changed.
Keyword Usage Specifics
With all of the above in mind, below are some key pointers for anyone who’s about to traverse this online marketing territory where keywords are ‘king’:
Selecting relevant keywords
- It’s really worth spending time considering what keywords your ideal customers, recruiters and out-of-water surfers are using in their online or computerised searches.
- For instance, review applicable job ads on SEEK or career profiles on LinkedIn to make a note of well-used, applicable keywords, and scatter these across your LinkedIn profile.
- Google also has an abundance of SEO information that is likely to increase the online traffic veering towards your website.
Writing with keywords
- Repeat your keywords as often as you can across your marketing content, including headings and URL addresses.
- In your website content, it’s probably best to dedicate one main keyword to each page, particularly if each one relates to a different product or service.
- Just be sure to avoid overuse abuse of your keywords, which is highly likely to draw in yawns and reader shutdown rather than online engagement.
- Write with a purpose, always considering how you can help those you want to attract; and weave your keywords into a writing style that creates interest.
Differentiating with keywords
- With so much online competition making it hard to stand out from the rest, upping the ante to include two- or three-word search strings could be the answer.
- For instance, as an editor I’m likely to be competing with thousands of other online editors if I’m only using this as my keyword. However, if I choose to pepper my piece with longer search strings like ‘research paper editor’ or ‘student thesis editor’, I’m more likely to rise to the top of some of the more specific online searches.
Keywords on websites
- On your website, ensure at least one of your relevant keywords is included in the main title of each page. The page title is what’s shown on the browser tab and in search results, and therefore has a direct impact on click-through rates and search rankings.
- Also try to use your chosen keywords in subheadings and image captions across your pages, as well as in the URLs if they correctly define the page content.
Keywords on LinkedIn
- In your LinkedIn profile, check out your competitors to help you select 5-7 industry relevant keywords.
- Then try to use your chosen keywords as much as you can across the sections, including sprinkling them throughout your main summary, your employment history, as well as your skills and expertise.
- The more you use these keywords across your profile, the higher your search rankings will be for recruiters, networkers and potential customers.
Strategic, well-researched keyword usage in most forms of online marketing content will likely increase your business and/or career opportunities. Whether it’s selling yourself as an individual or as an organisation, your marketing communications will have a greater chance of reaching potential customers and followers. Just be sure to stay focused on addressing your target audience’s needs within your written content, and not to bombard them with too many keywords. Use them wisely and have fun experimenting with your keyword analysis.
*“Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s ‘natural’ or unpaid (organic) search results.” (Wikipedia)
About the Author
Jeanette Walton is the founder of Walton’s Words. Walton’s Words provides freelance writing and editing across a wide spectrum of genres, industries and document types. From thoroughly editing book manuscripts and corporate reports to collaboratively writing career-selling resumes and business-selling marketing content, concise and effective communications are guaranteed (including keyword optimisation). Described as “having a sixth sense for weaving all the information together”, Walton’s Words thrives on producing communications that impact and engage with the target audience.
According to QuickSprout, there are more than 500 million registered Google+ users worldwide. Of these users, 63% are male (and the remaining 37% female). Approximately 48% of Fortune 100 companies use Google+, and 40% of people that work in the marketing industry are using Google+. Clearly, Google+ is a huge, and ever-growing, social media platform. It is intrinsically linked to SEO and is currently ranked as the second largest social media network.
However, with Google announcing its decision to stop showing authorship in search results at the end of August 2014, effective use of Google+ has changed somewhat. The focus is no longer so much on increasing authorship recognition. There is still real value to be gained from Google+ though. And, by taking note of our tips for using Google+ effectively, you really can leverage this social media platform to help grow your business or your profile.
Before we go any further, it is worth noting that search users are still able to see Google+ posts from friends and pages they follow when they are relevant to their search query — both in the main results, and on the right-hand side of a Google search page. The authorship change announced at the end of August did not affect this.
1. Be Smart When it Comes to Targeting
Be honest. When you share an update on Google+, do you simply select the ‘Public’ option? Are you under the misguided preconception that by selecting ‘Public’ you will gain the largest possible audience? It’s ok to admit it. I thought that was the case when I first started using Google+.
The thing is, you don’t get a lot of traction from just posting ‘public’, unless you already have a lot of followers. But, I have discovered that there is a much more effective way to get widespread exposure for your updates. It is revolves around Circles. You need to have your Circles set up as effectively as possible, and review your Circle setting regularly based on user data. That way, you can share updates with specific Circles, and even targeted to specific individuals. Just don’t take targeted sharing too far; abuse of this Google+ feature can quickly convert you into a spammer, and see friends and followers abandon you in droves.
2. Nail Down Your Circles and Communities
The difference between Circles and Communities can be confusing. I was confused to begin with. But, once you come to understand the two, they can both be invaluable when it comes to building an audience for your brand. The difference between the two is:
- Circles: are really more like a curated list, kind of like your own personal guest list for Google+. You get to decide who gets added, and whom the bouncer turns away at the door.
- Communities: these are much more similar to the traditional social media groups that you are used to seeing on Facebook or LinkedIn. You might start a community, focused on a particular niche topic, and then other Google+ users can join and contribute as they see fit.
Once you have created your own Circles and Communities, you can distribute updates directly to either of them. So, you might decide to share a post with either an individual user, an industry-specific community, or a targeted Circle of potential customers as curated by you. You can even opt to send an email from you to your Circles, notifying members that you have shared an update. A warning on this feature though: you can quickly become seen as a spammer if you use it too often.
3. Format to Get Attention
Unlike some of the other social media platforms, Google+ allows you to include a range of formatting in posts. Formatting long blocks of text makes your Google+ posts easier, and much more interesting, to read. To add formatting to a post, you just need to use basic Markup language. For example:
- _ Italic_
4. Hashtag It
If you’re a regular Twitter user, then chances are, you’re used to the whole concept of hashtags. The thing is though, Google+ uses hashtags quite differently to Twitter. Google+ hashtags are used semantically by Google to analyse, organise and recommend content. For instance, if I search for #socialmedia, I am not greeted with every update that includes the same hashtag. Rather, I am greeted with a list of similar, associated topics:
Using this list, I can drill down deeper, and click on any of the associated hashtags, to reveal an even more detailed list of associated topics. In this example, I clicked on the top result, #SocialMediaMarketing, and was greeted with the following list and all relevant posts:
Google will add a hashtags automatically to a post that has sufficient text for the search engine to glean what it is you’re writing about. As such, I suggest that you add your own relevant hashtags at the end (or even within the body) of each of your posts. That way, you can be sure that your post is being tagged with the most relevant topic.
5. Don’t be Afraid of Longer Posts
Google+ is the one social media platform where you won’t be penalised for lengthy posts. So, instead of just including a link to your blog post, with a one sentence introduction or headline, opt for something a bit longer. Explain to your followers why they should click through, why your post is worth a read. Give them some context around the issue. You might even find that your post will get more shares, and more click-throughs. Here’s a couple of recent examples from Google+ expert, Copyblogger:
6. Don’t Forget to Use (and Optimise) Images
You’ll always get more return on investment for Google+ posts that include images. Google+ will automatically try to pull in the image associated with any URL that you include in an update. Oftentimes, these images do not have the most effective meta tags, or they are incorrectly sized. Instead, to use Google+ as effectively as possible, try uploading your own image; just don’t forget to link your image to a specific, quality URL.
7. Remember that it’s a Social Media Platform
So, why not leverage the social aspect as much as possible? You can embed Google’s comments on your blog page. This handy little feature can be quite powerful. Users can opt to share your blog with their Google+ followers when they leave a comment. Although, keep in mind that this feature does require close monitoring and, if you happen to receive any negative feedback, you will have to be willing to take this on the chin, and respond accordingly. If you are running a WordPress or Drupal website, then you will need to research some appropriate plugins to enable commenting.
8. Post the Right Content at the Right Time
According to QuickSprout, the best time to post on Google+ is on Friday between 11am and 2pm. The second best time is also on Friday between 7pm and 10pm. So, make sure that you post at least a couple of updates at these times each week. In addition, it is a good idea to consider the type of content that you are sharing. Here are some interesting facts when it comes to content engagement on Google+:
- Animated GIFs: receive 39% more +1s than any other content
- Videos: receive 28% more +1s than any other content (other than GIFs)
- Questions: receive 188% more comments than any other type of content
When it comes to posting content, it is also a good idea to be consistent. Try, as much as possible, to post regularly, to post the same amount of content at the same time, on the same days each week. This sets expectations for your followers. They know what sort of content to expect, and when.
9. Link Your Google+ Page with Your YouTube Channel
Just about every product offered by Google integrates with Google+. YouTube is one of them. So, make sure that you integrate your Google+ page with your YouTube channel. This will make it super easy for your followers to move seamlessly between the two. In addition, you will be able to access all of your YouTube analytics from your Google+ dashboard. The analytics are not as in-depth as those you can access through YouTube itself, but they can be handy when all you need is a quick snapshot.
10. Tag People
Wherever possible, tag the people responsible for creating or originally sharing the content. This technique offers great benefits. It ensures that the person involved sees your Google+ post. This will often lead to them interacting with you. They might like your update (activity which can be viewed by anyone online, adding authority to your profile if it is an industry expert). And next time you post original work, they might be more inclined to share and like that. Tagging people can be a great way to get noticed. And, it’s super simple to do. Just type in the + sign, and then the name of the person or company you wish to tag. If you’re already following them, they should appear automatically.
The Melbourne SEO meetup was founded in 2011 and is a great way to meet up with other like minded individuals in the industry, in a relaxed and informal session on digital and web marketing. The group share tips and advice on becoming a better web marketer or developer (whether you’re a sole trader or part of large agency).
It’s also about asking those tough questions and getting group consensus on what is the possible implications or complications on a particular method or technique. The group meet on the second Wednesday of the month, it’s free to join.