Advanced Keyword Research Techniques to Boost On-Page SEO and SEM

September 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Search Engine Strategies

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Search Engine Marketing Gap

Search Engine Marketing Gap (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Before examining some advanced keyword research and analysis techniques, it is worth examining what keyword research is actually for.

In essence, the vast majority of time spent doing keyword research is used to try and second-guess what search users will enter into a search engine in order to find content that they need.

Different words in searches reveal different intentions and often reveal what the searcher intends to do with the information – consume it, use it to inform a buying decision, or make a purchase.

Now, depending on the goal of the target site, the SEO may be targeting high traffic flow (i.e. raising awareness for a campaign or charity) or traffic that has a high chance of converting to hard sales.

In both cases, the SEO professional is often trying to swim uphill against a tide of content that has been optimized at least as well as their own, as well as fighting algorithm changes that are designed to make the results more relevant to each search user.

The result is a three-way balancing act of traffic volume, the cost of acquiring that volume, and the proportion of buyers to browsers. There are three techniques that will help to redress the balance a bit:

keyword fishing – for finding new and emerging keyword trends
keyword mining – for examining visitor behavior against keyword trends
combining fishing and mining – a ‘bait and create’ SEM method

Let’s briefly look at each of these in turn.

Keyword Fishing

This technique is deceptively simple. A URL is selected for analysis, and copied into a tool such as the Google Keyword Planner. From here, a list of keywords is generated that are all relevant to the page being examined.

The clever bit is in choosing the right URL. The key here is that social URLs (Twitter and Facebook aggregators) and sites that curate consumer created content (Amazon, eBay, newspaper sites, etc.) as well as online forums often provide better URLs than one’s own site for this purpose.

Keyword Mining

Mining keywords requires knowledge of the filtering and ordering capabilities of the chosen keyword analysis tool, as well as a traffic analysis tool that can reveal what search terms led the consumer to the page in question.

The trick is to use the keyword analysis capabilities of Google Analytics (or the equivalent) in conjunction with the research tool to mine for the diamonds that are long tail keywords.

‘Bait and Create’ SEM

Combining the ideas of fishing and mining, it is also possible to use a high profile, high organic traffic site (such as Squidoo, HubPages or Blogger) to create content optimized around high traffic keywords that are a result of fishing, and then use mining to create a pool of long tail keywords that can be used to create content on the main site.

If these techniques are used to create genuinely useful, quality, relevant content, they will provide a safe hedge against search engine algorithm changes, whilst remaining current.

There are some pitfalls to avoid:

self-referential data – feeding into the keyword research with your own data can be misleading;
overzealous filtering – a tendency to go for high volume over high quality traffic;
ignoring the long tail – related to the above, but specifically relating to ignoring phrases that are more than 3-4 words long;

However, as long as the content producer remains aware of the limitations, they ought to be able to work around them. The key to these techniques is to remain flexible.

Visit the []KeywordCracker blog for additional keyword research and analysis tips, tricks and techniques.

Article Source: [] Advanced Keyword Research Techniques to Boost On-Page SEO and SEM

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SEO Link Building Books

November 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Search Engine Strategies

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SEO: Search Engine Optimization Bible
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The Art of SEO
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SES San Francisco Keynote Interview: Susan Bratton on Persuasion Marketing

August 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Search Engine Strategies

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susan bratton SES San Francisco is coming up fast and when I discovered that Susan Bratton was giving the opening keynote presentation and on a topic that I have been interested in for years, I wanted to make sure we did a pre-conference interview. For backstory, I met Susan the first time at an ad:tech conference in Chicago while she was the conference chair. That was the same conference where I first met Frank Gruber and David Berkowitz so it was a great networking experience. Since then Susan and I have crossed paths a number of times at events like SXSW and online.

Susan is a real pioneer when it comes to Online Marketing and media. She’s the CEO at Personal Life Media and hosted the famous DishyMix podcast since 2005 interviewing numerous digital marketing industry leaders. Besides serving on the board of several technology companies, Susan is the founder of two industry associations, the IAB and the ADM. At SES San Francisco, Susan will be talking about Conversion Triggers and Persuasion Strategies for Digital Marketers.

The power of persuasion and the role it takes within online content marketing is really a key aspect of online marketing and something that has had a lot more play in the advertising world than SEO or PPC. In this excerpt of our recent interview, Susan gives a preview of her SES keynote and talks about how she’s learned from experience the value and best practices of “getting into the psyche of your customer” to improve online marketing results.

Lee: Coming up very quickly is SES San Francisco. It’s probably one of the largest Search Marketing conferences in the world. You’ll be doing the opening keynote Tuesday, Aug 16th at 9am. The topic, Conversion Triggers: Persuasion Strategies for Digital Marketers is a really engaging, intersting and compelling topic to me because a lot of what we talk about on our blog and in our consultancy is about empathizing with customers and understanding what their pain points are, what is it that they need and what will inspire them to do what you want them to do.

I’d like to talk about the role of Persuasion Marketing. What is it? What might it mean to an audience of a couple of thousand people who are accustomed to a world of keywords, SEO and link building.

Susan: I can’t think of a better audience to present the concept of Persuasion Marketing to than a group of SESers because everybody in that audience lives and dies by choosing the right keyword phrases and reaching an audience that way. They already have a solid foundation of understanding of how important it is to “get the words right”. So, I feel really lucky to be able to do a keynote for them.

I’ll tell you what I’m really doing: Lee, you know you’re like me. Before we got on the interview today, you said “I’m a constant, a lifelong learner” and I’m with you., We’re both like that and so many of the people who follow us are. They want to know what we’re doing, because they’re lifelong learners too. Since I started the Personal Life Media business and started creating information products, all of my products are sold direct to consumers online.

In my keynote I’m actually going to be presenting a case study. I’m going to tell you what Persuasion Marketing is and then I’m going to show you how I used it. I’m literally today, right in the middle of a 4 day product launch for a brand new product. You’re going to laugh when you hear the name of it: It’s called “Revive Her Drive”. Pretty much every man who’s been in a relationship for more than a couple years is interested in taking the intimate life of his woman to the next level. And a lot of times it goes down instead of getting better. You’d think the more we do stuff the better we get, but a lot of times, life gets in the way.

So, I’ve written over 30 websites in the last 2 1/2 years of my business, selling these online information products. And they weren’t converting. I didn’t know what I was doing. But I really studied the information product marketers. Those guys know how to get someone to land on their page and make a purchase, better than anyone else that I’m aware of. Rememer how we used to say the Adult world were the leaders of information technology and if anyone could figure it out, they could? I don’t think that’s true anymore. It think it’s the information product marketers.

So, I’ve been studying how they do landing page conversion and with Google constantly changing what they want, tier one traffic sources are difficult to get, you can’t do squeeze pages and long form sales letters anymore, it’s a constantly changing landscape. These guys know how to speak to their customers. No matter what the landing page looks like, or no matter what Google’s making you do today to buy traffic from them, they know how to speak to their customer in a way that’s riveting. That connects, that grabs them by the guts and says, “I need this thing.” And that’s what I wanted to learn. That’s what I wasn’t getting right.

For the last 2 1/2 years I’ve been going to school. I’ve found my mentors and I’ve said, “Please gurus, tell me what I need to know. What should I be reading? What should I be learning?” And over the last 2 1/2 years I’ve read a ton of material, I’ve taken a ton of online training. What I did for SES, I pulled it all together and now that I look back and see all that I’ve learned, here are the 10-12 big things that I’d recommend you put your attention on, in order.

What I realized in looking back at all the things that I learned is that Persuasion Marketing is really 4 key elements. I’ve been a tech marketing chick for 30 years now, and I never knew this, I never figured this out until now. And that is, if you understand these 4 basic areas, I think this can have more impact on your conversion rate than anything else you can do. Because everything else is a short term tactic. Whether you’re learning to make Facebook pages convert, or learning the latest in search marketing strategies or whatever it is. Those are tactics that come and go. I’ve learned that from programming so many sessions at so many conferences for so many years. This year it’s search, next year it’s email, next year it’s video. It’s always something new. It’s an arms race for marketers in the technology arena.

But the fundamentals of understanding how to viscerally, emotionally connect with your customers so that they think to themselves, “This brand gets me.” That is a fundamental skill. I looked back at everything I did and it seemed that there are four key areas of knowledge that you need to know, that all fit together, that are “synergistic”, yes I’m using that word again. I’ve decided it’s a good word. I’m not back on “paradigm” yet, but I’m starting to use synergistic.

The four realms of Persuasion Marketing:

The first is Neuro-Marketing – The psychological triggers of influence, persuasion and action that we can get people to take, in a good way, to serve them, help them and not waste their time. We want them to find us and if they’re our person, we want them to know they’re our person and we want to create a relationship with them and support them with whatever it is that we do.

The second piece is Copywriting – This is where search marketers have a massive competitive advantage over any other kinds of marketers because they understand how important words are. They understand semantics, the value of all of that.

The third is Storytelling – This is where you go from, “These are features and benefits” to “Here’s a person who used my product or service and how it changed their life.” We tell a good story in dialog because you know, we all love a good story. When someone tells you, “Let me tell you a story”, your ears perk up.

Last is the notion of Structured Communication – You can think of this as a sales funnel, but it goes a lot beyond that to a series of emotions a customer goes through before they make a commitment to you. What do you need to tell them, in general order, before they’re going to be a “yes” to what you have to offer.

These four areas work together beautifully and each has their own disciplines and logic. When a customer experiences it, it’s compelling.

Lee: And it’s compelling what you just said in terms of what you just said. In terms of the model to go by, my interest is really piqued here. When you talk about storytelling, that’s something that’s been a meme, increasingly and reminds me of something I learned a long time ago: Facts Tell, Stories Sell. I really appreciate you talking about that.

And also the notion of having empathy and understanding of customers and the emotions they need to go through before they can make a commitment. That’s powerful stuff.

Susan: You have to feel your person.

Lee: In the world of SEO or search marketing at large, the ways in which those online marketers are trying to understand consumers, besides collecting data from web analytics or other data sources as part of the buying cycle, is the notion of keyword research. What words are in the mind of the searcher. What does your customer care about? Then that manifests as an action, such as a search. It’s an interesting thing to think of how powerful it would be for a search marketer to tap into the neural marketing aspect of what your talking about, copywriting and storytelling while still being keyword relevant, I think is very compelling.

Susan: What Garth (One of Susan’s Guru’s) taught me was, is that you should enter into the conversation that your prospect is having in their own mind. So when you’re writing to them, the words you should be using, would be the same words they have in their head. Using keywords is a really great start, but there are a lot of other strategies, that I’ll outline at SES. I’m going to show how I used those strategies to create Revive Her Drive.

Lee: SES San Francisco is coming up pretty quickly, August 15th-19th and actually, SES is part of Connected Marketing Week, a Mecca of learning for online marketers. I’m really looking forward to your keynote in the morning on the 16th. Any party advice or tips that you’d like to share?

Susan: The way to think about neuro marketing is to think about a human body and brain being an operating system and that it responds in certain ways to certain influences and triggers. Robert Cialdini teaches you standard sequences of human behavior. He teaches principles, like the principle of contrast: “Normally this sells for $17.95, but today and today only we’re offering it for only $7.95 and here’s why.” So it sounds like an expensive thing for cheap. Or the rule of reciprocity, or the rule of obligation, or the power of consistency which goes to trustworthiness. These are principles that you can learn that are ways humans typically behave when given these conditions. Those principles are really important to understand.

Also, Joel Sugarman’s psychological triggers like, humans’ desire to belong or to collect things. Also, objection raising or objection handling. You can’t start by overcoming people’s objections when you first connect with them, that comes later in the structured communication. You start to understand what we respond to as humans, but where it goes in the funnel of their emotional evolvement. As the relationship is evolving, you’re going to need to deal with as a marketer, these different components. Those are a few things that are important to learn. It makes sense that you start at the core understanding with neuro pshychology, then think about the pictures and the words, then tell stories instead of just bullets, and put it in a proper order. I hope that clarifies, that there’s a way to learn this and way to lay it into your work.

Lee: Yes it does. Thank you Susan!

Be sure to check out Susan Bratton’s keynote at SES San Francisco on Tuesday, August 16th ant 9am. You can also visit her deep library of podcasts on DishyMix.

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SES San Francisco Keynote Interview: Susan Bratton on Persuasion Marketing |

Socialize & Optimize with Content Marketing at SES San Francisco 2011

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SES San FranciscoCertainly one of the best cities in the U.S. for a conference is San Francisco and in a little over 2 weeks the famous ClickZ Connected Marketing Week returns with 5 days of deep dive online marketing education, networking and knowing SEOs, plenty of fun.  A big part of the week is the SES San Francisco conference.

I’ve been attending SES conferences since 2005 and while both the online marketing industry and the SES conference have changed quite a bit, that change has spurred continuous innovation to the benefit of attendees, sponsors and speakers. You’ll find many sessions at 90 minutes instead of 45 or 60, so speakers can really get in-depth with their topics. There are also a number of sessions completely programmed by specific advisory board members, an approach that is new to this SES. To Win a Free Pass to SES San Francisco, Read on!

This year I’ve been given the opportunity, no, THREE opportunities to talk about 3 topics that are near and dear: Social Media, SEO and Content Marketing.  And they all happen on the same day! Here’s the lineup:

Thursday, August 18

9:00 – 10:30am – Content Marketing Optimization
The core of any search or social media marketing program centers on content. Digital assets, rich media, web pages, MS Office and PDF docs as well as content created and shared by consumers all offer opportunities for optimization. If it can be searched, it can be optimized!

Online marketing is increasingly competitive and brand marketers world-wide are seeking real advantages that will improve the efficiency and impact of their Social Media and SEO efforts. This session provides unique insight into content based optimization strategies and processes as well as tactics for sourcing, creation and promotion of optimized content on the social web.

Speaker: Lee Odden, SES Advisory Board & CEO, TopRank Online Marketing

10:45-12:15pm – The Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing
The Google Panda update just made great content critical. Social media is grabbing all the headlines. Search gets more powerful every year. But how do they all play together? How do you increase your odds of being found both in search and social media? How will you consistently create content your a will enjoy? Join this panel as they provide case studies and walk you through a step-by-step approach that any organization can follow to grow their business online.

Moderator: Greg Jarboe, President & Co-founder, SEO-PR
Aaron Kahlow, Chairman & Founder, Online Marketing Summit
Arnie Kuenn, President, Vertical Measures
Lee Odden, SES Advisory Board & CEO, TopRank Online Marketing

1:15-2:45pm – SEO Track,  SEW Labs – Social SEO
Expanding on the popular site clinic approach, which features live web site audits from leading experts, the SEW Labs Series is a peer-group learning experience. This SEO Lab will have a special focus on Social SEO.

In each 90-minute Lab, the audience will participate with industry experts and search engine representatives in analyzing and auditing attendee web sites and in delving into the topic at hand via lively discussion. Think “crowd-sourcing consultancy” sessions in a live classroom environment.

WIN A FREE PASS: If you would like your website reviewed for Social and SEO best practices, leave a comment below with your website URL and be sure to include your email address in the appropriate form field. I’ll announce which site(s) get picked during SES liveblog coverage.  One lucky winner might even get a FREE PASS to SES San Francisco August 16-18, 2011!

Moderator: Lee Odden, SES Advisory Board & CEO, TopRank Online Marketing
Jonathan Allen, Director, SearchEngineWatch
Ian Lurie, Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President, Portent
Todd Malicoat, Independent Search Engine Marketing Consultant, stuntdubl

I have to say, this will be a true test to my speaking endurance to have three 90 minute sessions back to back (although there is a lunch break in between) but I’m up to the challenge. The importance of search, social and content marketing along with the accelerating convergence is core to what we practice in our consultancy at TopRank Online Marketing and has been a focus in the writing here at Online Marketing Blog for the past 3 years.  It’s great to see this Online Marketing Trilogy of Search, Social & Content Marketing get the attention it deserves at an event as important as SES San Francisco.

But of course, SES SF isn’t all about TopRank :) there’s over 100 speakers at Connected Marketing Week and plenty of learning and networking opportunities. I’m looking forward to the opening keynote presentation from my friend Susan Bratton (who I’ll be interviewing here later in the week).  She’s a true pioneer in the digital marketing industry (as Mike Grehan has called her) and will be talking about getting into the psyche of your customers with “Conversion Triggers – Persuasion Strategies for Digital Marketers“.

Beyond the keynote, there are many other sessions covering the gamut of topics ranging from basics to advanced for SEO, PPC, Social Media and Analytics. There are technical topics like WordPress and HTML 5, sessions specifically for in-house Search Marketers, plus sessions on Local to Global Search Marketing.  SES really is one of those “something for everyone” types of conferences.

Be sure to check out the SES San Francisco conference agenda and info. Follow the hashtag #sessf on Twitter and watch for posts on my Google+ account as well to see photos and video from the conference.


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Socialize & Optimize with Content Marketing at SES San Francisco 2011 |

SES Toronto: Smart Mobile Marketing

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Mobile Marketing Panel at SES TorontoThe “Smart Mobile Marketing” session was a panel discussion, moderated by TopRank CEO Lee Odden. To begin the discussion, Lee opened with a question for the room of 80+, “How many people in the room have developed a mobile version of a site?” 3-4 hands slowly raise. And with that, the stage is set: There is a lot of learning to do surrounding mobile marketing.

The session panel consisted of 2 leaders and veterans of the mobile marketing industry, Deborah Hall and Michael J. O’Farrell.

Deborah Hall

Hall founded web2mobile 3 years ago, frustrated with the user experience when trying to access a site via a smart phone. One of the greatest challenges she noticed was the upload speed, or lack thereof, of sites.

Here are some interesting stats Hall shared regarding when users access their mobile device:

  • 80% while shopping in stores
  • 17% during movies
  • 14% while on a plane
  • 7% while in church

Maybe most interesting to mobile marketers, 17% of users have showed a store clerk an image of the product they wish to purchase! This stat is indicative of many of the fringe benefits mobile marketing offers brands. Although these 17% of users didn’t transact via their mobile device, they certainly were informed and aspired through mobile marketing.

To inspire the audience, Hall pointed out a few companies that are emerging as leaders in leveraging mobile technology and highlighted GetGlue. For those new to GetGlue, it is a social network for entertainment where users can check into locations as well as check into “things” (e.g. wine, Will Ferell movies, chess, etc.). The end result is a network where people can theoretically find people in close proximity with similar interests.

Michael J. O’Farell

O’Farrell’s professional experience with mobile predates text messaging and he is the founder of The Mobile Institute – a company that helps clients develop strategies for the mobile marketplace.

During his presentation he, similar to Hall, shared many compelling stats about the growth of mobile marketing. As the session opened for QA, O’Farrell and a crowd member pointed out an interesting benefit to mobile marketing revealed by data collected by Google on search habits: mobile use doesn’t dip. Unlike desktop search, where use on weekends, holidays and evenings drop significantly. That’s simply not the case with mobile, where users are consistent and unrelenting in their activity. These images tell the tale.

As the session continued, the next question needed to be asked. With a timid crowd, Lee thankfully stepped to the plate and asked “What are some tips for the audience on how they can get started?” Both O’Farrell and Hall agreed that the first step is research.

Google Analytics provides data on mobile traffic. Marketers should leverage these numbers to form a picture of their current mobile audience and prioritize their efforts accordingly. That is to say, a company with 3 visitors from mobile devices is not likely to invest the same resources into mobile as a company that has 30,000 mobile visitors.

The next step is understanding how your audience uses mobile. Google Analytics provides data on what Operating Systems (OS) visitors use. This is important and should have a big role in your mobile marketing approach, as different OS’s will require different specs for a mobile site.

Finally, get out there and try. O’Farell and Hall recommend a phased approach where marketers can dip their toes in the water by testing different mobile strategies. There will undoubtedly be some misses at the outset of any mobile marketing effort, but as mobile use continues to grow, there is no denying that it is time take the leap.

Canada is following the United States in adopting smart phones, with 50% of the Canadian population expected to own a smart phone in 2014 (55% is expected in the US).

To learn more, check out these top mobile marketing resources.

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
SES Toronto: Smart Mobile Marketing |

SES Toronto: Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics

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Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics at SES TorontoWARNING: This post is based on a Marty Weintraub presentation.  If you have seen Marty present, then you understand the warning and are probably smiling.  For those of you who have not, just remember you were warned, although this text doesn’t do justice to Marty IRL.

All kidding aside, Weintraub, CEO of aimClear, is a talented presenter that has a passion for his subject matter, Facebook.  In “Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics” at SES Toronto, Weintraub focused primarily on behavioral targeting. You know, identifying the behavior of your ideal audience and target/market accordingly. Sounds simple until you consider the millions of ways a marketer can slice and dice audience segments in Facebook.

Facebook marketing is a big topic and this presentation was specifically focused on Facebook ad targeting.

One rally cry heard throughout the session was “PPC is to SEO, as Facbook Ads are to social SEO.” Weintraub explains that much like how PPC can spike traffic and help point out opportunities (i.e. keywords that produce at a high rate) and weaknesses (i.e. pages that convert at a relatively low rate), Facebook Ads can do the same for social SEO.

The heart of the session was highlighting unique ways to use Facebook to reach target audiences. But before we get into some of Weintraub’s more creative examples of behavioral targeting, let me point you to some interesting user stats shared during the session regarding the wide dispersion of English speaking Facebook users.  Did you know that there are 13.4 million English speaking Facebook users in the Phillipines alone! The English speaking social media audience is larger than most think.

With the scope of the English speaking Facebook audience in mind, let’s look at some unique examples of how a brand can engage in Facebook Ads.

Literal/Safe Targeting

A hockey equipment company looking to increase online sales could easily turn to Facebook and target men and women who ‘like’ hockey. Or, a music and event promotion company selling Justin Bieber tickets would be wise run ads aimed at girls aged 12-15.

This may not be an groundbreaking approach, but the truth is that this is the safest and most reliable way of targeting an audience.

Lateral/Creative Targeting

Thinking beyond the obvious association, lateral targeting uses some logical assumptions.  For example, from our previous example, Facebook users who ‘like’ hockey are likely to be receptive to ads winter jackets. Hockey is primarily played areas of the world with colder climates. People in colder climates need to stay warm. Winter jackets to the rescue!

Using this approach requires creativity and a willingness to take a chance.

Negative Sentiment/General Disdain Targeting

Fans of the Facebook page I Hate My Neighbor – click the link if you don’t think it’s a real page – are certainly good prospects for a privacy fence company, if not a moat installation company. We know this because of the things that they indicated they don’t like. But let’s take it a step further. Facebook users who ‘like’ the I Hate My Neighbor page are also likely the audience that would be happy to pick up the latest Lewis Black comedy album.

Undoubtedly the least conventional and most dangerous approach to reaching audiences through Facebook Ads.  Proceed with extreme caution if you choose this road and be very transparent with the brand you represent regarding your approach.

These are just a few of the examples shared in the “Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics” session. The underlying message through it all was that Facebook is big and there are opportunities throughout this massive network.  Facebook has 700+ million users. I’m convinced that Weintraub will have figured out some way to market each and every user by the time my plane lands in Minneapolis.

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SES Toronto: Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics |

SES Toronto: Competitive SEO Analysis

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Competitive Analysis Panel at SES TorontoReally, truly understanding the competitive landscape can help pave the way for a successful search engine marketing program.

Chris Boggs led a panel discussion at SES Toronto on Competitive Analysis – What tips and tools can get you the vital competitive information that every SEO needs. According to Boggs, “Competitive analysis is one of the most exciting and important tactics (SEOs) can do.

The session was segmented into 3 areas of focus: on site research,off site research and PPC research.

On Site Research

Marios Alexandrou, Rosetta

When conducting on site (i.e. within your competitor’s site) competitive analysis, start by:

1) Asking yourself, “what companies should I look at?” can come in handy here.  Enter a handful of competitors and look for companies with high traffic. These are the companies that will likely have characteristics that will help inform your SEO approach.

2) Assessing your competitors site.  Be sure to divide on site components into 3 categories: Content, Technical and Internal Links.  By segmenting, you can more easily identify their strengths, as well as their areas of weakness.

3) Crawling competitor sites by leveraging crawler tools like Xemu.  This will help determine:

  • size of site
  • links to internal pages
  • popular search term pages
  • Google Index

Once you have conducted your research, create a matrix to get a full picture of the competitive landscape. Do this by listing your competitors within excel on the y-axis and cross reference them against criteria (x-axis) like: Targets Long Tail, Optimized Title Tags, Internal Linking, Image Content, etc.

Off Site Research

Ross Dunn, StepForth Web Marketing

One of the most important elements to consider when performing off site research (i.e. looking at factors outside your competitor’s website) is quantity and quality of their external links.

Like on site research, off site analysis by identifying the competitors.  One way to determine your competition is to enter core phrases like “mountain bikes” as well as long tail phrases like “brand x mountain bike parts”. Survey the search engine results page (SERP) for top ranking businesses.  Be sure to weed out wikipedia and other non-competitive sites.

Now that you understand the different players, follow Ross’s tips for off site analysis.

1) Create Advanced Reports within Majestic SEO for each competitor and export the list to excel

2) Manually review top 50 links for each competitor and ask yourself:

  • is their anchor text relevant?
  • is their relevant on page content?
  • do they have quality on page content?

3) Find and highlight shared links among 3 competitors (hub links). These links are likely attainable and have value for your search results.

4) Look for biased links (i.e. hundreds of supposed different all linking to the same page with the exact same anchor text should raise some flags)

Don’t recreate the wheel.  Learn from your competition’s link efforts to elevate your online strategy.

PPC Research

Matt Van Wagner, FindMeFaster

Start your PPC research with the mindset that to succeed you need to go beyond obvious questions like “what keywords are my competitors buying?” to ask questions like “where is the biggest area of opportunity?” Both questions are important, but the latter will help you look past competitive data to focus on the opportunities that can be gleaned from your research.

Quality PPC research tools are plenty, but before you start your research, arm yourself with questions that will help you hone in on key aspects of PPC.

How many ads are they running? How many different messages/offers do they present? Are they using best practices (i.e. do relevant keywords appear in ad titles)? How often do they present new ads? Do they react to bid changes?

With these types of question in mind, here’s a list of some of Van Wagner’s favorite tools for competitive PPC research:

  • AdGooroo
  • Compete
  • Keyword Competitor
  • Keyword Spy
  • Comscore

Walking into this session, I have to admit that I was looking for the silver-bullet.  The one tool that does EVERYTHING.  The truth, as we all know, is that although there are powerful competitive research programs, your approach to competitive analysis is truly your most powerful tool. Learn from competitors by researching their efforts with a laser-like focus.

To borrow a line from Alexanderou, “copying your competitors doesn’t make you better than them.  It makes you the same.” Determine their strengths.  Determine their weaknesses.  Incorporate these lessons to take your program to another level.

You can learn more about different competitive intelligence tools by reading the “Competitive Intelligence – Search Insider Summit” post.

Stay tuned for more posts from SES Toronto. Follow @TopRank and #sesto on Twitter for real time updates.

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
SES Toronto: Competitive SEO Analysis |

SES Toronto: SEO is Dead. No it’s Not.

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SEO is DeadModerated by Jonathen Allen, the SEO is Dead. Long live SEO! session included a number of “salty dog” SEO experts: Terry Van Horne, Jim Hedger and Garry Pryzklenk.

Essentially, the key questions discussed in this panel centered around what is it that we’re doing as marketers that could be considered as SEO vs. Marketing.  Other topics included: Google +1, personalization, evolving nature of SERPs, “Trust Rank”, analytics and other technical aspects of SEO were discussed.

Moderator: What does search engine optimization mean anymore? The thing about SEO is that there are many technical considerations. What ranking factors still matter? Should we still be considering tags, H1, Titles, etc.

Terry: Title tags are one of the biggest factors.

Jim: Beyond the URL the first thing the search engine will see is the title tag. You can gain a great deal of power from your title tag.

Jim: Being a great SEO isn’t being a magician. It’s about being a great marketer that uses SEO.

Terry: I’ve always followed the Document Object Model to identify what HTML attributes are important for SEO. Then you have other formats like RDFa and microformats.

Jim: It’s important to remember we’re writing for two audiences: people and search engines.

Terry: Spiders don’t buy anything

Jim: Titles help people navigate the website

Moderator:  Is link building a SEO tactic or a marketing tactic?

Terry: Its a marketing tactic. I’ve been link building before I started doing SEO.  If you look at link building without SEO then you’re pretty safe when it comes to Google guidelines.

Audience: How does personalization and Google +1 affect SEO?

Jim: Search engines will continue to innovate and change. Just because things change doesn’t make optimization any less relevant. We may need to change how we do things and use different sets of tasks, but you’re still doing things to make it easy for search users to find your content.

There’s not a lot you can do with personalization when it comes to SEO. Localization and personalization are very close to each other. Except personalization is mostly informed by your behaviors.

Garry: Social is an area where Google wants to move into for signals, but I don’t think they want to have a high reliance on any one source. Google +1 is their attempt to mitigate reliance on external social signal. It does have some correlation between personalization and localization.

Terry: The most important part of personalization, is that when people are logged in, Twitter becomes very important.  Tweets can take up a lot of SERP screen real estate from .  People say +1 is a ranking signal, I don’t believe that.

Terry: As far as personalization, I try to use personas and optimize according to customers. You’ve got to look at audiences, not just keywords.

Garry: Personalization and +1 is still new. We’re going to have to wait a little bit to see it gain some traction and see if it will have an impact.

Moderator: With Twitter, we know Google uses the firehose of data. With +1, content posted can appear on a Google profile and can also appear in real-time search results. Is that SEO or marketing?

Audience: Now that traditional SEO is changing, what are some of the key things we need to be looking at for the “new SEO”

Jim: What’s old is new. In the beginning there was Alta Vista. Search engines of that day were just about acquiring content. Content was king before links became commoditized by Google.

Today, quality content, making your sites accessible and usable is important. Usability is polite. Accessibility is the law.

Audience:  The +1 is all user generated content.  I don’t see anyone outside of techies ever using it. What do you think the shelf life will be?  Also, what about Bing?

Garry: Buzz died pretty quickly because it was so similar to other services. With +1 it depends whether it gets traction or not.

Bing conversion rates overall have been very good with PPC. Bing is also a center of innovation and could be a real competitor.

Terry: +1 really is only known and used by techies. There’s nothing obvious about what will happen with +1 for users, whereas with other sharing buttons, you can tell it’s for Facebook or Twitter.

Moderator: +1 on PPC ads provides better demographic data for advertisers and can positively affect quality score. Google has a lot of data that shows if you integrate social, with display and PPC you get better overall lift.

Panel: Google is a bit naive about how they approach social. They have engineers deciding to make things that will be cool, but don’t really make an effort to explain to users why it’s important. Google +1 is a good example of this. There are many reasons why advertisers and Google would want people to use +1, but not many compelling reasons for people to use it.

Jim: Is SEO dead. SEO dies every day. We spell die wrong. It should be “dye”. SEO is dying, changing every day.

Audience: I’ve not seen having a mobile optimized landing page or site helps your Google ranking on a Google mobile device or search.

Terry: I’m of the opinion that “mobile” sites will be obsolete because HTML5 will improve. Mobile and website from a code perspective will converge.

Garry:  Is an optimized site on mobile a great user experience when you have to pull back on certain features to accommodate mobile limitations?

Terry: If you’re looking at your users with mobile, you’ll give them a different experience than on the web.

Audience: When you’re logged in, it seems everyone has a YouTube or Gmail account these days. How many queries happen when logged in vs. logged out?

Terry: Since caffiene you’re pretty much always logged in.

Garry: If you’ve ever logged in, the cookie will persist whether you’re logged in or not.

Terry: Google is also pulling data from Chrome and the toolbar, whether you’re logged in or not.  Keep in mind advertising networks like Google’s DoubleClick can read those cookies too.

Audience: Can you name the top 10 signals you’d advise someone to use that is a large player, software, international, high end.  That already has #1, #2 ranking positions.  What are your top 10 signals for the “uninitiated”.

Jim:  Titles, description meta tags, text and links

Terry: Title, copy and links

Garry: Agree with Jim. Quality of content is king because that’s what will attract links.

Jim: Site structure and quality of site structure is also important.

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SES Toronto: SEO is Dead. No it’s Not. |

SES Toronto: Keyword Forensics

Keyword Forensics Session at SES TorontoIn my preview post for SES Toronto, I counted John Alexander’s Keyword Forensics session as one of my “Must See” presentations for the 2011 conference. The promise of really digging down into keyword discovery and keyword analysis techniques sounded far too good to pass up. After all, keyword research is an essential part of any SEO process.

The session starts with an inspiring quote on the projector “Keyword Forensics – Exploring the Hidden User Search Behavior for Keywords That Are Often Missed by Keyword Researchers.”

I research keywords!  What am I missing?

Here are some good nuggets from the presentation:

Understand the Difference Between Keyword Research vs. Keyword Forensics

Keyword Research: Researching identified keywords to determine which phrases will provide the most search traffic.

Keyword Forensics: Discovering keyword variations associated with a root word.  According to Alexander, keyword forensics does not begin with any assumptions.  The purpose is to uncover how people search.

Exploring User Behavior

Challenge: One of the challenges one encounters when researching user behavior for most people is the need to lose the “keyword hunt mindset”.  The more you tend to guess at the most logical keywords, the less likely you are to find exactly what phrases people are actually searching.

Solution: Don’t guess or assume search phrases.  Uncover popular keyword phrases in tools like Wordtracker by entering a root word and discovering how that word is most often being used.  For example, entering the root word “buy” will produce variations like “What do people buy?”

Wordtracker 101

Wordtracker is Alexander’s weapon of choice for keyword forensics. Here’s a little Wordtracker 101.

First, enter a root word into the search query. Second, sort by KEI and consider the following:

Keyword Effectiveness (KEI):  The higher the number here, the better. Use this metric to identify popular keyword phrases with little competition.

In Anchor and Title: Count of the number of pages for which the exact keyword phrase appears in both the title tag and as anchor text on the page. This metric gives you an understanding of what kind of keyword focused content needs to be generated to achieve a quality search engine rank.

Think Laterally About Behavior

A person searching for baby names=diaper purchasing prospect. A brand doesn’t need to sell baby names (although that would be an interesting business model!)  in order to provide relevant content. Imagine a diaper company that aggregates all common and uncommon baby names on one site. People searching for baby names, i.e. likely parents to-be, will be introduced to the brand in an organic manner. The diaper brand can then provide special offers or relevant links to visitors so they can learn more about the products or receive discounted pricing.

To wrap up the session in a nutshell, Alexander takes a very creative approach to keyword discovery and encourages others to do the same.  Put even more succinctly, SEOs should discover keywords and not assume them. If you’re in need, here’s a list of keyword research tools you might find useful.

Stay tuned for more posts from SES Toronto. Follow @TopRank and #sesto on Twitter for real time updates.

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SES Toronto: Keyword Forensics |

4 Must See Social Media & SEO Sessions at SES Toronto

SES Toronto 2011If you’re wondering, “Who’s Brian Larson?”, you’re not alone. Before I jump into the details of some of the can’t miss sessions at the upcoming SES Toronto conference, I’ll borrow a line from Austin Powers: “Please allow myself to introduce…myself.”

I’m a SEO Account Manager at TopRank Online Marketing – which means I have the enviable job of developing and managing SEO programs for several TopRank clients. One of the many benefits of my job is that I have the opportunity to work daily with some of the most intelligent and forward thinking companies around (you know who you are).  As I head to SES Toronto, I go with my clients’ goals and needs at the front of my mind.

Now that I’m not a complete stranger, let’s get on to the good stuff.  SES Toronto is just around the corner and it’s time to start making the difficult decisions surrounding which sessions to attend.  Here are my 4 “Can’t Miss Sessions” for this year’s SES Toronto conference:

1) Content Marketing Optimization

This is a no brainer.  Although there are numerous SEO strategies, good content marketing is the engine that drives a successful online marketing program.  TopRank CEO Lee Odden (I call him “boss”) leads a presentation on unlocking the SEO potential of a brand’s content.   In the session, Lee will offer insight into how companies can elevate their content-based optimization strategies and increase process efficiencies for content creation and promotion.

My TopRank Account Manager Take: Content development and promotion is core to our work.  The minute I stop proactively looking for ways to elevate our approach to content marketing is the minute our content begins to lose its relevancy.

If you listened to Lee speak before, you know you will walk away with a ton of ideas.  If you haven’t heard Lee speak, you really should.

2) Keyword Forensics

Cleverly titled, this session seems to have the meat to support such a promising name. John Alexander, of and Search Engine Academy, will focus the session on uncovering keyword variations overlooked by most Webmasters. Alexander also promises to dive into the hidden behavioral trends of different search personas. Understanding these trends will help determine what search results are REALLY most valued by your target audiences.

My TopRank Account Manager Take: This session immediately piqued my interest because I personally view the selection of keywords as the make or break point for a SEO program.  Why?  Keywords dictate strategies and tactics.  Keywords also represent different persona and audience needs.

To start a program with the wrong keywords is akin to heading north to go south=it’s not going to work out well.

3) Competitive Analysis

Search strategies cannot be developed in a vacuum.  Analyzing the competitive landscape and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to the development of a successful SEO program.  In Competitive Analysis, Chris Boggs moderates a panel discussion on assessing the competition to:

  • determine link acquisition opportunities
  • discover untapped types of content
  • identify competitive keywords/identifying non-competitive keywords
  • uncover avg. ad spend

My TopRank Account Manager Take: There are literally too many tools for surveying and analyzing online marketing competition.  The problem is that when one stops to consider all these options, it can likely turn into the classic: paralysis by analysis.

When a panel of pros meets to share the tools they use to assess the competition, I’m all ears.

4) Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics

As Facebook continues to evolve at an impressive rate, so too do the online marketing opportunities within this 700+ million member social network.  From Facebook Ads to Fan Pages, and Sponsored Stories to Groups; options to target and engages audiences are abound.   Marty Weintraub, President of aimClear, another fine Internet Marketing agency from Minnesota, hosts this Facebook targeting session, with a focus on reviewing some of the most successful Facebook marketing campaigns to identify their common characteristics.

My TopRank Account Manager Take: Too often companies view the success of their social media efforts in terms of Fans, Friends and Followers instead of affecting business outcomes.

The fatal flaw for many companies is the assumption that audiences can’t engage and transact with a brand through their social channels – that those interactions must happen on a corporate website.  Facebook may be the leader in providing companies with a variety of ways to create a rich user experience for their audience.  I can’t wait for this one.

Of course I’ll be sitting in on more sessions than 4, but these are my core.  Both Lee and I will be liveblogging sessions so be sure to watch for the #SESTO hash tag on Twitter, our Facebook page or just come back to Online Marketing Blog.

If you’re new to SES conference, I’d recommend reading this helpful post on how to get the most out of marketing conferences.

Here are the conference details:

SES Toronto
June 13-15, 2011
Hyatt Regency Toronto

There’s a 20% discount for TopRank Online Marketing Blog readers – just use the discount code: TRB20.


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4 Must See Social Media & SEO Sessions at SES Toronto |

SES New York 2011 Roundup

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The SES New York 2011 conference wrapped up last week on the heels of one of the biggest Google updates in recent years.

And although there was enough Panda talk to make a passerby think we might all be zookeepers, there were other themes running through the conference as well including content, paid strategies and tools, tools, tools.

Here’s a quick recap:

Panda: The Aftermath, as it was called essentially recapped what TopRank and other content advocates have been saying along.

Create unique, quality content that is written first for the target audience and second for the search engines. It’s those who have been living dangerously – or maybe just naively – creating what’s now referred to as shallow content who likely got hit the worst.

Here are a couple items to check if your site is seeing less results than it was pre-panda:
1. Check your content and outline a content plan to create more.
Also, remember that the navigations, call-outs etc that live on each page are considered part of the content. If you don’t have enough unique content on each page to ‘out-weigh’ the navigation, you might run into trouble.
2. Google is now paying more attention to spelling and grammar. If your site is lacking in basic writing skills, fix it up.
3.  Check your internal link structure. If you have links pointing to each page on the site, Google will have trouble determining which pages are truly important.

Next, the paid strategy called retargeting also seemed to have people buzzing. Retargeting is the process of delivering ads to people on the web who have either entered a shopping cart and abandoned, or visited your site – but not entered the shopping cart process.

To get started with retargeting, think about the user action and your next action.
For example, if a visitor abandoned the home page you likely will want them to see a promotional offer featuring the brand.

If a visitor abandoned the shopping cart, you can send them a reminder to complete the purchase or a reminder with a coupon. Think through when and how often you offer the coupon, however, because it doesn’t take long to train a visitor to abandon the shopping cart because they know a coupon is coming. :)

Overall, if your site is experiencing a high number of exits in the shopping cart process, then retargeting might be a good option for you.

As always lists and tools are popular at a marketing conference and came together as a list of tools! Check out some of the recommended tools:

1. Crazy Egg – helps determine where people are clicking on your web pages, visually
2. Clicktale – use this tool for user session info, advanced link and form analytics
3. Cross Browser Testing – allows you to test different OS, browser, application settings
4. MockFlow – an online wireframe tool for helping when developing a website
5. – a tool for predicting where visual attention exits on a site
6. Clicktale – use for form analytics
7. 4Q, Kample – survey tool to illicit from web visitors why they are on their website and if they are completing their intended tasks
8.  Mongoose Metrics, ifbyphone – for call tracking
9. – if your site is known to load slow, this is a tool to help you check the speed
10., Dynamicdrive – a tool for smushing images

If you attended SES New York 2011, feel free to comment below adding what you thought people were buzzing about this year.

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SES New York 2011 Roundup |

SES New York: 3 Content Marketing Principles

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Content, Content, Content.3 Tips to Content Marketing

After attending search conferences for a few years now, it seems only right that content is getting some time in the spotlight. This week at Search Engine Strategies (SES) New York, I had the great pleasure of presenting on the topic of content marketing.

For so long talk has been about how to optimize and then how to promote – but we’re circling back around to meat and potatoes of online marketing which is the content.

Without it, what are we optimizing and promoting? Oh no, please don’t say it’s your static product pages… Well, if it is (and we’ve all been there), it is most definitely time to look at content marketing and what it can do to take your brand to new levels of customer engagement and acquisition.

The 3 principles to content marketing to keep in mind are:

1. Know Your Audience
Creating content without understanding your target audience is like trying to paddle a boat with a spoon. Not effective and certainly not efficient.

The simplest way to start understanding what type of content your audience is most compelled by is looking at what content receives the most visits, shares, tweets, etc.

This can give you a baseline for both what archetypes (i.e. tips posts) and topics (i.e. content marketing) are most successful.

If you are already creating content and paying attention to what plays and what doesn’t, you might be ready for  the creation of audience profiles or personas.

A next great step in creating content, the creation of profiles will help you further segment your content strategy (see tip 2) in such a way that you appeal to different preferences.

For example, you may find that you have 3 personas to which you need to create content. Let’s call them Bob, Dan and Sherri.

Bob – Younger and engaged; he uses Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, writes a blog, writes reviews and shares photos.

Dan – Slightly older, engaged but less so; he uses Google, LinkedIn (not Facebook) reads blogs (doesn’t write one), but also writes reviews.

Sherri – Younger and engaged; uses Bing as her search engine of preference, uses Facebook (not LinkedIn), writes a blog, shares photos and videos.

Imagine with the clarity of the above 3 personas how you can augment your content strategy to better reach each one and deliver content that they are most likely to engage and share.

2. Create a Content Strategy
Once you understand your audience, you are in a much more informed position to create a content strategy.

Most content strategies start with already existing content, which is OK. But in any competitive market new content will need to be created as well.

Start outlining your content plan by understanding your objectives. i.e. inform an audience, help them with a purchase decision

Then brainstorm the topics that you can create content for and tie them into topical categories and assign each post a keyword group.

Review the content you have planned to ensure you are covering all key topics and accounting for various content archetypes.

3. Analyze & Refine
Like with any marketing, content marketing should have a measurement piece to identify successful content and inform future content creation.

Be sure to look at the basics such as what content received the most visits, shares, tweets, etc.

Then take a deeper dive to look for the unknown. For example, do a search in analytics for the inclusion of a ‘?’ in the referring search phrase to understand what types of questions people are looking to answer. Then, create content that speaks to the topic and ultimately will help drive more traffic.

Tell us below what you have found to be crucial to content marketing success!

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SES New York: 3 Content Marketing Principles |

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