Archive for the ‘Internet Marketing’ Category

Asheville Local SEO Expert: getting more and better quality online reviews

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Customer reviews are at the forefront of the news again, so it’s a good time to start thinking about how garnering more online reviews fits into your business.As an Asheville SEO Pro I find this is one of the most important parts of internet marketing.

In my experience, when it comes to reviews there are four types of businesses:

  • Businesses that get most of their business from referrals, don’t get any online reviews and could care less about them (perhaps the biggest chunk of businesses).
  • Businesses that get most of their business from referrals, get online reviews and think that nobody reads them or cares.
  • Businesses that think reviews are hugely important and work hard to get a lot of them.
  • Businesses that think reviews are hugely important and work hard to get them, but don’t get many, if any.

What the types that rely heavily on referrals and ignore reviews don’t realize is that some time in the next year or two someone is going to write something about them online and there’s a good chance it’s going to be negative.

If it gets around, which it usually does thanks to Google, their referrals are at risk of drying up. If the first thing that shows up in Google for your brand is a negative, you are potentially screwed.

For those that work hard at getting a lot of reviews, I would wager that most of them are leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.

While positive reviews are great, the real power is in the reviewer. A customer willing to spend the time to review you is a brand ambassador. Instead of just asking them for reviews, you should be thinking about how you can harness your relationship with these valuable people to help spread the word, both online and off.

Those that try but can’t seem to get traction with reviews should consider the following on how to build review generation into their business processes.

There are basically four ways to get an online customer review:

  • Via phone
  • Via email
  • Via a Website
  • Via transcription from a hand-written review

Which method is right for you depends on how you conduct your business.

Do you collect customer email addresses? Most of the businesses I work with know they should but rarely do, or rarely do it with any rigor.

Do you have more than 50% of your customers’ up-to-date email addresses? If so, then you can use email solicitations where you can ask them to provide a review via email or you can direct them to a website where they can leave a review.

If email doesn’t work for you, then you’ll need to consider how you typically interact with your customers. If most of your business is done in person then give them a comment card. If it’s over the phone, you may have to do it via mail. Try stapling a comment card with return postage to your invoice.

When figuring out your review acquisition strategy, take a good look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what your staff can realistically do every day.

Some tips for asking customer reviews:

  • Don’t offer incentives. A percentage of your customers will do it for free. If you offer to pay your top brand ambassadors, it’s possible they will get turned off, which could hurt your business by dampening the enthusiasm of these mavens.
  • Make it easy for customers. Don’t send them a link to review you on Google unless they have a Gmail address.
  • Don’t ask people for Yelp reviews. This almost always backfires. You may get a few positive reviews in the short term, but if your customers are not active Yelpers, Yelp’s SPAM filters will eventually toast their reviews. You’ll end up with no reviews and potentially some angry customers who wonder why their work of review art disappeared.
  • Do it promptly. Don’t wait. People are most likely to give you feedback right away.  The longer you go from the time of service to the time of request, the likelihood of getting reviews drops precipitously. According to Ted Paff, CEO of CustomerLobby, a review service, “Comment card reviews solicited at the time of service can see completion rates of 80-90%” vs. much lower rates for other forms of review solicitation.
  • If you have the customer’s email address, follow up your initial request three days later with a reminder email containing links of where to for review submissions. Reminder emails can account for a huge percentage of review conversions.

Bonus Tip: always underpromise and over deliver. I have often heard that business owners can feel embarrassed when asking customers for reviews. If that sounds like you, my advice is to be totally candid with your customers.

Chuck Taft, Asheville Local SEO Pro

How do you personalize online news to get only the stories you want?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

So much information, so little time. People often ask me, as a local Asheville SEO expert, how they can organize and stay on top of all the news that’s out there and comes in to them like a flood?

Below you’ll find five methods to help aggregate the news that’s important to you. You can find many more such tips and other important local SEO information in my new book ‘Top Ranked: The Straightforward Guide to Local SEO’

Some of these have been around for a while, such as Techmeme, but newer apps are also finding ways to leverage our social networks, focus on personalized and curated content, and enable DIY digital papers. I’ve organized the sections under the method by which news is aggregated.

Succinct News By Industry

Gabe Rivera’s Techmeme has been around for more than five years. It’s a go-to destination for a quick snapshot of the day’s top technology headlines. By using a combination of computer algorithm and human editorial review, the news aggregator highlights the hottest technology stories from around the web, as well as noteworthy tweets, all on a single page.

While Techmeme focuses on technology, its sister sites contribute additional resources: Mediagazer aggregates media news, memorandum tackles politics, and WeSmirch covers celebrity news. A great feature about all these sites is that they let you see how other outlets are covering a particular headline.

DIY News Aggregators

Flipboard is news-reading app that lets you create your own personalized news aggregator by incorporating your preferred sources, blogs and social networks.

Flipboard aims to emulate the experience of flipping through a magazine by presenting the content in a similar format. As you open Flipboard, you’re greeted by a content page of several blocks, each representing a section you can create (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader or Tech News). Tapping on a block loads excerpts of that section’s content into a grid-like, visually pleasing, easy-to-read format. Depending on what sources you added, the excerpts may include images, videos or article excerpts. If you tap on an excerpt, the article will load its full version. Swiping the page lets you move to the next article, emulating the experience of flipping through the pages of a magazine.

Flipboard also enables you to retweet articles or share your thoughts via social networks, making it a “personalized, social magazine.” What I love about Flipboard is that it essentially acts as a hub for all the news I want to read, by letting me personalize by news source – be it a certain publication, an RSS feed in Google Reader or a Twitter list. For now, Flipboard is only available on the iPad.

News Curated from Your Social Networks

Since most major news outlets are connected to social networks, they can be easily organized by topic into lists, newsfeeds or circles on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, respectively.

LinkedIn Today is an example of news curated based on what your social networks are sharing. Launched in March 2011, LinkedIn Today is LinkedIn’s news recommendation service, curating stories it predicts will be most relevant for you.

Its recommendations are calculated by an algorithm that accounts for the news currently being shared by your LinkedIn connections in addition to the news being shared by related industry professionals. LinkedIn Today features more than 30 industries you can follow, such as public relations, semiconductors and computer software. For each industry you follow, LinkedIn Today will display the top handful of stories, the number of times the story has been shared, and who in your network has shared that story. It also lets you know if a story is trending in other industries that LinkedIn tracks, which enables you to determine cross-industry impact.

Particular noteworthy about LinkedIn Today is its focus on leveraging social networks. I pay attention to the links extracted by LinkedIn Today because they feature links shared by people I care about and trust.

Personalized Keyword-Specific Channels

When monitoring client-related and industry news, I subscribe to several Google Alerts that get sent directly to my inbox. In addition, I make specific news channels from of these keywords via aggregators like Google News and The Washington Post’s Trove, which lets you add a section/channel based on specified keywords.

Keyword-specific channels let you create your own personalized news channel for a specific topic that may not be easily accessible elsewhere. For example, I have an alert for “parallel programming” because few news outlets dedicate a section solely to this topic.

Industry-Specific, Customized e-Newsletters

Each morning, I love getting my (digital) hands on the SmartBrief newsletters delivered to my inbox. SmartBrief delivers a free daily summary of the most important industry news. Its editors hand-pick the top headlines from a variety of sources, and then summarize each story.

SmartBrief provides more than 100 email newsletters spanning 25 industries, such as business, technology, finance, education, healthcare and advertising. My favorites include social media, computing technology and education technology. I work across different industries such as education, computing and telecommunications, and each morning SmartBrief newsletters help me stay smart, save time and stay on top of industry news.


Which type of news aggregator is the best? It all depends on your needs and preferences. Do you prefer to receive your news via email, to spend time curating your own digital paper, or to check out the links your social networks have shared? I incorporate each of the above methods into my daily reading habits in one form or another, as I move between my inbox, iPhone and various social networks.

Which types of news aggregators do you use?

Chuck Taft is an Asheville local SEO expert.

Predicting the payoff from SEO

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

SEO and Local SEO are important for your website.

SEO and local SEO are critical components of marketing for every website. There are many tips and techniques that are widely available that can help you increase the chances of getting a high ranking for the search keywords and phrases that are central to your marketing strategy.

Everyone knows that a higher ranking is better, but exactly how high does your ranking have to be to generate significant traffic for your website? Is it possible to predict how much traffic you can generate for a given search phrase and ranking?

It is well known that you can use a resource such as the Google Keyword Tool to estimate monthly traffic for a keyword. Once you have that number, the question becomes: given a particular ranking, what percentage of those searches will result in a visit to your website? You can’t really create a reliable, comprehensive search phrase strategy without this critical piece of information.

There is a variety of counsel and opinion on this topic, not all of it consistent. For instance, one website, which provides research, training and educational services exclusively for the publishing industry, states the following rule of thumb:

“When your website or landing page turns up on page one in Google, you’re getting 100% visibility…But what happens when your landing page ends up on page two or three? We estimate that you’re getting about 32% Google visibility on page two, meaning only about 32% of users ever click through to page two, and a meager 7% visibility on page three. If you’re on page four or beyond, you simply don’t have a chance of being seen by your potential customers.”

The authors cited no source for this rule of thumb, or explanation of how they developed it. There are a number of other rules of thumb about click distributions floating around on the web, which are entirely inconsistent with the above. I’m not going to dwell on these here; I’d rather get right to the data I believe is the most credible and useful.

SEO Click Disributions – The Best Data Avaliable

There have been several eye-tracking studies that have been done over the past few years, all of which produce consistent results. Perhaps the best-known among them is a study that was performed at Cornell University that showed the following:

SEO is important for your website.

This data tells a far different tale than the rule of thumb cited above: the first three ranks get 80% of the clicks, and the first page gets 98.9% of the clicks!

You might object, and I would agree, that this data is derived from an eye tracking study, not actual searches, and would thus compel some caution on extrapolating the results. Fortunately, there is some actual data available. In 2006, AOL leaked some data on over 36 million queries. The data was analyzed by Richard Hearne, and the results are as follows:

Click through rank matters.

These results, by and large, are consistent with the Cornell eye-tracking study, in that the first page attracts an extremely high percentage of the clicks. The first three ranks garner 63% of the clicks; the top 10, 90%; the top 20, 94.5%. Here are the percentages for ranks 1-21, 31, and 41:

Percentage ranks for SEO.

Viewed another way, an improvement in rank from second to first will almost quadruple the number of clicks. The number one ranking produces as many clicks as ranks two through eight combined. The drop-off in clicks is enormous by the time you get to the second page; a rank off 11 produces only .66% of the clicks; in comparison a rank of 10 produces more than 4 times as many, and the number 1 rank more than 60 times as many!

This click distribution has also been confirmed by an independent set of search data analyzed by Enquisite, a firm that specializes in search optimization software. Based on a proprietary data set of 300 million searches, the first page grabbed 89.71% of the clicks; the second 5.93%; the third, 1.85%, the fourth, .78%; and the fifth, .46%.

Since there are several methods that have produced highly similar results, there is a high degree of confidence that this data provides a reliable foundation on which to base an SEO strategy.

Implications for SEO Strategy

  • The ranking you can achieve for any given search phrase depends on a number of factors, including how well you optimize your pages for the search phrase, your page rank, and the amount of competition. If you opt to compete for high volume search phrases with a lot of competition, you have to realistically weigh the chances that you can make the first page.
  • A better option may be to pursue a long tail strategy, in which you set your sights on achieving a number one ranking on lower volume search phrases with lower levels of competition. This strategy necessarily involves multiple keywords in order to generate significant volumes of traffic for your website.
  • But perhaps the best option of all, made possible by this data, would be to pursue a mixed strategy. The increase in traffic you can expect from improving your ranking for any particular search phrase can now be predicted. You can therefore weigh the incremental increase in your website traffic for an entire portfolio of search phrases, and allocate your efforts in a way that will optimize your ROI.

Targeting your niche in internet marketing

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Target your niche in local SEO.

A basic but oft overlooked practice is that if you are doing any sort of online marketing, you want to target your niche audience. A niche audience is a group of potential customers that are most likely to use the products or services that you are marketing.

One common mistake that marketers on and offline make is that they market to the masses and never actually target the people who are going to be interested in your products or services. What this equals is countless time and money being wasted marketing to people who are not going to have any interest in what is being offered.

In short, targeted marketing and niche marketing are very similar. As mentioned, targeted marketing goes after a certain demographic of people, while niche marketing goes after the demographic of people who are going to be the most likely to use products or services that are being advertised. Finding good key phrases and keywords to use in pay per click advertisements is not always an easy task to accomplish though.

If a person is marketing a certain niche, how does he or she know if anyone is searching for it? Using Google trends is one way to start researching a key phrase or key term, but a lot of times, there is not enough data to provide online marketers with information if the niche that they are marketing in is small.

This is where internet marketing software comes into play and can be very useful. Using marketing software that can find the latest trends and mentions on the Internet gives marketers an advantage over those who do not have this information.

Once a marketer or advertiser finds out if there is enough of a demand for the niche that he or she is marketing in, they can easily use Google to find out what the competition is. If there isn’t a lot of pay per click ads showing up for the keywords that are entered or the websites that rank first organically are not very relevant to the keywords, then this gives the marketer a good impression that the niche is not overly saturated and competition is low.

Local marketing: connecting with the media

Monday, March 14th, 2011

As an SEO Pro professional, I’ve been able to develop and maintain strong relationships with several members of the local media. I’ve even been able to establish relationships with key contacts in several other city media markets who cover news from my clients.

Through the years, I’ve learned what works –and what sets you back– when attempting to secure coverage for yourself or clients. Follow the rules below, and it will bring you one step closer to securing that feature story in your local market’s daily newspaper, business journal, or on your local television station.

Don’t be a stranger

Introduce yourself. Your relationship with a reporter doesn’t have to be all business. Take them out for coffee or lunch, and really get to know the people behind the headlines: What do they like? Where do they live? What are their favorite sports teams? Make a personal connection, so when you do have to talk business, they’ll recognize your name and connect with you on a friendlier platform.

Be persistent, without being a pain

When conducting follow up or trying to secure an initial meeting, be persistent. Persistence doesn’t give you the green light to call a reporter five times a day and leave 30 messages in one week. Know where the line is, and be sure not to cross it. If you have established a good relationship with a reporter, you won’t need to stalk them; you know they will return your call or email when they have a minute to breathe.

Don’t withhold information

More is better. Always offer more information than is necessary for your pitch. If you are pitching a specific expert as a source for a local trend piece, be sure to mention all the areas in which your expert is fluent. Have a complete bio prepared. If you do, or even if you don’t secure something with your first attempt, the reporter now has a list of subjects they can refer to in order to use you or your client for a source.

Don’t be lazy

The more work you can do on your end, the less time reporters have to spend researching or writing —making their jobs much easier, and making you one of their favorite people. Always offer more than enough information, whether you’re providing contact information and availability for interviews, or sending press releases and quotes electronically (making cutting and pasting easier). A source that a reporter can rely on to offer everything he or she needs is one they will turn back to time and time again.

It’s important to stay on a reporter’s “good side” during your work with your local media. Over time, these relationships can even turn into friendships, which make your professional relationship that much more rewarding.

Stay on top of current industry trends, beats particular reporters cover, and the media coverage of your competitors. General knowledge of –and a sense of awareness for– your local media will help you to secure the story you want, and establish yourself, your client, or your agency as a reputable source that can be called upon for future stories.

So, how do you start? Consider using social media to track your local reporters. From Facebook to Twitter to blogs, reporters are everywhere, and social media opens a door to casual conversation—and a window into their personal lives as well—that allows business and marketing people to connect with them on a whole different level.

Estimating what you gain or lose in SEO ranking

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

To understand the importance of SEO work it is necessary for you to understand how much you stand to gain or lose through search ranking. To help you estimate how much traffic you may stand to gain or lose by moving up or down in the search engine rankings, the first thing you’ll need to review would be the concept of Click Distribution by SERP Ranking. This basically refers to how user’s clicks are distributed throughout the Top 10 SERP rankings.

If you recall, there are limited data sets available within the search industry regarding the distribution of clicks. I’ve taken the liberty of averaging all of the known data sets together in an effort to consolidate the percentages into one percentage. Here’s what I came up with for the click distribution percentages in SERP results.

  • Position #1: 45.46% of all clicks
  • Position #2: 15.69% of all clicks
  • Position #3: 10.09% of all clicks
  • Position #4: 5.49% of all clicks
  • Position #5: 5.00% of all clicks
  • Position #6: 3.94% of all clicks
  • Position #7: 2.51% of all clicks
  • Position #8: 2.94% of all clicks
  • Position #9: 1.97% of all clicks
  • Position #10: 2.71% of all clicks

Total: 95.91% of all clicks occur on Page #1 of SERPs

SERP Rankings, Search Volume, and Click Distribution

Lets follow this logic…by monitoring your search rankings, examining search volume, and applying the distribution percentages you can begin to get an idea of how much traffic you’re likely to receive based on where you rank within the search engines.

Lets work on an example. In our example, we’ll say that you’re a nationally prominent seller of dog supplies. Over the past few years you’ve worked really hard and are now ranking #10 for the term “dog supplies.”

By using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, you’ll see that the key term “dog supplies” receives 74,000 Global Monthly Searches.

Dog Supplies - Search Volume Example

This is the first place where it gets a little tricky. Which search volume number do you use? This depends on your business type and how realistic you wish to be about the quality of your traffic.

If you’re a global brand like Petco or Petsmart then its safe to say you should use the Global Search Volume number. However, if you’re brand is more local within your country, you should go with the Local Monthly Search Volume (Note: Your Local Monthly Search Volume constitues the search volume generated by your country, in my case the United States).

Now, lets apply our initial logic.

“Dog supplies” generates 74,000 global monthly searches and we’re currently (fictionally) ranking #10. Based on our original click distribution percentages, we should receive 2.71% of all clicks. If that’s the case, we should currently be getting approximately (carry the one, minus the blah blah) 2,005 visits. That’s 74,000 x 0.0271. Make sense?

Now, lets make another connection. Let’s imagine that you’ve worked really really hard – built your links, ate your spinach, said your prayers – and achieved the #1 ranking for the term “dog supplies!” Good work.

Based on the percentages, we’ll now take 74,000 and multiply it by 0.4546. This SERP position should give us approximately 33,640 visits. That’s a big jump in traffic and clearly shows you how valuable the #1 position can be in terms of gaining additional traffic. But how much did you gain?

Okay, let’s put this last piece together. Take 33,640 visits minus 2,005 visits and you’ll see that you stand to gain 31,635 additional visits by moving from position #10 to #1.

Quickly, let’s apply this logic backwards. Let’s say you’re ranking #3 and slip to #6. At the #3 position you should expect around 7,467 visits. At position #6, you should expect around 2,916 visits. That’s a slip of 4,551 visits! That’s a lot to lose and can be the difference in gaining or losing a lot of web revenue/exposure.

The Flaws in this Logic

Now here’s the disclaimer. The above logic is flawed. It assumes that every search result is absolutely perfect and only includes the 10 organic listings – nothing else. We know that’s false.

The search results of this day and age are what I like to call “muddy.” The reason I call them Muddy SERPs is that there are so many different types of results that are injected right into the natural results that may draw a click away and water down the click percentages (local, news, social, etc).

Here is an example of a Muddy SERP result:

In addition, there are different types of searches. Different search contexts certainly impact the patterns in which people click around the SERPs, which in turn may affect the click distribution percentages.

Different types of search classifications is discussed in detail by Aaron Wall over at SEOBook. These types are Navigational, Transactional, and Informational.

  • In general, for navigational searches people click the top result more often than they would on an informational search.
  • In general, for informational searches people tend to click throughout the full set of search results at a more even distribution than they would for navigational or transactional searches.
  • The only solid recently-shared publicly data on those breakdowns is from Dogpile, a meta search engine. But given how polluted meta search services tend to be (with ads mixed in their search results) those numbers were quite a bit off from what one might expect. And once more, they are aggregate numbers.

Another thing that may affect how the numbers that Google may not show are the number of searches that don’t result in a click. With the new Google Instant Search feature, I know that many of my searches are abandoned quickly without a click if I don’t see what I need right away. This type of behavior may not take place on the other two major search engines, but Google is ahead of the curve in this regard.

The Smartest Thing To Do

The best thing you can do is knock at least 30% off of whatever number you have, and then you may have a more accurate estimate of the real traffic that may come in by being at a certain position.

So with that logic we’ll re-approach our original example. Remember, we were ranking #10 in which we were garnering 2,005 visits. Remember, we moved to the #1 position which represented 33,640 visits.

Let’s slice 30% right off of both of those numbers. The #10 ranking will probably garner closer to 1,404 visits rather than the original estimate of 2,005 visits. Likewise, the #1 ranking will probably pull in something closer to 23,548 visits rather than our original estimate of 33,640 visits.

This means that you ultimately stand to gain around 22,144 visits per month by moving from the #10 SERP result to the #1 SERP for the term “dog supplies.”

There it is! You’ve done it. You can apply this logic – however flawed – going forward to attempt to estimate traffic gains/losses by fluctuations in SERP rank.

The importance of internal linking

Monday, February 28th, 2011

One of the elements of site development and SEO that often gets overlooked is internal linking. When done right, you can kill two birds with one stone, and improve both search rankings and usability. You may be familiar with the fact that when sites link to other sites, search engines pass value for the terms/phrases used in the link anchor text. (Anchor text is the highlighted text in the link.)

When working on improving rankings for a site, people usually try to target links from other sites (external links) that have the desired anchor text related to terms they want to rank for. However, contextual internal links can also be effective in helping to improve a site’s rankings for targeted keyphrases.

Your website’s text content is filled with opportunities to potentially pass link juice to other pages of your site and to help users find their end destination.

To start improving your internal linking strategy, go through your site section by section, page by page, and see where it would make sense (from a user’s point of view), and insert some contextual links to other pages that you want to rank better.

Be sure to use the keywords/phrases (in the anchor text) that you would like the destination pages to rank for. In your links to these pages throughout the site, vary it up and don’t use the exact same phrases in anchor text, or it will look artificial to both search engines and users.

Internet marketing techniques for small businesses

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Internet marketing marketing small business techniques are about much more than creating a website and taking it online. You cannot just carefully create a website and expect it to be a success overnight. Creating a successful website requires careful planning and strategic decisions. Without this, your website is almost guaranteed to fail. But this doesn’t mean that you have to give up. With the right planning it is possible to create a website that gathers a great deal of web traffic and leads to successful sales of your products.

Before you worry about marketing strategies, you need to strategically create your website. Begin by thinking of the products you are going to sell or offer on your site. Decide what audience is suited to these products and services, and what you can do to attract these potential customers. You also want to target these customers’ needs in the design of your site.

Don’t just build a website that is based on gimmicks and scams. People may visit your site, but they will quickly leave without making a purchase if they do not trust its legitimacy. Creating a legitimate website that potential customers can trust is the only way to make sure your web traffic leads to purchases on your site. Consumers want to feel like they are buying from a well-established company, and not just some random site on the internet. You want to make your online business seem as legitimate as one with an actual store that you can go to visit.

There are many ways to do this. Provide actual contact information so customers have a way to contact you with questions or concerns. Be upfront about all details of the business, including the payment options, return policies, and shipping costs. Make sure to offer payment methods that are well secured and from trusted companies.

Also consider what it is that you are trying to sell or offer. You have to offer a product that is unique and different from the competitors. If the product isn’t something different, then you should make sure that you at least offer a very competitive price. After you are sure that you have a product that is rock solid and a web site that customers will be willing to shop at, you can begin to implement the internet marketing small business strategies that will lead your business to financial success.

One of the internet marketing small business strategies that has been proven to increase web traffic is search engine optimization. Search engine optimization focuses on incorporating commonly used search terms for your business industry and products into your website. This helps draw customers looking for your product to your site by improving your web site’s ranking with various search engines.

Of special importance is the growing field of local search engine optimization. Local SEO gets your business ranked in the places that show up when your local customers use search engines to find their products. Take a look at the following screenshot of a local SEO listing:

Search engines have a vast influence on the way people navigate through the pages of the internet. It is much easier to type a common phrase into a search engine such as Bing or Google than remember an entire website URL. As a business, you want to research the phrases that people would use to get to a product or site like yours. Incorporating those keywords is a sure fire way to make your site appear higher in search engine results, which will help you draw in more web traffic.

Internet marketing small business strategies, such as local SEO optimization, help you to increase the web traffic to your site, but this increased traffic will not lead to sales unless you also have a legitimate website that builds trust with potential customers. Using both of these methods is the best way to guarantee that your site becomes a success.