Over the last two months, there has been a bit of a panic in the search community (SEOs specifically) around the shocking change in Google's keyword data. Or lack thereof. You may remember, back in October 2011, Google changed the site mechanism around the search results pages (SERPs) that it served up. Ostensibly to address privacy concerns, Google's SERPs were served up in the secure http protocol (SSL) for users who were signed in through Google+. The result was that queries served up in this method showed up as "(not provided)" in analytics reports.
The numbers at the beginning were single digits. For a month or so, we chalked it up to a glitch with our analytics platform. The lack of knowledge was reflected in the platform response to our support tickets - we have no idea either. As we learned more, the numbers continued to grow, albeit slowly.
Then in August of this year, there was a steep rise in the % of "keyword not found." Google began serving up SSL SERPs by default in the top 4 browsers regardless of signing in through Google+. Current levels indicate ~80% of search traffic is passing no search query data, with the number expected to hit 100% before the end of November (as they turn on SSL-by-default for the remaining browsers).
The impact here for those of us in marketing and search in specific is that we experience a macular degeneration of our SEO vision. We can no longer see keywords, we’re limited to only peripheral awareness of organic search’s share of traffic.
The question "What now?" has to be asked by a wide variety of people: small business owners, search engine optimizers, channel marketers. For those that focused on keywords, there have been a few articles that provide some indirect workarounds, albeit with a much higher time investment (for my money, you can never go wrong with Avanish Kaushik's up-to-the-minute analysis). The irony for the SEO is that a more complicated workstream means there's even more job security than before, IF you can prove your worth. Here's a short list of activities to re-focus your keyword awareness:
The real takeaway here is that SEOs and businesses focusing on organic search need to wean themselves off keywords as the primary indicator of relevance, and return to a more holistic approach to optimization - inbound links, page performance, and overall goal achievement as driven by traffic to our content. And agencies in specific need to think about how to structure their testing efforts to prove the value of organic search.
Tags: SEO, Google, Analytics, SEM, keyword data, not provided, advanced filter, organic search, SSL, SERPs
Marketing | SEM | SEO
In the world of social media there are as many ways to measure success as there are ways to cook eggs. When all is said and done, it comes down to what matters most to you. Are you using social media as an engagement tool, a means to drive traffic to your website, or for social selling? Each has its own unique recipe to measure by.
Social Media Measurement ProfilesCommunity BuildersHere we care about nurturing a growing community and making sure clients feel they have a voice. The important measurements here are: growth of followers, likes, retweets, @mentions, sentiment (if you can, more on this later in the month…), and true conversations that are had.
Traffic Jam We want to be overrun with website traffic and we want it yesterday. Measurements to take account of here: clicks on links, referral traffic to site, conversions to leads, reach and click-through rates.
Social = Customer ServiceIn this case, we’re looking for the easiest, fastest way to answer questions, take care of issues and turn a client’s frown upside-down. We need to look at: comments, @mentions, direct messages, and reviews.
Sell It to Me It’s all about the units, services and Benjamin’s. You’re going to be looking at: direct response sales, conversion rates, direct traffic, and lead-to-customer metric.
Here at Exsilio we use an arsenal of tools to measure our social media success as a company. I love the painlessly easy and free Twtrland because it gives the forest-for-the-trees view of our Twitter profile. It shows us quickly what we need to look at, who our followers are and how our engagement is doing.
For our daily goings on, scheduling of posts and reporting on KPIs for all things @exsilio social, we use Hootsuite Pro. The integrated way that Hootsuite shows you your overlap with Tweets and posts to our Google Analytics keeps us coming back for more. It’s just the ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment we search for when trying to find the ‘why’ behind traffic.
No matter your social purpose, there are certainly ways to measure your ROI and what that truly means to your business.
Tags: audience engagement, best practices, community management, Facebook, Exsilio Solutions, marketing, social media, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Tools, Twitter
Marketing | Social Media
If a tweet falls in the woods, does it make a sound? You bet it does. Remember when we used to have to actually watch commercials on TV? Remember the De Beers ‘A Diamond is Forever’ ads and how it was a beautiful double entendre to describe the sturdiness of the stone as well as the depth of the marital commitment? Well Twitter could launch their own “A Tweet is Forever’ campaign to describe the fact that whatever you say on the web, stays on the web, be if for good or for ego/corporation/relationship killing evil.
For example: @kitchenAidUSA knows quite well the power of a tweet, both the bad and the good ones. Everyone remembers the inflammatory comment that was made about Barak Obama’s grandmother during the last election. Yikes! While it cost a certain community manager their job, Kitchen Aid’s CMO was able to change this ‘yikes’ into a ‘whew’ with some serious CYA messages sent to nearly every offended person on Twitter. Moral of the story, don’t use the same device for your personal account as your business account. #palmface
@celebboutique allowed their ego to get the best of them when the term #Aurora began trending in July of 2012, the UK based retailer assumed it was their well selling dress bearing the name or at least something just as cute, when in all reality Colorado was facing one of the worst mass shootings in its history. Lesson: Don’t assume everything that’s said on the internet is about you. Do your research!
@McDonalds launched their #mcdstories to try to create customer engagement through sharing heartwarming and good customer experience stories on their Twitter feeds. Alas, it turned into a forum for disgruntled customers to vent and rip them apart in 140 characters or less. My favorite story being the Dutch model who wound up with blood in her fries and was told by management that she should probably get tested. Which brings me to…
There are hundreds of examples of various Twitter #fails from celebrities or companies. Some are silly mistakes from a community manager who just didn’t think before posting, others were calculated and vetted social media campaigns (e.g. @jello’s #FML campaign), but whatever the situation, remember when something goes wrong, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle it and you have a very limited window of time to make things right in the eyes of your audience.
Tags: social media fail, social media, marketing, Twitter
You can't just execute an idea that worked for someone else and expect it to perform better for you. This is how best practices get people in trouble; an idea, concept, campaign, etc, turns into a practice, diminishing opportunities for innovation and creativity. Unfortunately, finding a great example of this scenario is as easy as looking at many companies' implementation of social media. While I don't disagree with many common social media practices, I do think that one way companies are still stumbling into social is by simply practicing what worked for others.I'm sure I'm not the only one that found this out by example, "the Top 10 Steps to More Facebook Likes" may not actually bring you more followers. We live in an era of informational noise, and it gets worse when you look at the marketing world (I won't even start on the social media marketing portion of that globe). For every "way to make your brand's Twitter influential" you try, there are probably thousands of other "gurus" employing the same tactic. As Jeremiah Owyang puts it in this interview by Markie Marketo, "Social can be used for many permeations of business goals, and it'll continue to change. We're a long ways from being able to measure [social media efforts] cohesively and consistently across all of our channels." It's often tough to pinpoint a direct relationship between a scenario's cause and effect in the real world, and this is especially true in the social media space. This is why researchers like Owyang recommend evaluating social media based on its contribution to a specific range of business goals; the idea of relying on a compass, not a checklist.My point here is not to downplay tried-and-true methodologies. However, I think it's important to occasionally check ourselves. Is Idea A in use simply because others were successful in its execution, or are did we truly find it to be valuable for our business? Are campaigns X and Z running because they were easy to scale and included in a package of recommended ideas, or are they real examples of our company's broadening perspective? Are we actually innovating, or just using Competitor B's idea faster and better? If we're not careful, best practices can lead us down the dangerous road of maintaining the status quo.
Tags: Social Media Marketing, Facebook, Twitter, marketing strategy, best practices
We work on a lot of different things and it’s easy to get yourself caught up in the "I want our business to offer everything". I overheard someone getting a quote from someone outside our company for something and I asked the person next to me "Why aren't we doing that internally? We've done it before and we easily could". The person then rattled off a bunch of high profile, very important projects and a reminder of our current staffing levels. And of course my reply was "yeah, but we could do that". And then the person said something, without any earlier mention to the context that came through loud and clear.
"Those aren't the Cool Ranch Tacos, that’s like the side of beans, focus on the Cool Ranch Tacos."
For those living under a rock, Taco Bell had a smashing success with the Doritos Locos Tacos, blowing their projected numbers out of the water, just crazy success levels, according to one report approximately 1M were sold per day since being introduced to the market. From a non-sales perspective, the menu addition added 15000 new jobs related due to the product alone. They then immediately followed up with the natural successor, the Cool Ranch Tacos. Everyone who likes a taco that I've talked to is super excited to try them, just the thought conjures up a tasty sensation for the pallet.
Then there's the beans, how could you possibly have a Taco Bell without beans? The answer is "you couldn't", they're obviously incredibly vital to Taco Bell.
But let’s face it, when's the last time that someone said "hey, have you heard about those beans at Taco Bell, they're awesome and we all need some." No, it’s just not going to happen despite us all agreeing that beans are a crucial staple to the Taco Bell experience.
I'm sure Taco Bell has big awards and kudos conventions like every company... and who's going to get all of the kudos and rewards this year: The guy focused on the Cool Ranch Tacos or the Beans?
And while in 5 years, the Doritos Taco product owner may have moved on to something new and great, the beans guy is probably still focusing on how to drive even lower costs on production line of a product that's been worked on and optimized already year-after-year-after-year.
Which brings me back to our business... when time and resources are a factor and you're working with people who are wowed by the latest and greatest, which then drives your follow-up projects: You can either focus on the Cool Ranch Tacos or the side of beans, and at this point in our businesses lifecycle the Cool Ranch Tacos seem like a lot more fun.
Business Consulting | General | Marketing
“How do my ads compare to others in the search auction?” Have you heard that question before as a marketing manager? In the world of paid search, competition is everything, every click, impression, and conversion drives the business. As such, any marketer wants to know how they stack up against the competition.
A few months ago, Google Adwords and Bing Ads opened up their competitive metrics, to share insights into how your ads and keywords are performing against other advertisers in that same space. This is called, “Impression Share” or “Share of Voice” in Google and Bing, respectively. Impression share is the impressions you've received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive. Simply put, how much of the time was my ad being shown, compared to how many times it could have received an impression.
This is a great overall indicator of the performance headroom in each ad group and campaign. Allowing you to garner a high level overview of your performance, and see if there are opportunities.
Great, right? Well, yes, but it doesn’t tell you enough. That is where your “Lost Impressions due to Ad Rank” steps in. This is an actionable number, because you can control your ad rank through a variety of levers.
Quick recap, what is ad rank? How well your ad has performed overtime, in combination with Quality Score. Quality Score is the combination of a few metrics: Click Through Rate (CTR), Account History, Display URL performance, landing page relevance, and other “black box” numbers that Google and Bing won’t share. Keeping in mind, you can change these parts of your account through some hard work and analysis.
With Impression Share, you can get a quick glance to your performance, and making sure that each day, you’re getting the most out of your account, and the most out of each query. Bing and Google make it easy to view this metric now, so take advantage of it!
For other important pay per click marketing metrics, take a look at my other blog post!
Marketing | Search | SEM
Tags: media buy, second screen, social media
Conversions are the most sought after end-goal for most online advertisers; it declares that their efforts have worked. These often come at a cost, and require hours of effort and optimization to ensure maximum efficiency. But there is one conversion that is so simple and so efficient, that it doesn’t even catch our eye.
The Facebook comment. Go ahead, login to your Facebook, look at your newsfeed, and see what appears under a status update. It is your profile picture and a box for you to offer your wisdom to your friends in the form of a comment. This is the most efficient conversion online.
Why? Because Facebook needs and wants you to engage with your friends, that is why you’re there, right? You see your image, you see yourself already there. Facebook allows provides you everything you need to make that final conversion, you just have to come up with a clever comment. Every time you click a like, or comment on a picture or update, you are fueling Facebook. You are converting and adding value to their Friend Graph.
The takeaway from this example is that is that the use can “see themselves there,” they know what to expect, and they know what they’ll get.
General | Marketing | Social Media
Which metrics are best in SEM.
There are so many numbers and metrics available with online marketing and advertising. So much so - that marketing jobs are now considered to be the “new finance jobs.” The reality is that every dollar spent through online advertising can be tracked and accounted for. In SEM, what are the key top-level metrics that you should focus on for optimizing your adCenter or AdWords campaigns.
1. Click Through Rate [CTR]: The basic. CTR is simple, how many clicks per impressions did your ad/keyword receive.
Why it is important: CTR is a good measure of your ad’s effectiveness. How well does your ad catch the eye? This metric is good for testing ad copy. Learn to love it.
2. Conversion Rate: The start of something good. Conversion rate requires that you have conversion tracking enabled on your landing pages [which you should]. Assuming you do: Conversion rate tells you how many conversions occur per click received on your ad. Why it is important: Conversion rate is indicative of your landing page’s performance. Does the user get the expected landing page when clicking on an ad served by their query? Your landing page is an opportunity to sell your company or service. Don’t go over the top, but be thoughtful on your content.
3. Conversions Per Impression [CPI]: The overall indicator. CPI is simple enough, per given impression – how many conversions were received. This tells you how well your: keyword matches the query, which meets the user’s expectation/intent, that directs them to a landing page that resonates, and results in a conversion.
Why it is important: By quickly doing this analysis, you can get an overall health check of your SEM campaigns. By itself, it isn’t indicative of any one symptom. But if measure overtime, you can tell if overall performance is improving or decreasing. Note: neither adCenter nor AdWords UI provide this metric, time to bust out the calculator.
4. Exact Match Impression Share: Me vs. the World. Exact Match Impression Share is the percentage of impressions for an exact query that your keyword matches, and displays on the paid portion of the search engine results page [SERP].
Why it is important: This metric provides insight into how well your campaigns are faring against your competitors. If you’re below 100%, then you Quality Score or budget could be holding you back.
These are four extremely important metrics, but which is the best? Answer: All of them. No one single metric can diagnose if something is going well, or not. That is why all must be consider. If your CPI is low, and your Exact Match Impression Share is large, the CTR will likely be low, as such, you should change your ad copy or revisit your landing page. If you CTR in high, but your CPI is low, time to test new landing pages. In short, think of each metric’s strength, and how another metric can fill in the remaining gaps. In tandem, all of these metrics will ensure success.
SEO your LinkedIn Profile
If you love what you do, it doesn’t stop after you leave work. I love search, and I’m always looking to try something new. As such, I turned to my LinkedIn profile.
I’ll be honest, since starting at Exsilio, I hadn’t really touched my LinkedIn profile – like most that aren’t looking for a new job, it gathered a little dust. I decided that I could test some techniques to increase my performance on LinkedIn search.
Here is what I did:
- Increased the use of industry keywords in my descriptions of past positions and personal summary. I researched by looking at profiles of people in mid-level roles [because they’re still looking to move up in a company and presumably care about their LinkedIn profile]
- Joined 40 groups relevant to my industry, and other’s that interested me.
Here is why those two steps are important:
LinkedIn uses a modified character-based search [keywords], just like Google & Bing. To show up in a search related to your industry, you need to have industry terms. Simple, right?
Groups - who cares?!
Joining groups is important because it creates a connection to people outside of your network, regardless if you’ve ever worked or connected with them.
Example: A small business is looking for a SEM professional - they search for that term in LinkedIn. Because we both share “small businesses of Seattle” as a group on LinkedIn, I will show up in their search results, even though we have no other connections.
In addition, I chose to update my headline to reflect the accreditations that I have in the Search industry. Why? Because that is the blurb that people see next to my name in the search results page.
Up Up and Away!
Since implementing these changes, my appearances in LinkedIn search have increase by 283% percent! That is amazing! LinkedIn provides metrics of “How Many Times Have You Appeared In Searches” = your new best friend. Although the data is quite sparse, you can get a good idea of how well your changes are performing.
Since making these changes, I’ve continued to refine my keyword strategy, and am testing how apps and other LinkedIn features. Nothing conclusive yet, but I’ll keep on testing!
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