Thursday, August 26, 2010

Long Tail Search And Website Authority

The following is a great analysis on the impacts of long tail search and how it relates to the authority of a website...

You're about to build a new website from scratch. You have great content. You have a search engine friendly website architecture. You have plans for a great link building campaign, and you're ready to get active in social media.

So how long will it take to start getting great traffic from search engines, and, what will that traffic look like? Great question!

The reality is that it takes some time. The time is quite variable, however.

Trust and Authority

If you have a great PR campaign that gets you exposure to, and links from, lots of trusted and authoritative websites, things will go faster for you. If your PR machine isn't powerful enough to do that for you, and you have to rely solely on other types of link building methods, it will take a bit longer. Six months is a figure many in the industry have suggested, and that represents a pretty good working estimate for when you'll first have interesting levels of traffic after launching a brand new site.

There are many reasons for this. One key underlying reason is that search engines have a bit of a wait-and-see attitude to determine whether they can "trust" your site.

This used to be referred to as the "sandbox." It was believed that you wouldn't see material gains in traffic for a fixed time. These days, it doesn't seem so binary, but there's continuous evaluation of how trusted a website is, which can be affected by the rate at which you add links from other sites, and how trusted each of those sites are.

The notion of evaluating trust was first well defined by a Yahoo published paper, and then later updated and patented by Google. Although both documents focus on the issue of trust, they are different in several ways. The important takeaway is that the search engines evaluate how much they trust a site.

What Will the Traffic Growth Look Like?

Even with the recent Google May Day update, which affected a less trusted website's ability to get long tail traffic, the early stages of a new site will get most of its traffic from long tail terms. Over time, as the website adds links, the traffic will grow, and start spreading into terms that are "not so long tail" (a.k.a., the "chunky middle") (i.e., a bit higher search volume terms). Later still, with quality marketing and link building efforts, traffic will start to come from some of top terms (a.k.a., the "head terms") related to your space.

This chart captures what the distribution between types of search terms might look like:

Of course, the specifics of the shape of your site's performance may vary significantly, but the general shape of the curve is correct for most sites. The key point is that with SEO it will start with the long tail, and only evolve into other types of search terms over a period of time.

This doesn't mean that you should optimize only for the long tail. You should build a website that can capitalize on the levels of trust that the site experiences over time.

Keeping in mind that cash flow is strategic (it gives you money to reinvest), it's a great idea to make sure your site has the right elements in place to get long tail traffic early. However, to see optimal traffic growth over time, you need the right site architecture and a broad range of keywords that are addressed on the site. Also, you only move through this type of progression if you're marketing (and building links to) your site effectively, so don't skimp on that part of your marketing efforts!

Source: New YorkSearch+Engine+Watch%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Importance Of Online Customer Reviews For Google Local (Places) Listings

On average, 1 in every 9 Google (page one) search displays now contain a Google Local (Places) listing. It is undeniable that Google Local (now Places) listings should now be both claimed and optimized. But there is also another step that is just as important and it has to do with customer reviews.
Customer reviews is a feature that has been added to Google Local listings to allow your customers to write positive or negative feedback about their experiences with a business. These reviews are now present both on the search engine results pages but also in detail within the listings. So why are reviews so important?

According to a Jul7 2009 study by AC Nielson; 70% of people now indicate that they trust online consumer opinions. This is second only to opinions received from friends (90%). Just think about that for a moment: Next to opinions received from friends, 70% of people will now trust opinions provided by complete strangers online. Wow!

In reading through this analysis, I guess I really shouldn't be surprised after all. Thinking back to the last time I picked a florist, book, service station, and new TV, I too relied on the opinions online of complete strangers. How did fare as a result? Pretty well I must say...count me in as one of the 70%.

So what does all this mean for you? Simple: beyond claiming and optimizing your Google Local (Places) listing, you should also be asking your [happy] customers to be writing reviews for you online in your ad. The end result will be improved visibility and better conversions - apparently 70% of you strangers out there tend to agree.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Keyword Selection & Competition For Small Businesses

Here is a nice article on SEO for small businesses and a fundamental understanding of keyword usage and competition...

My last couple of columns have focused on how social media can help you meet your goals as a small business owner.

But what about search itself? Search and social are drawing closer and closer, both in terms of technology and usage. But we don't have to worry about that level of abstraction to answer a simple question: can search marketing work for my small business?

While the question itself may be simple, arriving at the answer requires understanding and consideration of a number of factors. So before we try to answer it, let's look at search a little more closely.

Why Search?

Search marketing, whether pay-per-click (PPC) or search engine optimization (SEO) is often seen as a cornerstone of any online marketing campaign. Indeed, of almost any marketing campaign these days.

There are many ways to approach it and many things you can accomplish from it, but, looking at it in its simplest terms, it differs fundamentally from almost every other marketing or advertising method in human history (including social), in one simple but powerful way:

Instead of trying to interrupt or distract people, you are putting in front of them the very thing that they are looking for at that moment.

Sounds Great, Right?

On paper, it's wonderful. Can't go wrong. In practice? Not quite so simple. And that's doubly true for most small enterprises where, unless you're successful or lucky, tight budgets, time, and other resources tend to amplify any problems.

However, search marketing can work wonders for small businesses. For many, it's probably the single best marketing investment possible, but you have to look at it carefully before jumping in the deep end.

So, what kinds of things are worth considering before taking the plunge?

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Keywords are make-or-break for any campaign. Precise figures aren't important at this early stage, and I won't go into keyword research in detail here (there are plenty of good tutorials and articles already), but you should have a good grasp of the following:

* Are there enough terms associated with my niche, and do they drive enough volume? It might sound amazing, but there are niches -- often narrow and specific niches, admittedly -- where there is little to no search activity, or at least not enough to justify a full campaign. This is often the case in areas such as specialized financial services or high value commercial equipment. It's hard to estimate what "enough" means in this context. Roughly speaking, you need at least 1,000 queries per month across the search terms that you'd want to target before you even start to think about SEO. At least.

* Do they bite? There are also niches where, although there are plenty of queries, there's low commercial intent. Again, this will vary massively from niche to niche, but it's common to find areas where people simply don't buy from search or from the web in general. These are typically areas where contacts and sales are made through referrals, and where the personality of the seller (i.e., you) is important. This isn't closely related to cost, but is closely related to how bespoke or personalized the product or service is. Unfortunately, these are often areas in which small businesses, and especially sole traders, tend to operate.

* Are the queries commercial? Closely related is the issue of informational queries versus commercial queries. For example, the search "solar panels" has a high search volume, as people are interested in the technology and it's often mentioned in the media; but not many people are actually looking to buy them. So your volume can look great on paper, but less so in practice.

* Is the meaning clear? Language, and especially the English language, is such that many words have multiple meanings, often completely unrelated. This might not affect your niche at all, but if it does, it can be a real killer, as queries for alternative meanings of the word in question can swamp the meaning you want to target. It can also have a big impact in cases where a brand has appropriated an everyday word from the language (e.g., Apple). The crossover of different niches can also cause serious problems, as you'll be competing with your own natural competitors, and companies from another niche altogether.

* How competitive is the niche? As a general rule of thumb, the better the match between a particular niche and search marketing, the more competitive it's likely to be. That's just the way the marketplace works. Again, that can be a special problem for small businesses, especially if the big boys are dominant in that area, but it doesn't mean that any worthwhile niche will be too competitive for you. You just need to look carefully at who the top ranked players are, and ask yourself if you have enough budget and staying power to wrestle enough of the market from them to make it worthwhile for you. For example, if you're a local web designer, there's no point trying to optimize for web design related keywords -- the results pages will be dominated by big national players. Also look for the presence of spammers or companies buying links cross into your niche -- you probably don't want to go there if they're hanging around.

Source: Heather E Stein A+sew+%28Search+Engine+Watch%29&utm_content=Google+Reader