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Online Marketing News this Week – 17th Dec 2010

December 17th, 2010


Growth in the importance of local reviews

Local consumer survey 2010 by reports ‘significant development’ in the importance of local reviews across an increasing range of services.  This is matched by continuing growth of socialised directories like Yelp and Qype which encourage reviewing and the importance of local search services such as Google Places which carry reviews.

“Online reviews, once the domain of restaurants, pubs and bars, are permeating into every type of local business sector from tradesmen & accountants to florists & driving instructors. Local consumers have a growing voice and more & more they’re documenting their experiences online, in a very public manner.”

Some key findings:

  • 70% of people have used the Internet to find a local business in the last year.
  • 11% of people aged 16-34 use the Internet almost every day to find a local business.
  • 67% of local consumers have consulted online customer reviews of local businesses.

Bing claim 11.8% market share, up 40% since launch.

Bing Conference Agenda

Yesterday’s Search Summit 16/12/2010 shows Bing confidently on the up in the US.   70% increase among heavy and medium users.  40% of younger users saying they are prepared to recommend them.  As the screen shot shows local and what they are calling social search are going to be important battle grounds with Google.  Using your mobile to plan your day or night, even as it is happening, is set to become an easier and better experience.  A look at the list of partnerships they have set up (see the screen shot below) shows clear intent and the emphasis on integration with social media platforms is significant.  The likes and dislikes of your facebook ‘friends’ may influence your personal search results as provided by Bing in the future.

Bing Partners - Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo etc.

Internal Linking Problem Found in 6 out of 8 Websites

December 16th, 2010

I’ve been working on the next section of our SEO guide which deals with technical barriers to SEO.  In this post, I’m going to focus on just one minor flaw that we see very often.

Canonical Urls

Canonical urls have been talked about a lot in SEO.  The notion is that each piece of content should be available at one and only one web address.  Breaking this creates duplicate content.  If you have two addresses pointing at one page, what you really have is two pages with the same content.  There is an awful pile of rubbish talked about duplicate content penalties to scare site owners into hiring SEOs.  I’m not going to go into that.  Penalties aren’t usually the issue but when Google finds 2 pages with the same content, it needs to resolve the situation somehow and that can affect your rankings.

Best practice for the site owner is to make sure that each piece of content is available at one and only one address.  

Linking to Index.php or Index.html etc. in your Internal navigation

I’m just going to look at this one very specific issue here. 

The problem:

Your internal nav bar links to your homepage at
Most of the external links that point to your site link to just your domain name.  i.e.

These are different web addresses and they serve the same content.

By linking to the index.php url, you are reinforcing that url.  By linking to the version, others are reinforcing that page.  They are different pages.  Google will probably figure it out but why allow the doubt in the first place.  Why allow Google to determine which url to use?  Why rely on Google to pass full value for the links from one url to the other? What happens to your link equity if Google ends up treating these as separate pages?

The Solution:

You know that external sites will link to your domain name, so best practice is simply to use the domain name as your homepage link.  Now you are reinforcing the same page that your external links are and there is no room for confusion.

We do free seo site assessments here so I look at several sites a week.  I just checked back through a few from last week.  This problem was there in 6 out of the last 8 assessments that we did.  That’s not exactly a statistically relevant sample but it gives you an idea of how common this mistake is.

Why would web designers and developers ignore best practice 6 times out of 8?

Generally these links are generated by Content Management software.  The actual resource that you want to point at is properly /index.php and so it is entirely natural for a programmer to point at that and think no further about it.  It is technically correct.

Nobody has fixed the problem to obey SEO best practices and the simplest and kindest explanation I can think of is this:  They aren’t aware that it shouldn’t be like that.

They simply aren’t aware. 

It is only a tiny thing.  A bit of best practice that would often take only a few minutes to fix.  In most small sites it will make very little difference.  It would be better to fix this small problem but whoever did the site doesn’t know that.  If they did, they would have fixed it.

If this piece of bad practice exists in 6 out of 8 sites, there are probably other errors as well.  It is often understanding all the small things and how they fit together that makes the difference.

Small Problems Can Scale With Your Site

One thing to note here is that small problems can scale as your site grows.  Solving canonical url issues or duplicate content caused by pagination on a small site may result in little benefit.  The same changes scaled across a site with thousands of pages can generate major improvements in traffic.

A Quick Example, then I’ll go:

Lets assume that Google has no problem telling that your /index.php url is the same page as your root domain.  Let’s say that it passes the link love that you feed to /index.php over to the other url.  Just for the sake of argument let’s assume that Google does this in a similar fashion to the way it treats 301 redirects or the rel=canonical tag.  That is to say, Google may pass link equity from one url to another but it may not pass all of the link equity.  Maybe it passes 99% of it.  A tiny problem in a small site.

But as you build your site and build your content and invest time and money in creating a better and better resource, this tiny problem scales with your site.  One 5 minute fix scales from being a miniscule issue into being a tiny one.  It might even eventually become a small issue.  Fixing a small issue on a large site in a competitive market can give real rewards.  To fix it though, you need to know it is there.

Online Marketing News This Week – 09th Dec 2010

December 9th, 2010


More research about the Internet’s power as a sales tool

Recent research by PewInternet: Use of the Internet in higher-income households  is telling us what we already know.  The Internet is being used more and more for product research, service enquiries and information gathering.  In many ways the question for those planning their overall marketing strategy is when does online marketing become the only relevant option?  You don’t need to do more than glance at this article and don’t be put off by the ‘higher-income’ part.  When there is money to be spent, the research is going on online.

AdWords increase monitoring options

Google AdWords now provides a report called ‘click type’ which allows you to see which aspect of your ad is attracting clicks.  If you are using Product ads, Sitelinks or Click-to-call you can now monitor how they are performing and decide if you want to use them in other campaigns.

Developments to the Google Keywords Tool

Based on feedback from users Google have announced new features in their Keywords tool allowing for more refinement in your search for relevant keywords.  Very useful but with the caveat that every keyword should be subjected to a thought process and that filtering out irrelevant keywords may lose you some relevant ideas you had not thought of.

Click to call local advertising

This case study from google is a thought provoking read for those interested in extending their advertising to use click-to-call location extensions.  Here in Ireland we must wait for many of these features but when they become available we will have useful research to refer to to.

Get yourself into Google Places (Google Local)

Related to the previous topic and the use of mobile searches are the many changes you are seeing to Google Local searches results. Google is prioritising  ’local search’ as this article from the Wall Street Journal blog shows: Google Executive Says Local Advertising is Top Focus.  Someone in your town asks his mobile phone browser for information on your services.  Google shows him some answers complete with one touch call option.  The bottom line is: Get yourself into Google Places.

Christmas Shopping Online – A DIY SEO Audit

December 1st, 2010

Who is Christmas shopping online?   Almost everybody one way or another.  Even if they are only looking around and comparing prices.  I had reason to be looking at online shopping directories and blogs the other day.  Predictably enough, Christmas offers and ideas were all over the place.  It gave me a perfect opportunity to do a “put yourself in your customer’s shoes” exercise.  This is the way it went:

  • Think of all the people doing their Christmas shopping online.
  • Pretend to be one.
  • Start ‘Googling’.
  • Are your products showing up?
  • If not, whose are and how are they doing it?
  • Could be time to make a plan for next year?

Online Word of Mouth: How To Be Extraordinary

November 24th, 2010

People talk.  They say a happy customer tells one person and an unhappy customer tells 20.  I thought it was 10 back in my day but that’s inflation for you.  People talk and the Internet has given them a megaphone.

A happy customer tells one person but an unhappy customer tells Twitter, or YouTube.  226,000 people have viewed this particular video:

Where does that leave us?

  • If you are marketing your business online, you want people to talk about you.  You need people to talk about you.  Word of mouth is powerful marketing.
  • People have limited time and attention and in one area nothing has changed.  They are much more likely to complain and spread negative messages than they are to spread joy and good will.
  • If you need people to talk about your company online (and believe me, you do) then you need to give people a reason to say good things about you.

How to Make Your Business Extraordinary

The notion of trying to be so special that people will say good things about you is quite daunting.  A few years ago I read something that helped me get my head around it.  I have no idea where I picked this up.  Just as long as it’s clear that it isn’t mine.  The gist of what I read went as follows:

“It is easy to be extraordinary.  You simply do the ordinary and then, you do a little bit extra.” 

That’s it.  It seems almost silly.  Just a play on words really but it helped me a great deal.  It makes it easy to get your head round the notion of doing something special.  Every little bit extra that your company does makes it extraordinary.

Providing excellent product, customer service, etc. is hardly new advice.  Word of mouth marketing has been around for years but it can make a difference.  In the online world of social media, that difference will be amplified.

A friend of mine had a policy that he used when dealing with customer complaints and problems in work.  Often, when he received a call he would be unable to answer the query right away.  He was senior management, so these were fairly serious problems.  He would take a number, offer to call the customer back and give an estimation of when he would call. 

I live in Ireland.  When you ring a company and they say they will call back this afternoon, you know damn well that you are never going to hear from this guy again.  You’ll be calling back tomorrow.

So my friend’s policy was simple.  He always rang back and he always rang half an hour or more before he said he would.  He would get back to the customer, on-time, even if he had nothing to say.  He kept his promise and it changed the nature of the interaction with the customer. 

That is a little thing but a little thing that takes a bad customer experience and turns it into a good one is powerful.  You want people talking about you on the Internet, you really do.  You want to think about whether there are little things you could do that might change what they say.

Your company might not come up with the next viral to sweep the web.  Your blog may not deliver that killer piece of link bait. 


If you can do the little things well in everything that you do.  If you can do the ordinary and take it that little bit further.  You may just have something that someone will be motivated to say good things about.

SOMETIMES What You Think Does Matter

November 2nd, 2010

A few days ago I wrote a post about how your online business decisions should be made in the light of available data rather than your opinion.  But numbers can’t tell you everything and you just can’t test everything, so today’s post is about the flip-side.  Sometimes, your instincts and the insights that you’ve gained through your years of experience really do matter.  In fact, they are vital.

Basic use of a free analytics package like Google Analytics can easily identify parts of your site that aren’t working as you’d hope.   So we have data.  And maybe it’s telling us that something isn’t working. 

We want to expand on what works and change or discontinue what doesn’t but what do we change? 

Say a page has conversion problems and you want to improve it.  A/B testing is easy to setup and we can measure 2 or more versions of a page against each other to see which works better.  But what do you change?  What do you test?  Testing doesn’t answer that question.  Sometimes what you think does matter and getting your online marketing to perform at its best requires:

  • product/service knowledge
  • knowledge of your market and your customers
  • and knowledge of the Internet.

The Internet allows us to test and base our decisions on data.  So as I pointed out in the last post, we should base our decisions on that data when it’s available. 

BUT data won’t tell you what to test.  Even though you can monitor so much more online than you can offline, there will always be gaps and grey areas.  It’s in these gaps that you have a chance to excel.

  • If the Internet is not working for your business right now, you need to change something.  Accepting that can be a difficult but necessary step.
  • Understanding that you can test and use data to improve your online marketing, although it’s basic, is crucial. 
  • But… harnessing knowledge of your market and experience in web business to make better decisions in those grey areas.  That is competitive advantage.

Sometimes What You THINK Just Doesn’t Matter

October 28th, 2010

People have all kinds of opinions when it comes to the Internet and their business.  Sometimes those opinions drive them down a particular marketing channel or stop them from engaging online at all.  Thinking for yourself is very useful but making decisions based on “I just don’t think blah blah blah…” or “I just think we need to have …” really can be a massive waste of potential in your business. 

The Internet provides you with data.  With data, your opinions (and mine) just don’t count for much.  We no longer need to make decisions based on our prejudices because we can test them. 

Don’t think Facebook is going to be any use to your business?  That’s fine but you don’t need to hamstring your business by letting that guide your decision.  Set up a Facebook page and a viable plan to use Facebook to market your site and measure the results.

Personally, I don’t particularly like the whole Social Media craze.  That’s not a business statement or a piece of analysis. It’s my emotional response to the notion of having friends through 140 character updates.  Rubbish.  Let’s go to the pub and have a chat.  But I don’t have to let what I think restrain how I promote my business online.  I have data points, so I can test.

I don’t really use social media to stay in touch with friends but I have found some of it really useful for staying in touch with useful business information.

If you are not sure whether the Internet can make a real difference to your business, have you read our post on Internet usage statistics and consumer behaviour?  Have a look at it, but more importantly with a little bit of time and a small budget you can test.   You’ll have data and you won’t need to make a decision in the dark.


If you don’t think SEO works or think it’s somehow dodgy or needless, 

If you think Google Adwords is some kind of scam where you pay to get to the top,

If you think your customers are different and they aren’t online,

. . .

You might be right but you are probably not. 


The point is that sometimes what we think isn’t very important.  The traffic is there and someone is getting it and our opinions just don’t matter.  We need to look beyond them.  The Internet gives us data and we should use it to make informed decisions.

There are a couple of points I want to make before I finish:

  1. It can be just as wrong to decide you really need to be doing something on a whim as it is to decide that you won’t.  Just because I read an article on how Social Media is the next big thing, doesn’t make it the right next step for my business.
  2. We’ve come across a number of small clients who have tried Adwords and concluded that it doesn’t work (costs too much, doesn’t convert to sales etc.).  Setting up a proper campaign for them has created radically different and improved results.  To test something, you need to do it right.

Keyword Research – 12 Post SEO Guide #3

October 21st, 2010

Once you know the goals you have for your site, it is time to think about keyword research.  Keyword research is the process of finding and analysing the terms that people use to search for your products or services or content.  Keyword research is about finding the high traffic search terms that will bring visitors to your site but it should be about more than that.  Keyword research should also give you insight into your customers (potential visitors).  Into what they think. 

  • What are they looking for? 
  • What needs do they have that you can serve?  

It should start a process of speaking in the language of your visitors and speaking about the things they want to hear.  I could probably write about keyword research till next Christmas and still not cover everything but here is an outline of the basic process.

1. Brainstorming

Grab a pen and a piece of paper.  You are going to come across all kinds of tools that can help in the keyword research but we are going to engage the most important one now.  Your brain and the brains of your staff.  What do you think people will search for when they are looking for your product or service?  Write it all down.  Don’t stop at single words make multiple word phrases.  Re-phrase them.  Write them all down.  Add your location.  If there are more than one of you, get more people involved.  Write down all the ideas.  Make sure you include those that deal directly with customers, don’t limit this to the marketing department.  Marketing departments often develop a language of their own for talking about your products or services.  They sometimes presume that customers use and understand this language.  Often, this is not the case.  Write it all down.

2. Grab a thesauraus

Grab a thesaurus or go visit an online one.  Type in some of the terms and see if you expand your list.  Go to type in some of the main, theme defining terms you have come up with.  At the top of the page you will see a cloud of related phrases.  Follow some of the links there and see if it helps you expand your keyword list.  Write them all down.

3. Lets find out about search volume

Now we have a long list of terms.  We’ve written them all down and we’ve concentrated on expanding the list with no censorship at all.  It’s time to start finding out what people actually search for.  Here are a few of the tools you can use for this:

A note on accuracy: These tools give search volume numbers for various phrases based on their own databases which track searches from various sources.  None of them will provide an accurate count of the raw number of monthly searches for a term.  You could be forgiven for thinking that Google’s tool should but it doesn’t.  Don’t use the numbers as a measure of the actual number of searches per month because they are meaningless in that context.  Don’t compare the raw numbers from one tool directly with those from another.  The numbers that these tools provide are useful to compare relative search volumes.  If one term has 10 times the traffic shown for another, that is a good indication that it has significantly higher traffic.

4. Related searches

Go to Google and Bing and Ask.  Search for some of your main terms.  Have a look at the search suggestions and the related searches.  Do you already have them in your list?  If not, plug them into the tools from step 3 and find their volume and the volume of related searches.  If they are significant, add them.

5. Thinking about query intent

Search engine optimisation and marketing to searchers is not simply about finding keywords and getting in front of customers.  You need to consider what the search phrase implies about what the searcher is looking for.  What is the intent of the query? 

You might wonder why you care.  You care because different query intents will provide radically different values to you.  People with different query intents are looking for different things and to market to them successfully you will need to pitch content appropriate not just to a word or phrase but to a need (the intent behind the query).  I’ve written about this before in this post on developing a mature online marketing strategy.

As a start, and a means of formalising your consideration of intent, try to break each phrase down into one of these 3 groups:

I am looking to go to a specific place or site.

I am browsing.  I am looking for information rather than product.   I want to find out more about something.

I am searching for a product or service.  I am looking to download something.

An example of Intent:

Consider these 2 very similar phrases: “house cleaning” and “house cleaners”.  Let’s look at a possible consideration of intent. 

If you run a local home cleaning business both of these queries are undoubtedly relevant but their intents are not actually the same.  People searching for “house cleaning” might be looking for a house cleaning service but they might not.  They might be planning on doing it themselves and they are looking for advice.  It is quite an ill defined query.  Very general. 

“House cleaners” is a very similar query but there is an important difference.  Someone searching for “house cleaners” or “house cleaner” is way more likely to be looking for a person or a company.  If they are researching “house cleaners”, they are looking for someone else to do the cleaning for them.  See how you might pitch different content at these different search terms?  Or, how the two keywords might convert differently?

A note on ambiguity:

Watch out for phrases that have more than one potential meaning.  Quite a lot of words and phrases are ambiguous and can mean more than one thing.  There is a tendancy, when you are in a particular mindset, to see a keyword term as relevant in your context and miss the fact that it has other meanings.  You should try to be aware when searches have more than one possible meaning.  Is one significantly dominant?  Will most of the people using that term be looking for your content or something completely different?  Search for the term in Google and see which meaning dominates in the results.  Is this term as valuable as the raw figures make it look?

6. What to do with your keyword list

I like to download all the keywords and put them into one spreadsheet.  Keep a list with all the terms which you can order by volume.  Create more sheets as well so you can split the terms down into groups that have related themes.  You can use your keyword data to help guide the major content themes of your sites.  Grouping content and keywords into groups that share a common theme.  We will consider this process further, later in the guide.

This post is part of our 12 Post SEO Guide, an ongoing series.  If you would like to keep up to date you can follow the blog through RSS or follow us on Twitter.

Your Website Should Cost You NOTHING

September 23rd, 2010

I should be clear about this from the start.  I am not saying that your website should be FREE.  If you are looking for FREE, you are probably in the wrong place.  Your website should be cost neutral.  Indeed, it should go way beyond that.  Your website should make money, not cost money. 

How Your Website Should Make You Money

The Internet puts more detailed tracking and analysis at your finger tips.  You can measure the leads or sales generated from your site.  You can measure where they came from.  You can tell exactly how much money you are making and where it came from.  So, you can expand what works and change what doesn’t. 

Your website should make you money.  Anything you do to market your website should make you money.  Your Adwords campaign should create profit.  Your SEO should create profit.  Your social media should create profit.  If they don’t, then find out why and change something.

Your website is probably one of the most important marketing opportunities you have.  It should make you money.

If you are thinking about investing in your website or your online marketing and you don’t know what the upside is, STOP.  You should have an upside in mind.  Your website or your online marketing plan should be designed to achieve that.  Whatever you are considering, it should add value to your business.

Sliced Bread and Standing Out – Seth Godin on Being Remarkable

September 14th, 2010

You might have the best thing since sliced bread but did you know that for 15 years after sliced bread was invented, nobody bought it?  You won’t build a business on a good idea or a good product.  You build a business when you figure out how to spread that idea and traditional advertising isn’t doing that as well as it used to.

This is a talk that Seth Godin gave in 2003.  He talks about changes from traditional, interuption marketing to a world where people have more choices and less time.  In a world with more choices and less time, people learn to ignore the ordinary and interupting them with things they don’t care about becomes less effective.

So what is likely to be effective?

Simple.  Be remarkable.  Not just in the sense of really good but in the sense of “worthy of remark”,  worth talking about, worth spreading to friends.  It might be better to be bad or bizarre than boring.

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