SiteStream SEO - Online Marketing Blog

Link Building – Can Customer Knowledge Get You More Links?

September 10th, 2010

It’s time to get practical here on the blog.  Thinking about your customers is central to a good online marketing strategy.  With this post I want to show how thinking about your customers can improve your website marketing, increase traffic and lead to sales.  I want to do it with a practical example. 

Let’s look at how thinking about your customers can help you with getting quality, relevant inbound links to your site.  We all know that link building is a vital part of our SEO and increasing our traffic, right?

Specifically, we are going to think about your customers and see whether there are any “special interest” groups in there?  All I mean here by a special interest group is an identifiable group of customers that share some interest and have a use for your products or services.

Some of the uses of your product or service are standard.  They are what you expect and they were probably your first port of call in your marketing and your link building.  If you consider your customers more carefully, however, you might notice that there are some less obvious groups that use your product or service.  I’m going to use an interest of mine as an example.

I’m in the process of getting a dog right now and this is a really good example of how special interest groups could generate links and customers.  People are nuts about their dogs.  Like any other interest, there are forums, blogs etc. all over the web where people spend what appears to be most of their lives talking about their dogs. 

Imagine that you run a hotel or other accommodation. 

Does your hotel allow people to bring their dogs?  If someone rang you up and said, “I’d like to bring my dog and this is what I’d need”, would you try to accommodate them? 

You see, if your accommodation accepts dogs then you’ve got the beginnings of some “dog friendly” accommodation.  When you think about this special interest group (dog owners) amongst your customer base, you will realise that travelling is a pain in the backside for these people.  They would often like to bring their dog but can’t.  When they leave their dog at home, they may need to kennel it (at a cost).

Your accomodation might already be dog friendly.  It might be that you are willing to make some small changes to make it dog friendly.  So lets ask ourselves some questions. 

Do you think there are directories and listings of “dog friendly accommodation” out there linking to hotels, caravan sites and self catering accommodation that will let you bring your dog? 

I’d have thought that’s a very big YES and an easy source of free links

Do you think there are forums out there and blogs that are full of dog lovers who will occasionally talk about dog friendly accommodation, how to find it etc?

My guess is another YES and more free links.

By thinking about our customers and identifying a special interest group we have identified a marketing opportunity for our business.  We can and should find those directories and lists of dog friendly accommodation and get some links.  You could go out and spam those forums and generate some more fairly low quality links but I’m going to suggest that you don’t.  I’m going to suggest that you could take this whole thing a step further and genuinely engage with the special interest group you’ve identified.

Engaging with your special interest group

What would it take to make your hotel dog friendly?  Is it something that would suit your place?  Are you in an area people are likely to want to bring their dogs?  Are there ways you could improve the experience of dogs and their owners? 

How would you find these things out?  I don’t know about you but I’d join their forums or comment on their blogs and ask them.  Having asked them and acted on that feedback to improve my service I’d tell them about it.  I’d ask for feedback on the improvements.  I’d invite them to come and stay and give feedback and, you know what?  I think they would.

I think that some of them would stay and some of them would give feedback and they would give that feedback on the web and that feedback would include links.  Those links will help your SEO and you’d probably also pick up some sales.

The thing about special interest groups on the web is that they are disproportionately engaged.  They are massively engaged in the subject of their interest and they use the web as a means of expressing that.  So they are highly motivated and blogs, forums etc give them the means to spread your message and to give links (important for your SEO).

When they find something they like, they talk about it online.

One small note of caution here.  That passion you find amongst special interest groups works both ways.  If they don’t like what you’re doing, they won’t be shy talking about that as well.  So if you go down this route, you want to be genuine and you want to make a real effort to provide a service.

You probably don’t run a hotel but if you spend some time thinking about your customers maybe you can identify similar opportunities. 

  • Who uses your products or services and what do they use them for? 
  • Divide them into groups according to their uses and interests
  • Are you seeing any special interest groups in there?
  • Is your product or service perhaps more important to this group than you knew?
  • Do they have forums and blogs etc. online?

How to Choose Your Online Marketing Company

September 6th, 2010

Looking for an online marketing company is a surprisingly difficult task.  I’ve been in this position as a buyer and it is really, really hard to tell which are the right people to move you forward and achieve results.  Everybody says the same things and there is often a massive knowledge gap between the customer and the consultant.  I’ve seen a lot of advice on this subject in blogs and a lot of it is poor and self serving.  It can be very difficult for buyers with a knowledge gap that allows consultants to pull the wool over your eyes.  So here is my advice on buying consulting services in 4 easy steps.

1. Find out about their experience

This is a fairly obvious one.  You need a consultant that can help steer your way through decisions that will cost you money and, if done correctly, generate revenue for your company.  These can be serious, strategically important decisions.  There are people out there that have been through much of this before.  Make sure you find them and make sure that the person with the experience is the person who works with you on your project.

2. Go with someone you trust

If the consultants you are talking to know enough to do their job, then they know too much to explain it all.  You need to find the people you trust to guide you.  Your online marketing company should be advising you on what can work and where to focus next as well as how to achieve individual tasks.  That’s what you are paying for.  Get them to explain your situation and outline what needs to be done with your project going forward.  Don’t allow people to bamboozle you with technical nonsense.  The best thing you can do in this process is talk the project through and get an impression of whether this is the person you trust to help you.  Watch out for situations where the top man sells you and some intern does the work.  In that case, you need to trust the intern and the company’s systems.  Will the guy you trust be leading your project and taking responsibility for it?  If so, that’s fine but check it out.

3. Talk to them about ROI

For most businesses, return on investment is the key benefit that online marketing can provide.  Search engine optimisation and paid search marketing should make you money, not add to your costs.  When you are considering hiring a company to consult on your online marketing, ask them about return on investment, discuss your goals for traffic and income from the campaign. 

In our SEO Guide we talk about knowing the goals for your site so you can align those with your strategy.  You may run a campaign where generating sales or enquiries is not the goal and that’s fine when it is well thought out.   I’d be nervous about consultants who talk marketing jargon and want to generate reach and mindshare instead of cash though.  These are hard times and your consultant should understand the Internet enough to understand how to get a return on your investment.

4. Don’t look for guarantees that aren’t in your interest

Guarantees are a difficult thing in SEO in particular.  They are not a feature of most of the better SEO companies and there are very good reasons for that.  Guarantees and pay for performance deals can easily get into situations where they work against the interests of the client.  They narrow the focus of the contract down to the targets.  Clients often set targets which are not in their best interests and the company you hire then needs to focus on those targets to get paid.  You want your interests and those of your consultants to be aligned.  Certainly you should work with your online marketing company to set meaningful targets but you should be careful about what they are.  It is usually not in your best interests to have a consultant working for you that needs to hit a number to get paid.  You may not like the methods they use to hit that target.

Just to be clear.  I’m not saying pick someone and lock yourself into a 12 month contract and stay with it regardless of performance.  You should have an agreement with staged payments that allows you to review progress towards agreed goals and you should be able to stop if that progress is not there.

I hope you found this advice helpful and I’d be interested to hear any tips or experience you have to share.  Have you come across particular problems when looking for consulting support? or are there tips that you think would help others?

Online Marketing News This Week – 2nd Sept 2010

September 3rd, 2010

Yahoo results now powered by Bing

As per Yahoo and Bing’s new partnership, Yahoo search results in the US and Canada are now powered by the Bing search engine. Yahoo announced the final switch over on August 24th .  Microsoft aren’t serving the ads on Yahoo yet but that is due in the coming months.

Will 2011 be the year of the Social Media bubble?

Don’t usually feature opinion stuff in the digest but here’s an interesting piece about the rush to Social Media in 2010 and the likely weed out that will come in 2011.  If you’ve been around for a while, this won’t be the first bubble you’ve seen burst.  Anyway, I’d take this article as a useful reminder to base your marketing on results (that’s sales, not fans or subscribers or Twitter followers but sales).

Google contiues to power AOL search
Google and AOL have renewed and expanded their global partnership.  Google will continue to provide search and search advertising on AOL’s properties for another 5 years.  The deal also sees an externsion into mobile search and YouTube.

NoFollow vs DoFollow Blogs and Your SEO

August 30th, 2010

A recent discussion and a post shared on Bizsugar brought up the issue of increasing blog comments by creating a “DoFollow” blog.  Prompted by that discussion I’m going to address some of the issues of the rel=nofollow tag and its use in blog comments.

The original article puts forward a strong and well thought out case from a blogger who believes that those who take the time to engage with her blog should be rewarded with some link love. I have a lot of sympathy for this point of view.  I think that rel=nofollow is largely a nonsense.  The problem is that mighty Google pushed rel=nofollow for a reason and there are consequences to whether you use it or don’t.

What is this NoFollow stuff about?
Lets go back to 2005 and read it in Google’s own words:

“From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.”

That’s pretty simple and it may even be over simplistic.  Basically by nofollowing a link you are saying, “I cannot stand over the content of this site so do not count it as a vote”.  While many feel that nofollowed links do indeed pass some kinds of link value, the simple version is good enough for this discussion.  A link passes search engine value to the site you link to.  If it has “rel=nofollow” this value will not be passed.

What does nofollow look like?
A link in the page source will look like this:
<a href=””>This is the text that is linked</a>

A nofollow link looks like this:
<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>This is the text that is linked</a>

Note the addition of rel=”nofollow” into the <a> tag.

Why NoFollow came about
rel=nofollow is an attempt by Google to combat link spam.  Two forms of this are massively prevalent and negatively impacting the quality of Google’s rankings.   One of these is user generated content such as blog comments.  Blog commenting systems and other User Generated Content on websites allow easy ways for spammers to create links on other people’s sites in an attempt to improve their rankings.  You can see from the Google quote that comment spam is a deliberate target of Google’s with the rel=nofollow thing. 

The second big link abuse that Google targets with nofollow is paid links but that’s not really relevant to this post.

By pushing nofollow, Google is asking site owners to mark links from the comments in their blog as content that they do not want to pass votes for.  The links in comments are not put there by you editorially, you do not control them and have not generally even looked at the site they link to so, no vote.  As much as I don’t like “nofollow” and I have sympathy for wanting to reward commenters, this makes sense.

Dofollow vs Nofollow on your blog
The case for allowing links in your comments to pass link value is fairly simple.  When someone comments on  your blog the convention is that they get an opportunity to link to their own content.  That has been the convention for years and it facilitates growth and discussion by giving a small bit back.  NoFollow removes much or all of the search value for this link.  Many just don’t feel it is right to remove that value, so they don’t.

Others want to encourage commenting on their blog and feel that having followed links gives that extra little encouragement for people to comment.  Added to that, you will find that there are probably hundreds of DoFollow blog lists and directories so you might get some links out of it as well.

The NoFollow camp
Now the small problem is that in the NoFollow camp you have some fairly heavy hitters.  Google has pushed rel=nofollow for years.  You are responsible for who you link to in Google’s eyes.  WordPress has added nofollow to comment links for some time now.

Potential cons to the “DoFollow” approach
A decision on whether you want to break with Google and remove “rel=nofollow” from your comment links will come down to understanding what it is you are doing.  If you go for a “dofollow” blog you are opening yourself up to large volumes of borderline comment spam.

This increase goes unnoticed or is not a problem for some and for others is enough to turn them off the “dofollow thing”.

Can it hurt your site?
It certainly can.  Although that is not the same as saying that it definitely will. Let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth on this one:

You are responsible for what you link to in the eyes of the search engines.  Obviously, having a DoFollow blog without comment moderation would be suicide but then you should be heavily moderating your blog comments regardless of whether they are nofollowed.  As mentioned in the post above, you’re going to want some industrial anti spam plugins and that is fine too.

The thing is, we still haven’t got to the actual problem yet.  The real problem will be the hundreds and thousands of comments that look and even perhaps are legitimate that are linking to sites that you aren’t sure you want to be associated with.  That is an extra step to your comment moderation and one that could easily be missed.

You probably carefully choose who you link to in your content, aware that links create various associations in the eyes of the search engines.  You’ve got to ask yourself “What kinds of comments from what kinds of people will this DoFollow change attract?”.

“I don’t advertise do-follow comments on my blogs like some other bloggers do. I have found that the quality of their comments drastically decreases due to the race to get the most inbound links. I want my comments section to be about quality conversation, not links.”

Do a search on Google for “find dofollow blogs” just to understand that there is a whole industry out there of people like me looking for holes in Google’s analysis of links.  People who make that search and compile those lists aren’t looking to become part of a community, they are looking for short cuts to rank their site better.  When the world of SEO finds a hole (in this case a way to get easy links it thinks are valuable) they don’t play nice.  When the SEO world finds a hole it tries to drive a bus through it.  These aren’t bad people and many of them aren’t deliberately spamming your blog they are keen to market their site and they are uninformed. 

Your industrial strength spam plugin will be working its socks off to deal with the increase in spammers you see but many of them will get past it.  But it’s the marginal cases that would create a problem for me.  If you go DoFollow with your blog, I think that’s great but if you promote that fact, just be aware that you should plan to do more moderation and make sure that you moderate not just the comment but have a look at the site you link to.

A note on commenting on DoFollow blogs
In the video above, Matt Cutts covers the notion that commenting on DoFollow blogs won’t hurt you but might provide less value than you think.  I’d certainly be very happy if a blog that I liked and was motivated to comment on turned out to be DoFollow but I don’t seek them.  The benefits of blog commenting are not confined to Page Rank from an individual link.  If you are commenting as part of marketing your blog it should be in communities where you want to build relationships.  Where what you say and what they say have a natural fit.  Because, when they become aware of you and if you say something valuable, you might even get a real link and it won’t be from the comments, surrounded by other non-relevant sites and it won’t have your name as its anchor text and it won’t be nofollowed. 

If you need an example, look at the 2 links in this post.  The original article is an interesting post that started a discussion.  It was shared in an online community and because it stimulated a discussion it’s linked to here.  Rob Sutton left an interesting comment in a discussion I found while researching this post.  He contributed on a normal, ordinary, nofollow blog and now he has a link.

Know Your Goals – 12 Post SEO Guide #2

August 25th, 2010

Before you start on the SEO for your site, it is important that you know your goals.  We need to define the goals of the site and put them in the context of the goals for your organisation.  This step is important.  Not just for the reasons you would find in any business book or self help article about goal setting.  Knowing the goals you have for your site and your SEO campaign will define many aspects that will alter future steps in the process.  What metrics you monitor, what kind of content you write, what keywords you target.  All of these and more will vary depending on the goals you have for your website and your campaign.

In the case of a small service business, the website might have two main goals.  One could be to act as a support to marketing activities, to build trust and credibility as part of the overall sales process for your business.  The traditional “brochure” site if you like.  A second goal is likely to be to generate leads for your service offering. 

Knowing what you want your site to achieve helps you make decisions about your online strategy.  Want to build credibility and trust in your small service business?  Perhaps a blog will play a role there.  Need to assess whether Adwords will work?  Well, if the goal of your site is to generate sales leads then you have a fairly easy assessment to make.  You calculate the cost of the leads that Adwords generates and you calculate their value and you have your conclusion.

The goals you have for your site determine the metrics that are most valuable. 

The obvious metrics for an SEO campaign are not always as obvious as they might seem. 

Traffic is an obvious metric to track.  Tracking your rank in search engines is another.  You are going to measure these metrics in any SEO campaign but it is knowing your goals that allows you to pick your key metrics.

When you track your rankings or some consultant makes promises on getting you to the top 10 in Google, which rankings you track makes a big difference.  The ones with the most traffic?  Maybe.  But you will make better decisions for your campaign if you go back to your goals.  I want to generate sales leads that convert so I will measure which traffic brings me the most leads and which types of leads convert to business.  I’ll try to get traffic for buying terms to the relevant parts of my site.  The parts that sell. 

The approach would be very similar if you were running an e-commerce site, your focus would be sales.  You would be looking to measure dollar amounts and your strategy would focus on maximising those sales.  This all sounds fairly simple and I suppose it is.  The thing to bear in mind is if my goal is sales then I need to set up accurate monitoring of sales.

While SEO for lead generation and online sales are common goals, there are others.  Some sites make their money from advertising.  To maximise ad revenue they need pageviews and so their strategy could look entirely different.  Often a broad content spread is evidenced, with SEO focussing on long-tail search traffic and building a strong domain.  Traffic is often gained from many, many different search terms and these might be on a broad variety of topics (depending on the nature of the site).  Clearly defined funnels to a conversion are the focus of a sales or lead generating site.  Repeat visits, multiple pageviews and community involvement might be the goals for a site generating ad revenue.

You might even be running your site and your SEO campaign as a branding tool.  Using Adwords and paid Internet advertising as part of awareness and branding campaigns is talked about plenty.  SEO for branding is discussed perhaps less.  Those top 3 results are valuable real estate.  They are viewed by everyone who does the search.  Marketing departments are quite willing to pay for the exposure that sponsored positions provide and SEO can achieve the same but with more reach. 

The point here is that you should define your goals now.  Define goals for your site and your SEO campaign and be aware of how they fit into the goals of your business. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t run a campaign or pay someone else to on a vague notion like “We should be on the top of Google”
  • You should measure traffic and search positions but they may not be your key metric (they usually aren’t)
  • You cannot assess the true value of traffic except by measuring your key metrics (those that are directly tied to your goals)
  • If you know your goals and measure them, you can judge the value of traffic as well as its cost
  • Don’t forget that you might have more than one goal for your site.  Different content, different search terms and different traffic channels may serve different goals while all being valuable.

Talk of goals and metrics will irritate some people and confuse others.  At this stage, you need to do one thing.  Ask yourself “What is the website supposed to achieve?”.  Every aspect of your SEO and wider Internet marketing strategy should work to further that aim.

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.

Online Marketing News This Week – 20th Aug 2010

August 20th, 2010

Astute readers will no doubt have noticed that our weekly online marketing digest has, so far, not been weekly.  I’ll have to work on that. 

In the meantime, here is some of the online marketing news that caught my eye over the last couple of weeks.

Twitter users are highly active across the social web

This should hardly be surprising.  What might surprise you given the level of hype surrounding Twitter is that hardly anyone uses it.   Well, hardly anyone might be a bit harsh, eMarketer puts the figure at 14.6% of Internet users.  What you need to be aware of though is that Twitter users are disproportionally active on the web.  They are highly active across social media and are considerably more likely to blog etc.   What this means in Internet Marketing terms is that Twitter users control content, links and social media influence to a much greater level than non Twitter users.

What should Google do with your data?

Google’s been doing some soul searching about what it should do with the reams of information it has gathered about you.  What are the best ways to use your preferences to improve your experience of the web, to better target contextual advertising at you etc?  And at what point does the massive invasion of privacy involved in gathering swathes of data about everything you do online become too much?  The Wall Street Journal had a great piece on it.

Twitter launches official tweet button

Spurred on by social sharing tools from Facebook and others, Twitter has launched it’s own sharing buttons for adding to your site.  Not everyone is happy though.

Google CEO talks privacy and Facebook

Eric Schmidt made the mainstream news this week, indicating that the volume of information users of sites like Facebook were making publicly available might force them to change their names to get some privacy back.  This is quite ironic from the company that scrapes all that information and indexes it just to ensure that stuff most of us thought we were sharing with friends is available to anyone who searches.

Facebook Places

Facebook launches Facebook Places but I think that is going to need a post all to itself.

Don’t take the next bit too seriously:

Announcing Our 12 Post SEO Guide

August 19th, 2010

Over the next number of weeks we are going to run a series here on the blog that will make up our 12 Post SEO Guide

Facing decisions about marketing your website can be very difficult.  Many website owners and managers are coming to online marketing because of it’s superior ROI or because of hype about SEO or Social Media.  They are wondering how to improve but they don’t have the information they need to make a calculated decision.

We are painfully aware of the level of misinformation that is out there about SEO, from cheap scam artist SEOs to web designers or coders who don’t believe it exists to 4 year old advice on spammy tactics that don’t work but might get you in trouble. 

Most websites can benefit from the traffic that Google has to offer.  Most websites have potential to get more benefit from that channel than from any other available.  And, unfortunately, most websites will not shoot straight to number one without some attention to SEO.  So if you don’t have the budget to get professional SEO support, we hope that our 12 Post SEO Guide will get you started.

Spreading Your Message Through Social Media

August 11th, 2010

I came across an interview yesterday that I thought I would share.  The Art & Science of Spreading Your Online Content With Special Guest Jay Baer is a post from The Rise to the Top, a site I think I’ll be checking out again after this one. 


This interview with Jay Baer of Convince and Convert goes on for a while so I’d advise a cup of coffee.  Jay describes himself as “… a tequila-loving, hype-free social media strategy consultant” and in this interview he delivers. 

With so many Social Media experts out there who don’t remember the world before Facebook, never mind the world before Google, it is great to hear someone who can put Social Media in it’s proper context.  Another of many evolutions in marketing on the Internet.  Not a silver bullet and not a replacement for what we have learned before but just one more important change.

“If you are a hospital, you need to be talking about Diabetes not Endochrinology”

Speaking the language of those you wish to attract is an important lesson that applies in Email marketing, SEO and Social Media alike.  You’ll hear it preached on this blog often.  A hospital could easily feel it has nothing to say or talk about endochrinology and interest nearly no-one.  But you can take the same expertise, think about the language your market use and suddenly you are talking about Diabetes instead.  See the difference?

Anyway.  The interview has lots of interesting stuff on creating and using content through different channels and looking at those processes strategically.  Jay also talks about the slow process of building his own blog and community which is well worth listening to if you run a small service business.

P.S.  I had no more idea what endochrinology means than you probably do so I looked it up.  It has to do with the endochrine system and hormones and diabetes is a related condition.

Online Marketing This Week – 6 Aug 2010

August 6th, 2010

Google to Warn You of Problems with Your Site
Google has announced that it is now sending SiteNotice messages through Webmaster Tools if it detects a spike in crawl errors on your site.  Useful.  Here is their notice.

Bing Visitors Converting 1.5 Times as Well as Google
The study by ad network Chitika measures the likelihood of a visitor from different sources to click on a website’s revenue-generating call to action.  They found Google users clicking at a rate of 1.09% and Bing users at 1.67%.  AOL and Ask did better still.  The action in question seems to have been a text ad, so I wouldn’t get my knickers in a knot over this. 

It’s worth bearing in mind though that different sites, markets and query types see radical variations in conversion rate from different search engines.

Facebook Founder Talks Online Privacy with Congress
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has been in Washington talking about online privacy.  With 500 million users, Facebook is a cultural phenomenon.  Sharing data is central to the social explosion happening online today and with that sharing comes massive privacy concerns.  In our last digest we featured poor consumer sentiment regarding Facebook (unexpectedly so) and one aspect raised in the report was concern over privacy.  This could be a difficult circle to square.  The original article from

Adwords Campaign Experiments
Google are now rolling out their Adwords Campaign Experiments tool to all US advertisers.  Don’t have it here yet but it sounds like a great idea.  Split Testing for Adwords by the sounds of it.  Pretty cool idea.   Google announced the ACE Rollout on their Adwords blog a couple of days ago.

Your Online Marketing Strategy – Naive or Mature?

July 29th, 2010

I read a really good post yesterday on copyblogger.  How to Find Thousands More Prospects for Your Business.  The title sounds like it might be an infomercial for the next big traffic generation scheme but it’s not.  A “good” sales page converts between 1% and 5% of it’s readers and the article discusses why, and what happens to the other 95%.  Lets look at how it might help us formulate a mature strategy for our site.

To bring you up to speed:
The article quotes sales strategist Chet Holmes in saying that, at any given time,

  • 3% of your market are in active buying mode,
  • 7% are receptive to the idea of buying (not currently looking but receptive),
  • 30% might buy from you someday but not now, 
  • 30% are mildly turned off by the notion of buying your product and
  • 30% are highly turned off and will never buy your product from you.

I really recommend that you go and read this article because it helps to explain a lot of things that are central to a mature Internet marketing strategy.  Essentially, if you communicate effectively with these groups and provide them with appropriate content you can “keep them close” until they are ready to buy.  If you look at the figures, a whopping 70% are possible buyers some day. 

This bit I’m not so sure of:

“Traditional internet marketing is all about finding this 3 percent. The smartest Adwords, SEO, and affiliate marketers are all trying to selectively find that 3 percent and weed out the other 97. You can call this the Desperate Buyers Only strategy, which is the title of a very solid program by Alexis Dawes on writing and selling ebooks.”

“The trouble is that the desperate 3 percent are expensive, because everyone wants them. What are called the “converting keywords” (the keywords that are proven to attract the 3 percent who are ready to buy today) are expensive to buy with pay-per-click. Those same keywords are usually highly competitive for SEO, and getting more so every day.”

I don’t know what passes for traditional Internet marketing these days but I would characterise things more like this: 

Naive Internet marketing is about trying to get everyone to your site.  Every potential client I talk to and everyone who starts an online shop thinks they should rank number one for the highest traffic term they can find.  To use an extreme example they set up a site selling cars and they want to rank for “cars”. 

They want everyone looking for anything to do with cars to come to their site and then they want them all to buy a 2002 Toyota Corolla with 2 previous owners because that’s what they are selling.

This doesn’t work.  Your content isn’t relevant, your site can’t handle the competition and the visitors you are trying to attract aren’t looking for the only thing you are giving them (an opportunity to buy a 2002 Toyota Corolla) so they leave.  And you complain about poor conversion rates.

As a result, Internet marketers (in SEO and PPC) consider relevance and then move on to consider search intent.  You look not for terms that are vaguely relevant.  You look at all terms that are vaguely relevant and you consider how relevant?  What is the searcher looking for and what is the intent behind the query? 

It is true that the smartest online marketers are trying to find the 3% that are desperate buyers now and that they have a strong focus on “converting keywords”.  It is not always true that these terms are more expensive.  The smartest marketers are looking for them precisely because that is where the value lies.  In PPC, where you pay for every visit, the naive money is off chasing the headline, high traffic terms that won’t convert and the smart money is on long-tailed “converting keywords” that not only convert better but are often cheaper.  The same strategy works very well in SEO.

Granted, more and more people are writing about this and more and more people are copping on so things will tend to get more competitive over time and it will vary by market.

Here’s where the real step in understanding comes though

The smartest online marketers are trying to find the 3% but they are not trying to weed out the other 97%.  They probably aren’t willing to pay $10 a click for them on Adwords but they will be targeting them. 

This is where the article linked to above can really give you some insight into what a mature Internet marketing strategy should look like.  People that aren’t buyers today, may well be buyers some day, or influence a buyer someday.  A naive strategy attempts to take every vaguely relevant visitor and sell them that 2002 Toyota Corolla.  A mature strategy looks at the intent behind the queries and asks “What are they looking for?”, “What can I give these people?”, “How can I engage with them?”.  It implies planning content and creating resources and relationships to reach out to the other 97% so that when they are buying, they are buying from you. 

It can be hard work.  It can be resource intensive but it can also be necessary.  There will come a day when your hotel website or the site that describes your services is simply not enough regardless of the tricks you pull.  You want those high traffic terms (not “cars” but maybe “toyota corolla”) because you want to meet your buyers before they are buyers.  In a previous post I suggested you “Build a Better Website”  Hopefully this helps to flesh out what I mean.

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