SEO - Social Media - PPC http://www.yackyack.co.uk I'm @robwatts on Twitter Sun, 21 Jun 2015 21:13:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Playing With Attribution Modelling and Getting Aha moments http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/playing-with-attribution/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/playing-with-attribution/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 09:45:30 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=1334 One of the great things about working for yourself is that subject to resource you can virtually do what you like.

I spend far too many hours messing around with what I’ve learnt over the years and applying aspects that will offer limited return. I guess I do it because it’s fun and it sates a curiosity and if I’m really lucky it sometimes causes me to stumble on something of real value.

We all read mountains of stuff about conversions and attribution and the challenges faced in matching up the various channels to their respective ROI pots. People will naturally gravitate to positions that effectively back up the department for which they’re responsible for, so it’s no surprise to read all manner of conflicting viewpoints that make the case for the relative efficacy of channel a or tactic b.

The best way to understand things is of course to pull them all apart and put them back together again, often in the wrong places just to see what happens. Record the results and draw a few conclusions. Rinse repeat until you’re bored or until you’re happy with what you have.

Much of today’s analytics suites are built around cookies and a bit of embedded script on a page somewhere. For those who don’t know ( and I suspect a few of you reading this will so apols to you guys)  when we view a web page on a device the web server has access to a number of environment variables. Not every web page utilises all these as they’re too much hassle (for most) to code into their projects and for most, analytics pages like GA or Omniture are as good if not better for what they need.

Attribution modelling is pretty much covered in most analytics packages but as referenced above it’s all about the set up of the funnel and the interpretation of results. What message you need and who you need to tailor it to. SEO is an amazing channel and it’s no surprise that Google for example, systematically seek to disassemble the ease of measurement whilst introducing new features at the same time. It’s pretty easy to lose people in technical theory; especially if we don’t all speak with the same understandings.   HSTS super cookies, super cookies, cross domain tracking, cross device tracking cookies are just a few examples that most folk will struggle with conceptually.

Anyways, I’ve gone off track a wee bit, so apologies…

So, what have I been playing with and how is it of use potentially?

If we have a big domain with lots of users who come to our site and buy or use and then go away and come back again then we can pretty much begin to measure what they are doing, frequency, visitor length, page views and all the standard stuff that analytics packages will tell us.

1000’s of domains don’t have user accounts and for ecommerce sites  especially, this is a huge lost opportunity.  Check out systems are rightly cautious in enabling folk to purchase without the need for an account (it’s easier to convert folk from the purchase email anyway; incentives etc)

If we have users who are account holders and who return frequently, then we can begin to model behaviour and do a whole lot more useful stuff with tracking.

If we record (locally) specific details about the devices used along with environment variables such as screen, color depth, resolution, IP addresses used, referers, mouse behaviours, GEO data and all those things that are unique to them, then  can we not begin to model the behaviours of those who aren’t logged in displaying similar behaviours  also and begin to assign them to user type pots perhaps? Yes we can.

We might for example, know that user A (lets call him John) originally turned up from Google and he landed on a page that sold Triumph Rocket Touring Back rests.

A very specific page with words relevant to backrest , Triumph, Rocket and Touring. All of the meta and page data, urls etc were pretty tight in terms of KW accuracy so, despite Google hogging all of the query data for themselves we could pretty much determine that John searched Google for a Triumph Touring Back rest or at least a subtle variation.

We can assume That John either went straight to Google himself or that someone suggested he search on Google . Whatever way it’s diced, we know that he came from Google and he used his iPhone to do so.

He didn’t purchase though and we didn’t know who he was. He was at work on their wifi and he wasn’t ready to commit to the purchase as he was in research mode. He looked again on the way home this time on the train, from an edge or 3G connection as he hurtled through the burbs on his way home.

Later that day when he he got home he opened his iPad and he searched Google again or maybe he used the link that he emailed from his phone earlier and went straight to the page. His wife meanwhile was sat on her Mac or PC even. John talked to her about how his back hurt and he wanted a backrest for his bike. John’s wife’s a bit of a bossy boots so asked him to ping her the link via iMessage. The page looked amazing on her retina screen super expensive Mac and after much interrogation, she agrees that it’s a good purchase decision.  Great says John and proceeds to make the purchase on the Mac.

The vendor some days later is looking at the purchases and tracking who came from where and what. He sees this isolated purchase that came from a Mac. One page view of the product and a purchase within seconds. No dilly dallying at all. He sees that the credit card info was from Mrs P Whatsherface (the details stored in John’s wife’s digital wallet)

On the face of things, the vendor has no real way of determining who to attribute the sale to. His ill configured analytics package, attributes it to the direct visitor pot and the vendor concludes that it was either from WOM or that amazeballs local motorcycle magazine campaign he paid extortionate money for just days prior. After all, he sees quite a few of these so they must be from his offline marketing efforts.

In any case, he’s kind of happy, he’s made a sale. He’s even going to renew his motorcycle magazine advert as maybe it’s working well after all. 50 sales of this type already this month…

Meanwhile, the day after, John is on the train to work. He’s on his iPhone again, fiddling around, going through emails and reads the follow up email about his back rest purchase. He clicks the link excitedly and logs in to this account on the motorcycle vendors website. He has a little browse and he’s off again.

So, what can we deduce from this little story? What lessons are there for the vendor?

At John’s first visit from his iPhone, the vendors server or analytics package should have segmented John’s visit in to a pot or database and recorded the various aspects relative to iPaddress, device type, referer, length of stay.

It would have dropped a little cookie too.

When John then returned whilst on the train it could have began to have matched some of this data, it could have seen the cookie and said aha!

It might have noticed the different IP addresses and said aha again!

It might even have noted the different ISP’s and GEO locational stuff and said aha again and then it could have seen those Mac purchase variables and concluded something different entirely.

It could have learnt that there was a whole pre purchase journey that did indeed start with Google and that when it ran a similar back reference model across a multitude of similar purchases that there were similar behaviours.

He’d have saved a small fortune on that crappy motorcycle mag ad also.

So, this is what I’m doing at the moment. Playing with these kinds of factors and seeking to create pots or tables that record specific user and device behaviour and record the various aspects of what they get up to.  I’m in danger of making this a TL;DR post so I’ll shut up for now, but if you’re interested in some of the specifics of how it might work or indeed, if you have any ideas yourself then I’m all ears.

Facebook has enormous power in this regard, but that’s a post for another day perhaps.

Moral of the story? Create accounts, convert your visitors and track everything and analyse retrospectively too.

 

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Online Marketing Executive Opportunity West London (Kensington/Earls Court Area) http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/online-marketing-exec-opportunity-west-london-kensington-earls-court-area/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/online-marketing-exec-opportunity-west-london-kensington-earls-court-area/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 08:08:17 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=1292 I’m working with a really great company at the moment, helping out with various bits and pieces related to SEO and Online Marketing.

I can’t say who they are but they’re a well established bricks and mortar travel company with a great  product and team and are looking to enhance what they do and expand their offering.

They are looking for is someone who is passionate about online marketing and SEO who is looking for a long term role where they can grow and develop.

If you are job hopping to just fill up a CV then kindly move on.

This is a great opportunity to learn and grow with a long established company that has verve and vision for its products and future. You will over time, become an integral cog in an organisation that has a global growth strategy. You’ll also get to work with me!

The role description is ‘Online marketing Executive’ and will suit a recent college leaver or Uni grad.

You’ll need to be UK resident and legally allowed to work in the UK.

Salary is subject to experience.

There are a few minimum requirements such as:

1.    1 years experience in a related role
2.    Understands link building strategy – pros and cons
3.    Basic html understanding
4.    GA experience
5.    Can demonstrate a clear understanding of Keyword Research
6.    Copy optimisation
7.    Social media understanding
8.     Sociable and friendly can do attitude
9.     Demonstrable evidence for your love of this stuff
Pluses will be:
  • A degree in a technology or marketing discipline
  • Tourism Knowledge

If you are interested then do please send a covering letter and CV along with salary expectations to m11ksp  at gmail.com if you want to know more and are at BrightonSEO tomorrow (September 13th 2013) , then @ me on twitter @robwatts and I’ll speak with you in person!

NO agencies or recruiters please!

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How easy is it to determine a good or a bad link? http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/how-easy-is-it-to-determine-a-good-or-a-bad-link/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/how-easy-is-it-to-determine-a-good-or-a-bad-link/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 17:05:50 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=828 Is that a Good Link or a Bad Link?

I played with a new tool this morning. It was some kind of link evaluation tool.

It purported to tell you whether a link from a URL was good or bad or somewhere in the middle.

Cool, I thought.

So I gave it a go and popped in 6 URL’s. All came up with wildly wacky results, all were deemed to be spam, all suggested I should do something funny with them and run away screaming.

Haha.

I’m not going to link to this tool, but I applaud the effort and love the little bit of it that will generate lots of discussion both for what it’s trying to do and some of the more wackier outcomes.

It might be fun to actually think some of it through and explore the whole notion of good and bad links and what might be a good signal and what might not. The bottom line is of course, that none of it matters really as ultimately it’s what Google or (if you like the traffic) Bing think of it.

It’s in that vein that I write this.

Link Tactics, History and Interpretation

If we track back over the years, we might find all manner of references to how Google determines what is a good link and what is a bad. We’ll find that their position has shifted over the years as they’ve reclassified their determination of what the web should be and how useful or useless a resource might be.

There’s been reams of discussion around quality rater documents and how they’ve classified URL’s as offensive, offensive being not becoming to the standards that Google wants to index or rank very highly.

Pagerank, specifically; linking structures that been determined as schemes designed to have manipulated Pagerank or link juice, have been called out as ‘dangerous’ and against the Google guidelines. Pagerank sculpting as it became to be known was thrown in under the bus as a tactic that might get you in to hot poodo.

There’s also been the general ongoing war on paid links and the various high profile dings given to companies who’ve been caught out.

Usually, these have been fairly high profile brands. At other times, they’ve been targeted at bloggers who’ve been perceived as having a fairly loud voice and audience. The tactics identified as bad, seem to change yearly. What was ok in 2006, isn’t necessarily ok in 2013.

The general rule seems to be that the moment an effective tactic is discussed within the SEO community to the point of ridicule, then Google comes out and makes a pronouncement, usually by video or if especially egregious, at some high profile marketing or search type conference.

Here’s a list of a few tactics that spring to mind that have drawn commentary at one point or other.

Directory Submissions – Generally accepted as spammy and a low quality signal.

This discussion from some time back gives a little insight in to how the ground had shifted from a position where a directory link from a place that had editorially evaluated a listing and wasn’t a free for all was a good thing (Yahoo, ODP) to a position where due to everyone and their cat building a directory to cash in and effectively sell links for page rank and anchor text purposes, wasn’t.

Debra: In the past Google/you have stated directories with strong editorial policies were OK to submit even if they required a submission fee to be reviewed. Is this still the case?

Matt: That’s still the case, but bear in mind that Google will ultimately decide which domains or directories to trust. Just because a directory claims to have strong editorial oversight doesn’t mean that it will meet Google’s criteria or that Google will trust the domain.

Debra: If an editorially run directory offers a sponsored listing option, do you consider them (the sponsored links) paid links and against your TOS?

Matt: Adding a nofollow attribute to sponsored links remains the best practice for any website.

In other words, Google decides, and if you ask folks to pay to play then it might be a good idea to wrap the link in a condom, else risk the wrath of a Googler in a bad mood some time down the line. 

Sponsored Blog Posts – Not very bright if done wearing size 15 shoes.

This seems cut and dry right? If you go to one of these websites that pays mummy bloggers to write about stuff on those blog networks, then you’re asking for trouble. Easy to identify, be it from a manual or algorithmic perspective.

if(($post_count_with_money_kwanchors > $defined_percentage) or ($links_per_post_to_singular_domain > $defined_number OR ( $links_to_money_kws > 1 AND $web_graph_shows_more_of_the_same))  might be one easy way of folding in an algorithmic stance which could be overlain  against whatever other set of metrics they might like to check $spends_money_on_adwords $is_a_brand etc etc.

Press releases – A rapidly diminishing tactic of efficacy, abused by users and platform holders

For a time, and even today these can be and are a useful tactic to employ both for general PR and SEO link benefits.The idea is that you get your great news item out there and all the cool news folks interested in your niche will see your stuff and write about it too. Hey, even Google will use your stuff and output it in their news results so you can even get on the first page for car insurance.

You can still get on the first page for car insurance, but in the UK at least you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the page and using places like PR Web for example just won’t cut it anymore.It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that someone in the Googleplex might just have read about things like this http://service.prweb.com/pricing/package/advanced/ and decided that generally, weightings from such things should be adjusted in some way.

Barry posted a link and a quote from a Googler that said:

I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.

Quite unambiguous, you might think and hey, they can’t catch them all but its pretty clear in its intent which is “hey you guys, press release tactics are on our radar too, so be careful if you use these too as we might just ding yo ass if we catch you”.

Advertorials – A recent Google post by Darth Cutts set the record straight on these

Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.

The message is simple – do this and you’re dinged. In this particular example they dinged Interflora and stripped out some of the Pagerank from newspapers who were selling these too.

Widgets, Themes etc – A great idea, oft over done for search ranky benefits

Here’s the thing. You create a cool theme or widget for bloggers or site owners which is cool as it does stuff and adds value. However, from a Google perspective it’s not cool at all, if you also get a little link love from your actions as it’s not really earned in the way that they’d like it to be.

As far as widgets go, the code it uses might be a little javascript or an iframe that folks can just pop on in.

Of course, once people like us get a hold of them we tend to get link erections and offer up funky ideas to boost your link pop too. We might have said stuff like “Hey mr browser, just in case you are really old and can’t parse this html stuff, we’ve include a special bit of code called noscript which will show people what to do. Yeah, it has a link to our clients too but don’t worry about that, it’ll help your rankings…”

I am being funny of course, not everyone did that kind of stuff but some did. Some didn’t even bother hiding it and some just left a little brand link to the originator.

For themes it’s not half as egregious, but it can be over cooked too and generally, 1000’s of links from a footer in 2013 just isn’t the best thing to have in a link profile, especially if you come under scrutiny either manually or through Penguin.

Here’s Google’s head of webshhpam Matt Cutts again, talking about the value of links from widgets and themes

… links from article marketing, widgets and other pre-curated content types are unlikely to drive search rankings or visibility

Competitions – Link to me using this link text and win a prize/cash payment etc

Some folks took a view that one of the other possible reasons behind the Interflora penalty that lasted mere days because they are a brand and spend lots with Google  was that they were getting bloggers to write about them via a mechanism called ‘Competition’ the rules set out that all you had to do was do something simple like write about flowers and you’d win some roses or some other silly gift that wasn’t worth very much. However, the link value to Interflora was another story altogether which might well have helped them to rank for cool search terms like flowers or roses or valentines day.

Back in 2007 a very nice chap named David got dinged for something similar. He ran an awesome competition with some fabulous prizes. Someone named Jenni tried to warn him at the time, but he decided that it was good to go. Word spread and everyone was buzzing and bloggers talked about him and entered and linked and…you can read about how he recovered here.

So these tactics aren’t new, but they require a little thought and consideration around how they might be interpreted first.

Affiliate Schemes – Pay people referal fees and get them to boost your link profile whilst at it

There’s 1000’s of affiliate schemes out there. Outside of tradedoubler or CJ for instance, some folks roll their own. For a time these aff links were great for site owners and all very innocent. Some people realised that with a little server side jiggery pokery folks could have their cake and eat it. People using your affiliate add code would often use on topic anchor text as they wanted people to click through and hopefully make a purchase. this way, they’d get paid and the merchant would be a happy bunny.

Some of us realised that there was a bit of a missed link opportunity here and that with a little thought, such schemes could be tweaked to add a secondary benefit. Users could be redirected with session Id’s or Cookies and link love could flow through to a decent organic landing page too. header status 301 mr Google and boom, watch those rankings rise.

Of course, like anything a little bit crafty that’s done to the extreme and bragged about, Google eventually gets to hear and makes a pronouncement on it, usually expressing the view that you use nofollow. Subtext of which is that if you don’t, then it might be interpreted as an overt manipulation of your backlink profile.

 

Guest Blogging/ Hosted Content –  Let us provide you lovely content for your readers, all we ask is that you link back to our client with a few silly words in the anchor text

Dear publisher, we love your site so much and was wondering whether you’d care to run a cool piece on your website. We’ll even pay towards your hosting costs as we think that content like yours is just the best.

I’ve had emails like this. I’m sure you have too. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with this at all. But in Google’s world there’s everything wrong with it. You’re using money to get links to manipulate your link profile and if they just let things like this slide without nofollow attributes being applied then, they’d never make any money cos people might say, “Sod adwords, this is more profitable for me”

The tricky thing is that it is a good tactic for boosting your rankings, provided that you do it in a semi intelligent way. If that footprint is all too present and in the opinion of Google your content is of low quality or otherwise spammy, then you’re really asking for either a demotion of the ability for your blog to rank or pass link juice. If you are the guest blogger and you’re not thinking your tactic through, then you risk poisoning your link profile and seeing your site tank.

You might want to ask yourself whether it is really natural to get #n new links per week from blogs for money keyword that are the same.

Here’s that Matt chap again, talking about guest blogging

 

Forum Sig Links

Most half decent forum software these days has cottoned on to the ways of the Google rumpers of this world and have given site admins the ability to either nofollow signature links or hide them to the likes of bots and what not. That said, there’s a ton of unpatched or old software out there that gives people an easy link and an opportunity to inject some juicy link text.

These can be pretty powerful (amazed that they still work) and some firms actually hire people to go out and acquire. Some clever bastards write software too that enables you to do a mass blast, or stepped attack and build up x number of links in y days. xrumer being but one of many.

Comments on Blogs

Hey parse_poster_name, I loved your post on string from title tag  before reading this I knew very little, I’m now a little wiser. Thanks Money keyword in name field

Similar to the above, folks are still running around and doing this type of stuff manually and programmatically. If you’re a blogger then you know all about these wankers and sigh if they make it past your comment filters.

Fact is, they still work and people are still massively ignorant about the reasons why. Innocent/not very bright bloggers often think that these commenters are just being nice so happily leave their comments in place, pleased that someone has taken the time to comment on their stuff.

Google’s position is clear and defaults to the standard nofollow, link to them at your own risk perspective.

So you get the general picture. People do a lot of things to get links and get people talking about them on the web, that’s a given. Yet what isn’t so clear or easy to divine is how these tactics are interpreted. Do we really have to nofollow EVERYTHING to be safe? What about people who link to us naturally? Don’t they sometimes use methods that might be considered dodgy? Do we really have to run around webmaster tools or majestic seo constantly evaluating our link profiles, contacting webmasters, forum owners, blog commenters etc?

If every link on the web was nofollowed then it would be a level playing field. Nothing would count and we could all get on with working out what it was that did 😉 But of course that isn’t going to happen so we are left in a bit of a pickle.

We can hope that we never get misinterpreted by a human or an algo and just carry on building, writing and serving our clients, readers etc and hope that the various signals we’re creating everywhere are enough to keep us safe from the vagueries of the black box that is Google

Or

We can be proactive and fuss over every little link in our link profile and chase webmasters and site owners to alter a link to comply with Google.

Or

We can hope that someone builds a very cool tool that takes away and a lot of the legwork and alerts us when things are going tits up and helps us to evaluate them before we go all disavow crazy.

But building that tool isn’t easy either. Sure, we have all manner of data dumps we can inject in to such a tool and draw all sorts of conclusions around link placement, link duration, singular, sitewide, link makeup, link numbers, site authority, social mentions, links in, link ratios, pages indexed, pagerank, markup to name but a few and even with these, it’s not exactly easy.

So lets look at what might be good and what might be a bad link (I’m getting there)

How do we determine a bad link?

So, if a page has been around for say, 2 years and it had no Pagerank and that site had no pages indexed in Google then we might determine that from a quality perspective, it would score low. We might use one of those metrics from SEOmoz or A hrefs or Majestic to bear this out.

How about if that same site was just born? No pagerank, do follow links, poor quality scores from the link scrapers cited above? Would that make it a bad link? Should we chase site owner?

What if there were 100 of these? And if there are, are they on the same IP address? Are they using the same code base? Do we really know when they were created? How do we know that the site owners hadn’t blocked the link scrapers?

We might look at the number of links on the page. Are there 100’s of links to other domains?

We might look at who they are linking to. Are the sites they link to reputable for instance? Are they porn or pills or poker type domains that are totally outside of out niche?

Does our tool even allow us to stipulate a niche? Is it niche specific? If not then why not.

Are the links on the page hidden either through css or some other silly method like noscript or noembed or insert what other method you can think of?

If the linking site is quality and is ranking in Google, then does the link stand the test of scrutiny? Is it a natural earned link? Or has someone paid them to put it there.

If it’s a dofollow comment or forum link then is it a genuine one?

Is it a sponsored blog post? Would it be apparent to Google?

I’m not even going to ask about what is a good link as I think we can all agree that it’s all pretty messy and ultimately, Google decides.

If you care about ranking in Google then you need to keep a regular check on your link profile and manually review those that look suspect and even then you could be going OTT and actually diminishing your ability to rank.

A decent well thought out tool that asked lots of questions, that dug deep, that iterated out a few times, that queried multiple sources, that cross correlated with the Google Api might be a good way of taking the donkey work out of it, but I don’t think it exists today.

 

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Buying and Selling Links to Rank on Google in 2013 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/buying-and-selling-links-to-rank-on-google-in-2013/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/buying-and-selling-links-to-rank-on-google-in-2013/#comments Sun, 24 Feb 2013 15:38:39 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=778 Everyone buys and sells links

So, if buying links that pass Page Rank is against Google’s terms of service and to do so means a potential ding to your rankings what should you do? Not buy links?

But wait, what IS buying links exactly? Where is the line drawn?

Are the links that came about due to the hours of research put in to a piece that investigated or highlighted common interest piece {topic}, bought links, or are they free earned links?

It’s a serious question.

The Hypothetical

Journalist/researcher Fred for example is paid by organisation Daily News.

His job is to write good quality pieces for editorial.

Editorial works closely with marketing and they have lots of conversations around how they grow market share and increase general profitability.

Marketing works closely with sales, and sales are always coming up with ideas for helping them succeed online.

Sales suggests to marketing that it would be really cool if editorial wrote a series of pieces that explored holiday venues in Africa. Marketing uses a few online tools and decides to focus on Egypt, simply because they noticed that last year there was huge spike in search volume and that perhaps it would make sense to ride that crest again, by catering to that query space.

Marketing sits down with sales and begins to thrash out a plan. Marketing talks to editorial and mentions that there’s a shed load of interest in Egypt and that it’s looking to create a splash both off and online and will be looking to sell ad spots to support it.

Editorial, tows the line as it knows that revenue is important and trusts the views of marketing.

Editor John sits down with Fred and explains the brief. Fred goes off and researches all the players in the Egypt holiday query space and draws up a big list of players in the market.

Fred passes his early research back to John, who passes it on to marketing. Marketing and sales sit down and sales say thanks very much.

Sales plan is simple, contact players and explain that they are doing a big piece on Holidays to Egypt  and how they’re inviting interested parties to be discussed. They mention how they have a huge readership and how they’ll be likely to rank for a host of Egypt related keywords too, which will likely drive sales and revenue to those who play.

Sales get back to marketing and explain how they have 4 big brands on board, all happy to pony up £xxxxx for the privilege of being discussed in this in depth piece.

Marketing talks to editorial and sits down with John and Fred enthusing that holiday brands A B C and D will be co-operating with them to supply various pieces of information and prizes to help create an amazing textual piece for publication.

Fred goes away and crafts a top quality piece replete with stunning visuals, competitions and what not. The piece links to the various brands where appropriate in ways that are apt and everybody is happy with the outcome. Fred doesn’t care about nofollow or jump links or noindex. Neither does he care about anchor text or brand signals.

He doesn’t know that anchor text isn’t really so important anymore and that actually, the link juice is what matters and that the on site SEO, brand strength and authority of the linked to site will take care of any requisite ranking ability down the line.

Fred isn’t aware of the details that sales made  with brands A B C and D; it isn’t Fred’s job to know, Fred’s just happy to get paid and is pretty pleased that his work will be shown to 1000’s and inform interested parties looking to Holiday in Egypt.

In terms of Fred’s piece it’s simple – If the publisher uses the words ‘Advertorial’ then Google expects them to use nofollow on any outbound links  that may benefit as a result. Google’s view being that it doesn’t want it’s index to be influenced by paid advertising. However, if the publisher does this, then the piece itself becomes less attractive as an advertising proposition as the Advertiser may be primarily attracted by the link juice provided by this premium publication. It knows that the piece is likely to be scraped by other lesser publishers too and that the link juice accrued should help it rank for it’s own list of desired terms.

The Real World

Let’s look at a real world example of how the Guardian newspaper has established various partnerships in the travel vertical. We’ll see that at some point, their partners receive links from the relationship. See if you can determine whether they are paid or earned through merit and if you can then tell me how simple it was for you.

Taking the query ‘cruise the river nile‘ as an example, we’ll see that in Google UK the Guardian’s travel site ranks fairly well at position 3 just below the fold.

serps-guardian

The url of http://www.guardianholidayoffers.co.uk/holiday/2934/cruise-the-river-nile is the landing page and within that page is a link to a page that discusses the partner with a phone number for those who wish to contact them in this case ‘Discover Egypt‘  which links to an internal landing page of http://www.guardianholidayoffers.co.uk/discover-egypt.

A booking link exists also, but this uses a capture to ensure that the partner itself gets no link love from the domain and that any further movement is blocked to non humans.

Safe, compliant and Google friendly, super affiliate, Google partner, no blatant link or advertorial here.

The only site that benefits link wise, is the mothership of “guardian.co.uk” which of course spreads its link juice throughout its domain.

The benefits to the Guardian here are great.

If the relationship with ‘Discover Egypt’ ever sours, the Guardian can easily transfer the relationship to a new partner and continue to rank for their ex partners brand name. Quite a win for the Guardian and of course another reason for the existing  brand partner to stay on board through the leverage of the Guardians SERP strength.

All good huh?

Okay, let’s look take a quick look on the parent domain of Guardian.co.uk  and see if  their partner benefits by way of a link.

Here’s a good page here.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/jun/18/middle-east-bargain-holidays-egypt

Not surprisingly, the page also happens to rank for “Holiday deals in the Middle East ” incidentally, it also carries Google Ads.

multiple-do-follows-guardian

This page contains lots of links to lots of suppliers, but nothing to the actual partner, but wait, what’s that at the bottom of the page.

guardian-links-to-other-sub-brand

It looks like a link to another sub brand of the Guardian’s at  http://www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/36923 and low and behold that page links to their travel partner of discoveregypt.co.uk. How very shocking! :-0

guardian-other-brand

 

Putting to one side the complex issue of relationships, and sub branded web properties to one side for one minute, we’ll see that the resource page here http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/jun/18/middle-east-bargain-holidays-egypt says nothing about it being an advertorial and we have no way of knowing what motivated the writer or the editorial team to produce it.

We can but surmise, and try and make a judgement call based on our knowledge of how this stuff works but that’s all it’ll ever be.

None of the links on the page have a no follow element and the page itself is freely accessible to spiders and bots. It doesn’t appear to be benefiting any one singular property alone and we’d be hard pressed to prove otherwise.

We can but trust in the integrity of the publisher and assume that all is above board.

We’d have no idea if any of the web properties linked to paid for the privilege  we’d have to ask them individually to find out and even then, they may well have an NDA that prevented them from disclosing. For Google to try and police such a scenario would of course be insane.

A scan of the code  shows that it does contain a good solid do follow link to its other sub branded holiday  property at http://www.guardianholidayoffers.co.uk/holiday/4421/carthage-roman-africa-and-moorish-tunisiaI thus contributing to its ability to rank for related keywords.

Nothing wrong with that either, just sensible sub branding with SEO benefits that flow through. Why wouldn’t a business try and benefit itself? Who can categorically prove that everything it has done in the way that it has is to benefit its ability to rank in Google?

From my SEO perspective it  is clear. Create a high quality reference page that people will cite and perhaps link to.  Get the page to rank and benefit, fill it with related useful links to a bit of ‘UGC’  and put these on a separate domain to ensure separation and licence to thrill and where possible allow users or partners to get customers to comment on holidays they’ve had and who they used, link out to lots of other domains for free and make it difficult to argue that the page exists for no other reason than to help a person interested in that topic.

Clearly today,  the Guardian doesn’t do Advertorials  but it did in the past, just like a range of other papers who’ve seen themselves Google dinged, just go and do a site:guardian.co.uk advertorial query to see a nice selection of its past endeavours. No use of nofollow, noindex, exclusion by robots protocols or anything.

Is this some huge sin to get your knickers in a twist over? No, not really. Legacy systems are always a problem and the biggest headache for many publishers is that what is acceptable in 2009 isn’t necessarily so in 2013 especially as Google lets so many things slide for as long as it does.

The Takeaway

The takeaway at first glance is perhaps simple – create a proposition of value that is sophisticated enough to sidestep the scrutiny of blatant accusations of lazy link buying. Create a quality offering that adds significant value that is compelling and useful to your users. That may seem glib and may be quite hard to digest from an agency with limited budget perspective, but it’s an honest and  realistic way forward.

At second glance, it’s probably a little more intricate as not everyone is a Guardian newspaper or big brand with unlimited funds. If you can’t afford to do it properly then maybe it’s a signal to back off and try something else. If you can afford to though, then it’s clear that with a little time and effort quality arrangements that win in the SERPs and don’t get you dinged can be maintained in a way where all parties can benefit.

The Guardian example is a little tripartite in construct. Mothership, UGC domain, and Super Affiliate Value Add domain that benefit all constituencies. User wins, Publisher wins, Advertiser Wins, as does Google via its ad network and quality answer to user queries.

If we wanted to ask ourselves is the Guardian selling links or are its partners buying links then from the traditional Google type of understanding the answer would be no, however when we look at it all it’s clearly nonsense, as investment has been made and people all over various organisations have worked hard to establish relationships and that they’ve all been paid for doing so. The end product is one that works and is Google guideline compliant… or is it?

Dig dig dig dig

If we dig deep enough and dissect and ask questions then we can begin to skew it all and cast doubt, but I guess therein is the benchmark, if it really is a job to decipher, if it really takes a high degree of experience to ascertain, then it’s probably ok and will stand the test of scrutiny. Google doesn’t want this SEO stuff to be easy, it wants you to work damn hard for your link love and in some cases would rather you didn’t bother or where you did that they get a little kick back in to the bargain via adsense or partner ads.

It’s been said a million times by folks smarter than me but if you buy links in ways that make Google look stupid then you are asking for trouble, if it’s too easy, or too obvious then at some point you’re at risk of it being interpreted similarly by a distinguished Google engineer.

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Slapped with a bouquet of barbed links http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/slapped-with-a-bouquet-of-barbed-links/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/google/slapped-with-a-bouquet-of-barbed-links/#comments Sat, 23 Feb 2013 20:43:35 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=760 Spam spam spam!

I was going to say something about Interflora but It’s pretty much been said by virtually the whole SEO world now so I won’t but I will talk about various issues arising as there’s always value in pulling that apart.

In terms of penalties, of the 10’s of 1000’s of brands one or two brands getting dinged every 8 months or so is hardly earth shattering (unless you’re the brand of course) but imagine if Google dinged a brand every week or other week?

What then?

Today, the scale of Google being spammed across most verticals by brands of all descriptions is HUGE.

Few brands ranking in Google today for 100’s or 1000’s of keywords have a totally clean profile, in fact it’s fair to say that most will be more than a little grubby, especially if they’ve used companies in the past who advocated any of the tactics that Google has since frowned upon.

Few will hold their hands up and most will vehemently protest at how their tactics are Google compliant and blah blah blah… What else can they realistically say?

Just go and look at who’s ranking in your favourite vertical and answer with hand on heart that company X hasn’t used a tactic that under a microscope isn’t just slightly questionable. It’s all in the interpretation and of course, who’s doing the interpreting.

Who created this link monster?

Maybe we can actually blame Google for creating this mess…

It was they after all who back in the day bragged about how cool their algo was using Page Rank and anchor text to divine the importance of a web page. Prior to this, people just wrapped links in URLs or sarcastic words of praise or used ‘here’ or ‘this’ or ‘that’ to point to stuff that they thought was worthy of a mention.

Post Page Rank  and Google and the whole marketing world said to itself “Oooh” so if we do a lot of that anchor text stuff we’ll all get a ranking boost in this Google thing and make more sales etc.

So of course, lots of folks in the online marketing world started writing advice to their clients around encouraging people to talk about them with their keywords and the rest as they say is…

Short history,  Google introduces nofollow and slaps websites for blatant manipulation of link profiles, offering reinclusion routes for those prepared to fess up and clean up.

So, what sensible brand after this latest flexing of brawn  would knowingly engage in tactics likely to get them slapped? Knowingly, probably none –   and herein begins the problem.

If links still power the web (they do) then whoever can sell an idea that delivers lots of citations in a safe way, will win lots of interest from clients. SEO’s by their nature will look to see what ranks a page and will seek to replicate/do more of it.  It’s a base definition for sure, and the whitest of white hatters will breath in sharply and protest but…meh, whatever.

Press releases, advertorials, guest blogging, hosted content etc have all be vaunted as safe tactics at some point or other because they were seen to have relatively high bars to access and were sold as being totally Google compliant which along with a sensible link text approach could add value and would deliver second order benefits to their web presence.

Let’s have a look at a couple of these:

Press releases – Once upon a time these were a standard means of announcing something cool. They cost money to access and had strict rules that said things like, no anchor text,  few links, quality editorial pieces etc etc. Over time, they all turned to SEO shit of course. Companies that provided the services got greedy and said themselves “hey we can make money here and help folks spam the Google” So they did, and they added various SEO options and set various tiers and turned it in to little more than a Google manipulation service.

Advertorials/Hosted Content – The name’s a bollocks but hey, it’s with us now so lets look at what it is. A paid editorial piece. Nothing wrong with those either, we live in a commercial world and for years journalists have been talking about people for a buck. We see them every week in the Sunday supplements, those travel pieces sponsored by big travel brand. Then along comes the world of Google and folks get all smart and realise that they can be a little cute and creative and inject a few links here and there to their various products. Newspapers desperate for every income stream they can muster start selling these as products and advertisers are more than keen to line up for these citations from such lofty publications. Net impact, yet another Google spamming tool.

Actually, I’m going to stop there as you know exactly where it’s going with guest blogging too. Yep, if used aggressively yet another tool to spam the Goog. Sold as a great way to engage readership, stimulate content but ultimately another notion that’s mainly fucked over by lazy bastards looking for a cheap link to their content of dubious value.

Shoot the Gamekeeper?

To be fair to those comfortable folks at Google, they’ve at least set out the rules to try and protect their cash machine and said, if you are going to get people to link to you and want us to rank you fairly, then we need you to let us know that where money has influenced such decisions, you need to wrap them up with a link condom.

It stands to reason that they don’t want folks being able to say that money corrupts their index as to do so is a very slippery slope. Can you imagine if everyone just bought links left right and center? Word might get out that through doing so, you can get lots of free traffic and spend a whole lot less on Adwords. Yep, Google would implode…

But hey, I’ve probably said this before as have a ton of other folks working in this space called the web.

Post Flower Slap

So where next though? What will the agencies and brands around the world be talking about on Monday?

How many will be getting down and dirty and unpicking their spam profiles? Moreover, need they even bother!?

Let’s face it, Google has a habit of smacking a brand periodically, sending shock waves throughout as folks gasp and OH EM GEE, yet the reality is that for most, it either continues as usual or the historical status quo remains!

I won’t single out verticals as we can all but go and look at anyone we so choose and see the most blatant spamming of the Goog by most of those occupying page one, if not today, then at least in the months or recent years previous as those actions of the past help them stay where they are today.

Guidelines shift and what is ok today, isn’t necessarily ok tomorrow as Google determines the line and any tactic that threatens THEIR line is probably at risk, especially if it’s discussed within circles of potential embarrassment.

You might think that on the back of these that everyone who’s doing this will stop it and fall in to line, yet previous high profile dings like this clearly haven’t halted the onslaught, it still goes on and companies will still get aggressive, especially if  they’re brazen (or stupid/clever) enough. A view might be that it’s worth taking the chance that among the 1000’s of brands across the web, that it won’t be them who gets singled out for a banning.

You’ve only got to go take a look at CPC’s in the flower vertical to realise very quickly that the organic rewards for a position 1 or 2 across the flower vertical is just massive and the more cynical among you might go as far to venture that ultimately it was more than worth the risk and that the ROI on’spam tactic’ investment was simply stellar.

Little but not often

Google really  doesn’t do this kind of high profile thing too often as to do so might put them under the spotlight and attract a potential negative PR whirl spin not to mention alienating its user base who expect to see these brands in the SERPs for their queries.

Could we say that businesses are potentially being a little lazy in their link acquisition efforts choosing to use agencies who either have little creative talent or are just stuck in some old school  ‘rinse and repeat’ mentality that achieves little?

Is there any credence to the notion that  Google really doesn’t want folks to merrily use SEO folks anymore at all? Is it simply that SEO goes against almost everything their business model thrives on? Do things like this simply reinforce this notion, or is Google simply policing its index and it’s more a case of SEO’s making a big deal out of something that would otherwise be a private affair between Gamekeeper and Poacher?

The biggest takeaway is as it ever was is that if you do anything at scale and it isn’t tied to cool or funky or hip and it hasn’t generated the various other expected signals then potentially, your’e exposing your website to scrutiny and a possible whacking. That I think, is the real message that Google wants to send, fear encourages compliance and adds that little extra weight to the notion that SEO isn’t too safe a vehicle for marketing budget. Some will listen and some won’t.

Until the next one I guess…

 

 

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The Magic Box of Glut – Wizards, Sampmerians, Elves and Pink Marshamallow Castles http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/the-magic-box-of-glut-wizards-sampmerians-elves-and-pink-marshamallow-castles/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/seo/the-magic-box-of-glut-wizards-sampmerians-elves-and-pink-marshamallow-castles/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:11:49 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=750 The Magic Box of Gluttony in the Land of Glut

A world without search

Once upon a time there was a magical world called Glut – Everything happened in the world of Glut, the people within it did all manner of things. They built pink castles from weather resistant marshmallows and cool lakes made out of lemonade and beer where hamburger flavoured fish swam. Some folks knew how to make really fast cars that ran on magic beans made by their friends in the forest of emeralds.

It all seemed ideal in the world of Glut but progress was slow. Few knew how to fish for the hamburger flavoured fish and the magic beans that grew in the forest of Emeralds were known but to the people of Fark. The bottom line was that news traveled slowly in Glut, information was often controlled by the powerful and where it wasn’t, it was difficult for merchants to gain wide reach or appeal for their ideas and products.

Building a search engine to conquer all

Up on a hill next to a mountain in a place called Gooleg  there lived two special wizards.

They were clever wizards backed by the powers of InvestorLand who knew that everywhere they went in the world, people had ideas that they wanted to share so they went to a little known place called Altavistaland and took on the mighty wizard Inktomi where they learnt the secrets of  Retrivicus Informanicus. They went to Microland and bought the ingredients required and built a big magic box.

The magic box would enable people to learn anything they liked – they’d be able to ask it questions and it would scour the world and find them any answer they needed. They of course, needed the worlds help and explained to merchants that they would visit them and scan their products and ideas and help spread their love to the world. Merchants who didn’t want to play were free to put up a little no thank you sign outside their stores but in reality, no one did.

People and merchants alike loved the magic box and word spread like wildfire. The two magicians became very famous and gained riches beyond their wildest dreams. Merchants clamoured to have their ideas and wares included in the box. Soon the box was brimming with everything and people even began to stop using their brains.

For a time, all was well and the world flourished as people innovated – the pink castles grew bigger and artificial rainbows could be summoned at will thanks to the inventions of Fred the artificial Unicorn maker.

The two magicians needed many hands to keep their box working, they employed little elves who had special powers that ensured that answers and information were checked for accuracy and usefulness.

Dissension amongst the masses

Over time, some residents of Glut felt that not everyone’s ideas and wares were freely accessible. The wizards and their elves protested and fought to assure the residents of Glut that information was provided based on a secret recipe that determined what was and what wasn’t useful. Not everyone  was convinced, secret groups formed and protesters formed outside the walls of Gooleg. Among the protesters wagons arrived filled with people from Sampmer land.

Reverse engineering the algorithm

The Sampmerians were a clever breed of Gluts who were renowned for their own magic skills, they called meetings and put up posters imploring folks to come to them with their magic box problems. For small fees, the Sampmerians would help folks get their stuff in to the magic box. They used magic that few can could understand, some called it a dark art but it was much cheaper than paying magic tokens to answer every question.

Enforcing the rules of the box

The folks at Gooleg didn’t really like the folks from Sampmeria but were smart enough to realise that ordinary folks of limited magic token liked what they did. Rather than be accused of heavy handedness or worse still, vested self interest ( a terrible crime in the land of Glut) the guardians of the box drew up charters that dictated how or why a merchant would be selected for inclusion. These charters were often edited and changed to keep up with the magic practiced by the folks from Sampmeria and used warm, smooth language that seemed to be fair and simple to follow but in reality was a licence for the box guardians to slap merchants with penalties.

The Sampmerians weren’t silly of course and easily noticed that the box guardians removed merchants from the box, often silently. Where this happened Sampmerians would often protest and outline the hypocrisy of the box and call for greater transparency. Others would tow the wizard line and point at how a merchant had used a banned piece of  magic to get them to the front of the answer queue, effectively cheating the fairness of the box.

Sometimes the box guardians pulled out their trumpets and stood atop their castle of Gooleg and proclaimed that a well known merchant had been removed from the box for using the darker arts of the Sampmerians whilst simultaneously proclaiming how they adored the compliant merchants who were more than welcome to use the advice offered by the white hatted Sampmerians.

The Sampmerians at their hearts had a simple message around how hard it was for the wizards and their elves to keep up with everything and that through them, people could set themselves free and compete with the Sadrowists * at a much cheaper price.

* A Sadrowist was a name given to folks who always appeared to have answers for folks before everyone else, they often wore off white or yellow tinged tunics to give their answers and they always answered above anyone wearing white alone, their hats were always pristine white and the wizards and elves loved them.

The rules of the magic box whilst not explicit, appeared to dictate that only people who paid with magic tokens were allowed to wear non white clothes everyone else had to wear white, there were no exceptions.

The biggest confidence trick in history

When people asked why this was, the guardians of the magic box explained that the box needed magic tokens to work properly, and magic tokens were a scarce resource and the acquisition of which was a multi-varied skill that whilst not everyone was able to master with ease;  could in theory be acquired in sufficient numbers if try tried hard enough or had enough value in their answers.

After a time, ordinary people using the magic box became a little bored with the same old Sadrowist answers and found ways of using their own personal magic scrolls to get answers from the folks in white further down the queue. This was in part due to a perception that the elves and wizards weren’t really playing fair anymore and that people preferred to ask who they wanted rather than someone who’d barged their way to the front through access to magic tokens.

The magic box itself was a little like a Tardis. From the outside it was small but on the inside it was infinite, full of doors and rooms and alleys and vales. The box was patrolled by the elves and rooms were often inspected for compliance with the ever changing charter.

Operation FUD

Merchants within had to wear white hats. Anything that was construed to be a shade darker and merchants risked being removed from their rooms within the box. The nature of the magic box meant that sometimes merchants had to push harder to get the front of the queue when a question was asked. When they did this, their hats would sometimes get grubby in the jostle and it was hard to keep them clean. Not everyone cared of course and people getting the right answers to their questions didn’t really care if the answered’s hat was a little bit dirty. Yet, the merchants knew their hats needed to be scrupulously clean so took great steps to ensure this was so, spending many magic tokens monthly to do so.

This of course made the folks at Gooleg very cross as they much preferred the merchants to spend their tokens with them and become Sadrowist in deed and nature. A fact of the power of the magic box was that if people didn’t use the Sadrowists then the power of the wizards and elves would diminish and the evil emperors Applejob or Zuckerface might rise in ascendancy

This meant that the folks at Gooleg could never really rest but for fear of aggravating the crowd, couldn’t be seen to overtly attack those who’d they’d built their fortunes and riches around, so resorted to elaborate measures to deter the Sampmerian followers.

They bred special animals that could sniff out the scent of a Sampmerian and apply blanket locks to the doors of merchants who’d used them, they’d call them cute little names like Puppy or Kitten rather than Rottweiler or Lion. This was devastating for the merchants forcing some to adopt Sadrowist garbs. Many starved and their families withered, for some it meant whole villages would be forced to eat cake. The wizards and elves proffered that if you had no magic tokens then your value to the world was limited and that ultimately there were better people around to answer user questions.

As time progressed the wizards of the box realised that they were winning the battle and that ordinary folk were a little bit thick and didn’t care or realise that the wizards were gathering the worlds information and silently killing off the originating sources. For some questions they began to answer things themselves. Elves were tasked with providing direct answers extracted from what was already known and where it wasn’t, then users were given an option of opening one of three doors to ask the originator themselves.

Information is no longer free

After a few years of this, the merchants had sold up and the wizard and their elves owned everything. Everyone worked for the wizards and to question them meant death and starvation. The pink castles turned grey and dank and the Unicorns all disappeared. The lakes of beer and lemonade had big fences erected around them and the hamburger fish had been eradicated, replaced by the fishes that tasted of horse.

The end.

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PPC Conversions and Local Business Search Marketing http://www.yackyack.co.uk/ppc-2/niche-products-ppc-landing-pages-and-things-to-think-about/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/ppc-2/niche-products-ppc-landing-pages-and-things-to-think-about/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 13:05:39 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=733 Niche products, volume, PPC, landing pages and matters arising

I was talking with someone the other day about the challenges faced with getting new business for what was a very niche product. The product is the type that has limited demand, is very niche but adds huge value to the people who want it.

We briefly talked about what they do and how they currently do it, what appears to work and what doesn’t. We touched upon the various online channels particularly with regard to PPC, SEO and Social media. I didn’t get too deep, but my takeaway was that it wasn’t really working as well as they’d liked or expected.

It might be useful to others, to run through a few things as they come to me. Nothing too structured, just a general meander through some of the issues and what we can at least begin to try and do about them.

Pay Per Click Ads

PPC is of course great in theory. There’s a wide range of tools available that enable folks to selectively target search  terms and localities tied to a budget theoretically enabling people to find people in search mode and deliver them a best fit experience for their query.

Of course this sounds ideal and whilst in terms of easily identifiable ROI is a far improvement on a channel like local print media, it still falls short.

The biggest issue for niche product providers is often in volume. Let’s take a term like ‘counselling courses’ and let’s assume that it’s a business serving the city of London.

Today, according to the Google Adwords tool, for what appears to be a very modest budget of £100 per day, a business looking for people using the search term of ‘counselling courses’ could expect around 20 clicks.

This is based on 570 ad  impressions for a bid rate of £2 per click with a total spend range of between £24.50 – £30.

If we up the minimum bid a little to say £5 per click then we end up paying around £78 per day and we’ll get an estimated 31 clicks.

Within the above, we’ll have to account for a little ‘ad curiosity’ from competitors and general tyre kickers.

It’s tough to get an accurate figure for what this will be but we can be pretty sure it goes on.

The good news is that Google provides tools that enable you to block certain IP addresses from seeing your ads, so a competitor that rocks up daily and clicks your ads costing you money can, over time be blocked.

The bad news is that it’s all a little bit reactive and that once you’ve been charged, then it’s a bit of struggle to get refunds, and of course more than a techno headache to identify them in the first place, especially if you’re not very technical.

Getting back to the general cost, we should of course be tracking our clicks and see how well they convert. We’ll need to define what exactly counts as a conversion as these can vary from business to business. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that for this example we are measuring the final sale as evidence of a conversion.

Our visitor has clicked on an ad, has landed on our fantastically put together landing page, and has signed up for a course that we charge £495-00 for our.

Our hypothetical  one day event course cost breakdown excluding course materials might be something like:

  • Venue room hire: £150
  • Refreshments and lunch:£15 per person
  • Staff:£300
  • Marketing:£2200

So, at the upper click tier we can see that we need at least 5.5 people to sign up just to break even and 6  to make a profit.

This would appear to be relatively easy to attain. After all, potentially over 1000 people could be clicking through to our advert in a 30 day period, meaning that we only need to convert at a rate of 0.6% to begin to make some money.

Great. But is it? And how easy it to convert at those levels? How many people are simply curious? How many people can make it to the venue on the dates outline? How many people will really believe in the product enough to sign up? How many people will hit the back button and research other courses?

Let’s explore that a little further.

The answers to these intangibles might well be academic but it’s certainly useful to think about them and when we do, we begin to appreciate the ways in which the web is accessed and structured. Through doing so we can begin to address them and hopefully reduce fall outs, tail offs or whatever else you’d like to call them.

So, why would someone hit a back button?

It’s useful to draw up a list and ask ourselves questions that might deter a sign up.

Lack of information on page, no method of payment, too expensive, lack of confidence in the product, venue date unsuitable, wasn’t really interested anyway, too much information/page confusing/poor layout.

Let’s explore these now.

Lack of information on page

Our page should show all that relevant stuff like time, date, course information, intended audience, speaker info, benefits, reasons to attend, travel options,sign up page, payment options, contact options of addresses and telephone numbers, social media presence.

It sounds like state the obvious but how many people fall at this hurdle? We really need to check and recheck that we are providing the absolute minimum at worst.

In some scenarios it might be easier to create a mini site that gives extensive supplemental info, especially for courses that are likely to be repeated over and over. Where this isn’t feasible, then consider ensuring that a link or banner to your course page is dominantly displayed throughout the domain. If you are running more than one course then ensure that this links through to a core courses landing page.

No method of payment available

Having payment options is really important, especially when it comes to of the moment PPC transactions where a person has cost YOU money just to read your content.

You want to get that person whilst they are in buy mode, you want them to sign up NOW, you need to do everything you can to encourage them to do so.

Thankfully there are great tools out there that enable to make such things a whole lot easier.

EventBrite is one such example enabling businesses to sell tickets for their events which have the added benefit of being re-circulated to 100’s of other sites like Events Near.

Paypal also offer a suite of businesses integrations that make taking money and payments that much easier. Worldpay is another.

 

Too expensive

What is the market saying? Are you competitive? What is your USP, why use you over a competitor?

It goes without saying that you should know exactly what it is you are bringing to the table and what it is you are offering your prospective sign ups.

How will using you make their lives easier? How will paying you £495 get them to where it is that they think they need to be? Is your sales copy answering these questions? Will an early bird sign up be that all important carrot that’ll make the difference?

You have to try and communicate the value of your product and tell people how it’ll enrich their lives.

Lack of confidence in the product

Related to the above really, but what is it about your product that sets it apart? Do you have testimonials from others who have used you previously? Video citations perhaps?

As simple as it sounds, you really do need to bolster your product, Don’t just assume that everyone will have heard of you. The world’s a big place. Try and create a feeling that what you offer is special. Limit spaces, make it exclusive.

People like to feel that they are a part of something special, something that is of limited resource, something that has value. Try and create that.

Venue date/ Venue unsuitable

People often lead busy lives with limited opportunities and time to do things that are important to them.

Is it possible to offer multiple dates? Can this be a monthly gig? Maybe you can run your event in multiple locations at different times? Call it a travelling roadshow perhaps.

The easier you make it for people to attend, the more likely it is that they’ll sign up and the more likely it is that your PPC click won’t be wasted.

Wasn’t really interested anyway

Tyre kickers and time wasters are a fact of life. If you track your visitors and what it is they do and notice that IP address xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx keeps costing you money, then once a month perhaps, you can go through your web logs and identify and exclude them from future click activity. If you’re a little devilish you can even serve them up custom messages comprising hi,  feck and off 😀

Too much information/page confusing/poor layout

Consider how your content looks to your visitors. make it logical, include calls to action and don’t over load your visitors. Consider using expandable sections, use positive imagery, ensure that your buy now buttons are visible both at the top and the bottom of the page. Ensure that your content renders across platforms catering for the dizzying array of devices that people use on the web.

If you can afford it, consider talking to a conversion optimization specialist to see if they can help or guide you further.

Other channels

PPC is of course but one tiny facet of the web economy and I couldn’t possibly begin to cover them all today, it’s just too big a piece with too many overlaps but perhaps it’s at least sparked a dendrite or two.

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A Value Added 2013 to all http://www.yackyack.co.uk/local/a-value-added-2013-to-all/ http://www.yackyack.co.uk/local/a-value-added-2013-to-all/#comments Tue, 01 Jan 2013 17:56:37 +0000 http://www.yackyack.co.uk/?p=708 2013 – Wow, how’d that happen?

I don’t post much these days (you noticed huh?).

You could say I got bored with stating the obvious or adding to the general noise of the blah blah blah brigade.

There’s little value add to that.

“Value add” seems to be a prevailing theme that keeps popping up a lot for me these days; be it in my conversations with friends, face to face, or with my kids veiled in failed subtleties designed to try and impart that little something without the alienation part, or online in a comment or a tweet somewhere.

I tend to look a lot more before I leap these days. No point making mistakes if you just keep on making them eh!?

Today, I like to think that in a lot of my actions I’m far more considered; I like to think that I give things a whole lot more thought than I once did. Sometimes I practice what I preach and sometimes I’m pretty sure that I don’t, but hey, I’m trying! That’s all of any of us can really do, right?

Online, back in the day when I could be bothered; I must have spent a few thousand hours reading, and occasionally chiming in to a bazillion debates around search related stuff from absolute positioning to z-indices; the aim of it all? No points for guessing, but at some level it was to add value, both to myself and the people I was either trying to help or debate with. I learnt through debate and discussion, I enhanced my ‘street cred’ (or destroyed it dependent upon your perspective) and generally helped myself learn the many facets of an industry I felt strangely compelled by back then.

Sometimes it was fun, other times it was all a little painful and more an exercise in walking through a minefield of egos; weighing up the personalities, appreciating the politics of the day, choosing the right words that made the point and assuaged the finer delicacies of a similarly flawed lump of flash and bone.

The online watering holes have come and gone, some have changed ownership, others have withered on the vine, some just ran out of steam, others have just disappeared; whole fora with 10’s of 1000’s of posts along with a few good individuals, some announced and some not so.

For the announced, the reasons are oft clear; a lack of resources, lack of will, lack of patronage – could it be argued that at some point in the analysis of their decision to withdraw, that their perception of their situations concluded a lack of ‘added value’ too?

Maybe they’d decided that the space was too crowded, that there wasn’t enough love to go around and the effort required to get them there just wasn’t there –  Who knows?

The upside is that some places continue to progress despite being sold, despite changes of personnel at the helm. The old guard thrives – People like Jill Whalen  and Bill Slawski continue to serve, along with other fine stalwarts  challenging, debating, and educating the old and the new around the ever changing face of ‘online’. The thing they have in common? ‘Value add’ perhaps? The commitment and energy to help someone solve a problem – cut through a seemingly intangible – demystify a complexity, because of course, anyone can build a forum, install a blog, create a community platform but not anyone can add sufficient value and sustain that impetus over time.

There are of course 1000’s of other places and personalities online all of which add their own flavour and taste to the mix – that’s the beauty of the web, anyone can create a persona, create a community and cultivate a following – success is a relative measure; capital growth, number of employees, turnover or followers will invariably have different meaning to differing people but at some point, anything worth anything will be adding value, else it’ll just die a death.

We all have our aims and goals and some us will have our clear milestones set out aligned to job title x or house size y, bank account balance z . For some of us, a lot of that won’t always be immediately apparent. We’ll struggle with career paths, relationships, life choices, unforeseeable events and drive ourselves mad agonising over options A or B if we’re lucky and A through Z if we’re not so.

All of us will in later years look back and reflect upon things that we think went wrong or didn’t pan out as we thought they might.  We might recognise times where we were used to further the aims of others and upon recall perhaps, bear mild resentment to such folks or ourselves choosing to hold on to it all, gnash teeth, plot revenge, and rail against the injustice of it all allowing it all eat us up until we’re dead.  The luckier among  us having experienced the same, will be able to accept such things as an integral part of what was required to get us to where we’re at today older and wiser, ready to impart the benefits of our experience to those we may mentor or nurture down the road.

Most of us in reality will be somewhere in the middle of the two; some things are a whole lot easier to forgive than others and few journeys of note can be absorbed or  detailed if traveled too quickly. We do have a choice though; one choice adds value and the other doesn’t.

Happy 2013 all, may your decisions be good ones and your mistakes few, keep on trying!

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