Friday, October 30, 2009

More SEO Tips

I've recently been helping out a friend with his new small business selling golf training aids (check out his site: the Pure Contact Connection is a winner!) and have been reminded about some areas of basic SEO that need some close attention, no matter the size of your business (I've even noticed this with global enterprise companies that have been on my radar).

I've previously mentioned the three initial areas that any website should address with regards to SEO - meta tags for title, description and keywords. Although having quality in-bound links to your site are probably at the top of the list with respect to getting crawled and ranked organically, your title meta is important and does factor into how Google and others index and rank you. Remember that the title should contain the most important searchable keywords or #1 most common search phrase that people would use to find your type of solution. Remember not to exceed more than 60 characters total in the title as most search engines may only display that number of characters in their search results.

Your meta description tag should provide a full, coherent, keyword-laden description of what your company or product does -- it's value proposition if you will. As well it should not exceed 150 characters in total to ensure it's fully displayed in any search results (this includes characters and any spaces).

These two things most people are on top of... where I see some issues is in keywords and their importance to your SEO. Due to SEO analysts finding ways to stuff keywords into web pages and trying to game the system, search engines like Google have attached minimal importance to them in indexing and ranking your site.

However that is not to say they don't play a role. Where keywords help you is ensuring that they are reflected in your title and description metas, BUT ALSO IN YOUR WEB COPY. Google looks for relevance in web pages, where keyword terms and phrases are populated throughout the site content/copy. And weave the terms into your copy in a coherent, organized way, creating a strong and compelling narrative.

Also -- since (hopefully) most of your website pages are each a little different and describe different aspects of your company or products, so too should your meta tags reflect those differences. Try not to repeat the same metas on every page, it won't help your rankings and in fact could probably hurt your indexing. Any keyword exercise you do should be for each and every primary page that you have on your site. Obviously there will be overlap in terms from page to page, but try to create the most pertinent terms for the page content you have, then reflect those terms in title, description and keyword metas, AS WELL AS your page copy.

You should see improved rankings result from these simple steps.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Focusing on the Right Affiliates

I recently concluded a client engagement that included a number of demand generation initiatives, both through direct and in-direct channels. Affiliate partners played an important role in helping to drive demand for the client's consumer software suite.

In a post-mortem of the activities, two things jumped out at me -- it was clear that of the scores of affiliates that were signed up as partners, the majority of lead flow (and revenue) came from a small percentage (~10%) of those partners in the program.

Second, many partners had preferences (and differing results) for certain products.

This illustrates some key points with respect to affiliate marketing and how to best manage your marketing investments around where the success comes from. It will be true that for many partners, the investment provided to them in the way of resources (time, programs, messaging, tools, support, training, etc.) will be inordinate compared to the results you derive from that relationship. Good reporting and analytics should help you to identify and isolate those partners that can and do perform. Once known, that data should help guide where your organization should place greater emphasis in helping affiliates to maximize their (and your) marketing outcomes.

As well, your analytics and reporting should also help determine those partners who drive demand for certain solutions only, those partners who are fully engaged but for some reasons are unable to meet/surpass certain quotas or requirements and those partners who do not provide a corresponding return for the investment you're making in them.

The capability to isolate and understand your partners is therefore crucial to maximizing affiliate performance. Some will require (and have earned) more incremental time and resource allocation based upon performance (or potential). Some will not. The trick is to have the data and analysis available to you to make those types of calls. It's also important to note that it's natural to expect churn within your partner portfolio as a result of systematic review and appraisal of your partners. Which also supports the importance of an ongoing and aggressive affiliate acquisition program.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Do Clicks = Trials = Sales?

As I've been working recently building some online media tests for a consumer software client, it's been amplified to me the importance of tracking your campaigns accurately to determine to what extent they impact revenue.

I've mentioned in the past that online display media would not be my first choice (or 2nd, or 3rd :^) to drive data collection and lead capture in a campaign. That being said, I do feel there are other relevant online advertising vehicles that could work under the right conditions (paid search, highly targeted affiliate search, pay-per-download, etc).

If your product is a software solution which can be easily downloaded as a trial, pay-per-download might provide an interesting testing ground. We've actually had some success in a pay-per-download program with a global media download site, where in fact we've seen over 5500 downloads of our software product trial over about a 3 week period. At least that's what the media partner claims.

The issue for us is what exactly constitutes a 'certified download' with the partner? This week I analyzed the site's claimed download numbers with our analytics reporting and saw that the download to trial ratio was much lower that our standard trial ratios.

In examining the steps on the site to download the trial, it's clear that the first step -- click on the download link -- might indeed be their claimed number of >5500 clicks. But that doesn't mean that all of those clicks resulted in the file being actually SAVED to the client machine (2nd step from the download link), then RUN on the client machine.

When I mentioned this to the media rep, she agreed that altho the trial does get downloaded from their server (thus they should have the info on the number of times the file was actually served/saved), they don't have those figures. It's a critical pathing that's missing from our ROI calculation.

On our side we're able to see how many run the trial as it actually scans the host machine (it's a driver update software) and then provides a results page which is issued by our servers.

Right now it's very tough for me to figure out the ROI of the pay-per-download campaign. As well, there is insufficient reporting to see where we could optimize within the download process to improve saves and runs of the trial.

We're not ready to write off this type pf marketing investment, but it's certainly tough to build a business case for it. I mention this to remind you of the importance of not only doing sufficient internal tracking but also the tracking you receive from the online partners you may be considering. To get an accurate picture, you need to capture EVERY click, every online action, every online step from the initial message thru to trial and sales conversion.

Friday, October 2, 2009

PPC Quality Score & Relevance

Good article today on ClickZ Relevant Signals on PPC Search discussing some of the signals search engines use to determine the relevance of your paid search ads for specific search queries. All have their own versions of Quality Score assigned to ad-keyword combinations that help determine how relevant your ads are (and how well they rank).