Report: Paid Search Not Much Better At Turning Shoppers To Buyers

September 26, 2006

The study’s authors said the results showed that companies using online advertising should use a combination of online marketing tools.

By Antone Gonsalves
TechWeb

Sep 25, 2006 04:57 PM

Paid search has only a slight advantage over unpaid search in converting online shoppers to buyers, a Web analytics firm said Monday.

A study of business-to-consumer e-commerce sites during the first eight months of the year found conversion rates for paid search was just 9 percent higher than unpaid search, WebSideStory said.

Keywords bought on a pay-per-click basis at search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft MSN had a median conversion rate of 3.4 percent, compared with 3.13 percent for unpaid results to search queries, the firm said. Both forms of search were far above the overall conversion rate of about 2 percent for most e-commerce sites.

The study’s results did not indicate that paid search wasn’t worth the money, rather it showed that companies using online advertising should use a combination of available online marketing tools, including banner ads, paid search, email marketing and search engine optimization techniques.

“Most people don’t understand that to get high conversion rates you need multiple touch points,” Rand Schulman, chief marketing officer for WebSideStory, said. “It’s not just one or the other.”

WebSideStory, based in San Diego, analyzed more than 57 million search engines visits to nearly 20 major business-to-consumer sites. The Web properties generated an estimated $2.5 billion a year in online sales.


Tool: What it’s Worth to Rank in Google, Yahoo and MSN

September 15, 2006

Want to know what it means to rank 4th in MSN? How about to rank 2nd in Yahoo? Or what about ranking 1st in Google and 3rd in MSN?

Well then grab the number of overture searches the term had last month and use our new “Expected Clicks by Rank in Google, Yahoo, MSN and Other Tool.

By combining the AOL User Search Data, Hitwise Search Engine Market Share and Overture Search Tool, you can now estimate with some certainty how many clicks to expect for ranking anywhere in any search engine for any term.

The AOL user search data has been harvested to determine the CTR (Click Through Rate) for ranking number 1 vs. number 2-10. The sample size is large enough and broad enough that we can infer that this average holds true across many verticals:

Results from:
Total Searches:9,038,794
Total Clicks: 4,926,623

Ranking Number 1 receives 42.1 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 2 receives 11.9 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 3 receives 8.5 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 4 receives 6.1 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 5 receives 4.9 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 6 receives 4.1 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 7 receives 3.4 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 8 receives 3.0 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 9 receives 2.8 percent of click throughs.
Ranking Number 10 receives 3.0 percent of click throughs.

The rest of the Long Tail (ranks 11-1000) = 11.3 percent of click throughs.

Search Engine Ranking #1: 2,075,765 clicks
Search Engine Ranking #2: 586,100 clicks = 3.5x less
Search Engine Ranking #3: 418,643 clicks = 4.9x less
Search Engine Ranking #4: 298,532 clicks = 6.9x less
Search Engine Ranking #5: 242,169 clicks = 8.5x less
Search Engine Ranking #6: 199,541 clicks = 10.4x less
Search Engine Ranking #7: 168,080 clicks = 12.3x less
Search Engine Ranking #8: 148,489 clicks = 14.0x less
Search Engine Ranking #9: 140,356 clicks = 14.8x less
Search Engine Ranking #10 147,551 clicks = 14.1x less

Search Engine Ranking 11+: 501,397 clicks

Now you may want to know the Market Share of the Search Engines Google, Yahoo, MSN and Everyone else: From Hitwise, we find:

The Search Market Share for Google: 60.2%
The Search Market Share for Yahoo: 22.5%
The Search Market Share for MSN: 11.80
The Market Share fore Everyone Else: 5.5%

Clickshare By Rank and Search Engine

The Overture Search Tool will tell you how many searches were on Yahoo for a given term. So, weighting market share and using Yahoo as a base, I extracted an Overture multiplier and we created the Expected Clicks By Rank in Google, Yahoo, MSN and Other Tool.

So let’s take something no one is searching for – something like “Free Porn” and look in the overture keyword selector tool. We find that 1,988,094 people searched for “Free Porn” last month in Yahoo. By using the “Expected Clicks By Rank in Google, Yahoo, MSN and Other Tool”, we can extrapolate that you can expect the following number of clicks based on rank:

Expected Clicks by Ranking For “Free Porn”

So why not give the “Expected Clicks By Rank in Google, Yahoo, MSN and Other Tool” a spin?

This is my first “Tool” link bait – so Hook a brother up with some link love if you want to see some more.


Link Building

September 15, 2006

Here are tips for effective link building:

Reasons to link:
a) To drive traffic directly to your site
b) For search engine rankings

A) Linking to drive traffic to your site

Location Location Location
Identify high traffic sites that would be visited by your target audience. These include: publications, buyer’s guides, product review sites, shopping sites and guides

Low Hanging Fruit
Look for a links like: “submit site” “add url” “submit product” or “contact us” to contact the site editor to see if they will list your web site or product. Some of the sites will have a form for you to fill out. When it asks for the site name, use a name that includes your keywords.

Keep your message short, simple, keyword rich and accurate. If the site does not have a form for you to fill out but provides a contact email address, be sure to include how you want the site to link to your site. Point out the benefit to the site editor of why they should add a link to your site. Typically this format works best:

Link Title: Site Name (add keyword here)
Link URL: http://www.domainname.com
Link Description: Site name keyword keyword offers: keyword, keyword, keyword and keyword.

You could also provide this as HTML code to make it even easier for the webmaster to just copy and paste your link onto their web site. An example:

<a href=”http://www.domainname.com”>DomainName.com – Keyword</a> – Site name keyword keyword offers: keyword, keyword, keyword and keyword.

You might also consider paid listings on high traffic web sites. Some sites charge a one-time fee and some charge by the month. Ads that appear near the top of the page are best.


B) Linking for search engine rankings

Search engines rank pages of web sites based on many different factors and each major search engine uses unique algorithms for determining relevancy and ranking of web sites. One factor that all major search engines use to some degree is link popularity. If two sites are have equally relevant content, but one has more high quality links to it than another, the site with more links will rank higher.

Your task is to find “quality” sites and get them to link to you using text links that include your keywords. Try to avoid reciprocal linking or link exchanges. Many, many sites are abusing this method of linking and search engines will soon discount the value of any links shared directly between two sites that do not match certain criteria.

Quality is better than quantity.
By “quality” I mean sites that you need links from need to be considered authority sites on topics related to your own site. These include subject matter resource sites, publications, etc. Sites with .org, .edu are great. Chances are, there are many, many web sites out there with a theme similar to your site. Most that explicitly offer links require you to link back. When this happens, ask yourself if you would like to this type of site anyway – even without a link back.

Also, is the page where your site will be listed related directly to your site? The page that is linking to your site should have less than 40 links on it to other sites. 40 is not a hard number, but the lower the number of outgoing links the better.

The links to other sites should be to sites related to yours. If the links go to all different types of sites, that is of little value for you. If the links page has many, many links it may be of any value. The smaller the number of links to other web sites, the better for you if that page links to you. But the topic of the site should be related to your site.

How to find links.
Go to google.com and do a search for one of your keywords. Check each of the top 20 sites to see if there are opportunities for you to get a link back to your site.

You could also search Google and Yahoo using your keywords plus phrases like, “add site”. Example: keyword phrase” add site” or keyword “submit site”. This might result in sites that are open to accepting links.

There are many other ways to find links and will be included in a future, more in-depth article.

Remember, when you get links from other sites to yours, it is important that they are text links and that the text includes your keywords. Also, you don’t always need to use the same keywords and you don’t have to always link to your home page. You can get links from other sites to your specific product or services pages as well as your home page. Example:

Link Title: Product Keyword
Link URL: http://www.domainname.com/product-keyword.htm
Link Description: Order your product keyword online from domainname.com

By doing this you can build the link popularity to specific web pages of your site as well as your home page.

To Reciprocal Link or Not?
Avoid reciprocal links. Focus on one-way inbound links. It’s good to have a resources page pre-populated with links to authority sites in your industry. These would be one-way links out to other industry, association or resources web sites. Try to keep the number of links you have going out to other sites to a minimum compared to the number of links coming in. If it really makes sense to trade links with another site, you can use your resources page to link to them.

Building links to drive traffic directly to your site can also help build your link popularity. Just keep in mind that text links are ideal and they should include keywords relevant to the page you’re linking to. Set aside a few hours per week to research new links for your web site and mix up the links between your home page and the major category pages of your web site. Over time you’ll build link popularity across your entire site and rankings will follow.

More resources on link building are available at:

http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2160301

http://www.ericward.com/press/wilson/

http://www.linking101.com/articles.htm

http://www.linkbuilding.info/


Link Building

September 15, 2006

Here are tips for effective link building:

Reasons to link:
a) To drive traffic directly to your site
b) For search engine rankings

A) Linking to drive traffic to your site

Location Location Location
Identify high traffic sites that would be visited by your target audience. These include: publications, buyer’s guides, product review sites, shopping sites and guides

Low Hanging Fruit
Look for a links like: “submit site” “add url” “submit product” or “contact us” to contact the site editor to see if they will list your web site or product. Some of the sites will have a form for you to fill out. When it asks for the site name, use a name that includes your keywords.

Keep your message short, simple, keyword rich and accurate. If the site does not have a form for you to fill out but provides a contact email address, be sure to include how you want the site to link to your site. Point out the benefit to the site editor of why they should add a link to your site. Typically this format works best:

Link Title: Site Name (add keyword here)
Link URL: http://www.domainname.com
Link Description: Site name keyword keyword offers: keyword, keyword, keyword and keyword.

You could also provide this as HTML code to make it even easier for the webmaster to just copy and paste your link onto their web site. An example:

<a href=”http://www.domainname.com”>DomainName.com – Keyword</a> – Site name keyword keyword offers: keyword, keyword, keyword and keyword.

You might also consider paid listings on high traffic web sites. Some sites charge a one-time fee and some charge by the month. Ads that appear near the top of the page are best.


B) Linking for search engine rankings

Search engines rank pages of web sites based on many different factors and each major search engine uses unique algorithms for determining relevancy and ranking of web sites. One factor that all major search engines use to some degree is link popularity. If two sites are have equally relevant content, but one has more high quality links to it than another, the site with more links will rank higher.

Your task is to find “quality” sites and get them to link to you using text links that include your keywords. Try to avoid reciprocal linking or link exchanges. Many, many sites are abusing this method of linking and search engines will soon discount the value of any links shared directly between two sites that do not match certain criteria.

Quality is better than quantity.
By “quality” I mean sites that you need links from need to be considered authority sites on topics related to your own site. These include subject matter resource sites, publications, etc. Sites with .org, .edu are great. Chances are, there are many, many web sites out there with a theme similar to your site. Most that explicitly offer links require you to link back. When this happens, ask yourself if you would like to this type of site anyway – even without a link back.

Also, is the page where your site will be listed related directly to your site? The page that is linking to your site should have less than 40 links on it to other sites. 40 is not a hard number, but the lower the number of outgoing links the better.

The links to other sites should be to sites related to yours. If the links go to all different types of sites, that is of little value for you. If the links page has many, many links it may be of any value. The smaller the number of links to other web sites, the better for you if that page links to you. But the topic of the site should be related to your site.

How to find links.
Go to google.com and do a search for one of your keywords. Check each of the top 20 sites to see if there are opportunities for you to get a link back to your site.

You could also search Google and Yahoo using your keywords plus phrases like, “add site”. Example: keyword phrase” add site” or keyword “submit site”. This might result in sites that are open to accepting links.

There are many other ways to find links and will be included in a future, more in-depth article.

Remember, when you get links from other sites to yours, it is important that they are text links and that the text includes your keywords. Also, you don’t always need to use the same keywords and you don’t have to always link to your home page. You can get links from other sites to your specific product or services pages as well as your home page. Example:

Link Title: Product Keyword
Link URL: http://www.domainname.com/product-keyword.htm
Link Description: Order your product keyword online from domainname.com

By doing this you can build the link popularity to specific web pages of your site as well as your home page.

To Reciprocal Link or Not?
Avoid reciprocal links. Focus on one-way inbound links. It’s good to have a resources page pre-populated with links to authority sites in your industry. These would be one-way links out to other industry, association or resources web sites. Try to keep the number of links you have going out to other sites to a minimum compared to the number of links coming in. If it really makes sense to trade links with another site, you can use your resources page to link to them.

Building links to drive traffic directly to your site can also help build your link popularity. Just keep in mind that text links are ideal and they should include keywords relevant to the page you’re linking to. Set aside a few hours per week to research new links for your web site and mix up the links between your home page and the major category pages of your web site. Over time you’ll build link popularity across your entire site and rankings will follow.

More resources on link building are available at:

http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2160301

http://www.ericward.com/press/wilson/

http://www.linking101.com/articles.htm

http://www.linkbuilding.info/


The Difference Between Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Selling

July 31, 2006

Posted by Jennifer July 28, 2006
I neglected to mention that Bill Wise wrote an interesting article earlier this week for MediaPost Publications. It examines the difference in concepts between search engine “marketing” and search engine “selling”. To put it more simply, Bill points out that much of search marketing is “branding” related and that to actually sell your product to search engine users, it’s sometimes necessary to take a slightly different approach.

From the article:

Marketing, to my mind, is about introducing new modes of thinking. It’s about convincing people that you’re able to enhance people’s lives in ways they might not have considered. And since it’s about changing people’s modes of thought, marketing works best at earlier buy-cycle stages, before people have made up their minds about what they’re looking for.

Sales, more than dealing with influencing thought patterns, is about reeling in customers and driving purchases. It’s about the very end of the buy-cycle, when a customer actually decides to buy.

And so when people point to the effectiveness search in terms of capturing the easiest buyers, they’re not talking about marketing at all. They’re talking about sales.

Bill points to the increased interest among marketers in the branding value of their search engine traffic and explains that it shows a progression in the greater understanding of the power of search. He goes on to explain that since search is primarily a “research” medium, it’s important for site owners to have a solid grasp on the search term buying cycle so that they can create more realistic expectations for visitors that come in via specific search term searches.

In other words…

The importance of search engine marketing–beyond just search engine sales–means that advertisers need to look at early buy-cycle keywords a lot more seriously than they might be doing now. It also means advertisers need to look into crafting ad copy and landing pages that are uniquely developed for research-phase searchers, just as they’re currently doing for later buy-cycle searchers.


Ten Tips to the Top of the Search Engines

July 30, 2006

by Jill Whalen
Completely Revamped and Updated October 2005

Having a website that gets found in Google, Yahoo, and MSN, etc. isn’t hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are my latest and greatest tips to get you started:

  1. Do not purchase a new domain unless you have to. Due to Google’s aging delay for all new domains, your best bet is to use your existing domain/website if at all possible. If you’re redesigning or starting from scratch and you have to use a brand-new domain for some reason, you can expect to wait a good 9-12 months before your site will show up in Google for any keyword phrases that are important to you.
  2. Optimize your site for your target audience, not for the search engines. This may sound counterintuitive, but hear me out. The search engines are looking for pages that best fit the keyword phrase someone types into their little search box. If those “someones” are typing in search words that relate to what your site offers, then they are most likely members of your target audience. You need to optimize your site to meet *their* needs. If you don’t know who your target audience is, then you need to find out one way or another. Look for studies online that might provide demographic information, and visit other sites, communities, or forums where your target audience might hang out and listen to what they discuss. This information will be crucial to your resulting website design, keyword research, and copywriting.
  3. Research your keyword phrases extensively. The phrases you think your target market might be searching for may very well be incorrect. To find the optimal phrases to optimize for, use research tools such as KeywordDiscovery, Wordtracker, Google AdWords, and Yahoo Search Marketing data. Compile lists of the most relevant phrases for your site, and choose a few different ones for every page. Never shoot for general keywords such as “travel” or “vacation,” as they are rarely (if ever) indicative of what your site is really about.
  4. Design and categorize your site architecture and navigation based on your keyword research. Your research may uncover undiscovered areas of interest or ways of categorizing your products/services that you may wish to add to your site. For instance, let’s say your site sells toys. There are numerous ways you could categorize and lay out your site so that people will find the toys they’re looking for. Are people looking for toys to fit their child’s stage of development? (Look for keyword phrases such as “preschool toys.”) Or are they more likely to be seeking specific brands of toys? Most likely, your keyword research will show you that people are looking for toys in many different ways. Your job is to make sure that your site’s navigation showcases the various ways of searching. Make sure you have links to specific-brand pages as well as specific age ranges, specific types of toys, etc.
  5. Program your site to be “crawler-friendly.” The search engines can’t fill out forms, can’t search your site, can’t read JavaScript links and menus, and can’t interpret graphics and Flash. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use these things on your site; you most certainly can! However, you do need to provide alternate means of navigating your site as necessary. If you have only a drop-down sequence of menus to choose a category or a brand of something, the search engine crawlers will never find those resulting pages. You’ll need to make sure that you always have some form of HTML links in the main navigation on every page which link to the top-level pages of your site. From those pages, you’ll need to have further HTML links to the individual product/service pages. (Please note that HTML links do NOT have to be text-only links. There’s nothing wrong with graphical image navigation that is wrapped in standard <a href> tags, as the search engines can follow image links just fine.)
  6. Label your internal text links and clickable image alt attributes (aka alt tags) as clearly and descriptively as possible. Your site visitors and the search engines look at the clickable portion of your links (aka the anchor text) to help them understand what they’re going to find once they click through. Don’t make them guess what’s at the other end with links that say “click here” or other non-descriptive words. Be as descriptive as possible with every text and graphical link on your site. The cool thing about writing your anchor text and alt attributes to be descriptive is that you can almost always describe the page you’re pointing to by using its main keyword phrase.
  7. Write compelling copy for the key pages of your site based on your chosen keyword phrases and your target market’s needs, and make sure it’s copy that the search engines can “see.” This is a crucial component to having a successful website. The search engines need to read keyword-rich copy on your pages so they can understand how to classify your site. This copy shouldn’t be buried in graphics or hidden in Flash. Write your copy based on your most relevant keyword phrases while also making an emotional connection with your site visitor. (This is where that target audience analysis comes in handy!) Understand that there is no magical number of words per page or number of times to use your phrases in your copy. The important thing is to use your keyword phrases only when and where it makes sense to do so for the real people reading your pages. Simply sticking keyword phrases at the top of the page for no apparent reason isn’t going to cut it, and it just looks silly. (Purchase and read our Copywriting Combo for exact tips on how to implement this correctly.)
  8. Incorporate your keyword phrases into each page’s unique Title tag. Title tags are critical because they’re given a lot of weight with every search engine. Whatever keyword phrases you’ve written your copy around should also be used in your Title tag. Remember that the information that you place in this tag is what will show up as the clickable link to your site at the search engines. Make sure that it accurately reflects the content of the page it’s on, while also using the keyword phrases people might be using at a search engine to find your stuff.
  9. Make sure your site is “link-worthy.” Other sites linking to yours is a critical component of a successful search engine optimization campaign, as all of the major search engines place a good deal of emphasis on your site’s overall link popularity. You can go out and request hundreds or thousands of links, but if your site stinks, why would anyone want to link to it? On the other hand, if your site is full of wonderful, useful information, other sites will naturally link to it without your even asking. It’s fine to trade links; just make sure you are providing your site visitors with only the highest quality of related sites. When you link to lousy sites, keep in mind what this says to your site visitors as well as to the search engines.
  10. Don’t be married to any one keyword phrase or worried too much about rankings. If you’ve done the above 9 things correctly, you will start to see an increase in targeted search engine visitors to your site fairly quickly. Forget about where you rank for any specific keyword phrase and instead measure your results in increased traffic, sales, and conversions. (You can sign up for a free trial of ClickTracks, which easily tracks and measures those things that truly matter.) It certainly won’t hurt to add new content to your site if it will really make your site more useful, but don’t simply add a load of fluff just for the sake of adding something. It really is okay to have a business site that is just a business site and not a diatribe on the history of your products. Neither your site visitors nor the engines really give a hoot!

Organic Search: What’s In It For You? Part One

July 29, 2006

By Jody Nimetz – July 28, 2006

Having been in the search marketing industry for a few years now, it still amazes me how organic search just does not get the respect it deserves. Many people still do not get search at all. That in itself is somewhat of a phenomenon to me. Here at Enquiro we have conducted some very interesting research projects as to how people use search. For those of you that don’t get search now… you will… it is only a matter of time.

So what is Organic Search?

Organic search consists of listings that are not sponsored or paid. Organic search is also known as “natural” because the site owner does not have to pay for it. You cannot pay for your organic position. You have to earn it. You do this by optimizing your site’s content for various key phrases so that you are found in the organic (unpaid) listings of the search engines. To clarify, organic search is the portion of search that returns results by indexing pages based on their content and keyword relevancy. The key term here is relevancy. Organic rankings are accomplished through search engine optimization.

Search Engine Optimization, which can be considered a subset of search engine marketing, is the process of maximizing the visibility that your web site has in the organic search results. To be successful online, an organic campaign should be a part of your overall search engine marketing strategy. You might be asking yourself, “why is organic search important?” We will get into more detail on this in the second part of this series, but for now here is some food for thought.

The Click Through Factor

Just how important is organic search? Well, you’ve probably heard about the 70% organic vs. 30% sponsored rule re: organic click throughs vs. sponsored click throughs. Recent data suggests that with Google this may even be higher, at about 85% organic and 15% sponsored. So why is it then that you continue to pour money into elaborate sponsored campaigns and often ignore the importance of the organic click through?

This stat alone should make you think about organic placement in the engines. Now do you see why I am amazed about organic search being overlooked? Here’s a second item to consider. Another benefit that is often overlooked by many with regards to organic search is that organic is free! With the exception of paying a search engine marketing firm, organic rankings can be accomplished by site owners with limited budgets. The only thing that you need is time.

So where does that leave you? Well in the second part of this series we will examine the pros and cons of organic search and how you can benefit from ranking well organically.