In this tenth part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketing.
Pay-Per-Click Marketing basically means paying to have a link to your site placed in a place somehow related to your site, where hopefully the link will have some appeal to the viewer. If the user clicks on your link you pay a fee. The sponsored ads that you see around search engine results in Google, Yahoo, and Bing are pay-per-click advertisements. These ads are positioned in response to what you have typed in as search criteria. When you join a program like Google Adwords, you can select the search criteria for which you would like to have your pay-per-click ad appears. If the user clicks on your ad, you pay a fee. That fee varies depending on the desirability of the search phrase used.
- Google Ad Words – The biggest and most popular PPC program, easy to use with a high return rate.
- Ask.com Sponsored Listings – different levels to meet different needs, easy to use.
- Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) – Sponsored search and content match
- Bing Paid Search Advertising – Smaller but growing program
- Pandia’s Guide to Pay Per Click Search Engines– Round up of links to other PPC programs
Some of the advantages of PPC Advertising vs. Organic SEO are:
Speed- Getting listed as a paid advertiser for your key search terms is a lot faster than waiting for organic search engine results for the same key phrases.
Reach- PPC can deliver traffic to your site, especially for highly competitive key phrases. It may be wise to use PPC for highly competitive phrases, while saving you organic SEO effort for less competitive key phrases..
Return on Investment (ROI)-PPC can be extensively tracked, accurately and quickly. This makes calculating the ROI for every dollar spent on a PPC campaign very easy.
Some of the disadvantages of PPC vs. Organic SEO are:
Click thru rates (CTR)- The click thru rates for PPC ads are significantly lower than the click thru rates for organic search engine results on the same page. Savvy search engine users recognize sponsored links and tend to ignore them to a large extent.
Cost and Longevity- PPC Search terms that are highly competitive will be more costly, and you will only see results (traffic) as long as you continue to pay. Although an organic SEO campaign may take longer to get results, it can continue to achieve results for years.
In a comprehensive Online Presence Management strategy, Pay-Per-Click advertising definitely serves a purpose. That purpose may be paying to drive traffic to your site until organic SEO kicks in, or attempting to drive traffic to your site for short-tail keywords where achieving a first page Google ranking is extremely difficult. A good online presence manager can help you establish a balance of organic SEO and PPC campaigns to drive the kind of traffic to your site that you need to meet you online presence business goals.
In this fifth part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss the next step to consider once you decide to take control of managing your online presence, Directory Listing.
Getting listed in all relevant directories is critical to being found. Getting listed in various directories, and making sure that your website is linked to correctly from those directories actually serves two purposes. You can be found by people using those particular directories, but also links from those websites can improve your search engine ranking. Directories that you want to be found in and linked to from fall into three different categories. Those categories are:
- Search Engine Directories
- Web Based Business Directories
- Local Neighborhood Organizations or Professional Groups
Search Engine Directories
Since all search now has a local component, it is important to make sure that your website is correctly registered in Google and Bing’s local business listings. Search results in these search engines are location based, and being correctly registered geographically is critical to being found by local searchers for your goods or services. Both Google webmaster tools and Bing webmaster tools allow you to manage all of the information and links for your business, and make sure they are accurate and up to date.
Web Based Business Directories
There are also other internet based business directory sites on which you should consider being listed. Some of these sites are free to be listed, many charge to be listed. Here is a good list of the top 40 Web Directories based on inbound link quality.
Local Neighborhood Organizations or Professional Groups
It is also important to maintain current registration in all neighborhood organizations, professional groups, or any business organizations that are relevant to your business. These are going to vary widely depending on the type of business and the community you live in. It is important to spend some time researching any organizations that your business can become a member of, especially organizations that have websites with directories of their membership. You should also research any niche search engine, for example Lawyers.com for the legal profession. These registrations are important for two reasons. First, searches may find you if they happen to find the listings of that organization. Second, the linking to your site by theses other sites provides valuable back links that will give your site credibility, and thus higher ranking, with search engines.
This is my review of noteworthy things that happened this week involving Online Presence Management, search engine internet marketing, search engine news and website SEO. I’ll also be mixing in some technology business news, tech gadgetry news, and tech-culture news.
Here’s my list for the week of Nov. 14-Nov. 18, 2011
Google gives a rare glimpse behind the curtain – On Monday, in its Inside Search Blog, Google released a list of ten algorithmic changes that they had made over the last couple of weeks. They stated that they were “always looking for ways to give you even deeper insight into the over 500 changes we make to search in a given year” ……Wow, If only that were true, SEO consultants everywhere would be dancing in the streets. The changes announced are not that significant, but hopefully this signals a growing trend for Google to be a little more forthcoming about their inner workings. Anyway, here’s the list of ten items from their blog and a review in WebProNews.
Kindle Fire shipped – The Kindle Fire, which was scheduled to be released and shipped to the huge numbers of customers who had pre-ordered them on Tuesday, actually shipped a day early on Monday. The debate began, is this the people’s tablet? is this an iPad killer? Here’s a summary of some early Kindle Fire reviews from Business Insider. A Wired magazine interview and article titled Jeff Bezos Owns the Web in More Ways Than You Think gives some insight into Amazons long term strategy and how the Fire fits into that picture. That strategy is not to be an iPad killer, but to be a shopping and content delivery medium for the masses. The ‘iPad killer’ question is debatable, but as a shopping and content delivery device, there really is no question that it delivers.
Facebook tracking under scrutiny – In the tech world, Facebook tracking has always been under scrutiny. What makes this story noteworthy is where it appeared, as a lead story Wednesday in the Life section of USA Today. This was not buried in some tech niche publication. It was splashed across USA Today, with big, colorful info graphics, the kind that can scare people who had never heard of a computer’s cookies before. Are Americans beginning to wake up and realize they’ve been passively surrendering too much of their personal information to a giant corporation that is profiting hugely from it? Probably not, but this might be a baby step in that direction.
Facebook porn-and-gore exploit spiraling out of control – In other ‘it was a bad week for Facebook’ news’, a coordinated hacker attack caused hardcore pornographic images and gory violent images to begin filling the feeds of people who had clicked on a spammed rich media message. The hack exploited a security problem in the timeline feature that facebook had recently added. On Monday, ZDNet reported the attack was spiraling out of control. Facebook eventually acknowledged the problem, provided a tutorial on cleaning up the mess if you were involved and said they had taken steps to correct it. CNN reported Wednesday that Facebook said most porn had been removed.
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – The debate over this bill in congress heated up the internet this week. The bill is intended to prevent piracy and copyright infringement. The problem is in its vague wording and the fact that it gives the Attorney General the power to blacklist websites and have them removed from Google. The appeal process to such an action is weak and limited to a 5 day time period. This raises huge censorship red flags and caused an outcry and massive email your congressman campaigns across the internet this week. Then AOL, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Zynga, and Facebook signed a joint letter to congress opposing it. To read more about SOPA and find out what you can do to help defeat this legislation, there is a summary of SOPA at WebProNews.
Take this lollipop – a website that you log into with your face book credentials. It then incorporates screen shots of your facebook data into a video. Not just any video, but a creepy video of your worst nightmare of what could happen if some creepy dude got access to your facebook credentials and stalked you. Go to www.takethislollipop.com and log in with your facebook credentials, if you dare. Hopefully it will make you think next time before you use facebook to log into a questionable website.
Every business has an online presence. Managing that online presence to actually generate new business has become an increasingly more complex task. But with the increasing complexity comes greater opportunity. The rise of social media, the increasing use of reputation and review sites, and the constant refinement of search engines all mean that you can more effectively find the people who are looking for you and more effectively put your best foot forward to those people. Inbound marketing to people already looking for you is much more effective than old school outbound marketing, or forcing your message out to anyone who you can force to listen.
Effective Online Presence Management now requires the intelligent application of technology, psychology, marketing, business and strategy. To business owners trying to make sense of this evolving field, it can be quite confusing. Some of this confusion stems from the fact that there are many components that contribute to your online presence. You may have seen a business journal with an article about social media and its use in business, or an article about Search Engine Optimization, or blogging as a means for engaging customers. Most of these articles address the subject they are talking about as the most important part of managing your online presence. You need to remember that each is just a piece of the puzzle. There are many pieces to the puzzle when it comes to creating and managing a successful online presence.
To give you a framework within which to begin thinking about managing your online presence, the following is a list of some of the many things you need to think about doing or managing to have an effective online presence. Over the coming weeks, I will have a blog post that goes into a more detailed look at each component. Today’s blog post is an overview of the topics and components we will be examining in more detail in the coming weeks.
Components of Managing a Successful Online Presence
Business Goal Refinement – The first step in managing your online presences is to define quantifiable business goals for your online presence. The goals should be business related, as opposed to internet focused. For example: increase brand recognition and awareness, generate sales leads, produce sales and generate revenue.
Website Audit – A website audit is a review of your existing website. It is a process in which your website is examined in technical detail to determine how well it meets standards that can determine search engine ranking success.
Search Engine Optimization – Doing everything you can to make sure your web site is found by people searching for you.
Directory Listing – Making sure you are registered and current in all relevant online business directories, including Google and Bing’s local business listings, as well as all the other directories linke yellowpages,com, merchantcircle.com, etc.
Content Creation – How constantly creating new content in blog form or video form can help engage visitors as well as improve your search engine rankings.
Social Media Strategy – Evaluate if social media can be used to target your potential customers. Then create business goals relating to your social media campaign. Implement a successful social media campaign. Monitor the social media conversation involving your business.
Analytics – Tools to monitor the progress of SEO, social media, website traffic, etc.
Reputation Management – Monitoring review, reputation and rating sites to make sure you are fairly evaluated, and containing any negative reviews that may exist.
Pay-Per-Click marketing – Using targeted paid advertising to generate leads and website traffic.
Press Release Distribution- Using online press release distribution channels to generate buzz and/or website traffic when noteworthy things occur in your business.
On September 28th Jeff Bezos announced the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s full color entry into the tablet computing market. After a month and a half of speculation and hype the new Kindles shipped yesterday, a day ahead of schedule. The hype included stories that reported the Kindle Fire had pre-launch demand numbers higher than the pre-launch demand numbers for the iPad, and analysts estimates that Amazon was losing $50 on every Kindle Fire sold. The reports by October 5th were that Pre-orders for the Kindle Fire had reached 50,000 per day.
This week, reviewers finally got their hands on the Kindle Fire, and the reviews seemed to be mixed, but mostly positive. Most of the reviews that were negative seemed to be when they compared the Kindle fire to the iPad, which hardly seems fair when the iPad still has a $499 price, while the Kindle Fire has a $199 price. Here’s a good summary of the reviews of the Kindle Fire from Engadget, Gizmodo, Wired, and Mashable.
To step back from the hype that is trying to position the Kindle Fire as an “iPad Killer”, you need to think about what Amazon is trying to accomplish with the Kindle Fire. Are they trying to challenge the iPad? If they were, wouldn’t they have made a larger device, raised their price point a little and tried to compete head on? Apples core business is hardware sales. Amazons core business is content. Their goal was to develop a content delivery tablet for the masses, which will then give them a delivery medium for their core business, selling content. If the price point for the Kindle Fire allows them to put the device in millions of hands that will then begin purchasing content, do they even care how it stacks up against an iPad?
While everyone else gets caught up in the hype and the inevitable iPad comparisons, check out this interview in Wired Magazine, Jeff Bezos Owns the Web in More Ways Than You Think. It lays out Jeff Bezos’ post-PC vision of the web, and how it is different than Apples vision.
I just received my Own Kindle Fire and have been playing with it for a couple of hours. Initial impressions? It’s like a little slice of an iPad. If you were used to using an iPad, it may seem small. I’ve used an iPad, but I don’t own one, and so to me it seems big enough for what it does. Web sites looked good. I emailed a word document to my new kindle email address and was able to view it. It came pre-registered with my Amazon account and credit card info, so I had purchased a book within 15 minutes of unpacking it, which is< I believe, the whole idea. Also, I tried to load music, and found out that “free” storage in the cloud of all media really means free storage in the cloud of any media you purchase from Amazon. If I want to store my existing mp3 library of music, that would be an additional $20/year for 8 gig of space. I was able to hook the Kindle fire up to my computer and move my 1.5 gig of mp3’s directly onto the Fire, and I am able to play them, but if you have a lot of your own music or videos, don’t expect to move them all to the cloud and store them for free, and the 8 gig will be chewed up pretty quick if you have a large library of media content.
So how does the Kindle Fire stack up? As an “iPad Killer”? Maybe, maybe not, the jury is still out. As a content delivery portal to fulfill Amazon’s vision? A definite home run, no question.
Primatir has been managing the online presence of many small businesses for the past couple of years. With each new customer we acquire, we go thru a description of the process we take to achieve business success online. The process takes time and requires a pig-headed determination and laser-like focus to succeed.
Inevitably, our customers begin to get anxious. They hear about all these companies that guarantee immediate success in search engine rankings and we show them steady progress instead. They are all searching for a magic bullet or secret weapon. Or they wonder why we haven’t listed them on some site that they just heard about from a friend who swears it made all the difference for him.
This is an example of the hindsight bias. It’s the Monday Morning Quarterback complex. Once something has happened, we think the cause was obvious all along to anyone who was paying attention. In reality, we create a plausible reason from the evidence we gather after the event has occurred.
In the time I’ve spent working on the online presence of many different types of businesses and a few individuals, I’ve found no secret weapon. It takes time. I can look at several of our online successes and point to a magnificent turning point event. There is no way that we could have known in advance that they would be so impactful. The magic bullet is time and continuous effort. Anyone who tells you differently is thinking backwards.
In addition to the computer outsourcing work that we do at Port-to-Port Consulting, we have a smaller practice area that concentrates on Online Presence Management. In this group, we work with small business owners to help them get found by prospective customers online. This is a bit more than Search Engine Optimization. It encompasses all the places where a customer is found online as well as the places where he ought to be found online.
Inevitably, we get a question about Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising online. We even get this question during discussions with our Indianapolis small business computer outsourcing customers during many of our planning meetings. The answer is often, “It depends.” Not only does it depend on your target audience, but it also depends on the platform on which you purchase your PPC ads.
Google is the gorilla of PPC advertising. They have a sophisticated system for creating and bidding on ads to be placed alongside their search results. The more recent entry of Facebook into this space might not bode well for Google, but the data says otherwise. Facebook ads are less successful, even though they are able to target them more precisely based on the member’s personal information. In fact, the click-through rate for Facebook ads is less than half the industry average.
In the end, the decision to use PPC advertising must be weighed against other uses of the money. If using PPC seems like a viable strategy, deciding where and how much to use it becomes a new decision process. Just remember that you can’t (and shouldn’t) be everywhere, so you have to pick and choose.
A few years ago, my Indianapolis computer outsourcing company decided to help one of our small business network support customers with his online presence management. We admitted upfront that this wasn’t an area where we had any special knowledge or experience, but we were willing to dive in and learn about it if he was game to give us the chance. Now we have several customers for whom we manage their online presence. We still feel like we’re learning, but we’ve had some phenomenal success.
The biggest problem we have is in trying to report the results to our customers. It seems that all they care about is where they rank in Google search results. No matter how much we tried to get them to understand that their true goal should be how much new or repeat business comes in the door as a result of these efforts, they constantly focus on search engine results.
In the past, we’ve viewed the process as three-fold: win search; win clicks; win business. A recent post from Simon Owens at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard even brings that progression into question. While the cited study dealt only with display ads, I imagine the result generalizes to other online activities. It turns out that 67 percent of ALL advertising clicks online are performed by only 4 percent of Internet users. How’s that for a long tail?
Small business owners must understand that the world of online marketing has not changed to goal of marketing, and just because something is easy to measure doesn’t mean it’s the thing that ought to be measured. View your online presence management activities as revenue generating, but also as brand building.