What Have The Search Juggernaughts Got In Store For Us?

Search Engine Marketing

As the battle of the search giants continues, R&D rolls on. Google and Microsoft have taken the war from search engines to our desktops, to our mobiles and into our marketing budgets with one prime objective – DOMINATION.

So whilst we all feel a bit violated by how far these brands are prepared to invade our privacy – as marketers we are all benefiting from a range of free tools and their innovation is also creating a wealth of new opportunities to connect and collaborate with our intended audience.

So what are some of the latest innovations and how will these change the marketing landscape?

Google Wave

Google WaveGoogle wave is in marketing speak a communications and collaborations tool but to simplify it, wave is email and instant messaging on steroids. Google Wave, which was produced by the same engineers as Google Maps, offers functionality like email playback, image sharing features, real time IM and a suite of other interesting functions. With a release date set for sometime in September, Google Wave may, if widely embraced, change the way email is as we know it.

How will this change the landscape?

Wave could transform the traditional email marketing campaign and this could be an exciting prospect for the email industry. Wave does have some very funky tools that will enable email to become more social thus it could mark the start of a new era in email tools. To preview the platform click here – note the video is 1 hour 20 minutes long but after 20 minutes you will get the jist.

Bing Vertical Search

With the introduction of its new search engine, Bing wants to do more than provide search results. As its positioning states, Bing is a decision engine, as it aims to help users to make decisions related to key problems. As a result Bing is investing heavily within its vertical search categories such as travel, shopping, medical and news (view Bing US to see what Microsoft is creating). Bing sees the future of search in aggregating content from various sources into one rich experience that is easy to navigate. Thus although Google is already doing it through universal search, the information is not structured logically to support a users decision process and this is where Bing could gain a significant advantage.

But with the Bing launch now old news, I am probably not telling you much more than you already know. So the question is where is this going? While this is largely speculative, it is believed that Microsoft will expand its vertical search by up to 12 separate channels. My guess is that Bing will build verticals across jobs/careers, education, property and finance at a minimum. So whilst Bing has its sights set on vertical search it seems Google has similar ideas. Google has already begun entering the vertical arena with Google Real Estate and also Google City Tour. And whilst at this stage it is difficult to tell how successful their vertical search strategies will be, I feel if Bing stays on route with aggregating content and steering clear of white labelling third party supplier products, they might have one up on industry leader.

How will this change the landscape?

Bing vertical search expansion to our shores will largely depend on the uptake of the Bing search engine as a whole. If the uptake is not there, we may not see the vertical search channels evolve locally, however I still expect to see Google rise to the challenge and focus even more heavily on this space. Thus with Bing now powering Yahoo, and plans for expansion into vertical search, along with Google’s progression in the area, vertical search engines – such as product comparison sites may decrease in popularity as search engines start to win back vertical search categories.

Want to know more about Bing? View this 2 minute overview

What else are these giants getting up to?

Google AnalyticsHere are some of the other tools that have recently been released or are in the pipeline;

Google Natural Search Ranking; Launched earlier in the year, but somewhat under the radar Google now provides the ability for Google Analytics users to not only view organic keywords which bought traffic to a site but to determine how those keywords ranked. As personal and local search has made ranking measurement tools less accurate, this provides SEOs with added intelligence to improve for their organic search strategies. For more information on Google Natural search rankings click here

Google Voice; Whilst in beta for a number of years, Google voice lets users manage their voice services online. With a single phone number, users can manage their voice services online – and the beauty of the tool is that the number is tied to the individual not a location like a home phone number or a device like a mobile. At this stage Google Voice is a free service, but is only available in the US. It is unclear when Google voice could make its way to our shores – but if it does one thing is for sure – Google need to find a way to monetise this product so no doubt there could be some interesting advertising models surfacing here.

Bing Tweets Results; Real time search has received a lot of attention over the past few months because of Twitters rise to fame. In early July Bing announced its first steps towards integrating real time tweet from prominent individuals into their search results. In addition Bing has announced that this is the first way they are dipping their toe into the water. Thus there is no doubt that this is one of the areas they will continue to innovate within in the coming months.

Have you come across any other key innovations by the search giants? If so add them below.

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Mobile Search – It’s Just Different

Search Engines

In March 2009, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, stated that mobile search will surpass PC search in years NOT decades. So whilst mobile still has a long way to go, it is definitely becoming another important channel for marketers to consider. Mobile search is just one of the many areas which will start to receive significant attention over the next 12 months, so I have collated some of the most interesting mobile search trends I have come across to date;

1. Search query length; According to a recent report published by several of Google’s researchers, the average users search query on a mobile phone is 15.89 characters. This is 18% fewer characters than the average length of a user search query on a desktop. In addition the average number of words per query is 2.44 on a mobile phone, which is 20% lower than search queries on a desktop. As a result, it is important to understand how users search on mobile by conducting specific mobile keyword research.

2. Type of queries; MobiThinking stated in their recent SEO Best Practice Guide that it takes users approximately 40 seconds and 30 key strokes to enter a short URL / search query. As a result predictive search queries presented by search engines play a big role in simplifying the mobile search experience. Thus from a mobile SEO perspective, it is important to place your site in the most common predictive search phrases related to your product or service offering.

Local Search Query3. Local Query Searches; As is widely published, mobile searches will often contain location based queries, however it is also important to note that users are not only searching for this content via search engines. Mobile applications have to date achieved much success, which is partly due to the effective presentation of information within these applications. Thus it is important to understand that optimisation for location based queries may not be enough. Consider how key applications related to your industry are gathering results from search engines and how your mobile site can deliver content in the format required to be featured within these applications.

4. Voice Based Mobile Search; Despite however the current trends in user behaviour, there is a significant advancement which is and will continue to revolutionise the industry and will turn what we know today on its head. This is the introduction of voice based search for mobile phones. Whilst Yahoo & Google developed applications for voice based search in late 2008, widespread adoption is yet to take hold and as Google continues to innovate in this area it will be an important space to watch. Voice based search for mobile will eradicate many of the time and keystroke related issues experienced by mobile users when searching. And although tt is obviously very earlier days on the voice search based front once widespread, mobile SEO will change considerably as “voice search queries” will differ considerably from “text based search” as users are not restricted by small keypads and screens.

Share any trends you have come across regarding the mobile search below;

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Rethinking Your Email Marketing Strategy

There is no doubt about it – companies love the mass email marketing strategy.

But with inboxes fuller than ever and attention spans reducing at a rapid rate, how are you going to adapt your email strategy?

This article aims to get you thinking about how to re-engineer your email strategy and metrics to give your email marketing a new lease of life.

Rethinking performance metrics

Marketers are obsessed with campaign based metrics – opens / clicks and most of all revenue but what was the value lost from your recent email campaign?

ROI from email marketing is obviously the reason why so many businesses adopt the mass mail strategy, but what impact does this have on your subscriber base?

Email addresses did not magically appear on your database, building a relationship and trust with customers is a difficult process and a costly one – so preservation of an organisations most valuable asset (its database) is integral. Mass email marketing is more costly than organisations give it credit for – thus it is important to calculate the cost of database churn – particularly if it is those that have made several purchases and are of high value to your organisation.

Rethinking your content strategy

Untargeted promotional emails sent to the masses may capture a few prospect buyers by chance, but outside of this if your consumers are not in the decision set for purchasing your product your email has fallen on deaf ears.

According to a report by Exact Target in the US, marketers are looking to integrate social media into their email campaigns. So whether this be providing subscribers with the opportunity to share content or driving users to fan pages this will be one of the trends to emerge in the next 6 – 12 months in Australia.

However these techniques are ineffective if your content strategy is unengaging. Applying some of the principles of social media – such as delivering value through quality content rather than pushing marketing messages to consumers will be the platform of any successful integration between the techniques.

Email Marketing StrategyRethinking email intelligence

Email marketing has become such a quantitative science. Integrating email systems with analytics to discover end to end behaviour and to improve campaigns has been such a valuable source of intelligence BUT what can email learn from website development? There is so much value gained from the end consumer that email marketers are really only getting half the story. It may sound simple but build feedback mechanisms into your campaigns to give customers an open invitation to respond with content suggestions and requests and most importantly feedback on why people are unsubscribing.

Rethinking emails importance

With so many other new digital channels gaining the attention at present, email marketing is the unloved child. Your email strategy probably has and will continue to play an important role in achieving your marketing objectives so it’s probably time to rethink how you can take your email marketing to the next level.

Have you recently changed your email strategy for the better? If so why not share your tips here.

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10 Fast Mobile Facts – For Those On The Move

Fast Mobile Facts

1) Mobile Ownership; Australia had 23.6 million mobile users at year-end 2008 which represents a 110% penetration level– Telyste

2) Mobile Usage; According to the Nielsen Online and Technology report, Australians spend close to 4 hours per week on their mobile phones. – Nielsen Online

3) Handset Ownership; Handset Ownership of Australians according to BuzzCity;
• Nokia – 44.23%
• Samsung – 15.92%
• Sony Ericsson – 14.1%
• LG – 13.87%
• Motorola – 3.1%
• iPhone – .8%
• Palm – .3%

Mobile Internet Usage Habits4) Mobile Internet Usage; Mobile broadband subscribers equalled 2 million users at the end of 2008. This is estimated to grow to over 5 million mobile broadband users by 2013 – Telyste

5) Mobile Internet Frequency; According to Sweeney research, Australians with mobile access, connect to the net via their phone 1.9 times per week on average. – Sweeney Research

6) Mobile Page View Growth Page views of Australian mobile internet sites (from October – Mar 09) grew 24.4% during the six month period. – AIMIA

7) Mobile Internet Usage Habits; Sweeney Research showed that Australians are using their mobile internet for music (43 percent), games (33 percent) and sport (32 percent). They are also sharing photos (70 percent), ringtones (46 percent) and music (46 percent) via their mobile when they are online. – Sweeney Research

8) Mobile Content Growth; Mobile content is tipped to be the fastest growing revenue segment in the non-voice mobile services sector reaching $2.8 billion by 2013 – Telsyte.

9) Mobile Advertising Growth; Mobile advertising will treble with forecasts suggesting that mobile advertising spend will grow to $20 million during 2009, from the paltry $7 million accrued in 2008. – Telsyte

10) Mobile Promotion Content Preferences According to a News Digital Media survey, mobile users would find mobile competitions and discount vouchers most appealing from advertisers. Full results are below;
What type of mobile phone promotions would appeal to you?
• 68 % Competitions
• 56 % Discount vouchers
• 47 % Free product downloads
• 47% Free product sampling
• 27% Games

Do you have any other mobile stats that you wish to share? If so please do so below.

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The Unloved Component of SEO – Internal Linking

Internal Linking SEO

Whilst part 1 of my “Taking Your SEO Knowledge Up A Notch” article covered external linking, part 2 covers my key tips for the lesser known linking concepts by client side marketers, known as internal linking. Below I have detailed 9 tips to round out my 20 linking tips.

1) Link Juice Flow; External link building helps to generate link juice to your site, however your internal linking structure is what helps to distribute it. As a sites homepage usually has the highest PageRank, it is important to develop a well thought out linking structure to distribute page rank to other pages in need of link juice within the site.

2) Tell it as it is; When creating internal links within your site, use descriptive text to describe your links to enable Google to understand the context of the links. Websites often use “Click Here” which does not provide Google with any clues as to the type of content that a particular page is linking to.

3) Map it out; Site maps are not only useful for users but can assist sites, particularly large ones, to have their pages easily indexed by spiders. This is because site maps provide one central directory of pages on a site, making it easy for search engines to crawl and index the pages on your site. There are 2 types of site maps needed these are HTML and XML. HTML site maps are loaded onto sites for users, whilst XML site maps can be loaded into the Google Webmaster tool and are indexable by other search engines.

Breadcrumbs in Web Design4) Leave a trail of breadcrumbs; Not only is breadcrumb navigation helpful for users to navigate a site, but by nature breadcrumb navigation are links, thus these can improve a sites internal linking. In addition if breadcrumb navigation contains relevant descriptive keywords it can add more value to your internal linking strategy.

5) Don’t build a monstrosity; It is important to consider the depth of your site. If a link is more than 3 clicks from the home page, it will drastically decrease the chance of Google being able to index it, especially if the page has no external links. Thus if your site is deeper than 3 clicks, consider how secondary level pages can be linked to those pages deep within the site.

6) Share the love; Outbound linking from your site is obviously a contentious issue because it channels valuable link juice away from your site. Some SEO experts however claim that linking out can contribute positively to your sites ranking. How? Amongst many other variables in the Google algorithm, it is believed Google analyses the quality of outbound links from a site as this provides an indication of if the site is a quality source of content. In addition linking out can increase the number of links pointing back to your site, as it creates a signal that your company is prepared to engage in the natural linking process of the web.

7) Don’t Pussy Foot Around; Footers are becoming more well known for containing content specifically crafted for search engines. Whilst footers provide a useful way to link to important pages from the home page, excessive use of them could negatively impact the flow of page rank as Google may penalise such behaviour. Thus it is important to consider how your site architecture can best support your SEO efforts from the get go. In the first instance consider how best a site’s navigation and internal linking efforts can effectively distribute pageRank without sole reliance on the footer navigation.

8) Don’t over do it; Before you start to cross link every page think about the impact on your user base. Whilst internal linking provides SEO benefits it can confuse the user and drive the user away from your site. SEO is the art of driving traffic from search engines and converting it – ranking in search engines is only half the job.

9) Just do it; Webmasters and marketers alike are fortunate to control on-page optimisation, thus it is so surprising that internal linking is so under-utilised compared with techniques such as copy optimisation. Before however diving in, invest the time to develop a structured linking plan rather than using a scatter gun approach. My final piece of advice is do it (internal linking) and do it well and it will probably give you an edge over many of your competitors.

Review the first 11 external linking tips here.

If you have any other internal linking tips, please add them below

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Linking – Take Your SEO Knowledge Up A Notch

External Linking

After interviewing for my replacement, I realised that whilst many client side marketers claim they have experience in SEO, usually their experience doesn’t extend beyond the basics. In particular most seem to think that SEO is no more than onsite copy optimisation.

Yes as client side marketers we can’t be experts at everything but I strongly believe you cannot manage something if you don’t understand it. Thus it is time for client side marketers to move their SEO knowledge up a notch and understand one of the other core SEO strategies – LINKING.

In this 2 part series, I will detail 20 of the most important things you need to know about linking:

1. It’s a 2 sided affair; There are 2 sides to linking strategies – internal and external (back links) and both are important. Part 1 of this series will cover some of the most important considerations for external link building.

External Linking

2. PR is not the only way; There are many different techniques to build links outside of PR some of the most widely utilised include;
* Article Sites
* Free Directories (said to be decreasing in importance but still valuable)
* Social Media Campaigns
* Blogs
* Paid Directories (use sparingly but Yahoo Directory is a must)
* Partner sites
* Institutions / Industry Bodies / Government Sites

3. Not all links were created equal; A key part of Google’s algorithm is based on its PageRank calculation which determines the popularity of a site based on a number of factors. PageRank isn’t just about the total number of inbound links your site has, some links will hold more value than others. Thus when identifying suitable sites for back linking purposes, look for those that possess a Google page rank of 3 or above.

SEO and Content Strategy4. Deep links are important; External back linking strategies should aim to build deep links into a site, not just link to a sites home page.

5. It’s not what you link, it is how you do it; Link context and position on an external site is as important as the link itself. When obtaining a link try to ensure your link is coded with descriptive text. In addition it is important to consider the number of other links on the page. Back links will receive their share of influence based on this information so a listing on a high ranking website will still have little effect if there are dozens of other links listed.

6. Beware of the no follow tag Many sites particularly the popular ones ie Wikipedia don’t pass page rank as the sites links are tagged with what is called the no follow tag. To identify if a site is using the no follow tag use the Firefox Search Status plug in

7. Don’t pay the price; Extensive paid links can result in your site being penalised by Google. Refer to the Matt Cutts comments in late 07 on the issue

8. Socially aware; Social media sites don’t pass rage rank. But this doesn’t mean they are not a useful source of link creation as the collaborative web allows content to be distributed and syndicated onto third party sites. Thus social media can provide a less labour intensive tactic to build back links for SEO purposes.

9. There is more to linking than page rank; Many SEOs lose sight of the other benefits of linking. Whilst some sites may not pass the valuable link juice there is still a significant benefit to external site links. For instance if you can obtain a link on a third party site which ranks well within search engines, this can provide an opportunity to dominate search results and increase traffic to your site.

10. Maintain Control; If you are outsourcing your linking strategy to an SEO agency ensure you know the potential back links sources. Many organisations do not know which sites are being used for external linking strategies and it is not uncommon to hear of brands whose links have ended up on spammy sites or worse on those with adult content.

11. The future is real; Whilst the past few years have been dominated by artificial linking efforts, the future will see Google place higher importance on real popularity gained through social media.

Have you got any tips for external link building, if so add them here.

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Useful Australian Digital Stats – Q2

Australian Digital Trends Q2

Quarter 2 has been quieter on the Australian digital research and trends front but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been able to find some interesting statistics to share with you. I have compiled 15 of the most interesting Australian digital statistics released in Q2 of 2009. To view the 20 most interesting Australian digital statistics for Q1 click here.

Online Behaviour (General & Industry Specific)

A recent study by Monash’s Australian Centre for Retail Studies revealed 50% of Australian shoppers investigate their purchases online before going in store to make their purchase. –Dynamic Business

According to the ABS, Australian household internet consumption has increased 37 fold in 8 years

Australians aged 16 – 17 are spending 3.5 hours online per day – The Age

A new survey has revealed that 56% of Australian teenagers lie about themselves when they are online, with most teens faking their age – Full Story

According to Nielsen statistics, 87 per cent of Australians looking for real estate are using the web to find properties – News

Australians are among the biggest users of online banking in the world with more than 50 per cent of customers using internet banking at least once a week.

Social Media MarketingSocial Media

In the year to April, visits to social networking and forum sites increased by 16% in Australia, whilst visits to blogs dropped by 27.5% – Stuff

In Australia, there are 850,000 to 900,000 people on LinkedIn, and about 15 per cent of those are HR people or recruiters – News

Facebooks user base has hit over 6 million Australians – The Age

In June the MySpace subscriber base using their mobile to access the platform was revealed to be 340,000 strong in Australia – bandt

Australians are believed to be viewing 85 million MySpace pages per month via mobile phones, with each visit lasting between 11 and 15 minutes – bandt

Search

Since the launch of Bing, Microsoft’s search share in Australia has increased. Stats for the week finishing 4th July show Bing.com has 5.02% share, compared with 3.91% in late April – Hitwise

Head of Online at Google revealed in June some of the growth areas in search queries were – Accounting and tax-related search queries are 63 percent higher this year than last. Mobile queries are 82 percent higher this year than last. Office supplies searches are 36 percent higher in 2009. – Dynamic Business

Online Radio & TV

A report released in Apr 09, showed digital radio consumption had grown from 4.2 hours in 2007 to 4.9 hours in 2008 – Nielsen Online

According to Nielsen, 47% of metropolitan internet users have viewed TV content online or downloaded it, whilst 12% had done so frequently – Nielsen Online

Do you have any other interesting statistics to share on the Australian digital market? If so please share them below.

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Is your PPC ROI Cutting the Mustard?

Pay Per Click Advertising

With competition driving keyword inflation and marketing budgets falling improving ROI is the hottest topic around for PPC.

As I commenced managing my first PPC campaign a number of years ago, it is interesting to witness the impact competition has had on keyword inflation over time. So just how much is it?

Over the past 2 years alone the average CPC for one campaign I have managed has increased by 150%. Surprisingly whilst keyword costs the keywords quality score has improved and the position has remained nearly identical. All of which has happened in a category which has a moderate level of competition – thus I cannot imagine the rate of keyword inflation in categories such as travel.

This is slightly concerning in a time where Australian organisations are yet to fully embrace the digital phenomenon, so it is not unrealistic to conceive that keyword inflation will continue to grow at a similar rate over the next 18 months.

Thus what is more important than ever is for marketers to become more strategic in their campaign management to lower CPCs and improve ROI to get more bang from the paid search buck.

Here are my top tips to improve campaign ROI;

1. Negative Keyword Matching In particular one of the key issues with broad match keywords is Google will match “similar keywords” to the original query ie if I am targeting spring water, Google will also serve ads to a user searching on mineral water which are 2 very different products. Thus by refining your negative keywords list PPC marketers can maximise ad serving to its most relevant audience.

To understand the exact queries that are driving users to a site – utilise the “search query performance report” in the Google AdWords Report centre. This report enables campaign managers to identify the queries driving traffic to a site which are inappropriate and can be added to a negative keyword list.

If a significant portion of your keyword portfolio is set to “broad match”, it is extremely important to refine your campaign with a long list of negative keywords on an ongoing basis. Whilst broad match keywords are useful to ensure broad coverage across your product or service category, it can also lead to a significant portion of unqualified users visiting your site – decreasing campaign ROI.

2. AdGroup Refinement Overtime keywords are added to AdGroups, which can result in the ad text becoming less targeted and relevant to a users search query. Similar to the creation of an initial campaign strategy, review AdGroups and group keywords into new sub-themes which can be used as a basis to create new ad groups. By doing so campaign managers can create more targeted ad text and improve keyword quality scores – thus reducing CPCs.

After creating AdGroups, PPC marketers often overlook the opportunity to further refine their AdGroup strategy by segmenting AdGroups into smaller more relevant subsets of keywords and ad text.

3. ROAS Based Campaign SegmentationBy grouping AdGroups into 3 categories, high, moderate and low return, and creating separate campaigns, campaign managers can allocating a higher proportion of ad spend towards the keywords that generate the highest return.

With limited budgets it is important to allocate funding based on the best performing AdGroups and keywords. As budgets are set at the campaign level it is difficult to allocate funding towards AdGroups that are performing better than others. Thus rather than simply segmenting your campaigns by site or product type – consider segmenting campaigns based on ROAS.

4. Day Parting & Bid Multiplier

Ad SpendNot all days were created equal when is comes to online consumer purchases. For example according to ComScore, consumers are 30% more likely to purchase a holiday on Monday or Tuesday thus using strategies to improve exposure and click-throughs on these given days can improve ROI.

Google AdWords provides campaign managers with 2 key tools to optimise campaigns on higher / lower conversion days. Ad Scheduling allows campaign managers to schedule when ads should and shouldn’t appear, whilst bid multiplier enables marketers to bid above or below the maximum CPC by setting a percentage increase or decrease on bids for given days / times.

5. Testing

Like many other marketing mediums, the importance of testing is integral to improve ROI. Apart from the more obvious elements to test such as ad text and landing pages, trial testing various keyword match types such as phrase or exact match along with keyword positions.

Google offers a position preference function to enable campaign managers to specify ads to be shown in a preferred position. It is important to note that Google does not guarantee position placement preferences because of factors related to the bidding process. However it can be a useful tool to improve campaign performance as many organisations have found better ROI when ads are shown in a given position. When conducting tests, ensure tests results are statistically significant before decisions are made on how to proceed, one tool to help you with the following is – http://splittester.com/.

Do you have any other tips to improve ROI on PPC? Share them below.

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