Best of 2008: Random but Interesting, Part 2

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Looking for some off-the-beaten-trail ideas for driving more site traffic? Getting more out of those expensive marketing conferences? Doing a better job of training employees and qualifying leads? Meeting the biggest challenges in b2b marketing head-on?

Then you’re in the right place! You’ll find all of that and then some here in my final list of brilliant but uncategorized posts from the past year.

Improving Web Site Traffic: Miscellaneous Techniques by PromotionWorld

Rob Wood offers 10 ideas for increasing traffic to your business website, from creating a “what’s new” page where you can post fresh content to adding articles and incorporating site search.

Increase ROI From Marketing Conferences by TopRank Online Marketing Blog

Lee Odden provides an outstanding guide to making the most of marketing conferences. Networking, gaining knowledge and gathering material for blog content are just a few of his recommendations.

Learning for the 21st Century by Informal Learning Blog

In this profound and beautifully crafted post, Jay Cross identifies what is broken in today’s educational systems, particularly in workplace training, provide detail to back up his statement that “Most organisational learning is built on nineteenth-century principles, and these days that’s a formula for disaster.” In the end, Jay’s prescribed solution is the application of social media principles to organization learning, through what he terms “learnscapes,” “platforms where knowledge workers collaborate, solve problems, converse, share ideas, brainstorm, learn, explain, communicate, conceptualise, tell stories, help one another, teach, serve customers, keep up to date, forge partnerships, build communities, and distribute information.”

Four Ways to Leverage Lead Form Questions for Jedi Qualification by HubSpot Inbound Internet Marketing Blog

Preshant Kaw uses the analogy of Jedi Knights (“Let’s say your ideal customer is a Jedi Knight because Jedi Masters already have a lightsaber and you don’t want to sell to the Sith”) to illustrate four ways to use landing pages to identify qualified leads while weeding out irrelevant conversions.

Breakout Session Notes — Making Data Driven Decisions — B2B by MediaPost Raw

Aaron Goldman outlines six key challenges for b2b marketers identified during a breakout session at the Search Insider Summit, along with the solutions posed by the participants. Example: “In B2B there are often multiple decision makers — how do you connect all the dots?…Track “micro-conversions” like white paper downloads, flash video views, repeat visits, etc. and build an engagement scoring system to optimize from.”

How to avoid contextual tragedies by iMedia Connection

J. Brooke Aker writes that “Like semantic search, semantic advertising holds promise to improve the overall relevance of marketing.” He then details several disturbing examples of semantic advertising gone awry (such as ad for Olive Garden showing up “next to an article about 250 people getting sick after eating at an Olive Garden restaurant in Indiana), along with recommendations on how to use this strategy to create more effective ads and placements.

How discounts hurt you by Wildfire Marketing Group

In this brief but very thoughtful post, Jeremy L. Knauff demonstrates how discounting your services—even when it seems like a shrewd move in the short term—causes more problems than it is worth over the longer term. Anyone who’s been a consultant or in the service business for any length of time will relate to this piece.

How to write the “classic direct mail package” by Direct Creative Blog

Direct mail has taken a severe beating from email marketing over the past several years, and why not? Email is far less costly, better for the environment, and enables the recipient to respond with the click of a mouse. Ironically, however, it is the rapid proliferation of email marketing that makes direct postal mail more appealing than ever. Response rates for email are down as inboxes fill up and your message has a harder and harder time standing out; meanwhile, the volume of physical mail has declined to the point where a well-crafted direct mail piece has a better chance of being noticed now than it has in 20 years. This post details the almost-lost art of creating an effective direct mail package.

Via Enquisite: PPC Agencies Make 45X What SEOs Do for the Same Value by SEOmoz

Rand Fishkin has fun with statistics provided by search agency Enquisite to show that because organic results are more likely to be clicked on than ads for the same search terms, and organic visitors tend to convert at a (slightly) higher rate, SEO consultants are justified in feeling “undervalued and underpaid compared to (their) paid search compatriots.” It’s a provocative piece to be sure, but while I hesitate to attack statistical evidence with the anecdotal, my experience has been that when one accounts for the reasons PPC will always cost more than SEO, the actual labor costs of the two activities (when done right) are pretty darn close.

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 1
Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008: Search Engine Marketing
Best of 2008: Web Analytics
Best of 2008: Email Marketing Tips
Best of 2008: SEO Keyword Tips & Tools
Best of 2008: Sales & Marketing Copywriting
Best of 2008: SEO Link Building
Best of 2008: Website Design
Best of 2008: WordPress Tools and Tips
Best of 2008: Web & SEO Copywriting
Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 2
Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 1
Best of 2008: AdWords Tips and Tactics, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Tools, Part 2
Best of 2008: SEM Landing Pages
Best of 2008: Blogging for Business, Part 1
Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 2
Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 3
Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 2
Best of 2008: AdWords Tips and Tactics, Part 2
Best of 2008: Strategy and Branding, Part 1
Best of 2008: Cool Web Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008: Blogging for Business, Part 2
Best of 2008: Random but Interesting, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 4
Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 3
Best of 2008: Strategy and Branding, Part 2
Best of 2008: Cool Web Tools, Part 2
Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 4
Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 5
Best of 2008: Amusing, Creative and Just Plain Odd, Part 1


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Best of 2008: Random but Interesting, Part 2

Best of 2008 (So Far) – SEO Guidance, Part 2

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Again, there have been so many excellent blog posts and articles written on SEO already this year that I’m trying to get a jump on 2009. So here are several more of the best SEO-related pieces from 2008 thus far.

How to Prioritize Your Optimization by GrokDotCom

Interactive marketing guru and best-selling author Bryan Eisenberg maps SEO priorities against Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. As with Maslow’s pyramid, Eisenberg’s maps out progressive levels of website impact, from being merely functional to truly persuasive.

Beginner and Comprehensive Guides to SEO, Link Building, PPC, Social Media, Affiliate Marketing and Blogging
by SEO Scoop

An outstanding post from DazzlinDonna listing her favorite resources and guides for help with everything from SEO and online reputation management to blogging and social media marketing. It’s almost like a syllabus for your own self-paced interactive marketing guru course.

The SEO Website Overhaul
by PromotionWorld

Writer Brandon Cornett gets to the heart of SEO in this concise and practical article, detailing “five simple tasks you can perform on your website over the next few days to improve your search engine visibility and traffic levels” from validating your keywords to creating an XML site map.

Learning SEO and SEM – Where to Start? by High Rankings Advisor

A look at the various options for getting SEO training, including online courses, in-person training at industry conferences, and customized training classes. A tad self-serving, but informative.

Q&A With Google’s Matt Cutts About SEO and the Future of Search by the Epicenter blog from

Betsy Schiffman posts a brief interview with the head of Google’s quality team. Included is Matt’s response to the question of whether SEO really works: “It does to some degree. Think of it this way: When you put a resume forward, you want it to be as clean as possible. If the resume is sloppy, you’re not going to get interviewed for the job. SEO is sort of like tweaking your resume . . . It’s helpful if you just think about which words people would use to search for your content. If you’re writing something about Mount Everest, for example, people are probably going to look for ‘How high is Mount Everest?’ . . . If done responsibly, [SEO] can be a great thing.”

What you need to know about SEO in 2009 by BlogStorm

Patrick Altoft notes that by the time an SEO strategy becomes popular, it generally doesn’t work anymore. While no one (other than Matt Cutts) knows what will be important next year, Patrick takes some guesses.

Combining PPC and SEO to Completely Dominate a Niche by Slightly Shady SEO

It’s no secret that SEO and SEM are each more effective when used together, but this post goes beyond the obvious to detail some specific strategies to use these tools together to dominate the home page of Google (or any other search engine) on a core set of specific terms.

Google Benchmarking and how it can generate more traffic by Latest SEO Buzz

A concise basic explanation of how to use Google Benchmarking to identify the most promising potential areas of improvement for a site.

In-Bound Linking Vs. On-Page SEO by SEO-Space

Thoughts on the relative importance of on-site SEO efforts vs. link building (do the on-site stuff first) and the use of microsites for expanding external links.

The SEO Industry Survey Results by SEOmoz

A wealth of data about working in SEO, with an interesting high-level summary as well as links to detail data. Among the conclusions: the vast majority of SEOs are self-taught (ranging from close to 60% in SEM agencies to more than 80% of “self-employed, non-consultant” whatever that is); SEOs are underpaid (even in the U.S., close to half earn less than $60K per year and nearly 60% make less than $75K); and far too many use insidious no-follow tags.

Analyze Your Competition before Starting an SEO & Marketing Campaign by PromotionWorld

Wendy Suto provides an excellent guide to improving your own SEO efforts by analyzing what competitors are doing in areas such as spider-friendly code, navigation, volume of content, meta tags, keyword density and external links. Understanding how the sites that rank higher than yours (or your client’s) for certain highly relevant key phrases can help you implement changes to leapfrog them.

A white hat super affiliate? by CDF Networks

A concise and compelling argument for using white hat over black hat (or gray hat) tactics in SEO. Judging by the volume of comments, apparently the topic of online ethics is anything but boring.

How To Sell “Mom and Pop” On SEO Services by Search Engine People Blog

A wonderful post on the challenges and rewards of working with small business owners on SEO. One key is to not overwhelm them with everything that needs doing at once; simply fixing title meta tags can often provide a significant bang for a small number of bucks. And it’s true that small business owners are frequently more appreciative and loyal than are big companies.

SEO Step Ten Of Ten: Keeping It Up by WebProNews

Jim Hedger
writes about what to do once an SEO project is “done,” such as monitoring analytics and tweaking content, or as he puts it, “continuing to update the blog, link building and social media marketing.”

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008 (So Far) – SEO Guidance, Part 1


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Best of 2008 (So Far) – SEO Guidance, Part 2

Best of 2008 (So Far) – SEO Guidance, Part 1

Monday, July 28th, 2008

22 Considerations for Improving Natural Search Performance by MediaPost Search Insider

Rob Garner provides a comprehensive checklist of key areas to examine and modify for organic search success. In addition to the obvious (e.g., title tags, copywriting and link development) Rob includes more esoteric areas such as canonicalization issues, removing session IDs and sourcing out on-page JavaScript and CSS to external files.

How to hire an SEO Rockstar by Search Engine People

Author Jennifer Osborne offers a useful checklist to use when determining what type of SEO talent you need and then evaluating candidates.

Link Building Campaigns That Work by Link Building Best Practices

Because search engine algorithms are constantly changing, a solid link-building strategy shouldn’t be “trendy” but rather balanced between different types of link sites including blogs, forums, directories, articles and reciprocal link partners.

4 questions every web site owner needs to answer by Search Engine Marketing Exposed

A fairly short yet very thoughtful post that is more strategic than tactical. Stepping back and answering some basic questions about why someone would visit your site and what exactly you’d like them to do there provides a helpful starting point for SEO efforts.

The Ultimate Guide to Directory Submissions by SiteProNews

While this article doesn’t quite live up to its headline, it’s nevertheless an educational quick read for anyone starting link building efforts as well as a helpful refresher for more experienced SEO practitioners.

SEO Your Site in 60 Minutes by Search Marketing Blog Online

Another excellent post with a somewhat misleading title, this piece from Jon Clark is packed with three dozen checklist items to make sure your SEO tactics are on track, divided into home page, site and external activities. Items range from basic (formatting of title tags, use of H2 tags, internal text links) to advanced (setting up a domain name redirect, “link funneling” using insidious nofollow tags). While going through this list will take considerably longer than 60 minutes, but it’s a worthwhile effort.

Deconstructing Search Engine Bias by MediaPost Search Insider

This post helps SEO pros understand, at a high level, the “biases” built into search engine algorithms in order to craft strategies and tactics to capitalize on them. These biases include factors like “spamminess,” authority, blog buzz and links.

Using Differentiators in Keyphrases: What Every Search Engine Optimization Company Needs to Know by PromotionWorld

A thoughtful piece from Scott Buresh on the value of adjectives for search; using modifiers in search phrases can simplify SEO efforts while delivering more highly qualified traffic. This works with descriptors (e.g. “B2B email marketing” vs. just “email marketing”), location (e.g. “search marketing services Minnesota”) and other attributes.


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Best of 2008 (So Far) – SEO Guidance, Part 1

Google Drinks a Fighting Problem

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Google is screwed up. I say that not to be in any way disparaging of the world’s most important search engine and online advertising platform (after all, this is a Blogger blog), but rather out of sincere, heartfelt concern. SEOs and online advertisers can no longer dismiss the search giant’s recent acting up as “just a phase,” or a bit of eccentricity; it’s time for some tough love. Yes, our friend Google is in need of…an intervention. Things have reached the point where anyone involved in interactive marketing can recognize the classic signs of a serious abuse problem:

Wild Mood Swings and Erratic Behavior

The search position held by any particular page for any specific term has always fluctuated somewhat over time, but lately the ranking swings have become unusually unstable and pronounced. For example, on one site that I do SEO work for, I watched one page go from 49th position for a particular term, to the #9 spot, then back to page five in a matter of weeks—with no changes made to the page.

That experience is by no means unique. As Jaan Kanellis recently wrote in Google Previous Query Reason For Crazy Google Rankings? on SiteProNews, “I swear I must answer these types of questions two dozen times on forums/blogs every week. ‘Where did my rankings go?’ ‘Why do I rank #4 one hour and then #44 the next hour?’”

Difficulty Getting Along with Others

While search results of course vary across the different engines as each uses its own unique algorithms, one nevertheless expects similarity in results when the search phrase being used has a clear market leader. For example, on a search for “free credit report,” Experian’s shows up within the top three results on almost any search engine.

To an increasing degree over the last couple of months, however, Google returns very different results than the other leading search engines, even when the others agree. For example, on a series of similar phrases, MSN and Yahoo consistently displayed one particular company’s website on the first page of their results, while Google seemed to have a much more difficult time finding it:

Results like this seem to suggest either that Google’s algorithm is no longer as accurate as MSN’s or Yahoo’s, or an explanation even more sinister, as suggested in The Google Voice: Free Speech in Search, a recent post from StraightUpSearch.

Confusion and Disorientation

Now, one might argue that Google’s results differ from other search engines because its algorithms are actually better than Yahoo’s or MSN’s. Perhaps, and Google certainly has no requirement to return results similar to other search engines—but it should at least agree with itself. But it doesn’t; it’s not unusual for Google to return wildly different results for arcane and extremely similar search terms.

For example, this is how one website showed up in search results across the three largest engines for searches on five very similar phrases. Note that Yahoo and MSN display results that are not only very similar to each other, but internally consistent as well, while Google’s results for this site are all over the place:

There are also instances where the same SEO techniques applied to different pages on a single website produce dramatically different results on Google. Disturbing.

Problems Performing Simple Tasks

The search giant has experiences reporting glitches across it’s AdWords and Analytics toolsets as reported by Ian Lurie in Google Analytics Is Losing E-commerce Data: Don’t Panic?!! on the Conversation Marketing blog. Here’s Google’s acknowledgment of the issue:

And the problems are not only on the reporting side; FTP publishing failed and spit back error messages on Blogger for four days before Google Support finally corrected the glitch. That’s a heck of a bender.

Changing Its Story

It’s not uncommon for someone with “a problem” to tell different stories to different people, or change details over time. This is apparently another warning sign for Google—are external links important or not? They still certainly appear to be, though Google has changed its tune on the issue, as reported on a Marketing Pilgrim post from Andy Beal, Google Officially Removes Link Building from “SEO?”. Why?

And Finally…Denial

The first step is getting help is of course admitting one has a problem. Unfortunately, there have been no signs of that yet from our friend. In Introduction to Search Quality on the Official Google Blog, Google VP Engineering – Search Quality Udi Manber, (a clearly brilliant and no doubt quite decent guy), defends the company’s secrecy, writing that “We are, to be honest, quite secretive about what we do. There are two reasons for it: competition and abuse.” Fair enough, and no one should expect Google to give away its most valuable secrets. But given all of the above—wild rankings swings, inconsistency, glitches in simple functions—is it too much to ask for an explanation of this bizarre behavior?

Roger Janik tries to sort this all out in What’s Important to Know About the Google “Dewey” Algorithm Update on PromotionWorld, writing:

    “This past update which came roaring in during March and April wreaking havoc to all SEO’s deserves a name like a great storm- this one named ‘Dewey’…For most SEOs and general web surfers Dewey was extremely easy to spot. It only took a few searches to realize that something was off kilter and to many SEOs totally out of whack…One of the first alarm bells that went off was that many of the quality old sites that we love and nurture suddenly disappeared from the top ranking positions to pages in the tens or twenties of the index. This very unfortunate fact sent many SEOs into panic mode. Many web surfers and SEOs noticed that searches were not nearly as relevant as before. For many, it seemed that Google was tipsy, spewing out half baked results for straight forward queries.”

Given how freakish the last couple of months have been on Google search, perhaps Doozey would have been a better code name. Or Britney.

Therapy Needed

Google is too important to be allowed to slip through the cracks into dysfunction and disrepute. Every day, millions of marketers and tens of millions of searchers turn to Google to provide
reliable, accurate search results. Maybe counseling is required, maybe a 12-step program, perhaps even forced commitment. Because, as we’ve all bee told repeatedly, friends don’t let friends drive (web traffic) drunk.


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Google Drinks a Fighting Problem