Search Marketing

Ramp Up Sales With SEO: An Agency Guide


Over the last 7 years I’ve been directly involved with teaching digital agencies how to market, service and ramp up services with a SEO product. As I partner with these digital agencies, I’ve noticed that there’s a stop gap between the sales staff and an active, healthy SEO client lifecycle. In many cases, this is based on a lack of education in the nuances of dealing with and servicing a typical SEO product.


I’ll be focusing on this difficulty for agencies in my session on May 13th, as part of Digital All Stars, a virtual one-day event hosted by OMI.

We’re aiming to help train and teach the basics of dealing with these unique challenges that agency sales reps and account managers face when offering SEO, and how best to market these services. What we’ll cover will be a crash course in how to ramp up sales with SEO. If you’re an agency that wants to add a new service line, or needs some training to perform better, don’t miss my session on May 13th.

Where Reps Fail with SEO: Common Pitfalls

In all of the agencies I’ve trained in offering and closing SEO projects, there seems to be a common trend: the lack of confidence and knowledge surrounding what SEO means specifically for the client website in question. What we’re teaching here are principles to live by, for your whole team from technical to sales.

If the sales reps can get these ingrained into their communication strategy, then your agency’s closing ratio will go up. Here’s are the top priorities for your team to learn for continued success:

  • How to qualify the site as a SEO candidate

  • How to position a large SEO value

  • How to introduce SEO to existing clients

  • How to close the contract for 6-12 months

  • How to share the knowledge (tools the clients can use)

The session outline covers these using the best strategy I’ve seen work for top agencies over the years, and can essentially help agencies growth hack the SEO intake process. Personally I think that doing this 4-5 times in a row, even if the lead doesn’t close in the end, will equip your reps with the confidence and level-set knowledge to hit and exceed their targets.

The Big Secret To Closing A Client on SEO

SEO is an educational sale to clients, and it’s arguably quite an easy one. The idea is to position yourself as a SME for SEO and let the client see the value himself, essentially closing the deal. In many cases, I’ve seen clients call back after days or weeks of looking at a technical report, and ask more questions.

At that point, they’re probably in. They’ve started to understand the value of SEO, and how it affects their bottom line. I’ve found that sharing your expert knowledge always works well because it’s intricate and complex, and those leads probably won’t want to do it themselves in the end.

SEO business deal

Expanding the knowledge base at your agency is just smart business; it’s a great feeling for sales reps to fundamentally understand what needs to be done, and how technical fixes can make quick ranking changes for clients. This understanding builds a bond between the client and agency that can last for years.

5 Best SEO Tools For Sales (That You Probably Don’t Know About)

I’m a big believer in giving away those practical tools that I’ve found useful when working to intake a client, so I’ve added this section to my session in the virtual summit. There are many cases when your sales rep might end up sitting at a desk in the client's office, showing them things and explaining strategy. Showing off these tools can give some awesome insight about the SEO situation, and really create a wow factor for clients.

I always recommend using some of these tools live in a presentation with a client, because it shows just how much improvement needs to be done on the client’s site. Just be careful not to paint yourself into a corner here, if you’re the agency that has handled the client’s web marketing in the past.

I’ve done this session in a few different countries, and it’s developed to be mainly geared towards sales. We’ll be doing more courses and drilling down into more specifics in the SEO sales funnel with OMI in the future. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences and getting war stories from the summit participants! Find out more about the virtual summit here.


Google Sends a Message: Get Mobile or Get Out


We’ve been hearing it for years: if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you’re going to suffer across the board. Searchers will bounce right off your site if it doesn’t load quickly or format well on their device, you’ll lose sales if your site layout doesn’t make for easy browsing, and shopping carts will be abandoned left and right if the buying process isn’t designed for mobile screens. And that’s just for ecommerce. Even I have to admit that when I’m searching, I question any business that isn’t up to date on this front. It makes me worry about their other business practices!

Mobile search

But even if you’ve been able to overlook all the warnings about the necessity of mobile-friendliness so far, you can’t afford to any longer. Google is introducing a new algorithm that will slam sites that don’t work well on mobile devices – making it very hard, if not impossible, to be found on SERPs viewed on a device, unless you’ve optimized your site for easy mobile browsing.

Related Class: Mobile Web and Responsive Design Fundamentals

Google is essentially throwing down the gauntlet, and sites that don’t rise to the challenge will be lost to the dregs of search engine results. And this isn’t just a problem for small business that haven’t been able to get going on mobile; recent studies, like this one by TechCrunch, indicate that nearly 45% of Fortune 500 companies are in trouble too.

How it Works 

As you’re probably aware, Google looks at a ton of different factors when ranking sites for SERPs. Over the years, digital marketers, business owners and web designers have tried to roll with each new update to stay on top. Google’s major updates can really shake things up, but the general trend has always been to reward quality original content, user experience, and authority. Generally speaking, every update makes it trickier to fool the algorithms with black hat techniques, keyword stuffing, and other practices that prioritize search bots over real life users.

Related Class: Mobile Search and SEO Fundamentals

Google’s latest update – called Mobilegeddon if you have a flare for the dramatic – is rolling out now, with some sites already feeling the impact. In a Google+ hangout Friday morning, Google’s John Mueller said that the update is “already rolled out completely” in some data centers. If you haven’t been affected yet, it’s only a matter of time (and not much time). Search engine results for desktop and tablet browsing won’t be affected – just smartphones, which constitutes a huge amount of traffic these days.

mobile search

What Google is Looking For

What does it mean to have a mobile-friendly site? You essentially have two options, and according to Google, one will not offer a ranking advantage over the other. The first is a separate mobile version of your site or page, and the second option is a website built with responsive design that responds to the device it’s viewed on. Both options will help you sail through this Google update, as long as you have some key elements.

  • Readable text (no zoom needed)
  • Links/buttons that are spaced out enough to be clickable without difficulty
  • Vertical scrolling as opposed to horizontal scrolling
  • Content or add-ons that won’t play or function on a mobile device (think Flash)
  • A design that scales to the screen to reduce zooming and scrolling

What You Can Do

For general update FAQ, as well as answers to some of your more technical questions, check out Google’s Webmaster Central blog on the topic. The best way to get started is to test your site for mobile friendliness. You can do this using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test here, or use your Webmaster Tools to access the Mobile Usability report. If you think your site is mobile friendly and it’s still getting a low score, you may have code or functionality that is blocking Google’s smartphone search bots from crawling your pages.

To learn more about adjusting your site to perform well in Google search results, check out this great class on optimizing your website from search expert Kent Lewis.


Perfecting PPC: 3 Expert Tips to Get More for Your Money


Once you’re up and running with a paid search campaign, it’s up to you (or your team) to follow it closely and make improvements and adjustments as needed. PPC campaigns aren’t just a ‘Set It and Forget It’ traffic boost; the data you collect can and should be used to optimize your ads for success, whether for you that means increased impressions, more click-throughs, or higher sales conversions from those clicks. But you don’t have to rely on just your data for optimization.


My blog last week highlighted the basics of launching a PPC campaign, with tips from an OMI class led by expert Allen Klein, Fundamentals of Paid Search. Now it’s time to take it up a notch, with ways to plan and adjust your campaign to get the best results for your ad spend – with more helpful advice from the above class, and insights from PPC expert George Revutsky‘s intermediate-level OMI class, 8 Elements of Highly Effective Search Marketing. Use data from your own campaign, and these recommendations from top experts, to get the most bang for your buck in every campaign.

1. Sometimes being #1 isn’t the best.

Seems oxymoronic, I know. But bidding to be the #1 paid search result for a keyword or phrase is often not the most cost-efficient way to get conversions. Revutsky explains this perfectly in his class: if you budget a set amount for your PPC campaign, say $1000, and bid high just to get to the top spot, you’re going to reach your ad spend limit with fewer click-throughs achieved, and as logically follows, fewer conversions/sales.

A smart PPC bidder would aim for spots 2, 3 or 4, which require lower bids but will still reach a lot of eyeballs. With a lower price per click, you’ll be able to afford more click-throughs, and thus more conversions, on your $1000 budget. The #1 spot may be good for the ego, but it’s not always good for squeezing the most out of your budget.

2. Double your visibility by bidding for keywords that you already rank for organically.

It’s not unheard of for businesses to disregard their best organic keywords when considering a PPC campaign push. After all, you’re already ranking up there above the fold for that term – why do an ad as well? Sounds logical, but actually you can much more than double your revenue by doubling up on one keyword or phrase with paid ads and organic SEO.

Think about the layout and number of results a searcher sees, particularly above the fold. It’s really not very many, so if you can be two of those results instead of just one, you’ll be significantly increasing your chances of a click and thus a sale. Revutsky found that this strategy brings in 46% more revenue and 23% more profit; watch the class for the full case study and a much better explanation than mine.

3. Think carefully about ad location – and test your results.

When you’re setting up a campaign, there’s obviously a lot to think about and plan for. While it isn’t quite as easy as choosing a position on the page, you can help determine whether your ad appears at the top of the search results, along the side, or even at the bottom. Here’s how PPC ads typically layout: in mainline and side ads.

PPC layout

And here’s a heat map showing where searchers’ eyes generally go when their search results load:

PPC layout

So it’s pretty obvious that getting your ad to that top spot (even if it’s not #1) is going to get you a lot more notice and clicks. So how do you get there? Google has a great support page with tips for getting your ad to the top, but it really boils down to have a high Ad Rank for the keyword you’re bidding on – judged by your relevancy (CTR) and your bid. Mainline ads require a higher Ad Rank than side ads, so you’ll typically need a higher Cost Per Click to get up there. Google helps you figure this out by showing your estimated top page bid for different keywords.

The question of whether this increased cost pays for itself in PPC-driven sales is really up to you and your data; you’ll definitely see higher CTRs, but is the ROI worth the increased bid you need to get up there? Crunch your numbers and perhaps even A/B test the same ad in both mainline and side positions to see what works best for your campaign and your keywords.

Related Class: Google Shopping Overview

Again we’ve only scratched the surface of SEM optimization here – but I hope that these tips from two paid search experts will help you think strategically about what you can do to perfect and refine your PPC campaigns. There’s a lot more to learn, including how best to organize your campaigns and accounts, and how to use negative keywords to hugely improve your results.

Get the full rundown in the intermediate level class: 8 Elements of Highly Effective Search Marketing.


How To Crush Your First Paid Search Campaign


Paid search campaigns are a critical element in a good digital marketing strategy, but not something that I have had to deal with much in my marketing roles. Basically I’ve done a lot of SEO, and not a lot of SEM! But I’ve been getting up to speed in recent weeks with OMI’s Search Engine Marketing classes, which encompass a great mix of topics like PPC, AdWords and local search.

Paid search

I started at the beginning with a class called “Fundamentals of a Paid Search Campaign,” led by Microsoft’s Paid Search Account Strategist Allen Klein.

With Basic, Intermediate and Advanced classes under OMI’s Search Engine Marketing umbrella, even a search marketing newbie like me can move quickly to the top levels. Here’s a crash course on paid search for other newbies – it’s a great jumping-off point if you’re thinking of adding paid search to your strategy (and you probably should be).

Fundamentals of a Paid Search Campaign


This class starts off with a clear message about how to create a successful campaign – the story of why Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos decided to start selling books and CDs online. Although no one else was really doing so at the time, Bezos saw that selling books would provide a large inventory that could be accessed easily. The other key factor was cost – he knew that the postal service’s Media Mail option represented a very cheap way to ship these items, and at a flat rate since it isn’t weight-dependent.

Maximize Efficiency

Why is this relevant to paid search? Because Bezos was able to dominate the market by creating a high level of efficiency for his specific niche. Easy inventory, cheap shipping and little competition essentially combined to create a super-efficient niche that allowed Amazon to establish itself. And once he did that…well, we all know how it went for him (net worth 34 billion in case you’re wondering).

The takeaways should be clear if you’re paying attention: Find that niche or fill a gap that maximizes efficiency, and establish yourself there.

In terms of paid search, this really means honing in on those keywords that work well for you, those ones you can always go back to for good results. They play to your strengths, but are unique enough not to play to everyone else’s strengths too. The reason for this is pretty simple – you need to get high Click Through Rates (CTR) to establish your paid search campaign and achieve a good position in the paid search auction.

AdRank = CTR x Your Max Bid

Okay, in reality it is a little more complicated than that – but your main focus should be on getting good CTRs so that your ads can be seen. Google describes AdRank as “calculated using your bid amount, the components of Quality Score (expected click through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience), and the expected impact of extensions and other ad formats.” As always with SERPs, high quality content and landing pages are rewarded, but you can optimize in various ways to move yourself up the list.

Related Class: PPC and SEO: A Perfect Pair

CTR is really a measure of your relevance to the person searching; if your ad is highly relevant to the paid search term you’ve bid on, you’re likely to get a click. If you choose keywords based on factors other than relevancy, or write ads that don’t fit well with your paid keyword, you’re unlikely to tempt searchers. Once you’ve established a good CTR on your ad, more searchers will see your ad as your AdRank improves.

Reach and Relevance

When bidding on your chosen keywords for a new paid search campaign, you’ll need to choose whether you want exact, phrase or broad match searches to see your ad:

paid search

As this slide shows, exact match bidding will limit your reach considerably, but you’ll also have much more relevancy (read: higher CTR) to those searchers. Phrase and broad matches will help you reach more people, but will lower your CTR as you’re not going to be 100% relevant to those you reach. So what’s a paid search campaigner to do?

Allen Klein suggests waterfall bidding – place your highest bid on exact match, your second bid on phrase match, and third bid on broad match. This class really emphasizes being efficient in your choices, and exact match is the most efficient option. It’s also the best way to establish your ad when it’s new so you can move up the AdRank, making it a great place to start out with new paid search terms.

Ad Location, Optimization, and Best Practices

Where your ads will appear in search results will also have a big effect on CTRs and efficiency, but your budget may be the deciding factor there since ads are priced based on location on the SERP. I’m running out of space to address this fully here, so I’ll refer you to the expert:

Watch the full class here for more on optimizing your ads, keyword best practices, and bidding on ads in terms of page location.

 paid search


What Google’s New .How Top Level Domain Means for Marketers


Today, Google made available the purchase of .how domain names available to the general public. This is huge for digital marketers and coaches around the world.

Google's aim with this new Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) is to make it easier for businesses and individuals to share content & teach people how to do something. With the online education industry projected to grow well into the $100's of Billions in the next few years, the new .How domain extension provides an incredible opportunity to those looking to showcase their knowledge.

If you're ready to pick up your .How Domain, head over to Get.How (by Google) and get started now.

How to Get a .How Domain Name Google's New Top Level Domain Extension for Marketers


As a marketer, you're at the front lines of discovering new customers, educating them about your products or services, and showing them how you can help achieve their goals. There are many ways this new TLD can positively impact your business.

There are already a number of businesses and individuals that are using .how domains, to showcase their skills and offer eLearning opportunities to people around the world. If you want to learn how to skydive, how to be a better cook, or how to win in a sword fight, then you're in luck. With a .how domain extension, these businesses are poised to experience some major SEO benefits for search terms around "how to ..." when it comes to their specific niches.

Related Class: The Marketer's Secret to Content Marketing Success

Let's say you're in the SaaS (Software as a Service) industry and your product is a CRM tool that helps businesses track their customers actions and qualifies them as sales leads when they complete certain steps within your selling process. You're likely spending a lot of time educating your sales leads (and customers) on how your product is going to provide value and help them close more deals.

We know that content marketing is rapidly becoming one of the best ways to reach and engage new customers. From the example above, in order to help educate your customers and attract new sales leads, you could create a new website on a .how domain that's designed around the concept of giving out free (unbiased) advice for business owners on how to grow their sales funnels.

How to Get a .How Domain Name Google's New Top Level Domain Extension Creating Compelling Content for Marketers

Launching a new platform that features genuinely beneficial educational videos, regular blog content, downloadable free resources, and offers a way to get in touch with your business for personalized advice, is a great strategy for building trust and a powerful reputation within your industry. If you're looked to as an authority on how to convert leads into customers, and you're a source of meaningful content for businesses looking to do exactly that, then you're really going to solidify your position in the marketplace.

As Google's CIO, Ben Fried put it, "embracing .how is a great opportunity for companies and individuals to improve how they reach and engage thinkers and people who want to learn."

Whether you take advantage of Google's new .how domain extensions or not, you can't afford to miss out on the opportunities that are created when you become an online authority on a topic deeply connected to your business. If you're looking for some tips on how to kick off your content marketing strategy, check out our awesome class on Executing a Winning Content Marketing Program.


Blogging: An On-Page SEO Checklist


The structure of a blog, as well as the content, is key to making it work in SEO terms. Even the most engaging and well-written blogs can get lost in the vortex of the digital world without the essential SEO markers to ensure that they end up in the right place and reach their full potential. Below is a guide to the ideal SEO blog structure that you can use to hang any kind of content on so that it will stand out and work effectively as a digital marketing tool.

Your page title is key. While the content itself is the most important element on the page, the title comes in a close second. Fifty-five to 60 characters is the ideal length for a blog title, enough to be descriptive but not verbose. Make sure you choose a title that is relevant, eye-catching, and contains your target keywords.

Use the meta description. The meta description is a block of text that offers a great opportunity to sell the page contents and alert users that this is what they were looking for. It’s a description for humans, not robots, and should be worded to encourage someone reading it to click through to the rest of the blog.

Check the URL. This tactic is useful for both search engine and human users. Make sure the URL is relevant to the page and also correct (i.e., no spelling mistakes or inaccuracies). Keywords should also be included if appropriate and you should use hyphens, not underscores, between words.

Keywords in the content. You can make good content into great, highly effective content with the use of keywords. It’s important to make sure that they read like they are occurring organically in the text, otherwise the whole thing will feel clumsy. Choose blog topics that naturally incorporate these keywords and you’re more likely to become identifiable with the areas you want to online. Remember - write for humans, not robots.

Related Class: Introduction to SEO

High-level header tags. The H1 tag is a powerful tool, so don’t overuse it. Use one per page so you don’t confuse search engines (at the top preferably) and use it to describe exactly what your page is about.

Sub-heading tags. H2 to H6 can be used multiple times and are essentially sub-headers you can use to divide up the text part of the content. It’s useful to include keywords in your sub-headings and try to structure them so that they give insight into what the article is about – they should make a user skimming the content want to read it in detail.

The right images. Images must be used in the right format, such as JPEGs for higher quality images (save in Photoshop at less than 60 percent resolution to avoid slow page load times as a rule of the thumb), GIFs for those images with fewer colors, and PNG format for graphics. Remember to save the images with the right file name – one that describes what the image is about – and use hyphens between the words.

Descriptive alt tags. Use alt tags to communicate to search engines what the image is about, which will help with your SEO. Make it descriptive, as this is what will pop up if the image does not load.

Blog categories. Chronologically ordered blog archives give nothing to a user and don’t encourage browsing. Using blog categories instead helps the reader find what she is looking for more quickly.

Forge internal links. You can increase the effectiveness of your blog for your site as a whole by hyperlinking to other pages on your site that are relevant. Use keyword-rich, branded, and normal anchor text to do this.

Claim authorship. Claiming authorship of content and linking it to a Google+ account offers another degree of visibility and will make the effectiveness of that one piece of content stretch even further. In addition, author rank is predicted to become even more relevant as Google continues to understand the authority of each publisher.

For more information on what Google Authorship is and why it’s so important for your website, from a SEO and content marketing perspective, enroll in the Online Marketing Class, How To Implement Google Authorship for SEO Results.

This article has been edited - but originally appeared on Klood and has been republished with permission.


5 Reasons Your SEO Strategy Needs Google+


Getting found in Google is a top goal for any local business. And rightly so. Google is still the top search engine, with 67 percent of all monthly searches happening there, according to comScore. But some businesses remain mystified about how they can get found by more local searchers using Google.

An active Google+ page that’s linked to your optimized Google+ Local listing is an important part of your SEO strategy. Not only does Google+ make your Google Maps listing more robust and useful for searchers, it’s also a great place to share content and connect with your audience and influencers, who in turn can help share your content. Plus, it can help boost your website’s SEO. Here are five reasons Google+ can improve your visibility in Google search.

1.  Your pages can rank well in search. Having a claimed and optimized profile on Google+, along with updated content, can help your business get discovered on the search engine results page. In addition, your optimized Google+ Local page can perform well in local search. But, it’s not enough to have your pages claimed and optimized; you also need to post engaging, shareable content on Google+ that will tell Google that your page is an active, useful resource. And, asking your connections to share your content increases your activity as a business, helping your page become more visible in the search results and driving traffic back to your website.

Related Class: Introduction to Google Plus for Small Business Marketing

2. Google+ drives personalized map results. As users search Google Maps, add places to their “favorites,” and leave reviews, Google Maps will start to suggest similar or complimentary local businesses they might enjoy. In addition, the new Google Maps is furthering integration with Google+ by allowing users to filter searches by those in their Google+ circles. This means the more active you are on Google+ as a business, the more opportunities you have to influence local search results by boosting positive fan engagement. You can also help your local search results by encouraging your best fans to add you to their Google+ circles and favorite your business. Plus, the more active your customers are, the more they can help others discover your business when they search in Maps.

3. Social signals may impact your website’s visibility. While there is no definitive proof that social signals like +1s can do anything to boost your page or your website’s visibility on search engines, some studies have noticed a correlation between these signals and your site’s position on the search engine results page. That’s because these virtual “props” on your social media content can tell Google that your content is relevant and authoritative. And, when this content links back to your website, it can signal to Google that your site is relevant and authoritative as well.

4. Positive reviews help you stand out. Reviews for your business on your linked Google+ and Google+ Local page are extremely valuable because they appear along with your map listing on the search results page. But, nobody wants one-star reviews prominently feature on their web presence. So, ask happy customers to leave you positive, thoughtful reviews to make sure consumers new to your business see great things about you and want to visit your website or contact you to do business. Plus, the more reviews you have that include your target keywords, the higher your map listing may display in the search results.

5. Google authorship boosts your site relevance. Authorship is a feature of Google+ that lets you link content you publish on another domain directly to your personal Google+ profile. When you do this, your Google+ profile picture will appear directly next to content you have written in the search results, emphasizing your content and helping increase clicks to it. This is great for building your personal brand, which can help you build credibility for your business by establishing yourself as the expert in your field. Plus, using your personal Google+ account is a great way to spread the word about your business to drive interest and shares among your personal network.

To learn more about how Google+ helps you express your brand, create deeper connections with your audience and get discovered across Google and the web, enroll in the Online Marketing Class, Build Your Brand Across Social with Google Plus. You'll hear real world examples from brands will show you how Google+ help brands meet their marketing objectives — such as building awareness and influencing consideration.


SEO for Start-Ups: 3 Powerful Tips for Driving SEO Traffic Early On


According to CBInsights’ latest seed investing report, only 40 percent of seeded companies go on to raise follow-on round of financing. Sixty percent enter the dead pool. Hence, growing a company efficiently and effectively becomes critical in creating a sustainable business, which would eventually make the company a two marshmallow company”!

“Two marshmallow companies” are companies that invest in long-term strategy and growth versus short-term quick gains. The “two marshmallow” citation relates perfectly with your SEO strategy and the way you think and strategize long-term sustainable traffic growth. So, how can startups get their SEO strategy right from the get-go? Here are some key points to keep in mind while planning your SEO strategy.

#1: Build SEO accessible sites – from the beginning

This is a common pitfall for a number of start-ups because the site wasn't developed with SEO in mind. The homepage is hosted on subfolders (e.g.,, the URLs are non-SEO friendly (e.g., and there are a host of duplicate content issues. Building an accessible site is the foundation of great SEO.

Source: SEOMoz

It’s important to build an accessible site both for users as well as for search engines. Search engines distribute PageRank or Link Equity for every page that they crawl – if there are a number of duplicate pages on a website or if pages are buried too deep within the site structure, the PageRank for those pages gets diluted, which in turn affects the strength of all pages. To understand how this works, let’s take the example below:


Let’s assume a website as PageRank 8 – when search engines crawl this website, it distributes ~85 percent of the link equity onto the linked pages. If within the website you were to have duplicate pages, this would dilute the PageRank proportionately.

In the above example, due to adding a duplicate page “D” onto the site architecture, the overall link equity being passed is reduced from that level onwards.

#2: Deciding with data to drive ROI

Getting an analytics platform and Google Webmaster in place and keeping a close eye on key performance indicators is critical to growing your startup efficiently. Here are a couple of key performance indicators that I would recommend all marketers track (at least) on a monthly basis:

1. SEO visits: non-branded, branded and “not provided”

  • Branded: Keywords that contain your brand name.
  • Non-Branded: Everything else.
  • Not Provided: The notoriously cryptic segment of keywords created to confuse marketers!
  • With Google encrypting all SEO data, it’s become tougher to analyze segments of traffic within analytics. We recommend using Google Webmaster Search Query Data to understand how your brand vs. non-brand keyword segments are performing.

Related Class: How to Target and Implement the Right Keywords

2. SEO average order value, conversion rate and eCPC

  • Tracking and comparing the above metric with other channels and marketing programs is imperative in making decisions around which campaigns are driving a higher ROI and which aren’t. This helps you decide the areas where you should be doubling down!
  • It’s important to get a comparative view of PPC vs. SEO eCPCs to understand which channels are working best for you and drive the highest ROI.

3. SEO number of landing pages driving traffic

  • This is an important post-SEO project indicator of how well the projects are working for you. Keeping a track on these metrics helps analyze if your deeper pages are being indexed, ranked and driving traffic.

Related Class: Mobile Search Trends and Best Practices 

#3: Hire an Agency vs. In-House

All startups face two common challenges: a) resource constraint and/or b) budget constraint. Due to these two challenges, it becomes difficult to set up a team that just concentrates on all the various elements of SEO – keyword research/data mining, content, platform architecture and link development. Hence, SEO often get de-prioritized.

Getting off the ground with the help of an SEO consultant or agency helps in getting that early start.

The illustration below explains the various stages of a start-up along with areas of SEO you will want to focus on.


Lastly, just to iterate how important it is to devise your SEO strategy early on and continue to invest in it - if done right early on, it can be a competitive game-changer!

To develop a strong understanding of SEO, including tools, strategies and best practices and apply these proven methods to organically and continuously determine the most relevant keyword phrases for your site, enroll in the Online Marketing Institute Search Engine Optimization certification program today!


Adjusting Your SEO Strategy For A Post-Hummingbird World


What Is Hummingbird?

While Google makes small tweaks to its algorithm up to 500 times per year, Hummingbird marks the first time in 15 years that Google has completely replaced the entire base of its search algorithm. While only 10 percent of searches were impacted by the Panda update, and 3 percent by Penguin, Hummingbird impacted 90 percent of searches. So why didn’t webmasters know about the Hummingbird update until a month after its launch? According to Matt Cutts, despite the large number of searches impacted, the impact to users is not yet as noticeable as previous updates.

Why Did Google's Search Algorithm Change?

Over the past few years, the web has become increasingly centered on mobile and conversational search. To better serve searchers, Google came up with Hummingbird to reflect this new behavior on the web. The two main goals of Hummingbird are speed and accuracy, hence the reason behind the algorithm’s name.

Google strives to provide prompt search results and also shows preference to sites that will deliver a similar experience. Therefore, Google has placed speed as a top priority in order to minimize the time to serve results and find new content. The speed aspect of the Hummingbird update will not have a direct impact on a site’s rankings, but it does reinforce Google’s continued focus on providing a faster user experience. As far as the accuracy aspect of Hummingbird, rather than only matching certain keywords to pages in its index, Google is now placing a stronger concentration on interpreting the intent behind a user query. This emphasis on intent behind a web page will likely mean a more diverse set of search results that rewards quality content on potentially less authoritative sites for queries that were previously dominated by large sites.

Post-Hummingbird SEO Strategies

With Hummingbird’s emphasis on speed and accuracy, the main focus for optimization efforts should be on efficiency – across the board. Does this mean you need to change all of your previous SEO strategies? No, but you do need to refine them.

Although Hummingbird is only the beginning of user-experience-focused algorithm improvements, Google’s understanding of the intent behind a query will only continue to grow. This places an increased importance on clearly showing how a page's content clearly answers the question asked by users' search queries. Keep in mind the idea of explaining a “concept,” rather than focusing solely on keywords. Creating content that provides value, such as providing a thorough overview of a topic, answering a question, providing tips or solving a problem, will have longevity. Further, concentrating on user needs helps to create evergreen content with ongoing relevancy that will, over time, gain authority.

With Hummingbird’s focus on improving long-tail queries and conversational search, keyword rankings shouldn’t be directly impacted for sites that produce high-quality unique content.  Beyond content, general on-site search engine optimization best practices still apply, but priorities must shift from targeting isolated keywords to targeting complete concepts, optimizing Title Tags, Heading Tags, URLs, Body Text and Images. For example, instead of The North Face – Fleece Outerwear Warmth Ratings, you might instead want to use How warm are Fleece Jackets from The North Face, and Comparing Fleece Jackets – The North Face. Focusing on concepts and intent will ensure Google recognizes what your web page has to offer.

Strategically, you should be thinking about how you will create content that fully addresses each phase of a consumer's buying process, by answering their questions and providing expert content they can't find anywhere else. Creating authority in a post-Hummingbird world is all about better addressing the context of user queries. Google searches for this context in the content of the current page, as well as the links to and from that page, so it's important to consider how your content will link together, and optimize those internally as well as externally. As an example, The North Face might create a content section that covers the Benefits of Performance Outerwear for Sports, linked from a section on Outdoor Sports, linking to a section comparing types of Performance Outerwear. In developing this content, it’s covered three stages of the buying process (Stimulus, Information Search and Consideration) while also creating contextual relevance for each individual section.

Related Class: How to Use Search to Maximize Your Content Marketing 

The Hummingbird update is tailored to an increasingly mobile audience of people on the go – those who conversationally search for something and expect prompt results. With nearly half of all searches originating from mobile devices, a well-optimized mobile site is essential. The best way to ensure a successful mobile experience is to use responsive design.

Rather than having separate desktop and mobile sites, responsive design allows the same content to simply be reformatted to fit the appropriate screen. Responsively designed websites serve the same HTML on the same URLs to 100 percent of users, but utilize device/screen size detection and flexible CSS to change how the page is rendered. Responsive design is perhaps the most future-proof mobile experience strategy, as it can accommodate a diverse set of devices and screen sizes now and in the future, while reducing reliance on redirects and consolidating resources that need to be downloaded by Google and end users. Responsive design enables a website to work as efficiently on mobile as it does on desktop, which is extremely important for gaining the most organic search traffic possible.

In terms of off-site optimization, links continue to be an important ranking factor, post-Hummingbird. The good news is that if you are creating authoritative, thorough content, links should be easier to gain, as other sites will be more likely to link your site as either a source or a useful reference. It's also important to consider how your social media presence is aiding you in building SEO authority. Use your social media channels to build credibility for your brand, and connect with influencers, who are likely to read and share your content. While it's always important to optimize your presence on Google+ and Facebook, you should also look for other niche social channels that reach your target audience. Although social media platform optimization cannot take the place of link building, Google does prefer authoritative brands and considers brand mentions in social media, especially on Google+, to be positive signals of this authority.

Efficiency is the main takeaway for post-Hummingbird strategies. A site that thoroughly covers relevant concepts and provides valuable content to searches will have a higher likelihood of appearing for search queries. In addition, full integration into the social media atmosphere will ensure customer engagement, further establishing brand authority. A site tailored to the customer will help Google understand the site’s intent and trustworthiness. Once Google finds your site relevant and important, you’ve struck SEO gold.

In association with leading research firms and industry associations, the Online Marketing Institute has developed in-depth, advanced SEO certification program, geared specifically toward marketing and Internet professionals who wish to expand their organic presence, quality scores, and relevant traffic. Enroll today!


5 Ways an SEO Site Audit Can Improve Your Website’s Rankings and Profits


How is your website doing? Are you ranking well? Is the site healthy? Oh, sure, you check your analytics, but are you really using the data productively? Consider this: eMarketer shared an EConsultancy and Lynchpin study that reported less than half of website marketers find analytics of any use in making sound decisions about their site.

I thought so. Hey, don't feel bad. Staying on top of analytics is a full-time job, and many web business owners already have their hands full. A fast, efficient way to make sure your site is working as hard as you do is to conduct an SEO Site Audit.

A thorough SEO Site Audit can give a "big picture" of your website's health and clearly indicates areas you can change in order to boost rankings, sales, and profits. Site audits are extensive reports that can vary from 25 to 40 pages, and take all the guesswork out of maximizing your site for the highest return.

In other words, it's like getting an annual physical at the doctor - without having to get on a treadmill!

Here are the areas an SEO Site Audit checks:

Overall Functionality

Have you ever become lost on a website because the navigation was confusing and counterintuitive? An SEO Site Audit makes sure that won't happen anymore - it checks to make sure pages flow in a consistent manner that web visitors can follow easily, and navigation is simple and clear.

For example, the audit determines how many clicks it takes to get from the home page to the visitor's final destination. If it takes too many clicks to drill down to good content, they will give up and try another site.

Technical Health

Your website's health is diminished if it doesn't use best practices to keep its insides running smoothly. Little things matter - for example, the audit makes sure a robots.txt file is present, directing robots and search engine crawlers to run in the specified manner.

A good audit also checks for a comprehensive site map for humans and an XML site map to keep bots and crawlers on the right path. It's also critical to check for dead links. Healthy, active links are the backbone of the Internet - a thorough dead link cleaning improves your site immediately.

A healthy site is also fast, because web visitors will click away if graphics, content, themes, and scripts take too long to load. The audit will indicate any bottlenecks or slow points, with details on how to get the lead out.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization is the process of improving the structure, content, and meta information of web pages on the site. It includes:

  • Good content. Content that is helpful and valuable provides web visitors with the information they want. In addition, it is highly linkable, meaning it is both valuable and easy to link to from other sites.
  • Meta tags. Meta tags tell search engines and visitors what the content is about and help improve the click-through rate (CTR) if optimized and engaging.
  • URL structure and naming. Clear URLs are important because they indicate the hierarchy of the site’s content structure, so search engines know where to crawl pages rapidly. URLs should also include the target keywords.

On-page optimization also includes a variety of other tasks such as: researched keywords, ALT tags of pictures and graphics, hyperlinking, keyword placement and density, and much more.

Off-Page Optimization

Off-page optimization is concerned with improving all factors outside your website that influence page rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It includes:

  • Links. The more quality links to your content, the better.
  • Local citations. These are listings in directories such as Yelp,, and EZLocal. With enough quality local citations, a business has a great chance to be listed in the "7-box" of business listings on Google Maps, a highly desirable section for a local merchant.
  • Social networking. Social media sites update frequently so search engines visit them often for fresh content. Also, social signals play an important role in how Google determines how high a site ranks. That's why it is important to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social sites.

Other activities that help improve off-page optimization can include forum postings, guest blogging on relevant sites, social bookmarking, video posting, etc.

Don't take chances with your site's health, speed, and functionality. Conduct a professional SEO Site Audit and take the recommended actions to keep things in tip-top shape. When web visitors can find what they want quickly and easily, they are happier, spend more time on your site, and buy more of your goods and services - and that is healthy for billing, sales, and profit.

To develop a strong understanding of SEO, including tools, strategies and best practices, enroll in Online Marketing Institute's Search Engine Optimization Certification Program. Learn more here to apply proven methods to organically and continuously determine the most relevant keyword phrases for your site,