Web Engagement Metrics and Conversion

In nearly every case I’ve seen, metrics that can be used to measure user engagement align with visitor-to-sale conversion. That is, site visitors who will eventually reach a goal page (checkout confirmation or lead submission) almost all exhibit certain common traits, including:

  • Much longer-than-average time on site
  • Much higher-than-average page views per visit
  • Much higher-than-average likelihood of being a return visitor

I’ve also seen on nearly every site the keywords that convert the best are the one that include the site or business name, indicating some previous exposure and recall (ie engagement).

This means that tactics used to increase what we used to call stickiness, but now know as engagement, are very likely to increase conversion performance. The site has to be not only persuasive and useable, but engaging also.

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Parasite SEO and Reputation Management

A post made by Micheal Martinez over at SEOmoz. For a while a few words rolled around in my head:

You see, I happen to be very good at reputation management. That means I can propel 10, 20, 30 Web sites into the top results for all sorts of search expressions. And when you ask me for a link to site X, you tell me exactly who to knock down. If I were to do this to you, I’d take your competitors down, too.

Aside from being a tad boastful (instantly dominating the entire niche? o rly?), it showed me a framework for practically applying concepts I’d recently blogged about, and most importantly, it challenged me. Could I come up with 30 different ways to create potentially niche busting instant ranks?

The easy stuff is the pure parasite SEO:
1) Craigslist: Optimize a post for your target keywords, wait a few days. Bam! Repeat in a few weeks, ’cause CL expires old ads. I bet there are other online classifieds out there you could do this to, but craigslist ranks fast and high. Oh, and there are lots of craigslists.

2) Wikipedia: Create or edit a post about your target, try to make it read as well as possible, and include the relevant keywords. It helps if you have an established wikipedia persona.

3) Forums: Either start your own thread on relevant forums, or find one that already ranks for similar keywords. Optimize your posts to rank well. You may need to repeat this process depending on when the site demotes old entries. It helps in forums also to be a recognizeable member, probably less so than wikipedia however.

4) Blog Comments: Find other people’s blogs related to your target keyword. Find the post most optimized for your target keyphrase already and add an optimized comment. Especially if you don’t post links, this can be pretty easy, just be sure to make the comment useful and long.

5) Indymedia: I almost hate to say this, but if you can spin your message into some sort of political screed or call to action you can post it to one (or all) of the many indymedia sites around the world, and it’ll rank decently.

and of course:
6) Your Sites: Publish optimzed pages on all of your sites. Most SEO’s could probably do 30+ sites like this, but would they all rank well for your target keyword?

Then the more traditional public relations/marketing type stuff.

7) Press Release: Release an optimzed press release. The wire service’s copy will rank for a little while, but the real value comes in which sites pick the story up and carry it themselves. The more newsworthy the release, the more coverage it will get, and the more sites will rank for your target keywords with your message.

8) Linkbait: Besides the actual ranks you create on your sites by posting to them, you can create viral/linkbait messages and the high-profile sites that post about it will rank for your target keywords… if the optimized portion of your message is what the other sites publish.

And there’s a few ways to just pay for it.

9) Sponsored Posts: Use payperpost to buy some blog posts, optimize your offer and link text to your target keywords.

10) Rent-a-Page: Pay owners of other, well ranking sites, to host a page for you on their domain.

I’ve only got 10 so far, but remember each one of these can potentially create a bunch of rankings. One tactic alone could net you 30. I’ll keep working on this list, but I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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What is Content Development to an SEO?

Yeah, once I said content is dead, resource is king, but, there is still the issue of the text designed on pages designed to rank well, not nessecarily the ones designed to get the links. Say what you will about the dead myth of density sweetspots, there is data to provide at least rough statistical guidelines to both ensure that content does not look spammy and that it is textually relevant to the query being optimized for.

Depending on the budget you may be able to pay for lots of high quality content. It is very possible to write convincing copy that is also keyword optimized, and its not even that hard. But as I showed previously, the most frutiful way to positively affect the ROI of a content development/SEO campaign, is by lowering the cost to create the pages. So in each situtaion, stock must be taken of the client’s resources (time, ability, money, etc) to determine a content price sweetspot.

It would be good if we had a few tricks hidden up our sleeves to produce well optimized content on the cheap.

3 words: free, open, and public.

There is tons of content out there, more than enough on most non-late-breaking-news topics, just waiting for use. Article directories give you wads of content for free (in return for a link normally), some content is released under open licenses for reuse under specific conditions, which are usually very allowing, and that content that has passed into the public domain.

In all these cases though, the content will appear elsewhere on the web, so you’ll need to alter it and make it unique. Quickest way to “manufacture uniqueness”? Mix it up. Cut and paste sentances and paragraphs around as much as you can while maintaining some semblance of readbility. Better yet, find a few useable articles and shuffle them into one big block of content. The smaller the chunks you use the better, but it will take you longer. The next quickest? Thesaurus. Upload your content to a site and use a keyword density analyzer on it to get a list of the most common single words used. Go through the list from top to bottom and use your text editor’s find and replace feature to substitute a synonym for every non-keyword-relevant word repeated a few times. And finnally: re-write it Go through the content by hand and replace as many words or phrases with text of similar meaning. You’ll want to aim for at least one change every 5 words, if not more.

Now, check it go to copyscape and submit your the URL of the text you uploaded. Keep applying the above mentioned techniques untill no matches are returned.

Et Voila, unique content on the cheap. You can very easily crack out 1000 words in 10, 15 minutes like this. And it can rank, well.

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Friction, Inertia and Social Media Optimization

Social Optimization (or SMO, short for social media optimization) is the process of engineering a marketing message for social networks and media. Social media based websites are the perfect vectors in functionality and purpose for the spreading of viral marketing creatives, and now they have the traffic numbers to become serious tools.

The old what makes an idea viral issues apply here and like other web usability problems they can be broken down into two camps: friction-reduction and inertia-generation. Just like in real world physics any movement towards an action, funnel or goal needs a certain amount of user intrest energy (inertia) to overcome the hassle (friction) associated with completing the tasks needed to accomplish the goal. A huge information squeeze page, with tons of required fields is a lot of friction and unless the user really wants to get at what on the other side of the wall they probably won’t want fill it all out. By pre-selling the destination to the user and making it as easy as possible for them to get to it, you’ll increase the percentage of viewers who do.

When looking at doing social media optimization for a viral creative (or any other media for that matter, like a blog or article) you must stoke the user’s drive to spread your message while at the same time making it as easy as possible for them to leverage social media and networks to do this.

The first few original rules for Social Optimization speak to friction-reduction. Increasing linkability, both at the URL level with clean, short URLs, and at the information architecture level, by organizing content into logically linkable pages, is the first step. Helping your user’s import your message to the various social networks with “digg this” style buttons is probably the easiest and most effective way to reduce the amount of hassle a potential customer-evangelist has to overcome to propagate your creative. Keeping in mind the media types that most often travel via these networks we can deliver our messages in those formats (audio, video, blog posts, howto’s, lists, etc) again, making it as easy as possible for our readers to become our viral marketing vectors.

The other half of this equation of course is the inertia. Why do users want to spread your message? There are two main ways to answer this problem. High quality content especially useful tutorials and tools can generate interest simply because of its worthyness. Lists, HOWTOs, hacks and online-tools have become all the rage in creating “diggable” content. The other way to excite viewers is to insure that when they spread your message, they get some benefit. Trackbacks are probably the simplest example of this sort of incentive, if another blogger links to you, they automatically get a link back. Clean links to your commenters’ sites is similar. Users can get an ego-boost spreading “cool”, late-breaking, exclusive and “insider” news, so we can play to this, everyone wants to be the first person to tell everyone else about the latest happenings.

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Using SMO on Social Networks to Seed Viral Marketing Campaigns

Right off the bat let me say this: these viral seeding techniques are risky. They can pay off big time, but there is a chance they could backfire. Be sure to do your risk-benefit analysis before attempting anything like this. Even if you decide against it, its always good to know how to edgy marketers can seed viral content via social networks.

You made a sweet viral video for your online viral campaign, and you just know that as soon as the right people see it its going to spread like wild fire. But first you’ve got to hit that critical mass and demo, how? If you’ve got deep pockets you could buy some traditional media and get the ball rolling that way, hell, you could even use offline triggers to drive traffic to your online efforts.

But online viral marketing is supposed to be cheap, isn’t it? It’d seem pretty antithetical to make a great guerrilla campaign and then promote it via old media glossy pages. A more fitting way is to use social media optimization on social networks to seed your creative, ideally reaching the critical tipping point by pinpoint targeting your demo.

One of the most important ways to do this is via a form of social media optimization, at each site you’ll leverage to spread your message, it will improve reception and engagement if you use a well-known username or persona. This is probably the most difficult and time consuming task involved in using SMO to seed viral marketing campaigns, but it pays off.

If your target is college-aged males (a great viral video vector), you could make create a character across multiple sites that represents a college-aged peer (maybe even a cute one). A Myspace profile, delicious, digg and youtube accounts and a blogger blog. Building the persona a few months ahead of time and seeding the creative as subtly as possible is the only realistic way to be successful.

Remember, however, that you’re walking a very fine public-relations-line and there may be better ways (like the spoon model) to leverage social media optimization.

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Been Thinkin’ ‘Bout Vertical Creep; A List

As the search engines, most recently Google, add new types of content or vertical specific search functionality and selectivly place those results above the traditional one-algo-fits-all results they are creating many different ways to be the first place result. I would expect that in at least some cases image or product specific search results in Google’s little vertical search “one box” (especially when placed above sub-par organic SERPs) gets a higher clickthrough than its vanilla counter part below. (I guess this suggest that I’m right)
So what are the ways to get into that box with Google? Let me count the ways I can think of:

  1. Image Search
  2. Product Search (Froogle)
  3. Local Search
  4. News Search
  5. Video Search
  6. Music Search
  7. Ticker Symbol Search
  8. Travel Info
  9. Maps
  10. Spell Checker

That’s ten things I got and I can figure out how to optimize a small business client to 6 of them I believe.
How about you?

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Image Search Optimization

I’ve been looking into optimizing images for the various image search engines and I’ve found 4 major points to address:

  1. Keywords in file images
  2. Keywords in ALT tags
  3. Keywords in caption text below image
  4. Image size

It seems at least Google’s image search uses image dimension to identify duplicate images, so if you’re working with an image other sites also use, it would be helpful to modify the image size by a few pixles, so as to not get filtered out as duplicate.

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Trendspotting with Search: Billy Talent

You ever heard of Billy Talent?
Me neither, I just found him in wordtracker’s short term top 1000.

Turns out he’s pretty well known in Canada, but never really broke in the US. You can see that in the bottom graph on a Google trends search of all regions. If you use another, international, keyword for scale you can compare the all reigons graph with the US only one.

Big difference.

The keyword list for Billy Talent is predictable for a new artist, very high traffic first keyword, lots of song title and mp3 searches. Not so many lyrics searches. People near to hear them before they want to read the lyrics.

So as sort of an experiment I’m predicting that in some time (not sure when, but soon I think), Billy Talent is going to “break” in the US in some way. Then comparing the graphs above will tell a different story.

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Clickfraud is Really a Problem

From The Alphamarketer:

So when we use Google Adwords, or other advertising methods, we need to not only look at what we are paying per keyword, but also to build into the cost what we project as fraudulent clicks.

The problem with click fraud is not just that it artificially increases advertising costs, PPC is still way cheaper and easier to measure than nearly any other type of advertising (including direct response) if you “build in the cost”. This is ok because as a hyper efficient market adwords prices with adjust with the market, no biggie.

But when your competitors are using click fraud to give themselves an advantage in a compeitive market, that’s when things get dicey. In mature niches, bid prices will have climbed to the absolute brink of profitability, and may well have passed that point for many companies, and if your competitor can manage to raise your costs even higher (either by faking impressions to lower your CTR and hence your position, or by faking clicks to max out your budget), you won’t be able to afford to bid. This is very often the case with small businesses.

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