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Mike Moran

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.

Will social media listening replace market research?

Advertising Age had an interesting story that was brought to my attention by a colleague, where a Procter & Gamble exec speculates that social media is already changing the world of market research. It's an interesting story, mostly because of who is quoted. When a company with the marketing chops of P&G says something, you've got news. But the news is actually much bigger than what you are reading in Ad Age....

Do online shoppers still care about brands?

Conventional wisdom says that shoppers do not care about brands anymore. Retailers lament that brand loyalty is dead--that customers just search for products now instead of coming to their websites. Where once shoppers cared about Sears, Macy's, or dozens of other names, now they don't care where they buy from. To some extent they are right, but they are drawing the wrong conclusion. It isn't that brands don't matter anymore. It's that what people are looking for from their brands have changed....

How you can break into digital marketing

Sometimes they email me out of the blue. Other times they come up to me after a speaking engagement. They always seem so appreciative for my help, but to me it is just giving back a blessing that I has been bestowed on me by others. They are unemployed or "in transition," as many call it these days. They have a good idea--they want to break into digital marketing. And they want to know how to do it. Let me lay it out for you....

Site search: Too many results and not enough

I often work with clients in an area that gets very little love, yet is critical for your website: Your own site's search function. We love to talk about Google and search engine optimization, but most of us spend almost no time optimizing our own site search. So few companies work on this capability that we are in danger of teaching visitors not to even bother using our site search. That's bad, because their alternative is to go back to Google and find someone else's site. One of the things that kills us over website search is that if we...

Does the Internet allow more differentiation?

If you are a marketer, you can't ignore differentiation. Differentiation is not just about a difference from the competition--it's a difference that your customers care about. Without some kind of differentiation, marketers don't have much to talk about. And talk they do, every kind of advertising is based on some kind of marketing message--most about differentiation. But how does the Internet change the way marketers discuss differentiation? Does the Internet allow more differentiation? Read on....

Are You Launching Sinking Websites?

When I was in Stockholm, I visited a very cool museum dedicated to the Vasa ship, a huge Swedish warship launched in the 1620s. The ship was on display for all to see, with lots of explanations about the way it was built, what life was like back then, and many other interesting facts. But this is not your standard museum of history. Because the story of the Vasa has huge implications on the way we operate in business today, even the way we launch Web sites......

How do you break into SEO?

If you are in this business long enough, someone will come up and ask the question. To some of them, it is the most important question in their lives: "How do I break into SEO?" I honestly get this question several times a month.  And each person that asks me is ready for my answer. Some seem ready to take notes. They expect that I am going to rattle off some kind of canned answer that will unlock the secret to their future career. But I don't, because it isn't that easy......

How do I improve our online reputation?

I recently got a question from a company with a problem. They have a history of not-so-sterling treatment of customers during the sales process (think used-car dealer approach), which they've used throughout the history of the company. For years, the company has been successful, despite customer complaints, but now they are running into a snag. The company's online reputation is not good, and they are worried that it is starting to affect their sales. They asked if I could help them eliminate the negative results that are popping up about them in search......

Does Internet Marketing need a business case?

Don't give me that look. Depending on where you work, that might sound like a silly question. Everything needs a business case in some places. And I understand that. I used to work for IBM, which is one of those places in love with justifications for how you spend money before you drop a dime. And you can put together business cases for Internet marketing projects, but there is another way, too. In fact, I actually started the IBM search marketing program without any business case at all. You might be able to follow my lead where you work, not...

Money Alone Can't Buy Digital Marketing Success

I've been talking to some small business owners recently who are all complaining that they are getting squeezed out of social media, search marketing, and other forms of Internet marketing by the big guys-big companies with big budgets. At the same time, I've been hearing from frustrated large company marketers that they cannot break through the clutter and that their budgets don't seem to help. This would seem, on the surface, to be a simple question. Either the small companies or the big companies have a point, and the other ones are smoking something. So. who's right?...

Are you a marketing tactician or strategist?

Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman";} Now, in a sense, that's a dumb question, because we all need to be both at times, but I was put in the frame of mind to ask it because of a recent encounter with a prospective client. As I explained how important social media is to her organic search results, she stopped me and barked, "I want search, not social," showing the irritation of someone who has been sold something...

We have nothing to fear except social media itself

Is your company afraid of social media? I don't mean merely uncomfortable or inexperienced. I mean white-knuckle teeth-clenching afraid. I frequently talk to companies that live in deathly fear, and they have their reasons. The question for them is what to do. Do they give into their fears and avoid social media or do they plunge in and overcome their fears? Usually, the right answer is neither. Instead, you need to try to let your rational brain break through the wall of fear and take a first step that doesn't feel so big....

Does experimental marketing require lots of customers?

Everyone knows what a great job the big boys do. Amazon, eBay--you can go down the list. All of these "born on the web" companies have massive feedback loops that allow them to experiment with small changes in their marketing, their user experience, their offers, and ten other things. Whenever they make a change, they see if more people are buying and decide whether the new way "works" or not. Amazon's CTO once told me they can change a font at breakfast and know whether it was a good idea by lunchtime. But how can you do the same thing,...

Can search marketing lower my conversion rate?

I got that question from someone once, and it made me realize what a lousy job we marketing "gurus" are doing in explaining what is important to people. I wonder if we have so emphasized the tools of the trade that we have forgotten what we are actually making with those tools. So, if you already know the answer to this question, then you can skip this post. For the rest of you, read on--I hope that you'll soon understand what we marketing "experts" have failed to get across so far....

In Digital Marketing, Sometimes the Enemy is Us

I am old, so I remember the Walt Kelly comic strip from the '60s called Pogo, of which the most famous line ever was "I have met the enemy and it is us." In Internet marketing, it is so often true that we are our own worst enemies. I was reminded of that when I taught one of my many classes to veteran marketers looking to understand this Internet thing. Most traditional marketers have some amount of struggle with the Do It Wrong Quickly concept, but on this occasion I ran into one who was apparently so threatened by it...

The Internet blurs the old organizational lines

Who owns the Internet? Obviously no one actually owns the Internet, but this is a question that I hear every day from big companies, because they want to know which organization within the company should take the lead with all Internet work. Big companies fail in Internet marketing every day because they waste time answering that question instead of just using the Internet. Large firms are trapped in the old thinking that problems get broken into small pieces, assigned to the right organizations, and "solutioned." But the Internet doesn't fit into any of those neat little boxes, and all attempts...

Does an In-House SEO Have a Fool for a Client?

As a long-time in-house SEO, you'd probably expect that I did not consider myself a fool at the time I was doing that. But I have recently gotten that question from a lawyer who wonders if he should do his own SEO, which reminds me of the old joke that a lawyers who represents himself has a fool for a client. But is it a bad idea to do your SEO in-house? I think it depends on how you go about it. If you think you'll pick up everything you don't know without any help, you're probably looking at...

In Search Marketing, Focus on What's Important

Search marketing seems like it changes every minute, and it's hard to blame anyone who is worried about falling behind. With big news such as Google Instant seemingly coming every instant, anyone might be concerned that their SEO knowledge is becoming outdated and that their search rankings will be the next thing to drop. I got a Facebook message from someone in just such a predicament and I decided to share my answer to him with you all....

What can social media do for me in a PR crisis?

When that bad story first hits your computer screen, you can be excused for feeling just a little bit panicked. If you're like most companies, you aren't prepared for a PR crisis. You might have some action plan in mothballs, but if it doesn't include social media readiness, you're not prepared for a full-blown 21st century PR imbroglio. If you haven't thought through how social media transforms your PR crisis planning, it's time to do so now....

What if your boss only wants to measure brand awareness?

We've all seen that look on the face of the boss. It says, "What on earth are you talking about?" Sometimes that look is something we deserve to see, because we really don't know what we are doing, but often, it's because we just have something to say that the boss doesn't understand. Recently, a client asked me how she can wipe that look off the her CMO's face every time she starts talking about measuring Web conversions and offline conversions. Her boss waves these ideas away, saying he only wants to measure brand awareness. What can you do in...

What are you optimizing your pages for?

SEO, as you know, stands for Search Engine Optimization, and you might rightly expect that SEO is about optimizing pages to appeal to search engines. And you'd be right. Increasingly, however, I am finding that clients believe so fervently in SEO that they aren't actually optimizing their pages for sales. If you are falling into the trap, you'll likely regret looking so narrowly at SEO....

The Joys (and Dangers) of Crowdsourced Marketing

It almost sounds magical--a system with an on-demand supply of incredibly cheap labor (pennies for many tasks) that is available by simply posting a request on a Web site. Amazon's Mechanical Turk and other crowdsourcing sites have revolutionized the way companies do intensive manual labor on computing tasks. So, you might want to consider using crowdsourcing for your Internet marketing jobs. But when you do, you also need to be careful about how you do it, lest you give away too much information to your competitors....

Should I republish content on my blog?

We like to tell ourselves that blogs are this breathtakingly new way of communicating with customers unlike anything we've ever seen before. And, to some extent, that's true. But if you are a veteran of electronic or even paper newsletters, I'll excuse you for not being so bowled over. You've been doing this for years and you know how it's done. One of the things you know is that coming up with fresh content takes work, and one of your secrets is re-publishing content originally published elsewhere. But should you do that on your blog?...

How Can Our Products Be Remarkable?

Seth Godin is fond of saying that we must make our products and our companies remarkable, but it's easier to say than to do (as Seth well knows). And I fear that some people just blow off Seth's advice, because they hear "remarkable" as just another fatuous superlative, such as "great" or "fantastic" that is bereft of its original, more specific meaning. Remarkable means something that would cause someone to remark about it. So, how do we become remarkable?...

Selling Search to the C-Suite

Some of you have probably tried to sell your C-level executives on the importance of search marketing. You started out all excited about keywords and rankings and page views and bids and copy and then...you are greeted by that fantastic blank stare that suggests what your exec is really thinking about: "When can I get back to what I care about?" You might be wondering why how someone as successful as your CEO could NOT be interested in search. So I am sorry to break it to you, but that blank stare really does say it all. Your CEO couldn't...

Hey, marketers: What if there was no Google?

I once attended a talk entitled, "What if there was no Google?"  The presenter worked through a number of different alternatives for how to cope with a marketing program where you could not put any of your spending in Google's pocket--you just drew a line through that Google row in your spreadsheet. The speaker made a lot of good points and really helped the audience. But I want to take the question that he asked and think about it a different way. What if there were no search engines?...

Translators aren't search experts

I run across clients every day that want to expand internationally, and naturally, they expect to use search marketing to do it. So, they carefully choose the Web pages they need to translate into local languages, they throw open the doors to the country Web sites, and hear the sound of...crickets. What went wrong? They carefully optimized their original Web site for search and they hired capable translators to convert them to other languages. But they missed an important step....

Should I hire a ghost writer for my blog?

Many people feel unsure in their writing abilities and although they want to have a blog they feel ill-equipped to actually write the blog posts. After all, ghost writers put the words together for autobiographies and lots of other published works. Why not a blog, too? It might seem like a good idea, but my advice is to avoid this practice. Instead of getting someone to pretend to be you, there are better ways to get your company's blog off the ground....

Internet Marketers Must Listen Before They Speak

As marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about our message, as well we should. Our job is to tell prospective customers how we can help them, so we focus on what we say. The Internet has turned the tables on marketers, however. Time was that marketing messages were conceived by extremely creative people to get attention for products, but now, listening to what customers say and do are just as important as creativity. Old-time marketers have always listened to a few customers in focus groups, so you can think of the Internet is the biggest focus group of...

The Danger of Internet Marketing Autopilot

One of my kids approached me, book in hand, asking, "What's the difference between a possum and an opossum?" I was busy doing something else, so I languidly replied, "They are the same, but opossums are Irish." Yes, I could have Googled it to find out. I could have told him I didn't know and told him to look it up. I could have at least engaged. But I was too distracted or too lazy to do it. It was autopilot parenting. Luckily, my son shook his head and went off to figure it out on his own (because he...

Using Google Strategies for Facebook Ads

Everyone has been watching Facebook to see if it can monetize its enormous traffic to become a going business. And the focal point of that monetization effort is advertising, just like Google's. And you've probably read about Facebook ads, or perhaps even tried them yourself. And maybe you've decided that they just don't work. You might be right, but it could also be that you are trying to use Facebook ads the same way you use Google ads, when you ought to be doing something very different....

Search Marketing Is Like Dating

From across the room, you see...THE ONE. Wow. Your heart goes pit-a-pat at the sight. Immediately, your thoughts start racing. You are ready to do anything, be anything to be attractive to that one person you are fixated on. Is that the right approach? You probably know that it's not the right approach in dating, but did you know that it fails in search marketing, too?...

How many pages are on your Web site?

Now, those of you running small Web sites may be snickering at this point--you know how many pages you have, for Pete's sake. And if you forget, well, you know how to count. Many medium-to-large Web sites, however, can't pin down exactly how many pages they have. They need to use some method of estimating their total number of pages. Unless they know how many pages they have, they won't know how many they hope to see in search engine indexes....

No more SEO worries for dynamic content?

If you care about how your site is found in organic search, you must spend some of your time thinking about search engine optimization (SEO). In the olden days (2005), certain kinds of content had no shot of showing up in the search index (and thus, could never be found). But in recent years, more and more dynamic content is showing up in Google's search index, as Google makes its spider smarter and smarter.  So, now there's nothing to worry about with dynamic content, right? Not quite....

Google is checking your conversions -- are you?

I've talked before about how Google might have cracked the code on qualified sales leads through search. Somehow, sites are seeing drops in traffic but not all of them are seeing commensurate drops in revenue, because Google is figuring out which keywords drive revenue for each site. So, the question is whether you know which keywords are driving your own revenue. How are you tracking the connection between marketing effort and spending and your actual sales? If you're an e-Commerce company, it's easy--just track the sales through to your shopping cart. But for most companies--the ones that sell offline--tracking sales...

Editing: Is social media realtime or permanent?

As social media has (somewhat) matured, an interesting culture has grown up around the idea of editing social media content. And for reasons that I don't understand, it isn't one culture--it seems as though every kind of social media has developed its own culture around editing content. It is as if we can't decide whether social media is a realtime force that is stream of consciousness and should never be changed, or it is a permanent record of activity that ought to be updated as it changes, or something in between. Some kinds of social media (Wikipedia) couldn't exist without...

Does your marketing have "readability"?

I don't know a lot about robotics, but I have read a few articles recently about the biggest problem that robot manufacturer have in entering the home. They need the robots to behave differently so that people know how to interact with robots. For example, if a robot needs to open a door, it moves to the door and then must scan the door to locate the doorknob, identify the kind of doorknob, and then begin moving its robotic arm to open the door. Sometimes it takes a little time to do all these things before starting to move its...

Compare your AdWords account to others--for free

Have you ever asked yourself whether you paid search program is all that it can be? Most of us suspect that we fall short in some areas, but who has the time to stay on top of every aspect of a Google AdWords account, on top of everything else we do all day? Or perhaps you want to check out what kind of job your agency is doing with all your paid search money. Well, WordStream has put together a scoring tool called AdWords Grader that tries to do exactly that--show you how your paid search campaign compares against everyone...

Will Google be your new credit card?

Mastercard and VISA certainly hope not, but Larry Page wants to be in your wallet. Well, not exactly--he wants to replace your wallet. Last month, when I talked about Google's new strategy--we do everything--I mentioned that Google is working hard to unseat PayPal, the online payments leader, but I think that I undersold Google's ambitions.  Google wants to be the leading form of payments anywhere, not just online....

Google+ for Business doesn't have a lot of pluses

Perhaps you saw the announcement of Google+ for Business--it made big news for a day, but there isn't that much to say about it. Honestly, if you understand how Google+ for individuals works, it will take about ten minutes to get up to speed on Google+ for Business, which is rather disappointing, because after months of development, Google added just a few fields for a business name and a photo....

How deeply do you respond to customers in public?

Recently, I wrote a post that recommended, "Don't be afraid of fake reviews," to help business owners know how to respond to an angry post in social media. To make a long post short, my advice was to always treat angry reviews as legitimate (not assuming it is faked by a competitor, for example), because responding that way is best whether the review is fake or not.  That advice was questioned by one correspondent, who asked, "How deeply do you respond in public?" What he wants to know is how to practically manage a conversation in social media, which is...

How to protect your trademark online

In the quaint old offline world, things move slowly. If you have a good name for your business or your product, you know exactly what to do. You do a trademark search to make sure that no one else is using the name (at least within your industry), you add a the trademark symbol™ to your name, and if you really want to go the extra mile, you register your trademark so you can use the registered trademark symbol®. It was so simple back then, wasn't it? But it's a brave new online world now, and you have to worry about all...

Don't be afraid of fake reviews

Last week, I talked about how you really do know what to say in social media. I got lots of nice feedback on that post, but I know that some of you are still skeptical. I know that some of you still believe that old PR maxim to never dignify a scurrilous story with a response. Or that some criticisms are "one-day stories," and answering them just "gives them legs." And some of you are especially adamant about this when it comes to reviews of your business or your products that you just KNOW are fake. And, I am here to...

E-commerce innovation, and it's not from Amazon

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time looking at how Amazon does business. And for good reason. Amazon seemingly sells everything under the sun and they have been the standard for e-Commerce innovation since--well, since e-Commerce has existed. To me, their genius is in getting you to pay more than you would elsewhere, just because you like it so much. The experience is so easy, so trustworthy, so low-risk, and so time-efficient that you don't even think about shopping elsewhere....

You DO know what to say in social media

I talk to folks about social media all the time. One of the things that I notice right away is the fear. Most people are worried that they don't know what to do in social media. They are afraid that they will make a mistake. That they will say the wrong thing. Or, they fear that they don't know what to say at all--even that they have nothing to say. All these fears are real and you might be experiencing some of them yourself, but you don't need to. I'd like to convince you that you really do know what to...

For ranking algorithms, AdAge is no Google

As someone who has worked on ranking algorithms, I know how difficult they are to develop. No, check that. They are easy to develop. They are hard to develop only if you want them to actually work. All this was brought to mind recently when Advertising Age ("AdAge" to the in crowd). changed the ranking algorithm for its Power 150, the well-known rating mechanism for all marketing blogs, including this one. I've proudly displayed it on the Biznology blog for years, but I'm thinking about taking it down from the site permanently, because I just don't understand how this revamped algorithm is accurate. And when...

How do you break into SEO?

If you are in this business long enough, someone will come up and ask the question. To some of them, it is the most important question in their lives: "How do I break into SEO?" I honestly get this question several times a month.  And each person that asks me is ready for my answer. Some seem ready to take notes. They expect that I am going to rattle off some kind of canned answer that will unlock the secret to their future career. But I don't, because it isn't that easy....

Why Zagat might be a smarter purchase for Google than Yelp

By now you've heard the news that Google has purchased Zagat Reviews. For those of you who aren't familiar with Zagat, it has a worldwide set of reviews that travelers have relied on for decades to choose the right restaurant.  Google famously flamed out in its bid to buy Yelp in 2009, and has finally added the restaurant reviews it has craved. Not everyone thinks that Zagat was a worthy relacement for Yelp. One wag was quoted in TechCrunch as saying, "If you were losing to Wikipedia would your next move be to buy Encyclopedia Britannica?"...

Google's Panda ranking algorithm changes SEO forever

Every day, I run into people affected by the Panda update. "Affected" always means negatively affected, because when your rankings go up, it means that Google is finally recognizing the quality of your site. When your rankings go down, blame it on Panda. Now, none of this is to say that Google's Panda algorithm update, and its ongoing tweaking that has followed, is not a big deal. In fact, this might be the biggest search ranking algorithm change since Google inaugurated link analysis in the late '90s. Because the search ranking algorithm isn't really an algorithm any more, because people...

Schemas, microformats, rich snippets, and SEO

When I was a kid, sometimes my father called me a dirty little schema. (He's from Brooklyn.) OK, OK, he didn't spell it that way. It wasn't long ago when "schema" was a word only used by database geeks. Microformats and rich snippets are even more obscure terms, but they are becoming increasingly important. If you don't know what they are, remain ignorant at your own peril, because these arcane terms are making big changes in SEO--probably the biggest markup-related changes since search engines stopped looking at the keyword meta data field....

This is not a post about Google+

Google+ is the big news. It is what everyone is talking about. Just Google it, if you don't believe me. Check out the reviews. Hear what the pundits have to say. Try to wangle an invitation. Decide if it is a Facebook killer. You have fun with that. This is not a post about Google+, because I don't care about any of that. This is a post about Google, because what you really need to know is staring you in the face. Everything else is just horse race reporting....

Do searchers like your content?

Perhaps you don't care whether searchers like your content. I mean, what you really care about is whether the search engines like your content, right? Or whether a searcher will choose your search result because it is relevant. Or whether they will buy from you. Your content doesn't really need to be likable, does it? If you can somehow get yourself into the rankings and sell it, it doesn't matter how you do it. At least that is what we always thought. But the game is changing.Suddenly, your content needs to be voted Miss Congeniality....

How do you track phone sales from search?

Do you have a shopping cart on your Web site? For most of us, the answer is no. For the average company, phone sales are the biggest way that new customers cross over from the Web to an actual sale. The question is whether you track those sales back to the Web or not. The big guys have been doing this for a long time. They track every phone sale back to SEO, PPC, or whatever marketing tactic led to the sale. Why do they do this? Because without knowing which tactics are leading to sales, you have no idea...

Search results drop? Blame it on Panda.

I'm noticing a disturbing pattern among some SEO marketers. Anytime their search rankings fluctuate, they blame it on "the Panda update" that Google made to its search ranking algorithm. Now, lots of pixels have been spilled on Panda, with most angles addressing the crackdown on content farming and other low-quality content that has been increasing populating the top results. And a lot of the changes in search results can be directly attributable this algorithm change. But not everything....

Which search metrics do you show your boss?

So many people to struggle to convince the boss of the importance of SEO, but how many focus on the metrics? Most businesspeople are numbers-oriented, looking for profit margins, sales, and other measurements to run the business. Sometimes we search marketers don't think about the business, instead trying to explain how search works or why it is important. You might find more success if you focus on the numbers that will make the boss sit up and take notice....

What's the most important mobile marketing tactic?

Perhaps this doesn't sound like a headline that belongs in Search Engine Guide, but trust me, it is. I was at the Brandhackers Meetup Monday night in New York City on a panel focusing on what marketers need to know about mobile marketing. But what struck me is how much the audience needed to hear the most important idea about mobile marketing, which is that you don't do it in isolation. Your mobile marketing must be integrated with everything else you do for maximum effect, and I shared my opinion on what for most companies is the most effective mobile...

Search keywords are market segments

I often am asked to explain search marketing to people with no digital marketing background, and it helps to have some shortcuts. I've found over the years, that an especially helpful kind of shortcut is to categorize a particular kind of technique in terms that veteran non-digital marketers understand, because once you do that, they bring all sorts of knowledge to a subject that they thought they knew nothing about. One of my favorites is to explain how search keywords are market segments....

Why you should treat PPC like SEO

I've been working on search engine technology since the 1980s, so there wasn't anything about organic search (SEO) that I did not pick up fairly quickly. But paid search (PPC) was another thing entirely. At first, I was flabbergasted that anyone would even want to click on a paid search result, but after a while I had to admit that those results weren't that bad. I even click on them, too. But over the years, paid search has changed a lot. In fact, I am starting to think that PPC has changed so much that you are better off approaching...

Digital marketing success: Do you have the one thing?

Here at Search Engine Guide, we talk a lot about search engine marketing (no, really!) but we don't have our heads in the sand. Search marketing only matters in the context of succeeding in your overall digital marketing. So we spend lots of time discussing social media, conversions, and lots of other things related to search marketing. And all of those topics were on my mind yesterday when I taught a class yesterday at Rutgers University as part of the Mini-MBA in digital marketing. I have taught this class several times and I always enjoy it because of the interesting...

What's keeping Google up at night?

Some of you might read the title of this story and ask, "How could anything be keeping Google up at night? They are literally making billions." And you have a point. But ask yourself something. Can you remember when you were making half what you are making now? Some of us lucky people can remember when we were making one-tenth of what we make now. But do you feel comfortable now? Nothing worries you? Just sailing along, happy with your success? Nope. You might want more or you might be afraid of losing what you have, but you are worried...

What if my competitor is cheating at SEO?

It's a question that comes up all the time, but there hasn't been a good answer to it. There are painstaking ways that you can analyze your competitor's Web site for signs of elementary cheating, such as hidden text, keyword stuffing, and other simple forms of search spam, but don't bother. The search engines do a reasonably good job of sniffing those out themselves nowadays. But what about the big-time search spammer? What about someone who has set up an elaborate network of linking sites all designed to rank his site higher and your site lower? How can you catch...

Are you overlooking paid search optimization?

It's yesterday's news. It's no longer sexy. It is less about inspiration than perspiration. I'm talking about paid search. If you remember the exciting days at the turn of this century when paid search was the hottest game in town, times have certainly changed. Paid search is now a normal, boring part of almost everyone's digital marketing program, but have we become so anesthetized to its presence that we've overlooked what we need to do to really make paid search work? I have to admit that I haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to paid search either, but...

The Farmer update and "feeding the content machine"

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about Google's Farming update and why it has caused such angst among search marketers. Part of that answer is simple--a lot of sites with high rankings suddenly saw them plunge. That will cause some angst, for sure. But I think there is something deeper going on here. I think part of what is upsetting everyone is that we are feeling overwhelmed at what is expected of us. We don't feel capable of feeding the content machine. It feels like no matter what we do, we have to come up with more and...

Are you policing your domain from spammers?

It was not a pretty sight. I watched the look on his face as he was shown a page from his domain that should not have been there. Precisely how it got there, no one knows, but it was clearly placed on his site by search spammers, out to get an advantage for some of their Web sites. It was a lovely little page about prescription drugs chock full of links to other places. How could that page have gotten there? And what was it there for? Welcome to the seedy little world of black hat SEO. If you don't...

Do I have a content farm?

I was at the Boston SEO Meetup last night talking about why white hat SEO is the way to go. The attendees were a mix of newbies (trying to find people to help them with SEO) and a number of us grizzled veterans. (I am not sure what it means to be grizzled, but it just sounded right.) But I was surprised that many (both veteran and newbie) wanted to talk about the same thing: content farming. Some wanted to know what content farming is, some wanted to know what Google's algorithm change is affecting, and others wanted assurance that...

How do you leverage social media for SEO?

You can't look up without reading about another link between social media and search engine optimization. Bing is now integrating Facebook "Like" data into its rankings and Google has just started integrating activity from Twitter, Quora, and FlickR. So the question is starting to be asked, "How do you leverage social media for SEO?"...

Ignoring social media just stopped working

OK, OK, maybe it stopped working a while ago. Maybe you thought it stopped working when Google debuted Universal Search. Or maybe you thought it stopped working when Bing hooked up with Facebook. But if you were hanging on and saying, "Google doesn't personalize THAT many results," then this wakeup call is for you. If you think nothing matters until Google does it, well, Google did it. Those social results that hung around at the bottom of the page that most people didn't look at? Google is now saying that what your friends think will change the ranking of organic...

Are you keeping up with paid search trademark policies?

There are some topics in search marketing that you can revisit every couple of years and write about all over again, because they never stop changing. Paid search trademark policies is one of those, because search engines never stop toying with their policies, which are often influenced by changes in case law within the various countries in which the search engines operate. If you use paid search just within the U.S., you need to know U.S. policies, but if you operate in other countries, you've got a lot more to keep up with....

Google needs its own social network

I was talking to a veteran SEO consultant the other day about all the things I am seeing about how social media activity affects organic search. After listening for a few minutes, he abruptly stated, "SEO and social are separate. A lot of people say they do both, but it is too complicated to be good at both. I do SEO and that's all I need to do." I agree that it is complicated, maybe too complicated for any single person to do well. But maybe a few consultants need to work together to do the job right, because there...

How is Google feeling about sentiment analysis?

You've probably heard of sentiment analysis, a technique that allows computers to determine whether a comment is positive or negative about a subject. You can probably imagine a few uses for this kind of technology, such as culling social media for mentions of your brand, but you might be surprised about how much effort Google is putting into this area, including recently purchasing a startup that specializes in sentiment analysis....

Local Search isn't always so local

I've been spending a lot of time recently looking at local search, and discussing its importance with dozens of small businesses at the events I speak at. One discussion keeps coming up that I believe is terribly misguided. Small businesses think that their only competition in local search will come from other small businesses. So, as long as they stay ahead of their local competition, they are fine. I don't believe that viewpoint will turn out to be correct in the end....

Facebook Doesn't Help Me Find Anything

Some of this is generational. I am more comfortable firing up a search query than polling my Twitter followers or Facebook friends. But as social media activity increasingly has an impact on Bing and Google search results, it makes me wonder whether it will become an annoyance for me rather than something truly helpful, which mostly has to do with how I have approached social networks as a quasi-public person in what's turning into a private networking world. The possibly logical assumption that Facebook friends are my actual friends is causing me to wonder whether I have missed the point...

My CEO does not believe in paid search

At a recent Webinar on search marketing, I received a plaintive question from a participant. She had listened carefully to all my advice, but practically wailed into the phone, "My CEO does not believe in paid search. What can I do?" If you've run into this situation, you needn't be as worried about it as she was. The first thing for us to do is to take away the mystique of paid search, or any marketing tactic, for that matter. There is no need for your CEO to "believe" in paid search. Paid search is a business idea, not a...

Does a CMS help your SEO?

If you just read that headline and felt like singing, "CMS and SEO, E-I-E-I-O," you're not alone. Sometimes digital marketing is an acronym factory that feels like you need a secret decoder ring just to understand what is going on. And even if you know that a "CMS" is a content management system and that "SEO" is search engine optimization, you might not know how they relate to each other. Many Web sites struggle with the question of whether a CMS is a step that they need to take, and many more wonder whether adopting a CMS would magically boost...

My CMO doesn't think search marketing is "sexy"

I'm Irish, so I am not often at a loss when someone asks a question, but I was a bit startled at a query I received while doing a recent Webinar: "How do I overcome search marketing's lack of sexiness to convince my CMO to do it?" Now, I've been doing this marketing thing for many years now, and I well remember the days when marketing indeed was about the sizzle instead of the steak. Branding is sexy and sales are not. CLIO awards are exciting--ringing the cash register, not so much. But I really thought those days were LONG...

When is social search coming? What? It's here?

Not long ago, there was a lot of discussion about whether Facebook was taking over the hearts and minds of the next generation, where Google has owned the previous one. Much discussion ensued about whether using a search engine to find things would be easier than asking your friends. As usual, the future is more complex than we imagine, because we have all decided that the answer between text search and social networking is...both....

Are You Ready for Auto SEO?

No, I don't mean that search engine optimization will happen automatically. I am asking if you have considered what the world will be like in the not-too-distant future, when a big chunk of searches will be executed from your customers' cars. Perhaps this strikes you as a bit too much Buck Rogers, but many people thought we wouldn't be searching for things from cell phones not too long ago. The technology is arriving and it's not too soon for marketers to start thinking about how it will change their businesses....

Singular and Plural Keywords Are Not Always the Same for SEO

I received an interesting question the other day from a student in a class that I am teaching on SEO. He's in the process of optimizing a landing page for the keywords "waterproof jacket" (singular) and "waterproof jackets" (plural), he is noticing that each keyword produces different organic search results across multiple search engines. His question is whether he should optimize his landing page for both of these keywords or just one of them? As you might suspect, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question (even thought the actual waterproof jacket might come that way)....

What's the next shoe to drop from Google?

Last week, I asked the musical question, "Are you keeping up with Google?" In that post, I tried to stimulate some thinking around the idea that waiting for the ranking algorithm to change is not the best time to begin doing something new in response. If you work that way, you are constantly feeling under the gun, like you can't keep up, and that you are always falling behind. Instead, I tried to get you to think about doing what is best for searchers and then waiting for Google to catch up with you. So, the question of the moment...

Are you keeping up with Google?

It was only recently that a number of critics were talking about how Google is standing still and Bing is the real innovator in the search space. I think that Google Instant has quieted those critics, at least for now. Love it or hate it, Google Instant certainly is innovative and it is not the only thing going on at the Googleplex. We previewed it a few weeks ago, but it is happening for real now: Your page design matters for your SEO. But I am not sure that's even the biggest Google change of recent vintage....

How do you give Google what it wants?

No matter who you are, at some point it is natural to throw your arms up in frustration and ask, "What does Google want from me?" For most of us, no matter how much we know about SEO and no matter what we do, we eventually feel like we've hit a wall. We just can't seem to (pick one) raise our ranking for that keyword, get more search traffic, sell more to searchers, or fill in the blank here. And it is natural to start thinking about how that Google ranking algorithm does its magic. It's human nature to ask...

Will the visual design of your pages help your SEO?

Up until now, the appearance of your Web pages had nothing to do with your success in organic search, but that time might be coming to and end. Lots of stuff matters, of course, ranging from page titles to inbound links to dozens of other factors in each search engine's ranking algorithm. Also important is the title and the snippet that helps searchers decide which search result to click on. Once clicked, your visual design matters a great deal as to whether your new visitors decides to buy or not, but will it have any impact on your SEO?...

Do online reviews matter to your existing customers?

This is an easy question, right? I know I thought so. Sure, small businesses (or any size business) must be vigilant about all posted customer reviews, because they are the first impression that a potential new customer gets of your business. But existing customers? They already know you and they have chosen you. Surely your online reviews don't matter to them. Yeah, well, that is what I thought, too, until a friend of mine related a story that taught me otherwise....

When is a search problem not a search problem?

I found myself asking just such a question when talking with a client of a multinational company. The problem they described to me sounded hard to solve. They worked in the UK office of this Web site, and were constantly bothered by the fact that the UK pages for their product offerings landed on page 3 or even deeper of the search results, while the US pages for their company were at the top of the list, even for UK searchers. They needed my help to get the UK pages to the top for UK searchers, but were flummoxed as...

Do Your SEO Tactics Work for Everyone?

I gave the keynote talk at the SMX Conference in Stockholm today, and what I had to say doesn't jive with what many smart SEO people advise. Basically, I told people that all of the tricks and optimizations and clever tactics are a waste of time for the average marketer. Despite the millions of pixels that have been used to explain all of these clever techniques for worming your way to the top of the search rankings, I think that most search marketers would do better to steer clear of them, because they only work for short period of time....

For SEO, you need a story to tell

I frequently advise clients that the secret to successful search engine optimization is to have content that people really want to find. And, beyond SEO, the secret to a successful site is that the same content makes prospective buyers want to read it, and it persuades them to buy what you are selling. It sounds simple, and for some companies, it is simple, but we often make things more complicated than they are. I find that small and large companies each struggle with this question of what story to tell, but they struggle in different ways....

Does your SEO get lost in the translation?

People often ask me how to break into international markets. Big companies struggle with this all the time, but the great thing about the Internet is that small companies have a better chance of going global than ever before. But when you're planning that new country Web site, have you thought about search engine optimization? Sure, you want the free traffic, but have you thought through the steps you need to take? It might be more complicated than you think....

Is duplicate content OK for duplicate keywords?

A couple of months ago, I posted on the search engines' so-called "duplicate content penalty," where pages that contain similar words are often hidden from the search results because the search engines (rightly) conclude that searchers would rather see different pages. Recently, I was e-mailed a follow-up question about a particularly difficult aspect of the duplicate content penalty—when you have two keyword phrases whose landing pages really could be twins. What do you do then?...

Adapting to a Social Media Fast

Some of you might know that I like to take Augusts off. While not completely off the grid (I still clean out my e-mail, although I don't reply much--and I still moderate comments on my blog), I don't write any blog posts (on my blog or here at Search Engine Guide), and I stay off Twitter. I also don't read any blog posts or check out what others are saying on Twitter--it's a social media fast. Each year, it's interesting to find myself picking up a newspaper again. This year, I did something a bit different, because I actually returned...

How Good B2B Marketers Cheat

If you have a business-to-business (B2B) Web site, you're probably tired of all the trite advice you see out there from experts who are clearly speaking to those in the business-to-consumer (B2C) industry. I mean, each time you read these opinions about what you should do, do you find yourself asking, "How is that realistic in my B2B business?" And you might be wondering where the really smart B2B marketers look for their new ideas. And the answer is...those crazy B2C Web sites. Let me explain why....

How do I avoid the duplicate content penalty?

I recently got this question and stared at it. Long and hard. There were so many things wrong with the question that I didn't know where to start. But since this is a blog post, don't fear. I've figured out where to start by now. I hope when you are at the end of the post that you know where to start, too. Duplicate content is a subject that everyone asks about, but I find that few people truly understand what it is or what search engines do with it, much less the answer to how to avoid the duplicate...

Do you know how to operate in public?

If you are old (like me), then you might be doing certain things the way you always have, without realizing that times have changed. The old ways don't necessarily continue to work. All this was brought to mind when I read a recent story about how State Farm Insurance followed the old procedures, which didn't work out for them when they were handling a case of a dog tragically killed by a car....

Is it time to reassess your linking strategy?

I wrote a post in this space over a year ago that advised small businesses on how to attract links to their Web sites. In that article, I offered the somewhat contrarian advice that spending lots of time begging sites to link to you might be time better spent building content that entices them to do the same thing, but without you having to ask....

How do you know what is search spam?

Last week, I asked the musical question, "Is Your SEO Strategy to Barely Avoid Spamming?" One of the commenters told me that he waited and waited in that article to find out what the line was between spamming and ethical behavior, but I didn't tell him. So, that's what we tackle this week....

Is Your SEO Strategy to Barely Avoid Spamming?

I am increasingly getting a question from organic search marketers about where the "line" is between sharp SEO tactics and spam. Basically, it's the SEO equivalent of "how many miles per hour over the speed limit can I go without getting pulled over?" If this sounds like an interesting question to you, I'd like to humbly respond that you don't get it. You don't get search marketing in particular or Internet marketing as a whole. And it's holding you back more than you probably realize....

Why optimizing your pages for search doesn't work

I am constantly running into people who are frustrated with search engine optimization. "SEO doesn't work," I've heard them say. "I optimized my pages and I am not getting any more search traffic." Why does this happen? Perhaps it's because a critical step in search engine optimization has been skipped....

Why you think you have nothing to say

I am constantly talking to business people, with companies large and small, and I often give them the same advice about Internet marketing, and search marketing in particular: Tell what you know so your customers can learn from your expertise. You can put that expertise on Web pages, on a blog, in tweets, in a YouTube video, a podcast—I don't really care how you do it, but do it. Too often, the response is something like, "But I don't have anything to say." I suspect that you do have something to say, but you are just not giving yourself permission...

Does the Internet show the true colors of your business?

For big companies going online in the '90s, the Internet was a shocker, laying bare all the silos within their organizations, as those units communicated directly to customers, with no homogenizing layer of customer service in between. So, if each of your business units had a different system for processing returns, it was no longer the poor telephone rep who had to deal with the crazy systems, now it was your customers. Over the years, those problems have been worked through, but it is an example of how the Internet reveals the true colors of your business. Small businesses need...

Foursquare in favor of location-based marketing

I admit it. When Twitter first came out, I didn't get it. I even wrote a blog post called, "I am a Twitter twit." But I am not letting the same thing happen with Foursquare. Foursquare isn't for every business, but if you want people to show up at your location, you ought to check out how Foursquare works. It might work for you....

Search marketing gets specific

Remember when everyone wanted the #1 position for one-word searches? Time was that more than half of searches were only one word, but searchers have grown a lot more sophisticated since then. One-word searches rarely found what searchers were looking for, and comprise far less of the mix nowadays. It's just one way that search marketing is getting more specific....

Is your FAQ page a crutch for a bad website?

Frequently asked questions are a staple of the Internet--even predating the web. And the idea makes sense. If people are continually asking the same questions, why not answer them once on your website so you won't have to answer them over and over again? That's the theory, anyway. But, in practice, getting the same question over and over again might point you to some other ideas besides updating your FAQ page....

A Case Study in Handling Customer Disputes

Anyone reading this site is always on the lookout for the next big idea in search, and you all know that social media is it. My wife Linda knows, too. So, when she recently underwent successful Lasik surgery, she thought it would be far nicer to create a Squidoo lens for her surgeon, promoting his business, than to send a bouquet of flowers. But no good deed goes unpunished, and I wanted to recount a customer service story that only search geeks like us could appreciate....

Search Marketing Is Not About You

David Meerman Scott likes to tell Internet marketers, "No one cares about your product." It's an exaggeration, but he makes a good point. As marketers, we tend to talk about ourselves--our company, our strategy, our products--when the customers want to know what we will do for them. But, after we've put our product catalog online (and beautifully optimized it for search), what do we talk about?...

Search Engine Optimization vs. Customer Connection

Last week in this space, I posed the musical question, "Are You Optimizing for Search Engines or for Customers?" Then, on Friday, I continued this theme in my talk at Search Insider Summit by focusing on the choice between search engine optimization vs. customer connection. One reporter summed it up as "search marketers need an attitude adjustment," which might be true, but I want to go a bit further....

Are You Optimizing for Search Engines or for Customers?

The very name "Search Engine Optimization" would seem to answer the question of who marketers are optimizing their site for. All the great advice you get about getting your pages indexed and finding which keywords are used in the search engines and optimizing your content to be found by the search engines—it's all search engines all the time. Or is it? At some point, you need to ask yourself why you are doing all of this....

Google wants you to speed up your servers

Nobody likes slow web sites, but did you know that it affects your search results? Google is on the record as saying that site performance is a key factor in both organic and paid search results. The other search engines might be doing the same thing. So, if your site has always been a little sluggish during peak times, or just a bit pokey all the time, it might be hurting you in ways that you don't realize....

Stop Selling Your Products!

No, I don't mean to take them off the shelves, or rip up your catalog. Yes, I know that if we don't sell things, we cease to make a living. I'm talking about a style of marketing that seems focused on nothing but the final sale, while missing all of the other steps of the process. You need to end this maniacal focus on the sale as being the only way you interact with your customers. Too many people have gotten the idea that search marketing is great for sales, but have forgotten everything else about search marketing, and maybe...

How can small businesses measure offline sales?

Often, I work with businesses trying to determine the return on investment for their online marketing. For e-commerce companies, it's not that hard. They can use their Web analytics to see how many people are coming to the site and how many actually convert by checking out. But what if you sell offline? Then it's not so easy....

"I don't have time for Facebook and Twitter"

Social media is free, but what's the catch? Time. We only have so much time to spend putting our message out there, but we don't want to limit how many people can hear what we have to say. This problem comes up in many ways, but the simplest is the dichotomy between Facebook and Twitter. Many folks decide to spend the bulk of their social time on one or the other, with relatively few people using both. If Google Buzz catches fire, this fragmentation might only increase. What's a marketer to do?...

What To Do When Reviewers Lie About You

When my friend called me, there was a little panic in his voice. He owned a successful, customer-friendly small business, and was generally an easygoing person. But he didn't know what to do. A long-time and loyal customer alerted him to a savage review of his business on an Internet Yellow Pages site. And so now he was turning to me to find out what he could do about it....

Small Businesses Must Choose Partners Carefully

As a small business, you probably pride yourself on being customer friendly. Even though you might work with large companies as your suppliers and partners, you go the extra mile for your customers when something goes wrong. You make your site search friendly. You put the information on it that customers need. And you stand behind what you sell. Except when that big company partner makes it impossible....

Listen to Your Customers to Adjust Your Keywords

You probably use many sources to brainstorm your search keywords, but how do you know if your customers are starting to change the way they search for your products? Have you listened to what your customers are saying? Time was that listening to customers demanded expensive focus groups and surveys, but that time has passed. Nowadays, you can listen to social media conversations and analyze them for any number of purposes, including search keywords....

Are You Undervaluing Your Web Site?

When I see the same issue coming up for so many clients, it makes me think that something more is at work. My latest issue that seems to crop up with nearly every client is tracking offline sales back to Web activity. I mean, I know it isn't easy, but it's amazing how rarely I run into a client who feels able to take on the task, much less has a system in place already....

Why Marketers Don't Need to Care About the iPad

It's hard to look up without reading about the iPad. I am sure that it is a wonderful device. And I know nothing about it that you can't read and see in all the usual places. But if you are wondering what you need to know about it for your business, the answer is probably "nothing." And that is a good thing....

Does Your Small Business Think Local?

For a long time, small businesses struggled with search marketing, because to succeed, they had to specialize, rather than being all things to all people in a local area. That's still good advice, but changes in how people use search (and in how search engines work) are suddenly making your location every bit as important as your specialty, at least for some businesses....

Search Keywords Are Your Market Segments

People who know how to do offline marketing are often mystified by how to get started with search marketing. They know how to think about their market segments in terms of demographics, so they know which magazines to buy ads in and which industry trade shows to attend. But search seems somehow different, because there are no demographics to latch on to. When I talk to them, things often become clearer when I explain that search keywords are their search market segments....

Learn SEO from Your Spouse

Yes, you really can learn SEO from your spouse. If you're married, you know something about SEO that you might not be putting to use. Think about how you landed your mate. When you do, you'll be learning something about how to do search marketing the right way....

Is your site ready for search marketing?

I realize that to some, this is a dumb question. I mean, if you have a Web site, why would you NOT optimize it for search? Organic search is the cheapest way to bring people to your site and paid search is the easiest, so it's a no-brainer for you to recommend that every blessed Web site on the Internet dive right into search marketing, right? Wrong....

Are search metrics optional?

Trust me. I know the right way to do organic search marketing. I know that you start with metrics. I know that you must measure the traffic that comes to the site and see how many people convert. I've even written a couple of books that have a strong metrics focus to Internet marketing, organic search marketing in particular. But when I talk to small businesses, I am more and more wondering if search metrics are optional, at least at first....

Are you just following your competitors?

I know that it's hard to be creative. I know that it's hard to be unique. Get over it. On the Internet, merely copying your competitors works far less well than it does in offline marketing. Unfortunately, Google bares all. If you do the same stuff as everyone else, count on the ones who did it before you to reap the benefits, with your results bringing up the rear....

Making Pretty URLs for Search Engine Spiders

Most search marketing experts are full of advice for folks who are struggling with weird looking URLs that search engines really don't like. I should know, because I have always been loaded with that kind of advice, too....

Are you ready for Bing?

No, I haven't been living under a rock. (Who does that, anyway?) I know Bing has been out for months. That's not what you need to be ready for. You need to be ready for approval of the Yahoo! deal with Bing, because once that happens, everything you've been doing with Yahoo! will change. And if you haven't been doing anything with Yahoo!, you might want to change that, too....

Search Marketing Is Easier Than You Think

Not long ago, I spoke to a group of local chemical manufacturers on Internet marketing. After the talk, I sat next to a veteran business owner at dinner, someone who clearly appreciated the talk but also felt a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of Internet marketing, especially search marketing. I was happy to put him a little at ease, because he really knew a lot more than he thought he did....

Multiply Marketing Effectiveness Despite Division of Labor

Most people are familiar with the term "division of labor," which describes the specialization that companies adopt to promote efficiency. The assembly line is one of the best examples of the efficiency gains that division of labor provides. In a tiny company, such as a one-person firm, there is no division of labor, but as soon as you start to grow, even a little bit, you start dicing up jobs in the name of efficiency. The problem, from a marketing point of view, is that efficient doesn't equal effective. Division of labor can harm your marketing effectiveness and you must...

Redefining social media

I sat on a panel at SUPERCOMM's Digital Media Forum in Chicago on Friday called, "Redefining Social Media." (Eric Forst of Visible Technologies and Edward Moran of Deloitte & Touche spoke with me, ably moderated by Patty Brown of The Content Strategy Group.) The name of the panel initially threw me, because it feels like anything old enough to be redefined seems a bit passé, which social media most decidedly is not. But I think there is a point to be made about social media and how it is maturing....

Deciding What to Ignore in Internet Marketing

I'm often asked by small business owners (and folks in larger businesses, too) how they can keep up with all the new things going on in social media, search, and everything else on the Internet. It's hard for them to hear sometimes, but I keep trying to tell them that is the wrong question. What they need to do instead is to simply decide what to ignore....

The missing step in keyword research

I speak to many small businesses working on organic search marketing. They usually understand the concept of keyword research, but often they miss a basic step that makes the difference between a successful search program and one that just bumps along without creating much of an impact....

Why Don't You Listen to Social Media?

Large companies are very concerned about their reputations, their brand images, the "word on the street," and ten other hackneyed phrases that all add up to the same thing: they are listening to what people say about them. But when I talk to small businesses, I often find that they don't pay as much attention. If you work in a small business, I want you to know that attitude is a mistake....

The All-Time Top-Secret Search Marketing Trick

Sometimes I can tell just by the way they sidle up to me at a conference. They look around to make sure no one is watching, and then they half-whisper to me out of the side of their mouths, "Just between you and me, what is the trick to search marketing?"...

Why Blogs Aren't Dead

For the past couple of years, people have been asking if blogging is now dead. Now, as you read this blog post, you might expect that if I took the time to write it, I probably don't agree. And I don't. But the "blogging is dead: crowd does have a point—I just don't think the situation is as extreme as they say....

What's Your True Conversion Rate?

Good Internet marketers pay close attention to conversion rates, checking their Web analytics system to see how many folks came to the site and how many actually bought something. Some interesting research from Sun Microsystems shad some new light on the limits to how easily we can calculate certain types of conversions....

Best Practices in Search Are Where You Start

"Best practices" is one of those dry as dust phrases that conjures up a consultant orating at you and a dozen co-workers sitting in uncomfortable chairs, each one wishing you could go back to work. If you missed Adam Audette's interesting article entitled, "SEO 'Best Practices' Are Bunk," you should pull up a chair and follow the link to read it. (I'll wait right here.) Adam alluded to my Do It Wrong Quickly concept as a way to do things right (if that isn't an oxymoron in itself), and on the whole I think he is on the right track....

Google's YouTube Money Pit

Analysts keep bringing it up. Reporters do, too. How much money is Google losing on YouTube? And can they afford it? The lingering question that affects Internet marketers the most is what happens if Google decides they can't afford it. If you are using YouTube for marketing, should you be worried?...

What about the Risk of Social Media?

Recently, a commenter on this blog asked a question that I often hear, "What do you say to corporate people worried about security risks of social media within a company?" It's one of my favorite questions, because it really exposes the way we look at risk, which is all-too-human and, simultaneously, dumb....

Google Suffering from Big Company Disease

Google has arguably been a big company for many years now, but it did better than most not to act like one. Big companies run by the whims of its shareholders and creditors, but Sergey and Larry have taken pains to run the company their way and have precious little debt. Big companies suffer from top-down planning, but Google allows employees to spend 20% of their time on personally-selected projects. Big companies begin hiring mediocre employees as they rapidly expand, but the founders have made a personal focus on high standards pay off. But I see a tell-tale sign of...

The biggest secret of social media is free

I talk to lots of companies that are afraid to allow their employees to participate in social media. I also talk a lot of companies successfully using social media. What do the successful companies know? It costs nothing and you can do it, too. It has to do with how you treat your employees....

Searching for profits more than answers

Everyone is staring hard at Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, and I mostly like what I see, with one exception. I've written before about the search engine conflict of interest between highlighting their own properties and providing the truly best answer. In the quest for ever more cash, search engines are presenting results that point to their own pages. What does that mean to the searcher and to the search marketer?...

Just what constitutes a spam blog comment?

I post something on my Biznology blog each day I'm working, and we've got a lot of subscribers so we get a fair number of comments. And I check each and every comment before it is posted, so that I'm not littering the blog with spam comments. But I am finding myself challenged by deciding just what is and is not spam. If you run a blog, I wonder if this has ever happened to you, too....

In social media, aspire to be reactive

I'm a consultant, and for consultants, nothing beats being proactive, huh? You want to be ahead of the curve, up on the latest, and [insert your favorite cliché here]. But social media is so new, and it changes so fast, that it's really painful to be proactive. It's enormously time consuming to have spent so much time in social media that you are ahead of the curve. You'd have no time for your real business. I am advising you to shoot a lot lower. When it comes to social media, aspire to be reactive....

Data beats opinions in any decision

I promised this week that I'd stop beating the dead horse of how many keywords to target per page, and I will keep that promise. But the divergence of opinion and the deeply-held beliefs that some of us have on this issue made me realize that I violated one of my own rules with this whole discussion. I gave you my opinion about something and then argued with people when their opinions differed. I didn't take the advice that I so routinely dispense: "Data beats opinions in any decision." Yes, that includes my opinion, too....

One keyword per page: once more with feeling

I promise to let go of this one after this week, but there have been so many upset people that I feel the need to revisit this subject once again. There have been many comments about my original post that you should primarily target one keyword per page. I followed that up with some explanation of why. But one commenter called the advice "utter nonsense" (which is even worse that that regular nonsense I usually spew), so I think I'd like to give the explanation one more try, in hopes that perhaps we can at least live with each other...

Targeting one keyword per page--controversial?

Last week in this space, I urged organic search marketers to focus on optimizing for one keyword per page, rather than taking a scattershot approach where they are trying to shoehorn many keywords into the same landing page. I knew that it wasn't the normal advice that people hear, but I wasn't prepared for how many comments and questions I got, so I thought it was worth revisiting the topic this week. If you're still unpersuaded about the approach of targeting one keyword per page, I want to take another shot at it....

How many search keywords can I target per page?

I'm sometimes asked this question, usually by someone savvy in search marketing. After all, it's expensive to create and optimize pages for search, so you'd want to amortize that investment over as many keywords as possible right? Actually, no. The number of organic search keywords I recommend you target per page is one....

Marketing to the Smart

Most companies I work with market only to smart people. I mean what do you have against us dunces anyway? I know you'll deny it, but if I look at your Web site, I bet you're as guilty as the rest. If you don't believe me, read on....

Where should I host my blog?

With so many people deciding to start blogging, one of the first questions they ask is, "Where should it go?" I get that question all the time, but especially from those savvy in organic search marketing, because they are concerned about the links coming into the blog counting in their column for improved search rankings. Should they be?...

The battle over search between merchants and affiliates

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the "Search Engine Tug of War" between merchants and affiliates, and the basics haven't changed much since I wrote that article. But more and more companies running affiliate marketing programs are changing their policies on paid search. Recently, the granddaddy of all affiliate marketing programs, Amazon Associates, announced that they are curtailing some of their practices on paid search....

Why shouldn't I do my search work in-house?

As someone who has helped search marketers build up their in-house search resources for years, you might think that there are never any reasons that I'd recommend using an agency. But you'd be wrong. There are always situations that require a different approach, and in most cases the right answer is a hybrid approach to search. Read on for why you might not want to do everything in house....

Does Search Marketing Belong in Marketing or Sales?

A client asked me this very question recently and it got me to thinking about what's wrong with the way a lot of us think about search marketing. The major concept behind successful search marketing (and indeed all of Internet marketing) is direct marketing. And the more you know about direct marketing, the less this question makes sense....

How do you get a specific Web page indexed?

I've often been asked why particular pages are not indexed. Honestly, you can never be sure until you fix the problem. If you think that you've isolated the problem, you never know if you've only corrected one of multiple problems. So, it's best to take it step-by-step....

Is there a standard way to measure conversions?

I constantly counsel people to make their Web site more than just an online brochure—they must measure their conversions online and offline so they know what it's worth to bring that extra visitor to their Web site. Only then do you know what to spend on marketing. Simple, right? Not always. What do you do when you have multiple ways of measuring conversions?...

How do you find keywords in a specialized industry?

I am frequently asked how to find search terms in a specialized industry—the other day I was asked specifically about the Biotech and the Medical Device industries. I think part of the reason this question comes up is that we search experts always use popular examples, such as "digital cameras," to demonstrate keyword research. But what if you sell apnea monitors? Surely a product that specialized needs a different approach, right?...

Does cleaning out cookies stop personalization?

Many marketers are asking me about personalized marketing, which you should expect to see more and more of in the next few years. We've already seen behavioral targeting in display ads and personalized search, and we'll see more personalized advertising emerge. But are we marketers just assuming that users will allow all this personalized marketing in? What if they clean their cookies regularly? Will that prevent those users from being exposed to personalized ads?...

How do I get links to my Web site?

The owner of a Web site that sells ski and snowboard equipment contacted me recently with a burning question, "How do I get links to my Web site?" His e-mail was filled with lots of geeky search jargon about reciprocal links and PageRank effects--enough that I suspected I wasn't dealing with someone clueless about search marketing. Instead, I think this business owner had done a lot of research on search marketing and was asking me about what he'd been told. He was gearing up for a big link campaign, targeting ski resorts and any other place he could find. I...

Is SEO no longer important?

Should you care about what kind of marketing is hot? I got a question recently from a small business owner on how important readable URLs are for a Web site. The reason he was asking is that his technical adviser told him that "SEO just isn't that important anymore." Is he right? Well, you probably wouldn't expect me to agree with that point of view, and I don't, but there is some truth in the idea that search engine optimization is not the be-all end-all of Internet success that it was a few years ago. And the question of readable...

Can a Broken Sitemap Hurt You?

I got an e-mail recently from someone very concerned that his product catalog does not have links to every page on his site from his sitemap, although he has a complete link structure emanating from his home page. Should he beat his programmer about the face and body until he creates a proper sitemap?...

Why Small Businesses Need Search

I often talk to small business people who lament at how the marketing deck is stacked against them. The big guys have the connections, the money, and the brand name. "How can I compete," I hear them asking. I always have the same answer--Internet marketing, especially organic search marketing. But when I tell them this, often I get disbelief. These small business owners have painfully learned over the years that marketing is for big companies, not for them. They're wrong....

Do I need a shopping cart or a content management system?

Someone recently asked me how he knows whether to use shopping cart software or a full-blown content management system for a Web site. Does it depend on how large your site is? Does it depend on what kind of content you have? And, most importantly, which one is better for search marketing? These are good questions, so they deserve good answers....

Free Pictures Done Right

You're constantly getting advice, from me and all the Internet marketing gurus, that you need great content to succeed in search marketing (and lots of other Internet marketing techniques, too). And we all assume that you'll write this wonderful content yourself, because, God bless us, if you can write e-mail you can probably write a blog post or a Web article. But, if you're like me, you really want to include a picture. And if you're really like me, you couldn't take a decent picture if your life depended on it. And if you're a carbon copy of me, you...

Economy Down and Google Up

As we hear optimists tell us not to worry, it won't be as bad as the Great Depression, it seems clear that we're looking at very difficult economic times worldwide. And, as veteran marketers know, any economic downturn means lower advertising expenditures. And so, Google announced a huge gain (what?!) in revenue last week. What's going on here?...

Marketing Feedback Keeps Speeding Up

Those of you who know me realize that I am a big fan of feedback. The very title of my book Do It Wrong Quickly is a snarky way of saying that most of what we do is wrong, and that only by looking for feedback from customers can we realize what is wrong and what actually worked. So, I should be very excited about the announcement today of Yahoo!'s new analytics tool. And mostly, I am. But I am also starting to wonder when fast gets fast enough....

Is Your Copywriting a Detective Story?

Ever see a billboard on the side of a bus for a new movie? "Wow" or "Amazing" is a typical quote. But you've heard the occasional story that the full reviewer's quote was actually "Wow, this is the worst musical I've seen in 20 years." or "It's amazing that a studio even released this movie." The people reading our marketing claims often treat them like detective stories, trying to figure out what's really going behind the florid prose. Does that sound like your company?...

Copywriting for the Busy

I'm constantly amazed by the folks in direct mail who send out these long letters asking me to sign up for one more credit card—I know they work, but it's not my style (and it doesn't work well on the Web). I am often reminded of a story from my youth—the 1960s—when a long-haired hippy was struggling to get a ride to his destination. The hitchhiker kept sticking out his thumb, but no one stopped. Finally, he scrawled on a piece of cardboard, "Going to the Barber" and he was picked up within minutes. Now, that's copywriting....

Why Search Marketers Can Safely Ignore Cuil

Several people wrote to me asking me to review Cuil, the hot new search engine that everyone is talking about. Except me. I've explained in the past that I am not expecting any new search engine to come along to dethrone Google. But people persisted, "This one is really different!" So I looked and I listened and I read, and I'm sorry folks, but I don't know what all the fuss is about....

Small Businesses Need the Internet

Frank Reed had an interesting post on his Frank Thinking blog, lamenting how small businesses seem to avoid search marketing. They spend their money on Yellow Pages ads and other older forms of marketing that might not bring the best return on their investment. So, with the U.S. economy focusing every small business on making more from less, why is it that Internet marketing, and search marketing in particular is so scary? What can we do to help small businesses take advantage of the Internet?...

Free Ways to Estimate Keyword Demand Redux

You've probably heard me advise marketers to "do it wrong quickly," allowing feedback from customers to help you improve your marketing. I am using feedback from my June 24th post on "Free Ways to Estimate Keyword Demand" (and a fortuitous announcement by Google) to improve the procedure I documented just a few weeks ago. (In case you're wondering, "keyword demand" is the number of searches on a particular search keyword done in a period of time, such as "3,000 U.S. searches per month for the keyword AAA Plumbing"—which you can use to help project the traffic you'll attract to your...

Search Marketing Is a Roller Coaster

We all want to be in control, but search marketing is a roller coaster ride, where you really need to let go for it to be a worthwhile experience. If you've always had trouble letting go of control, perhaps that's what preventing you from really succeeding at search marketing....

Projecting Keyword Demand for Free

Is search marketing old enough to have a good old days? If it is, then I remember them. Ah, the days when you could fire up the Overture keyword tool to see how many searches were done in the U.S. on Yahoo! for a particular keyword. Add a little math, and you could estimate the number of searches done across all U.S. search engines in a month. But then Yahoo! crippled that free tool, and we've been left with no way to project keyword demand, until now....

How Much of Your Site's Traffic Should Come from Search?

My sixteen-year-old son posed a riddle for me the other day: "How does a white beard work?" When I gave up, he revealed the answer: "A hobo." (Should I have mentioned that my son has Down Syndrome?) Anyway, if that riddle made sense to you, then you probably love to analyze the inscrutable world of search metrics....

Is Web Design the Next Search Marketing Battleground?

I'm old, so I have seen many different battlegrounds come and go in search marketing. Keywords, Links, Content. Multi-media is the one raging now. But which one is next? It could be personalization. It could be mobile. It could also be design....

More Journalism, Less Marketing

I read a recent interview with marketing guru Guy Kawasaki by Lee Odden, where he said he didn't know anything about search marketing except to "write good stuff." It sounded almost apologetic, but you should know that producing content that people want to spend time with is, in fact, the most important part of search marketing. And small businesses will be happy to know that it doesn't cost much more for lousy content than it does for good stuff—although it does take more talent and more time. So, what is a small business to do about creating good content? My...

Book Review: Landing Page Optimization

At Search Engine Strategies in March, Tim Ash walked up to me after my speech and handed me his book. I (ashamed to say) did not know Tim and had not heard of his book before then. I leafed through it quickly and told myself, "This looks good," and promptly dumped it in my pile of books that take forever to get read. I told myself I'd eventually read it, but it took me quite a while to do so. That was a big mistake....



About the Author

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include ClickZ Live, RKG Summit, Ticket Summit, Webdagene, the CiTE conference, and the Forrester Marketing Conference.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.

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