Top ten tips for effective search engine marketing in 2014

Last week I gave a talk at The Business Show, in association with Nominet, about the ten key elements of the modern search engine marketing process, with an explanation of why each element is important and what effect it can have on a business’s bottom line.

The presentation covers the fundamentals of SEM and advanced topics, including website structure, keyword research and targeting, content, links, pay per click (PPC), using analytics to measure effectiveness and an overview of the marketing implications of the new .uk domain extensions.

Here is my full presentation, with the transcription below:

Top ten SEM tips…

10. Set up webmaster accounts (correctly!)

This is should be job number one, but is sometimes overlooked by new clients we work with.

Each domain/website should have its own individual account with Google and Bing. It’s really important that all your Google (or Bing) products go into this account, e.g. your Google Analytics, Gmail, Youtube, Webmaster Tools, Google Local Places, G+, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google AdWords etc.

If you have more than one domain/website, then you should set up a master account (an umbrella account) within which you can place each of the individual accounts.

Once you have a Google account, be sure to set up a Webmaster Tools (WT) account which gives you access to a whole bunch of useful data. The WT account is also where you will receive automated messages from Google (or Bing in its WT) concerning the health of your website.

You can grant permission to anyone with a Google account – and you have a certain degree of granularity on what you give access to (restricted access) if you want to keep certain business-critical information hidden.

9. Set up PPC accounts with Google AdWords AND Bing Ads (what we call the blended approach to web marketing)

For almost all commercial search terms, the top of the search results pages will be dominated by Ad results. You cannot ignore PPC – it must be a part of your strategy.

You should include Bing Ads (which also gives coverage on Yahoo! Search engine) as well as Google – something which many businesses do not do and means that they miss out on up to 10% of UK searches in some sectors and 15% in the USA!

Google will most often put three adverts at the top of its search results and often add ‘Sponsored Shopping’ results.

Just look how much real estate is taken up by sponsored messages (87%) vs organic results (13%) on your screen (above the fold) when you search for the term ‘chocolate boxes’. Yahoo’s search also has three main ads, but use Bing and you can get up to four ads while Ask.com has gone wild and sometimes goes with five.

When signed into Google on my phone, searches that require local results – such as for car mechanic or burger restaurant – get one organic result and then the next five, six or seven are all local businesses.

8. Use keyword research to measure the whole market (use PPC at start of any new project)

Since 2012 Google has been restricting keyword data in its analytics. As of today some 95% of your organic keywords are hidden to you. However, most keyword data within AdWords (PPC) is available, so wherever budget allows we encourage clients to spend money on PPC at the beginning of a project in order to build up a picture of the entire keyword universe.

This knowledge is vital and if used correctly will inform your content strategy (which we’ll talk about later). Essentially you get to know all the search terms that are relevant to your potential clients.

Once we have that data we try to split it into “buckets” to understand intent and demographic factors, e.g. location. See images below:

Intent of search

Navigational, Informational, Commercial, Transactional

Navigational, Informational, Commercial, Transactional

Search categories

Brand, Location, Gender, Occasion

Brand, Location, Gender, Occasion

 

7. Do your links research

It is important to understand that the Google algorithm is still heavily based on links. On an extremely simplified basis the more sites that link to your site the better – Google sees links as votes or as a proxy for how authoritative your site is.

Therefore a good job is to see what links your competitors have and see if you can match them.

Some useful FREE tools for doing your links research are:

Moz

Moz

Bing

Bing

Majestic is a paid-for tool which all SEO agencies use. There is a free version which you can explore. However, if you are serious about understanding link profiles then there are plans starting at £29.99/month.

Majestic

Majestic

6. Use Markup

Structured data + Extended Vocabulary <div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/Product”> Microdata Microformats RDFa Schema.org

If your CMS or publishing suite allows then we recommend marking up certain elements of your site, with schema/microdata. The reason for this is that it helps the search engines understand your data better and may give you enhanced search results. You can see examples of authorship and rich snippets below.

Authorship

Authorship

Rich Snippet

Rich Snippets

For a good explanation of markup we recommend this article: moz.com/blog/schemaorg-a-new-approach-to-structured-data-for-seo

5. Your content strategy is vital

Content strategy is your route to capturing long-term traffic. As well as establishing your presence for search engines, your organic content gives you ‘permission to sell’ at a later time.

Quality web content enables you to grab consumers early in their buying process, when your content demonstrates your expertise and, with a heavy dose of branding, worms its way into the consumer’s brain.

Content is the fuel which drives the inbound effect. It’s a conversation starter and is generally the only way to develop a strong standing with search engines. Organic content also is good for confirmation and reducing buyer remorse – ‘you made the right decision, what a clever consumer you are’ – and building brand loyalty for repeat purchases.

As the consumption process involves so much online research nowadays, during the early stages of their “decision making journey” consumers build up what McKinsey & Company calls “accumulated impressions” that form the initial set of products of their potential purchasing options.

You have to accept that the consumer will leave your site and visit competitor sites. You will get some who buy on the first visit but most will not. Later in the buying process they will come back to check details or specifications, re-read things. It can be a long process – even longer with big ticket items.

Think QUART: Quality, Uniqueness, Authority, Relevance, and Trust. 

It should have the WOW factor.

Wow Cat

4. Video is sexy

Google and the other search engines often like to have a variety to their search engine results. Video is one of the forms in which content can be delivered and where search engines see an opportunity to include them, they will.

Think about your company’s content assets – do they include any films/video? Is there any content that can be easily translated into video? Here, you might wish to engage any of the younger members of your team – the younger generation are whizzes when it comes to creating videos – Ever seen a Vine? You might be amazed at how professional they can make a video look!

 “Having a VIDEO compared to just TEXT will almost TRIPLE the average number of linking domains” Casey Henry – Moz.com

3. Title tags

Your title tag remains, even today, the number one technical optimisation you can do to improve your rankings.

The words you are using in your title tag must be included in the content of the page. It is worth taking time getting your title tags right.

  • Under 512 pixels in width, which generally equates to 55 to 60 characters.
  • Place keywords as close to the beginning as possible; the closer a word is to the start of the tag, the more influence it exerts.
  • Make title tags readable.
  • If you include a brand in the title tags, place the brand name at the end – unless it is a well-known brand people seek out.
  • Make each title unique.
  • Avoid stuffing keywords.

Check this out: moz.com/blog/new-title-tag-guidelines-preview-tool

2. Think about engagement

In the last two years Google has made some fundamental changes to its algorithm. Possibly the key change is a new emphasis on “engagement”. Engagement stats are things like: time on page/site, bounce rate, pages per session etc.

I am going to introduce you to the concept of the ‘long click’…

What is a long click?

A long click occurs when a user performs a search, clicks through on a result and remains on that site for a long time. They don’t come back to the result set immediately to click on another result or to refine their query. In general, long clicks are a proxy for satisfaction and success.

Why are long clicks important?

Long clicks are important to Google because it gives them a way to measure the satisfaction of the result based on downstream behaviour. Sure, a result might get a lot of clicks but did it actually satisfy the query? Is it a success if 100 people click but 98 go back within 10 seconds? What if those 98 people all clicked on an alternate result?

Google knows that the search algorithm still isn’t that smart. It routinely makes mistakes and can often be led down the wrong path by aggressive search engine optimization. Long clicks provide a feedback mechanism, a type of human quality assurance that is lacking in the algorithm. Long clicks are important to you because they may help increase your SERP rank. The chatter from Google makes us SEO’s believe that it is part of the algorithm. How much it is weighted now and in the future remains to be seen. One way or the other Google is saying that longer is better.

1. Get yourself a good domain name!

In today’s environment your domain name may appear hundreds of thousands of times daily in search results, social media and other channels. So you can see that choosing the right name is very important.

Five rules for choosing a good domain name:
  1. Choose your suffix wisely. Are you going to go with .uk or .com? Research by Nominet shows that British consumers prefer local domain names (8/10 in a widely reported survey). It is a question of relevance, trust and reliability, “a local trust point with a brand”. The new .uk suffix now offers options comparable to what is available internationally (e.g. example.de / example.fr) and is shorter and snappier than co.uk.
  2. If you are planning to expand abroad make sure you can also get the .com and any country specific ones.
  3. Avoid long and difficult spellings and make the domain as unique as possible. Memorability is vital and the easier to type and pass on the better. (Flickr? Flicker?)
  4. Avoid hyphens and numbers (if possible)
  5. Your brand is paramount. When someone hears about your domain name for the first time, they should be able to instantly and accurately guess at the type of content that might be found there. For that reason, these are great domain names: Ticketmaster.co.uk, NotGoingToUni.co.uk, Rightmove.co.uk, GreenCarGuide.co.uk. Domains like zoopla.co.uk, Amazon.com and Zillow.com are memorable but have required far more branding because of their un-intuitive names.


Written by

TIW's head of search, Jez has been in web marketing and SEO since 1999. His specialties are SEO and PPC, with a dash of market research and analysis

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