20 Must Have Pages for Every Blogger

I stumbled upon ProBloggers post regarding 20 Types of Pages that Every Blogger Should Consider and thought it would be a perfect follow up to the 52 Ways to Optimize Your Blog post.

It's important to note static pages are different from blog posts. The blog posts you create are dated and show up on your blog in chronological order. The static pages sit on individual web pages and are linked to from the navigation bar of your blog. These pages never move and the content stays the same until it is updated again.

I summarized a couple of my favorites but all 20 are definitely worth considering depending on the size of your blog and its readership.

1. About Page - perhaps one of the best uses of a blog static page. Having an about page is essential in my mind as it gives new readers to your blog a snapshot of who you are and why they should subscribe to your blog. This is the page that I go to every time I hit a new blog.

2. Contact Page - I’m amazed how many bloggers don’t have any way of contacting them on their blog. While I understand the temptation not to have one you could be missing out of wonderful opportunities by not giving readers, potential partners, press, other bloggers a way of contacting you.

11. Services Pages - If you offer services to readers then develop a dedicated sales page for yourself and link to it prominently on your blog. The example here is my Consulting page - a page I used to point to regularly. These days I don’t offer these services any more (due to workload) so have not promoted it for a while. I find that when you have a dedicated page to selling your services you can sell yourself much more expansively than just a quick mention elsewhere on your blog.

14. Sneeze Pages - one great way to propel people deep within your blog is to develop a Sneeze Page or a ‘Best of’ page that highlights some of the better articles on your blog around a particular theme. Put links to these pages on your sidebar or refer to them in posts and you’ll see your page impressions per visit

15. Testimonial Pages - if you’re selling something (even if it’s yourself) to have some sort of a testimonial page can be very worthwhile. People base buying decisions increasingly upon the opinions of others - so capture some of these opinions and present them.

Darren lists quite a few other options as well, though many apply only to certain types of blogs. I would advise reading the entire list! You are sure to stop at least one static page idea you haven't already implemented. If your blog publishes plenty of content, check out #8 and #9. If your blog is used to promote functions or you're a requested speaker, consider adding #16.

Robots.txt Generator by Google Webmaster Central

Robots.txt Generator

A few months ago I wrote a blurb about robots.txt - what it is and how to use it. Google Webmaster Central just released their own Robots.txt Generator. To access the tool, log-in to your Google Webmaster Tools account, then click on the Tools menu option on the left-hand side of the screen after you select one of your verified sites. You'll see a "Generate robots.txt" link among the tool options. That's what you want.

The tool lets you craft specific rules for these particular Google crawlers:

  • Googlebot
  • Googlebot-Mobile
  • Googlebot-Image
  • Mediapartners-Google
  • Adsbot-Google
After you make your file, upload it to the root directory of your web site. If you don't know what that is, find someone who does! This is important!

For more about Google's webmaster tools, be sure to check out the quick start guide they offer.

52 Ways to Optimize Your Blog While on Your Break

It wasn't too long ago that I wrote a post on changing your Blogger title tags to improve SEO results. I can say first hand that one small, extremely important change has done wonders for my traffic boosting monthly visitors from 50 to a couple hundred - and increasing each month. This post also hit home for a number of subscribers and readers - most of which appears to have achieved the same benefit from the change.

I have been working on a list of additional tips, quick fixes, etc to continue to aid in increasing traffic which I plan on publishing soon. I stumbled across Jennifer Slegg's post this morning and thought I would summarize her terrific list - which covers a much wider range than the list I had been working on :) To get all of the details, stop by JenniferSleg.com and read the full post. It is a terrific read and will, no doubt, aid in your blogging efforts (I know I picked up on a few things myself!

Per Jennfier, a couple things to note: each one should take you 15 minutes or less! And it will leave you your lunch break as actual blog writing time. Some do require you to have FTP access to upload plugins. Many are Wordpress specific but could be easily adapted to your blog platform of choice.

1. Run far, far away from the default template
With the number of free blog templates out there, there is really no excuse to be running the default template on your blog unless you just finished installing it five minutes ago.

2. Where’s home?
If your logo is not linked to your homepage, make sure you have a clearly labeled link near the top that says “Home” so people can link to your website easily.

3. Get searching
Adding a search box can help those who wind up on your blog but can’t find exactly what they are looking for.

4. Customize your 404 error page
If people end up on a page that doesn’t exist, a customized 404 page can go a long way to helping people find what they are looking for so they don’t simply hit the back button instead.

5. Underline your links
This is especially important if your blog is targeting a not-so-tech-savvy audience. So while those green mouseover links look hot, the lack of underline-ness can trick some people.

6. Keep your navigation consistent
Inconsistency can make it difficult for people to easily find what they are looking for.

7. Keep your entries consistent
We all go through periods where we might post six times in a day but then go six weeks without a peep. If you know your schedule is going to get crazy next week, use your coffee breaks this week to write some short but sweet blog entries you can schedule to post next week when you are too busy to do it.

8. Have a backup list of blog topics
When you come up with those blog ideas you don’t have time for, just write down the potential title and maybe jot down a couple of points and save it for one of those days when you have writer’s block and can’t think of a single thing to say.

10. Add a favicon
Many RSS readers use the favicon when they are displaying posts from your blog, so why not add a favicon to help your blog stand out more to readers when they go to their RSS reader.

11. Add Sociable
Make it easy for people to share your content with other social networks by adding the Sociable plugin by Joost De Valk.

12. Do some spell checking on older posts
Use ieSpell in Internet Explorer or even the Google toolbar built-in spell checker and do some quick spell checks on your older entries, especially the more popular ones.

13. Set up a blog-centric Twitter feed
More and more people are using Twitter as their first choice for getting industry news. So once you have set up a new Twitter account for your blog, go to TwitterFeed and set it up to begin automatically posting everytime you have a new blog post.

14. Don’t require registration to post comments
A few years ago, blog spam made this option popular, but with a good blog spam tool and comment moderation, there should be no reason why you should be requiring people to register first.

15. Comment on the blogs you read
Take a minute to comment on a great blog post you have just finished reading. It doesn’t have to be anything totally deep, even just a “Thanks for the article, I never thought of marketing ___ from this perspective before, it is definitely giving me ideas!” Chances are good that not only will the blog author visit your site, but other readers who have read the blog entry after you will see your blog and click through to your site.

16. Comment on your own blog
Interacting with commenters can go a long way to increasing the number of comments each entry gets, as well as providing a useful “forum” to engage and interact with your readers, all on your own site!

17. Make it even easier to comment on your own blog
Absolute Comments adds a reply link next to the usual “Edit, Delete, Unapprove/Approve, Spam” options when viewing comments in admin… when you click reply, a text box will pop up to enter your reply comment.

18. Highlight your own comments
Matt Cutt’s has made a post on how to do this, which is now on my to-do list.

19. Recognize your top commenters
There are plenty of plugins that do this.

20. Show off the recent comments made
You can show snippets from the most recent comments made on your blog. And as a bonus, depending on what comments are made, it will highlight older blog entries that might be long gone from the front page of your blog or recent posts list.

21. Add your blog to your email signature
Add a blog and a short tag line to intrigue people to visit.

22. Create or update your about you page
Have you recently received any awards, guest blogged on a high profile site, spoke at a conference or quoted in a major newspaper? Your profile pages should include relevant information such as your bio, but also things like your username (preferably with profile links) to thinks like social media sites you belong to.

23.Create a contact us page
Don’t put your straight email address on your website. Use a contact form instead so you don’t need to worry about the spam. There is a great contact us plugin that includes spam protection so you shouldn’t have to deal with contact form spam.

24. RSS Feeds
Make sure your RSS feed button is placed prominently. If your RSS button is hidden away or not noticeable, you just might find that people won’t bother to subscribe rather than hunting around for it.

25. Offer full RSS feeds over snippets
Many bloggers want visitors “on the site” rather than just in the RSS reader, but it is better to get them reading, enjoying and anticipating a full blog entry in their reader than it is to just give them a snippet they might only click through on 5% of the time.

26. Start tagging
Make a point of tagging a few of your older blog entries a day, and before you know it, you will have a great tag representation of your posts for others to use.

27. Recommend related blog entries
You just wrote a fantastic blog entry that has been Stumbled and Dugg… but do you make it easy for those new-found fans to write other articles you have written on the same topic? If you install a recommended entries / related posts plugin, it will automatically pull several related blog entries to recommend to your readers at the end.

28. Highlight your most popular posts
What are your most popular posts of all time, either by page views or comment count? Add a list of popular posts to your sidebar.

29. Recommend other blogs
Add them to your blogroll so readers can see what else you read. Not only are you sending traffic and links to blogs you admire, but you just might see some of those bloggers reciprocate and recommend your blog back to their own readers.

30. Get your own domain
Still lingering on yourname.wordpress.com or yourname.blogspot.com? Even if the yourname.com isn’t available, in the longrun it is still best to have your blog on your domain. So spend your coffee break looking up domain nams for your own yourname.com.

31. Don’t get too widget happy
Don’t sit down one day and add twenty new things to your sidebar. Start with two or three, then slowly ramp them up. This way you can identify any load issues, and you won’t be stuck figuring which of the twenty you just added is causing problems.

32. Check for blog spam
Never got around to getting your Akismet API key? Do it now. Sure, if your blog is new, maybe you have been fortunate enough to only get a handful of spam comments and/or trackbacks on your blog, just enough that you can easily handle it in simple comment moderation. But trust me, there will be a tipping point when the slow trickle will become a flood.

33. Check for signs of hacking
Similar to checking for spam, this involves doing a site:yoursite.com search in google, and appending one of the usual suspects of blog spam keywords (ie. “site:yoursite.com viagra” would be the search term).

34. Check those title tags
Wordpress has this nasty habit of putting the title of your blog first before the title of the blog entry. Just install the SEO Title Tag plugin.

35. Make sure you have good permalinks
Are your blog URLs something along the lines of http://www.yourfabulousblog.com/p?=89 Not very descriptive nor search-engine friendly. Make sure you are using permalinks that include information from the blog title such as http://www.yourfabulousblog.com/how-to-optimize-your-blog.

36. Make your post slugs more manageable
This is one thing I consistently forget to do, and I know I’m not the only one! When publishing a new blog entry, your post slug (the permalink URL title that is usually the same as all the words in your blog entry title) should not be thirty words long, as some blog entry titles wind up being on occassion!

37. Write killer article titles
A blog entry with a great title is also much more likely to go viral because a lot of people that submit things to Digg, Sphinn etc just can’t be bothered to rewrite the title - nor would you really want them to. So a great title is crucial.

38. Have you optimized your images?
Sure, people either love love love the traffic they get from Google image search, or they despise it because they end up with image leechers. You can do this manually as you upload each photo, depending on your version of Wordpress, or you can use a plugin like SEO Friendly Images which does it for you automatically.

39. Add a technorati widget
Make it easy for people to favorite you on Technorati. First, you need to sign up and claim your blog, if you haven’t already. Then add a button like this:
Add to Technorati Favorites
(That is to this blog, if you’d like to favorite it!)

40. And add some other easy RSS subscribe buttons too
Add links to things like Bloglines and Google Reader so your readers can subscribe to them easily. You can add them individually, use one of the wordpress plugins or use something like FeedButton which makes a rollover like this:

41. Fix for RSS scrapers
Don’t you just love it when you post a new blog post and then see it syndicated immediately on other websites? If you are code-savvy, you can edit the RSS yourself or you can use the RSS Footer plugin. Bonus tip: It works for ads too, your RSS ads will be displayed wherever your blog entries are scraped.

42. Make sure you are pinging Google
Are you pinging the Google blog server? The Google blog search updates incredibly fast - as in within minutes of pinging, you will see your blog entry in the blog search results, and it isn’t much later than most blog entries end up in the regular Google search too. Learn more about pinging Google here. Or you can submit your feed to Google here for a one-shot ping.

46. Label ads as ads
People hate being tricked, and this can impact whether people want to follow you or not. So if you accept advertising, label it as Sponsors or Advertisers.

47. Avoid going into advertising overload
You can make far more with one or two well-placed ads than you can with 10 different ads plastered all over your blog.

48. Use nofollow on links if needed
Essentially, if you are selling links or you are linking to a site that you cannot vouch for its authority or trustworthiness, you should pop a nofollow on the link to stay in Google’s good books (if Google search traffic is important to you, that is).

49. Link to other bloggers as you’d like to be linked
When you link to other’s blog entries, link to them as you would like them to theoretically link to you. You hate it when people refer to your blog but don’t include a link… or include an unlinked URL.

50. Subscribe to competitor’s RSS feeds
You can get great ideas by seeing what your competitors are talking about and linking to, and you can use it to bounce off of for your own blog entries.

51. Link to your competitor’s blogs
News flash… many of those subscribers might also subscribe to you too, it isn’t a case where readers have to pick one over the other. And chances are pretty good that other blogger isn’t viewing you as “competition” but rather a cool new look into the same market area.

52. Check on old links
You should definitely do a link health check on your blog on a regular basis. Visit your outbounds, check to see if you should nofollow anyone (especially for those blog entries you might have done before nofollow even existed) and just do an overall look at all your links to ensure they are all helping and not hurting you!

53. Robots.txt for duplicate content
Sometimes how the date archives are done on blogs you can end up with duplicate content because blog posts might be indexed under their own pages, their category pages and then a couple of date pages as well. Create a robots.txt to prevent Google from indexing the unneeded date pages.

54. Set up a Google Webmaster Central account
Sign up here and then verify your site. This will give you information on your site such as any 404 pages Googlebot has found, the number of subscribers (using Google Reader or iReader), top search queries and top clicked queries.

55. Keep your blog updated with the latest version
It is important to ensure you keep your Wordpress, MovableType or whatever blog platform you use updated with the latest version. Yes, it can be a pain, but it is even a bigger pain to clean up a blog that has been exploited in some way.

56. Backing up your blog
And while we talk about updating your blog, it is also important to backup your blog files and your database on a regular basis, so if disaster strikes you won’t discover you have lost all your template files and two years worth of blog post.

Developing PPC Ad Copy That Converts

All too often there are posts talking about increasing quality score by doing this or that to your pay per click ad copy. But, what about actually getting sales from your ad copy? Shimon Sandler has a fantastic post about doing just that through a "Unique Selling Proposition" and its ability to dramatically increase conversions.

The USP concept offers consumers something desirable & different than the competition. The challenge is getting your USP stated in so few characters. You’re limited to 95 characters on Google.

There are 3 general principles behind a USP - Unique, Selling, and Proposition.

A classic example of a USP message is the M&M’s slogan: “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand” [56 characters].

He goes into much more depth covering each section. Its a great read and very refreshing from the normal 'ad copy' posts.

Powerful Page Title Tags For Effective SEO

There are many things to consider when beginning the SEO strategy for your website and each page within it. Aside from in-depth keyword research, the title you decide to assign to each page is arguably the most important thing to consider. Andy MacDonald, CEO of Swift Media UK provides a wonderful guest post at SEOptimize and provides a number of tips to follow:

There are several considerations when coming up with your page titles. Here are some of the key factors to consider:

  • Unless you’re Microsoft, don’t use your company name in the page title. A better choice is to use a descriptive keyword or phrase that tells users exactly what’s on the page. This helps ensure that your search engine rankings are accurate
  • Try to keep page titles to less than 50 characters, including spaces. Some search engines will index only up to 50 characters; others might index as many as 150. However, maintaining shorter page titles forces you to be precise in the titles that you choose and ensures that your page title will never be cut off in the search results.
  • Don’t repeat keywords in your title tags. Repetition can occasionally come across as spam and is known as when a crawler is examining your site, so avoid repeating keywords in your title if possible, and never duplicate words just to gain a crawler’s attention. It could well get your site excluded from search engine listings.
  • Consider adding special characters at the beginning and end of your title to improve noticeability. Parentheses (()), arrows (<<>>), asterisks (****), and special symbols like ££££ can help draw a user’s attention to your page title. These special characters and symbols don’t usually add to or distract from your SEO efforts, but they do serve to call attention to your site title.
  • Include a call to action in your title. There’s an adage that goes something like, “You’ll never sell a thing if you don’t ask for the sale.” That’s one thing that doesn’t change with the Web. Even on the Internet, if you want your users to do something you have to ask them to.

Top 8 DoFollow Link Finder Tools

To follow up on my last post regarding the possible spam implications of building links through blog commenting I thought I might share a few resources for actually finding 'do-follow' blogs to aid in your link building efforts. Please note, I am not encouraging you to SPAM! Rather, comment only at blogs are relevant and in which you can add something useful the conversation.

So, on with the tips!
Feel free to link back to the article or share at will if you find something useful:)

Building Links Through Do-Follow Blogs - Spam?

I was reading through one of my favorite blogs, Search Engine Journal, and stumbled upon an excellent article regarding the use of blog commentes for link building and the on-going argument of whether or not it is 'considered' spamming.

The author Ann Smarty raises an important question! “If I build links via blog commenting - do I look like a spammer?

To see how comment spam can be identified algorithmically, let’s try analyzing Spam Karma reports (it was only fooled once or twice with my own blog). The plugin uses combination of the following ‘red flags’:

  1. It looks at the period of time the comment was posted after the page loaded;
  2. It analyzes if the comment contains an URL(s) in content;
  3. (If there is an URL in content) it compares non-URL comment length and the length of the URL itself;
  4. It looks if the URLs are linked or not;
  5. It filters some ’spammy’ IPs;
  6. It looks how old the post is and how long ago the latest comment there appeared;
  7. It tracks if the poster’s browser looks natural (e.g. if it supports JavaScript);

A search engine can do pretty much the same plus it might be looking into:

  • comment relevancy;
  • overall comment content length;
  • similar/same comments around several blogs;
  • your linked comments acquisition rate (e.g. 100 per day might look unnatural);
  • some blacklist words like "porn" both in the author link and the
    comment body.
So if you avoid those flags and comment at relevant (established) blogs (that both follow and nofollow) you are both adding value to the discussion and doing some natural link building (btw, if you have a similar to the blogger’s post article, deep-link your author link).

This is certainly a hot topic! Feel free to leave your thoughts or suggestions in the comments below..

PPC: Bid on Your Brand Name

This is an ongoing argument in the industry and even in the agency I work for. My take on the subject? If you're spending money on pay per click marketing, you must buy your brand name! Ignore those who say otherwise.

Make damned sure you're bidding on the name, mispellings, and the like.

Even if you rank #1 for your own name. Do it anyway.

Here's why:

  1. It's cheap. PPC engines' quality scoring algorithms mean you're likely to get the best deal on your own company and product names. That translates to lower bids.
  2. It's insurance. If you slip from the organic rankings for a day or two, your paid ranking will maintain your presence.
  3. Chances are, someone else has your name, too. You're probably not the only 'Acme Co.' on earth.
  4. If you don't bid, competitors will. In the United States it's perfectly legal to bid on competitor product and company names. It happens all the time. You can easily outbid them, though, thanks quality scoring (see #1)
  5. Did I mention it's cheap?

Why Bother You Ask?

How much money do you invest in trademarking your name, incorporating your business, etc.? Buying your own brand name on Google Adwords, Yahoo! and Live is a tiny expense by comparison. Why not do it?

I have run pay per click accounts for numerous clients (who shall remain nameless) who tried to persuade us to stop bidding on their brand name in their pay per click campaign. Despite efforts to dissuade them they did it anyway, claiming they'd get the same results from their organic rankings. Within a week their lead count fell by 40%. Turned out other, unrelated companies had the same name as them, and they weren't #1 in the organic rankings for their own name.

You don't have to believe me, though. Read what George Michie said on the RKG blog.

FAQs on Adwords Quality Score

The AdWords quality score is an ongoing mystery to both inexperienced advertisers as well as pay per click 'experts'. As with most things Google, it is shrowded in mystery - although more and more of the 100's of factors are being brought to the forefront. Regardless, there is a need for what IS known to be documented in one place for all to access. Behold the FAQs on Google Adwords Quality Score!

Luckily for us, Jeremy Mayes over at PPC Discussions has put together a very comprehensive list of questions. All of his answers are backed up with personal experience and/or references straight from the horse's mouth - ie. Google.

Here is a quick run-down of the questions covered. It is a great read!

Question 1 - How can I improve my quality score?
*answers are applicable to search network quality scores

Question 2 - How many quality scores are there?

Question 3 - Will changing to a different keyword match type, for example from broad match to exact match, give me a better quality score?

Question 4 - I have been told (and read lots of places) that when I first start a new AdWords campaign I should bid really high so my ad is higher on the page. That will give me a higher click through rate and that means I will have a better quality score. Is that good advice?

Question 5 - Having Flash on your landing page is bad for your quality score right?

Question 6 - I get a lot of clicks from the Google Search Network. Does that help improve my quality score?

Question 7 - Does using dynamic keyword insertion help my quality score?

Question 8 - Does turning off the content network help improve my quality score? My CTR is always a lot lower on the content network so I assume turning it off will help my quality score improve.

Question 9 - How can I find out what my quality score is?

Question 10 - I am the only person bidding on a certain keyword but my minimum bid is higher than I think it should be. If I'm the only one bidding how come my minimum bid isn't $0.01? My quality score is "OK".

Question 11 - I just a made a lot of changes to my AdWords campaigns and to my landing pages to try and improve my quality score. How soon should I expect to see quality score changes in my account?

Question 12 - I just added a bunch of new keywords to my account and almost 1/2 of them received a poor quality score and minimum bid of $5.00 right away before I ever received a single impression. How the hell can Google say I have a poor quality score before my ad even gets a chance to run?

Question 13 - It seems like no matter what I do or try my quality score is always poor. Are there certain types of sites that just don't work well with AdWords?
Question 14 - Is there a site or something I can sign up to find out in advance about quality score updates before they happen?

This FAQ will be updated from time to time so be sure to bookmark. If you have any questions related to the AdWords quality score feel free to contact me or leave your question in the comments.

48 Questions to Qualify Potential Search Marketing Vendors

Ok, so some of you may be saying...don't you offer these services? Why would you want to tell people how to 'screen' you? Well, the answer is two-fold. In the best interests of my potential clients, they should know what and who they are hiring. The more informed they are the easier my job becomes and more time is spent on achieving results rather than explaining 'who I am'.

Secondly, if I know what is going to be asked I can have a great response ready, and more importantly, I can be prepared to explain the answer in layman's terms (ie. easily understandable).

So, onto the questionnaire for initial screenings:

Dear [Prospective SEM Vendor],
Thank you for entering into a dialog with us as we vet potential SEM vendors for [Name of Company]. In order to keep the process as streamlined as possible, please take a few minutes to respond to this questionnaire. Our goal is to not waste your time.

The answers can be as detailed or short as you deem appropriate. We look forward to the process of getting to know your company better. We're happy to read articles on-topic originating from your agency, if you provide the URL in any question's answer. Thank you in advance for your efforts.

Pay Per Click
1. Is anyone in your firm AdWords Qualified or a Yahoo Ambassador?
2. Does your agency have a designated Google or Yahoo rep?
3. What is your agency's revenue model for PPC: percentage of spend, percentage of revenue, monthly fee, hybrid?
4. Do you have a monthly PPC minimum spend or fee?
5. What method does your firm use to manage PPC: by hand, by automation (what tool), hybrid?
6. Do you use our credit card, your agency's or another method? How will you invoice us?
7. What reports do you typically send clients and at what interval?
8. What PPC channels are you experienced with (Google, MSN, Yahoo, Facebook, etc...)?
9. How does your agency measure PPC conversion and ROI?
10. Is it in your vocabulary to do multivariate landing page/ad message testing?
11. How much PPC spend-cash do you handle annually?
12. Please submit 2 short PPC case studies highlighting success.
13. Please submit 1 short PPC case study highlighting failure.
14. Please submit 2 PPC client-references.

Organic Optimization
1. What link-building tactics and methods will be employed?
2. Does your agency have a content creation practice, or will you guide us in building out our content?
3. How do you measure organic prominence in light of Personalized Search?
4. What keyword research tools are used?
5. How does your agency measure organic conversion and ROI?
6. What methods are used to mine competitive intelligence about our competitors?
7. What is the billing model for organic-related services? (retainer, hourly, flat monthly fee, etc...)
8. Do you test organic landing page performance with PPC?
9. What steps do you take to insulate clients from becoming too dependent on Google?
10. Please submit 2 short organic case studies highlighting success.
11. Please submit 1 short organic optimization case study highlighting failure.
12. Please submit 2 organic optimization client-references.

Social Media
1. What channels are you currently active in for clients? (StumbleUpon, Digg, Facebook, etc...)
2. Give examples of how channels might be used to bolster the overall SEM effort?
3. What reputation monitoring tools will be used?
4. What is the frequency and substance of your reputation reporting?
5. What is your experience with open source blogging software like WordPress?
6. What are your typical non-blogging uses of blog-style software?
7. Please submit 2 short social media case studies highlighting success.
8. Please submit 1 short social media case study highlighting failure.

General Vendor Qualifications:
1. How many full-time employees in the agency? What are their roles?
2. What SEM conferences did you attend in the past year, and which do you plan to attend this year? (SES, PubCon, SMX, etc.)
3. What SEM conferences will your staff speak at this year?
4. What trade publications, online or paper, do you write for and on what topics?
5. Please submit 3 links to articles you or your employees have written.
6. What forums is your agency "known" in? (SEW, Sphinn, Cre8asite, etc.)
7. Links to your profile pages please
8. Traditional affiliations (BBB, Chambers of Commerce, etc...)
9. SEMPO member?
10. Does your agency have in-house programmers and designers or do you outsource?
11. If outsourcing, what are your partner-vendors' URLs?
12. What analytics other than Google Analytics are used?
13. Is there an in-house method to measure offline conversions (phone, etc.)
14. What experience does your agency have in local/mobile?

You might eliminate questions that don't apply to your company's specific marketing application or outside of your comfort zone. Any agency that's worth its salt will welcome the opportunity to participate in a focused vetting process.

Giving credit where credit is due...content derived from Marty Weintraub.

Google Confirms Page Load Time Affects Quality Score

Google finally confirms that page load time affects your PPC Quality Score. You can follow more of the conversation in both WebmasterWorld and Search Engine Watch Forums. It will be interesting to see if Yahoo's Quality Score calculation follows!

Here are the details:

  • This factor is not yet live yet.
  • There is no official date as to when it will go live.
  • Google thought they would launch it, so they put it in the FAQs but did pulled back and forgot to remove it from the full dump FAQs.
  • Google planned an Inside AdWords blog post to announce this in advance.
  • We will probably see a blog post on this within a week at Google's blog.
  • Google confirmed the page load time grade will be displayed on the Keyword Analysis Page.
  • "Several weeks" after you see your page load time grade, the page load time metric will be used in the overall AdWords quality score.

Some important questions remain, however. What happens if a site is having temporary server issues, does that advertiser have to suffer for a whole month until Google checks the page load time again? How many seconds is considered a bad page load time? And so on... I assume these questions will be addressed in the AdWords blog post that is likely coming within a week.

Who Is Influenced by Sponsored Links & Why?

As a Search Marketer the ultimate goal is finding 'that' keyword combined with 'that' ad copy, combined with 'that' landing page that will achieve the desired result.

As the market evolves, click costs continue to increase and our target markets get smarter and 'hip' to sponsored listings on the web it is becoming more and more imperative that testing and research be undertaken to dig into not only what works but WHO makes it work. In other words, what are the demographics of the folks clicking through a search ad and achieving the desired result?

A new analysis of BIGresearch's (http://www.bigresearch.com) Simultaneous Media Survey (SIMM 11) provides clarity on who uses sponsored links and their influence to purchase. 15,727 respondents participated in the latest SIMM survey and 1 in 10 (9%) said they are influenced or greatly influenced by sponsored links when searching for products/services on the Internet. Some of this data would argue that the integration of off-line and online mediums are becoming more and more imperative!

Here is a quick overview of the most significant findings: when compared to all adults 18+, those who are influenced by sponsored links tend to be younger, with an average age of 40.7 (vs. 44.8) with slightly lower incomes ($53,901 vs. $56,811) and 7.7% are students (vs. 6.1%). Those who are influenced also tend to be White/Caucasian (62.6%), while 22.1% are Hispanic, 19.5% are African American/Black and 3.8% are Asian.

Additionally, in the next six months, more adults influenced are anticipating life events and planning more major purchases than all adults.

Life Events within Next 6 Months

Consumers Influenced All
by Sponsored Links Adults 18+
-------------------- ----------
Yourself / your child starting college 12.3% 6.1%
Getting married 7.0% 3.5%
Expecting a baby 5.3% 3.0%
Retiring 3.9% 2.1%
Getting separated/divorced 3.7% 1.9%
Source: BIGresearch, SIMM 11

Planning Major Purchases within Next 6 Months

Consumers Influenced All
by Sponsored Links Adults 18+
-------------------- ----------
Computer 27.3% 16.7%
TV 25.7% 17.8%
Furniture 23.5% 15.8%
Vacation Travel 23.4% 21.4%
Car/Truck 23.1% 13.1%
Home Appliances 19.3% 11.7%
Digital Camera 17.6% 11.3%
Major Home Improvement or Repair 14.8% 11.8%
Jewelry/Watch 14.6% 7.5%
DVD/VCR 12.8% 7.9%
Stereo Equipment 11.3% 5.8%
House 10.8% 5.7%
RV/Boat 4.7% 1.7%
Source: BIGresearch, SIMM 11

"Consumers who are influenced by sponsored links appear to be on a mission due to some event in their lives. As a result, they are self-directed when using media, which is why they prefer digital media options that allow them to get the information they want when they want it," said Gary Drenik, President of BIGresearch. "Advertisers looking to reach people in the market to buy should look at this consumer segment as an important part of their ad mix."

Top 5 Areas for Online Searches (Regularly/Occasionally)

Consumers Influenced All
by Sponsored Links Adults 18+
-------------------- ----------
Maps/Directions 91.9% 91.2%
Clothing/Shoes 85.6% 71.2%
Product Information/ 85.5% 75.0%
Comparative Shopping (Non-Auto)
Travel 84.4% 77.2%
Movies 84.2% 71.0%
Source: BIGresearch, SIMM 11

Those influenced by sponsored links are most likely to be triggered by Magazines to start an online search (52.7%). Coupons (50.8%) and TV Broadcasts (47.5%) round out the top three.

Further analysis is available by clicking: http://info.bigresearch.com/.

Google to Give Homeless Voicemail?

In one hell-of-a PR move, Google has vowed to give every single homeless person in San Francisco a lifelong phone number and voicemail, should they accept it, according to KNTV-TV.

The announcement was made at a Project Homeless Connect Event. Google will partner with the city to distribute the numbers.

The move could enable the homeless to fill out job applications, which require callback numbers, and enable clinics to call them for test results, among other things.

So, what else is Google doing with phone technology? If you are sick of paying fees for 411 calls from your home or cell phone, check out Google's automated 411 service: 1-800-GOOG-411. I use it on a weekly basis! For FREE!!! You can view the video demo below:

Anyone have an idea of when Google will finally be launching their own cell phone network?:)

Inside AdSense: Beyond ad performance optimization

Inside AdSense: Beyond ad performance optimization

When we talk about optimization in AdSense, we usually focus on testing different formats, colors, and locations for your ad units. But it's just as important, if not more so, to optimize your site's content to be make it as user-friendly as possible. Which homepage design do your users respond most to? Which headline or graphic will entice your users to spend more time reading your articles? Knowing the answers can help you implement the most user-friendly elements, increasing user loyalty and engagement. And as we've noted, more engaged, more frequent users means more eyes on your AdSense ads.

You can determine the answers to the questions above (and more) by using Google Website Optimizer, a free tool available through Google AdWords. It lets you try out different layouts and content for your site and conduct either an A/B test or a multivariate test to track how different content affects your users. To learn more about Website Optimizer, just visit their informational site to find out everything you need to know before getting started. If you don't yet have an AdWords account, sign up here to access Website Optimizer.

Finally, we encourage you to attend a free online seminar about Website Optimizer. Your host will be Tom Leung, Product Manager for Website Optimizer, and the guest presenter will be Bryan Eisenberg from FutureNow, Inc. Tom and Bryan will introduce Website Optimizer, share best practices for testing, and discuss some of the top elements to test on any webpage. Here are all the details:

What: Website Optimizer: What Should I Test?
When: Tuesday, March 11th, 2008
Time: 9:00 - 10:00 am PST
Register to attend.

Best of luck with optimizing your site, your ad units, and beyond.

8 Ways to Track Phone Orders from PPC & Search

My new favorite blogger, Shimon Sandler has posted 8 methods you can use for tracking phone orders that were initiated by Search. This is a problem that plagues EVERY company involved in search. How do we get a true sense of the return on ad spend when phone orders or phone leads are not being taken into account? These 8 tips will make the tracking process MUCH, MUCH easier!

1) Create a unique landing page with a unique 800# for Google, Yahoo, MSN respectively.

2) Generate a unique “promo code” by placing all your keywords in a database and assign them an individual ID. Then when the user clicks on the Google url, it will attach a string to the URL like: keyword=12345. The unique ID can be the promo code that appears on the webpage.

3) By adding a unique customer reference code (promo code) on the page, and the reps on the phone can ask for that number. Train the sales reps to record and report the “lead source”.

4) The Landing page can encourage visitors to print a discount coupon, which can be redeemed at local stores. The Landing page could encourage prospects to find their local store and redeem their discount coupon.

5) Possibly utilize an 800# with an IVR phone system for tracking. Great Expectations, Inc. used an IVR system to track phone calls. The cost of their IVR was $.35 per minute. 3% of all their leads came from the IVR system.

6) Integrating your frontend/backend with your Conversion & Tracking software, and enabling an API to track the sales amount generated per keyword & the spend on that keyword.

7) Use Pay-Per-Call.

8) Use tracking software from a company that specializes in tracking conversions from phone calls.

SEO Link Building Training Programs

I wanted to follow up my top list of search marketing associations post with some additional training associations that will surely help your Internet marketing knowledge base. Our friends at Link Building Best Practices has put together a comprehensive list of link building training programs.

The debate surrounding what links are best and the placement of those links will no doubt continue, BUT one thing we all know that link building is one of the keys to the success of websites on the Internet.

That being said,there is always more to learn about link building and you can’t learn it all from “experience.” In fact, trial and error could be the death of your business – too many mistakes while trying to develop link building strategies could tank your website and search engine rankings. Sure, you could tell yourself that you’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way, but that’s not going to take the sting out of a failed business venture.

There are a variety of link building programs available tailored to the needs of corporations, copywriters, advertising and SEO specialists that can provide you with the skills you need to build links that will work.

We Build Pages offers one or two day programs to give companies solid overviews of the link building process, SEO, competition strategies and search ranking factors. This is ideal for companies who want to begin “in house” programs.

Eric Ward offers personal evaluation of your company’s website and, in the two hour session, a link development strategy session, including evaluation of competitor’s sites and full reports. This is individual instruction by phone unless you opt for the six hour on-site training session, which includes six months of IM access for follow-ups.

Justilien Gaspard focuses heavily on link building and offers one-on-one training that features lots of in-depth discussion specific to your own business and site. Link bait and email campaigns are among the topics.

Search Engine College is less personalized and less expensive. This is a “nuts and bolts” of SEO and SEM with a wide range of courses you can take online that are self-paced and self-directed. There are also lots of valuable resources in PDF form that you can download. Covers more than just link building.

Sempo Institute is geared toward those who are looking at starting a career in SEO or SEM more than business owners who want to tweak their own websites. You can learn a lot here, but it will be of a general nature rather than specific to your company or industry. They also offer corporate training options for corporations who feel that their in-house marketing teams need refresher or advanced courses.