Online Marketing – The Whole Enchilada

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Undertstanding Online Marketing

Online Marketing Basics

Here at Success U we talk incessantly about the importance of online marketing. As experts who have been involved with Online Marketing for the last 15 years, we have an almost intuitive understanding of the industry. This knowledge feels natural, like everyone should have it, and that is the danger we face. Familiarity breeds complacency. Staying on top of the ever changing and constantly evolving industry can be a challenge. The opposite is also true; we had the advantage of adapting as the industry grew up. We were able to adapt.

I see the online marketing wars as similar to an arms race. If you are early to the battle and have a stone hammer you can control your competition as long as they are unarmed. However when they show up with a flint tipped spear you are now at a serious disadvantage. As long as you keep up with the little adaptations you can absorb the technological shifts as they occur. We often find that our clients were involved in online marketing in its infancy and are armed with just a rock and now the industry is using muskets. Or worse they are only getting started today and are completely unarmed. This concept really hit home with me over the weekend.

I was sitting in a consultation meeting with a brand new client. They have been using online marketing since 1999, and thus they saw the industry in the stone age. Innovocus has been hired to fix a disturbing trend they have been dealing with for the last five years. Our client has had their online sales erode consistently over time. They are noticeably frustrated by this trend; after all they are doing exactly what they have always done.

Warning bells should be wringing. Online Marketing changes so rapidly, that what made an effective campaign 6 months ago, might not work today. Expecting 10 year old techniques to succeed is akin to fighting the British empire of the 1700’s with rocks and sticks. You can win, but the cost will be enormous. The battle field and the weapons are more complex now, and you need use different tactics than you once did.

Online Marketing History

Fifteen years ago, to be successful online, your really only needed to build a good website. There was very little or no competition in most markets. If you took the time to build a good site, customers would magically find you. It was easy, you were the only one offering a product or service online. No competition. If people wanted your product or service, you were successful.
This was only true for a few years. Starting roughly ten years ago the concept of Search Engine Optimization began to take center stage. This was a major new weapon in the growing online market. Every day there was a new competitor and hundreds of new websites. The internet was beginning to become too complex for any person to know all the important websites. Search engines such as Google allowed a user to find what they wanted. It became paramount that these search engines knew about your website. So the industry as a whole began to focus on SEO.

Over the years a wide array of new technologies and trends emerged. Most have become important tools in the development of a successful online marketing campaign. Our toolbox has grown substantially.

When you are only absorbing little bits of new information it is easy enough. However when you have to try and master a wide range of foreign concepts, ideas and tools it can be quite daunting. Imagine you are an amazon tribesman who stumbles across a modern laptop computer. Could you even understand what this new device does? How would you learn to use it? For those of us that have the benefit of growing up in a modern society we can at least recognize the laptop for what it is. For us we only have to learn the particular OS or some of the software. It is simple because we only have a small amount of new information to add to the our memory banks.

So there I was, talking with our new clients and listening to their current online marketing efforts, when it struck me. They did not even know the basics of online marketing. The next three hours were a marathon question and answer session. I would give them a tool or technique and then they asked for a complete description of why and how. For them it was a tremendous amount of information to absorb. For me it was an eye opening experience. As a consequence of this meeting I have decided to write this comprehensive guide to online marketing in a series of posts here at Success U.

Online Marketing Definitions

Before getting into the details it is important that we are all speaking the same language. If we see words as meaning different things then we will never come to the same understanding, as such here is our definition of the most important terms in online marketing:

SEOSearch Engine Optimization. This term is often misused and is almost universally misunderstood. Simply put SEO is getting the search engines such as Google to rank you site highly. There are many “Black Hat” methods. However as Google has become more advanced most of these “black hat” methods have been rendered obsolete and can actually get your site de-listed from Google.

What is “Black Hat” SEO? Any technique that tries to trick the search engines into ranking your website higher than it should for a particular keyword. Google’s goal is to give the user a list of websites that offer valuable content related to the keywords they are searching. As such they spend a considerable amount of time trying to find ways to return pages that have great content. Their “Algorithm” is constantly evolving, making most black hat methods short lived and rarely worth the effort.

In a future article of this series I will go into great detail over the “do’s and don’ts” regarding SEO. For now it is important to understand that your goal is to create great content that is valuable to the end consumer.

Article Automation – This is a service that takes your content and distributes it to a wide range of other websites. You write an article, submit it, and other websites, potentially thousands of them, post it to their site.

RSS and Feeds – Really Simple Syndication is a method for distributing the content of a blog, podcast or website that allows other websites and online services to share the content. There are many ways an RSS feed can be consumed. It is a way to syndicate your content to other websites and interested consumers via subscription. A great example is our Online Marketing RSS Feed. The difference between RSS and Article automation is that an RSS feed gives an excerpt that points back to your website where as in article automation the full content is displayed on outside websites.

Press Release – Closely related to Article Automation, when it comes to online press releases you are usually writing a brief description of why a news service or blog would care to write about you, your website, service or product. It is a teaser article meant to grab their attention. Most major news agencies accept Press Releases and there are many online services to distribute them widely.

Blog – Any website with regular updates in the form of a post that is centered on a topic. With a business based website these posts can be product release announcements, interesting facts and frequently asked questions. Most Blogs are little more than daily updates into some persons life, unless the person is famous or leads an otherwise interesting life, they have very few readers. Success U is a Blog, we choose to focus on helping our readers learn to be successful online.

Social Media – There are so many Social Media outlets it is hard to grasp the full width of this industry. The most important two are Twitter and Facebook. Social Media is any site or service that encourages interaction between all users. Most have the concept of a “friends” or “followers”. The idea behind social media is to use people as the ultimate filter for the value of content. If a friend recommends a particular website, then it might be interesting, if all my friends recommend it, then I know it is interesting.

CPC - Cost per Click. Google Adsense is probably the most widely known CPC system. You bid on a particular keyword where your advertisement will appear. You pay only when a user clicks on your ad.

CPA - Cost Per Action. This is an online marketing, pay per performance type of advertising system where you only pay when a certain action occurs. CPC is one type of CPA. Other types of actions include user registration, product purchase or a download.

CPM – Cost Per M or cost per thousand viewers. Rather than paying every time a person does a particular action you are paying for a certain number of viewers to see your advertisement. Banner Advertisements are often done on a CPM basis.

Banner Ad – There are in fact a wide variety of banner Ad formats. Typically it is meant to reference an advertisement that is placed in the “header’ or top of a website.

Landing Page – This is the specific page you have your online marketing efforts link to. Whether it is from a banner ad or a CPC campaign this is the URL your potential customer will first see when they come to your site. Ideally it is optimized to convert them into a customer and is directly relevant to the ad that drew them in. it is also wise to develop individual landing pages for your keywords.

Conversion Rate – Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who visit your site that complete the desired action. If you are trying to sell a product on a page, it is the percentage of people that go to the page and actually buy the product.

Keywords – The specific words or phrases that a person would type into a search engine and would find your website relevant. There are really two types of keywords, Fat Belly and Long Tail.

Search Volume – The number of times in a given month that a particular word or phrase is used in one of the major search engines.

Fat Belly – These are keywords that have a high search volume. They are often very short, one or two words, and highly competitive.

Long Tail – More often than not Long Tail keywords are longer phrases. They have a very small search volume and rarely have much competition.

Viral Marketing – An Online Marketing technique where you try to get your customers to spread the word. The most successful viral marketing campaigns encourage and help people share it with their friends. It can be as simple as a funny video. Social Media is often an integral component to viral marketing.

Vlog – A video blog. These are still pretty rare but are gaining in popularity. Rather than writing a post the Vlogger creates a video about their topic on regularly scheduled intervals.

Podcast – There are two types of podcasts, video and audio. A Vlog is actually just a video podcast. An audio podcast is a regularly scheduled audio show distributed via a blog or other online service such as iTunes. You should already know of our Online Marketing Podcast.

Affiliate Marketing – This type of online marketing uses affiliates to promote your site or product. These affiliates are paid only on commission, so you only pay them when a sale occurs. There are many affiliate marketing programs out there with Commission Junction being the most well known. Affiliate Marketing is often referred to as “Revenue Sharing”.

Mobile Marketing – Online marketing that is focused on cell phone and “smart phone” users. A Smart phone is any cell phone with web access, the most popular being the iPhone. Mobile marketing has many components and can be most simply thought of as simplified online marketing. The simplification is due to the limited bandwidth of the network and the size of the display.

Help Me Help You!

I am breaking this topic into digestible chunks for those of you who are just getting into online marketing. For those of you with some experience, did I miss anything? As part of Success U, I hope you will help me help you. For some of you this post is very remedial and for others it might be a lot of information to absorb. Either way if you have read this far, let me know what you think.
In the next article I will talk in great detail about SEO, what you should and should not do. Hopefully by the end of this series you will be an expert in all aspects of online marketing.

Search Engine Optimization – SEO All You Need to Know

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Undertstanding Online Marketing

SEO All You Need to Know

In part one of this Online Marketing series I touched briefly on SEO. I actually touched briefly on a great many subjects, and most of them are directly related to Search Engine Optimization. In this article I am going to try and explain the details of SEO that you need to know to be successful online.

In the Online Marketing the Whole Enchilada article, I gave you this short and somewhat cryptic explanation of SEO:

SEO – Search Engine Optimization. This term is often misused and is almost universally misunderstood. Simply put SEO is getting the search engines such as Google to rank you site highly. There are many “Black Hat” methods. However as Google has become more advanced most of these “black hat” methods have been rendered obsolete and can actually get your site de-listed from Google.

Black Hat SEO

I made a point of talking, briefly, about "Black Hat SEO" methods. Nothing that would be considered a cheat or a hack that is meant to trick the search engine's into ranking your site higher than the content dictates, are truly SEO. Eventually, and in the case of Google, quite rapidly, the black hat methods are discovered and circumvented. In fact many of the "Black Hat SEO" methods can get your site blacklisted by Google. I recommend you avoid any hacks or "tricks" to artificially rank you site higher in Google.

Google, Yahoo and the other search engines are predicated on their ability to find the valuable content that their users are looking for. So if you offer content that is relevant to the key words that you are optimizing for, you should rank high. Why this is not universally true is often due to poor SEO by the web site owner. This issue based on the fact that search engines use an algorithm to determine web pages relevance. Most people do not know how to show their content in a way that Google, Yahoo and the other major search engines can understand. The companies that have developed the search engines do not share their algorithm with the general public for good reason. Allowing wide access to them would allow mischievous folk to find loopholes and cheat the system. Not to mention that the algorithms are the most valuable Intellectual Property of the Search Engines.

The Algorithms are constantly changing, as they are made more effective daily. Google has a team of terribly smart individuals finding ways to make their searches more relevant and to bust the cheats. This evolution has created a sort of arms race between the black hatters and the search engines. In the end the search engines always win, they have more resources and ultimately a site ranked artificially high offers less value to a searcher and thus they won’t return to the site anyway.

Your goal when trying to SEO a site, then cannot be to try and circumvent or cheat the search engines. You cannot win this battle long term. You must focus your efforts on creating valuable content that a user would seek out, and then displaying it in a way that Google finds relevant to your keywords. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get to the true nitty gritty.

On page SEO

All SEO starts with the URL. As far as the search engines are concerned a page related to "Non Celebrity Endorsement" is more valuable to the user if the URL contains the term. So NonCelebrityEndorsement.com will naturally have a higher score for the term than something on SuccessU.com. However, by using appropriate Permalinks we can overcome this.

What is a Permalink? It is the full URL to your specific post or page. If I create a post here on Success U with the Title "Non Celebrity Endorsement", the permalink would be something like http://www.succesu.com/non-celebrity-endorsement/. As you can see the full URL contains the term. This is due to the fact that we use the title in our permalinks. Given that Google takes into account the location of the term in the URL, a site with the term earlier in the URL will have a higher value in terms of SEO. So with our example and all other things being equal, the site http://www.noncelebrityendorsement.com will outrank a post here with the url http://www.succesu.com/non-celebrity-endorsement/ for the term "Non Celebrity Endorsement". Logically this makes sense, an entire site devoted to a topic should rank higher than a page at a more broadly based site.

I already mentioned it, but now let us discuss the page title as it relates to SEO. For our sites the permalink contains the title, so having the title optimized is a double whammy. I highly recommend using your page titles in your Permalinks. The title tag is just another way the search engines determine what the heck your page is talking about. In the same way that a reference book needs to have the subject in the title, so that a viewer can know what it is all about, your page needs a title that represents the content. More importantly the search engines want this info, so you should give it to them. Simply put, good on page SEO, uses a title that includes your keyword phrase.

Header Tags in SEO

The Header tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> etc.) are a series, with h1 being the largest and h6 the smallest, of tags used to define a portion of text and act as a topic header. If your page was a book then the H1 might be the chapter heading while H6 might only represent the header of a quote within a block of text. If you imagine the header tags as the various chapter and section titles of your page then it should be clear to you why they are important to SEO. Each of these tags represents a “title” for the content that follows them.

The most important on page SEO tactics rely on the effective use of Header tags. I always recommend using your keyword in at least the h1-h3 tags. On this very page you will see the “Header Tags in SEO” used above is an h2 tag. I also recommend only using the h1 tag once per page. If your content requires any additional h1 tags you should split the additional information into a separate page.

Keywords in your Content

Keyword stuffing is a big “no-no”. Don’t do it. If the natural flow of the content does not include your keyword don’t try to force it in. Google only looks for the keyword to be on a particular page in 3-7% of the total on page content. That is a pretty low threshold so there is no need to push the keyword in any more than is natural.

You should include the keyword or phrase in your first and last sentence. If you are actually writing about the subject that your keyword is relevant to, then this should be really easy. As we all learned in high school English, when writing about a topic you want to begin and end with a brief explanation of the subject. Of course we all learned later in life to disregard that rule. With regards to on page SEO it is a great rule to follow.

Images and Media in Effective SEO

With the rise of podcasts and online video Google had to determine a way to value the content of a wide range of media for search results. What they learned in the process, is that video, audio, animation and even images are a great way of sharing information. Consequently they tend to give a higher rank to pages that contain media that is relevant to the search phrase.

Just like text based content the search engines cannot really know the subject without some help from us. The search engines cannot listen to podcasts or watch a video and make an effective judgment as to the value of the content. So what should you do to effectively SEO your media? Include title and alt tags that contain your keyword or phrase. I always encourage people to use at least one image related to the subject. It is of course better if it in some way illustrates the topic rather than being a total non sequitur.

Tune in to the Correct Frequency

The more you discuss a topic the more you obviously know about it. Whether true or not, this is the perception of the online community. As far as Google is concerned, this is all that matters. This is why I tend to suggest a blog for most clients. I said most, and I mean it. Many companies, in fact have no value to add to the world with a blog, but they are in the minority. The important task when setting up a blog for a business is understanding what valuable information they can share with their clients. For some I have recommended telling the funny stories they have, related to the work they do. For some it is only new features about their products. Others add value by telling the inside story on a campaign. Always ask “What is the compelling interest in this post?” Yes the search engines will rank your site higher if you post more often, but a bad post is far more damaging than just not posting. You cannot rescind bad content, so make it valuable.

Internal Links

Once you have a well written page with valuable content, you need to start telling the world about it. The first and often best place to start is on your own site. Start building links to your pages from your other pages. Every time you mention a topic that you have already covered create a link to it. The text of the link needs to be your keywords. A common mistake is doing something like ‘click here” rather than just creating a link out of the text itself.  A good link related to online marketing. A bad link about online marketing. Click Here. The same is true for links coming from other websites; you want the link text to contain your keywords. If the link is an image then make sure the title and alt tags contain your keywords.

Off-Site SEO

Now we are about to jump into a subject that is related to many of the future articles in this series. Off-Site SEO encompasses a broad swath of topics and techniques and is the part of SEO that is mostly out of your hands. I mentioned a great many of these techniques in “Online Marketing the Whole Enchilada”. Ideas like Article Automation and Link exchanges are two examples. Each of these techniques will require its own article, so I will not get into the details now. Instead I want to cover the ideas and general rules associated with off-site SEO.

Off Site SEO is primarily focused on creating valuable in bound links to your site. There is nearly a limitless array of ways to accomplish this goal. Broadly speaking this is online marketing. Whether a link comes from Adsense, a banner ad or a link from within page content, it will affect your search engine ranking.

The higher the site sending the link, the more value associated by the search engines for the link. This is actually compounding. A website with a high Google page rank sending a link to your site boosts your rank; it also generates some traffic to your site. This traffic also boosts your page rank. The more links the better. We tend to think of links in the thousands, not individually. However, a single link coming from a very popular site can be worth hundreds of links from low ranking sites.

Google gives a Page Rank (PR) of 0-10 to every page it has indexed. This is the value that Google associates with a link from that page. A PR1 is twice as valuable as a PR 0. A PR2 is twice as valuable as a PR1, etc. Thus a single link from a PR10 page is equivalent to 1024 links from a PR0 link. Obviously what you really want are many links from high PR sites. All of the online marketing techniques that I will talk about in future articles are devoted to doing exactly that.

Social Media and SEO

Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook utilizes a broad and active community to generate a tremendous amount of content. Most of it is worthless, but using these tools can add a huge amount of in-bound links and traffic to your page. What you should understand is that social media sites are no different than any other in regards to your SEO efforts. All you really want from them is links and traffic. The devil is in making that happen effectively.

When sitting down to write this article It was very difficult for me to decide which of the SEO strategies to talk about first. One that I really wanted to lead off with is the tactic of creating a unique page or post for every keyword or phrase you want your site to rank for. However it was necessary to talk about many other issues to fully give the value of this particular aspect of on page SEO.

Looking at the many things I covered in this article; try to imagine doing each of these things for a whole slew of keywords. Not only would the page be obscenely large, it would be hard to read. For this reason alone you should always create a unique page or post for each keyword/phrase you want your site to rank for.

Rather than leading off with it, I decided to end with this note to keep it fresh in your mind. Build each of the pages with all the other bits of advice and tactics I mentioned. Link back to each of these pages from within the others. If you do your research, and follow all of this advice, your pages and thus your site will rank higher for your keywords. This is all you really need to know about SEO.