Monday, 23 August 2010

Happy birthday to my blog

Recently my blog celebrated his first birthday. Blown a candle on a cake.

Writing this blog has been many things.

It's been hard: hard to start writing things, harder even to keep writing (still haven't finished my top 5 of 2009 - uuups!). Hard also to find my own voice and to find an audience.

It's been a wonderful experience: writing down ideas and purifying them to get them realy nailed down. Getting feedback and how that enriches you. Having my little own space on the big Long Tail of websites.

It's going UP: lots of new ideas, feel like putting my money were my mouth is and do something good with it.

Thanks to all for all the support!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

SEM/SEO Strategy: Improve your SEO with SEM-data using Tag Clouds

Sometimes a great idea is just 2 good ideas meeting for the first time.

Avinash Kaushik on twitter, 2010

The idea for this post came when reading the following 2 posts:

In the first post, Gemma Muñoz focuses on the importance of the long tail for organic searches (or SEO): we have to look further then just the first 20 search-terms for our website. The main idea of the post is that beyond the first search-terms, there is still a pretty vast number of keywords directing traffic to your site, and hopefully converting, so this traffic deserves our attention.

The second post is by Avinash. What intereseted me for the post I'm writing is number 2: Use tag clouds, where he teaches us to use tag clouds for analysing our SEO or paid search (PPC) campaigns.

After reading these 2 posts, I did the following: I investigated the long tail of our search-engine traffic of our website. I plotted the SEO and SEM search-keywords seperately in a tag-cloud, and compared both.
It's something you want to do too!

Let's have a look at practical example. Let's say there is a zoo in Madrid, which is called 'Animal Zoo Madrid'. The Zoo also has a website:
The Marketing Department of the Zoo does paid search campaigns and organic search campaigns.

Let's first have a look at all the organic searches which drove traffic to our website. I took all the keywords driving traffic to the site, put all this data in a text file, and loaded this up on Wordle. This gave me something like this:

As you can see, 3 keywords stand out. These 3 words are actually the seperate words of the 'brand' which is the name of the zoo. There are no other words who stand out, and few even show up on the tag-cloud.
So, what does this tell us? At least we have our own keywords covered, you can say. It would be nice to have some reference to see if this cloud-tag tells something good or bad aboout our SEO.

So now have a look at the SEM keywords which generate traffic to the site.

Well, this is a whole new story, right?

We still have the 3 words from the brand name. But we have a whole range of words which are relevant for a website of a zoo. There are all the animals: bear, gorilla, koala and panda seem to be the most popular searches, but also elephant, parrot, zebra get quite some searches. Then there are the keywords related to the 'practical' issues of visiting a zoo: 'Entrance fee' is quite big, since people want to know the prices. We also see 'Buy' and 'Tickets', so most likely people want information on how to purchase tickets. We have 'Restaurant' and 'Maps', which tells us that people are looking online to plan their stay at the Zoo. There is also 'Parking' and 'Trains', so people can find out on the internet how to get there, where they can park the car, or if it's better to take the train.

This tag-cloud for SEM tells us where the SEO is going wrong: it doesn't work the long-tail. Our organic search is centered around the brandname, and we haven't taken care of all the other searches which can be a great source of (free) traffic to our site. Of course we want people who search 'See living gorilla' to come to our site We understand that people who search this online, might want to see a living gorilla. And if our Zoo offers this, we should make sure our site ranks high on organic searches for this keyword.

So now we've got some work to do: fix your SEO. There are lots of better places to get up-to-date on how to work your SEO, but I'm sure you'll want to have a look at your meta-data, give your URLs a review and see if they've got the keywords in them, see if you're using h1, h2, … And probably you'll have to give your site-map an update. If your keyword-cloud looks like the SEO-cloud we've seen before, you might want to implement a few new pages for all animals, maybe something like this:

Now, what if we swop these results? I mean – what if the SEM-cloud we've seen above was actually the SEO-cloud and vice-versa? In that case, you're SEM activities would be centered around the 3 brand-related keywords, and not much more.
Again, you'll have work to do, but now for your paid campaigns. I'd start by bidding on all these words like 'bears' or 'entrance fee'. I'd put a fairly low daily limit on the bidding, and you want to check after a few days what your cost per conversion is. Some words will convert, other might not. You'll be happy enough to find out.
You might find that these 'long tail' keywords can be a bit more expensive then your brand-related terms. But that's OK: people searching for 'Animal Zoo Madrid' are likely to be closer to purchasing a ticket then people looking for 'see living koala's'. But you surely want to open up your website for people who're a bit lower on the purchase funnel and who might not know that you're zoo has got some living koalas.

So what can we learn from this

1. Work together SEM and SEO

Like the example shows, paid and organic searches are very closely related and you need to work them together. You can (and should) learn a lot by crossing te data of both activities.
SEM and SEO require different ways of working. I know a lot of companies where SEM and SEO are the responsabililties of different agencies or of different departments. If this is the case for your company then you're probably missing a great opportunity. Start working these 2 together now! Don't forget that taking care of your SEO will help you to better your quality-score, which will bring down your Cost Per Click (CPC) for SEM.

2. Be self-critical

I've heard quite some companies say: 'Our brand-related search terms come up pretty good in SEO, but not the more generic keywords'. I think this reasoning shows a lack knowledge of what SEO actually is. If you search Nike and it comes up as first in the organic results, then this is because the search robot is doing it's work, not because Nike is doing good SEO-work. The job of seach engines like Google, is to show the most relevant results of a search. Your job for SEO is to work beyond your own brand-related keywords and make an impact there.

3. Be ambitious

Some keywords can give you a hint to something bigger, to go the extra mile. In the example, we've seen that 'Buy' and 'Tickets' are giving quite some visits. So you try to position your site for these keywords.
But when there are some many people typing 'Buy Ticket for the Zoo', then this means more. Don't forget, that's your customer talking to you. That's your client saying that he wants to buy tickets. So why not start thinking of an on-line ticketing service? The keywords show the personal needs and desires of your customers, so we better start listening to what they want.

4. Go beyond visits

In this example, we've just talked about traffic coming from search engines.
But of course, you could plot your SEM and SEO campaigns seperately, but segmented not by visits but by conversions. Now that might give you even more actionable insights. Anybody wants to have a go and share the results?