Google+: Is it Important for Internet Marketing?

Google+ is a Distant Second in Social Media, but It’s Having a Powerful Impact on SEO/SEM

If you’re a social media maven, skip this post.  This article is intended for business people who have better things to do than follow the world of social networks like Facebook.

graphic showing Google+ plus sharing percentage vs. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Graphic showing the percentage of users who share content on the various social media platforms

Many of our SEO clients ask us for help with Facebook.  Some, but far fewer, ask for a hand in optimizing Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.  But very few seem to be asking for our assistance with Google+, or even wondering whether it’s important to their marketing efforts, or our efforts to optimize their websites for search.  When we mention Google+, most of our business clients seem puzzled, either that it’s coming up for discussion, or, in some cases, what the heck it is.  The question that many business people carry, if they have one at all for poor Google+, is, “will Google+ ever be important?”

I understand the question.  In fact I would be stunned to encounter anyone who’s not into tech that pays much attention to Google+ at any level.  And the facts support my conclusion. In a recent study by social media management company Gigya, it was evident that people are simply not buying into the Google+ experience, at least not when it comes to sharing.

So does that mean we can dismiss Google+ in terms of the Internet marketing “big picture” ?

My answer is a definite, No!  In fact it already is very important for anyone interested in Internet Marketing.

The Honda Factor in the Success of Google+

In the late 1980’s I was the proud owner of a Honda CRX Si.  For those of you who forget (or never even knew), the CRX was a 2-seater sports coupe that Honda produced to go up against cars like the Toyota MR-2, a very popular and nimble sportster of the time.  I once read a road test in Road & Track magazine that compared the Honda CRX with the Toyota MR2 and several other sports coupes.  The goal of the comparison was to make an evaluation as to which engine placement was best: front, mid, or rear.

crx vs mr2

At the end of the article, the test team concluded (and remember this was in 1989) that the best engine placement for a sports car was mid-engine.  However they said that the CR-X, with it’s front engine placement, performed about as well as the MR2.  I don’t have the exact quote, but it went something like “this is Honda we’re talking about; if they want to make a front engine placement work, they’re going to do it, regardless of whether mid-engine is best in the end.”

I have some of the same thoughts about Google and Google+.  Does the world really need another social network?  Not really.  But this is Google.  If they’ve decided to make a social network work, they’re going to make it happen.  If your business wants to succeed on line, don’t bet against Google.

But regardless of whether Google Plus succeeds as a network, what about the question of whether Google+ is really relevant to your day-to-day business marketing efforts?  If search engine optimization and search engine marketing are important in your overall marketing strategy, then the answer is yes (even if you have no real need of Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or any other social medium).

The way that Google is making Google+ relevant is by leveraging their dominant position in search.

The issue of whether sharing a website post or post on Google+ will make it rank better is a matter of hot debate in the SEO community with some “studies” indicating that sharing content on Google+ makes it rank higher, and other studies showing it has no effect.

I believe that particular question can remain unanswered for the time being.  The important factor here is something called Google Authorship.  By tying your content into your own profile on Google+ you can raise the visibility of that content.  What it affects is how your content is displayed in search results.   Everyone has seen the small thumbnail pictures of people that appear next to many search listings (see my example below).

 example of search snippet showing Google+ authorship markup

The impact of this is considerable.  Human beings are hard-wired from birth to look toward human faces.  Which of the above listings do you look at first?  The ones that are plain text, or the ones with a face next to them.  Like it or not, the face draws the eyes of the searcher.  Increasingly you will need to make sure that a human face adorns your content in search results, not merely to stand out, but also to avoid fading away as your competitors adopt this tactic.

In a future post I’ll discuss how to get this done.  Or, if you want to get started taking advantage of this right away, contact your account representative at Horizon Web Marketing and we’ll help you get going with Google Authorship.

SEO Experts: Look in the Bag Before You Buy

What do Some Search Engine Optimization “Experts” have in Common with the Middle Ages?

In the middle ages, meat was scarce, but puppies and kittens were not (already you should see where this is going).  Some enterprising entrepreneurs determined that this provided them with an opportunity.  Finding a stray cat or dog, they would place it in a sealed bag.  Then they went into the marketplace selling the bag (also known as a “poke”), which they maintained, contained a suckling pig.  A rare treat indeed.  I would think that few people would actually buy the bag without checking inside, but apparently enough did that the scam, and the phrase that it gave rise to, have endured for hundreds of years.

Internet Marketing Success?  Or a Pig in a Poke?

Now we say “he bought a pig in a poke” to refer to someone making an unwise purchase.  Back then it meant that you bought a bag without checking the contents and ended up cheated.  That poke looked like it had a pig in it, but, alas, it only had a puppy.  Hmmm.

Not much has changed.  I recently came across a website for a company maintaining that they are search engine optimization experts.  They gave some pretty convincing evidence for their Internet marketing success.  There was a whole page of their clients with a bunch of very impressive claims.  For example, they claimed that one of their clients had 50 keywords listed on page one of Google.

Here are some examples of “page one” keywords this company had achieved for their client:

  • seo-expert-or-pig-in-a-pokebeach villas rental big island
  • four seasons home rental hawaii
  • hualalai home rental big island
  • four seasons home rentals hawaii
  • hualalai home rentals big island
  • hualalai beach home rental hawaii
  • hualalai villa rentals big island
  • hualalai beach home rentals hawaii
  • hualalai beach villa rental hawaii
  • hualalai villas rentals big island
  • four seasons home rental big island
  • four seasons vacation rental hawaii
  • hualalai beach villa rentals hawaii
  • hualalai beach villas rental hawaii
  • hualalai vacation rental big island
  • four seasons home rentals big island

That’s just a sampling.  I did not check whether the keywords they listed really were on the first page of Google (that in itself is a pretty dubious claim, since Google results vary from region to region and even person to person).

However, I did check Google’s Keyword Planner to see how much traffic these keywords could perhaps generate for the lucky customer.  Here are the average monthly searches on those keywords as reported by Google:

Page One Rankings, No Actual Traffic

KeywordAvg. monthly searches
beach villas rental big island0
four seasons home rental hawaii0
hualalai home rental big island0
four seasons home rentals hawaii0
hualalai home rentals big island0
hualalai beach home rental hawaii0
hualalai villa rentals big island0
hualalai beach home rentals hawaii0
hualalai beach villa rental hawaii0
hualalai villas rentals big island0
four seasons home rental big island0
four seasons vacation rental hawaii0
hualalai beach villa rentals hawaii0
hualalai beach villas rental hawaii0
hualalai vacation rental big island0
four seasons home rentals big island0

In fact, of all 50 keywords that this company were ranking on page one for, what do you think the combined monthly search volume, as reported by Google, is?

If a Page One Ranking Falls in the Forest, and No One is Around…

If you guessed anything more than 0 you were overly optimistic.  That’s right.  50 page one rankings and not a single search.

This company might call that a recommendation.  I call it a “pig in a poke.”

The moral of the story is this: whether you’re investigating anyone else’s services, or even our own, ask whatever SEO Expert you consult (and yes, Virgina, some SEO experts are indeed, well, expert) not just about rankings, but more importantly, about estimated traffic that those rankings might bring you.

In other words, make sure you open the bag and see there really is a fat, suckling piglet inside that poke, and not just some scrawny alley cat.  (This post was in no way meant to demean alley cats.  We do not discriminate against animals just because they live in a poor neighborhood.)

If you want more information about how we might be able to assist you, please visit our contact page or call us at 702-836-3278.

Roy’s Blog: SEO and the “Date Doctor”

In the movie “Hitch” Will Smith plays Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, the Date Doctor, whose mission is to show awkward, unpopular guys how to get the girl of their dreams.

SEO guru Ross Barefoot likens search engine optimization (SEO) to the Date Doctor as follows:

· The awkward, unpopular guy is your website
· The girl of our dreams is Google
· The Date Doctor is SEO (search engine optimization)

Ross describes three steps whereby the Date Doctor can help the awkward guy get the girl, or how SEO can help your website get the attention and high ranking of Google.

1. Step 1 – Tolerability. The guy has to be made tolerable. Similarly your website has to be made tolerable or “search engine friendly”to Google,
2. Step 2 – Likeability. Next, the tolerable guy has to be made likeable. Your tolerable or search engine friendly website needs to be made likeable by containing valuable, attractive content by which you’ll get the attention of Google and website visitors.
3. Step 3 – High Desirability. Finally the likeable guy has to become highly desirable – the life of the party. Your “likeable” website has to become so popular that other people want to link to it (called “enhanced inbound link popularity”).

Here’s the video where Ross explains the Date Doctor and SEO:

SEO vs. Internet Marketing, Which One do You Need?

SEO: An Acronym We’ve Learned to Live With

picture of the word SEO to illustrate search engine optimizationThere’s no doubt about it, SEO is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) that has stuck.  The letters SEO stand for “Search Engine Optimization.”   I suppose I should clarify: at least in my circles it does.  Depending on your career choice it could also stand for Sewage Enforcement Officer, and many SEO’s do seem to shovel a lot of, er, well, sewage.  But that’s the subject of another blog post I suppose.

However, even when it comes to the world of Google, Bing, Yahoo and “the rest,” I believe that most people use SEO a little too freely.  In my 10+ years of experience as a search marketer and web developer, I’ve noticed that “SEO” has become shorthand for something that goes beyond the realm of search engine optimization.

Let’s start with the gritty task of defining Search Engine Optimization.  If you come to this blog post with a business-person’s mindset, you might think that it has something to do with making a search engine as good as it can be – in other words, “optimum.”  Ah, but there you would be wrong.  The term has nothing to do with search engines doing a good job, and has everything to do with you showing up well on the search engine results pages.  In this context, SEO means making your site perform at an “optimum” level in search results when compared to your competitor’s websites.

A Definition of SEO

Here’s what web dictionary Webopedia has to say about SEO:

Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.  (Emphasis is mine)

I would tend to agree with the above definition.  Unfortunately, that’s not usually what a company needs in order to succeed on line.  Or at least let’s say it’s not the only thing that a company needs on line.

Let me use a real life example from one of my clients.  In this case the client has a high-performing website devoted to a very specific market niche, namely workplace safety training.  In the 4th quarter we had a number of popular pages, but I want to discuss the 3rd most popular page, as illustrated in this screen capture from Google Analytics for that period:

picture of google analytics screen capture

 

Great SEO, Lousy Business Results

By the standards of Webopedia, this page had a great SEO return.  I’ll tell you right away that the client’s site ranked number 1 for a highly competitive term that landed directly on this page.  So their visibility on search was terrific.  Not only that, but the net result was a large number of visitors.  High ranking placement in the search engines, an increase in the amount of visitors.  Isn’t that what Webopedia was talking about?  Doesn’t that seem like an SEO success story?

Hold on there for a minute.  Here’s the proverbial rest of the story.  The search term that this page ranked highly for was “whistle.”  And the page itself showed nothing more than the following picture:

 Whistle illustrates the value of a broad SEM strategy

 

What does the whistle have to do with my client’s business?  Absolutely nothing.  So what happened with all those visitors that followed the search result to my client’s website?  Right.  Absolutely nothing.  They bounced.  Actually it was worse than nothing, because bounces and short engagement can actually hurt your long-term performance in search results.

Beyond SEO: the Crying Need for Web Marketing

This illustrates the difference between SEO and Web (or Internet) Marketing.  Web marketing doesn’t care about search engine visibility or visitors…UNLESS they bring more results to a client’s bottom line.  For this reason most businesses really need an Internet Marketing professional who knows how to do SEO as merely one part of the service he or she offers.

In my experience, most businesses need the following services more than they need a merely mechanical approach to search engine visibility:

  • Definition of their Website value proposition
  • Market research in the form of “Keyword Research
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Engagement strategies
  • Allocation of marketing dollars to achievable priorities

The list could go on and on.  Suffice it to say that your business most likely needs SEO as only one of several Internet marketing services.  (If you’d like a bit more explanation about each of the above terms and how it might affect your business, please give us a call.)

At this point naturally I’d like to sound the horn for Horizon Web Marketing.  Unlike companies that care only about search engine visibility and traffic, we care about whether you succeed online.  Isn’t that what you’re really after?

 

How to Deal With Negative Yelp Reviews

Online directories, such as Yelp, are very important for Online Marketing purposes. They make it easier for prospective clients to find your business and get important information such as business hours, direction, phone numbers and website.   

negative yelp reviews

Prospective clients can also read reviews left by your previous patron as well as view pictures of your products. This kind of consumer to consumer data transfer is very important to online marketing.  It validates your business and gives viewers a neutral 3rd party perspective.

In theory, online directories are amazingly powerful resources that can help your business pick up new clientele.  The problem comes when businesses find themselves attacked by negative reviews resulting in a poor online reputation.  These reviews can be left by competitors, disgruntled ex-employees, or even isolated cases when clients leave unhappy that in no way generalize your business’ otherwise good reputation.

How do you deal with it?  Unlike social media site, such as Facebook, where business account owners have the ability to regulate what viewers can comment, Yelp and other online directory reviews cannot be regulated by the business owner.  Regardless of what you may hear, you cannot pay a reputation management company to remove a bad review or even Yelp itself for that matter.  However, there are still ways to help lessen the burden of bad reviews:

  • Actively encourage your satisfied clients to leave you positive reviews online that will dilute the negative effect of the bad reviews.  Over time the continuous addition of new reviews by your clients can have the effect of “removing” the negative reviews by making them the minority.
  • Make sure you have a Yelp link on your website, your Facebook page and other social sites.
  • Post your good Yelp reviews on your website so visitors will see them.
  • If you see a review that shows someone had a bad experience, reach out to them and offer something to make them feel that their concerns have been heard.  You can message the reviewer from your Yelp page.
  • Actively use your Yelp page.  Make sure you have claimed it and filled in all the business information.  Post photos to the page and you can even post updates for events at your business.  If your Yelp page is current, reviewers know you are reading it and may be more likely to post a review.

With lots of good Yelp reviews, your Yelp ranking rises which should mean more customers for you.  Just like with traditional marketing, keeping your customers happy is the most important thing you can do to be successful.