SEO IS Marketing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a well-known term, but it can be made to seem overly complex. Unpaid search, or more precisely “Organic SEO”, is simply your web site’s ability-by-design to break through the clutter and rise to a top position on a search engine ranking page (SERP).

According to comScore, Google clearly owns the US market share of search engine users at over 66%, while Yahoo and Bing each hover around 15%. Google flat-out dominates the global market share with over 80% of all search engine users.

With SEO, the marketer is your web site’s data, and the audience is the search engine’s algorithmic “spider” that crawls all the indexed pages on the World Wide Web. The spider is looking for relevant information that will satisfy a search query. It similar to how someone looking to buy life insurance is more likely to open up an effective direct mail piece from an insurance company, then sort through the contents looking for relevant information that satisfies their definition of a good offer.

Successful SEO is not a “one-and-done” process of optimizing your site with keywords and indexing the pages with a search engine. Just like a marketing campaign, there are several elements to an SEO campaign that work together for maximum effectiveness.

  • Keyword Management = Strategy Development: Discovering, analyzing, grouping and organizing large numbers of frequently searched keywords that are highly relevant to the content in your web site. This forms the basis of your web site copy and impacts design of the site.
  • Keyword Action = Creative Development: Authoring the website copy around your strategic keyword selection is literally crafting the message, making your web site relevant to the search query, and more attractive to the spider.
  • Keyword Indexing = Media Planning: Keyword indexing, or “page-tagging”, most closely resembles the art of making your marketing most visible to your audience in the most efficient way possible. Spiders crawl through your page tag first, and begin assigning value to the overall content based on what it is instructed to read. Indexing helps the search engine select your site by making your site’s relevant content more visible in the right place at the right time.
  • Website Aging = Campaign Evolution: Over-saturation of the same execution can lower effectiveness of any marketing no matter if it is an email, direct mail package or an online banner ad. Same thing goes for the content of your web site. Small changes to the content and re-indexing the updated pages at regular intervals keeps the spider interested because it detects something new and interesting.
  • Link-Baiting = Social Sharing: Establishing links back to your web site from other relevant web sites are the equivalent of someone “liking” your ad on Facebook or re-Tweeting your post. They are votes of confidence to a search engine spider and they raise your relevance score. A web site that sells football gear will be more popular to search engine spiders if there are links back to the site from espn.com or nfl.com, for example. Those sites are likely to have a lot of football-themed keywords and ultra-high relevancy scores for football-related searches.

Beware of unethical or “black hat” techniques offered by some SEOs, such as keyword stuffing and link-farming. Search engines will eventually bust you and dramatically lower your relevancy score, or ban your site altogether from the search index.

Organic SEO is a craft just like any other form of marketing. It requires research, development, creativity and execution. And it is most effective when the above techniques are employed together over time as a campaign.


Seismically Speaking

Mid-afternoon in the Midwest yesterday you could feel the earthquake, even if you didn't feel the earthquake.

From just south of Baltimore: Just experienced an earthquake at Walmart

From Westchester County, NY: Holy F*****g earthquake!!!!

From Columbus: whoa...did anyone else feel that?!? Ohio earthquake??

From way up on the north side of Chicago: did my desk just shake or am I imagining things?

From Brooklyn: a link to Loretta Swit singing "I Feel the Earth Move" on the Muppet Show, posted on YouTube

From Maryland: who felt the earthquake on the east coast of the USA? i did not. I was leaving my gym in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Did not feel a thing. It was 6.0 or something??

Back to Chicago: Holy s**t! My desk was shaking!

From North Carolina: Shakin' in Raleigh...how about you? Which earned responses of confirmed seismic activity in New Haven, CT, Boston, Northern Virginia, Jacksonville, NC, and Mount Vernon, NY. California reported stability, "tectonically speaking".

Sitting 16 floors up above a very busy Wacker Drive construction project in downtown Chicago, we didn't feel the earthquake. And if we did we probably confused it with a jackhammer. But we knew about the earthquake with the East Coast epicenter moments after it hit because people from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River started Facebooking about it.

All of the above Facebook postings were made in the span of less than two minutes. It's safe to say that they were most likely the first reactions these people had to just experiencing an earthquake--to immediately post something online about it. Almost 50% of the postings were made from a mobile device, which makes us wonder how many of these people were posting while evacuating a building. Each posting received an average of 4 responses (either comments, or likes). All in the span of less than two minutes.

Wouldn't it be amazing if your marketing could generate that kind of activity? It can.


Understanding Email Metrics

At The Weinstein Organization, tracking and measuring our work is at the core of what we do. Which is one of the reasons why we love email—the metrics available for us to analyze are truly fascinating (yes, we admit to being data nerds). And what we can learn from email metrics is fundamental to the effectiveness of our clients’ email campaigns.

Following are some of the more commonly used email metric terms and their practical definitions:

Email Conversions: Whether driving a purchase or attempting to acquire a confirmation, email conversions are a measurement of your specific call-to-action. This metric tries to answer the question “How many specific actions were taken by the recipient as a direct result of this email?”

Email Delivered: This metric describes how many emails were actually delivered to the intended recipient’s mailbox provider without getting “bounced” or kicked back to you from a delivery error. But this is not a bulletproof measurement of success. Your email can still be spam filtered into a recipient’s junk mail folder where it will appear to the sender as being delivered. A good way to ensure higher delivery rates is to take the proper steps and perform email list hygiene, which will help keep your list current and accurate.

Total Opens: Measuring how many times your email was opened is more of a measurement of the strength of your subject line, but there are too many variables involved to make this a reliable correlation by itself. Total opens alone do not indicate a successful email campaign, as there can be false open reads when an email is loaded into the preview pane, or when clicked-on just prior to deletion. Open rates are not a reliable metric for success alone, but they can help you understand the success rate of your delivery.

Unique Opens: are a similar metric to total opens, but it eliminates duplicate opens (ex: multiple opens by the same recipient) and tries to answer the question, “how many unique individuals opened my email?” Again, there are too many variables to rely on Unique Opens: alone as a measurement of success.

Click-Throughs: This may tell you that your email has been intentionally opened, and even the likelihood that someone has read it. However, you have to look at which links were clicked before you can measure effectiveness. If your offer link was clicked then your email is more likely to be doing a good job. But if the unsubscribe link was clicked then you have an indication that your email was worse than ineffective—it may have lost you a customer. Many clients will applaud high click-through rates at face value, but they do so at the risk of ignoring their customers’ true intentions.

Email Forwards: Understanding how many of your recipients forwarded your email to someone else is an excellent measure of several things: readability, relevance, the strength of your offer, and the appeal of your campaign to your target audience. As always though, it still doesn’t tell you by itself if your email is effective—conversions give you a better read of that. But conversions and forwards taken together can tell a marketer that they have a potential viral campaign in the works that might garner exponential reach.

On their own, no single email metric should be used as a reliable indicator of the effectiveness of your email. Which is why at The Weinstein Organization we have the capabilities to measure our email campaigns from a wide range of metrics. When you look at all the metrics together you get the total picture of how effective your email is, where it can be improved, and what can be understood about your prospects and customers.


Clicking Is The New Clipping: Coupons In The Digital Age

Contrary to the identity of coupon clippers from years past, the coupon is now cool.

It was unfathomable just a few years ago that a coupon company like Groupon would be considered fashionable or interesting enough to run a commercial during the Superbowl. But combine a struggling US economy with digital media, and a behavioral shift towards living socially online, and the result is a new life for the coupon.

Kantar Media reports the use of digital coupons grew by 60% in 2010, while printed free-standing inserts rose by 11%. This is incredible growth for a marketing strategy that hasn’t seen an increase in year-over-year usage since 1992.

Marketers are seeing digital coupons as a way to revitalize their brands by literally putting value in their customers’ hands, and refusing to cede market share to lower cost competitors. Coupons were once seen as a taboo for higher-end brands because they feared the discounting of their brand value more than the shortening of their margins. And now there is an implicit need to connect with people and help them afford the things they want to buy.

But this new coupon-chic is more than that. Coupons have become the clutter-busters in social media because people love to share with others how smart they are with their money. People want to tell other people that they got a great deal, and they want to help their friends get the same great deal. For a marketer, a coupon is now a social media badge of honor to be worn by loyal customers, new customers, and their networks of like-minded friends. Coupons can be shared, posted, liked, emailed, forwarded, and in the case of Groupon they can be collectively bargained for.

At The Weinstein Organization we have long recognized the value of the coupon. It is a great tool for increasing store and web site traffic, sales, and for building email databases. We enable our coupon emails to be easily shared on social networks to increase the effective reach of the campaign, thereby increasing the marketing footprint for our clients in ways no other strategy can match.


Keep Your Website Up To Speed

Your website must download as fast as your competition. Typical shoppers expect websites to download in 2 seconds. That's down from 4 seconds in 2007. Research from a leading search engine reveals that a delay of 2 seconds results in a:

• 1.8% reduction in queries

•3.75% drop in clicks

• 4.3% loss in revenue per visitor

Slow load times have a significant harmful effect on sales revenues.