I recently sat down and “googled” marketing charts on local online spending in 2012. Guess what, the most useable results focused almost exclusively on social media signals and video, not the traditional link wheels and other forms of page rank promotion.Â In fact, contrary to all that Internet marketers have declared over the last several years, very little information returned from my query was actually about search.
It would seem that, in the same way that our cells start to break down from the moment we are born, apparently, search engine optimization in its dependable form has become a part of the cycle of decay in Internet life. Just as human beings eventually reach prime and start to decline, it would seem that traditional off page search engine optimization methods have also, apparently, reached their prime. With the speed of today’s modern world, who is to say when that rot started, or determine the speed of its decay? Right now, the continued usefulness of these methods that I have come to count on is rather doubtful.
We have been the earnest students. Believing that if we entered the right keywords, in the right numbers, in the right places, and created just the right links and content that we would be rewarded with a passing grade. That our hard work would rank up there at the top page one. It now seems clear that the years we spent paying attention to the teacher and scoring well on school tests the rules of keywords placement were perhaps just the first lessons the teacher had for us in this next phase of the Internet marketing era.
And many marketers and clients are left wondering what is going on. Isn’t this how it is supposed to work with online marketing? The search engine instructs what methods are the accepted as best practices; Internet marketers study those guidelines, and do as directed with the idea that higher placements are within reach.
Alas, we obviously understand that the teacher has a higher authority to answer to or to change their minds; that the search engines are looking to the consumers to instruct them who to reward with a higher ranking. Â We as marketers we have all performed well at optimizing for the search engines and to provide value in the form of websites, social signals, and by creating landing pages that would earn passing grades from the search engine authorities. Now, though, it seems no one knows exactly what curriculum will earn us a passing grade or for how long the instructions are valid. No one, and I repeat no one, has the clear formula that will work to obtain organic search engine rankings every time or over time, at least not in the way or at the levels that we used to.
What has happened? Well, in its technical, manifestation we see that the updates and changes to the algorithms that determine page ranking are coming so frequently, and are so pervasive, that even the longtime position holders are being tossed about without any linear outcome. It is happening at such a level that the probability of any search phrase worth competing for ranking well with the search engine is quickly becoming a less and less of a perceived outcome.
Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for those in the Internet marketing business, who it would seem, had better jump on board. That light is called authenticity, and I believe it is the new normal as far as maximizing search engines rankings for our clients. In this new era, organic page ranking still is a key with over 90% of all purchase decisions originating in the search engines, and organic starts with authenticity.
The degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, and character is a pretty good definition of authenticity. In means genuinely being who you are, when relating to others, despite external pressures.Â This is no different from people to businesses and it is expressed in everything you do online or offline.
By definition, the process of marketing and selling without authenticity is called bad faith and, come on guys, no one wants to be seen as operating in bad faith. It not only sounds bad, it is roughly defined as intent to deceive.Â I donâ€™t know about anyone else, but that is not how I want my Internet marketing interpreted.
But building an authentic online relationship with your consumers is not an easy task.
It wasn’t until recently that I personally started to figure out who I am and what my business is really about. It’s cathartic, and it’s not that much fun at times, but I am turning into the authentic professional my dad would have liked to witness me becoming. This is what today’s consumers are after; authentic people that they feel good about spending their most important currency, which is time with. Â John Jantsch, Author of Duct Tape Marketing said to, Bring the best of your authentic self to every opportunity. I agree. It opens doors.
So letâ€™s talk about the business manifestation of this age of authenticity; how did we get here? For starters, the search engine real estate, namely the first page ranking on Google, Yahoo, and Bing, has become occupied with businesses and marketers locating themselves in and around clusters based on consumers need. Much the same as the availability of oil, it only makes sense that the search engines maximize their revenue opportunities in and around those clusters that are initially perceived to be the most fertile and developed on the lowest cost basis.Â However, as with oil, the need to expand beyond those easy wells is equally present in the search engines and they have expanded
To help illustrate, we can sort search engine users into two simple categories:
#1: Those users that engage the search engines more than 50% of the time in ways that generate the search engines advertising revenue.
#2: Those users that engage the search engines less than 50% of the time in ways that generate the search engines advertising revenue.
Users in category #1 are what I call strong targets. Most of the time, these users are characterized by a consumer-based thirst for their Internet shopping. They use the search engines as a shopping mall for browsing all sorts of products and services that they may or may not need. The phrases used in this group are closely aligned with brands, shopping and purchases, which, quite frankly, have been maxed out in terms of well production.
Users in category #2 are what I call weak targets. Most of the time, these users are characterized by an intellectual curiosity that may or may not be based on any intent to purchase something. The phrases used by this group are hard to monetize and quite frankly not very interesting to the search engines. They use the search engines as a public library and donâ€™t often create much revenue.
It turns out, however, that when it comes to finding locally based products and services, those helpful to the target consumer lives, we find that both groups have potential for generating revenue.
For a long time the search engines had allowed individual companies and marketers to occupy real estate on their front pages in an effort to provide value to the targets who were using the search engines. However, they found that, in many cases, these companies and marketers were exploiting their infrastructure without paying any toll, so to speak.
Around 2009, when the trends for online local spending starting growing even more rapidly, the search engines made significant moves to maximize revenue from the real estate. Realizing the value of what they had created, they did what most countries that control a precious resource do. They put up fences, hired security and formed consortiums in order to maximize their revenue.
I believe that it was at this point the search engines began to fear that the resource could potentially to dry up. It seems they suddenly understood that they are at anytime 6-8 months away from slipping into a declining state of growth. They showed their hand out of this fear; they broke the proverbial sweat. Their reaction included adding maps, places, and tweaking the structure of the search result pages, now paying attention to search phrases that they had previously considered not very interesting.
There were some other mitigating factors that influenced these changes. These included the rising need of the typical user for privacy at about the same time that social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, was exploding onto the scene. Todayâ€™s consumers are totally disinterested in the idea of being marketed to. They want to live their online lives in the uninterrupted, free manner that they feel it is there right to.
The search engines started out with the idea that they could index the worldâ€™s information. Eventually, though, they realized how valuable that information was, especially when organized and easily accessible. As Fast Company writer, Danielle Sacks points out, the Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions.Â That dialogue, it turns out, has monetary value, which amounts to billions of dollar.
Of course, the search engine giants wanted to make their share of the revenue from this new real estate. In the effort to maximize their returns, they drilled it to the point of endangering the very resource that supports this new real estate.
Upon realizing that its not going to last forever that people change the way that they use the real estate, and that they are probably going to keep changing the way they use it.Â The search engines started drilling deeper, in more areas, in order to make more money. As a result, the consumers eventually started to figure out how to get along without this new commodity.
To stay in the game, the search engines started trying to figure out what people really want. They suddenly became aware, along with just about every other company in the world, that people want authentic interactions, not just in their daily, offline lives, but in their online world as well.
Consumers, it turns out, are willing to let you advertise a little, even make a little money, but they have to be able to trust that it isnâ€™t your only motivation. When it does happen, they prefer that it is only according to their wants and needs. Wants and needs which, by the way, seem to change literally as much as the search engine algorithm do these days.
So what is a business supposed to do? Well, we are all learning the answer to that, but I do have some suggestions. The best plan, I believe, is to divide your budget in half.â€¨Â #1: Half of your budget should target traditional Internet marketing, including SEO, display, PPC, e-mail, and anything that would be considered interruptive. You may scratch your head and ask SEO? Well, honestly it has been occupied. You may not see it just like you donâ€™t see natural gas wells often times in neighborhoods but they are there.Â They just have nice fences and attractive buildings built around them.Â Plan on using these mediums for another 6 to 8 months and get ready for a total reduction in spending and results from these efforts.
#2:Â Half of your budget should go to doing anything and everything you can to build a relationship with you customer base, online and in person. Use social outposts such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as a means for building that relationship. Be authentic in who you and your company are and find consumers who like you as a business and as a person. If you are advertising something, do so in a way that asks the consumer you are for help and apologizes for the spin if there is any.
Another key piece of advice is to stay on point. Always be aware that time is the currency that most people find most precious. If you want to gain a little of this currency from them if you want their time and attention that can convert into their money you need to respect the value they place on it. Be authentic when considering who would really be interested in your product or service, and focus your energies there.
Online marketing in this new era means that it is important to determining who you are, what your business can do for its target demographics, and that you create marketing strategies that focus on that. According to Darren Rowse, Founder of Problogger, There are no magic wands, no hidden tricks, and no secret handshakes that can bring you immediate success, but with time, energy, and determination you can get there.
It is time to stop doing stuff online just to impress the search engines. None of it really impresses the consumer. Instead, those tactics make it clear that itâ€™s all about making money, which doesnâ€™t build trust. Trust is what brings the consumer back. Building trust is what becoming authentic is all about.
Donâ€™t get me wrong; making money is still important. But advertising, especially the traditional SEO way, as a means to obtain a revenue fix has now become like a drug addict who spends all his time trying to score. The outcome is just too short-lived, itâ€™s not fulfilling, rather odorous, and the motivation is totally obvious to the rest of the world. It is time to make your authentic self and business more obvious.
What Lance Armstrong Taught Me About Search Engine Optimization
Lance Armstrong learned that just because practices were undetectable or dare I say rewarded doesnâ€™t mean that in the future those same practices will not be detectable and punished.
If you think about the changes in the search engines and the thousands or millions you have spent on your website.Â Please be advised that you should always adhere to three simple rules that I call my Marc Pickren Rules for SEO (search engine optimization).
- Your content MUST provide value to the searcher for the particular need state that they find themselves in
- Your content MUST be good enough for searchers to pass it along
- Your content MUST be designed in such as way that it can easily be passed throughout the Internet and across todayâ€™s and tomorrowâ€™s platforms
Marc Pickren Interviewed on Facebook Exchange Launch
A great Article from April Joyner:
Today, Facebook released its fourth-quarter earnings, beating analyst expectations with revenue of $1.59 billion and profits of 17 cents a share. But several marketing start-ups already predicted the increasing power of the social network in online advertising–by the boost its giving their own businesses.
Much of Facebook’s recent rise as an advertising platform has driven by its new ad exchange,Â Facebook Exchange, or FBX, which launched in September. The exchange lets advertisers use real-time bidding to buy ads on the social network. That includes ads that show products to Facebook users according to their browsing habits, a practice known as “retargeting.” So far, FBX is only available to more than a dozen advertising platforms, includingÂ AdRoll, MediaMath, andÂ Triggit. Those companies have more than doubled their revenue since gaining access to FBX.
Facebook Ads Deliver a Return
Ads on FBX have outperformed those on other ad exchanges, including Google’s, according to Jeff Green, the CEO of The Trade Desk, another ad platform that uses FBX. As a result, says Green, his company has seen spending increase on the platform even after the holidays, when business usually experiences a drop-off in activity. “Facebook likely represents the first real competitor to Google,” he says. “It makes the game interesting again.”
Because of the success of FBX, more clients are making Facebook a larger part of their ad budgets, says Eoin Townsend, the chief strategy officer of MediaMath, a 2012 Inc. 500 honoree. “You used to have a situation where Facebook was an exploratory spend–maybe a company would commit $100,000,” Townsend says. “That has shifted dramatically.”
That observation is backed up by recent data released by Spruce Media, an online marketing company devoted to advertising on Facebook. Ad spending on the social network has shifted from basic ads that appear in the sidebar of Facebook pages to other types of ads that carry a higher price, such as sponsored stories that appear in user news feeds. Rates for the company’s News Feed ads have risen 36 percent.
More opportunities for Facebook advertising growth may be on the horizon.
Earlier this month, Facebook announced Graph Search, a feature that lets members of the social network find others with specific interests. That capability could eventually allow companies to further tailor their advertising, says Lucy Jacobs, the COO of Spruce Media.
Mobile advertising presents another possible area for growth. Though 23 percent of Facebook’s revenue now comes from its mobile platform, its mobile ad rates remain relatively low, and the company is just beginning to experiment with ad formats for the medium, she says.
As Facebook’s advertising ecosystem grows, so too will competition. Townsend expects to see some consolidation in the industry long term, as companies vie to become the one-stop shop for advertisers. “Clients don’t want 20 media partners and seven tech partners,” he says. “I see a few companies working together in this environment to become a single platform.”
This story was originally published at 4:05 PM, and was updated at 5:20 PM after Facebook reported its earnings.
April JoynerÂ is a reporter forÂ Inc.Â magazine. She regularly covers sales and marketing topics and writes on start-ups forÂ Inc.â€™sÂ Elevator Pitch column. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.Â @aprjoy
A Review of APCO Worldwide by Marc Pickren
Every once in a while an Advertising and Communications Agency begins to emerge from the crowd.Â This often happens when advertisers are in need of thoughtful leadership to deal with challenges of all types.Â Some of the challenges of the past five years have come at the hands of public policy, economic decline or technological evolution.Â It seems that we are in a period now where these challenges have all come at once.Â From what I understand, APCO Worldwide (http://apcoworldwide.com/index.aspx) is a a communications agency that is leading their clients through this change.Â They don’t “innovate” or “create” just for creative sake.Â They create communication programs that help both the advertiser and the intended consumer of the communications to not just understand complexity but to utilize changes in improving their personal and business lives.Â The founder Margery Kraus is an icon within the marketing, advertising and communications space and has been honored with many awards from her peers.Â I believe her professionalism permeates the agency and creates opportunities for building trust between clients that then permeates to the consumer.Â As one of the Fastest Growing Agencies, I would expect that we will continue to see great things from this company and from Margery Kraus.Â It is my hope that they remain independent and continue to provide leadership in a field that is often times dominated by less than inspired work and people.
Attention Interns.Â If you are looking for a great place to start your career.Â I would strongly suggest connecting with Apco Worldwide Washington D.C.
You can follow all things Apco Worldwide on Twitter: @apcoworldwide
Email RFP’s or Credential Requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org
700 12th Street, N.W., Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20005 U.S.A.
Classified Ventures makes Fastest Growing List. Dan Jauernig has done great things with this company. It has secured its position within key categories, especially those dominated by performance based media or lead generation. They have built from a solid base of technology and elbow grease and avoided many of the pitfalls of being a .com.
If I were to suggest an acquisition target, it would be cargurus.com. Cargurus.com offers up the same value proposition as some airline ticket pricing companies and would offer differentiator in a crowded space.
Today, drawing customers to your website is no longer the hardest part of the process. Technology has become so advanced that you can target your consumers right where they are searching for you and even track how they move through your site. The challenge has now become turning those consumers that you draw to your site into customers. At the end of the day, the bottom line of any business is sales. If youâ€™re not selling your products or services, youâ€™re not successful.
Be clear; make your point
The key to converting visitors into customers is by presenting your product clearly and effectively. If a consumer has come to your website, they obviously have some level of interest in what it is you have to offer; make it as easy as possible for them to act on that interest. How do you accomplish that? Keep a few of these things in mind:
Donâ€™t write complex and overly jargonized sentences
Write stuff that everyone can understand. Just because they are your customers it doesnâ€™t mean that they know everything about the industry. A lot of people make the mistake of feeling like they have to write technical content because thatâ€™s what will appeal to their customers. As a business on the web, your customers areÂ everybody, and they areÂ everywhere. Make your content appeal to the masses by using plain language and simple sentences. Thereâ€™s a term that they use in the advertising industry when referring to designing ads and other communications, and it applies here as well; itâ€™s called KISS, meaning, â€œKeep it simple, stupid.â€Â The more visitors to your site that you can get to easily understand what it is youâ€™re selling and why they need it, the more of those visitors will become paying customers.
Stick with the facts
When creating content for your website, start with the facts. Forget the potatoes; first just write down what the meat of your product is. What specific things will your customers directly benefit from? Start here with a simple list, and then add the dressings as necessary to make it sound good. But remember, the meat is the protein; it is still the most important part of the meal.
It is also to keep in mind that as a whole, our attention spans are shorter than everâ€” especially on the Internet. If someone is looking at your site, they want to find information quickly. By sticking with the facts and being clear and concise, you are allowing customers to easily analyze your product and compare it with others to make an informed buying decision. An informed customer is a happy customer.
Let the writers write
Finally, and most importantly, leave the writing on your website up to those you trust the most to do your writing. The Internet has really allowed anyone and everyone to become a publisher. While this is a great thing, itâ€™s also very dangerous. Think about it this way, when you are creating a flyer or any other marketing materials would you just write something down and send it to print without it going through any type of process or giving it to a bona fide writer? Didnâ€™t think so. Your website is your greatest marketing asset, with the potential to reach millions, give it the attention it deserves. Make sure that those who would normally do the writing in your organization are the ones writing for your website, and make sure it goes through a proofreading and copyediting process. Just because you can publish content on your own, it doesnâ€™t mean you should. And itâ€™s about more than just grammar and spelling. While those are important, itâ€™s really about how clearly your message is being communicated.
The following is a guest post by Brian Whalley of HubSpot. HubSpot is an inbound marketing software company in Cambridge, Massachusets, that focuses on helping small- and medium-sized businesses with lead generation online.
The core of any successful marketing program is generating new leads for the business. Since businesses began advertising their services and products online, they have been trying to find better and less expensive ways to generate those leads. This is very important to watch: Businesses are trying to generate leads just like they were last week or a month ago, but many of them are experimenting with new methods of advertising themselves and attracting attention. Generating content and inbound marketing is one angle that those businesses are taking to attract new visitors and leads to their websites.
Who’s Interested In Locksmithing?
One of the toughest questions businesses face when developing website content about themselves is answering the question: “How are we interesting?” Many marketers and business owners, like Ollie below, are afraid of how boring they believe they are, or that no-one could possibly be interested in their businesses. The simple solution for this challenge is to go ahead and put your feet in the water. Start a blog for your website about whatever it is that your business does. While you’re there, write your first post about one thing that you can explain to people about what you do, or a tool in your job. If you’re a locksmith, you would be surprised at how many people want to read about how a lock works, what tools you use to open a lock, or how evolving technology has changed your job in the last ten years. Don’t believe me? According to Google, last month approximately 1,300 people searched for the phrase, “Double Cylinder Locks.” That’s a lot, and that’s just on the technical name for a specific lock.
How can you get there?
We use inbound marketing to describe how great business leaders educate everyone around them on their industry and business, most commonly though blogging. Let’s call that business leader Ollie. When someone asks for a recommendation or reviews for that type of business, everyone knows to refer that person to Ollie, and Ollie is soon flooded by leads who are looking for his products or services. Ollie has established himself as a leader in his field and his great expertise is widely known. At the beginning, Ollie was only interested in making sure that his content about locksmithing was accessible to people looking for information, but he has now positioned himself as one of the most accessible people creating information about locks and locksmithing. Ollie writes about what people are searching for and wanting to learn about, and it will be found online.
Ollie is now in a great position to generate leads from his blog. He can put a lead generation form with an offer (Perhaps a free consultation? Or a guide to picking your new lock?) or some kind of call-to-action on his blog, in his blog posts, or in other places on his website. No matter where he puts those offers, he is in a leadership position and a reference expert in his industry now.
Whenever a user searches for information on the web, the positive or negative reviews build in the user’s mind the qualities, without necessarily having any first-hand experiences. Because of this fact, it is essential to, in a sense, “make a good first impression.” Countless types of users will be using search engines daily. With diligent management of online reputation, a good first impression can be made on users such as:
These are the users who eventually have the most power in the market and on sustainability.
- the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 12 percent of his or her total earnings
- the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 30 percent of his or her discretionary income
- at least 35 percent of former students are repaying their loans (defined as reducing the loan balance by at least $1)
- monitor online and offline content.
- report on infractions and provide solutions
- monitor all forms of advertising daily and provide reporting on results
- stay knowledgeable and speak with clients on compliance issues