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Google’s new Offline Conversion API

Happy 2013!

It may look like we’ve been loyal to the Mayan calendar, but we’ve just been busy internally over the holidays and didn’t blog.

Google has also been busy in 2013, retiring the old Offline Conversions APIs (both the Javascript and Python versions were retired in November 2012), and beginning a new Offline Conversions import service within the DoubleClick Search brand.

This announcement has been subject to both good and bad press, typically depending on the technical skills/depth of knowledge of the story writer.

Most writers looking for the worst possible scenario chose to doubt Google’s privacy controls, and boldly suggest there will be problems due to data aggregation.

Google’s DoubleClick service explicitly states:

“Advertisers are prohibited from sending personally identifiable information using this feature, as outlined by the Terms of Service for the API.”

Further to that there are lots of assumptions being made about who can supply data, who has access, and what data is relevant. In one article they just tossed in a mention that the data could be ‘decrypted’ by 3rd parties/or government agencies with nothing to back that claim up.

To help understand the role of this service lets look at a typical use case:

  • You sell widgets.
  • Your website has online ordering.
  • You also have a physical store.
  • Clients are finding items online, but buying them in person.

So if you are basing your promotion efforts on Web based analytics, you will be in the dark as to what promotions drove the clients to come to the store and make a purchase.

Unless Google gave you an interface with which to send them transaction info on offline sales?

Lets see how that would work:

  • A Google user is searching for widgets.
  • Google puts a PPC Ad on the page promoting your widgets.
  • The user clicks on the Ad, and looks up ‘Blue Widget # 42′.
  • 2 hours later, your in-store till sells 2 ‘Blue Widget # 42′s.
  • The till sends “2 x Blue Widget # 42″ to Google as ‘sold’.

That’s it, Google now can relate the pay per click advertisement as relevant to the sale of the widget, and you have more info on how well that advertisement worked.

This also works very well with telephone based sales, especially if you are in a position to use specific phone numbers, or extensions, to narrow down how the call came about.

So while some folks are very concerned about how much companies will know about them when companies start comparing notes, that’s not the situation here at all.

Companies have been comparing notes for years, without the help of Google. Just think about the shopping trends that you reveal when you use an Air Miles card?

Google only wants to help reduce unwanted/ineffective advertising and reduce the amount of money businesses spend to reach potential clients.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:46 pm on January 3, 2013


 

You may need an EMT after the EMD Update!

Last Friday Matt Cutts tweeted about Google’s latest update, which focuses on penalties for ‘low-quality’ Exact Match Domain names, hence the EMD TLA.

Twitter posts from Matt Cutts on the latest EMD Update

While Google is never big on giving us the details lets digest this together!

Using a relevant keyword in a domain has been a very long-standing ranking signal.
ie: A consulting site for financial companies using ‘financial-consulting.com’ as a domain would be seen as relevant

Over the years this has lead to people grabbing up domains with keywords in them for SEO purposes.

JACOBS BY MARC JACOBS FOR MARC BY MARC JACOBS ETC..

Having your keywords in your domain name didn’t mean overnight dominance of the web, thankfully. Indeed, there was usually some trade-off between desirable keywords and a reasonably short domain name.

In fact, no organic/white-hat SEO would suggest you use something like:

‘best-value-online-financial-consulting-company-with-proven-results.com’

Why? Because the gains in SEO wouldn’t match the losses in user trust/conversions.

Would a good organic SEO/White Hat tell you NOT to purchase those types of domains for 301s to your main site?

I’d like to think so, but this was clearly a strategy for a lot of sites competing for top rankings.

Regardless of your SEO ethics, the practice of domain parking/selling because of search ranking signals is clearly an unnecessary burden on the internet.

While the ‘domains for sale’ issue would still exist without search engines, search engines honestly should be making your choice of domain name MUCH less relevant.

Ideally fresh internet traffic should occur as match between the searchers needs and the services/information that your site provides.

And with this latest update it’d appear that Google agrees with the idea that book should found by more than what’s on the cover.

As of this last update you can expect sites with nothing but some keyword dense 301′d domains to now face a penalty instead of a positive ranking signal.

We didn’t see this coming!

EMD Update Results

I’m already seeing people post sad tales of the deep impact this update is having on certain sites, and I’ve had a laugh at a few ‘professionals’ claiming they never felt this day would come.

Personally, while I’ve watched some very good presentations on SEO and web ranking strategies, the one thing that helps me most as an SEO is Matt Cutts’ breakdown of the real philosophy behind ‘good SEO’ which boils down to:

Never do something for the sake of search engine rankings alone.

If you like ‘Lord of the Rings’ then look at this as:

‘One Rule to Lead them all, one Rule to be found by…’

..and you should never have to fear a Google update!

In fact you should look at each Google update as a chance for your rankings to improve as other sites are punished for their ‘clever’ attempts to game the system.

Another Google Easter Egg?

And finally, to end the post with a chuckle, here’s a Google search phrase for you to test out:

I was hoping this was more than just an ‘Easter Egg‘ in Google’s search, but alas Google hasn’t yet licked mathematical artificial intelligence. :p

SEO news blog post by @ 12:01 pm on October 2, 2012


 

Conversions – Good Rankings Do Not Make

I visit many websites every week. From small single person operations and startup businesses, to multi-national conglomerates. Sometimes the most difficult things to explain to clients are that good rankings do not necessarily equal good conversions.

yoda pic

Clients often get confused by this point. One thing I always ask myself and try to get clients to answer about their own site is "Who is this site for?" and "What problems does this site solve?"

The answers are going to determine how long I spend on a site.
I think this is an often overlooked question that unfortunately eludes most websites owners. In many cases it is very straight forward. You have a product, you sell a product.

However, when you are in a very competitive market or in a niche driven market, you must actively recruit and find effective ways to keep people on your site.
Sadly, it is not enough to have a static page that just sells widgets. It is imperative to try to find something different to offer that other related sites do not or, at least to find a new and creative way to do it.

There is no right or wrong answer, but the best thing you can do for your site is to find a way to set yourself apart from your competition. This can be in the form of superior product information, blogs/forums, reviews, link bait, or any other resource that is not readily available from a competitors website. You need to know your market and your customers and be able to appeal to what they need or want. Sometime visitors don’t know what they want until you tell them!

Remember also that it is not just about having shiny things to attract (or distract) people to trick them in to spending time on your site (although this has merit as well when used correctly). You can have great content and unique resources, etc but is your visitors cannot get to the information they are looking for, then it will be for naught. Some other ways to keep people from leaving your site immediately are:

  • Page load times; this is a huge conversion killer. If a page takes more than a few seconds to load, people will leave.
  • Avoid using ads, these tend to cheapen the site and they detract from your message.
  • Be very selective in your use of multiple fonts, font colors or animations on your page.
  • While images are great for enticing visitors to a page, too many increase page load times and causes frustration on a slow connection. Remember a picture (one) is worth a thousand words.
  • Pop-up windows are very annoying and also very antiquated.
  • Ensure that your “buy” button/links are easily seen and that your shopping cart system works well and is not confusing to the user.

Remember that there is always thousands of other website for people to choose from. It helps to step back from your site and view it from the end user perspective. Better yet is to have friends and colleagues from outside your own market to take a look at your site or to offer suggestions as to what they might look for when researching your particular field or product. Doing so may allow you to spot potential issues or problems with your site that may be hindering or turning off customers.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:14 am on September 14, 2011


 

the Power of the Meme & SEO

What is a MEME?

You have probably seen several and may have even used them before without even knowing it. Wikipedia defines a meme as a "unit of social information. It is a relatively newly coined term and identifies ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another. The memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information."

mems.gif

To brush up on some of the currently popular memes, you can check out: knowyourmeme.com. You can create new memes from pop culture references, or revive an existing one by breathing new life into it. A great example of a popular meme that most people have seen is the Antoine Dodson’s Bed Intruder song. This is a great example of using popular media to work for you. Another popular meme is the LOLCatz. This is an example of a meme that has been reused in a unlimited number of iterations.

The term meme has often incorrectly been used to refer to internet fads; even though many internet fads are in fact memes. SEO, in some respects could be considered a meme since you are manipulating the positioning of a website in search engines which also spreads the specific ideas that improved the rankings themselves in the first place. So how can memes be used to improve search engine rankings?

Creating a Successful MEME

For a meme to be of value, you need to think of visitors to your website as "carriers." It is up to the carriers to pick up on the available meme content and spread it for you. The only memes that survive are those that get picked up and spread by those carriers. Carriers can be your website, your visitors, search engines, social media…anything that gets your meme distributed.

In much the same way as a virus attaches to a host and is transmitted through the public, the more people it is exposed to, the more successful the virus is. In this respect, this is how a meme goes "viral" on the internet. Memes don’t have purpose or motivation. Memes spread because of what the carriers do.

MEMES & SEO

Memes should not be thought of as a link building tool per se. More correctly it can be thought of as an effective marketing tool. It is also an effective way to create an online following and a way to build trust between you and your visitors. If the visitor can identify with the meme you are using, it will create an intrinsic value and an amount of "trust."

The meme can reinforce that the visitor is on a site they can relate to, or that the site has a certain amount of social relevance pertaining to them. Moreover, a successful meme builds up social popularity and will increase the time spent on site for people visiting to see your meme. In this context, a meme can be akin to "viral marketing."

A meme is a self-replicating idea and as such, means that it only works when it is copied and shared with others. By its very definition, a meme cannot exist in only one place; meaning that your website will not be the exclusive carrier of the idea. So how can a site benefit if the ideas/memes are allowed to spread without keeping ownership of them?

When you are recognized as the source of the meme, the very act of people sharing it benefits you the most. Every new Google search regarding the meme should bring a new visitor to your site. This is because searchers tend to gravitate towards the source of the information. Give the meme a very distinctive name and spend time optimizing your site to rank for those keywords in the meme before distributing it.

Being the creator of a popular meme is always best. The closer you are to the originating source of the meme, the better as viewers like to link to the originating source. Memes can encourage links, visits and increase mentions of your site through the use of social networking.

Memes take time to spread. Making use of popular social networking sites will help to promote your meme. Use Facebook to share it with friends and to recruit followers. Uploading your meme to sites like imgur.com and reddit.com is a great way to help it go viral. You can use these sites as a test bed for the potential success of the meme by tracking viewer’s comments and reactions to it. Also watch for the number of views your meme receives and the number of upvotes it gets.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:54 pm on April 6, 2011


 

Increasing Website Conversions For The Holidays

As we watch the holidays fast approaching many (if not all) only retailers are trying to find ways to increase their sales.  Unfortunately it’s now too late for any major organic SEO initiatives but that’s not to say there aren’t things you can do to help you profit from this season of frenzied buying.  Published this morning is my latest article on just this subject.  It focuses on some simple ways to improve your website conversions.  Of course – it’s also going to be important for you to look at other traffic streams such as PPC, shopping engines, etc. but I’ll leave that for another author – I wanted to focus on ways to profit more highly from the traffic you do have.

If you read the article you’ll find some very simple-to-implement ideas and links to some of my favorite resources and tools for conversions optimization. Enjoy and happy holidays. :)

You’ll find the article on our website at http://www.beanstalk-inc.com/articles/design/holiday-conversions.html.

SEO news blog post by @ 6:21 pm on November 22, 2010


 

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