Pacific Flux – Internet Marketing Consultants

Pacific Flux Internet Marketing

Pacific flux is a San Diego online marketing firm focused on delivering effective web-based services that deliver an immediate positive impact for your business.

Internet Marketing Strategy:Pacific Flux Internet Marketing Consultants
• Email Marketing
• Paid & Organic Search
• Acquisition & Database Marketing
• Social Media Strategies
• Affiliate Marketing
• Strategic Partnerships
• Web Development & Strategy

Improve your business by understanding your website’s weak points and leveraging it’s strengths. Pacific Flux will show you the way!

Increase your online sales by optimizing your conversion process.

We see it every day. Companies ask us how they can squeeze more dollars out of their website. The good news… that is one of our specialties. By implementing a methodical multivariant testing process and understanding the confusing/difficult aspects via usability tests, we are able to provide recommendations to increase conversions and online sales.

Posted under Internet Marketing

How to Predict the Conversion Value of Keywords for SEO

Posted by “not provided” update).

Think about it: After conducting a thorough keyword research analysis of your business, you manage to narrow down your monster list to a very refined set of queries; queries that you spent countless hours on, critiquing relentlessly from all possible angles of opportunity — search volumes, competition levels, SERP topics, business relevance, etc.

Then, your boss fatuously asks you, “Why not choose this keyword instead?” And to complicate matters even more, your digital marketing agency offers its own portfolio of keywords that they believe would be highly profitable to your business.

Now comes the hard part, the decision. Who is right? How would your keyword selection impact your business? Are you willing to throw thousands of dollars and wait for five months (if not more) to go after your keyword selection, praying for the best possible outcome?

Or you can be smart about it and confidently bolster your decision with proof of data.

Let’s consider a more specific example:

Say we’re a secondhand automotive dealer and we have narrowed down our keyword research list to these four queries:

Keyword

Monthly Searches

Suggested Bid

Difficulty Index

Current Position

Used car dealerships

74,000

$4.51

0.97

67

Second-hand cars

4,400

$1.46

0.73

19

Cheap cars for sale

49,500

$1.98

0.89

28

Used SUV for sale

12,100

$4.26

0.93

129

This is a perfect example of a dilemma that any SEOer faces while doing keyword research.

  1. The first keyword, “used car dealerships” — “Ah, that search volume looks so juicy! We’re not doing terribly bad. Only if we can push forward a few more paces, we’d be swarmed with web traffic. However, with great search volume comes even fiercer competition.”
  2. The next one, “second-hand cars”— “Oh boy! We’re already on the second page and the competition level seems doable. Hmm, but the search volume is not nearly comparable to the first one.”
  3. Third, “cheap cars for sale”— “This is another interesting one. But we’re not sure of the intent of the searcher. Are they looking for cheap new cars or used ones?! How would they react if they came to our website?”
  4. “Used SUV for sale” — “Look! These people practically have their whole wallet out. They seem to be deep inside the sales funnel, looking for a specific car brand. This keyword could have a lot of potential for us. But the low search volume, along with the current ranking on this one, is both intimidating and heartbreaking. Not sure if this keyword would really be worth all that effort.”

What’s the solution? Let’s jump right to it.

Experimenting with pay-per-click (PPC) ads

Yes, you can leverage paid ads to choose which keywords to target for your organic search strategy. The motive behind this is to get web traffic samples from each query, monitor each group’s behavior using performance indicators and finally compare them against each other to know the winner. This can potentially save you loads of time and money by avoiding the catastrophe of channeling all your efforts in something, only to find out later that it’s as worthless as 97% of your web traffic.

A few points for implementing the experiment

  1. To set up the experiment, we can create a campaign with multiple ad groups under it, each of which would show an ad for the keywords that we have targeted.bbTsdzF_f1FdwQtaZTrK-49wHS9Jp9UyofZYatLN
  2. While typing in the keywords in our AdWords ad groups, we’d want to make sure they are all set to “exact match” because we wouldn’t want our ads to show up for queries such as cheap car toys for sale… :)
  3. To replicate this experiment as closely as possible with the top organic listings, we want to set the bid strategy to “target search page location” to have a higher chance of coming up above the fold among the first few results.H5C12PAp_8RcZ1ce3jRFlNnmFk64EKS4abrYCiEx
  4. The ad title and description should also be written as if we’re writing text for the title tag and meta description for the page.
  5. Before doing the experiment, make sure conversion/event tracking is set up correctly and Google Analytics is linked to your AdWords account.
  6. Finally, set your daily budget, bidding strategy and delivery method. Depending on your business and search volume of keywords, you can set your ad delivery method to ‘standard’ or ‘accelerated’, meaning how quickly your ad would be shown each day. We have decided to run our experiment for eight days on accelerated ad delivery._bX6Hm1b7EaONVVkaZ3aEmvqrSrLRpYJfRkKfmDy

More advanced users can set up the experiment using the AdWords experiment tool.

The results

AdGroup / Keyword

Visitors

Conversions

Conversion Rate

Bounce Rate

Average Page Depth

Used car dealerships

750

5

0.67%

65%

2.3

Second hand cars

345

8

2.32%

45%

3.1

Cheap cars for sale

443

7

1.58%

27%

4.0

Used SUV for sale

450

15

3.33%

32%

3.8

We know the average CTR for the #1 position in the organic search results is estimated to be somewhere between 18% and 36%. Using Google Search Console, we can estimate the CTR of these keywords based on similar queries that are ranking high. After looking at our Google Search Console data, we have found our CTR to be approximately 22% for informative queries and 20% for transactional queries.

Using this data, we can now predict our organic traffic and conversions for all these keywords as follows:

Estimated organic traffic and conversions:

Keyword

Search Volume

Web Traffic

Conversion Rate

Conversions

Used car dealerships

74,000

16,280 (22% CTR)

0.67%

109.1

Second hand cars

4,400

968 (22% CTR)

2.32%

22.5

Cheap cars for sale

49,500

9,900 (20% CTR)

1.58%

156.4

Used SUV for sale

12,100

2,420 (20% CTR)

3.33%

80.6

We can see that the “cheap cars for sale” keyword would yield us the highest conversions due to the high search volume even though “used SUV for sale” seems to have a better conversion rate.

We have all our experiment results. But the question now is how accurate would these keyword performance metrics really be if we decided to go after them on a much larger scale on the organic side of things? Results from experiments like these are often subject to what is called sampling error, random noise, fluctuations, chance, etc. After all, we only have a small sample subset from such a vast pool of searches. Now the challenge is to separate the noise from the signal to get a more reliable and valid prediction.

But first, I must warn you: From this point onward, it’s just math.

If you just happen to be involved directly (or indirectly) in analytics, these tests might give you some nasty memories from school.

Don’t worry, I have included a spreadsheet that will compute all these calculations for you. All you need to do is feed it data. So, feel free to skip the next part and go straight to the statistical model if you feel uncomfortable with the math.

We will compare our sample conversion rate to a benchmark conversion rate to predict the probability that it would exceed the benchmark if we decided to move forward with a particular keyword for SEO.

For the nerds: We can do this using the Z-Test for binomial proportions. This test is eligible if we have a sample size that is large enough. There is no magic number to determine this, but a rule of thumb is a minimum of five successes and five failures. The formula for this is:

z=(p1-p)/sqrt(p(1-p)n)

P1 = observed conversion rate, p = benchmark conversion rate, and n = sample size (number of visits or clicks).

So, for example, if we wanted to compare the sample conversion rate of “cheap cars for sale” against a benchmark of 1%, we would plug the values from the experiment in the spreadsheet calculator, which would give us a confidence level of 89%. This means that about 9 out of 10 times, the conversion rate of “cheap cars for sale: would exceed 1%. And we know a 1% conversion rate for this term equals 99 conversions (0.01 * 9900).

We can work this in reverse to find the benchmark rate for a 95% confidence interval using the “goal seek” tool in Excel. Just download the spreadsheet, open the “goal seek’”tool and type in these values exactly as they are.

4OkukNK9GdfmrCCagHzrswySFQ9bL5vy1r_eeMxq

After clicking “OK,” we get the following result for the “cheap cars for sale” keyword:

ySv24jM5DZDPRMni6zQXZNKgLI81RaXMnr8Ji1QM

As you can see, the confidence level is very close to 95%. Thus, based on this statistical analysis, we can predict 95% of the time that our keyword “cheap cars for sale” would exceed a conversion rate of 0.86% (or 85 conversions). This is a reasonably high probability with only 1 in 20 times that it could be wrong. Now if we know the average revenue per conversion, we can estimate revenues from keywords, too! Assuming our average revenue per keyword is $1,500, this means 95% of the time we can expect to earn at least $127,500 (85 * $1,500) from the “cheap cars for sale” keyword with a 20% CTR and search volume of 49,500 per month.

Now, for bonus points we can also compute a probability based conversion range that would predict with 95% accuracy where the actual values would lie if we got organic web traffic from all four keywords.

We will use the adjusted Wald confidence interval formula for binomial proportions as it works better for both small and large sample sizes.

C.I=p(adj)+- z * sqrt (p(adj)(1-p(adj))/n(adj))
Where p(adj)=(x+(z^2)/2)(n+z^2)

Plugging in the values in our spreadsheet calculator, we get the following output for all 4 keywords that we had experimented on:

N-BeFJ-cvCtiztiapvWfk7pRNewuuv-aA6w6C7nv

So, 95% of the time the actual conversion rate of our 3rd keyword “cheap cars for sale” would lie between the range of 0.7% – 3.29%. This means if we decided to go with the keyword “cheap cars for sale,” we would get somewhere between 69 and 326 organic conversions with a 20% average CTR. From the revenue calculations above, we can expect to earn somewhere between $103,500 and $489,000 per month.

Fascinating, right?

Two key points to remember when doing experiments like these:

  1. Never skip the statistical analysis — It would just make your predictions unreliable, inaccurate, and invalid altogether.
  2. Aim for a 95% confidence level, even though you can go for other confidence levels depending on the context.

“Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.”
-W. Edwards Deming

Now, please take a moment to comment below on how you go about predicting conversions for the organic channels you manage. Let us know if you agree/disagree with the analysis in this post and share any suggestions you may have for improving the process.

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Posted under Internet Marketing

What a Decade of Working in Digital Marketing Has Taught Me

Posted by Distilled were some of the friendliest Moz community members I built relationships with in my early days in the industry. They warmly greeted me at my first conference ever, SMX West. Worried that I wouldn’t know anyone during the networking, they quickly allayed that concern.

Friends count for so much in this industry.

They have referred excellent quality leads to me, and with a warm intro to boot. They’ve shared my content, unique tactical ideas that aren’t blogged about anywhere, and simply been immensely good to me in so many ways.

I’m not the only one who feels this way.

“I have made some of my closest industry friends at conferences, and we are lucky that people in our industry are so willing to help others. Whenever I have a question about marketing, there is always someone I can find to ask on Skype, email, WhatsApp, Facebook or LinkedIn that can share insight based on their experiences,” says veteran SEO Eli Schwartz.

My friends at Shout hold this is to be a key part of their social media efforts:

“Sharing the content of those in your network can be of vast help in developing and maintaining relationships with influencers and prospects.”

Conversely, many relationships I formed withered over time. When I reached out to restart the relationship, a fair number of people declined to reconnect. Other relationships were lost because I had so neglected the relationship that I’d outright forgotten who many contacts were.

This is the biggest mistake I’ve made.

#8: Do one thing at a time and persevere past initial failures

Whenever I’ve tried to run multiple businesses, the results have always been mediocre. My repeated attempts at affiliate marketing have yielded lackluster revenue numbers. My main business has always been consulting, so affiliate marketing was just not something I had time to focus on.

“Focusing on one thing at a time will significantly increase your chance at achieving breakthroughs,” says Arik Liberman, CEO at Pagewiz. “The decision to grow Pagewiz as a self-funded start-up limited us to certain things, but it also taught us about our competitive advantages. Instead of spreading our marketing budget thin across multiple initiatives, we simply focused on landing page optimization. That focus allowed us to rapidly achieve a low cost-per-acquisition in a very competitive market.”

Here’s what I noticed as leading me to embarking on half-hearted projects, and how I finally overcame the bad habit:

  • I’d read an affiliate marketer’s blog where they described their success in juicy, tactical detail. I went off to see what I could do similarly. Then I’d do some research, figure out a traffic source (usually organic search), and start.
  • The same holds true outside of affiliate marketing. I read about someone’s success at drop shipping and thought, “Where can I source products, too?”

Nowadays, I do two things:

  • Avoid the blogs touting ways to make money online.
  • If I get the impulse to go start a new site, campaign, etc., I first ask myself, “Will I commit to improving and testing this over at least six months?” If the answer is that I’ll give up easily, then it’s not worth pursuing.

This is true of clients as well — if they can’t commit to at least six months, what’s the point of starting?

SEO Jordan Kasteler has an interesting approach that helps him stay focused:

“Do one thing at a time, and persevere past initial failures really hits home. One of the biggest contributors to the downfall of my former agency was being fractured, not focused. With so many opportunities available to us, we tried to do them all, but all were done sub-par. Had we focused, we’d have succeeded in our area of focus.”

#7: There’s no right marketing channel for everyone

Each channel has unique traits that make it right for different purposes. The point is to simply look at your goals and work backwards to see which channel(s) are better for achieving them.

Besides unique pros and cons, each channel also has its own loopholes and quirks. For example, Gmail’s introduction of the separate tabs for social and promotions did a lot to hurt the value of email lists. That’s a pretty big quirk.

Another type of quirk is a channel loophole. Loopholes in marketing channels exist today, existed yesterday, and will continue to exist indefinitely.

gab-hamlet.jpgMoz community member Hamlet Batista is very successful in the extremely competitive affiliate marketing niche.

There’s no use fretting over these quirks. Provided that you’re not harming others, it’s typically legal to benefit from them — and it can be perfectly moral in the right conditions.

#6: There are diminishing returns on reading blog posts and articles

If your main source of learning is blog posts, podcasts and the like, you’re reviewing more than you need to and missing out on learning new things.

You need structured and comprehensive content to help you in the areas that marketing-related content cannot.

This is where reading books, attending conferences, and networking are really valuable. Another approach if you prefer to stay with blogs is to curate the good stuff for yourself, as Bonnie Stefanick of Internet Marketing Ninjas shares:

“You can use a curated social media feed as a gateway for finding topics, authors, and good in-depth reads. I’ve used Twitter in the past and now Facebook for creating a great curated feed. I built up a followers list of authoritative people and continuously curate the feed — culling anyone from it that does not share anything useful or interesting. After some jiggering overt time, my feeds are now great live streams that only show me the most relevant interesting blogs and articles found by subject matter experts that I know, trust, and who are not sharing content just for the promotion. You’d be surprised how many smart people have written self-published books and other really great in-depth content that is under the radar!”

#5: Systems are the key to order and repeatability

Here are some questions that have come up in real life situations for myself and others in the absence of systems. They show you the value in creating systems, which are step-by-step recipes for achieving specific results, with clear metrics and hierarchy for accountability, within a clear timeframe.

  • Are you indispensable to the business’ successful function?
  • Why are you writing a new proposal from scratch? Again?
  • Why did that new employee not perform the service the way you intended it? Didn’t his CV list five years of experience doing exactly this?
  • How come you feel like dropping your clients and withdrawing into a shell?

The above are some of the sad, unfortunate symptoms of a business in a systems-vacuum crisis.

Without systems, there are no benchmark results to define success or failure.

Therefore, document how you do any given thing as if you were writing a how-to blog post. Include baseline metrics, who is accountable for running this process, who will hold them accountable, and how long it takes to complete the task.

#4: An incredible channel specialist or manager will not necessarily make an incredible agency founder

There’s a myth that if a channel specialist can drive lots of traffic to a site, then they can just as easily start their own sites or agency. While the myth boosts specialists’ salaries, it doesn’t correlate to reality.

In reality, an agency founder does much more than the specialist’s job. A CRO agency founder may do that for himself and clients, but likely also handles networking, HR, compensation, accounting, legal, marketing and sales, building and equipment maintenance, etc.

Realize that business skills are more important than technical skills and have a larger impact on a company’s success, says SEO expert Matt Antonino of Stack Digital.

“When I was a photographer I would often debate what makes the better business: someone who is amazing at photography but average at business, or someone who is phenomenal in business but an average photographer. Over the years I watched people come and go. Without fail, great photographers who didn’t understand business would go away, being greatly outmatched by fantastic businesspeople who got their processes right. There’s a lot more to a great business than doing a good [technical] job.”

#3: Learn the ropes on someone else’s dime and continue learning after you strike out on your own

When I started consulting on SEO, I naively thought that by learning the techniques really well, I’d be able to make a lot of money as a consultant.

I made lots of mistakes.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal if someone else was paying me a regular wage the whole time. As a consultant, however, I reaped not just 100% of the profits; I bore 100% of the costs for my errors. And there are far more than I care to recall.

jason-gab-carlos.jpgJason Englert (left to right), Gab Goldenberg and Carlos del Rio, founder of Agillian Search Marketing, who helped me score a free copy of the phenomenal book Web Design For ROI.

Be humble.

This is especially important if you’ve got less than five years of experience in the field, or if you’ve only worked as a channel specialist. Before striking out on your own, learn more of the business by asking for responsibility for key processes like lead generation, sales, project management, and managing staff.

You’ve got a lot more mistakes ahead of you, and it’s a lot safer and less stressful to make them while you’re getting a regular salary.

(Tip for newbie consultants: No one taught me how to close sales; I was terrible at it for ages. I’m very grateful to Jason Swenk for teaching me his system for doing so.)

#2: The Lean Startup movement cracked the code on market research

When I was studying in college, our textbooks on starting a small business had advice like “use Dun and Bradstreet databases to evaluate market size.”

Or do representative surveys, etc. Sure, because young cash-strapped entrepreneurs have got thousands of dollars to plunk down on a national phone survey.

Running Lean

Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of cash to do market research if you use Lean methodologies.

Spot a pattern in common pain points and demographics — and you’ve identified a market.

Repeat the interviewing process with mock attempts at selling your product — and you’ve really got insight into what you need to say and to whom.

So many small businesses fail because they skipped their market research. Accordingly, they think everyone is their market or don’t understand the benefit they provide their customers.

By creating a system which entrepreneurs can use to research their market with minimal capital investments, Lean methodology has made market research accessible to the masses. The increase in survival and success rates of small businesses will take a generation or more to measure in its full impact, yet anecdotal evidence already shows there is a revolution taking place.

If you’re starting a digital marketing agency, consider spending some time doing problem-solution interviews to better understand your market.

#1: There’s no substitute for passion (not even money)

Herzl

One of the most passionate men who ever lived, Theodore Herzl. Photo via Hebrew University film archives.

If you don’t like what you’re doing, then no salary or client fees will ever be enough for you. Your boredom and self-loathing will catch up with you and you won’t see things through. I talked about that above with affiliate marketing, but it also affected my core business, SEO and conversion consulting.

I got fed up with the psychological toll of building links for small clients. The best links often come from manual requests, yet the payoff is delayed. (“When was the last time Google crawled this professor’s crusty research links page? What anchor text did he use?”)

So those with small budgets can’t afford quality work because it’s time-intensive and the results take a while to be seen. I worked with a number of smaller clients who wanted results quickly, and the depressing cycle of them being here today, gone tomorrow takes a psychological toll.

You feel like you suck or your clients suck or the field just sucks and think, “Why do I bother anyway?”

(Tip for small clients: Look for an SEO consultant specializing in your niche so that they can afford to maintain relationships that can be tapped for your benefit.)

Similarly, my blogging on my own site suffered largely as a result of my gradual loss of passion for the field.

On the one hand, being that much of my reading was focused on the blogosphere, I got bored when I discovered the diminishing marginal returns on reading blogs. I stopped learning, yet learning was the fuel for my passion. This, plus burnout, plus the above psychological fatigue with SEO did a lot to killing my passion.

As content marketer Paul Jacobson writes:

“If you’re not proud of it, don’t serve it. If you can’t do a good job, don’t take it on. If it’s going to distract you from the work that truly matters, pass.”

What most easily inspires great work that matters and that inspires pride? Stuff you’re passionate about.

What are you doing to ensure you stay passionate about your work?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Posted under Internet Marketing

34 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring an SEO Agency

Posted by full list of all 34 questions here in a Google Doc.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Posted under Internet Marketing

Here’s How We’re Using Lean Startup Methodologies for Local SEO

Posted by The Lean Startup as some light background reading while you ponder how to implement any of this stuff.

Background

So let’s talk about our Lean Startup process real fast before we go over the ideas that inspired it. We utilize a process called SCRUM that I’m sure many of you are familiar with (and many probably aren’t). The way we leverage SCRUM is two-fold:

  1. We have daily SCRUM meetings – These are primarily about fostering a group dynamic in a remote working environment, creating a shared sense of accountability, and eliminating road blocks. Moving from weekly to daily SCRUMs was actually suggested by team members to help them prioritize; we haven’t looked back.
  2. Sprints – Sprints are basically “production units.” Every single task, whether it’s a citation audit, website audit, or a month of link building can be a sprint. Team members are limited in the amount of sprints they can have at one time to force prioritization. (This process is called Kanban.)

And, of course, we utilize a project management tool to help us with this. Having used lots of project management tools before (Trello, Basecamp, Podio, and JIRA, to name a few), I settled on a tool called LeanKit. I really love LeanKit for its robust feature set and customization options. It’s also really affordable. So, if you are considering moving to a lean/agile system or are unhappy with your current project management software, I totally recommend giving LeanKit a try.

There are a few some more things we do related to project management, but I will get to those in a second.

How the Lean Startup can help

For those of you unfamiliar with “lean startup” methodologies, the most important thing to know (in regards to our process) is “Validated Learning,” which is basically a way to iterate on your products and services based on data and insights gained in a production environment.

By now, you’re probably wondering, “Dan, what does this have to do with running SEO operations?

Good question!

In order to make sure that we are constantly improving our service offerings, we set up everything in a way that allows for it to be measured.

That means we can internally measure the success of basically everything we do regardless of final client deliverable. That allows us to have regular post-mortems where we discuss both the efficacy and efficiency of a process.

Let me share an example: We had a client engagement recently where we were really struggling with the citation audits (which is the build part of validated learning). It was a really complicated situation, so the struggle was no surprise. However, since we track how many citations get tracked across citation audits/cleanups as well as scope how long we expect individual audits/cleanups to take, we knew exactly where things were going wrong. (This is the “measure” part of validated learning). During our post-mortem for this sprint, we talked about these breakdowns in a meaningful way. As a result, we were able to surface two things to incorporate back into our process, which would prevent the same issue from happening again in a similar situation. (And this is the “learning” in validated learning).

There is no rocket science in any of this. It’s just about being mindful of how you build and implement your processes so that you can leverage them for success instead of having them be an albatross around your neck. As a result, we are constantly improving the way we perform Local SEO, which to me is the true measure of success.

What can you do right now?

Obviously, it’s not feasible to overhaul you entire project management and operational system overnight. That doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff you can do right now as you plan how to go lean/agile. Here are some quick wins that you can implement right away:

57ceff5cd76036.95151789.jpg

  • Install The Five Whys process – This is a process of question-asking designed to get to the root cause of a problem/failure. When you are trying to iterate fast to improve/learn, then surfacing root causes of problems is critical. That is why many consider the 5 Whys the most important tactic of all in lean/agile methodology .
  • Adopt internal kick-offs – This is in addition to kick-off calls with clients. I know what your thinking: “Ugh, more meetings.” But seriously, this is a meeting that can save you lots of headache in the future. An internal kick-off allows team members to discuss potential challenges before they happen. When everyone in the project is on the same page in regards to potential roadblocks, troubles are much easier to navigate.
  • Start using post-mortems – Seriously, hold post-mortems for all your projects. It may sound like a daunting process, but #4 in this post shows just how easy it can be. Create a questionnaire for team members, have the meeting, and start trying to figure out what went right and what went wrong. We have primarily talked about what went wrong. However, post-mortems are a perfect opportunity to also discuss what went right and make sure team members are recognized in front of their peers for solid work. What’s more, it lets you talk about how to make sure those things that went right can be incorporated into your processes in the future.

Preserve the good, eject the bad, rinse, and repeat.

Additional resources:

  • Whiteboard Friday, Presentation 1, Presentation 2, by Jonathan Colman
  • The Agile Marketing Blog, by Jim Ewel
  • Lean Process, by Ash Maurya
  • If you work remotely, or run a remote company, check out ReWork and ReMote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

What are your thoughts on using the Lean Startups methodologies to enhance our SEO-related experiences? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

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Posted under Internet Marketing

How to Build Backlinks Using Your Competitors’ Broken Pages

Posted by Screaming Frog SEO Spider [a freemium tool]. This software will allow you to crawl all of your competitors website, revealing all their 404 pages. To do this, simply enter your competitors’ URLs in the search bar one at a time, like this:OOskptt.png

Once the crawl is complete, click “Response Codes.”

e4LciHG.png

Then, click on the dropdown arrow next to “filter” and select “Client Error 4xx.”

HYi6TWa.png

Now, you’ll be able to see the brand’s 404 pages.

Once you have completed the step above, simply press the “Export” button to export all of their 404 pages into a file. Next, import this file into to a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Docs. On this part of the spreadsheet, create tabs called “Trust Flow,” “Citation Flow,” “Referring Domains,” and “External Backlinks.”

Now that you’ve imported all of their 404 pages, you need to dissect the images and external links if there are any. A quick way to do this is to highlight the cell block by pressing on the specific cell at the top, then press “Filter” under the “Data” tab.H3YN9BG.pngLook for the drop-down arrow on the first cell of that block. Click the drop-down arrow, and underneath “Filter by values,” you will see two links: “Select all” and “Clear.”

Press “Clear,” like this:

ZERYiSm.pngThis will clear all preset options. Now, type in the URL of the competitor’s website in the search box and click “Select all.”SKqXxQ2.png

This will filter out all external links and just leave you with their 404 pages. Go through the whole list, highlighting the pages you think you can rewrite.

Now that you have all of your relevant 404 pages in place, run them through Majestic [a paid tool] or Moz’s Open Site Explorer (OSE) [a freemium tool] to see if their 404 pages actually have any external links (which is what we’re ultimately looking for). Add the details from Majestic or Moz to the spreadsheet. No matter which tool you use (I use OSE), hit “Request a CSV” for the backlink data. (Import the data into a new tab on your spreadsheet, or create a new spreadsheet altogether if you wish.)

Find relevant backlinks linking to (X’s) website. Once you have found all of the relevant websites, you can either highlight them or remove the ones that aren’t from your spreadsheet.

Please note: It is worth running each of the websites you are potentially going to be reaching out to through Majestic and Moz to find out their citation flow, trust flow, and domain authority (DA). You may only want to go for the highest DA; however, in my opinion, if it’s relevant to your niche and will provide useful information, it’s worth targeting.

With the 404s and link opportunities in hand, focus on creating content that’s relevant for the brands you hope to earn a link from. Find the contact information for someone at the brand you want the link from. This will usually be clear on their website; but if not, you can use tools such as ViolaNorbert and Email Hunter to get the information you need. Once you have this information, you need to send them an email similar to this one:


Hi [THEIR NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME], and I carry out the [INSERT JOB ROLE – i.e., MARKETING] at [YOUR COMPANY’S NAME or WEBSITE].

I have just come across your blog post regarding [INSERT THEIR POST TITLE] and when I clicked on one of the links on that post, it happened to go to a 404 page. As you’re probably aware, this is bad for user experience. Which is the reason I’m emailing you today.

We recently published an in-depth article regarding the same subject of the broken link you have on your website [INSERT YOUR POST TITLE].

Here’s the link to our article: [URL].

I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind linking to our article, instead of the 404 page you’re currently linking to, as our article will provide your readers with a better user experience.

We will be updating this article so we can keep people provided with the very latest information as the industry evolves.

Thank you for reading this email and I look forward to hearing from you.

[YOUR NAME]


Disclaimer: The email example above is just an example and should be tailored to your own style of writing.

In closing, remember to keep detailed notes of the conversations you have with people during outreach, and always follow up with people you connect with.

I hope this tactic helps your SEO efforts in the future. It has certainly helped me find new places to earn links. Not only that, but it gives me new content ideas on a regular basis.

Do you use a similar process to build links? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Posted under Internet Marketing

Here’s How to Create Original Images That Boost Conversions

Posted by Dr. Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence, people…

  • Feel obligated to reciprocate – give them something, and they’ll want to give you something
  • Honor their commitments – if they say they’ll do something, they’ll likely do it, because they’ve established that goal as an integral part of their self-image
  • Believe the word of their peers (which is why user reviews are so powerful) and copy behaviors they see
  • Follow authority figures.
  • Buy from people they like
  • Act faster if they perceive scarcity (On Sale Now for a Limited Time!)

Our brains are hardwired to believe what we see over what we hear or read. Images have a way of driving straight to our emotional centers.

Based on Cialdini’s research, some of the ways images can be used for influence include:

  • Giving away a high-value infographic or set of high-quality stock photos that anyone can use (all they have to do is sign up for your newsletter)
  • Creating a series of motivational images that encourage viewers to keep the goals they’ve set for themselves (which your product can help them do)
  • Encouraging users to submit photos of themselves using, wearing, or enjoying your products (or, if you’re selling a service, including images of actual customers next to their reviews or testimonials)
  • Using professional photos and/or high-quality stock images on your website
  • Creating funny, personality-rich images, videos, or GIFs for your social media posts and emails
  • Thinking of creative ways to visually represent scarcity — maybe by making a GIF of a warehouse as it goes from full to empty, or by creating an image that expresses the disappointment someone will fill if they miss out on an opportunity

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Companies are also using images to delight existing customers and help them become more successful (which improves net promoter scores and leads to increased upsell opportunities). A customer success team, for example, could create GIF screencasts in response to help tickets or even stock an FAQ page with visual demonstrations of how to solve the most common customer support issues.

The fast track to DIY images

Images like these aren’t hard to produce if you have the right tools — and there are many tools to choose from.

Visage (free version available)

Visage is my go-to for creating images that look professional and tell a story through a combination of words, statistics, and graphs. They’re also a strong choice for making infographics and Pinterest-worthy motivational quotes.

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Recordit (free version available)

Recordit allows you to create mini-screencasts and turn them into embeddable GIFs, which are an easy way to demonstrate on-screen functions, show off features, and help users find what they need in minutes.

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GIFBoom (free)

GIFBoom, for iOS and Android, makes it easy to create original GIFs with text overlays directly from your smartphone. You could spruce up your About Us page with animated clips of the team (great for increasing your likeability factor) or record personal greetings for newsletters and social media posts.

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Placeit (free version available)

Placeit. See it, like it. See it in action, buy it. That’s the difference between a good image and a conversion-oriented image that works almost like a quickie-demo of the product. HubSpot research shows that buyers now want product demos much earlier in the sales funnel than in previous years, which makes tools like Placeit especially useful. This tool allows you to generate product mockups instantly create demo videos pretty darn fast.

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Studio (free version available)

Studio is a photo “remixing” app that offers pre-made templates, layering capabilities, beautiful fonts, sleek design options, and a community of marketers sharing their latest inspirations and creations. Check out their intro video, too. It’s a good one.

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SnapChat (free)

SnapChat isn’t just for teenagers, though they may be the only ones who can show you how to use it. SnapChat is a messaging app that lets you take a photo or short video; add a caption, doodle, or lens graphic; and then broadcast it to your followers. Followers can view “snaps” for up to 10 seconds, and then they disappear. Marketing that disappears, you ask? How is that a good thing?! Consider scarcity. If you’ve got a “BUY NOW” sale going on, what could be more appropriate than advertising it in a format that is, by nature, there for a limited time only.

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The right images, the right tools, and the right strategy can help set your marketing apart and give your company some real personality — which is exactly what today’s consumers crave. They want to get to know you, not just your product. They want to form a personal connection.

So let them see the real you. There’s no better way to do that than through pictures.

Now it’s your turn. How is your brand using images to build brand awareness? Please share in the comments.

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Posted under Internet Marketing

Case Study: Why it Makes Sense to Optimize Your Site for ‘Near Me’ Searches

Posted by 80% of those searches occurring on mobile devices.In response to these trends, Google updated the local extensions for AdWords, allowing businesses to bid on keywords that deal with “near me” searches.

These announcements led us to ask a question: Can content that includes “near me” terms help gain impressions and clicks for those queries in organic search?

Our methods to study this question were simple:

  • We tested 82 websites (41 as the control group; 41 as the test group)
  • Within the test group, we updated the hour and directions page title, description, and H1 to utilize the phrases ‘franchise dealer near me’ and ‘nearest franchise dealer.’ These franchises included a wide range of auto manufacturers, with the physical locations dispersed throughout the United States.
  • We then spent five months looking at mobile impressions and click-through rates for both groups

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Noteworthy changes after testing

After five months, we started to see a few trends across these websites, including an increase in mobile impressions and clicks for all the “near me” searches. In the test group’s first month, we saw a 27% increase in mobile impressions for “near me” phrases, and the clicks increased from 11 to 40. By comparison, the control group had just a 20% increase in mobile impressions, and click-throughs only increased from 13 to 23.

These trends continued every month we looked at the data. In month three, the test group’s “near me” impressions rose another 15%, compared to the 8% increase of the control group’s impressions. Similarly, the click-through rate for the test group almost doubled that of the control group, with 37 and 19 clicks, respectively.

By the last month, the test group’s websites saw their mobile impressions for “near me” more than double since the start to total 8,833 impressions and 46 clicks.

This is in contrast to the control group, whose “near me” impression share only rose 11% since the start and had just 21 clicks.

There were a few other observations we made in our research:

  • Locations in urban and metro areas saw more impressions and clicks compared to rural locations
  • ‘Near me’ impressions grew from franchises-related searches to include broader phrases, including ‘nearest oil change’

What this tells us

Overall, our results started to give us the answer that, yes, updating your website and content for the appropriate “near me” phrases can have a positive impact on the impressions and clicks for those phrases. This is just the start for a small business website, as mobile search and search intent will only continue to become more important.

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Posted under Internet Marketing

Here’s How to Make Wireframing Work for SEO Success

Posted by Flickr)

Search optimization and engaging design always seem to be at odds. Things like banners and graphics that designers love often conflict with SEOs’ need for crawlable content. However, this doesn’t always need to be the case. In fact, if you include various SEO requirements within the initial design mockups before a site’s launch, you can comfortably fit the needs of SEO and design together just like puzzle pieces.

It all begins with the initial wireframe.

What are wireframes?

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(Image credit: Flickr)

Wireframing can be anything from a low fidelity sketch to a fully designed (but non-functional) user interface. These mockups allow designers to share their ideas without committing too much time and effort, which allows designers to iterate and reiterate quickly and easily so the needs of various members of a team can be established and addressed before launch.

This, of course, includes the SEO professionals.

SEO is a complex field with a lot of emphasis on site architecture, so it’s no stretch to say it should be included as a primary concern in the initial design process. In a post from way back in 2008, Moz community member, Amplified-media, described the process of building a wireframe specifically for SEO purposes. He noted that he created SEO specific wireframes in order to describe to clients the ways in which internal navigation, metatags, and content could be optimized. Certainly, we’ve come a long way in both the design and SEO worlds in the last 8 years, but this is still solid strategy.

Wireframes allow designers to plan user flows and overall aesthetics, while they allow developers to concentrate on the functionality of a website. For SEOs, wireframing can help you plan optimized on-page elements as well as opportunities for generating leads, conversions, and interlinking. Wireframing can even help you prepare your keyword analysis for each page.

Let’s take a deeper look at how you can begin implementing your SEO strategy during the wireframing phase.

Content first 26iuZ5V.jpg

(Image credit: Pixabay)

Web design is defined by the content it’s presenting. Oftentimes, a designer is asked to produce a mockup without any clear notion of the ideas it’s supposed to convey. There have been times when our product team has gone forward without bringing every key team member to the table. Once, my team went through the entire development process but realized near the end that the SEO needs weren’t accounted for: Keyword length exceeded character limits; there wasn’t enough content; and we were forced to include SEO haphazardly where we could fit it.

Obviously, this wasn’t an ideal strategy, and the launch had to be pushed back.

To get ahead of this problem, we’ve altered our approach. Now SEO professionals are always at the table during the ideation phase. And we also collaborate during the wireframing phase. We write our text first. Then we add headlines, taglines, body text, and determine keywords before a wireframe is ever presented. Only then do we hand over to the designer to see what they come up with.

If you’re following this model, keep in mind that it’s an iterative process. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked for rewrites or to compromise on length. Or, alternatively, you can go low fidelity and present the designer with a content outline. Give them the bare bones of your ideas for the text and give them suggestions on how to present it.

The point is to collaborate. Letting designers know ahead of time that SEO isn’t going to be a roadblock to what they want to accomplish aesthetically. This is if they’re involved in the conceptual discussions at the beginning of the process.

The same goes for UX designers. Let them know that usability is important to SEO as well.

Potential problems and quick fixesEqAf2Hg.jpg

(Image credit: Pixabay)

In a recent article, Justin Taylor describes some of the so-called discrepancies involved when designing a website that’s optimized for both search and users. Mainly the fight is between the need for text (SEOs) versus imagery (designers). He mentions some great fixes for this problem such as:

  • Webfonts rather than graphics
  • Expandable content blocks or “divs,” which reveal hidden text in response to a mouse click
  • Mouse-overs which are animated content blocks that reveal text in response to a mouse hovering over the block

These are all fantastic workarounds that address the need for aesthetics and allow for crawlable text to be included on page. I highly recommend you take a moment to check out Justin’s article because it’s extremely thorough.

During the wireframing process, all an SEO needs to do in order to have workarounds like the ones mentioned above included in the design is be present at the planning table, and then to let the designers/developers know that these strategies could meet everyone’s needs. As I mentioned before, collaboration is the key.

The nonexistent conflict between design and SEO
Wr4xHeo.jpg

(Image credit: Pixabay)

SEO is too often treated as an afterthought, subsidiary to design, development, and usability. If you can frame SEO as something that can be most useful when implemented concurrently with the other concerns in the planning phase, then you can minimize any potential conflicts between team members.

“Conflict” is a keyword here because there is a persistent myth that SEO always runs counter to the needs of both visual and UX designers. This is patently false. Design and SEO can work very well together in most circumstances.

I’ve had specific experiences explaining to project managers s that search optimization is only going to enhance the usability of a page. My go-to example in this situation is that of headline creation: I point out that the whole purpose of search spiders parsing each page is to emulate the way users evaluate content. That means headlines need to clearly and quickly communicate exactly what the content is about. This serves both ends and usually establishes the point. There are of course numerous other examples that can be used to disprove the supposed UX/SEO conflict.

Flat design, for instance, is an immensely popular trend that meshes perfectly with SEO efforts, mainly because of the minimal size of flat illustrations. Whereas high-definition photography can slow down a site’s loading time, flat illustrations are light and quick to load.

Navigation is another point of intersection for SEO and design. Interlinking from the homepage to subpages offers an SEO boost and when artfully implemented it can also be engaging to users. Visual hierarchy and headings are likewise close bedfellows. Using web fonts instead of graphics for banners, CTAs, and other text elements mentioned above can allow you to create linking and meta-tagging opportunities.

Conclusion

Success must be planned for, and success requires careful collaboration planning from start to finish. Adding SEO considerations late in the design process can make your designs look off-kilter and your SEO seem patchworked. Moreover, if the site feels wonky to users, your bounce rate will go up and all your optimization efforts will be for naught.

That’s why implementing an SEO strategy during the wireframing phase is so important.

What are your thoughts for using wireframing to bridge the gap between SEO and UX considerations?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Posted under Internet Marketing

Case Study: The Interconnectedness of Local SEO and Exact Match Domains

Posted by markprestonseo.com and launched my small website with the intention of writing weekly blogs.

Things did not turn out the way I planned, and work now eats up all my time.

When my site went live, I performed all of the usual on-page tweaks and published it on HTTPS. I then set up Google My Business, became verified, and created a few citations on the top UK directory sites and data aggregators.

Since then, I have not really done much to promote my site and have not yet got around to doing any natural link building. The only links I have are from citations that use my domain as the anchor text.

After a couple of months, I checked my links through Ahrefs and noticed that, to my astonishment, the site was ranking on the first page for Preston SEO.

Why is this astonishing? Because my business address, the address on my website, my Google account, and citations all state that my business is located in Blackpool, not Preston. The towns are about 17 miles, or 27km, apart.

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I started to research the reason my website was outranking SEO agencies that were actually located in Preston and concluded that it was likely due to my domain name.

The citations I had submitted all link to my site using the anchor text markprestonseo.com and the words “Preston SEO” are in my domain name. It appeared Google was ranking me in a town unrelated to my location because of exact match anchor text which, by pure accident, happened to be identical to my domain name.

I took this as proof EMDs still work very well despite widespread belief to the contrary.

I shared the discovery with Rand Fishkin via email. He replied:

“I think Google is confusing mentions of your brand name with the keyword itself and thus you’re benefiting in their rankings/visibility. I’m not saying exact match anchor text/EMDs don’t work, just that it’s a conflation on Google’s part when they work in these sorts of fashions, not an intentional element of Google’s ranking goals.”

So, Google is just getting mixed up. I personally think Google is working how Google does: looking at the anchor text and ranking my site accordingly. Something else in my favor: I don’t use a telephone number linked to a specific area code; I use my mobile phone number. Also, my postal business address is in Blackpool; my telephone number is not.

Local SEO means local

It’s widely known that getting a website ranked for a location not attached to your business address (or within a small radius) is nearly impossible these days. But it appears that I have managed to do just that.

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What happened next totally shocked me.

On a recent morning, when I was looking further into this situation, I typed in the term “Preston SEO” and nearly fell off my chair when I saw my site ranking in the No.3 spot on the maps and in the No.5 spot organically.

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How on earth is this even possible when I don’t have an address in Preston and not a single citation relates to the town of Preston? Does this mean we can just set up exact match domains relating to different areas outside one’s physical location and get listed organically and on the maps? Personally, I think not.

Armed with this new finding, I set about reaching out to a few top SEO and marketing pros to ask for their comments. The response was fantastic and here is what they had to say on the subject:

“The distance from your location to Preston is 13 miles. I don’t find it odd that it would locate you. If you were perhaps much further away, say Birmingham, sure. But this doesn’t look odd to me at all.” — Danny Sullivan, founding Editor at Marketing Land and Search Engine Land

So, Danny thinks that this is very normal, even if they are two totally different towns. He does point out that my freelance office is on the outskirts of Blackpool on the Preston side.

“My only comment on your finding is that it is based on very limited data. Just a test of one EMD. I tend to agree with Rand’s comments. Google’s algorithm is not perfect. We run into strange things all the time. But I would say that Google gets it right way more often than they get it wrong.” — Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures

I have been preaching ethical SEO for over a decade now and do believe Google gets it right way more often than not.

“I agree with Rand. From my background in text analytics, I suspect that Google is identifying Preston as an entity — a proper noun in this case — but it can’t tell the difference between your name and the place name. It is possible that your physical proximity to Preston even adds to this confusion. I suspect that exact match domains help a bit in the algorithm, but I believe that they don’t work as well as they did years ago.” — Mike Moran, founder, Biznology

I do agree that EMDs are not as powerful as they once were, but with the launch of all the Local SEO-related updates, I would have thought Google would not rank sites outside the physical location. I can also see that it may be the case that Blackpool and Preston are only 17 miles apart, but I noticed this same thing the other day when I was doing some competitive analysis for a client. Now they are also ranking in Preston because of an exact match domain, but their physical location is 51 miles, or 82 km, apart.

“1) If search queries have limited volume and limited competition then they are often quite easy to rank for. But since almost nobody is searching for them, there is little financial incentive to rank for them. 2) The value of an EMD decreases EXPONENTIALLY as other signals get folded into rankings for highly competitive keywords, particularly for terms which heavy advertising billion dollar brands target. It would probably be almost impossible to sustainably rank for [auto insurance] or [car insurance] in the US market leveraging an EMD at this point. An industry trade organization might be able to do it, but just about everyone else would be guaranteed to fail due to algorithmic ranking mix shift and the brand strength of competitors.” — Aaron Wall of SEOBOOK.

I agree that the search volume is not great, but Google is clearly ranking me for a town that my business is not located in. To me, this shows that local is all messed up or Google is seeing “Preston SEO” as a keyword, and not a location, so they are ranking me based on the keyword anchor text which just happens to be part of my domain.

“Nothing to add really above what you and Rand have said. It looks like a combination of Google not understanding that Preston in this context is your surname (and not a location) + the citations + the word in the domain. The Google Maps listing is evidence of Google not understanding the context of the word Preston. We still see keywords in domain names helping, just not to the same extent they used to in years gone by. :)Paddy Moogan, Co-Founder of Aira

So, from Paddy’s comment, it does appear that Google is just getting things mixed up here… or is it that exact match anchor text is more powerful than the citations related to the physical address?

“I just took a quick look but you have Preston SEO in your title tag, copy, domain and anchor text. It is likely a combination of factors along with the fact that the monthly volume for Preston SEO is 140 searches per month (low volume) that are leading to you ranking quickly for it. If you look at the Moz Local local ranking survey https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors you still seem to check several key boxes. Business title, on page keyword use, and anchor text are significant ranking factors so I can see why they would rank you locally. I don’t think this would work in a more competitive local environment, though.” — AJ Ghergich, founder of Ghergich & Co

I have to agree that it would probably be a different story if my name just happened to be “Mark London.”

What is crazy, though is this: I rank at No. 5 for “Preston SEO” organically, but for “Blackpool SEO” (the town my business and all my citations are associated with), I am way down in position No. 38 (for now) organically. Again, this is another sign that EMDs with exact match anchor text work well or that Google would naturally rank me in Blackpool as well as Preston.

“First of all, you must remember that Local Search and Universal Search have two different ranking algorithms, hence the local box weirdness and the organic search issues almost surely have different reasons. If I remember well, then, the ‘center centric’ local ranking factor is not such anymore, in the sense that — depending on the industry niche — Google doesn’t calculate anymore the geographical distance from the downtown of a city for determining the relevance of a local result, but it can consider a different kind of center. For instance, this is true for things like malls or car dealers, which usually are in the suburbs of the cities. In the Preston specific case, it seems as if Google considered as ‘center’ an undetermined place between Preston and Blackpool because it is not showing any agency of Blackburn, which is closer to Preston than Blackpool. Overall it is a very normal SERP, IMHO… which indicates that all the other SEO agencies are doing very bad in Local Search if you are present in the local box (or other non-Preston agencies).” — Gianluca Fiorelli of ILoveSEO.net

Note: The above is just a snippet of what Gianluca actually sent me as he went into some detail.

I did like his comment though that I am ranking because all the other SEO agencies who are actually based in Preston are not very good.

“I agree with you — exact match domains still work quite well. I’ve been wanting to do an article on it for a long time. BUT, usually, the moment you write something like that, magically, they’ll stop working. Especially if your article gets a lot of notice. So, if you want it to keep working for you, you might want to keep it under wraps.” —Kristi Hines, a freelance writer at kristihines.com.

Truthfully, it’s not an issue of whether or not I want to keep it working for me. I’m simply trying to understand what’s happening.

I have to say that I’m glad that someone is thinking along the same lines as me, though.

“It looks to me like Google is confusing your last name with the location. While I haven’t done a detailed backlink analysis for your site, I suspect that it’s further proof of the power of anchor text, as Google sees “preston” in some of your backlinks, and “seo” in others of those links. It may even recognize that “preston” is a proper name, but not know the difference between your last name and the city. Of course, you also use your name a lot on your site too!” —Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting

Let’s turn this on its head a little:

  • Imagine Google is confusing my name with the town of Preston
  • Imagine that I was not ranking based on exact match anchor text links

Why is it then that I rank in the No. 3 spot on the maps and No. 5 organically for the term “Preston SEO” when the term “SEO Preston” is ranking me in the No. 14 position on maps and in the No. 52 position organically?

This, to me, suggests Google is looking at the phrase “Preston SEO” as a keyword and using exact match anchor text to rank it, but is looking at the term “SEO Preston” from a local perspective.

This is certainly something worth discussing.

“I don’t think Google have become mixed up at all — exact match DOES work… as mentioned in Bryan Dean’s post here. I’ve witnessed it myself in the past; seeing EMDs with little valuable content and minimal (visible) inbound links, yet high ranks gained in the SERPs. It’s another quality control thing. Whatever Google tell you not to do — that’s the stuff that usually works and can manipulate rankings.” — Sam Hurley of Optim-Eyez

Now here is someone who thinks the same as me as to the reason my site is ranking for a term unlinked to my actual location:

“This case study suggests that Google uses text within a domain and/or anchor text to determine a site’s location.” — Brian Dean of Backlinko.com

Short, sweet, and to-the-point.

“I wouldn’t really count this as an exact match domain as that would just be prestonseo.com (hence the exact part). But yes, they do work. Diyhomeenergy.com ranks for ‘diy home energy’. Pottytrainingin3days.com ranks for potty training in 3 days. And so on… :) — Glen Allsopp of Viperchill.com

OK, my own website may not technically be an exact match domain but, rather, a part-match domain. Well, if my PMD can secure local rankings outside its own town, then EMDss can do so much more through exact match anchor text.

“A very nice case, mate! That is something that I’ve discussed in my “on page seo” post. I mean having keywords in your domain or URL doesn’t have a direct impact on your ranking, but since many people link with a raw URL, you kind of get a pretty targeted anchor text from the words in your domain and your URL.” — Tim Soulo of Ahrefs.

This is the exact point I am trying to make.

“These things do happen. Google is far from perfect. The domain name definitely plays a role in it I think, but I suspect the bigger story here is how local search is screwed up big time at the moment. I’ve seen several occasions where businesses in other cities rank better on local searches.” — Bas van den Beld of State of Digital

I do agree that I am seeing first hand that local is all messed up at the moment. I thought it was supposed to be a lot harder to get ranked outside the immediate area your business is located!

“This is definitely a curiosity. I don’t know what to think since it’s a single instance — I haven’t seen anything like this previously.” — Alan Bleiweiss of AlanBleiweiss.com

I, on the other hand, see this same thing on nearly a daily basis within my day job, and often it is conflicting with over 50 miles of distance from the location.

“I wasn’t sure if it was exact match domain that was boosting the ranking or if it was click-through rate. If your domain was Preston seo, people might click on that when searching for it because the domain name appears relevant. And we know higher CTR = higher rankings.” Larry Kim of WordStream.

Larry might be on to something here. I can confirm that since I started to reach out to all these top marketing pros, my organic ranking for “Preston SEO” has now increased to position two, as seen in the screenshot below.

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“I discussed the future of the new gTLDs in an article here (which may be an interesting read). You are right that exact match domains still matter, but not necessarily because of matching your domain to the search query by search engines, but rather because of matching your domain to the search query by users. External links with the domain in anchor text, CTR, and related user signals play an important role and as such this may help rankings when utilizing an exact match domain. In your post your location is also close enough to the other town, while using the town keyword in the page title and matching the query more precisely in your page title unlike the competitor (Preston SEO vs. SEO … Preston), that you become a potential relevant search result.” —Fili Wiese of SearchBrothers.com

The words above come from a former Google guy. Basically, I am ranking for Preston SEO because Google has deemed I am the best fit for the user. Now that sounds good to me.

Conclusion

Now that you have read my little case study about my personal belief that exact match domains or even partial match domains still work very well, but maybe for less competitive terms only, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Please share in the comments below.

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Here’s How a Pricing Tweak Enabled Us to Increase Sales

Posted by private tutoring, I’m always looking for ways to optimize our processes in order to increase leads and sales.

The original offer

For years, we offered an inexpensive 30-minute trial lesson so prospects would be able to check out our services and, if they liked it (and 80% did), purchase a package of English lessons.

This way, we were able to filter the prospects for those who were serious about learning English and committed enough to pay a small amount to try our services.

However, we were faced with two head-scratching realities:

1. Conversions were low: Were we missing out on prospects who were serious but not ready to make a payment (even a small one) right away?

2. Most of our competitors offer a free trial lesson: Were these prospects going to our competitors because they couldn’t try us for free?

What changed

At the end of 2015, we decided to change our policy and offer a free 15-minute trial lesson.

The idea of the trial lesson was still to make a first contact with the student, introduce him/her to one of our native English teachers, demonstrate how we work, and show the student we could help them improve their English. At the end of the trial lesson, the prospective student received a feedback report that included an evaluation of their English speaking ability as well as suggestions for getting it to the next level.

When we compared the numbers from the first quarter of 2016 with those from the first quarter of 2015, we noticed the following:

1. Increased conversion rate from traffic: An increase in the rate of conversions from traffic (50% more leads). We were now engaging more with our website’s visitors.

2. Decreased conversion rate from trials: A decrease the rate of conversions from trial lessons. That is, a smaller percentage of trial lesson students decided to buy a course. (Instead of 80% of our leads choosing to continue taking English lessons by purchasing a lesson package, as they did in Q1-2015, only 60% chose to do so in Q1-2016.)

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This oddity was actually expected since the free offer doesn’t ask for the same level of commitment. The prospects who register on our website without being required to pay don’t always fully follow the process we have in place for them. Once registered, they might not always book a lesson; when they book a lesson, they might not always attend their lesson.

A real effort must be made to make sure that each person that registers has a real intention, at minimum, to book and attend a lesson.

If offering a free lesson worth the return?

This experiment is not over and we still need to optimize our processes and address some of the issues we’ve uncovered so far. Overall, at this stage, we can say that the increase in purchases due to the trial lesson change is not significant.

However:

1. We get a lot more leads: It’s up to us to nurture these leads until they are ready to work with us

2. We serve our prospective students better: They appreciate the fact that they can talk to us and try our services before giving us any credit card information

We now have a greater margin of improvement, and we can work with more leads. But we must put the right processes in place to make sure these leads feel that we are fully committed to help them improve their English.

Every business needs a lead magnet, a free offer that will help them build a prospect list. We already provide free ebooks and a free English level test, but feel that no offer compares to being able to sample the product or service that is available for purchase.

For now, we’ll continue to keep our eyes on metrics, including conversion rates and costs, as well as work on optimizing our processes. Also, we will evaluate whether or not the free offer reinforces our brand — which is built on trust, commitment, and customer satisfaction.

How has your brand handled similar challenges?

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Posted under Internet Marketing
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