LSM Speaks at MTSU

Local Search Masters (LSM) Discusses Search Engine Marketing at MTSU

Don Roy, Ph.D. is a Professor at Middle Tennessee State University who works in their Department of Management and Marketing as well as their Business School, the Jennings A. Jones College of Business. One of the classes Professor Roy is teaching this semester is ‘Applied Promotional Strategy,’ an undergraduate marketing course where students learn the fundamentals of search engine marketing (SEM) and its role in an organization’s marketing strategy. His students will be participating in the 2015 Google Online Marketing Challenge; a global collegiate competition in which student teams plan and execute a three-week Google AdWords campaign for a business or nonprofit organization.

Earlier this year Professor Roy reached out to LSM about coming out to his class and presenting important information about the search engine marketing industry; discussing topics such as:

  • Why a business should consider investing in SEM
  • Ways a business can advertise online via Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platforms (Google Search Network, Google Display Network, Google Shopper Network)
  • Best practices for developing efficient Google PPC and retargeting campaigns
  • Changes to the format of Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs) on different devices and search queries (mobile vs. desktop, organic results vs. paid results, market-level searches vs. hyper-local searches)
  • Website optimization and local SEM best practices
  • Career opportunities in the search engine marketing industry
  • Why search engine marketing should be offered as a Major and/or Minor at more universities

Professor Roy had originally heard about LSM through the Nashville Business Journal’s Best in Business Awards competition; he was involved in researching candidates in 2014 and recommended that we reach the final round (which we did!).

Follow Up Article – Why Search Engine Marketing Should Be Taught at More Universities

Over the course of putting together this presentation for MTSU, LSM researched the topic of careers in search engine marketing. During this research we found a few articles as to why search engine marketing should not be considered as a Major or Minor at universities. It is our opinion that it SHOULD be considered as a Major or Minor Degree at more universities; a degree comprised of classes in such fields as Communication, Economics, Computer Programming, Video Production, Marketing and Psychology. We will put together an article on this topic in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Breakfast with Google, Google AdWords Solutions

On December 9th Local Search Masters co-hosted an exclusive Google breakfast. Attended by clients, local partners and media contacts, the event focused on how to use Google’s latest products and services to grow your business. The presentation, conducted by Google Partners Agency Development Manager, Vanessa Conceicao, focused on dynamic phone tracking, remarketing (also known as retargeting) and YouTube TrueView.

There was a lot to takeaway from the breakfast. Below are the top 11 most important takeaways:

  1. Potential customers across all industries are likely to utilize Google AdWord’s “click-to-call” mobile ad function.
  1. Over 90% of all smartphone users use their phones to look up information about local businesses, and 52% of those same users will call a business as a result of their mobile search.
  1. Google AdWords call forwarding function allows for a business to dynamically track calls placed directly from the “click-to-call” ad extension, as well as gather information such as the consumer’s area code, the call date, start and end time of the call and the call’s duration (a minimum duration is used to track conversion). A different forwarding number is used for each ad, so businesses can also track which of their ads are generating the most phone calls.
  1. If a business lacks a mobile site, but still wishes to engage with smartphone users, Google display ads can be created showing only the telephone number and appearing without a link to the business’ website.
  1. There are three situations in which a business can count calls as conversions: 1) calls from the “click-to-call” ad extension, 2) calls from the landing page once an ad is clicked and 3) clicks on a phone number on the website. In all 3 instances, Google AdWord’s dynamic tracking will count these as conversion if the minimum call duration is met.
  1. The easiest way for a business to increase return-on-investment is to target consumers who have already visited their site, but left without converting (applies to 96% of consumers). Remarketing can be done by adding these consumers to a list that will display to them ads with customized text (such as Free Shipping). This gives business a second chance to reach out to users who are already interested and who are 3x more likely to convert than someone who has never been to the site, thus resulting in a higher ROI.
  1. Dynamic remarketing is taking consumer targeting to the next step by tailoring ads based off of exactly what the consumer was viewing on the website. Through Google AdWords, businesses can easily create beautiful, high-performing customized ads, ads that will increase click-thru-rates and decrease cost-per-conversion rates.
  1. Google AdWords doesn’t only to apply to display ads and search ads; businesses can also build dynamic video ads to be displayed on YouTube in only about 20 minutes. These ads, called TrueView video ads, can be displayed before a video (in-stream), on the page where a user is watching a video (in-display) or on a search results page (in-search).
  1. The Google Display Network, through which the TrueView ads are shown, reaches 89% of the population. However, businesses can target and reach specific audiences based off of things such as different interests, certain topics, publishers or specified keywords.
  1. TrueView ads can be highly engaging and specific – the type of ads that will result in a higher ROI. Additionally, the ads are “pay-per-view” which means businesses are only charged when a user watches the whole length of the ad.
  1. A business’ marketing agency can be their best friend, as long as they trust their agency and engage in open, honest lines of communication on a regular basis. An agency wants their clients to succeed, but this can only be done with a successful onboarding experience. During the onboarding stage, a business should tell their agency all of their goals (immediate and long-term), any ad campaigns already running and the money made per conversion for each product/service offered. This will allow for your agency to tailor the business’ marketing plan to maximize ROI.

 

Local Search Masters, a member of the Google Partner’s Network, is a digital marketing agency headquartered in Nashville, TN that specializes in organic SEO, local search marketing, paid search advertising, social media and online reputation management for franchises, local businesses and large corporations. For additional information about our business, or using the Internet to make a meaningful impact on your business’s bottom line, you can contact us today!

Could Mobile Search Outrank Desktop By Next Year?

 

According to at least one report, the days of mobile search being overshadowed by desktop users may be coming to an end. The digital research firm eMarketer projects that the majority of U.S. search ad spending will be directed toward mobile platforms — smartphones and tablets — for the first time in history.

The percentage of paid search moving to mobile platforms will only increase, according to the report. While mobile search made up just 24.7% of search spend in 2013, that number increased to 38.1% this year and is expected to reach 50.1% in 2015. The report also estimates that mobile search spend will reach $12.85 billion next year.

The projections see a steady increase in mobile search spend even after overtaking desktop search. By 2018, eMarketer estimates that more than three-quarters of all search spend will go towards mobile ads, a total representing $25.69 billion of revenue. Despite this continuing trend, both Google and Bing have removed the capability for marketers to distinguish between mobile and desktop search when creating and bidding on campaigns.

Though the mobile spend number includes both smartphones and tablets, eMarketer says that the vast majority of projected increases are driven purely by smartphone search.

So what does this mean for marketers?

Some industries will not — and should not — direct their marketing efforts at mobile users. But many businesses, particularly those in convenience industries like food or retail, need to write ad copy as though all of it will be seen on mobile. Because you can no longer change ad copy or bidding strategy based on the user’s device, focus on where the majority of searches are coming from. For those with a majority of mobile traffic, that means shorter copy and heavy utilization of ad extensions like map and phone number links.

LSM Shines in Google All Stars Spotlight

It’s a pleasure to be spotlighted by the Google Partners of North America Community and share our experiences and advice with agencies that are working to become fellow winners of the Google Engage All Stars Contest in 2014!

Only official Google Partners are allowed to view information that’s posted on the Google Partners North America Community page, so we took a screenshot of our spotlight (below) for you to enjoy. In the spotlight, LSM shares our top tips (taking lots of notes and getting to know all of the attendees) and fondest memories (biking around the grounds of the Googleplex) from Mountain View, California!

LSM is proud to be a part of the #GPCommunity, which constantly provides its members with special events and valuable information on how to maximize all the services, products and knowledge that Google has to offer. For example, we recently had the chance to host an exclusive Google Partners event, geared toward small business owners and digital marketing aficionados.  

We wish the best of luck to every agency working to become fellow winners of the Google Engage All Stars Contest!

SEO Moneyball: Do Google +1s Lead to Higher Search Placement?

An article on Moz blew up the SEO community last week when it outlined the high correlation between Google +1s and higher search rankings.

Author Cyrus Shepard claims that, besides Moz’s own Page Authority statistic, a URL’s number of Google +1s is more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor. Searchmetrics, another SEO website, found the exact same thing in a similar study using different methods.

That’s all well and good, but the real question is whether the higher search results are driven by +1s or are merely coincidentally mirroring them.

Shepard acknowledges this question, but says that his study shows that it is not merely correlation, but in fact causation between Google+ posts and search rankings.

He notes three big reasons why he sees this correlation:

  1. Posts are crawled and indexed almost immediately
  2. Google+ posts pass link equity
  3. Google+ is optimized for semantic relevance

In looking at his claims, let’s start off by saying that Google has already flatly denied the thesis of Shepard’s work. Google engineer Matt Cutts said this week on a Hacker news forum post about the article:

“Just trying to decide the politest way to debunk the idea that more Google +1s lead to higher Google web rankings. Let’s start with correlation != causation: http://xkcd.com/552/

But it would probably be better to point to this 2011 post (also from SEOMoz/Moz) from two years ago in which a similar claim was made about Facebook shares: http://moz.com/blog/does-google-use-facebook-shares-to-influ… . From that blog post from two years ago: “One of the most interesting findings from our 2011 Ranking Factors analysis was the high correlation between Facebook shares and Google US search position.”

This all came to a head at the SMX Advanced search conference in 2011 where Rand Fishkin presented his claims. I did a polite debunk of the idea that Google used Facebook shares in our web ranking at the conference, leading to this section in the 2011 blog post: “Rand pointed out that Google does have some access to Facebook data overall and set up a small-scale test to determine if Google would index content that was solely shared on Facebook. To date, that page has not been indexed, despite having quite a few shares (64 according to the OpenGraph).”

If you make compelling content, people will link to it, like it, share it on Facebook, +1 it, etc. But that doesn’t mean that Google is using those signals in our ranking.

Rather than chasing +1s of content, your time is much better spent making great content.”

So, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at each of Shepard’s points.

1. Posts are crawled and indexed almost immediately

While I haven’t been able to find any hard evidence to confirm this claim, but it certainly falls within reason. Having a strong Google+ profile is absolutely a good way to be indexed by Google’s algorithm. Maintaining and updating your G+ page is extremely important for social media and seo, especially if this claim that posts are indexed immediately is true

2. Google+ posts pass link equity

Shepard claims that because all links from Google+ are followed, they pass on link equity. Dave Davies at Search Engine Watch, who called this claim unlikely, says,

“[Shepard] claims that shared links pass link weight simply because they’re not nofollowed (whereas other links are). Now, this brings up an interesting question: Does the fact that Google nofollows some links necessarily indicate that they pass weight to the others?

One could ask, ‘Why nofollow some if you aren’t going to pass weight to any?’ More likely than passing link weight from the easily abused environment that would breed goes back to point one – they will crawl the content that is shared (i.e., followed) and not crawl additional links, thus seriously restricting the benefits of comment spamming on stronger profiles.

I can’t say the conclusion that the links are nofollowed just to pass crawlers and not link juice is heavily tested or based on more than an understanding of what Google’s trying to accomplish and the pitfalls if they started passing link weight through Google+, but I will assert that it’s far more likely than Google setting themselves up to be a link spam property.”

Google is unlikely to let its own social networks be abused for search rankings, which makes Shepard’s claim dubious. The most likely scenario is that Google is following these links to index posts on its own site, not to pass link juice onto anyone posting on G+.

3. Google+ is optimized for semantic relevance

Google does rank its own site for relevance. That much is undoubtedly true. What we don’t know, and the crux of this point, is whether Google assigns that relevance to the post itself or the destination URL. Matt Cutts hasn’t answered that question, and without his input I doubt the author can make this claim with any certainty.

Conclusion

Google+ plays a role in SEO. What that role is exactly is unclear to everyone outside (and probably most people within) the Google offices. Without hard evidence, we need to treat the claims of Moz as merely correlation, without proven causation.

As Cutts said himself, you’re wasting your time if all you try to do is get +1s. Great content will be shared, and that should be your focus.

Jackson on Google+

 

For more SEO Moneyball check out these posts!

SEO Moneyball Series

SEO Moneyball: How to Utilize Google Trends

SEO Moneyball: Takings Advantage of Geo-Targeting in Google AdWords

SEO Moneyball: The Value of a Like

 

The goal of Moneyball is to get the best results out of the least money spent. In other words, Billy Beane viewed his baseball team as a business, looking to get the best value or ROI. Beane’s Oakland teams made the playoffs four straight years in the early 2000s despite being in the bottom five teams in salary.

As a sports fan and a sportswriter, reading Moneyball changed the way I look at baseball like few other things have. Each week, I’ll try to do the same thing with SEO for you in this series, SEO MoneyBall, using some deeper statistics to give you a better look at how to improve your web presence. This week, I look at a study on the value of social media followers for businesses.

Beyond SEO efforts to rank on Google, another simple and efficient way to improve your business is to ramp up your social media presence. A few weeks ago, I detailed some powerful reasons to focus on social media, but today I’ll once again take a more numbers-based approach to the topic.

Social media is cheap. Like, dirt-cheap. Depending on how you handle your social media, it may even be free (other than the time it takes you to manage the accounts). In an effort to Moneyball your business efforts, there may not be a more powerful tool than a well-run social media campaign. Social media has now even been shown to impact your SEO efforts as well.

The message of Moneyball got lost a little bit in the Brad Pitt movie. The true success of Billy Beane’s Oakland teams was not that they won more games than before- they didn’t, by the way- but that they continued to win 95+ games a year despite having one of the five lowest payrolls in the league.  Social media is your dirt-cheap way to win the metaphorical equivalent of 95+ games with minimal expenses.

Something we look at often in baseball statistics is Wins Above Replacement. Basically, it is a stat that compares a player to a readily available replacement player at the same position. In using some reverse mathematical maneuvering, that formula places the value of a 1.0 WAR player (a player worth 1 win more than a readily available replacement) at $5 million. So, when assembling a roster, the general consensus is that you pay about $5 million per WAR for a player.

Let’s pretend that Facebook likes are these replacement-level players. We want to find out how valuable each Like Over Replacement (There isn’t really a replacement we’re going against here, but let me have this one) is. This study by Syncapse tried to find that exact value.Set featured image

You have to sign up to get the whole study, but I can summarize some of the findings for you. Basically, by studying motivations for becoming a fan on Facebook, Syncapse was able to assign a dollar value to each Like.

Perhaps most importantly, this study found that 78% of fans on a Facebook page are already customers.

“Since being a brand user is usually a prerequisite to becoming a Fan in consumer goods categories, marketers should prioritize their Fan acquisition investments on converting existing customers,” Syncapse said in its report. “Not only is acquisition cost and conversion friction lower, but the investment in a higher quality Fan base will reap rewards down the line, and this is true for both lower-cost and higher-cost consumer brands.”

Using this, as well as other statistics, Syncapse calculated the value of a Like to be $174.17, an increase from the $136.38 that the same study found in 2010. With a little bit of effort and focus on the part of your company (and the help of Facebook’s excellent promotion tools) it isn’t too difficult to boost your following.

How did Syncapse come to this conclusion? Well, as you can see in the chart below, they found that a Facebook fan will spend on average $255 as opposed to $139 spend by a non-fan. Facebook fans are also far more likely to recommend a brand to friends, purchase a product and be content with a brand than non-fans.

Return on Investment is our best way to look at effectiveness of social media. Think about ROI as our version of WAR. We’re trying to get those wins (dollar dollar bills, y’all) for the lowest cost possible. When you start thinking about Facebook Likes as an important part of those wins, it becomes clear that converting customers into Facebook followers and vice versa should be near the top of that strategy.

As the study shows us, there is a strong correlation between Facebook followers and dollars in your pocket. Syncapse reminds us that at a minimal cost, social media can still have powerful results.

Jackson on Google+

Need more SEO Moneyball? Check out these posts!

SEO Moneyball Series

SEO Moneyball: Taking Advantage of Facebook Hashtags

SEO Moneyball: Diversify Your Social Media Presence