In information retrieval some words are powerful / potent. They are really descriptive and get right to the point of what someone is looking for. Other words have little to no value. The reason the concept of stop words came about is that you really couldn't tell much about a document by it including words like a, an, the, and, are, etc. The flip side of stop words are words which have a high discrimination value. Recently I was searching to see if there was a FedEx office in the town where my mom lives, and in spite of there not being one, Google still returned multiple pages (the home page and the store locator page) from the FedEx.com website in the search results. That was a great search result, and Google was smart to place more weight on the core concept word in the search (FedEx) while placing less weight on the location.
Words which have a low discrimination value may have a higher discrimination value when combined with neighboring words. Hot and dog might have a different meaning when they are next to each other. As explained in this Wired article:
Take, for instance, the way Google’s engine learns which words are synonyms. “We discovered a nifty thing very early on,” Singhal says. “People change words in their queries. So someone would say, ‘pictures of dogs,’ and then they’d say, ‘pictures of puppies.’ So that told us that maybe ‘dogs’ and ‘puppies’ were interchangeable. We also learned that when you boil water, it’s hot water. We were relearning semantics from humans, and that was a great advance.”
But there were obstacles. Google’s synonym system understood that a dog was similar to a puppy and that boiling water was hot. But it also concluded that a hot dog was the same as a boiling puppy. The problem was fixed in late 2002 by a breakthrough based on philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theories about how words are defined by context. As Google crawled and archived billions of documents and Web pages, it analyzed what words were close to each other. “Hot dog” would be found in searches that also contained “bread” and “mustard” and “baseball games” — not poached pooches. That helped the algorithm understand what “hot dog” — and millions of other terms — meant. “Today, if you type ‘Gandhi bio,’ we know that bio means biography,” Singhal says. “And if you type ‘bio warfare,’ it means biological.”
The concept of discrimination value also has value outside of search. If you get feedback from an anonymous person on a third party site it gets so much weight (maybe none). If you get feedback from someone who is not anonymous it gets more weight. If you get feedback from a paying customer it gets much more weight. One of the most powerful levels of discrimination is indeed payment. If a person pays you the (typically) you know who they are & they have expressed significant interest beyond what most people will do.
I think online business models which require payment from the typical user are not hyped and are not considered sexy because those sorts of models are often slow growth due to the penny gap and the requirement of greater trust to convert. Whereas a programming marketer can hear of a new network (say Pippers) and create 40,000 bogus accounts in an hour. The owners of Pippers can then talk about their explosive growth rate in the media, which earns them media coverage. In turn this increases their ability to raise capital and continue their "growth."
But many of the social networks end up being a bag of smoke that will fade because they aim to bucket people as beings in a database and are so broad as to have little discrimination value. I have been reading You Are Not a Gadget and he compared the depersonalization on the broad social networks to the beauty of an oud forum he is a member of. Much like charging for admission, obscurity is a filter which improves the level of discourse.
Compare the comments on *any* niche topic site to what you find on Youtube. If you can show me a site which is consistently worse than Youtube (outside of site like 4Chan which specialize in creating campaigns to try to make epileptic people have a seizure) I will buy you a beer then next time we meet. :D
My wife deleted her FaceBook account because she was annoyed at some people's behavior on it. Part of the problem with the social networks is that they are so broad and so frictionless that your activities on them really don't matter. As a marketer there are a couple ways to play such networks
largely ignore them
be friends with everyone
As a marketer the first of those options means you are saving your time for higher paying areas, and the second of those options means more people seeing more distribution of whatever content you create. But many of the helpful aids are at best dubious short term opportunistic ploys. The third option means you are one of the people who is going out of their way to make the web worse, but many will. ;)
Generally any given month I haven't been on Facebook for more than 5 minutes outside of writing & targeting ads, or approving a few real "friends" and hundreds to thousands of other people who claim to be my friend. But if you message me on FaceBook there is a precisely 0% chance of getting a reply. :)
When FaceBook launched Beacon a few years ago they wanted to sell peer pressure as an ad unit. If brands can show that your friends did something then maybe that can help lead to a cumulative advantage sort of environment which has you follow along. Beacon was such a flagrant violation of user privacy that it was quickly shot down by the market. But with the new FaceBook like button, they are trying to use like button clicks to put your name on ads:
"Marketers have always known that the best way to sell something is to get your friends to sell it," says Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer. "That is what people do all day on Facebook. We enable effective word-of-mouth advertising at scale for the first time."
In the short run it may work, but in the longrun I don't like the concept. The reasons are many.
You can agree with one particular thing a person says and like it while being nearly diametrically opposed to their general philosophy on life. For example, when we launched that "How Google Works" infographic last week one of the reporters who wrote about it also mentioned how sleazy and nefarious the SEO industry is, and yet he was willing to promote the efforts of an SEO because it was published on a blog with a sister acronym in the domain name. :D ... Of the 3,000+ people who voted for us likely less than half of them know anything about me, or even my association with the site.
You can like one product from a company, but not like their other products. I have worked with GoDaddy as a registrar for years. And I have had no complaints on that front. But they also sell some search engine submission service that I would cringe to see my name promoting.
You click the like button once on one page. Years later the business you liked is trading in another area...they moved from remnant inventory to spyware, and you recommend them. ;)
An individual can have multiple lines of work. You might like Thom Yorke's role in Radiohead, but you might not like his political views or his solo work.
Imagine when someone buys a car that you passively recommended which has a manufacturer defect. One of their loved ones gets killed and you eat the blame.
Just like businesses, people change over time. This is especially true in the area of business, where a former partner or friend goes out of their way to betray your trust and screw you.
How do likes work with 301 redirects? How do they work when the content of the page shifts from genuinely useful to hawking trash with a hyped up sales letter?
A like doesn't have much discrimination value. And it shouldn't last very long. Why did you like something? When did you like it? Who knows.
Did you like Toyota right up until the brakes didn't work? After you get out of the hospital, how do you feel when your friend asks you why you are still promoting their products? Did you work for a digital sharecropper overlord like Jason Calacanas who required you to push their junk elsewhere? How did you feel when your friend asks you why you are promoting his trash after he canned you with 1 week notice while boasting how they are nearing break-even and have over 8 years of cash in the bank?
Once people experience that will they become jaded and stop recommending things?
And if there isn't a backlash against the like button then given enough time one of your friends will like almost anything. It doesn't matter the product/service/offer ... if your pool of "friends" is wide enough then one of them is receiving an affiliate commission for pushing something, one of them owed a favor to the merchant, and one of them liked the merchant because they picked up a tab in the bar last month.
A wave of 100 million blond hair 18 year old girls who are lonely have joined FaceBook friending up with the desperate and then promoting scammy wares to them via automated clicks of the like button. And then of course there will be services like SpikeTheVote.
Sure a fad might work in the short run, but given enough time and there will be friend recommendations for almost anything. Once the novelty wears of does any of it matter?
In time any database record can be an ad targeting mechanism. Will I be promoting some of the products my thousands of "friends" create or endorse by a click of the mouse which changes purpose after the fact?
At first online petitions were powerful because they seemed to have mobilized swaths of people. But then people realized that a vote represented nothing more than an automated form submission and clicking send. 2 clicks of the mouse. Not much discrimination value.
Do you worry too much about who you are competing against? Do you feel competitive research leads to many more "move on please" rather than "let's go!" types of outcomes? Believe it or not, it may be a good sign.
Competition is usually a good thing, it means something is worth fighting for. A lot of hucksters try to push ways to "Uncover hidden markets that nobody else knows about, that you can make millions from with little effort, and that is yours for just $47."
Here is the problem with lots of opportunity and 0 competition: businesses follow the money and shorten the supply chain. If an ad market is ripe it means that some of those advertisers are also going to be publishers in the same darn market, targeting the same darn keywords. So if there is big money there will be competition. It is unavoidable.
It isn't so much that specific niches are glossed over, but more to do with the fact that the bigger a site gets and the more keywords it targets the less time it has to focus on optimization at a granular level. These kinds of sites leave the door open for you to come in and attack some of their profitable keywords by creating niche sites around those topics.
Consider that our competitive research tool shows a site like ehow.com coming in with 2,948,950 organic keywords they are ranking for in the top 20 (our tool is powered by SEM Rush). Lots of opportunity there!
However, if you are interested in your public-facing status then chasing the long tail of a large site may not be the sexiest thing in the world to you. If you are more interested in profiting from your efforts versus tooting your own horn then what should matter is how you can maximize profits while keeping expenses low.
Certainly I'm not advocating that you only focus on niche keywords. If you have the resources then you can go after just about anything you want. In either scenario, long-tail plays or broad keyword plays, there should be less worry about who your competition is and more focus on what their weaknesses are, and how you can beat them.
There is an intimidation factor that is at play in just about every situation where competition exists:
Much of that intimidation is perceived by the underdog or the new competitor. The following points are worth keeping in mind:
The best team is not unbeatable
The biggest site is not strongly optimized for all their keywords
The girl or guy you are quite fond of is actually approachable
Many of the competitors at the top of the heap are there for a reason, they're good. However, it doesn't mean they are invincible or beyond reproach. In fact it's quite the opposite. Some of the upper echelon sites in your market likely have become lazy or so big that can no longer reasonably go all out on all their profitable keywords. There are no shortage of tools out there that can help you find potential keywords for your sites by looking at profitable keywords of a competitor's site.
You can't win every battle you fight but if you win more than you lose then you are on the right track. Competing, in and of itself, is not going to mortally wound you if you lose :-). Look at is as a learning lesson.
What could you have done better?
Where could you have pushed harder?
Do you need to rethink how you view potential opportunities?
The great thing about SEO is that (providing you don't torch the site) there is no 4th quarter, final set, TKO, or bottom of the ninth. Your timing for failing is based on when you think it's a good time to pullout and move on to another site or use a new approach. The effective holding cost for a paused project is ~ $0. And who knows, maybe a future algorithmic update or another search engine will take a liking to your site. As long as you have analytics installed you are passively collecting market data - not a bad deal.
Google can be the referee that makes a horrible call which ends the game but more often than not you get to be the decider of when to push and when to pull.
So rather than worrying about your competition you are better off tracking your competition and figuring out where they are outperforming you. I like to keep a running log of ideas and processes that my competitors are implementing along with notes on where I think they are weak and how they could do what they are doing more efficiently.
Armed with that information, along with your findings with free tools like SEO For Firefox, you can start in on a thorough review of your competition and the feasibility of competing against them. Some core items you'll want to consider are:
Number of backlinks from unique domains (don't be *wowed* by the total link count)
Anchor text distribution of external links
Domain age, relative to when the site went live (with a few links)
Presence of the site in some of the better directories like Yahoo! and Business.Com
Is the exact match ranking?
Is it all big brands?
Are there lots of interior pages ranking?
The on-page optimization of the site/page
and so on...
There are a number of tools available which can help you find weak spots in areas where your competition is possibly profitable and where potential opportunities exist for you. We did a review of the following spy tools
So while you shouldn't ignore the competition completely you shouldn't be consumed by it, particularly if it's just a few metrics that you find daunting. There are enough tools out there where you can try and clone most of their best strategies but at some point you will have to go beyond what they are doing.
Studying a competitor's on and off page strategies, then finding ways to exploit weaknesses and build on strengths, will produce a better ROI for your business rather than searching for "The Fountain of No Competition" promised by that really nice internet marketing fellow you got that email from :-).
And SEO is just one phase of your analysis. Does everyone have the same business model? Are there other options? Do they all have similar site structures? Are they so inspired by one another that they are missing huge market segments?
In essence they are spending resources trying to make the most unsatisfied segment of their market happy, and rewarding people for trashing their brands with free upgrades & other perks. And so it teaches more people to complain & to find arbitrary things to complain about. Hence the friendly article offering the tip on how to get free room upgrades, with tips like: "Have a lot of online friends or followers. Hotels will pay more attention to your requests."
Hey Ritz-Carlton & Shangri La ... we have 10,000's of readers and you suck! Please save my complimentary upgrades for the next time I am in town. :D
Does anybody think those leading brands got to where they are by tracking complaints on Twitter? The customers who have complaints actually worth listening to will probably give it to you directly rather than Tweeting it.
The people who are unhappy are often the type of people who shop by price and have 0 brand loyalty. And no matter what you do it is never enough. About two days after opening up our membership site (nearly 2 years ago) I got a phone call while on the road by someone who couldn't figure out how to log in. I pointed out where it was. That wasn't good enough. I spent about 6 hours digging through the PHP to try to make the login even more intuitive for them. The next day they asked for a refund because I didn't provide 24/7 phone support. The login wasn't the problem. It was just a handy excuse. The problem was that they were cheap and nothing was going to be good enough for them. And just to put a bit more salt in the wounds, about a week later someone else complained about how the login was changed. FAIL! :D
Since then we have increased our price 200% (as we have added more tools, more staff, and the value of my time keeps going up every day) and we still have many people who are happy as longterm customers at a higher price point. In fact when some people accidentally cancel their account I can get 3 to 5 emails in an 8 hour period when I sleep because they miss the site that much.
But there is the opposite end of the spectrum as well: potential "customers" who demand a free trial, beg for aggressive discounts, or have 50 "one more question" questions before joining. They probably are not sold enough on the solution to be worth the effort of selling to. No matter what you offer them its probably not going to be enough. Their lack of internal value is reflected into their perception of the works of others, and if they buy from you without being sold on you they will probably ask for a refund, or find a way to be abusive to make you want to can them.
In our support suite many non-paying non-customers mark their messages as critical. Whereas the people who are paying customers use a less extreme level, like normal. The levels that people can select are almost a filtering mechanism. Have you spent $0 with us & you mark your issue as critical & you use caps lock & rude slurs? Shift-delete.
I didn't intentionally plan it, but our old programmer even built another filter into our business model. The people who join and then cancel right away get locked out right away. We then send them refunds, but this level of filtering filters out a major type of potentially abusive customer. The type who generally won't read or research but will ask 5 different questions 8 different ways each every single day until they have annoyed your members so much that you are forced to boot them to lessen the noise. The person who makes over 100 posts in their first 2 days isn't taking any time to read or listen or implement, so they would just harm your community without getting any value out of it.
This leads to my theory of filtering: if a person needs lots of support becoming a customer (or before they become a customer) then they probably are not going to become a good customer. And if you take them on as a customer (or spend any money pushing in that direction) you will probably lose money.
The person who sends me an enraged email about "why should I install Firefox" just wasted 5 seconds of my life & will never spend a penny with me. And that is fine.
Find out what people smarter than you are doing and find a way to incorporate those themes into your business strategy. The smaller you are the more polarizing you can be, because you don't have to create something that feeds thousands of employees to be profitable.
You could spend every day trying to make any unhappy person happy with your offering.
... OR ...
What if you took those same resources that were spent trying to appease the angry and spent them on making those who are happy that much happier? Does the free upgrade go further when it is given to an enraged steroid addicted customer, or does it go further when given to someone who has stayed with your hotel multiple times in the past? Where are they on this circle?
The concept to think about here is that if someone is already fairly loyal it doesn't take much more marketing or attention to make them *super* loyal. And then they spread the word.
There is a concept of fairness which is preached in school, but you should overweight your business toward your best customers.
The person who has been a paying subscriber for years is worth thousands to tens of thousands of Dollars to our future business interests.
Wordtracker's keyword toolset has long been popular for finding additional, longer tail keywords to apply to your search or PPC campaigns. Strategizer integrates with Google Analytics to incorporate your current keywords into the Strategizer tool to help you analyze groups of related keywords to determine how viable those groups are to your campaign.
Wordtracker takes the view that you should not be focusing on a single keyword, but rather "keyword niches". In the example on their site they use donuts. Essentially it's presented as
The single search term in the areas the marketer sells to is 2,400 per month
The expected click through rate is 8% as they were ranked in position 3, totaling 192 visitors per month
Conversion rate was pegged at 4% so the expected sales numbers would be about 8 sales a month
In Wordtracker's opinion focusing on a single keyword might be a losing effort for this marketer because the entire donut niche produces about 450,000 searches a month (chocolate donuts, glazed donuts, chocolate glazed donuts, and so on) and it will likely take him years to rank for that single keyword. So the focus with this tool is more on the long tail side of things.
In theory this makes sense but in some markets you can compete with less difficulty if you own the exact match domain and can scale the marketing, content, and link building with degrees of success. There are other ways to compete as well so while there is great wisdom in paying attention to the long tail of a main keyword there are some other factors to consider as well.
The most actionable keyword research data you can get generally comes from your analytics program. So a tool which can integrate with your current analytics program and expand on your profitable (or help you find more profitable) keywords is a definite win. While there can be some concern about using Google Analytics on your site (giving Google your data and such) it's hard to argue how deep and powerful their analytics program is.
A lot of spy tools provide "keyword value" estimates based on traffic and cost-per-click figures. While that is a good barometer of how valuable a keyword might be in the eyes of a search engine, keyword data specific to your site (which factors in real traffic numbers as well as conversions) is the best way to analyze your current site architecture for expansion or improvement.
A tool like Strategizer can be quite helpful in interpreting that data and providing additional keyword options based on the keywords found in your Google Analytics program. Furthermore, mining additional keywords which are found in niches that are already converting for you (with help from Wordtracker) is really quite a win because it's real data that is almost instantly actionable.
How Strategizer Works
You need to integrate your Google Analytics account with Strategizer for the tool to work. Once you do, you'll be given report options.
Note that Wordtracker recommends having more than 20,000 non-paid search engine visits prior to processing that data (this can be a cumulative number met over months of data). In order for their niche set up and model to function correctly you do need a decent amount of data as the model is trend-based from a higher-level overview rather than a focus on individual keywords.
Here is the options page:
The time period and the country, territory, and language settings are self-explanatory. You also have the option to choose an "Advanced Segment" which can be:
All Visits - defined as all non-paid search engine visits
Default - segments in your Google Analytics account which Google has defined
Custom - segments in your Google Analytics account which you have specifically defined
Dynamic - segments which you can define as you create your Strategizer reports (this feature is not yet available)
As the third option is not yet available and there are not a ton of custom segments set up here we'll go with "Default"/"All Visits".
A Strategizer Report
A Strategizer report groups your keyword in up to 2,000 niches. The initial report looks like this:
The data presented is pulled from your Google Analytics keyword report and grouped into niches by the Strategizer tool. Each keyword listed in the row is the perceived main keyword for the keyword niche and the keywords that fall under a niche classification include that main keyword as part of their phrase.
So what Strategizer does is take your exact match keywords from your Google Analytics account (the actual keyword used to produce a visitor) and convert them into broader reports (niches) for all keywords containing that exact keyword found in your analytics account.
Keyword Niche Analysis in Strategizer
Before getting into how the data is presented, understanding how niches work in Strategizer is pretty important as it is the basis of the analysis going on within the tool.
The reports will not break niches down by individual keywords so having a firm grasp of how a niche is defined will help you understand and more efficiently use the tool.
*Note, a niche's name (link building in this case) is derived from an exact match keyword on your site. So in this case someone searched for link building and clicked on SeoBook.Com in the search results.
Strategizer sees the keywords that are bringing you traffic and uses that exact keyword, link building in our example, to set up a niche. Then, Strategizer pulls in broad match keywords for that keyword which brought you a visitor per Google Analytics (link building in this case) via the AdWords Keyword tool to populate the "Niche Size (Google)" Column.
To further illustrate this point, here's a look at the niche "link building":
For the niche of "link building" you are shown the following columns in the "Analysis" tab (we'll cover the other tabs in a bit):
Keyword Niche - the niche defined by Strategizer via an exact match keyword in your Google Analytics program.
Keywords - the number of keywords with the Niche Size (Google) data point that actually brought traffic to your site. So out of 665,000 searches done on broad matched variations of the keyword link building, we received at least 1 visit from 1,932 keywords.
Visits - total number of visits from those 1,932 keywords.
Niche Size (Google) - total number of searches, broad match based on the keyword that defines the niche (link building in this case) via the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.
% Market Share - the percentage of searchers that end up as visitors on your site, compared to the total number of searchers out there for that niche (Visits/Niche Size).
Bounce Rate - percentage of visits which left on the entrance page
Goal CR - percentage of visits that resulted in the completion of a goal
E-Commerce CR - percentage of visits which resulted in a e-commerce transaction
Per Visit Value - defined as revenue/visits
For the niche of "link building", there could be all sorts of variations within that niche as the niche size is populated by broad matched keywords from the AdWords Keyword Tool. This niche could include:
link building training
how to do link building
cheap link building
link building training program
link building tools
link building majestic seo
and so on...
So just to summarize:
A keyword niche is set up by an exact match keyword found in your Google Analytics report.
The keywords that make up the niche are broad match keywords pulled in from the AdWords Keyword Tool
Additional Strategizer Reporting Options
Strategizer gives you 4 tabs to work with:
The tool also offers handy, robust exporting and filtering features.
You can also select up to 5 keywords and link through to Google Insights:
You have the following filter options (all are "greater than or less than" except for "Keyword Niche". In "Keyword Niche" you can choose to include, exclude certain keywords or just work with the one's you've targeted by checking them off).
We went over the Analysis tab earlier in the post when discussing the link building niche. The other tabs, which have a few unique metrics, are as follows:
The Site Usage tab includes a few other metrics not included in the Analysis tab and removes some data points which are not relevant to the actual usage of your site:
The new data points are:
Pages/Visit - average number of pages viewed during a visit to your site. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
Avg Time on Site - average time spent on your site over the visits within that keyword niche
% of New Visits - percentage of visits by people who have never visited the site before
The Goal Conversion tab will show you the percentage of visits within your keyword niches which resulted in goals that you defined in your Google Analytics account.
The E-commerce tab does about exactly what you think it will do, gives you data specific to any e-commerce items you are tracking within your Google Analytics account. There are a couple of new data points here as well.
Strategizer will show you:
E-commerce CR - percentage of visitors which resulted in an e-commerce transaction
Transactions - total number of transactions completed
Average Value - the average value of a visitor (factoring in transactions and overall visits)
Revenue - revenue, including tax and shipping, from e-commerce transactions
Per Visit Value - determined by dividing revenue by visits
(Note that our Google Analytics account didn't have this enabled, but if we would have this is one of the areas where Strategizer really sings in terms of trying to show you how much money is on the table in different keyword themes).
You may only want to investigate certain keywords niches at any given point so Strategizer gives you the option to target specific niches and makes it quite easy to remove targeting and re-apply it.
So if you just want to look at a specific niche topic, take "links" for example, then you filter by niche name:
Click on the niche you want to target (highlights in green):
Then click the target button and set your filter to include niches that are targeted:
Pick the ones you want to target (highlighted in green) then click Target/Untarget (the targeted choices change to red):
Then you have the ones you want to evaluate:
The sorting and filtering options are quite deep which is much needed given the vast amount of data you are given to work with.
Strategizer Wrap Up
As you can see there are lots of data points to play with inside of Strategizer. Since the data is pulling right from your Google Analytics account you know that the conversion data and value data are both fairly accurate.
The sorting options can help you get a good look at keyword sets which need further investigating as to why they may or may not be performing as well as other keyword sets across all the metrics in the Strategizer tool.
Due to the tremendous amount of data available it makes sense to utilize the sorting options within the Strategizer toolset to help weed out keyword niches which are really low volume sets and could distort results. With great data comes great responsibility so it would be wise to play around with the filtering options within the tool to sort through results or metrics which might not be overly important to you.
Right now you can't drill down into specific keywords but that is a function Wordtracker is considering.
Is Strategizer Right for You?
I really like what Wordtracker is doing with this tool. Many times you might be working with tools which are just "estimates" and are usually not very accurate anyway. I would say this tool is a more than solid investment for:
Site owners with good amounts of traffic
Site owners with defined goals and conversions in Google Analytics
PPC folks who can mass identify strong (and weak) performing keyword sets to further investigate for their campaign structure
Anyone who is serious about understanding their site and site architecture
Someone who wants a higher level overview of how their site and site structure are performing across a variety of important metrics
And any site owner who wants to understand as much as they can about their site, their site's engagement, and to identify areas for increased (or decreased) attention.
Wordstream is a suite of online marketing tools which cover Keyword Research and Management for PPC and SEO Campaigns. They also offer a Firefox plug-in which we'll cover in a bit. Wordstream gives you access to three free tools:
Free Keyword Niche Finder
Free Keyword Suggestion Tool
Free Keyword Grouper
While there are many free and paid keyword tools on the market Wordstream does offer more in the way of integration with industry leading products like Google AdWords and Google Analytics. Recently Wordstream earned the Editor's Pick award in the Google Analytics Application Gallery:
Wordstream's keyword data is produced via "blended" data which they acquire from multiple sources. The discuss their data sources on the FAQ section of the Free Keyword Tool. It's important to note that they do not simply pull keyword data from Google like many other "keyword research" tools do.
Both PPC and SEO campaigns can fall victim to poor organization which leads to poor site or campaign architecture which eventually leads to poor results as data becomes more and more difficult to accurately manage. Wordstream aims to aid in your keyword research, PPC campaign management, and SEO execution.
Free Keyword Niche Finder
The Keyword Niche Finder attempts to find niches of a core keyword. In this example I chose insurance. Usually, I've had better results with this tool by using really broad keywords. The longer you get into the tail the less associations the tool can perform hence the less niches available for you to analyze.
You can choose to have the niches emailed to you (you'll get a zip file of all the niches shown on the screen, not all the available ones so be sure you've got the ones you want, and they come as separate .csv's within the .zip) and you can get started sorting through the niches shown to get an idea of what part of the insurance market you may want to pursue. Let's say I'm not interested in travel insurance. So I click the X to get rid of that and another niche pops up, "uk" insurance. Note the number of niches has gone down and I'm left with a new niche to evaluate, "UK", within the insurance market.
So after sorting through the available niches I've narrowed it down to the following niches:
So I've decided to pursue the life insurance market so I click on the bucket and I'm shown 774 keywords for that niche. As you can see, there is a filtering option but that is available to paid subscribers. Relative frequency refers to their "blended data" approach meaning the term life insurance quote typically is searched more often than life insurance exam in aggregate.
If this is the only niche you want to target simply remove the other niches and request the emailed .csv (need to leave at least 2 active niches for export though). This way you'll receive the keywords you want for further processing in whatever spreadsheet application you use. This tool is somewhat limited as it is a free tool but it can be a pretty useful way to get a broad view of niches available in a specific market when first starting out.
Plus, it's a pretty slick way to bounce back and forth between different niches without having to re-query a keyword tool every time you want to look at a different market.
Free Keyword Grouper
Wordstream's Keyword Grouper tool where you can enter up to 10,000 keywords and have Wordstream group them by category and word/modifier association.
This tool can be quite useful when you pull data from something like your web analytics or PPC programs and receive a variety of new keywords back. The Keyword Grouper tool will group using modifiers (cheap, free, buy, etc) which helps you identify new market segments or new keywords you may have been missing out on initially.
I think the idea behind the tool is solid but I also think you'd want to spend some time going through your own results to further refine your data. The following screen shot was produced after entering the following data:
home insurance 88
auto insurance 39
home insurance company 33
auto insurance quote 28
The groupings are mostly sensible and they also filtered in some modifiers that I didn't originally include but ones that I know are valuable in this industry. Aligning your keywords to your site's structure is always a good idea when doing SEO and this tool can help a bit in that area. The tool (free) is not perfect but it does provide useful, actionable data.
Wordstream's Free Keyword Tool does exactly what you would expect it to, it gives you keyword data. Their "blended" method of aggregating data can be found here.
My Favorite Feature
When you export the keywords you are given the top 10,000 sorted from the highest relative frequency to the lowest! Car insurance returned over 45k results and I am now able, for free, to download the top 10k keywords in order of search volume. This is a killer feature for any keyword tool, much less a free one. Consider that:
Wordtracker goes up to 1k
Google AdWords is less than Wordtracker
Even some Competitive Research Tools do not offer the ability to export 10k results with sorting enabled!
So that about sums it up for their free tools. I personally like how Wordstream keeps feature bloat out of these tools. So many times you see these keyword tools come out and start making up their own custom metrics which at some point involve:
Total number of competing pages
Some form of KEI
Some made up metric to distract you from the fact that all they are doing is pulling data from Google and recycling it :-(
A keyword tool, which pulls data from sources other than Google, has some inherent value as we know that Google's data often has disagreements within their own tools so it's important to have one or three third party sources of data.
Wordstream's toolset is broken down into 4 groups of tools:
Create PPC Campaigns
Create SEO Content
Keyword Suggestion Tool
A simple keyword tool where you enter your desired keywords and get up to 10,000 results for your search. Wordstream also provides an area where they suggest related words and synonyms which you can easily add to your keyword search by clicking the check mark adjacent to the modifier.
The keyword results section offers up your selected results with the following options pertaining to how deep your results will go:
From here you can whittle down to the keywords you want to add to your campaign (you can add these keywords to your Wordstream database from inside the tool).
The speed and depth at which these keywords are returned at are both very impressive compared to other keyword tools.
Spy on the Competition Tool
Similar to how the Google AdWords Keyword Tool operates, you can place a URL + check all the pages on a website or just a specific page in the search bar and get keywords relevant to whatever site/page you searched on.
Where I think this tool falls short is in the categorization data that the AdWords tool returns when you place a URL in their search box. The AdWords tool basically gives you a nice head start into potential site structure options via how they break down the categories and keywords within a URL that you search on. You can use Wordstream's organization capabilities after you are done adding the keywords into your database but I think having the initial breakdown that AdWords provides is slick and something Wordstream may want to consider as they continue to develop their toolset.
Enable Continuous Keyword Discovery
In a world filled with buzzwords used simply to sell you on recycled products or feature bloat you may look at this as say "riiiiiight". However, this is actually a unique point of differentiation between Wordstream and every other keyword tool on the market.
This tool gives your Wordstream keyword database real time access into keywords that are bringing you traffic from either your Google Analytics account or, if you don't use Google Analytics, a custom Wordstream tracking code you can embed on your website.
If you make the decision to utilize Wordstream to manage your keyword database then this is a killer feature. No other keyword tool offers such a feature, that I'm aware of anyway. So if you are not overly interested in combing through your analytics reports frequently in order to find additional keywords to target, then this feature will be beneficial to you as the new keywords automatically pop up into your Wordstream database.
It's also useful for transitioning these keywords into a PPC campaign you may be managing in Wordstream either as a new keyword to bid on *or* as a negative keyword. So this tool is also handy for being a negative keyword finder as well.
Other Ways to Import Keywords
Wordstream allows you to copy and paste keywords into your account and initially tag them as either "Paid", "Organic", or "Suggested" keyword sources.
You can also download a tool which analyzes your web server logs for keywords
You can also upload a CSV or TSV file...
So those are the ways you can initially find and upload keywords with Wordstream. The second function of Wordstream's workflow is actually managing those keywords.
Wordstream puts out three options for keyword management:
At first glance it seems a bit overwhelming, but it's not. You have the following features/options available to you:
Automated keyword grouping suggestions on the left side, which you can accept, show, hide, or decline
Keywords in your campaign sorted by paid, organic, or suggested (based on tagging you control), new keywords found via your analytics or AdWords tie in, date filtering options, view by keywords that are grouped and ones that are not grouped.
The ability to add buckets of filtered keywords to a PPC campaign
The ability to use their new SEO Content feature to tie into your CMS and create content for a specific keyword
Goals and Action data, available for customization within your settings options
Keyword Group Explorer
The Keyword Group Explorer gives you keyword grouping suggestions based on your keywords. The buckets in yellow are ones which have been accepted by the user as groups and the ones in gray have not been. You can decline the grouping by clicking the gray X or accept it by clicking the check mark. You can hide these suggestions by clicking the light bulb in the bottom of the sidebar.
So I'll investigate the puppy suggestion. I click on the suggestions and I'm shown keywords specific to puppy or puppies.
This groups all the keywords containing puppy or puppies into one bucket. You can rename the group by clicking "create keyword group" in the right corner. You can also hover over any individual word in the keyword group to delete it and filter out any other keywords containing that modifier.
I renamed the group "Puppy Stuff" just to illustrate the ability to customize your groups. So back to the Keyword Group Explorer, turned off other suggestions for now and ta-da, there is Puppy Stuff.
The little arrow indicates the sub-groups Wordstream automatically created with the keywords in the Puppy Stuff bucket (I named this pretty horribly as you'll see in a second). So if you click on the arrow you'll see the sub-groups Wordstream automatically created (I should have left it as Puppy!):
Similar to the main groupings you can click on the check to accept, the X to decline, or the keyword to see the keywords within that group for further grouping and refinement. Hover over a group and see the following:
This gives you the top keyword in that sub-group. The stats are as follows:
15.2% represents how much traffic this group could produce, saying the keywords within the puppy stuff training group accounts for 15.2% of the traffic for the main group Puppy Stuff.
16.5% represents the % of keywords in this group accounting for that same percentage in the parent group Puppy Stuff. So this group has 16.5% of the keywords in the entire group.
If you right click on a group you get the following options (applies to groups and sub-groups as well)
Some of these items are self-explanatory but the de-duplicate option is pretty sweet. Click on that and you'll see duplicate keywords across your groups. This is handy because it really lets you refine your lists pretty quickly and efficiently. You can choose which group to remove duplicates from:
Another neat feature is if you click on the jack looking icon in the keyword results you can get options to search Google Trends, the Google Search Results, Bing's xRank, and Bing's search results:
You can use this method to keep creating more and more sub-groups if desired but usually 1-2 levels deep is good enough. You don't want to integrate so tightly that someone has to click 17 times to get to an article that could have been easily served on a sub-page within a top-level category.
Negative Keyword Selection
This tool allows you to search for negative keywords at the group and sub-group levels. It highlights the words that might be irrelevant to your campaign and gives you the option to accept the modifier or deny the modifier via a yes/no option. So what you are saying yes/no to is the highlighted word, not the phrase itself.
They also have a checkbox option which keeps potential negative keywords out of this report IF they have previously resulted in conversions (via your AdWords/analytics tie-in data).
Once you add a negative keyword in there you can choose phrase, broad, or exact match as negative keyword options. You can manually add negative keywords as well.
One option I'd like to see is "add full keyword/phrase or just highlighted modifier" rather than just adding the modifier.
They also offer a feature which tries to associate a selected negative keyword with other ones that appear in this report. So for instance, I checked off Chesapeake and hit yes, then I was presented with this:
Wordstream's products play to agency type accounts and workflow is a big part of what they offer. The Prioritize Workflow tool allows you to review workflow information at the group, sub-group, and account level.
From here you can:
Segment groups with no sub-groups into sub-groups
Associate an ad group with a keyword group
Associate a landing page with a keyword group or groups
Cleanse a group (takes you to the negative keyword tool)
The columns are as follows:
Relevance - A custom score which is derived initially from the amount of keywords within a group and how many visits they have driven. Typically the higher the relevance the more important the group to your traffic levels.
Visits - Total number of visits per group of keywords
Keywords - Total number of keywords within a group
Group Size - If you get the triangle it means you've exceed the group size you set (or was set by default) in the Wordstream Settings panel which is found under the Settings Tab - Wordstream Settings
AdWords/Landing Pages - Shows whether or not a group is associated with a landing page or an AdWords account
Filthiness - Shows (based on settings that can be modified in Settings - Wordstream Settings) if you've exceed limits set for negative keyword candidates as a percentage of the keyword group.
The Relevance field has some customization options:
So you can play with this a bit and throw in goals and value of goals as variables as to show which groups are not only driving the most traffic, but are also producing the most goals. Usually you'll find custom keyword performance metrics are not so great because they don't use any relevant data. Here though, Wordstream is using 3 of the most relevant pieces of data when it comes to keywords and keyword importance
Value of Conversions
That was an overview of what Wordstream can do for finding and managing your keywords both on the paid search and organic search side. The third piece of Wordstream's suite of tools is the PPC Campaign Management option.
PPC Campaign Management
Wordstream's Create PPC Campaign tab takes you right into a nice, clean (dare I say Google like) interface. Here you can pretty much do everything you can do with the AdWords Editor.
You can do all of the following here:
Download an existing campaign
Create a new campaign (for uploading or exporting later)
Set your campaign name
Set your campaign budget
Adjust your campaign status
Choose Search and/or Content Network
Work with Content Network bids
Set a start and end date
Work with language and location targeting
Assign ad groups to campaigns
Interface with Google's Conversion Optimizer
Moving Keyword Groups to Ad Groups
It is very easy to move one of your existing Wordstream Keyword Groups into Ad Groups. All you need to do is go to Manage Keywords - Organize Keywords right click on the ad group (we'll go with Puppy Stuff) and select "Create Google AdWords Ad Group"
Then you are brought to a screen where you select the campaign you want to add it to:
Then the group is added to the Create PPC Campaign interface where you can work with just about everything you are use to working with within AdWords.
Currently you can only work directly with the AdWords interface but you can export your campaigns in both Yahoo and Microsoft AdCenter format.
Landing Page Assignment
In the same way you export Keyword Groups to AdWords AdGroups you can associate landing pages by simply clicking "Associate Landing Page with Keyword Group" in the Manage My Keywords - Organize Keywords area or in the Prioritize Workflow Area.
Adding Conversion Goals
If you tie into Google Analytics this is already added automatically added (each time you add a Goal to analytics).
You can manage them here and add ones manually. This is managed in the Settings - Conversion Goals tab.
So this feature is pretty sweet on the SEO side of the house because with that custom Relevancy data we discussed earlier you can get a real, honest picture of which set of keywords are performing well and perhaps where more sub-groups of that keyword need to be investigated for more content and hopefully more conversions.
The goals can be viewed right in the Organize Keywords area and keywords can be sorted by completed goals which is handy when you are refining your campaign.
So this is really another piece of their unique feature which we talked about earlier, Continuous Keyword Research. If you choose to manage your campaign within Wordstream it is really a slick set up for SEO (and PPC) and they are looking to beef up the SEO side of things in the near future which is exciting.
Create SEO Content and Wordstream Firefox Plug in
Wordstream's Create SEO Content feature within your account is a tie in with the Firefox Plug-in. The plug-in is really useful if you utilize blog software for web publishing and especially if you have multiple content authors.
The firefox plug-in loads in the left side of your browser and ties into your existing Wordstream database giving you the option to do keyword research as well as create blog entries right from the plug-in in either:
If you are self-hosting the blogs/sites on WP, Drupal, or Typepad you'll have to provide your login URL and the URL for adding content. You can use your own CMS as well, but you'll need to manually log in to these CMS's/Blogs.
The image below shows you how the keywords are presented (in groups similar to the Wordstream tool), the content tie-in to the right, and the keyword options on the bottom:
Top Ten Keywords
Longer Tail Variations
Questions associated with your selected bucket
And when you are writing your content the tool will show you instances of the longer tail keywords in your copy as you write it!
In the first image the second tab shows "My Keywords". This is the tie in to the existing Wordstream database (your private database) and allows you to start building out your site structure, pretty cool stuff. The "associate content" link indicates that you have not associated a page with your keyword(s).
You can also right click on any keyword and get direct access to the following queries:
I stole these images from Wordstream's great piece on their plug-in as they do a great job of showing the CMS integration:
Wordstream certainly has lots and lots of features as well as some nice features not present in any other quality keyword tool (that I'm aware of) such as:
Continuous research (being able to bounce from keyword set to keyword set right in the same interface and managing those keywords as well)
Being able to research keywords in clusters/groups with a click of the mouse, then automatically showing sub-categories
Their database, likely because it pulls from many sources, does a solid job with long tail keywords
Using your analytics and AdWords reports to automatically pull in new keywords for you to act on, to track goals on, and so forth is a fantastic feature as we discussed earlier (being able to truly see the more valuable keyword sets within your site's architecture)
Overall Wordstream has a robust PPC offering along with a strong SEO toolset offering. In discussing their future plans on the SEO side they did state that they are continuing to improve their UI (which I quite like) as well as continue to add SEO features and tools to their current offering. Their current SEO offering is on par, price wise, with many of the other non-Google tools out there, and offers just as many features as some and more features than others.
They have a 7 day free trial available and I think it's worth spending some time with their toolset to see if it fits in with your current workflow. You can manage multiple sites (profiles) so long as you own and operate the sites. You can also get an agency account with Wordstream so you can manage client accounts as well. Each type lets you add multiple users to the account to assist with whatever your workflow needs happen to be.
People only need to be screwed by a gem like the following about once before they lose trust in sharing *any* personal data with anybody.
The above example is a great example of the scumbag affiliate mindset. Find whatever loopholes in the law exist, and exploit them right up until they are illegal and you risk a fine. If it is profitable enough keep running it until you get fined.
The problem with such exploitative ads is that they ruin the game for everyone. And so the best networks backed by companies who intend to be around for decades typically don't want to run those nasty ads.
The alternative way to build yield is to be more efficient by knowing more. This is part of the reason Google and Facebook are trying so hard to collect as much information as possible AND give each other blowback for their efforts. If you know someone really well and have more data than anyone else then it can be quite hard for others to build a comparable yield. This is true for your own site, but is especially true in terms of creating a distributed ad network.
Distributed ad networks are quite powerful because over time the ad unit can change as personal preference and advertiser preferences change. And with each ad load the network is collecting more data, which can be used to make the network more efficient and price gouge advertisers.
Most online businesses do not aim to operate at the core infrastructural level though, and competition is even more fierce due to a lower barrier to entry. As information is shared publicly people try to clone it precisely (or, at a minimum, create heavily inspired renditions of it). The easier your business model is to clone the more expensive it is to share your information publicly. There are over 1 million AdSense publishers. With Google sharing data down to the page and keyword level that market will get pretty efficient pretty quick.
But techniques and business models can get worn out. Even ad clicks are heavily reliant on vertical and user type. Internet Explorer users have a much higher CTR than more sophisticated web users who are more aware of advertising.
In one market we sent out a few emails to relevant sites by hand and 2 of the 5 people bitched us out because another webmaster with a similar domain name had sent them about 100 emails in the last year, and wouldn't stop even when asked. The technique of investing thousands of Dollars into relevant content and then mentioning it to a few relevant people was, to some degree, killed ... at least in that vertical.
articles that once contained great links - no longer link to story targets.
Google might care more about the damage they have done, but looking the other way has been too profitable. As Brett concluded: "Not by design, but think about this: if you click a link from Google and go to a page, and that page has no interesting off site links - then you are going to turn around and go back to Google."
When trying to organize the web there are always going to be philosophical points of view & business goals that are reflected in the relevancy algorithms. When Google was small and nimble they rooted for the little guy, embraced the affiliates who were their earliest advertisers, and claimed to be a uniquely democratic view of the web. As Google grew they realized that they were near the yield limits of direct marketing, and so they claimed brands are how you sort out the cesspool.
More major media companies are looking for ways to find cheap content. Thomson Reuters, Cox Newspapers and Hachette Filipacchi have run articles supplied by Associated Content, one of several companies, such as Demand Media and AOL's SEED, that mines reporting from masses of freelancers for as little as $5 a story.
Though Mr. Keane and his media partners declined to provide details, an executive with knowledge of these deals indicates the media partners have paid anywhere from $75 to $120 per article as well as a share of any related ad revenue.
It gets a bit tiring to say brand is the solution, but water flows downhill. And so if Google wants to promote brands, who wants to promote the business models that have been banned from AdWords? How many second and third chances might you get if Google by default already hates your business model? If you have a term paper writing service that they penalized you are likely down for the count.
As a service provider understanding Google's business objectives helps you understand where it is easiest to build returns. If they already like something then you might only need to give it a small push to get it over the hump. If you are pushing something that Google is moving away from then you are pushing uphill the whole way.
There was a recent Google update which impacted many websites. Googlebot has been going crazy, but as some sites drop others went up. It makes little difference to Google, and they probably prefer to have the results mix up (even if it sacrifices relevancy a bit) because it prevents people from becoming too comfortable.
Google says users will be able to buy digital copies of books they discover through its book-search service. It will also allow book retailers—even independent shops—to sell Google Editions on their own sites, taking the bulk of the revenue. Google is still deciding whether it will follow the model where publishers set the retail price or where Google sets retail prices.
Google can be content running at a loss or break even in new verticals because they are buying marketshare which can be used to enhance relevancy. "We're quite comfortable having a diverse range of physical retailers, whereas most of the other players would like to have a less competitive space, because they'd like to dominate." - Dan Clancy. Once they have the marketshare and data, they can ramp up on pricing.
Google also unveiled a new 3 column search result layout, and has no intent of offering a broadly marketed easy way to revert back to the old version. There is a legacy URL that still works, but for how long is anyone's guess. The new search result layout allows searchers to dive deeper into various verticals. And some have speculated that the change to the layout could cost Google some ad clicks, but if it did those losses would be temporary. Many of Google's vertical search services have limited relevancy, and the inline integration in the regular search results was hit or miss (I once saw a Philip M. Parker auto-generated book at #2 in the organic search results for a competitive keyword). :D
But when you think of the types of verticals Google is now promoting, to some degree you could almost think of them as ad channels / categories where Google is buying market data and/or taking a second bite at the apple on monetization to grow the search pie.
Where are most videos hosted? Youtube.
Discussions? What do most free web forums & QnA websites use to monetize their websites? AdSense.
Books? Google Editions is launching in the next couple months.
Updates? Google will eventually likely buy Twitter.
Product search? Could that eventually tie into the Google affiliate network?
in this post industrial information age, if you are just one more entry in an algorithmically defined index, the index algorithm makes even the most amazing employee the digital equivalent of a 1909 Ford production worker. Ford didnt care if you were the most productive in the plant. Google doesnt care if you are the most valued brand in the index. They will assign their own value to you. You are just one more entry into an equation. An equation that you dont have access to.
The technology business is fundamentally the innovation business. Etymologically, the word technology means “a better way of doing things.” As a result, innovation is the core competency for technology companies. Technology companies are born because they create a better way of doing things. Eventually, someone else will come up with a better way. Therefore, if a technology company ceases to innovate, it will die.
These innovations are product cycles. Professional CEOs are effective at maximizing, but not finding, product cycles. Conversely, founding CEOs are excellent at finding, but not maximizing, product cycles. Our experience shows—and the data supports—that teaching a founding CEO how to maximize the product cycle is easier than teaching the professional CEO how to find the new product cycle.
All throughout history man has fought for and stole what is his. Some legally gained, some not. But even the legal systems are a reflection of the most profitable business models. It's why Warren Buffet believes that derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, except for *when he owns them* ... and it is why no bankers are in jail and bonuses are at record highs when unemployment is still so high. Most the recovery was fraudulent ponzi finance and the individual has to fight for whatever scraps they get. For most people search presents the same type of opportunity as a debt-based finance system, where success seems just within reach, but is not.
I am just as guilty as anyone else on that front, but it does feel good to run at least 1 or 2 websites which aim to have meaning. I just wished they provided as much yield as the other stuff does. :D
Generally I have not been a huge fan of registering all your websites with Google (profiling risks, etc.), but they keep using the carrot nicely to lead me astray. :D ... So much so that I want to find a Googler and give them a hug.
Google recently decided to share some more data in their webmaster tools. And for many webmasters the data is enough to make it worth registering (at least 1 website)!
AOL Click Data
When speaking of keyword search volume beakdown data people have typically shared information from the leaked AOL search data.
The big problem with that data is it is in aggregate. It is a nice free tool, and a good starting point, but it is fuzzy.
In general, for navigational searches people click the top result more often than they would on an informational search.
In general, for informational searches people tend to click throughout the full set of search results at a more even distribution than they would for navigational or transactional searches.
The only solid recently-shared publicly data on those breakdowns is from Dogpile [PDF], a meta search engine. But given how polluted meta search services tend to be (with ads mixed in their search results) those numbers were quite a bit off from what one might expect. And once more, they are aggregate numbers.
Pretty solid looking estimates can get pretty rough pretty fast. ;)
The Value of Data
If there is one critical piece of marketing worth learning above all others it is that context is important.
My suggestions as to what works, another person's opinions or advice on what you should do, and empirical truth collected by a marketer who likes to use numbers to prove his point ... well all 3 data sets fall flat on their face when compared against the data and insights and interactions that come from running your own business. As teachers and marketers we try to share tips to guide people toward success, but your data is one of the most valuable things you own.
A Hack to Collect Search Volume Data & Estimated CTR Data
In their Excel plug-in Microsoft shares the same search data they use internally, but its not certain that when they integrate the Yahoo! Search deal that Microsoft will keep sharing as much data as they do now.
Google offers numerous keywordresearchtools, but getting them to agree with each other can be quite a challenge.
There have been some hacks to collect organic search clickthrough rate data on Google. One of the more popular strategies was to run an AdWords ad for the exact match version of a keyword and bid low onto the first page of results. Keep the ad running for a while and then run an AdWords impression share report. With that data in hand you can estimate how many actual searches there were, and then compare your organic search clicks against that to get an effective clickthrough rate.
The New Solution
Given search personalization and localization and the ever-changing result sets with all the test Google runs, even the above can be rough. So what is a webmaster to do?
Well Google upgraded the data they share inside their webmaster tools, which includes (on a per keyword level)
keyword clickthrough rank
clickthrough rate at various ranking positions
URL that was clicked onto
Trophy Keywords vs Brand Keywords
Even if your site is rather well known going after some of the big keywords can be a bit self-defeating in terms of the value delivered. Imagine ranking #6 or #7 for SEO. Wouldn't that send a lot of search traffic? Nope.
When you back away the ego searches, the rank checkers, etc. it turns out that there isn't a ton of search volume to be had ranking on page 1 of Google for SEO.
With only a 2% CTR the core keyword SEO is driving less than 1/2 the traffic driven by our 2 most common brand search keywords. Our brand might not seem like it is getting lots of traffic with only a few thousand searches a month, but when you have a > 70% CTR that can still add up to a lot of traffic. More importantly, that is the kind of traffic which is more likely to buy from you than someone searching for a broad discovery or curiosity type of keyword.
The lessons for SEOs in that data?
Core keywords & raw mechanical SEO are both quite frequently heavily over-rated in terms of value.
Rather than sweating trying to rank well for the hardest keywords first focus on more niche keywords that are easy to rank for.
Search is becoming the default navigational tool for the web. People go to Google and then type in "yahoo." If you don't have a branded keyword as one of your top keywords that might indicate long-term risk to your business. If a competitor can clone most of what you are doing and then bake in a viral component you are toast.
Going After the Wrong Brand Keywords
Arbitraging 3rd party brands is an easy way to build up distribution quickly. This is why there are 4,982 Britney Spears fan blogs (well 2 people are actually fans, but the other 4,980 are marketers).
But if you want to pull in traffic you have to go after a keyword that is an extension of the brand. Ranking for "eBay" probably won't send you much traffic (as their clickthrough rate on their first result is probably even higher than the 70% I had above). Though if you have tips on how to buy or sell on eBay those kinds of keywords might pull in a much higher clickthrough rate for you.
To confirm the above I grabbed data for a couple SEO tool brands we rank well for. A number 3 ranking (behind a double listing) and virtually no traffic!
Different keyword, same result
Link building is still a bit of a discovery keyword, but I think it is perhaps a bit later staged than just the acronym "SEO." Here the click volume distribution is much flatter / less consolidated than it was on the above brand-oriented examples.
If when Google lowers your rank you still pull in a fairly high CTR that might be a signal to them that your site should rank a bit higher.
The field of web analytics is filled with free options, self hosted options, open-source products, expensive options, and affordable paid solutions. If you are looking for an affordable, feature-rich, and easy to use web analytics package you may want to check out Clicky.
Clicky is real time as well, which is a feature even some of the more popular services do not have. You can find a comparison between Clicky and their competitors right on their home page. Currently you can go back 6 months in the interface so you'll want to make copies of your data every few months or so.
Recently we interviewed Sean and Noah over at GetClicky.Com. Clicky is pretty popular with the members here and it's a great alternative to Google Analytics.
Sean and Noah were kind enough to answer some questions about their business model, future plans, and the rich feature set within their product.
1. Is selling the company in your future plans? If so, how would data be protected in such a case. As an example Tracking202 sold out to Bloosky and that concerned many affiliates. Do you plan on selling a version of the software which can be hosted locally on the users own server to get around worries associated with you possibly selling the service someday?
Selling the company is never out of the question; however, it would be inane and arrogant to plan solely for such an exit. We enjoy building Clicky and interacting with the Clicky community, and new owners usually have new agendas. Therefore, we prefer to keep Clicky rather than sell it. But if we did sell it, we would only do so under the condition that nothing changes for existing users. We do not have any plans to offer a self hosted option.
2. Do your sell the data at all? How secure is the data? Some of our members pointed out that Clicky doesn't have an about us page and Roxr's site is thin on the "who you are" details. In dealing with certain search engines, a few folks in the SEO field like to carry around a tinfoil hat or 3. Could you tell us a bit more about your company, infrastructure, etc?
Your members are correct; we don't mention the "people" behind Clicky. However, once a user registers for Clicky, he will shortly discover we are at his disposal. We usually respond to emails in the same day; we collaborate with our users through our forums and blog; phone support is offered to our white label clients; and Sean and I are always a tweet away.
Sean - @schammy
Noah - @roxr
Clicky - @getclicky
We build, buy, and host our servers. We chose this route from the beginning because it was cheaper in the long run and gave us more control. The processing of hundreds of millions of clicks daily and billions of database queries is inherently too costly to lease out. Many people ask us why we don't move to the cloud. Cloud computing hosts are new to the market and unproven in our opinion. We have a system that works and is cost-effective.
And if there's any doubt about the quality or "trustworthiness" of our service or our company, just search Google for "getclicky" - you will find thousands of positive reviews and other things about us, and almost nothing negative. I think I've only ever seen 2, or maybe 3, "negative" articles about our service, and all of them were over something pretty silly - but people love to rant when they're mad.
3. Will (or can) Clicky get into intricate analytics tracking to the degree of being able to be relied on for multi-channel attribution analysis? Being able to track vanity url's, special coupons, offer codes, etc. Essentially being able to track multiple offline and online campaigns?
We have full compatibility with Google Analytics campaign tags, which makes it all the more easier for existing GA users to move to our platform. These campaign tags (as you probably know) allow you to easily track and segment visitors arriving at your site from any of your online campaigns. For offline campaigns, we also have a "manual" campaign feature, so you can enter in a landing page URL, e.g. mysite.com/tv1, and we'll automatically flag all users who land on that page and report the campaign data together with your "dynamic" (GA) campaigns. We also have a custom data tracking feature so you can attach any data you want to any visitor session (e.g. if they used an offer code when submitting payment). And you can filter/segment your visitors based on this custom data too.
4. Do you see yourselves becoming an acquisition target for Google? What is to stop all the data currently collected by Clicky from ending up in the hands of Google (as an acquisition target maybe)?
It's certainly a possibility that Google may buy us, but we don't really expect it to happen. We believe strongly in privacy so we would try to ensure the data is treated as private and not used to "improve" search results, as they do with Google Analytics. Of course, the trade off there with GA is they let you use it for free, in exchange for that. (They don't tell you that up front, but it's common knowledge they use GA data for all types of optimization stuff, particularly search related). If Google wanted to use the same model with Clicky, well, it would really depend on the specifics. We would be against it on principle but it would really depend on the specifics. And if Google insisted on it, then we'd insist on letting our users know about that kind of change so they could cancel their account if they wanted to.
5. Sort of a piggyback to question 3 but with Clicky's customization abilities how far can one push the limit on segmentation, custom variables, and so on? Seems like lots of possibilities there but to the non-techie folks it can be a daunting task. Do you plan to offer paid support, paid campaign set up, or maybe a "Clicky Authorized Provider" program to help people set up intricate analytics accounts?
There are really no limits on segmentation, other than at this time you can only do it for a maximum date range of one month at a time. But other than that, you can segment your visitors down on a theoretically unlimited amount of data.
Segmentation is actually one of our strong points, because you don't have to fill our crazy forms or anything to find the data you want. In almost every report, the items in the report are clickable (e.g. viewing your top countries, you could click the US and then you would immediately be seeing only visitors from the US, including a summary of their activity at the top). And once this filtering is invoked, it's very simple to add additional variables via the blue drop down menu at the top, e.g. referring domain = google.com, then you would see all of your US visitors who arrived via Google.
We help users for free through email, our forums, and Twitter. We don't have paid support but then again we don't tell someone we won't help them, no matter what the problem is. We give higher priority to complex problems or questions to our paying users, but we still answer all support requests, no matter if the user is paying or not. Adding paid support may be something we do in the future if there's demand for it. We would have to expand our headcount first though. Currently it's still just the two of us running this operation.
Thanks for the time guys!
Well there you have it. Clicky has some pretty deep segmentation and tracking options which are both vital to the success of web analytics set up. We hope you learned a bit more about the company and the product via this Q&A. Clicky has a great support forum as well, for any questions you have as you start to get familiar with their product.
A couple years ago my wife and I had our big wedding in the Philippines (we even had the mayor of Manila show up). She was so beautiful that day. And lucky for me she is just as beautiful when she wakes up each day. :D
But she can be hard on herself and if she gains a single pound she worries. Truth is I am the chubby one who needs to drop weight.
Beauty (and the perception of it) is a wonder commodity to sell because there is no limit. Almost everyone could be in better shape or be stronger or eat healthier or not have this or that birthmark or the odd finger that bends backwards.
We are imperfect beings by our very nature.
We get sick.
And we all fight the battle of aging one day at a time - every single day!
But no matter where you go, whatever is rare is typically considered desirable & beautiful. This is not done as an accident, but as a way to generate profits. If the human condition is flawed (and can't be fixed) then the person selling a bogus solution to that problem is going to make a lot more money than a person who sells something which is actually attainable.
And so we live in a world where we treat symptoms, rather than problems. Anything to make the numbers look good and make the sale. From there you are on your own! If you feel bad, we can give you more drugs!
"Our findings lend support to the theory that the excessive consumption of high-fructose corn syrup found in many beverages may be an important factor in the obesity epidemic," Avena said.
The new research complements previous work led by Hoebel and Avena demonstrating that sucrose can be addictive, having effects on the brain similar to some drugs of abuse.
In the United States many girls not only label anorexia as beauty, but some go to tanning salons so they can darken their skin to look beautiful, at least until they get older:
Long-term exposure to artificial sources of ultraviolet rays like tanning beds (or to the sun's natural rays) increases both men and women's risk of developing skin cancer. In addition, exposure to tanning salon rays increases damage caused by sunlight because ultraviolet light actually thins the skin, making it less able to heal. Women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Anything to be beautiful! This is what beautiful people do. I want to beautiful.
The above never really made sense to me and always felt a wee bit scammy. There was an odd odor to it, but it was hard to appreciate how scammy it was, until...
When it really hit home for me was when my wife and I were in the Philippines. Many of the department stores sell skin whitening soap! Having a lighter skin tone is supposed to be a sign that you are from a wealthier family. And since wealth is concentrated that is rare. And so that is what is considered beautiful. :D
In a land of opportunity there is typically lots of distraction, oddly enough those distractions are usually other opportunities. How many times have you:
Stared at a domain you wanted to buy, but didn't pull the trigger
Stared at a domain you bought, but left it parked for another year
Negotiated down to what you wanted to pay for a site or domain, yet didn't move forward due to (fill in the blank)
Typical reasons surrounding procrastination tend to be "not enough time" or "this will never work". Well, how many of your "can't miss" ideas missed and how many of your "probably will miss" ideas actually hit?
Win More, Lose Less
In my experience as long as you win more than you lose you're doing ok. This sounds a bit easier than it is though. In many professions, take sports for an example, success (worth millions in contracts) can be had for "succeeding" less than 50% of the time. A couple of examples:
Hitters in baseball strive to get a .300 average, which is failing 7 times out of 10
Basketball players are considered great shooters if they are successful making 45%-48% of their shots
Imagine if you succeeded at those clips? If so, you better hope ones that you hit on were big money makers and the ones you lost on required minimal investment amounts. If you take a similar approach to finding and operating in new markets most of the initial costs are fairly similar. Basic costs like:
tend to be somewhat similar on your average new site, perhaps if you are purchasing a domain or site it can skew the numbers a bit but overall these things tend to average out. So at the very least if you are succeeding 6 out of 10 times and you don't get carried away on a new site launch you should be doing pretty well. They more you do the better your ratio gets, the better your long term profits are, and you should expect to raise that ratio a bit as you start to gain more and more experience in researching + launching new ventures.
Most of us have a fear of failure and some of us have a fear of success. A fear that if we become successful it might alienate some of our closest friends and family members, it might turn us into workaholics working day and night to sustain that success and lifestyle, and so on. Fear of failure is something I think even the most successful entrepreneur's face from time to time.
Of course, we all know the old basketball saying: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".
Fear of failing and succeeding is something one has to overcome on their own but it terms of trying to overcome procrastination it is usually advisable to set less rigid and more reasonable deadlines for yourself and your work as outlined in this post over at harvard.edu http://www.iq.harvard.edu/blog/sss/archives/2006/10/procrastination.shtml (which references a study co-authored by Dan Ariely, who wrote the must read "Predictably Irrational").
Psychology Today has a research piece on the fear of failure here .
The Cost of No Action
It's kind of difficult to lay out pretty graphs and charts showing what the "cost of procrastination" really is. We can assign some arbitrary number to whatever benchmark profit exists per site in an imaginary portfolio. However, I think it's best if you play with your own numbers a bit and figure you what the cost of doing nothing is to you.
Factor in the hours you might be doing things like checking your email every 5 minutes, cluttering up Facebook with Farmville posts and annoying your friends with suggestions, wondering if this latest SEO tool suite will be the answer to your prayers, and last but not least wondering if your idea will work. There are more variables of course, but I just outlined some of things that might be commonplace.
Dealing with Competitors
The bottom line is that the web gets more and more competitive everyday and if you are just sitting on the sidelines waiting and waiting and waiting then your competition is going to sprint by you on their way to the end zone, over and over again.
Even if you don't have any fears of failure or success, or maybe you are extremely self-confident in your abilities, you should consider getting a bit more into the game if you want to make any significant headway in your efforts for world domination. You want to try and avoid doing a bunch of things "average". Try and nail down an effective process which you can replicate somewhat, site to site.
It's Up to You
Project management is an essential skill you'll need if you want to run multiple sites, create multiple products, or if you are running a web business with any scale. I like to work in different markets so I can a sense of what others are doing to be successful, more consumer data to evaluate, the ability to establish connections with people I otherwise would have never been able to establish a business relationship with, and so on. Keeping track of the different things I'm doing can be a chore. Enter.....the cloud.
With so many moving parts to a site these days (SEO, PPC, social media, monetization, domain buying, market research) you'll find yourself with quite a list of to-do's and contacts piling up all over the place. One thing that has helped me tremendously is being able to put most of my business in the cloud with services like:
Being pretty much 100% mobile really has its advantages. I like a change of scenery every once and awhile so having all my stuff readily accessible at a moment's notice is fantastic.
So take advantage of the opportunities out there, don't over-extend yourself, and establish flexible (yet reasonable) due dates and goals for you and your business. In the end, I think you'll thank yourself for it.