Who is going to pay to tell people that they are good enough and their lives are fine as they are? A fundamental truth of advertising is that advertising the truth usually isn't very profitable - which is why there is lead generation, affiliate programs, public relations, negative billing options, small print, bogus medical research, and so on... ;)
Ever wonder how an SEO professional can charge first world rates to do third rate, third world work and still get a top rating from a heavily advertised SEO rating website? Edward Lewis has the lowdown on Top SEOs, including TopSEOs complaints.
[edit: above links removed, as Edward sold his site at some point & then the person who bought it later sold it to TopSEOs, so the above links would have led to lead generation forms for some unsavory SEO folks.]
A big part of the problem with the affiliate business model is when people offer fake rankings / ratings and only promote whoever pays them the most. The person/company which can afford to pay the most for leads often can only afford to because there is hidden risk or hidden cost in the service, or because they don't deliver on their promises. An analogy here is those AAA rated mortgage backed securities where an S&P employee explained, "We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it."
The biggest brands don't pay as much per lead because they don't have to. They invest in brand and quality of customer service. The best service-based companies don't need to pay cut-rate ad prices to advertise. The best SEO companies have far more demand for their time than time to pay to hunt for customers.
I remember back in 2006 when one of the currently "top rated SEOs" did work for my wife's website (before she met me). That SEO firm did nothing but outsource overseas irrelevant reciprocal link exchanges and her website *would not rank* for any semi-competitive keywords until *after* the reciprocal links page was removed from her site. After we took down those reciprocal links and built some quality links the site started to rank. We changed the FTP details as well because that guy's services were not only not worth paying for...the reciprocal links were proved to be damaging, and we didn't want him to put them back up. And in spite of not doing any services for months (and certainly no services worth paying for), this person wanted to ensure they got paid for 12 months of "service." And they didn't want to let the contract end when it was supposed to either. They were all sales, all the time. It didn't matter that they were selling ineffective garbage.
What eventually stopped the credit card charges was when I wrote him via email "If her credit card is charged again we will be doing a reverse charge and a full writeup on the service."
He responded to that with the following:
I would watch your comments and threats my friend as you have no idea of what I am capable of or who I am - this is a small industry and if you are trying to be a an up an coming player in it this is not the way to do it by bashing your competition. A simple email professionally stating that you were unhappy with the service would have sufficed and I would have looked into to make sure Giovanna got what she paid for.
I have run 2 optimization companies and have been in this business for 12 years now. With my contacts at Google and the other main engines I can get your ebook website banned within 1-2 days if this is how you do business - with threats and slander - keep it up.
The funny thing is all I said was that if he tried charging again (past the contract) that we would reverse charges. And yet the sleazeball told me to "watch your comments and threats" and that he could use "contacts at Google and other main engines" to get my website banned.
What a jerk.
I have always had contempt for blowhards, and for pure hard-sales salesmen who put sales first and are willfully ignorant of their trade and/or who are willing to sell garbage product without any concern for the customer's welfare.
I am grateful that the above mentioned person sucked at what they did & ripped people off back then. If they were not out scamming people and actually provided a useful service then my wife wouldn't have had a reason to contact me and meet me and marry me. ;)
I let it go for over 3 years, but if they are still scamming people then that needs to stop. I figure its only right that I write this post as a fair warning. All good things must come to an end. And so should bad things. Hopefully these clowns quite scamming people. Enough is enough.
Update: 3 years later the fake ratings continue. BigMouthMedia was rated a top SEO agency by Top SEOs, even when it no longer existed as a distinct company after a merger years earlier. Top SEOs is so bogus with their ratings that they even put out a press release announcing the above rating of the above non-company!
become the most visited website for the week. Facebook.com recently reached the #1 ranking on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day as well as the weekend of March 6th and 7th. The market share of visits to Facebook.com increased 185% last week as compared to the same week in 2009, while visits to Google.com increased 9% during the same time frame. Together Facebook.com and Google.com accounted for 14% of all US Internet visits last week
Not sure of HitWises methodology - why aren't they comparing all Google's web functions, including Maps and Mail? - but good on Facebook! For a site that didn't exist in 2003, that is quite some achievement.
What does this mean for the future of search marketing?
Given the lock-in for return visits, it's unsurprising that Facebook might receive more visits than a search engine. However, the most important aspect of different channels, as far as a web marketer is concerned, is: does the traffic convert to cash at some point?
Social Media Marketing, like SEO, is a tatic. However, if the tactic don't translate into more business, then it's a waste of time. Whatever channel you use, it is important to establish KPIs - key performance indicators - that measure the effectiveness of your tactics, and directly relate to the success of you business.
For example, one of the KPIs often mentioned in SMM is volume metrics, such as number of followers, subscribers etc. If we were to relate this metric back to our business objectives, we'd ask how does having a higher number of followers, or people claiming to be followers, result in more business? How many of those followers are really engaging with you? Or are they, literally, just making up the numbers?
I've seen social media companies fudge this aspect. Some play around with the term ROI, changing the "I" from "investment" to "influence", or to "interest", and use the number of followers as evidence of the level of interest in a clients services or brand.
The bottom line is the golden KPI. It can become blurred in bigger organizations, but for the little guy, it is crucial.
Volume Metrics Can Be Deceiving
Search marketers know that the volume game can be an illusion when it comes to making money.
"Jokes" may be a very popular keyword term, but it's not making people any money because there is no commercial intent. "Second mortgages" is not a particularly popular term in terms of volume, but is lucrative as it has clear commercial intent. A high position for second mortgages in search rankings will make you money.
Conversely, how difficult would it be to get buzz around the term "second mortgages" via social media? Sure, with some inventive twisting and disguising of the true message it could be done, but really, it's pushing water uphill. The social environment isn't really suited to such a message.
Choose The Right Environment
The two channels are like apples and oranges.
Different environments work for different messages. Social media is great for generating awareness, getting people talking, and when integrated with an SEO strategy can be a great way of getting links. Primarily, it's a brand strategy. However, because it is a social environment, there is less tolerance of overt commercial activity that in direct channels.
Typical social media measurements include:
Business outcomes - can you link the campaign to specific interactions, such as sales?
Influencer Reach - how many influencers picked up on your message and spread it?
Audience Reach - how many visitors saw your message? Link this metric to...
Engagement - how many of those people who saw you message contacted you, or took a desired action?
Conversely, SEO isn't much use for building brand awareness or encouraging people to talk about your message. The environment is similar to direct marketing. It is well suited to direct response and commercial activity, as the intent of the user can be determined, and if that intent is commercial, then people welcome commercial messages.
What Is Your Business
Hanging out and being cool on Facebook isn't a business :)
Affiliate - sell other peoples stuff and take a commission
Community - leverage your community to sell something else
Subscription - sell content/training on an on-going basis
Utility - pay as you go usage
Decide which business you are in. When deciding on marketing and advertising tactics, ask yourself which environment is best suited to developing your business, then develop KPIs that support that business. You key KPI should be the bottom line - either this activity returns more money than you spend, or it doesn't.
There are quite a few spy tools on the market currently, some more heavily promoted than others. They come in a variety of flavors such as SEO spy tools, PPC spy tools, and some which do both.
Spy tools can be useful in an SEO and/or a PPC campaign. However, many of these tools essentially try to extrapolate scraped results which can lead to some fairly inaccurate results. Also, these tools occasionally come up with in-house metrics (of which they really don't give you much useful info about how they arrived at the data the present from these "proprietary" metrics") to help try and differentiate their offerings from their competition.
Spy Tool Reviews
There is a much more in-depth review, with examples, up in our members forum. Here, we will do overviews of some of the more popular tools on the market. Specifically, we will be taking a look at:
The idea that you are missing out on something is a core marketing tactic so even if you are comfortable with one tool chances are you've been tempted to go with another. Keep in mind, from a cost standpoint, the ROI you would take by just finding a few decent keywords to target will likely far outweigh any cost associated with these tools. Your business probably won't collapse if you pick an A minus tool versus an A plus tool and none of these tools are able to make concrete decisions for you. What these tools provide are additional data points for you to consider in your own research.
We hope you'll find these reviews useful. There are perhaps a few other services we missed given how many of these tools as there are and our primary focus on SEO. If these reviews are well received we could also review everything from Quantcast & Alexa right on through to AdGooroo, but we need to know if you would be interested in those types of reviews. If there are any other cool products or services you would like us to review just let us know.
A few disclaimers: some of these services have given us free review accounts, whereas we have paid for some of the others. And some of these tools offer affiliate programs, but all reviews were done without those 2 factors influencing the editorial. Most these reviews do not have affiliate links in them (I think SEM Rush is the only one which does have an affiliate link right now), and Aaron reviewed SEM Rush before they even had a public affiliate program.
Compete takes pricing to a different level but has some unique features as well. They have a few different pricing levels but to get all the features you need to dial it up at $499 per month. Although, some of their lower price points may provide good value depending on what you might use them for.
Here is a screen shot of their site profile overlay
It's kind of like a semi-analytics program view of things which includes:
Link through's to Referral and Search Analytics (discussed further down)
Data is available in 7 day, 30 day, 3 month, 6 month, 1 year, and 2 year increments.
The audience profile tab is similar to quantcast and is only available to the verified site owner (unless the site has made it's info public) and the sub-domain tab shows sub-domains associated with the main domain.
Enterprise users, where there is no standard pricing listed...also get access to category profiles and behavioral categories as shown below:
You also get the option to compare up to 5 sites at once in their site profile section
Those are the options in the profiles section. These statistics are far beyond what most traditional spy tools offer and can be very useful when comparing large sites as small sites do not fare very well with these types of data sets (this is not specific to compete, it's pretty much industry wide).
Compete's second tool set is the Analytics Tools set. Here you can search through Search Analytics (keywords) and Referral Analytics (sites referring traffic to the domain) as well as a variety of Ranked Lists.
This is pretty sweet as you can see what search engines the site's SEO campaign is doing well in, as well as possible advertising opportunities for your site.
It also will show you Destination sites (where users go after landing on the site you are reviewing.)
In addition to messing around with some of the filters you can take a peek at historical data (trends, seasonal, etc) as noted here.
Compete offers ranked lists which you can filter in a few easy steps
Compete lets you look at ranked lists via 3 steps (one from each)
Step 2 - site ranking, ranking + unique visitors, ranking + all metrics
Step 3 - top 200, 1,000, 15,000, 100,000, 500,000 domains
Compete's Search Analytics show keywords referring traffic to a site (or two) with some pretty neat metrics:
Highly Engaging Keywords - Keywords that make up 40% of the total time index and have a referral share greater than 0.01%
High Traffic Keywords - Keywords that make up the top 40% of the search referral share
Engaging Long Tail Keywords - Keywords making up the bottom 60% of search referral share, with a total time index of > .10
Enthusiast Keywords - Keywords that make up the top 40% of Average Time Index and a Search Referral Share greater than 0.01
Long Tail Keywords
Total Time Index - scale of 100 with 100 being the term where the searcher came from...that made up the highest total time spent on the site for ALL visits.
Average Time Index - scale of 100 with 100 being the term which resulted in the most average time per visit spent on the site.
You can also compare 2 sites like so:
The high price point of Compete might scare some users away, but consider that their data is not just relying on scraped Google/Yahoo/Bing results then extrapolated by some internal metrics. Compete is probably more useful to those who "compete" in really competitive markets with some sites as competition, although it can be useful to folks who may be involved in less competitive SERPS with smaller sites as competitors because they can use this data to investigate larger sites in their market, which may not be competitors but could yield helpful industry data.
iSpionage is a newer player in the spy tool market. They are much more PPC oriented than organic SEO oriented. They offer 3 tool sets:
Keyword and Domain Research
PPC Campaign Builder
Keyword and Domain Research
They index the top ten results in Google, Yahoo, and Bing (although I only saw G and Y).
They give you breakdowns of common spy tool elements such as:
Competitors and Overlapping Keywords
Keyword Specific Ads
Average Search Volume
And so on..
The one really neat thing they offer is overlapping keywords between Yahoo and Google for a particular domain. I'm not aware of another spy tool that does that.
Their database does not seem to be very deep but they are newer so that's to be expected.
The do show overlapping keywords, total keyword count, and a monthly budget under their competition tab.
Here is another spot where they compare Google and Yahoo, this time for overlapping keywords between sites.
This lets you search by domain name or keyword to get ideas for keywords to add into your campaign. You can also add your own manually after the keyword research option. Keyword Monitor will show you the following for your campaign + competition:
The impression share is not something I've noticed in most other tools and the other 4 metrics can be useful in determining which competitor might be a bit savior in the PPC game. Other metrics they will show you on the keyword level include whether or not the keyword has direct ranking affiliates, the average CPC/search volume, and total advertiser counts in Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
The tool also shows you related keywords you may wish to add to your campaign or just place on your watch list.
PPC Campaign Builder
The campaign builder allows you to search for keywords via a keyword or domain name input. The steps are as follows:
Keyword Clean Up
This is where you can weed out keywords that contain certain words, are duplicates, or have special characters. You can also choose to remove extra spaces if needed.
Here you can set up ad groups and campaigns right from within iSpionage. It also gives you the option to create one ad group per keyword if you want to get that granular
Here you can input bid prices for Broad/Phrase/Exact match bids, set up your ads, and input the url. Then you can export for use in Google, Yahoo, or Bing PPC campaigns.
They offer a coupon code for 25% off for all products. The promotional code is: EOYSALE10
This promo discount voucher will expire on 12/25/2010.
iSpionage has some promise and seems to be much more into the PPC market than the SEO market. If that's the case then they are taking on some pretty big players as many of the spy tools offer both PPC and SEO data sets. They have some unique features and it will be interesting to see how they develop their product going forward.
The countries available within a Keyword Spy account are:
No other competitor really comes close to the breadth of their country offerings.
Keyword Spy Research Account
Keyword Spy's Research account gives you access to the following data
PPC Ads (ad copy, the keyword, estimated search volume, estimated CPC, the position last seen of an ad and it's average position, total days seen/days checked. You can also see the ad url and destination url of the ad in addition to other keywords being bid on for that particular ad, as well as an estimated ROI.
PPC Keywords - showing individual keywords, ROI, search volume, CPC, total profitable ads, affiliate ads on that keyword, days seen, last/first seen
Organic Keywords - showing individual keywords, position in the SERPS, total search results, estimated CPC, and the URL
Competitors in PPC and Organic results.
The research portion does *not* include organic or PPC overlap coverage, which kind of stinks especially when you consider the price point they charge.
You get access to their Top 1000 sites and keyword reports which can be previewed here.
You can search by keyword as well. A Keyword search will show you:
PPC Ad Copies with Keyword in them
Up to 1000 related Keywords
You can filter with these metrics but you can only apply 1 filter to the results at a time. Which can be bothersome if you are doing large scale research as they limit the exported data to 50,000 keywords.
Research Account Metrics
ROI- they compute this as (Days Seen*Percentage Seen/Number of Days Seen since Last Seen). Below is a screen shot of their formula. Again, this is based on the assumption that the PPC advertiser is shrewd and on top of things. I don't particularly care for this metric. ROI to person A can be much different than ROI to person B for a variety of reasons.
First/Last Seen- Last seen is the last day KS saw the ad (they scan daily) and First Seen shows the first day KS saw the ad (I believe its back to August of 09 as of this writing).
Profitable Ads - Ads that are profitable based on their internal metrics (like ROI and such) out of total number of ads.
Affiliate Ads - Ads that are affiliate ads (based on destination url) out of total ads found.
Screen shot of PPC keyword tab showing the above mentioned metrics:
Keyword Spy's Tracking Account
The Tracking account option gives you real time tracking in Google, Yahoo, and Bing for your PPC and Organic campaigns. This can be useful in checking out your coverage and competition across all three engines. You can also benchmark your data with the competition's scraped data.
Of course, the question is do YOU want your campaigns being monitored by a spy tool that makes its money but showing advertisers their competition's organic and PPC data?? :-)
You can read about more of their tracking/alert/coverage type options here, but outside of tracking and coverage you get:
Landing Page Intelligence - shows current landing page, ad copy, and destination URL for a particular landing page.
Organic and PPC overlap data (only between 2 sites) and quite frankly, this is much more research than tracking and should really be included in the research account IMO.
Benchmarking in PPC/Organic Listings (below is a screen shot of the organic one, they are fairly similar)
So the tracking account is really more for tracking your campaigns across the 3 big PPC engines with some nifty benchmarking and gap analysis features but I don't see it as being overly useful for smaller PPC advertisers, although the coverage options might be a good fit for those in competitive markets across Google, Yahoo, and Bing. In general, Spy Tools aren't all that great at looking into smaller sites and markets simply because the resources required to be accurate with somewhat sparse data would be overkill and far to costly. This is why I do not really feel the tracking option is going to be a good fit outside of pretty big PPC advertisers.
The Pro account combines the Research and Tracking account features (up's the overall trackable keywords, export limit, and query limit) plus gives you access to a couple new features:
This tool gives you access to look at products and ads being used by 132 affiliate networks.
You can click through on any network and be shown their offers by URL with searchable affiliate ads for those products.
Affiliate Reports gives you access to big players in the affiliate marketing space such as CJ, LinkShare, Clickbank, ShareAsale, etc. Here you can access top affiliate products and top affiliates by product id and affiliate id respectively. You can also use affiliate product and affiliates id's to search in the destination URL field to try and find additional products/ads they may be promoting.
Keyword Spy mentions something about "Anti-cloaking" technology but they do not elaborate on it. However, color me skeptical that these affiliate options are able to uncover properly cloaked links by top affiliates. So while this may be good for help in looking at potential affiliate products, as well as finding affiliates who do not cloak their links, I'm really not overly impressed with these features but they can be somewhat useful when first starting out.
Keyword Spy is a feature rich membership and they have a deep database. For me, if I had to pick just one tool I would opt for either SemRush or SpyFu as both supply solid PPC/SEO competitive intel at a much more reasonable price. Although, if I were a serious PPC player their tracking account might be quite nice (still have reservations about giving a spy tool company my campaign data though). Another great feature for Keyword Spy is their regional databases...they cover many areas missed by some of the other competitive research tools.
SpyFu is one of the more feature rich tools, but probably has the least attractive interface out there. SpyFu offers SEO and PPC spy tool options along with their own keyword research tool.
The SpyFu toolset covers US and UK markets.
SpyFu's toolset includes:
Keyword Ad History
Domain Ad History
Keyword Smart Search
A Variety of Top 100 Lists
With SpyFu Kombat you can look at overlapping and site specific keywords for up to 3 websites. For the PPC version you can also see a chart which goes back over a period of a few years showing the overall amount of keywords being bid on by all three sites. You can also rollover the chart to see keywords specific to just 2 of the sites if you feel the 3rd site may not be doing as good a job (or vice versa) as 2 of the other sites. It will also show you the PPC budgets of the sites as well as the number of organic keywords ranking in the top 50 results for said keyword.
When you click on an area of the circle chart it will show you the keywords in whatever bucket you click, to the right of the chart. You can view and download those keywords for your own use. As you can see I am on the ads tab but the options are similar when you click on the organic tab (on the top box, the organic one on the bottom shows you total organic keywords).
Switching between the organic tab and the ppc tab (as well as the overall # of organic keywords + PPC ad budget should also give you an idea of which of the bigger sites are more into the PPC or SEO side of things which can be a good barometer to look at if you happen to be concentrating on one area over the other.
SpyFu Classic is the "flagship" section so to speak. This is where you enter one domain on the home page and are presented with a TON of data including:
Daily AdWords PPC Budget
Links through to SpyFu Kombat
Average Position of Ads vs # of Advertisers
Estimated Value of Organic Traffic (estimated traffic with a variable of CPC factored in)
Paid Traffic Compared with Organic Traffic Estimates
Subdomains (useful for looking at how a site might break out parts of the main domain, perhaps a good spot to look for niche keywords???)
Top Ten Paid Keywords w/ Keyword Ad History (links through to full Keyword Ad History tool)
Total Paid Keywords
Total Organic Keywords
PPC Competitors (with a link to overlapping keywords)
Organic Competitors (with a link to overlapping keywords)
In addition to searching for a domain SpyFu let's you search by keyword as well, as shown below:
The data here can be useful, as you can see the:
Estimated PPC, Clicks, Cost Per Day, Total Advertisers...all with trend data
Top Ten Domains Advertising on the Keyword, with Domain Ad History
Additional Keywords Purchased By Relevant Domains
PPC Ad Copy with a Link to Keyword Ad History
Top Ten Organic Results with Title, Meta Description
Related Concepts (based on semantic relationships)
Keyword Ad History
Keyword Ad History will show you, via color coded bars, how often the keyword appeared in a domain's PPC campaign along with any changes in the ad copy (all of which can be exported to excel). It shows a year's worth of data up front and goes back to 2006 via the Bonus History Button.
So it's pretty straightforward, which is what I like about SpyFu Tools. No over-reliance on "in-house metrics" it's just "here's the ad history of the keyword", plain and simple. Typically, if you see a keyword being advertised on by a good PPC advertiser consistent then you can look to apply that ad copy technique to a niche market of that larger keyword. If I were advertising for "hotels in Oklahoma" I might pay attention to what ad copy has been successful, over time, for that main/core keyword "hotels".
Domain Ad History
Domain Ad History is similar to Keyword Ad History except it shows the keyword history of a particular domain:
This tool is useful in looking at keywords that have been successful for your competitors (or larger players in your niche) and which ones they tried and abandoned (which could be ones for you to avoid out of the gate). All of this assumes the domain you are researching is competent PPC advertiser.
Keyword Smart Search
The Keyword Smart Search tool in SpyFu uses semantic word relationships, publicly available keyword data, and PPC campaign data to return a list of keywords related to the keyword(s) (up to 10) you enter. As you can see, you can also filter by CPC, search volume, and you can also exclude keywords:
Here is a screen shot of the results page for Keyword Smart Search:
For me, I prefer to use the PPC keywords and the Organic keywords found in either SpyFu Classic or SpyFu Kombat. I like to use other tools for pure keyword research (Google tools, Microsoft Ad Center Intelligence, and Wordtracker). Primarily, I feel SpyFu is at its best when used as a competitive research tool versus a keyword research tool.
I find their tools pretty useful for competitive research. I don't use their Keyword Smart Search much as described above but the amount of data that they give (in a straightforward fashion) at the price points they give is quite a nice combination. SpyFu makes its way into my toolbox on just about every project.
Some people email you out of the blue accusing you of things that are not true while being rude and condescending. One person stated that they were certain I sold their email and that I am unethical and etc etc etc
My response was short and sweet
"go ___ yourself. we don't sell our user information."
To which there was a response about how I am not very professional. And the thing is, how are you supposed to respond when people falsely accuse you of criminal conduct while using your services for free AND insulting you?
Is there a professional way to respond?
Does the person who gave you no benefit of the doubt, insulted you, and wasted your time somehow deserve the benefit of the doubt? If yes, why? They certainly didn't give you any.
The way I look at business is that being short and sweet (or short and sour, in some cases) is probably one of the most professional things you can do. You only have so many hours to live and you only have so much time to service paying customers. The worst thing you could do is give someone like that the benefit of the doubt after they walked all over you, because then they might become a customer. And that type of person tends to be abusive, lazy, rude, selfish, and ignorant. Not a good customer.
If you don't enjoy what you do then its best to stop doing it. Part of ensuring work is enjoyable is filtering out those who do not fit.
So if a person says "___ off" at hello, then, if you are concerned with professionalism, reciprocating is the best thing you can possibly do. Any other course of action simply wastes time that could be spent servicing real customers - which certainly isn't very professional.
The landing page, in terms of SEO, went out of fashion.
Landing pages, which tended to be mass-generated, near identical pages pointing to one money page, became a target for the search engine spam filters.
However, the type of landing page we should take a closer look at is the type of landing page used in PPC - a page carefully crafted to lead a visitor to desired action. SEOs can benefit from applying the same techniques used for creating effective PPC landing pages to their organic pages. After all, we all want visitors to arrive at our pages, and take a desired action.
All Search Is About Connecting With People
Our pages may rank well, but if the visitor doesn't do something that ultimately leads to more money in our pockets, our sites won't last long.
In the past, ranking well has led to a pre-occupation with factors like keyword density i.e. repeating keyword phrases often.
However, the search engine algorithm's are no longer quite so stupid. The need to slavishly repeat keyword phrases in order to rank pales in comparison to other factors. It's no longer necessary to forsake good copy writing in order to please machine algorithms.
To make our rankings work for us, we must connect with people. This means our pages must talk their language and focus on solving their problems.
A fail in SEO is not missing out on the #1 ranking. A fail in SEO is a visitor clicking back. Do everything to avoid the back click.
Talking People's Language
People couldn't care less about you or your company.
People care about themselves.
Take a look at your pages. Do they talk about you, or do they talk about your audience? For a page to work well, it must connect with your audience, and the easiest way to do this is to talk about their wants and desires. If a page doesn't grab a visitors attention, they won't persevere, they will click back. What's a #1 ranking worth if visitors click back?
Here are a few guidelines on how to grab a visitors attention:
Title Tag Text Should Match Your First Headline Or if not matching the phrase exactly, it should be close to it in terms of topic. This reassures to the searcher they are in the right place.
A Search Is Invariably A Question Keyword terms often aren't phrased as questions, but they are all questions. When people type "buy DVD online", they're really saying "where can I buy a DVD online". Try to determine searcher intent. Decide what the visitors question is, repeat it, then answer it.
Create A Clear Call To Action - what is it you want the searcher to do next? Sign-up? Buy something? Click on Adsense? Make that action clear and obvious.
People Scan - Use big headings. Often. If you're vague about visitor intent, you can use a number of different headlines, or images, that grab people's attention in case your lead hook fails.
Use The Word "You" A Lot - it's all about them. Their problems, their sense of self, their language, their wants and needs. Relegate all the stuff about you, unless they specifically ask for it, or you're using testimonials.
Every Page On Your Site Is A Landing Page
Every page on your site has potential to pull in visitors.
Even if a page only receives one visit a month, it's still a landing page. Given that SEO strategy involves building a lot of content, it's easy to think of "junk" pages low down in your domain structure as unimportant.
However, if people land on those pages, then that's half the battle won. Those pages will be winners if they lead people to the pages you want them to see. Therefore, every page on your site should contain a clear call to action - leading visitors to the one thing you want people to do.
The Difference Between SEO Landing Pages & PPC Landing Pages
In PPC, the page must be tightly controlled, stay on message and lead a visitor to desired action. Failure to do so means blowing through money.
With SEO, we have more leeway. We can include a variety of text content on pages, as it increases the likelihood of catching long tail phrases. This casts a wider net, and at negligible cost. However, we still need to structure the page well enough so people a) won't click back and b) will take the desired action.
It's a good idea to structure a page so - rather obviously - the most important stuff comes first. Make the call to action, wherever it is placed, clear. Relegate superfluous text, which targets long tail variations, below the fold and/or into side links.
Most likely, a few pages on your domain will be doing the gruntwork. Most of your visitors will come in on your home page, or a small collection of well linked pages on your site. Pay careful attention to these pages. They should be as crafted as tightly as a PPC landing page in terms of language and call to action.
Test these pages. Are they converting? What is the abandonment rate? Whilst it can take a while to test and alter SEO pages, it's worth doing, as incremental gains on a few pages can lead to huge changes when rolled out over an entire site.
What happens if you make a heading bigger? Paragraphs shorter? Reposition page elements? Change the language and pitch? You can also test these variables using a short PPC campaign, of course, and then roll your findings into your SEO strategy. Once you've got a winning formula, you can roll it out to every page (landing) page you create.
Like in any consulting field, SEO is rife with competition. There is only one way to win in such an environment, and that is to set yourself apart from the crowd.
Not in a bad way, of course :)
Here are some ideas on how to construct winning proposals.
Size Isn't Everything, But It Does Count
Large proposals take a long time to do. On the upside, large proposals can look impressive, simply by virtue of their size. Clients often like to see large proposals, but they don't tend to read them.
Proposals can be a tricky balance to get right. No matter how brilliant your solution, most clients will think twice about you if you present it on a single sheet, especially if they have no prior connection with you, or aren't meeting you face-to-face. A proposal of a certain size can appear more authoritative.
What is the ideal size?
One good way of presenting a proposal is to break it into three parts. The first part is a summary, including your client-specific solution and costs. Length can vary of course, but keep it succinct. No fat.
The second part is a case study or two. Again, keep them succinct. It's highly likely that the client won't actually read beyond this point.
Finally, add background information about you, your company, your history and the SEO business, all of which should be aimed at supporting the summary page and case studies. This final part can be generic and doesn't need to be re-written for each client. Clients may only flip through this section, but tend to find it reassuring that it exists.
Contrast this approach with a proposal that is threadbare. It may be irrational, but thin proposals can feel incomplete.
Give Something Of Value Away
In your summary pages, share real information.
Share the type of information that is valuable and the sort of you'd usually charge for providing. Clients are likely to assume that if the SEO is giving a few morsels of valuable information away in the proposal, then even more valuable information will be forthcoming if they sign you. Demonstrate your mastery. If all you do is provide generic information at this point, then your proposal is less likely to stand out.
Some potential clients, of course, may pick your brain and then implement your solutions themselves. Whilst this can happen, it's unlikely. The client already knows they want SEO by the time they're at the proposal stage, and if they could have done this work themselves, they probably would have done so already.
Secondly, you can outline solutions that involve time cost to achieve. Imply that this work must be undertaken by someone who knows what they are doing. Outline the risks of not doing this work properly. The more real work, and risk, there is invlolved in implementation, the less likely a client will be willing to go the do-it-yourself route.
As we all know, there is a lot of real work involved in SEO. Make sure the client is left in no doubt on that aspect.
It's Not About You
Focus on the clients needs.
Nothing loses a potential client faster than an SEO who talks entirely about themselves and their industry. Clients don't care. Clients care about their problems and their industry. In the summary pages, restate the clients problem and propose your specific solutions. Outline time frame and costs.
This exercise is useful for a number of reasons, the main one being that you, or the client, may not know what the actual problem is!
What a client says may not be what they mean. For example, the client may say they want SEO because they're heard that's a great way to get traffic quickly. They may not say it in these words, of course. They may say they want SEO, and they want it asap.
However, if the SEO has asked enough questions, aimed at identifying the problem, the SEO may unearth unstated problems. In this case, a client wants to increase traffic quickly. A solution to such a problem might be a combination of SEO and PCC. The PPC delivers immediate traffic while the SEO strategy might take some time.
Formulate questions aimed at identifying the clients actual, as opposed to stated, problem. They may be quite different. The result is that your solution will be a good fit, which will lead to less frustration, on both sides, further down the line.
You also might discover at this point that the clients expectations are ridiculous, and you'd be better off looking for a more reasonable client. For example, I was once pitching to a large advertising company. Their clients had been asking for SEO, so all they knew is they "needed some SEO".
Problem was, as I discovered in the meeting, was that they knew nothing about the need to alter sites or web publishing approach. They had told clients they could deliver SEO as a bolt-on-service, a wave of the magic wand that miraculously delivered rankings and free traffic for life to brochure sites.
I didn't go any further with them.
Offer Guarantees (Assurance)
Guarantees are a contentious issue in SEO circles.
Many SEOs - quite rightly - point out that no one can guarantee a ranking position, which is true, but such technical nuances may unsettle a client.
Clients tend to like assurance, and a guarantee can help provide this. So rather than dismissing guarantees, look at aspects you can guarantee.
A fiend of mine, in a different industry, offers a guarantee that goes along the lines of "if you don't feel satisfied after our strategy meetings with you, even after you sign the contract, you can walk away, no questions asked, and no charge.".
That sounds like something substantial, but actually he is just restating consumer law in the country where he lives. The law is that a service must be fit for the purpose the client intended, and if it isn't, the client has a case against the provider for non-suitability of service.
My friend realized he could never afford to contest such cases, and would likely lose, as the consumer law favored the buyer. All an aggrieved client really had to do to win such a case was say the service wasn't fit for their purposes.
He was dealing with firms with deep pockets, and legal action defending against such firms would come at high cost, even if he was in the right, so he decided to restate a consumer right the client actually already had, combined with an economic reality - his inability to engage in costly legal battles - into a form of a reassuring guarantee for sales purposes.
Case Studies Are Powerful
There is no sales tool quite so powerful as a good case study. A case study is a story. People love stories. A case study is also proof of your ability.
Outline the problem. Tell your audience what the problem looked like before you started - very useful if this problem is similar to the problem the prospective client also faces - what you did to solve the problem, and the positive results of your solution.
Stories are very powerful sales tools, and a case study is a great opportunity to tell a few.
Package It Up
Consider printing and binding your proposal, and delivering it.
We receive so many emails these days that they don't make us feel very special. It doesn't feel like there is much effort gone into them. A binded proposal, on the other hand, feels substantial.
In the interests of speed, you can still send an email copy, but try doing both and seeing if you land more deals.