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Archive for February, 2009

The Upside of SEO in a down economy

February 23, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

As the pinch of the current financial situation takes hold, many businesses will be trimming costs, and unfortunately these are often valuable marketing strategies.

In terms of search marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) is often the cost that’s cut as it’s believed that benefits take longer to realize – few quick wins. However, dumping SEO can mean forgoing a great cheap growth opportunity.

If you’re one of the businesses re-evaluating the future of your SEO strategy, consider the following before making your decision.

1. Ongoing Value.
The value of SEO continues well after the optimization has finished. Unlike other marketing, where the value diminishes quickly after a campaign, SEO continues to generate results.

2. Traffic is free.
While we are strong advocates of PPC (fast, guaranteed, qualified traffic), it does cost for each visitor you receive. You stop paying, and your traffic stops. SEO on the other hand provides free traffic, so your costs are easier to control.

3. Against the trend
While other businesses shy away from SEO, it’s a great chance for businesses to capitalize on marginally lower competition. It could help generate quicker results.

4. Untapped Opportunities
There are still many untapped niches in terms of SEO, especially within localized and specialist industry segments. Again this offers great growth opportunities for smart business operators.

5. Leverage the trend online
Consumers are being more frugal with their spending and the online space is where they’re doing their comparison shopping. It’s vital for your business to be in their consideration set, which is why SEO is critical. Google is where the comparison shopping begins, and where you need to be found!

Given the above benefits and the fact it’s much cheaper than other online marketing initiatives, it’s seem logical that SEO should remain in your marketing plan.

If you’re looking for help with promoting your website – check out our range of affordable search engine marketing services.

Pay Per Click Marketing Explained

February 16, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

Pay Per Click Marketing explained

Further to my previous post- Search engine optimization (SEO) explained now the follow up article taking a more detailed look at pay-per-click programs, and how you can use them effectively to boost your web site’s income.

This first part focuses on helping you decide which pay-per-click programs to join. Just like affiliate programs, there are a variety of factors to look at when evaluating pay-per-click programs to determine which are best for your site, and which are going to have the best impact on your wallet (and your ability to fill it!). But, first let’s take a quick look at why you might want to consider pay-per-click programs for your site.

Pay-per-Click programs offer a variety of advantages and disadvantages compared to affiliate programs. The advantage pay-per-click programs have are that they are generally easier to set up and maintain, and that they pay commissions even if your visitors never make any purchases.

Another key advantage of pay-per-click programs are that they are generally targeted towards a very general audience. Affiliate programs are best promoted by specifically targeting what is sold to your visitor’s interests. This may make pay-per-click programs a better choice if it is difficult to determine what products or services your visitors might be interested in.

Pay-per-click programs also have disadvantages. Because of their general nature, they might not be the best choice if your site has a narrow focus and a targeted audience. Pay-per-click programs also generally pay less than affiliate programs since you are trading higher commission rates for a higher probability of earning income (since your visitors need only click, rather than purchase).

Additionally, pay-per-click programs also have the tendency to be more likely to balk on paying their affiliates or to cancel an affiliate site’s membership just as payment is due (sometimes justly, sometimes not). A final disadvantage is that pay-per-click programs can’t generally be promoted in email newsletters, making them unsuitable if you have developed a mailing list which relies on affiliate program income.

However, for many sites, being paid for every click, rather than waiting for a sale or two to trickle in, is an appealing advantage. If you do decide to add pay-per-click programs on your web site, there are several main factors to evaluate before signing up and adding banners to your site:

1) How do they count click-throughs?
2) What do they pay and what is their payment history?
3) What are their payment terms?
4) What are their terms and conditions of staying a member in good standing?
5) What other tools or features do they give you?
6) What is the quality of their advertisers?

Let’s take a look at each of these.

1) How do they count click-throughs?

This is an often overlooked factor of pay-per-click programs, since it is usually not highlighted and often is only mentioned in the fine print of the program’s operating agreement. Most programs are set up to pay you one time for each unique IP address that generates a click in a 24 hour (or longer) period.

The reasoning behind this is simple: it prevents the program from being cheated by an unscrupulous affiliate that makes it their full time job to click over and over again on their own banners.

However, this method of preventive action also poses a threat to your ability to earn a fair income. Since many ISPs, especially larger ones, assign IP addresses dynamically, it is entirely possible that a large number of clicks would not be counted since they are coming from different people, but using the same ISP, and therefore the same IP address. Also, clicks from the same person, in a 24 hour period, even if they came during different visits to your site, would not be counted.

There are programs that have lower restrictions than once every 24 hours, but you need to be wary of many of these program also. Some programs with these ‘loose’ guidelines have gotten in over their head as far as their ability to pay affiliates, and are generally more likely to cancel your account since they have lower tolerances for cheating.

In the end, this is a factor to be aware of, to know what their guidelines are before joining so you can know what to expect. There is no definitive answer as to what time period is best for counting clicks. However, programs that have very high restrictions (48 hours or more) should generally be avoided.

2) What do they pay and what is their payment history?

What a particular vendor or network pays is perhaps the most obvious factor for judging a pay-per-click program. This is simply what can you make per click you refer from the program. Pay-per-click programs range from paying £0.01 to £0.20 or more per click. However, many webmasters sign up for pay-per-click programs without researching whether or not the program has a solid history of paying their affiliates.

A general rule of thumb is to avoid programs that offer what seem to be too large of a payout to webmasters. For example, many webmasters have been encouraged to join the CyberThrill casino program since it promises high payouts of £0.20 per click. However, the catch is they NEVER pay their affiliates what they are truly owed. Many webmasters referred hundreds or thousands of dollars of clicks, and never saw more than a few dollars in a ‘token’ payment.

I won’t spend to much more time on this subject since this is the easiest part of a program to evaluate. Just be aware that the programs that offer to pay the highest are not always the best. If they offer £0.20 per click but never pay you, you would have been much better off accepting £0.10 or £0.15 from a trusted network.

Also, avoid programs that pay under £0.05 per click, since they are generally not worth your time given the number of clicks you need to refer to make a decent income from your site.

To help you find the programs that have the best reputations for paying their affiliates, I make this one of my top criteria for determining how pay-per-click programs are rated. Some of the most consistent programs include ValueClick, Advertising.com, and Burst!.

3) What are their payment terms?

This is another factor that is often overlooked by webmasters. Many programs have strict criteria on when they make payment to their affiliates for click-throughs. Be aware of the minimum amount you must accumulate in commissions before they will mail a check to you.

Generally, a pay-per-click program should send checks when between £25 to £50 in commissions have been accumulated. Less than that is preferable of course, but be on the look-out for programs that require higher conditions to be met, or which combine high minimum with low per-click payouts.

For example, the ValueClick pay-per-click program generally pays £0.12 per click and pays you once you have accumulated £30. This means you need to send them 250 clicks before you receive payment. However, another program, yellowpages.net, requires £50 to be accumulated, and generally pays only £0.02 per click. Here, you would need to send 2500 clicks to them before you earned that first check, exactly 10 times more!

4) What are their terms and conditions of staying a member in good standing?

A common practice on pay-per-click program operating agreements is a statement that the program has the right to cancel a web site’s membership at any time, without notice, if they suspect an affiliate of cheating.

This is legally in their right, as this practice protects their advertisers AND legitimate affiliate web sites from cheaters. However, it is important that y
ou know what guidelines they have set up, and how not to lose your membership if you are only using their program legitimately.

Many programs have clauses to protect themselves capping payments at a 3 or 4% click-through. This means if your site were to generate click-through rates higher than this, you would not receive payment for anything over their set percentage. Unfortunately, this also often means that they will open an investigation into why your account is generating such a high response. This is actually somewhat hypocritical of pay-per-click programs, since they penalize you for success. However, there are good reasons behind these guidelines.

4) Making the Most of Pay-per-Click Programs

The industry average for non-targeted banner ad click-throughs is generally considered to be about 1% (and falling). So, to reach these limits, you would need to refer 3-4 times the industry average. Given that most pay-per-click networks host untargeted, general audience banners, this would be statistically abnormal.

The key here is that almost all programs have these types of limits, and some might use them to cancel your account if they expect abuse. The best solution is to be aware of their limits, and keep an eye on your account. Being aware of their terms, even if they do not always seem fair, is the best way to make sure you remain a member in good standing, are paid for what you are owed.

As a general rule of thumb, the programs with the best payment histories are often the least likely to use these types of guidelines as a reason to cancel their members. Those with the worst payment histories do so quite frequently. For example, CyberThrill routinely used this method to cancel nearly ever affiliate that was owed a substantial sum of money.

5) What other tools or features do they give you?

An additional factor of evaluating pay-per-click programs is to determine what other tools or features they offer you to assist in generating the most income from your site. Some programs give you online tools to easily manage your account and to allow you to easily determine which ads you would like to host, and which you would like to block. ValueClick is a good example of this, giving you the ability to select which ads are inappropriate for your site.

Other features include giving you the ability to earn additional income by referring new webmasters to the program. For certain types of sites, this can be an excellent additional source of income, however most sites will not see a high enough volume of referrals to make much of an impact. ValueClick, TeknoSurf, and eAds all have excellent two-tier referral programs if your site targets other webmasters.

6) What is the quality of their advertisers?

Another factor is the quality of the ads that the program runs. If a network hosts many professional ads from proven web companies, you will be more likely to see higher click-throughs than one that hosts poorly designed ads from unknown companies.

However, be aware that many ads hosted by pay-per-click programs are designed to generate brand awareness, rather than to generate click-throughs. Some ads are purposely designed to NOT generate click-throughs, but to rather improve a company’s brand name or image, or to drive their URL into the person’s mind, in hopes they visit at a later date.

Summary

In summary, selecting a proven pay-per-click program that pays consistently and is fair to members can (unfortunately) be a difficult task. Working with programs that have proven histories of paying their affiliate sites is perhaps the most important consideration. I fully recommend checking with other sites that are hosts to see if they have been paid, and to check the ClickQuick site for frequent updates.

If you have feedback to share, good or bad, about pay-per-click programs you have experience with, please send it my way. And, look for the next article to focus on tips and strategies for making pay-per-click programs more profitable for your site.

Search engine optimization (SEO) explained

February 09, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

Search engine optimisation (SEO) should be the foundation of your digital marketing. Not only is the most cost effective element of the marketing mix but also forms the basis of focus for effective online sales conversion and possible future pay per click campaigns.

Search engine optimization is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results.

Typically, the higher a site’s “page rank” (i.e, the earlier it comes in the search results list), the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO can also target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a website primarily involves editing its content and HTML coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

The acronym “SEO” can also refer to “search engine optimizers,” a term adopted by an industry of consultants who carry out optimization projects on behalf of clients, and by employees who perform SEO services in-house. Search engine optimizers may offer SEO as a stand-alone service or as a part of a broader marketing campaign.

Because effective SEO may require changes to the HTML source code of a site, SEO tactics may be incorporated into web site development and design. The term “search engine friendly” may be used to describe web site designs, menus, content management systems and shopping carts that are easy to optimize.

Another class of techniques, known as black hat SEO or Spamdexing, use methods such as link farms and keyword stuffing that degrade both the relevance of search results and the user-experience of search engines. Search engines look for sites that employ these techniques in order to remove them from their indices.

Eye tracking studies have shown that searchers scan a search results page from top to bottom and left to right (for left to right languages), looking for a relevant result. Placement at or near the top of the rankings therefore increases the number of searchers who will visit a site.

However, more search engine referrals does not guarantee more sales. SEO is not necessarily an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be much more effective, depending on the site operator’s goals.

A successful Internet marketing campaign may drive organic traffic to web pages, but it also may involve the use of paid advertising on search engines and other pages, building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, addressing technical issues that may keep search engines from crawling and indexing those sites, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure their successes, and improving a site’s conversion rate.

SEO may generate a return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors.

For more information please ask at the Search Clinic

Small Business Online Marketing Service

February 04, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

The Search Clinic is launching a new Small Business Online Marketing Service.

Search engine marketing is a science. It is based on repeatable analysis and processes which can be applied to virtually any product or service- no matter how big or small the business.

The Search Clinic is helping international “blue chip” FT 350 companies, but we decided to help smaller local businesses as well. So we have developed a new service:

The Search Clinic’s Professional Approach

Getting you to the top of the search engines requires a great deal of detailed work. It all starts once we have created your Free Search Engine Report and understand exactly where your website is positioned on the search engines. We’ll then assign you a dedicated search engine consultant who will be happy to talk through each of the following steps with you.

1. Identify Key Search Phrases
Selecting the right key phrases and words is critical. Our experts will review your website and strategy and recommend the best terms that will bring the most relevant traffic to your website.

2. Analysing Your Website
How your website’s built determines how easy the search engines can find it. Using our best practice guidelines we’ll analyse your website and recommend the critical changes needed.

3. Optimising Your Website
The changes required to your web code will be itemised. Our expert programmers can undertake this work or advise your existing web team.

4. Search Engine Submission
Your website is now ready for submission to the search engines. Our experts will ensure all the major search engines are included in this submission process.

5. Directory Submission
Link building is critical to developing your website’s visibility on the search engines. We will submit your website to all the major directories to obtain some high quality links.

6. Monitoring Progress
Regular monitoring of your website will be carried out by your dedicated search engine consultant. You’ll also receive regular reports that will show your website’s new search engine position.

Please remember that it takes time to achieve exceptional search engine results.

For quicker results we can devise a pay per click strategy for you. This will deliver instant visibility and immediate results for your business.

If you’d like to talk through your options please call our experts on 01242 521967.

Imagine being top of these search engines for your keywords. How would this impact on your business? You’d receive more visitors, more enquiries and more sales too. This is what search engine optimisation and working with us will achieve. This is what we excel at.

Search Engine Optimisation is vital for your search rankings!

Every time you type a search term into Yahoo, Google or MSN, you’ll find search engine optimised sites first. These sites are displayed directly beneath your search term and the pay per click adverts in the sponsored areas.

We aim to achieve exactly the same results for you.

Getting you to the top of the search engines
We know the great feeling and business benefits all our clients get when they’re top of the search engines. We want you to experience this too. If you choose to work with us you can rest assured that you’re working with professional search engine consultants who are up-to-date on all the ever changing search rules and regulations.

There are literally thousands of search engines out there and we know which ones will help your business the most. We’ll make sure you’re listed on all of them.

Please contact us NOW and you’ll find out which search engines are listing your website, if it needs search engine optimisation and how we can get you to the top of the search engines.

What the Search Clinic can offer you

February 03, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

What you will get when you employ the Search Clinic is great value, award winning, professional online marketing expertise.

The Search Clinic does not make false promises.

As we do not own the search engines, not have any direct influence over them we can not claim that we will get you to the top of their free results sections immediately.

Nor can we give you any guarantee that we will get your website to the top by any set time in the future.

However in many instances we do achieve top rankings for our clients on Google and the other leading search engines. Some within a matter of days.

Keywords
Equally it is no use getting to the top of search engines for agreed keyword phrases if the phrases do not get a lot of attention.

It’s like citing your retail shop on a shopping high street or around the corner on a small side street.

So we start off my finding out what your potential high traffic keywords actually are. In many cases the online world and the offline world have somewhat different phraseology.

For example in the financial services sector, buyers of holiday and travel money don’t search for “foreign exchange” they actually type in “currency converter”.

So, we make sure that you start off trying to attract the high volume online search traffic.

Friendly
Then we examine your website to make sure that is search engine friendly- or optimised, for the agreed keyword phrases.

Ideally we will make the improvements to your website directly for you. This will probably include updating your metatags (those are the words that you see at the very top of your browser), improving your headings, pictures and descriptive text.

Optimising a website is a balance between making things easy for the search engines as well as for the humans who will then find your website. So that they will contact you- or make a purchase.

This process may also mean that we will have to create a few extra pages if you offer a range of products or services. Beginning with your top sellers and most profitable lines- because online marketing is all about making a profitable return on your investments.

Popularity breeds Success
The foundation of the Google search engine success is a mathematical algorithm which examines the number and type of links from third party websites linking in to websites.

It’s the old adage of nothing succeeds like success.

The founders calculated that if a particular page on a website has links from a number of other websites then something good or authorative must be contained on that page. Which means that it deserves a high ranking than less well referred to websites.

So Google (and Yahoo) look at the number of third party links and alter website ranking accordingly.

Thus as well as improving your website, the Search Clinic will also add on our search engine ranked pages links to you. These pages are genuine websites that are not click farms of casino type spammers.

Equally, we can not blast links everywhere as you will get penalised by Google as they only like to find around 250 new links per month building up on a consistent basis.

Marathon- not a sprint.
As you may have realised by now, achieving success from search engine optimisation marketing activities is a long term process, not a flash in the pan quick fix.

Professional Approach
Which is why we prefer to make sure that you are educated and aware of the online realities- which we can deliver on, rather than by making rash improbable promises that lead to disillusionment and disappointment in the near future.

Interested? Please contact us now.