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Archive for July, 2009

Microsoft and Yahoo search merge- as predicted by Dr Search last week

July 31, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

Dr Search of the Search Clinic predicted yesterday’s Financial Times lead story that Yahoo and Microsoft are to merge their search engine business.

On my post of Monday, July 20, 2009 Microsoft and Yahoo! deal is getting close
http://www.searchclinic.org/2009/07/microsoft-and-yahoo-deal-is-getting.html

The ongoing saga that is the Microsoft and Yahoo! deal is back on again. And apparently this time it’s a more realistic proposition than ever.

The Financial Times story also reads:

Yahoo ran into a fresh wave of doubts in the financial and technology worlds yesterday as it bowed out of the race to compete with Google.

In a deal that caps more than two years of effort by Microsoft to secure a foothold in Yahoo’s search business as a way to challenge Google, Yahoo will hand control of its internet search technology to the software group on terms that fell short of expectations.

Although less drastic than the $48bn (£29bn) acquisition of Yahoo that Microsoft proposed last year, the move would be costly for Microsoft and difficult to implement, but could for the first time make it a credible long-term rival to the search group, according to analysts.

News of the technology alliance brought an abrupt end yesterday to the six-month honeymoon that followed the appointment of outsider Carol Bartz as Yahoo’s chief executive. Yahoo shares slumped by 12 per cent as Wall Street expressed doubts about the financial benefits and the long-term impact on the internet media giant.

“The market is disappointed, justifiably,” said Larry Haverty, money manger at Gamco, which has 1.6m Yahoo shares. He said Yahoo now resembled a consumer media company such as Time Warner and might not still be independent in five years.

Ms Bartz said that the deal would free Yahoo to focus on its main strengths of media and advertising, while greatly reducing its costs. “If you got the chance to offer the same service at no cost, you’d be crazy as a business leader not to do that,” she said in an interview with the Financial Times.

The focus on display advertising and media drew comparisons with AOL, which has struggled to find an effective strategy since the dotcom bust at the beginning of the decade. Ms Bartz has failed to ex-plain how Yahoo will stay com-p-et-itive in the long term, said Allen Weiner, an analyst at Gartner.

Yahoo stockholders were alarmed that it was surrendering its technology position while gaining far less than anticipated annual savings, which had been estimated at as much as $1bn. Ms Bartz, who had earlier promised “boatloads of money” from any deal, said she had given up the idea of an upfront payment in favour of a larger share of future search advertising revenues from Microsoft.

The deal will face intense antitrust scrutiny, since opposition in Washington blocked a proposed Yahoo search deal with Google last year.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said the deal was the only way to ensure viable competition in the long term, and said he knew of no other case where a company with as great a share as Google had objected to two smaller companies combining forces.

Several advertisers who had complained about a Yahoo-Google tie-up praised the new partnership, saying it would provide a real alternative to Google. “It is very welcome for our clients as it brings more balance to the search marketplace and may moderate pricing,” said Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency.

The FT article is at:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/990c90c8-7c9f-11de-a7bf-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

7 Direct Marketing rules to boost your Google AdWords results

July 27, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

Have you ever chatted to a direct marketer (from the old school) about online and search engine marketing? Did you end up hearing the line – “it’s all direct marketing, just in a different medium”.

Whether you believe that or not, the fact of the matter is that many of the old rules of direct marketing very much apply to our new age of marketing.

There’s a myriad of “top rules of direct marketing” lists out there, one of which I stumbled on in my recent meanderings online. While reading it, I couldn’t help but see how these rules applied to PPC advertising. So here it is with a PPC advertising slant on the explanations.

1. Headlines
This is probably the most important piece of text in your direct mail letter or advert. It will grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to read the rest of your copy.

Fail to interest or connect with your reader here and all the hard work you have put into your lovely body copy could be wasted. Don’t just state the name of your product or name of your event. Promote a benefit. Ask an open question. Deliver news.

The same very much applies to the PPC space. You’ve got milliseconds to capture the searchers attention on the Search Engine Results Page – and your headline is key!

2. What’s in it for me?
The letter advert is not about you or your organisation but needs to focus on the benefit to the reader. Starting with your headline and throughout your body copy, you need to state the benefits of your service or product for your reader and not just the features.

The reader will constantly be wondering ‘What’s in it for me?’, and if this is not explicit, they will switch off.

You have even less time and space to explain the “what’s in it for me” in a PPC ad – so you need to “cut to the chase” straight away.

3. Copy length
People are busy. Daily we are inundated with information from emails, direct mail, television, the web – you name it. Don’t make it hard for your readers to understand what you are selling or communicating. Spell it out for them. Write clear, short sentences.

You don’t have sentences in PPC ads. You have characters. So keep it short and on point. Just because you have 70 characters to use in the ad – doesn’t mean you have to use them all. Sometimes less is more!

4. Language
Avoid jargon – it puts people off. Spell out in full any acronyms or abbreviations…

Use plain English. ‘Buy’ instead of ‘purchase’. ‘Before’ instead of ‘prior to.’ ‘Get’ instead of ‘obtain’. Avoid flowery language and get straight to the point, leaving out needless words. Read through your copy and if a word doesn’t add value to your letter, delete it.

Obvious stuff. Write for the lowest common reader. Of course with acronyms, look for a shorter expression or term where possible, because spelling out some acronyms will see you use all your ad space.

5. Tone
Write your letters as you would if you were communicating verbally. Read your letter out loud. Does it sound like something you would say? If not, change it.

You’ll be surprised how evident tone is in 70 characters. If you don’t resonate with the searcher – you’ve lost them.

6. Call to action
What do you want your readers to do? Book onto an event, sign up to your newsletter mailing list or join your membership scheme? Spell it out to your reader, clearly and simply.

It’s a well documented fact for PPC ads that asking for the action generates much better click through rates. So just do it!

7. And finally…
Remember the only aim of your communication is to elicit a response, to drive people to your website or whatever your call to action may be. Measure the return on investment. Does it work? If not, why not? And crucially test, refine, test and keep on testing.

Speaks for itself….test test test. And lets the real response measure your success!

Now go and give your PPC ads the once over. Do they follow these direct marketing 7 rules of thumb? If they’re not – they should!

Twitter 101: Twitter’s first major pass to business users

July 24, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

From traditional media to blogs big and small, there are countless stories in circulation about how businesses are using Twitter to find customers and serve existing ones.

Some businesses have figured out how to use Twitter Search and other similar tools to hear what customers are saying and make connections with local prospects. But Twitter itself has been relatively quiet about all this, letting business owners and marketers find their own way when positioning Twitter as a business platform.

Until now.
Twitter has launched its first major outreach to business users: Twitter 101 for Business: A Special Guide.

Twitter 101 is tremendously well-done. There’s a Getting Started guide with step-by-step instructions to create an account; Best Practices; case studies of 10 companies, ranging from local coffee and pizza shops to huge brands like Dell and Pepsi; and even an invite for business owners to share their own tips and case studies.

It introduces important terms like retweets and hashtags, and very interestingly it makes several pushes for businesses to use Twitter search and saved searches to follow conversations about companies, products, and so forth. The guide not only explains how businesses can use Twitter, but also makes the case for why they should.

“You don’t have to run a bike shop or a relatively small company to get good stuff out of Twitter. Businesses of all kinds, including major brands, increasingly find that listening and engaging on the service lead to happier customers, passionate advocates, key product improvements and, in many cases, more sales.”

The bigger picture here, of course, is that Twitter is still looking for revenue streams. Business outreach, particularly in terms of explaining what Twitter is and can become, is part of that process. Twitter is very simple … but deceptively so.

When Danny Sullivan interviewed Twitter co-founder Biz Stone earlier this year, Stone shared his experiences in showing Twitter to business owners:

“Then you show them search. ‘What do you want to know is going on? What’s your business? What do you do?’ We show them that, and they say, ‘Whoa, this is crazy. Wait, I disagree with this guy. How do I talk to him?’,” he explained. “We need to reposition the product in a way that’s more relevant to people.”

This Twitter 101 guide, as Stone says on the Twitter blog, is a first step in that direction.

The second step may come as soon as next week. Stone said that Twitter will launch a new home page with a search box, Twitter trends, and information about how to use Twitter.

Microsoft and Yahoo! deal is getting close

July 20, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

It’s amazing what a several months and a new search engine launch can do for bargaining power in the search game.

The ongoing saga that is the Microsoft and Yahoo! deal is back on again. And apparently this time it’s a more realistic proposition than ever.

If you cast your mind back to late last year, rumors about a Microhoo (Microsoft and Yahoo!) deal were filling our feeds daily (almost). The last roll of dice saw Yahoo! desperately seeking a Microsoft buyout after Google walked away from an advertising deal.

Even with extensive public discussions about being “ready to sell” by Jerry Yang (Yahoo!’s CEO at the time), Microsoft and Yahoo! never got any closer to the closing the deal.

Since then Microsoft has been busy working it’s Bing angle. With a massive amount of fanfare, Microsoft relaunched its search offering under the Bing brand, and whilst only new, has made some inroads into the search share that has eluded it for years.

Now that Bing is live and eating into Yahoo!’s share of the search engine market, discussions have reignited over search and advertising between the two companies, and industry insiders suggest they’re very close to signing the deal.

From a report in the 24/7 Wall Street blog:

Sources at a major client of investment house ThinkEquity say that the firm considers a Microsoft (MSFT) link-up with Yahoo! (YHOO) in the search business to be “imminent”.

And in the same post, speculation about the details of deal included:

Yahoo! will be paid $3 billion upfront and will get 11o% of the revenue that its searches provide after traffic acquisition costs in each of the first two years. In the third year, that figure would go to 90%.

While both companies continue to trail Google by such a significant amount, a union of forces like this will boost the appeal of their advertising offering, but it will take more than an advertising deal to change user search habits and that’s where the sustainable advantage lies.

Landing pages- wheel of success

July 17, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

Landing Pages- are your landing pages feeling tired? Is your conversion rate stagnant? Not quite sure what to try next? To re-energize your post-click marketing, it can help to step back and evaluate your approach from several different perspectives.

Here’s a quick exercise, the Landing Page Wonder Wheel—as in, “I wonder how to improve my landing pages?”—that can give you fresh inspiration.

Landing Pages- wheel of successThe Landing Page Wonder Wheel consists of eight dimensions on which you rate your current landing page creative and management capabilities, on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 means you’re not doing very well there, while a 10 means you may be the best in the world at it.

1. Message match. How tight is the continuity between your adverting and your landing pages? If you run lots of ads across different keywords, but you’re driving everyone to the same few landing pages, then your message match probably isn’t very good. For example, if someone clicks on an ad for home refinancing, but they’re sent to a page that generically talks about mortgages, that’s not as tight as a page exclusively on refinancing.

2. Visual design. How good do your landing pages look? From the high-level concept and layout, down to the details of execution such as fonts and image cropping, are your pages attractive? For most people who click on your plain text search ads, the landing page is where you will make your real first impression.

Just as you probably shouldn’t show up to a job interview looking as if you rolled out of bed five minutes ago, tossed something on, and stumbled out into the world, you don’t want your landing pages to looks disheveled or uninspired either. This is a quintessential branding moment.

3. Depth. How much substance do your landing pages have? Depth is about delivering meaningful content rather than fluffy marketing-speak. Landing pages shouldn’t be superficial—otherwise they’re a waste of time. You want to share real information, tailored to the search that respondent was pursuing.

Depth doesn’t mean you should shovel a ton of content on to a single page though. Multi-step landing pages, where respondents drill down to the content and offers that are best aligned with their interests, can be highly effective.

The key is to make sure that with each extra click, you live up to expectations, providing a deeper and more relevant experience. Microsites focused on a particular topic or idea can work well too. But ultimately depth is more about quality than quantity.

4. Freshness. How frequently do you revisit your existing landing pages to update them and inject new life? If you have stale pages out there from a year or more ago, then your freshness score is low. If, on the other hand, you systematically check your pages each month, your score should be climbing. This is more about landing page management than landing page design.

The basics of freshness are making sure that content and offers are current. There’s no surer way to damage your brand than to proudly present someone with an expired offer or a stale fulfillment piece (e.g., “fill out this form to receive our hot-off-the-presses 2006 research on the state of social media”).

5. Interactivity. Are your pages flat text and images, or do you provide interactive ways to capture a respondent’s attention? In the age of YouTube, a video can be a compelling way to build rapport.

A Flash or AJAX widget that lets respondents click on tabs or thumbnails—or perhaps play with an animated diagram of your key benefits—can get them involved with a low hurdle. The secret is to incorporate these features as part of your design and messaging, not something garish or slapped on as an afterthought.

Social media is another way—albeit more experimental in this context—to add interactivity to your pages, such as bringing in Twitter feeds or Facebook Connect applications. You have to be careful about reinforcing your message and not distracting from it. But if you can use social devices to humanize yourself early with a new prospect, and coax them into a conversation, then you’re ahead of the curve.

6. Launch speed. How long does it take you, concept to completion, to launch a brand new landing page? Maybe there are technical or administrative hoops you have to jump through.

Maybe you get held up waiting for someone to take the URL live, or add a tracking code to your checkout page. Maybe you just don’t have the time or resources. But whatever the reason, if you can’t deploy a new landing page as quickly as you can publish a new AdWords ad, then there’s room for improvement.

7. Non conversion value. How well do you do with the respondents who don’t convert on your landing pages? This may seem counterintuitive at first, but if your conversion rate is 20%—which would generally be quite good!—then what are you doing with the other 80%? After all, if they clicked on your ad, they demonstrated non-trivial intent. Just because they weren’t ready to convert on that specific offer at that exact moment, doesn’t make it a throwaway experience.

8. Boldness. Do your landing pages charge forward with bold, new ideas—or are they tepid and formulaic? Landing pages can be a fantastic sandbox in which to experiment with gutsy offers, spirited language, and vivid presentations.

Since any given landing page handles only a sliver of your traffic—and because it’s usually easy to do A/B testing in this context—you can push the envelope without taking big risks. If a daring idea doesn’t pan out, you can quickly pull it down. If it catches fire (in a good way!), then you can expand its reach.

How good is your wheel?

Now that you have your self-assessment scores, mark them on the wheel on each corresponding spoke, moving outwards for higher scores. So a 1 would be placed near the center of the wheel, while a 10 would be placed on the outer rim.

SEO on a small budget

July 14, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

Search engine optimisation (SEO)- the latest video in our series focuses on how small businesses can effectively optimize their website when they don’t have the cash to get it done professionally.

SEO can be very time consuming for small business owners, not to mention often expensive if you outsource to professional SEO companies. Google understands that many small business owners and webmaster don’t have the time or funds, which is why they have stepped in to help with some quick DIY SEO tools tips.

“Google Guru” Matt Cutts has put his top SEO tips into a video. It’s not too long but does give some good tips for webmaster or business owners new to SEO.

Here is Matt’s video for your viewing pleasure:

The video is a great start for newbie SEOers who don’t have the budget for large scale SEO. Just in case you can’t view the video (or choose not to watch it), here are Matt’s 2 main tips:

1. Start with a small niche (geographical location or specific product)
2. Make your site stand out with creativity (this will encourage more backlinks)

Do you have any additional tips? If so feel free to share them in the comments section below.

If you’re not keen on doing your site’s SEO yourself, then check out our wide range of affordable SEO services specifically for small business owners.

Mobile Friendly? 4 free ways to make your website mobile

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

Mobile Friendly websites- unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would have heard about the phenomenal sales of the new iPhone by Apple.

It sold approximately 1 million handsets in 3 days – which is approximately 231 handsets per second.

Now stop and think what that means for website marketing. There’s no prizes for realizing that a mobile version of your website is now becoming more important than ever.

I understand it might still be hard for you to justify the expense of getting a professional mobile version of your website designed, but here’s 5 FREE ways to get a mobile version up.

1. Mofuse:

If your website produces an RSS feed, then Mofuse could be the answer. It takes your sites RSS feed and turns it into a mobile friendly website – perfect for viewing on a myriad of handsets.

2. Mippin

Mippin is another free tool that allows you to turn your website’s RSS feed into your new mobile site. While it’s a simple tool to use, it lacks a lot of the customization that mofuse offers.

3. Wirenode

Don’t have an RSS feed, then Wirenode might be a better option. While it offers some handy templates to get you started, there isn’t much in the way of customization. It does however offer some basic analytics to track performance.

4. Google Mobile Optimizer

The quickest, easiest but possibly ugliest way to mobilize your site is thanks to Google. Just submit your URL and voila – you have a mobile friendly site. But forget about customization – it’s not for those with fancy mobile website aspirations. But heck – it works!

So if you want to ensure you have a mobile friendly version of your website for all your new iPhone carrying customers, without the hefty redesign costs, you’ve got 5 easy ways to get started.

If you try out the tools, make sure to link to your new mobile website via our comments section below so we call all take a look.

Attracting more visitors with content and community

July 08, 2009 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Uncategorized

Dr Search writes about speeding up your business in a slowdown.

Jack Herrick, the founder of wikiHow.com talks about attracting new visitors to your site. Jack Herrick is the founder of wikiHow, a collaborative writing project to build the world’s largest, highest quality how-to manual.

wikiHow is a wiki, which means that any visitor to the site can create or edit wikiHow articles. wikiHow is currently ranked as the 100th most popular site on the web by Quantcast, and receives over 16 million unique visitors each month.

Tip #1: Produce great content
The first tip is obvious, but it’s also the most important. The articles on wikiHow vary widely in quality. We have some of the highest quality how-tos on the net, for example How to Hard Boil an Egg, and we also have some fairly ugly, unfinished drafts we call stubs.

Interestingly, the high-quality articles don’t get just a little more traffic than the mediocre articles, they get hundreds of times more.

When you can produce the single best page on the Internet on any given topic, people will find it and share it with their friends. Don’t settle for acceptable content, always strive to produce amazing content that your readers can’t resist sharing.

Tip #2: Learn to share

My second tip is more counterintuitive. To attract more readers to your website, consider putting your content under a Creative Commons license so it can be widely distributed.

Everything on wikiHow is under a license that allows other websites to publish and even modify or adapt our content for re-use on their sites. In fact, we have a button at the bottom of every article that allows webmasters to copy and paste the HTML right onto their site. Many webmasters are afraid to share their content, because they worry they will only be aiding competition.

By sharing, what you are really doing is encouraging your competitors to provide free advertising for you. The more people who see your content on other sites, the more likely they are to eventually come straight to you.

Tip #3: Make your community a team

Finally, I’d encourage you to allow real collaboration on your site. Lots of websites try to create online communities. To use a basketball analogy, most online communities are just groups of individuals shooting freethrows alone. On wiki websites, people play together as a real team.

Humans are hard wired to want to work in groups and collaborate. By allowing this to happen, you can create a passionate community of people that will build something bigger than any one person could accomplish on their own. And that will in time attract a large audience.

Hopefully Jack’s tips will help you come up with some new techniques to attract visitors to your site.

SEO- the upside of online marketing in a down economy

July 01, 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, please 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 capitalise 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 localised 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.