Feb 8, 2009

Moving to New Location

I'm moving the site to a new location. It's still called Semmersion, but it's a bigger and roomier place with seperate pages for blog posts, video, and all kinds of stuff.

Check out the new Semmersion

For all of your hybrid and electric car needs, check out Collective Interest

Dec 19, 2008

Display Ads Boost Search Performance

Well, after finishing the post below, I went looking for other things to blog about.

Not only did I find it, the article was written by Jeff Campbell, a former instructor at the University of Chicago. It dovetailed perfectly with my aforementioned need to rejuvenate search campaigns for Collective Interest. His topic is on how display ads are boosting search performance.

Here's a snippet:
Eariler this week, eMarketer finally provided data to what marketers have known in their gut all along: Display boosts Search Performance.
"Search clickers exposed to display advertising were 22% more likely to produce a sale than those who were not exposed."

While these stats may lead to increased Display budgets, I ask you to consider the second nugget of goodness this study/article provides, the U.S. averages & projections of digital budget breakouts:

When I clicked through to the story Jeff was referring to, I saw this awe-inspiring chart, that lays out my strategy for how to move forward with Collective Interest search campaigns:

Collective Interest Test:: Reading the Stats

As I've been telling you, I'm testing campaigns for my website Collective Interest. It's a site on hybrid cars and solar energy. I had experienced some success once I got serious and started to concentrate on the AdWords and AdSense campaigns. I wanted to figure out whether a 49-state strategy was the best thing for me to do, or should I concentrate on areas of the country where hybrids were already hot.

My budget is meager, up to $12.00/day. I'm paying for this out of my own pocket.

After looking at the numbers, I decided to go with the segment called "Collective Interest Good States". This campaign had the 30 best states/metro areas for hybrid car sales.

After looking at the numbers, here's my decision structure:

"Good" represented 34% of the cost, gave me 34% of the clicks, 45% of the impressions, and an average ad position of 3.1.
"Control" represented 34% of the cost, gave me 35% of the clicks, 22% of the impressions, and an average ad position of 4.4.
"Underperforming" represented 32% of the cost, gave me 31% of the clicks, 32% of the impressions, and an average ad position of 3.0.

To recap, "Control" was a 49-state campaign, and "Underperforming" was the 22 worst states for hybrid car sales. All 3 campaigns had the same demographics, the same keywords, etc.

Since this is a content-only campaign, impressions were a little bit more important to me. My ad position was basically the same between "Good" and "Underperforming". "Underperforming" cost less, but really didn't perform with the clicks.

With that settled, the next test is search-based. Previous to the content test, I found that content was giving me clicks, while search was giving me impressions. For every 10 content clicks I received, I got .5 search clicks. Search left me with abysmal ad positions.

So I went to content only.

Now I'd like to look at how to rejuvenate search. I may not have the money to make it work properly, which wouldn't be bad; because it would give me an idea of the threshold I need to be at in order to make it work.

I'll let you know when that one starts up.

Dec 17, 2008

The AdWords Phone Seminar: My Takeaways

A little more meat than I thought. Where it helped me was in shifting my thinking about keyword campaigns.

My background is in print production, an industry that's very old. Not a lot of ground-breaking innovation there. In fact the big movers in the industry are the consolidators, the companies that find ways to commoditize and standardize services. SEM/SEO is very new and ever-changing, and I've met very few people in this industry who intended to be there right out of college. It strikes me as an industry built on people who were handed the company website and told to "see what you can do."

The seminar reminded me to look for ways to make radical change. To look at elements of my campaign, break them down, and find ways to move beyond what Google or other industry leaders says is standard and acceptable.

So I'm a bit more rejuvenated.

My SEM Reccomendations for a Printer

A good friend of mine started a printing company 20 years ago. In 2007, he was enjoying 8-digit sales. He survived the post 9/11 crash where others didn't, and I must say I was very happy to see his success.

However, the current credit crunch is a slightly different animal. Where 9/11 dried up his business, the credit crunch dried it up AND took away his ability to get access to credit lines. His business was being squeezed, and he reached out to me for advice.

Remember, I'm a newbie to SEM/SEO. But I've got 15+ years experience in business. The Semmersion blog is a way for me to share my journey as a career-changer as well as SEM newcomer.

After talking with my friend for awhile, and looking at his current web efforts, I proposed a plan built around his current web efforts. Naturally, I can't tell you all the juicy details, but here's what I can share:

1) The plan was not a reinvention of the wheel. For this company to add ecommerce/SEM required them to make some changes to an existing landing page of their website, and communicate these changes to their customers.
2) The second part of the plan called for the company to begin a small online business, and guidelines on how to grow and expand it.
3) The final part reccommended how to integrate the new ecommerce with the existing sales force and customer service staff.

SEM/SEO is a way for experienced businesses and new ones to take advantage of what the web can offer. Our current economic problems will ebb. For me, the question is will businesses be ready to go once the economy turns? My friend's business will, because by the time the tides change, he will have learned all the lessons of moving into ecommerce, and will be better positioned to take advantage of the new environment.

Dec 16, 2008

My First Experience with Site Problems

I had a blog from 2003-2005. And just picked it back up in 2008.

I never had a problem with the site being down. Until today.

Today's test---out the door. Money lost that can't be replaced. A feeling of agony, and anger at Network Solutions.

..but for just $175/year, they'll monitor my site 24/7.


Test Update

The test I spoke of yesterday is in full swing now. I'll talk more about trends closer to the end of the week. What is striking me right now is how the control group gets off to a blinding start in the morning; but the test group for underperforming states comes on strong toward the end of the day.

The "day" being 5am-6pm. Why so short? Google Analytics tells that I get less visits (8% of total) after 7 pm. Today I'll configure a report in AdWords to break out impressions and clicks by hour of day for comparison.

The other thing that is striking is with the relationship between the AdWords and AdSense clicks and CTR. I'm digging in a little more to find the relationship. It would be great if Analytics, Adwords and AdSense were rolled up into one package. That would make it easier to see relationships.

But it's not, which is fine.

Trying a Free AdWords Seminar

So, in a weak moment-as well as out of curiosity, I signed up for a "free" AdWords tele-seminar. It's 90 minutes, beginning at 11 am CST. I'll tell you from who in a later post. I need to figure out a good way to say it's crap just in case it turns out to be.

But based on one thing I saw in a post signup download was what the guy called "peel and stick", meaning to take your underperforming terms and put them in their own separate ad group. The interesting thing for me is that I had done that, but not on a consistent basis.

It is very interesting how a newbie can do things the veterans say is necessary and not know.

Dec 14, 2008

3 Cool Marketing Reports

SEM is pretty much about sticking your hands in the mud of individual url's.  Say goodbye to thinking of sites as individual entities.  Well not a total goodbye.  SEM is a lot about assigning a value to individual sites on a list of url's, keeping the "good ones" depending on your goal, and excluding the rest from your ad, site, etc.

The numbers will lead to trends.  With trends come ideas for improvement.  And so forth.

Anyway back to the topic.  I saw this article on marketing reports in SEOmoz, and decided to pass it along to you.  When I was interning, I didn't see reports like these, and I must say it's led me to play around with reporting for my site as well.

Here's a snippet on Impression Share reports.  If you make these hourly, then you'll start to see how visitors come to you.  

This is the report that you can print out, make all pretty, point to and say “LOOK! I need more money!” I know … that works in all companies right now, right? Well with this report you can show how much traffic your campaign is missing out on due to bids and position. It comes out of the Campaign/Account Performance report. The trick is to turn off all the other data points that you usually see and focus on what you are missing.

Here are the instructions for creating this report.

Here is a look at what you might see. This report shows that this account lost almost 60% of traffic due to their ranking and 2.37% based on budget. They take in about 38% of the total impressions their account could be seeing. Not good. But in a slow economy, some of this might make sense. The report only gives you part of it, the interpretation of the data is why you have a job. *wink* 

The SEO Pyramid-On Video

Cool video from SEOmoz on the SEO pyramid.  All I can tell you is that you need to build links.  

Like the Song Said, Been Gone Too Long

Sorry for not posting for awhile.  I had an internship that ended.  It's the holidays.  Blah...blah..blah...all excuses. 

So I'm back.

One interesting thing I've been working on is Collective Interest Green (www.collectiveinterest.us). I've managed to optimize it for hybrid cars, electric cars and solar energy.  Well, I mean I'm fighting the daily fight to provide content and terms relevant to those topics.  

Anyway, my AdSense campaigns are doing quite well.  In a macro way.  When I started the blog, I played around with AdWords and AdSense.  Didn't really dig in too deep, just enough.  Once I found that spending a certain amount of money in AdWords unleashes AdSense revenue (about $7 bucks/day for this site), then I've really started to use those SEO and SEM lessons to make a little scratch with the site.

The most recent thing I've done is to set up a test.  Here's the situation I'm in.  Advertising across 49 states (Utah isn't a good state for hybrid and electric), I get a lot of impressions.  A lot.  My CTR was never better than 1%.  But on the AdSense side, anywhere from 3-7% of site visitors were clicking on the ads.

So I need to increase the quality of my impressions and try to get that CTR into the 2-3% range. To that end, I found a heatmap of hybrid car sales by state.  I set up 3 campaigns with identical adgroups.  The control campaign is a replication of the original 49-state campaign.  I did a round of keyword optimization, and tinkered with demographics as well.  The second campaign, called "underperforming states" is targeted toward the states where hybrid car sales lag.  Other than the locations, this campaign is identical to control.  The final campaign is called "good states". Again it's identical to the control campaign; but it targets states and metro areas that enjoy good sales of hybrid cars.

What I'm trying to determine is to what extent underperforming states contribute to my traffic, and the corresponding click through rates.  I'd like to see more people in Montana buy hybrid cars, but I'm not sure if I want to pay extra to get them to my site.

What I need to know from the good states is how much traffic they represent, and whether or not their clicks truly contribute to my revenue.  It's not out of the realm of thought that visitors from underperforming states click on ads.  Since visitors from good states have more dealers and people driving hybrids, they have access to more information; especially live information.  This might mean they spend more time with content and don't click on ads as much.

Anyway, the test will fully deploy on Monday.  

Nov 17, 2008

Linkbuilding Without Drama

This is a good article from SEOmoz. I've been in contact with someone who needs some linkbuilding, and I'm happy to do it (especially since I've got SOOOO much on my plate). So I've been checking out some new-fangled ways to build those all-important inbound links.

Here's a snippet from the article:

Matt Cutts' webspam team, a segment of Google's broader Search Quality division, has made their position on buying and selling links for the purposes of boosting search engine rankings reasonably clear over the past 3 years. The practice is anathema - viewed as unacceptable because it infringes on the engine's ability to use links as an editorial signal of importance for search rankings. Both manual penalties and algorithmic filtering are applied as solutions, damaging the rankings of sites that buy as well as the ability for sites who sell to pass on link equity.

Naturally, this has led many individuals, sites and businesses seeking higher rankings to employee tactics that are plausibly removed from the direct exchange of capital for links, and while link brokers and link sales still thrive, they do so in an ever-increasingly paranoid & underground realm so as not to risk discovery and devaluation. In this post, I'll walk through examples of some of the more valuable and directly applicable methods to leverage finances for link growth while dodging Google's webspam edicts.

It's a quick read, 8 easy things to try. Check it out.

SEO Shortcuts, or Plagarism

Only in college are we required to reinvent the wheel. What am I talking about? In this case SEO. For someone new like me, there's a strong inclination to scour competitor websites for keywords and phrases. Hit SpyFu with their url so I can get a little info on what the industry keywords are.

At times I feel guilty. But at other times, I recall the lessons I learned in business. A long time ago a boss told me, "someone already plowed this ground, why not take advantage?"

Which is powerful. Less powerful if you're lazy, because all you'll never come up with something on your own, or use your wits to refine something to perfection. A lot more powerful if you see it as a safe place to start and go on to develop better.

I bring this up because I saw this on mining the competition at Marketing Pilgrim:

SEOs will generally kick-off an optimization campaign by examining analytics, performing keyword research, checking on-page elements, analyzing links, and so on and so forth. However, there exists an extremely useful tactic that is often underutilized or left out completely from the SEO’s arsenal. What am I talking about? Ladies and gentleman, I present to you… Competitive intelligence.

What is competitive intelligence? As it relates to search marketing, I would define it as the process of performing research to gather information about your competitors’ websites and analyzing that data for the purpose of extracting methods used and formulating strategies that you may use to optimize your own website.

Competitive intelligence can open your eyes to many things, including:

  • What your competitors are doing.
  • How you compare to your competitors.
  • Predict what your competitors will be doing.
The article goes to look at keywords and link analysis as well.

So I don't feel so bad wanting to look at what the competitor is doing, as long as I'm going to use it as a base to improve. However, my college professors would have called it plagarizing.

From the Mouth of Google: Adobe Flash is Trackable

My instructor told me that the ability to track Flash was coming. And I believed him. And today is the day that Google and Adobe made the announcement.

From the Google Analytics Blog, trackable Flash (it's a gas, gas, gas-with apologies to the Stones):

Today, at the Adobe MAX Conference in San Francisco, in a joint collaboration with our friends at Adobe and a few ace third party developers, we announced a simplified solution for tracking Flash content for everyone, called Google Analytics Tracking For Adobe Flash.

Working at Google over the past couple of years, I've had the opportunity to work with with many of our top clients to implement Google Analytics, who have found the power to identify and analyze trends on their web sites highly useful. But, one of the most common implementation challenges has been tracking Flash content on their pages. In the past, Flash tracking was not provided out of the box, and every implementation had to be customized. Moreover, there was a lack of standards, and new developers who tracked Flash had to create their own processes to get it working. With this launch, tracking your Flash content has never been simpler.

With this, you may see a resurgance of the great big all-Flash sites. After all, Flash is really cool. And if you can track it, there's no reason to keep the creativity from going in that direction.

Anyway, check out the details at Google Analytics Blog

Nov 15, 2008

The Black Hats v. The Google SEO Guide

As you should know, Google came out with a guide for effective SEO. If you didn't hear about it, look down a few posts and check it out.

Well the black hats are none too impressed. From SEO Black Hat:

...What if, instead, we did a case study?

On the one hand we will take a new site and follow Google’s SEO Starter Guide to the letter. We will limit ourselves only to the techniques discussed therein. (Note: there is virtually nothing in the starter guide about link building).

On the other hand, we will take a new site and do the EXACT OPPOSITE of every point of Google’s Quality Guidelines.

So, in the 2nd case:

* We will Make the pages primarily for search engines, not for users. We will deceive our users and present different content to the search engines than we display to the users (known as cloaking)

* We will Embrace tricks intend to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is that we would never want a competitor to know what we are doing. Another test is “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” The answer will be an emphatic “NO!” on both points.

* We will participate in link schemes designed to increase our site’s Page Rank. In particular, we will link to other web spammers and “bad neighborhoods”.

* We will use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages.

* We will employ both hidden text and hidden links.

* We will cloak and use sneaky redirects.....

This is a topic thread to keep an eye on. If the guidelines were more an instruction manual for the average SEO to succeed, then it's a good thing as well. If by publishing the guidelines it means that Google is officially beginning to crack down on Black Hat SEO tactics, then it means a sea change for SEO. If black hat tactics are blocked and not allowed to succeed, then SEO has changed forever.