Keywords are Everywhere – 5 Things You Don’t Know About Keywords

October 14, 2014 Leave a comment

keywordsSometimes I make the mistake of assuming everyone has the same understanding of basic online marketing concepts I do. I’ll mention a phrase like “key words” and get an affirmative yet questioning nod. That’s when I realize I need to take it down a notch and explain a little better.

Simply stated, keywords are the foundation of everything you do online. They’re that important. In online marketing we say “content is king.” Content is made up of keywords. Even images and videos have keyword tags.

We use keywords every day, but sometimes don’t realize it. Every online search you do is composed of keywords. Everything you write is full of keywords. Resumes are sorted by the keywords stated in the document.

Knowing that keywords are the foundation, I always ask clients if they have a list of keywords. They rarely do. Even if they do, I always do new keyword research and provide that list to them for review.

What is a keyword? 

Let’s explain this first. Keywords are words used to find or categorize content. When you search for a name on Facebook or LinkedIn, those are the keywords. When you search for a product on Amazon, that is your keyword. When you look for an address on Google, those are your keywords or key phrases. Keywords are how visitors find you online.

What gets ignored?

Short words, letters or plurals. A, as, the and all get ignored by the search spiders. I’ll sometimes do keyword research and find an odd phrase with no modifiers. It’s because they have been stripped out. Using word modifiers can spice up headlines while still maintaining keyword focus. For example, the title “How to do Keyword Research” would get indexed as “Keyword Research.”

Root words

I’ll sometimes have business owners tell me they have 500,000 (or some other ridiculous number) keywords they manage. Why? Search engines look at root words. Search spiders look at what comes first in a phrase when establishing what is the root. I focus on core root words for my clients. The long-tail results will follow.

Long tails

Speaking of long tails… What are they? A root keyword phrase could be “real estate.” A long-tail could be “find real estate in salt lake city.” See the difference? Web search has been around long enough that most users are sophisticated enough to add modifiers in their search. Modifiers reveal intent.

Search intent

The most popular search term for real estate in Utah is “Utah real estate.” No surprises there. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the searchers intent. People search for two reasons; to purchase or to research. “Utah real estate statistics” reveals a much different goal than “Utah real estate for sale.” The more specific a search is, the more likely a consumer is ready to buy. A search like “Holladay townhouses for sale 84124″ is very insightful.

Summary

All of these are considerations when I perform keyword research and they’re very helpful in weeding out non-relevant terms. It’s even more critical when running paid search campaigns. Keyword research provides market research as well. Google’s keyword research tool tells me how many searches are made each month, what the competition pays for those keywords and how competitive that keyword is in the marketplace.

Research needs to be updated as searches change depending on season, product life cycle and market trends. Keyword research helps determine your site structure and content. That research translates to offline marketing as well. Keyword research tells you what your videos, brochures, Facebook posts, white papers, tweets and blog posts need to be about. Because that’s what people are searching for. That is what interests your prospects and customers. Provide the content they seek and sales will follow.

Marketing Analytics and Tracking – Do It Now!

October 13, 2014 Leave a comment

marketing trackingThough I shouldn’t be surprised, I still am when I talk to a business about their marketing tracking. John Wanamaker is credited with saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” With online marketing, that problem can be easily solved, yet many businesses don’t do it.

I learned early on with this business how critical tracking is. What I do is intangible until it produces results. That doesn’t mean I’m not working and doing things. Reporting gives my clients something tangible to see while the effects of my work build.

A huge challenge I keep running in to is the lack of existing tracking. Every thing you do online can be tracked, yet so many businesses don’t take advantage of it. You can track web traffic, keywords, search rankings. You can track traffic from social media. You can track phone calls. All of this is practically automatic! A little prep work and maybe a little money is all you need. Then you won’t waste half your advertising.

Now I’m going to share three tracking methods you should have in place right now.

Analytics

Analytics track everything that goes on with your website. From the number of visitors, to the pages visited, analytics tracking software will tell you everything about your website. Google Analytics is robust, easy to install and free. If you don’t have it, get it now.

Some businesses need better software than Google and it’s out there. The most used premium analytics package is Adobe’s SiteCatalyst.

Tracking Links

People often ask me how social media can be tracked. Using analytics is one way. You can see which social media channels are providing traffic. The tools within each channel are another way. Likes, comments, re-tweets and follows are all signals of engagement. But if you want to be more specific, you’ll want tracking links. I provided a pretty solid tutorial here.

A tracking link doesn’t even have to go to a page. It can go to an image or a file. You can place specific tracking links for each ad campaign you run. Tracking links are even usable for offline advertising! Do you have any print advertising or billboards? Use a specific URL like http://www.yourdomain/adchannel or a URL shortener that’s customized. You can track every bit of advertising you have!

What about phone calls? I’m glad you asked.

Tracking Phone Numbers

Phone intensive industries should have tracking numbers on all campaigns. If you have a phone number on your website, it should be unique so you know where that call came from. Dynamic Interactive offers customized 800 and local phone numbers for tracking. Their interactive menu allows you to track calls, record calls, offer voice mail and mark inbound calls so even the smallest of businesses can answer professionally. Any advertising you do with a phone number should be tracked in this manner.

Sales Tracking

Once you have marketing tracking in place, you must have a system to track leads. Otherwise true return on investment can never be calculated. It’s also helpful to figure out if you’re missing sales opportunities due to poor follow-up of leads.

A business really doesn’t know how its marketing is doing unless proper tracking is in place. Website tracking analytics, tracking links, tracking phone numbers and sales tracking are the foundation of measuring your marketing and advertising. You’ll never have to wonder what part of your advertising is being wasted if you prepare with tracking.

Email Marketing Tactics – Other Factors

October 13, 2014 Leave a comment

email-marketing-tacticsIn the past two articles, I’ve covered two aspects of email marketing; open rates and click-through rates. Today, I’m going to discuss some other factors including bounce rates and opt-outs.

There are so many variables in an email marketing campaign and so many ways to optimize. The key to success is to keep testing and keep sending campaigns.

Digital marketers may argue what the most crucial part of a successful email campaign is. Is it the subject line? Is it the copy in the email? Is it the layout? I suggest it’s the list you’re mailing to. People who know your brand are going to be more likely to respond than those who don’t. That’s why cultivating and maintaining contact lists is so important. Yet I talk to real estate agents and loan officers all the time who don’t do this!

It’s important to have segmented lists and targeted lists. The segments can be whatever you like them to be. For instance past customers or people who got on your list from your website. I’m segmenting my list with people who have clicked the link in the email because now I can follow-up.

All of this list management will improve your email campaign’s success by increasing open and click-through rates. It will also decrease bounce rates.

Bounce Rates

Bounce rates are simply emails that aren’t delivered. There are two types; hard and soft. A hard bounce is a completely non-deliverable email. It could be a bad address, an expired domain or some other reason. That email isn’t good and should be removed from your list. Soft bounces are different. They’re simply not deliverable right now. Again, there are many reasons for that.

Here’s an example of a campaign I re-sent on Saturday:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

When I first sent it last week, there were 328 soft bounces. On Saturday only 78 didn’t go through. When an email is sent impacts open rates and it also impacts deliverability.

Opt outs and Spam

The other way your list will prune itself is through opt outs. Subscribers simply remove themselves from the list. It’s good because you’ll have a cleaner list of people who want to hear from you, but it sometimes makes marketers feel bad. Don’t feel bad! This is a numbers game. Just make sure your emails provide something of value. You can control your opt outs by sending quality emails that have value for your target audience. If you have a lot of unsubscribers, you’ll know you need to make adjustments.

Getting flagged for spam is a little more to be concerned with. You want to minimize this as much as possible. If your spam percentage is too high, your email sending service could freeze or terminate your account. If you’re sending from your domain email (do not do this!!!), your web host could terminate your account.

There are a lot of factors at play in a successful email campaign; open rates, click-through rates, design, copywriting, compiling and segmenting a list, deliverability and getting flagged for spam. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of testing and sending to come up with the right combination to provide a positive return on investment. While some factors seem out of your control, please realize you can have an impact on all of them.

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Email Marketing Tactics – Inciting Action

October 10, 2014 1 comment

emailmarketingrealestateA few days ago, I talked about open rates in email marketing. Certainly that’s a key step in a successful campaign. But then what? You want your target audience to take action! It could be clicking a link. It could be filling out a form. It could be watching a video, making a call or buying a product. How do you get your email list to do that and what factors are involved.

Let’s take a look at the recent campaigns I ran.

My goal was pretty simple; to share a guide that solves a problem to my target audience. There are lots of ways to communicate that in an email. I wanted to be brief and direct and easily share the information. My key points were they needed to see the guide and it was free. So I uploaded the guide to my server as a pdf and sent a brief email for them to view it.

If you remember from the previous article, this campaign had a pretty good open rate of 16.47%. The click-through rate on it…the number of people who clicked the link to see the document was 6.11% or 45 people. I lost 94% of my list! Ouch.

Remember I said I improved my design on the second campaign which had a different recipient list? Its click-through rate did worse! Even though it had a better open rate, the click-through rate was 5.04% or 36 people.

The last campaign was the worst on on opens and clicks. Five people saw my guide in this group. Despite these numbers, I still consider this to be a successful campaign. Why?

With a little effort, not much time and zero cost, I got 86 people to read the information I wanted them to. On each of these campaigns, the email software also shows how many emails were forwarded. I don’t know whether these forwards were for future reminders or sent to different people, but there were 117 forwards between the three campaigns. And someone contacted me from the campaign which is the ultimate goal.

My follow up on this campaign will be to contact the people who clicked the link in another campaign. I’ll also resend using what I learned from the open rates. Things I can tweak in the message include larger links to read the guide and testing the black template which outperformed with the white template.

 

 

Email Marketing Tactics – 3 Factors

October 8, 2014 2 comments

emailmarketingSome people think email marketing has lost value with the rise of social media. Recent studies show it has better return on investment than social but businesses are still moving away from it. That’s good news for people who still use it. Less competition!

Today I’m going to discuss three factors that influence email marketing results. For this business, I’ve been testing email campaigns to Realtors using different subject lines, offers, content and timing. Let’s look at a few results.

Assumptions – I’m assuming tracking is in place. With anti-spam laws the way they are, it is dangerous and costly to just BCC a campaign from your email client. Using a third party service limits your liability and provides tracking.

Factor 1 – Subject Lines

This is what people see in their inbox. If it’s not catchy or specific, your open rates will suffer. Consider the following example:

 

emailmarketingsubjectline

Click to enlarge

I mailed two separate campaigns to the same list. My not so great subject line of “Free Marketing Evaluation – Our Gift to You” got a 2.5% open rate. That’s not very good, especially considering the alternate below it got a nearly 4% open rate. My next campaign to the same list got a 16.47% open rate. In email marketing that’s a home run! The subject line was “Worried About the Zillow/Trulia Merger?” The difference was three fold; it asked a question, it was timely to a recent industry change, it exposed a pain point.

Factor 2 – Design

With that success in the books, I decided to improve. In my haste to get the guide out, I threw together the email. This time I used a better designed template, a different list of my target market and the same subject line.

emailmarketingdesign

Click to enlarge

That home run from before just became a grand slam. The open rate improved to 20.22%! Was it the design? No. Design has no impact on the open rate because it’s not seen before the email is opened! It was the list. This was a new list that had never seen anything from me.

Factor 3 – Timing

At this point I was pretty pleased with myself. I had another never mailed to list of my target market and I was really hoping to make a big impact on this mailing. I had considered sending it out on a Saturday afternoon with a different subject line, but I didn’t want to tweak something I didn’t feel needed to be changed.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

So I scheduled it to go out first thing Monday morning. The results were alarming! Even though this was an exact duplicate of the “home run” email campaign, the open rate was a disappointing 6.7%. This is still much better than the other campaigns I’d sent, but there was a huge drop off. Both the other campaigns were sent later in the week in the afternoon and evening.

Takeaways

Open rates are just one part of a successful email campaign. Optimizing your open rates improves your chances for branding, leads and sales. Like direct mail, the biggest challenge with email marketing is getting people to see your message. Test and retest your subject lines so you know what works with your target audience. Once you’ve found a successful strategy, build upon it.

Keep refining your email lists. Every campaign you send eliminates dead email addresses and people who don’t want your message. That means your stats will improve, but you have to keep sending mail.

Finally, timing is everything whether it’s social media posts or email. Once you find a good time, target your marketing around it.

Unknown Search Results Make SEO Harder

October 6, 2014 1 comment

unknownresultsGoogle has been encrypting keyword searches for several years now. That makes web searching more private for users, but a lot more complicated for web marketers. In a blog post from 2011, Google claimed,

Over the next few weeks, many of you will find yourselves redirected to https://www.google.com (note the extra “s”) when you’re signed in to your Google Account. This change encrypts your search queries and Google’s results page. This is especially important when you’re using an unsecured Internet connection, such as a WiFi hotspot in an Internet cafe.

Some controversy developed at the time, but as secured browsing has grown, I hardly see search keywords in my reports any more. Part of the controversy has to do with the fact Google continues to display specific keyword searches for its ad program; AdWords. It makes sense to use secured browsing when surfing on a public connection. I’m just not sure I can buy into allowing paid advertisers access when website operators typically keep their organic search reports private.

Unfortunately for small businesses, it’s changes like this where having a professional working for you can be of benefit. There are some pretty complicated solutions detailed here that I won’t go into in this article.

What I will go into are two straightforward workarounds that can still provide the information you’re looking for.

The first is to examine user behavior on your site’s pages. Pages that get traffic are typically ranked. Digging a little will tell you which keywords are on that page and you can have a general idea of which keywords are bringing visitors to your site.

But what if you have a campaign or publicized link out there? Could that skew your results? Yes it could! Which leads me to step two…

ALWAYS use a tracking code for links you promote. What’s a tracking code? It’s a simple bit of php you put on the end of a URL. For example this is the link to the Guide I’m promoting:

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf

This is the same link with tracking code:

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=test

It’s the “?” that initiates the code. You can put whatever you want after that. I use src to indicate a source and test can be anything you want. If I posted this to Facebook I could use -

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=fb

For Twitter -

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=tw

If you use multiple posts to the same source you can track them in more detail by adding a numeric code or date like this -

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=fb1

http://www.swabymedia.com/downloads/ZTGuide.pdf?src=fb100614

BEFORE you publish the tracking code be sure to test it! You don’t want to spend time or money publicizing a link for it to go to your 404 not found page.

I have been an advocate of tracking codes for a very long time. Google’s encryption of keywords is going to force smart marketers to have to use them 100% of the time. Or you can just buy ads…

Social Media for Real Estate – Ranking Test

October 3, 2014 Leave a comment

The recent announcement of the merger between Zillow and Trulia has a lot of real estate agents concerned. So I did a little research to see if real estate agents could compete post merger. The short answer is they can. You can find the long answer and ways how here.

While I was researching the guide, I decided to do a little test. Could I make a real estate listing post on a Facebook business page and have it show up in a Google search result? My hypothesis was it would get ranked. A few days ago I checked Google to find out. Here’s what I found.

fbserp

I was a little surprised this site showed up. I have feeds set so when I publish something to Facebook, it also goes to Twitter. My Twitter feed shows up here on my right sidebar.

real estate marketing

The entire Twitter post showed up as well. So did another page from this site. That one post on Facebook got three search results on Google.

fbserp2

But I haven’t found the Facebook post itself to be ranked…and it was the source for the content.

My takeaways from this experiment follow-

1. My hypothesis was the Facebook post would get ranked. It didn’t…yet. (I’ll provide an update if that changes.)

2. Social media posts do get ranked. Even if I had no followers on Twitter, a thoughtfully written tweet would get ranked.

3. There is so much power in syndication. I made one post that went multiple places and got ranked at least three times. Every serious online business should be doing this! It’s one of the reasons I said in my guide that every real estate agent should be using an IDX feed.

 

 

 

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