SEO and Social Media: Can You Be Number One?

Last week we gave a presentation to the Franchise Council of Australia’s Western Australian State Conference. There were approximately one hundred delegates & sponsors who attended the event on the 18th of May 2010 at the Burswood Convention Centre in Perth. The conference was entitled Kicking Goals: Making Sure You Hit the Mark, and by all accounts it seemed to be a resounding success.

Living Online was initially invited to conduct a 90 minute workshop on SEO and Social Media, so I took a little creative liberty with the brief and expanded out the presentation to include coverage of Viral Marketing, Analytics, and Augmented Reality.

We’ve been asked to upload the slides, so we hope you can take some time to review the presentation along with the transcript. Also, feel free to leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!

Transcript

Slide 1: Title

Slide 2: Introduction & Aim: By the end of this workshop you should have a high level understanding of search engine optimisation, social media, and viral marketing, and how these can best be utilised to help promote a business or organisation.

Slide 3: Living Online is a web solutions company. We focus on the three mantras of web success – more visitors, more conversions and better websites. Our range of services includes: search engine optimization, viral marketing, video production, web design, social media marketing, conversion rate optimisation, and analytics and reporting. Living Online is the sister company of Living Media, a new entrant into the online media space, with an existing track record in film and television production.

Slide 4: It’s important to understand the context of this presentation by first developing an understanding of the current web marketing environment.

Slide 5: Global search volume is growing at a staggering speed, having doubled between 2007 & 2009, as depicted by seomoz.org. In fact, given the speed of this growth this graph is already a little outdated, and the latest statistics from comscore.com show that in December of 2009 the global search volume was at more than 131 billion searches per month – a 46% increase from a year earlier. The web properties represented on this graph encompass all of the real estate of each of the respective players, not just the search engines. For example, Google Sites includes sites such as Google Maps, and Google Books, in addition to each of the country specific Google search engines. Baidu and NHN Corporation are both significant players in the Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean search markets.

Slide 6: This growth in online activity is also reflected in the growth in e-commerce spend in the USA, as the emarketer.com statistics compiled by seomoz.org show; there has been a two-fold increase in online expenditure over the past 4 years.

Slide 7: The number of internet users in the world has surpassed one billion people according to comscore.com. Internet penetration to Australia was 80.1% at 17.2 million users as of December 2008 according to miniwatts.com, and emarketer.com predicts that the number of internet users in the world will reach approximately 1.7 billion people by 2013.

Slide 8: Some of the statistics on this slide are a few years old, but given that the significance would only have become more pronounced, the numbers are still relevant. In terms of social media engagement - of the fortune 100 companies, 54 percent are on Twitter, 32 percent maintain a blog, and 29 percent are on Facebook (sandiegometro.com). The social media age has been upon us for a while - a 2006 study showed that 38 percent of 12 to 14 year olds had an online profile. Sixty-one percent of 12 to 17 year olds, said they use social-networking sites to send messages to friends, and 42 percent said they do so every day (cnn.com) – and it’s not hard to imagine how much these statistics have exploded in the time since then. Google is personalizing your search results based on your recent search engine queries, your location, and your recent search activity (searchenginewatch.com). Total US Internet ad spending predicted to increase to $28.5 billion in 2010, a 10.9% growth rate. Video ad spending predicted to rise by 47% in 2010 to reach $1.25 billion (emarketer.com).

Slide 9: What is SEO?

Slide 10: Search engine optimisation definition: The process of optimising both the on-page and off-page factors of a website to maximise the amount of traffic delivered through the organic search engine medium.

Slide 11: Part of the search engine optimisation process involves increasing the target websites organic ranking position on the search engine results page. On this diagram it’s important to note that the area highlighted in green contains the organic search engine results which can be influenced through SEO, and the area highlighted in red contains the paid or sponsored listings such as Google Adwords.

Slide 12: The other part of the search engine optimisation process involves increasing the number of terms for which the target website achieves rankings.

Slide 13: Google History

Slide 14: In the beginning, there were many search engines all vying for supremacy…

Slide 15: Now the share of search in Western markets is dominated by three main engines, where Yahoo and Bing play a second fiddle role to the larger presence of Google. How did this become the case?

Slide 16: Well to start with the World Wide Web was crawled and indexed by robots that relied heavily upon trusting the validity of the information that they found at each individual URL, including interpreting information provided by site owners through meta keyword mechanisms or similar. This worked reasonably well when the site was being genuine…

Slide 17: However, as anyone who can remember conducting a search with AltaVista, Lycos, or WebCrawler in the early days can testify, it was highly vulnerable to the abuse of spammers. Keyword stuffing, cloaking, and other malicious techniques were rife, and for the user it was sometimes a truly arduous experience to try and find what they were looking for.

Slide 18: The founders of Google – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – brought order to the internet search world with the advent of the PageRank algorithm in 1996. This mathematical formula allowed for the importance of each internet page to be measured by considering a hyperlink from one page to another page as a vote in favour of the target page’s importance. We can also display this mathematical PageRank formula in a different way…

Slide 19: There were other signals involved in the calculation of PageRank, such as the importance of the voting page, the anchor text of the link, and the age of the domain (to name a few), but nevertheless the idea of the link graph was the foundation behind the Google search technology.

Slide 20: So with the advent of Google and PageRank there were now two primary sides to the search process. The Google search engine utilized both the information it found on the site, and the information it found on other sites, to formulate the search results.

Slide 21: PageRank technology allowed Google to provide search results that were generally far more relevant to users than other search engines, and this contributed to Google’s rise to prominence around the turn of the century.

Slide 22: Activity: We’ve so far shown some of the history of Google, and highlighted one of the remarkable and unique things about Google. Now as a precursor to some of the other activities later in the workshop, take a moment to write down some things that are remarkable or unique about your organisation?

Slide 23: Why do SEO?

Slide 24: The first big reason for doing SEO is the disparity between the high percentage of search clicks attributed to organic search engine rankings, versus the relatively low percentage attributed to pay per click (PPC) listings. As the data by enquisite.com & graph by seomoz.org shows, organic rankings attract 89.47% of the click throughs, whereas paid listings garner only 10.53% of the click throughs. [Update: If I was to do this presentation over again I would have also mentioned that Vanessa Fox is cited as saying that 56% of search results return no advertisements at all - see her new book “Marketing in the Age of Google”].

Slide 25: As this graph from seobook.com shows, the top position ranking in Google receives approximately 42.13% of the organic click through traffic, and then there is a four-fold drop to the second position which receives 11.9%; somewhat of an exponential decrease. Further, the first page receives a total of 89.82% of the organic search traffic. This graph has been constructed from search data for almost 10 million searches that was leaked by AOL in 2006.

Slide 26: In 2004 Cornell University conducted a study of user behaviour in Google that shows even more pronounced concentration in the upper stratosphere of the search results. As the graph by seoresearcher.com shows, the first positions and second positions attract 56.36% and 13.45% of the organic click throughs respectively, and that the first page receives 98.9%. This study was conducted by studying the click patterns of 50 people, which is a much smaller sample size than the AOL data, but nevertheless is statistically significant, and perhaps presents a more accurate picture given that the subject of the study was Google, as opposed to extrapolating conclusions about Google from AOL data.

Slide 27: This pattern of high click through concentration amongst the top few ranking positions can be further examined with this eye tracking study from enquiro.com. The image depicts what is known as the Google Triangle, where the top ranked positions receive both the highest amount of attention, and the highest level of click throughs. The levels dwindle rapidly as the user goes down the search results. The paid listings on the right hand side struggle to get a look in.

Slide 28: As this graph modelled on sempo.org data by seomoz.org shows, there is also a high degree of inequity in marketing spend between natural and sponsored listings. The data is for the USA search market, but it’s fair to say that there is likely to be a strong correlation with the Australian market. As is shown, pay per click listings attract $11.9 billion worth of investment, or 88.81% of the total spend, whereas the organic listing attract only $1.4 billion of investment, or 10.75% of the spend. These figures must be viewed in contrast with the information presented on Slide 24: The paid search listings attract ~90% of the investment yet they receive only ~10% of the clicks, whereas even though organic results receive ~90% of the click throughs SEO only attracts 10% of the investment. There’s a massive disconnect here…

Slide 29: This flow of money into the paid listings has contributed to the rising level of competition in the sponsored results. As can be shown in this graph by adgooroo.com shows, the pay per click results have been becoming more saturated with advertisements; the Google Adwords listings increased from an average of 2.36 ads per keyword in September of 2008, to 5.5 ads per keyword in September of 2009 – a result tantamount to a doubling of competition. Further, although Bing has shown a decrease during this time, the search engine has only about 10% of the market, so this does little to counter the rising tide in Adwords.

Slide 30: OK so we’ve now shown that there is a lot of potential traffic to be gained through investing in search engine optimisation, and that the level of competition is lower than that found in pay per click advertising. However, the really big question on everyone’s lips should be about the return on investment to be gained from SEO. This graph from sempo.org shows that the return on investment of SEO is amongst the top three ROIs from all marketing channels. The graph displays the aggregate survey responses from 317 respondents, who were predominantly search engine marketing professionals. As such, it would be wise to bear in mind that these individuals may not have as much experience with television advertising, for example. But nevertheless, it still highlights the strength of SEO in the online space to say the least.

Slide 31: The SEMPO results are compounded further by these findings from Jupiter Research and iprospect.com which show that SEO delivers a higher return on investment than paid search advertising when the SEO is outsourced to a search engine marketing agency. This survey question was completed by 138 reputable search marketers. The response shows that more than three times as many respondents indicated that SEO delivers a stronger ROI than PPC, than the number who felt that the reverse was true. Incidentally, the point of these slides is not to demonstrate that PPC doesn’t work, rather it is to show that SEO does work. In fact, a well orchestrated and targeted PPC campaign can deliver tremendous results for a business. If you want to learn more about PPC without having to wade through the junky noise then I recommend checking out ppcblog.com.

Slide 32: Right, it’s now fair to say that we’ve proven SEO’s potential to deliver both high levels of traffic and strong return on investment. However, perhaps the most compelling case for search engine optimisation can be made by reflecting upon its ability to deliver competitive advantage for a firm. This can best be understood by firstly reviewing how the paid search advertising landscape works. It’s possible for a firm to establish a Google Adwords campaign and be up and running within 15 minutes. This can be a great way of delivering traffic for those entering the channel, but for the incumbents it means that the barrier to entry is extremely low. If you’re running an Adwords or similar campaign, anyone can come in and replicate your campaign, outbid your prices, and drive up your costs in a matter of minutes. It’s true to say that some level of advantage can be gained by ensuring that your site is converting traffic at a higher percentage than your competitors, but nevertheless, it’s still a fairly vulnerable position to hold. In contrast, search engine optimisation provides a sustainable competitive advantage for the investor. This can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, it takes time to build results from an SEO campaign – any new entrant needs to devote energy and resources towards building a quality backlink portfolio before they start generating rankings and traffic, and this process can’t be usurped with the flick of a switch. Secondly, elements of the rich get richer effect come into play here. If a site is obtaining high levels of organic search traffic through SEO, then it stands to reason that there is also a high probability the site is generating revenue, and potentially profits, through this medium. As such, part of this income can then be devoted towards further investment in SEO, thereby entrenching the site’s position. Not to mention the natural link acquisition that will result from being more prominent in the public eye… Therefore, the site that generates high levels of organic search traffic becomes harder and harder to surmount as time goes on, and this delivers a sustainable competitive advantage.

Slide 33: Myths?

Slide 34: Debunking Some Common SEO Myths: There is no such this as Google certification for SEO services. A pile of low quality links has minimal value for your website. The Google toolbar PageRank is not used by Google to rank your website. Meta keywords are a complete waste of time. Search engine submission is a complete waste of time. Keyword density is a about as useful as alchemy. SEO is not a get rich quick scheme. People who spam your email and promise the world are dodgy. SEO is not a ‘black art’ sold by a bunch of snake oil salesmen. There is no such thing as ‘secret’ SEO methods.

Slide 35: How?

Slide 36: The SEO process starts with identification of the market opportunity. This can be done by using tools such as the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, or Wordstream (to name a few – and all of which have free access available). These tools provide you with in depth metrics and insight into prospective search volume. To take the Google Adwords Keyword Tool as an example – you start by providing the tool with some of your ideas for target keywords, and it responds by providing you with a whole series of additional keyword suggestions, and provides information that includes the local monthly search volume, the global monthly search volume, and the search trends, along with some other PPC specific metrics. The local search volume can be customized to specific geographic locations, and the language can also be filtered. Additionally, it’s also possible to adjust the search volumes between ‘exact’, ‘phrase’, and ‘broad’ search volumes. The broad search volumes are somewhat akin to the ‘long tail’ – but we’ll get to that later. These are some very powerful insights that can be obtained at the click of a finger.

Slide 37: Further information on search volumes can be obtained by delving into the results provided by tools such as Google Insights for Search, where you can view the way in which a keyword has been trending over time, understand the impact of any significant events, and get more of an understanding of the country specific origins of the search queries.

Slide 38: Activity: Take some time to write down some keyword search terms for your organisation that you think may be associated with a high volume of searches?

Slide 39: Once we’ve developed a high level understanding of the potential market opportunity it’s important to get an understanding of the level of competition present for the potential target keywords. The SEO for Firefox tool by seobook.com is a great help in this regard. It can be used to annotate the search results with highly relevant data pertaining to each of the sites that are featured. When combined with the information displayed in the regular search results, it allows for a high level analysis of the level of competition for a specific search query. For example, when we type ‘franchise’ into Google.com.au we can see that the search results are dominated by sites that have a fairly level of relevance to the search result. This is judged by understanding the factors that Google uses to rank website. Firstly, the ‘franchise’ keyword is present in a high number of the featured domain names. Secondly, the keyword is also present in many of the title tags for each of the pages. Thirdly, the SEO for Firefox tool shows that there are generally a high number of links directed at each of the pages (this data is drawn from Yahoo Site Explorer). Fourth, the featured pages are also located on sites which have a high level of overall domain pointing links. Fifth, many of the sites are relatively old – which is associated with a trust factor by Google. Sixth, despite the Google Toolbar PageRank (GTPR) value not being used by Google to rank websites, there is still a relatively high level of non-causal correlation between GTPR and site ranking, and as such the presence of high GTPR sites in the search results is indicative of a high level of competition. It’s true to say there are other factors beyond those listed here which contribute to the ranking algorithm – such as the quality of links (as opposed to just their volume), the anchor text in the links, and geo-targeting factors, to name just a few. However, the metrics highlighted in the image allow for the analyst to develop a quick high level appreciation of the level of competition. Therefore, it can be concluded that the term ‘franchise’ is a fairly competitive keyword.

Slide 40: When we conduct the same type of analysis on the term ‘service franchise’ we can see that a number of the position holders are not as well entrenched as for the term ‘franchise’. Firstly, the keyword is not present in some of the top domains. Secondly, the rankings also contain some sub-pages (as opposed to home pages), which is generally an indication of a less competitive space. Thirdly, some of the ranking pages have either no or very few backlinks pointing to the page. Fourth, more still have very few backlinks pointing to the overall domain. Fifth, the ‘service franchise’ keyword phrase is not present in all of the title tags. Sixth, although it’s not highlighted on the image, we can also see that the GTPR of sites is not as high. So, it can therefore be asserted that the term ‘service franchise’ is likely to be less competitive, and therefore easier to obtain rankings for, than the term ‘franchise’.

Slide 41: The next step in the SEO process involves developing a strategy for targeting these keywords. First, as we showed before, part of this strategy should involve going after first page rankings in Google. When viewed through the prism of the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule), we can say that given that Google receives ~80% of the search queries in western markets, and that ~80% of clicks go through the first page of Google, and that ~80% of these clicks are directed at organic search results, we can see how the first page organic rankings in Google will attract over 50% of the click throughs (in fact this figure is even higher given that the 80% figures are conservative estimates as shown on the information on Slides 24-28).

Slide 42: Next, it’s also important to go after the long tail of keywords. The principle behind the long tail is that for any high volume keyword such as ‘franchise’, there are a whole series of additional related keywords that are variations of the original, such as ‘service franchise’, ‘buy a franchise’, or ‘how do I establish a franchise in Australia?’, for example. The significance behind the long tail lies in the fact that even for the most well optimised site the head (otherwise known as the big fish) of any particular group of related search words will only attract about 20% of the traffic for that site. The remaining 80% of the search traffic will come through the long tail. Given that the long tail also has a much lower level of competition than the head keywords (as alluded to in Slides 39-40), there is much benefit to be gained through going after this segment of search traffic.

Slide 43: We can refine our strategy further by reviewing the eye tracking metrics again, as presented by blogstorm.co.uk. These images show that users are more likely to scan further down the search results for a transactional query such as “buy franchise”, than they are for an informational query such as “service franchise”.

Slide 44: When combining this with the two sides to the search engine optimisation process that we covered in Slides 11-12, we can adjust the focus of our strategy accordingly. Therefore, when targeting transactional keywords we can attribute slightly more weighting to targeting the long tail, and when targeting informational keywords we can focus a little more on high position rankings. However, this is only a slight adjustment of focus, and a sound search engine optimisation strategy must include healthy doses of both measures.

Slide 45: This graph by oneupweb.com & seomoz.org shows that the conversion rate for four-word phrases is much higher than the conversion rate for one word phrases. For example, it is likely that the keyword phrase ‘buy service franchise Australia’ is much more likely to convert into a franchise sale than the keyword ‘franchise’ on a visit-by-visit basis. These metrics add further impetus to the argument for targeting the long tail. Of course, the problem is that the ‘buy service franchise Australia’ keyword has much lower search volume than the keyword ‘franchise’. Therefore, the long tail needs to be targeted by producing high volumes of content, and of course there is a cost involved with doing this – generally in terms of time. This may be partially overcome by utilising user generated content on a site, or outsourcing content production to an external agency.

Slide 46: The task of targeting the big fish keywords can be made easier by utilizing Living Online’s proprietary WordSpider technology. The tool identifies the low hanging fruit by assessing each of the prospective big fish keywords in terms of both the prospective opportunity, and the level of existing competition. The keyword that has the highest level of positive divergence between its relative opportunity and level of competition is the keyword that will deliver the strongest return on investment. WordSpider can also be used to identify the keywords that will be the easiest to target overall, thereby enabling some quick wins to be made before getting stuck into the chunky keywords. Oh and yep we know that’s an ant… we couldn’t find a spider & fruit image that worked : ).

Slide 47: We can distil an effective search engine optimisation strategy into three primary components: Create, Optimise, and Promote. We’ve started to look at the creation element by discussing the long tail, and we’ll delve further into this later. However, for the moment we’ll move onto the next element – optimisation.

Slide 48: There are a number of on-page factors which are considered to be correlated with a high ranking position in Google. I’ve started the list by covering keyword research, for without this it’s impossible to know which keywords to target. Secondly, there needs to be a process of grouping the keywords by user association, keyword segmentation, and target page allocation. It is this step that allows you to identify which keywords should be targeted to which page, and without it the SEO campaign is just fumbling wildly in the dark. From here it’s important to optimise the site so that the on-page elements of the site are well aligned to the target keywords. These elements and techniques include (in no particular order): internal linking structure, canonical home page resolution, title tags, domains, URLs, heading tags, keywords in the body, meta descriptions, image alt text, and image file names. Additionally, it is also advisable to produce a dynamically generated XML sitemap and to advise the major search engines of its existence – this will help ensure that more of your site is indexed by the engines, and therefore that more of your content is featured in the search results.

Slide 49: So now we move onto off-page techniques where we cover the promotional element, and look at the power of content once more. It has been said that the off-page considerations make up approximately 70% of the Google algorithm, whereas only 30% of the algorithm is devoted towards analysis of on-page factors. Therefore, off-page techniques are very important, so it’s no accident that this slide receives more attention than the rest. The basic premise behind off-page optimisation ties into the discussion of PageRank that we covered on Slides 18-20. Essentially, the goal is to increase the number of links that are pointing to both the target page and parent domain, and to ensure that these links are associated with high levels of quality and relevance. There are a number of tactics that can be utilized in this aim:

Firstly, there’s the idea of ‘linkbait’, which involves creating a highly link-worthy piece of content, and then letting other people know about it with the hope that they will link to it, as well as letting other people in their social networks know about it. Linkbait works by taking the time consuming task of link building and putting it in other peoples’ hands. So for example, you may write a really high quality guide entitled “101 Things You Need to Know About Buying a Franchise Business”, and give it a bit of a promotional boost via social media, press releases, or similar. Then if you’ve done a good job of creating something that people find really compelling and useful, you will find that bloggers and other site owners (otherwise known as the ‘linkerati’) will link to the document because they feel it provides value to their users.

Viral marketing is similar to linkbait in that it relies heavily upon the strength of the content and that it draws much of its power from the propensity of people to spread messages through social networks; there is also some overlap in the definition of the terms. However I personally draw the distinction between viral marketing and linkbait in line with the location of where the content is hosted. Given that the aim of linkbait is to attract links to a piece of content, it is essential to host the content on the target site, or the links will be misdirected. The aim of viral marketing on the other hand can be to generate as many content views as possible, irrespective of if the content is hosted on You Tube, Facebook, or any other popular social site. Viral marketing then feeds into off-page SEO by relying upon the viewers navigating to the target site after viewing the content, and then linking to what they find once they arrive. Viral marketing is less likely to attract links than linkbait on a visit-by-visit basis, however the popularity and established traffic numbers of sites like You Tube and Facebook mean that there is probably a high chance of attracting large numbers of viewers.

Content syndication is leveraged by allowing other webmasters to host your content, with the proviso that they will link to your site in attribution of the source. This can be a really strong tactic when you’re syndicating your content to a high quality site, as the power of a couple of high quality links can bring strong results. It’s also worth mentioning here that links don’t just help with SEO, they also directly contribute towards the number of people who come to a site via the links themselves, and sometimes this effect can bring massive amounts of traffic.

Social media provides the fuel for the linkbait and viral marketing techniques discussed above; it facilitates word-of-mouth marketing, and this is where the true power of the technique is found. There is also some benefit to be gained from user profile links on social media sites themselves, although it’s important that these profile links are accumulated in a natural and non-spammy manner. Additionally, the power of user profile links is often rendered useless by the inclusion of the nofollow attribute on many of these sites. Nofollow was established in 2005 to counter the growing spread of spam on the internet, and works by the search engines not to pass PageRank or anchor text along a link.

Social bookmarking works in much the same way as social media in that they both operate in the social network ecosystem. However, where social media is a more general in concept, social bookmarking refers specifically to the bookmarking of links to pages within a social bookmarking site. Once a site has been bookmarked some of the site’s users will either vote up or vote down the bookmarks that interest them. These positive or negative reactions are then fed into the bookmarking sites algorithms, and used to determine how many more users are exposed to the content. As such, social bookmarking is somewhat of a popularity contest in the same way that social media operates, but it’s more granular in concept. Social bookmarking provides a promotional platform for linkbait or viral content, as well as providing referring traffic through the bookmark itself, and sometimes even direct link juice (again dependent on the presence of the nofollow attribute, and also on whether or not Google has manually or algorithmically filtered out the social bookmarking site from passing PageRank). Sites such as delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit are good examples of social bookmarking services.

Press releases can be an effective technique for promoting content, provided that a few ground rules are adhered to. Firstly, you should only be writing a press release if you have newsworthy content to talk about. What are the factors that determine the newsworthiness of a potential story? Given that it’s largely a subjective discussion, opinion varies on this issue, so I’m not going to cite any specific source. However, there are some criteria that seem to crop up more than others, and they are: Impact (the number of people it affects), Timeliness (recency or immediacy), Prominence (profile of the organisation or individual involved), Proximity (closeness on a geographic or cultural level), Novelty (“If a dog bites a man, that’s not news. But if a man bites a dog, that’s news!”), Currency (is it featuring heavily in the news already?), and Conflict (drama and controversy). The takeaway from this list is this: a press release about a far away burger stand buying some bread last year is extremely unlikely to be considered newsworthy content, so it shouldn’t be polluting the press release channels. If the target organisation doesn’t have any newsworthy content to promote, then a little creative thinking should be used to generate something that may fit the criteria. Once this content exists the press release should then be constructed so that it covers the Six W’s of journalism – the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the story. But above all, the press release needs to have a unique voice and flavour that rises above the dry monotonous tone of corporate speak. Then, once this is done the writer should look at incorporating relevant keywords in the headline and body of the press release, whilst avoiding turning the press release into too much of a sales pitch. It’s also essential to write a blog post to accompany the press release; viewers have somewhere specific to link to should they wish to do so, and press releases work best when utilised as part of an integrated marketing strategy. Lastly, the press release needs to be released into the news stream. This can be achieved by submitting it to some online press release distribution sites (either free or paid), utilizing social media in the ways described above, and employing the power of PR specific social media platforms. In addition, it’s a good idea to also inform some of your regular target audience directly, perhaps through an email campaign. Finally, if you’ve got something really newsworthy to share, then I also recommend going the old fashioned way – pick up the phone, call a reputable journalist, and have a chat.

Directory submissions are another effective off-page optimisation technique. Essentially the process involves submitting the target site to web directories along with accompanying information about the contact details and a description of the product or service offerings etc. There are a number of free and paid directories that can be leveraged to provide links. The crucial thing to remember is that the quality of the directories is extremely important when evaluating their value for SEO. One of the most important determinants of quality is the whether or not the directory applies human judgement to inclusions in its listings, i.e. are the links editorially given?

The term link building is often used as a catchall for the techniques described above. However, I personally like to apply the term to the process of manually building links from individual sites through direct request approaches. You can potentially find a lot of traction by approaching these sorts of entities: suppliers, partners, contractors, charities, groups / associations, friends, or anyone else you can think of. It’s a very manual process, but it can deliver high levels of SEO value – just make sure to focus on sourcing links from high quality sites, and don’t forget to ask for the link to include relevant anchor text if at all possible.

The final off-page technique that’s covered in this list involves conducting competitor analysis. Essentially, it is possible to view the backlink portfolio of any site by using tools such as Yahoo Site Explorer or Open Site Explorer. From there it is possible to identify the links which are most likely to be contributing to the competitor’s search ranking performance, and then to target acquisition of equivalent links from these same sources wherever possible.

Slide 50: As part of their fight against spam in the search results, Google regularly imposes punitive measures against sites who attempt to game the system in malicious ways. Therefore, when embarking into the world of SEO, don’t do any of the following: Forget about your audience; remember respect, Anything that violates the Google Webmaster Guidelines, SPAM, Link Farm, Anything that seems dodgy, Anything ‘black hat’, or Anything that seems too good to be true…

Slide 51: Activity: Write down the names of some organisations or people you can ask for a link? Think of the types of entities we listed in the link building section of Slide 49 when compiling your list.

Slide 52: In keeping with the theme of social media, I felt it was appropriate to reference the collaborative encyclopedia of Wikipedia when providing definitions of social media related terms. As such, it is stated on wikipedia.org that “social media is a term used to describe the type of media that is based on conversation and interaction between people online.” Further, wikipedia.org also states that ”social media marketing programs usually centre on efforts to create content that attracts attention, generates online conversations, and encourages readers to share it with their social networks.”

Slide 53: We talked a little about the power of social media in Slide 49. The following social media video paints a great picture of the social media landscape: Social Media Revolution.

Slide 54: This graph depicts the results of a survey conducted by sempo.org in 2008 in which a number of search engine marketing professionals were asked “which social media sites do you use to promote your brand/company”. The results are populated with a number of the high flyers, however notable absentees are Twitter, Linked In, and My Space. Given that Twitter has exploded in popularity in recent years – with over 4 billion tweets posted in the first quarter of 2010 and more than 14 billion posted in total – its relevance as a social media tool cannot be overlooked.

Slide 55: We delve into the wikipedia.org resource once more to bring the following definition of viral marketing: “The buzzwords viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses.”

Slide 56: We covered viral marketing somewhat in Slide 49, however these viral videos really help to illustrate the concept by providing some real life examples of highly successful viral marketing campaigns: Will it BlendPiano Stairs. The Will it Blend videos are credited with increasing sales for Blendtec by 400%. At the time of writing this post there were 96 videos in total on the You Tube channel, and other blended items include an ipad, iphone, ipod, glowsticks, transformers, a rake handle, a bb gun, marbles, bic lighters, a coke can, and you get the idea.. These 96 videos have amassed a total of 113 million views, and the channel has amassed a fan base of 278,590 subscribers. Piano stairs comes at the viral marketing tactic from a different approach – rather than choosing to promote the product directly, Volkswagen chose to target the brand awareness and indirect traffic that would be gained by producing a series of highly entertaining and uplifting videos, and integrating them into a competition for high quality user generated content. The piano stairs video alone has attracted over 12 million views.

Slide 57: Activity: Think of some ideas for viral marketing campaigns for your organisations; remember to bring value to the viewer, think back to the factors that make your organisation remarkable or unique, and ask yourselves “why will people want to share?” Keep in mind the four rules of brainstorming: focus on quantity, withhold criticism, welcome unusual ideas, and combine and improve.

Slide 58: Some of the other online marketing techniques that we haven’t covered today, but that also should definitely not be overlooked, are: Video Marketing,  Email Marketing, Display Advertising,  Cost-per-acquisition (CPA), and  Conversion Rate Optimisation.

Slide 59: One of the most important elements of an online marketing campaign is the measurement of relevant metrics. This is also one of the advantages of working in the online space – all of these metrics are so easily accessible, and can be readily analysed and used to feed back into the campaign in order to help improve the site, and to evaluate the relative ROI of any given marketing spend.

Slide 60: This measurement of the return on investment provides the foundation from which all marketing decisions can be made. As research by lenskold.com shows, highly efficient and effective marketing firms are much more likely to calculate return on investment, net present value, or other profitability metrics, than are other firms.

Slide 61: Furthermore, the data from Lenskold Group also shows that highly efficient and effective marketers are not only charged with the responsibility of measuring marketing effectiveness, but are also budgeted for the necessary measures.

Slide 62: This graph from sempo.org shows that increased traffic volume, conversion rate, click through rate, and return on investment are the most popular search engine marketing metrics for both advertisers and agencies alike. However, it is also worthy to note that agencies are approximately 10-20% more likely to track each of the metrics than advertisers are.

Slide 63: So how does someone go about tracking online marketing metrics? There’s a bunch of tools available, and they come in all different sizes of budget, but it’s pretty hard to go past Google Analytics. It’s a free tool, and the level of insight provided into visitor behaviour and traffic sources is really quite remarkable.

Slide 64: In the same way that Google Analytics can be used to measure the performance of of your website, it’s also possible to measure the performance of your brand in social media networks through social media monitoring tools such as Nielsen Blog Pulse, Radian6 social media monitoring, and Alterian SM2.

Slide 65: Future?

Slide 66: The big technology on the horizon for me is ‘augmented reality’. Imagine a world where you can wear transparent contact lenses that are ingrained with miniature display technology that is capable of displaying a large sized, crystal clear, virtual screen in front of your eye balls. Imagine no more. There are already working prototypes of display contact lenses in existence, and it is forecast that by the year 2020 the technology will be market ready. Furthermore, the same technology in glasses form is just around the corner… So get ready for the future where you will be able to augment your vision with graphics and information.

Slide 67: This concept is definitely best painted through pictures. When you’re viewing this Layar video remember that this technology exists today. Then, when you have a look at the Stella Artois video have a think about the elements of SEO, social media, viral marketing, analytics, and augmented reality that would come into play with such an appliaction. Now apply these thoughts to the augmented reality contact lens scenario and things start to get really interesting…

Slide 68: The point of this slide isn’t to say that Second Life will become the dominant technology, rather it is to show how social networks can be built around virtual technology. All of these changes will result in significant challenges for the online marketer, and for the ones who seize the day – tremendous opportunity. Furthermore, the reality is that the challenge is already upon us; it is very likely that the same factors that are used to rank search results, and that contribute to success in social media, will continue to play a role going forward. Therefore, the ones who build a strong foundation now, will be the ones who are more likely to prosper in the future web.

Slide 69: Conclusion: search engine optimisation, social media, and viral marketing can be used in conjunction with other online marketing techniques to generate efficient and highly measurable marketing returns for your organisation, and will provide the foundations for future growth. In summary: search engine optimisation, social media, viral marketing, analytics, and other forms of online marketing receive a big tick of approval : )

Slide 70: Questions?

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