SEO & SEM: The Dynamic Duo of Website Traffic | Content Strategy Basics

Batman & Robin SEO SEM

The Dynamic Duo of SEO and SEM

Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are essential techniques for driving users to your website properties. These core tactics are similar, but not the same.

SEM and SEO are often confused, particularly since these acronyms only differ by one letter. Of course, if they were the same thing, we wouldn’t name them different things. Plus, it’s the acronym that’s different, not the underlying meaning.

I’ve found an easy way to remember these different tactics. These may help you differentiate for your extended strategy teams. If you’re a content strategist, it is essential to know how SEO and SEO work together.

SEM: Paid Advertising for Driving Traffic to Your Website
For SEM, the “M” may as well stand for “money.” That’s a nod to the fact that this includes an out of pocket (OOP) expense.

SEM works for a wide range of click traffic to websites, mobile properties, YouTube, apps, and more. Google and Bing give brands many options for driving traffic. For simplicity, let’s just talk about website traffic for now, even though your specific needs may be in a different channel.

It has been pointed out that this isn’t marketing at all. That’s true. SEM is primarily paid advertising. At some point, there was an effort to rename this search engine advertising, but the name didn’t stick.

The dominant player in SEM is Google. Their Google AdWords platform accounts for the majority of their billions of dollars in income. Google earns money each time someone clicks on a paid ad, which is why SEM is also referenced as pay per click (PPC).

Google AdWords and Microsoft’s Bing Ads both work from a similar auction-style model. There are limited ad slots and users bid for top slots. The highest qualified bidder (more on this later) will get the top slot. Continue reading

5 Easy Tips for Using Google+

Google+ LogoWell, it’s official. Facebook finally has a real, serious challenger for their crown as king of the social media sites.

Google recently launched the Google+ social network. Geeks rejoiced (partially because it’s fun to play with new toys).

This isn’t Google’s first attempt at social networking. Far from it. They’ve had a few years of practice with stuff like Google Buzz, Google Wave, and Orkut. This time, it seems, they’ve come out with something that’s truly promising.

If you’re a marketer, you know that this will make it to a whiteboard near you sooner rather than later. Before clients start asking about it, you’ll want to know more about getting started with Google+.

Here are five really easy tips for getting started with Google+: Continue reading

Google Analytics Starting….Now!

Google Analytics Logo

Google Analytics Logo

In marketing (and in life), timing is essential. It may be as simple as making the light before it turns red (good timing!). Or it may be something as big as when to pop the big question.

If you’re a marketer, there has never been a better time to pop the question…around site analytics. Okay, it’s not quite as sexy as “popping the question,” but it still benefits from good timing.

Google just released a major overhaul to Google Analytics, their amazing — and free — cloud-based web analytics package. Tweets are flying, especially if you follow the hashtag #googleanalytics, there are a lot of people very excited about the new Google Analytics. That makes this the perfect time to get your clients’ websites tagged and tracking.

If they are already using Google Analytics, you should dive deep into some of the new features, like custom dashboards and improved linking with Google Adwords. The Google Analytics blog outlines some of the new features. Continue reading

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Fails

StumbleUpon Logo

If you’re a new blogger trying to figure out how to get more traffic to your site, then you’re not alone. Everyone wants new traffic. Yet it’s not enough to get traffic, you want to get the right traffic. Qualified readers. Right?

On Word+Pictures=Web, I am usually trying to attract readers interested in technology, marketing, photography, new media, gadgets, comic books, and fun stuff like that. Digging into my stats, I noticed that I was getting some good traffic from StumbleUpon.com.

Note: For blog analytics, I use a combination of Site Stats from WordPress and Google Analytics. Both packages are free.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery became available in March, 2011, so I guess I am an early adopter here. It required a new sign up and some basic information, all of which was quick and easy. Paid Discovery offers three pricing teirs, which includes Light, Standard and Premium.

  • Light – 5 cents per visitor
  • Standard – 10 cents per visitor
  • Premium – 25 cents per visitor

At this point, I selected Light because I was just getting started and there really wasn’t much information out there. There is a lot more information about how to run search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns on Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing, but not much on Paid Discovery.
Continue reading

Google Doodles Will Eisner

Google Doodle Will Eisner

Google Doodle Will Eisner

In a pleasant surprise this morning, Google‘s logo was changed to celebrate the birthday of Will Eisner.

For those of you not familiar with the name Will Eisner or the Eisner Awards ceremony, it’s worth noting that Eisner is considered one of the original giants in the comic book industry. He was a prolific and influential comic book writer/artist who pushed the boundaries of the medium.

Eisner is credited with coining the term “graphic novel” as he published one of the first major self-contained, long-form comic book stories. He was the creator of the classic comic “The Spirit,” which still holds up today, unlike many other early comic book stories. Even by today’s modern standards, “The Spirit” is mature and intelligent, both in story and art.

Eisner was a passionate educator, who published multiple books on the topic of creating comic books, including Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. These books treated comics like a legitimate medium, providing much-needed respect for the craft of sequential art.
Continue reading

Write Less, Say More

As most copywriters will agree, it’s actually more difficult to write less than to write more. It’s easy to blabber on until you get around to making your point. That’s fairly easy.

Write tight. Now that’s hard.

This is especially true online. People aren’t necessarily looking to “read” your magical prose. They are looking to get to their destination content. They want you to help them get there with the least amount of clutter. Words — when abused — can be clutter.

Google is a company that is always trying to gain an extra edge in efficiency. Their famously austere homepage shows that they want nothing to stand in the way of your search.

Google gave Gmail a makeover. For those of you who are unfamiliar with their old homepage, they provided a side-by-side comparison. According to Google, they cut some 250 words from their copy. They are literally saying more by saying less. Or at least using fewer words.

It’s important to recognize when your reader actually wants more detail, particularly when they are trying to determine if your product or service is what they want. At that point, you need to give them the information they need to make a decision about your product or service.

Check out your own website. Could your copy go for a little nip/tuck? Is your otherwise smart, valuable service drowning in a sea of prose? If so, sharpen your pencils and start editing.

More reading:

Web Meets Living Room: Sofa Wars Introduction

Not long ago, the New York Times began the series “The Sofa Wars,” which chronicles the real-time battle to bring Internet — particularly video services — into the home. This may seem like a head-scratcher for many people, since most Americans already have this service. It’s just called something different: television.

Photo credit: dee from morguefile.com

Over the years, television has struggled to maintain viewership. The growing number of distractions provided by the Internet has causes dramatic declines in broadcast viewership. There are fewer people watching TV on their regular television sets and more staring into computer monitors. The content and experience have traditionally been different, but this is all changing.

Sites like Hulu have become web-based, go-to destinations for TV shows. But there are only so many shows you can watch, and although I love my TiVo, there’s only so many you can record. So Hulu has become my back-up source for catching up on television shows. The content has been strictly limited by certain networks, but Hulu Plus (a paid premium service) promises to provide more consistent television programming.

Certain cable companies are also promising to help bring television to the Net, including Verizon with their pending Verizon iPad application. This seems particularly promising, since Apple’s limitations have meant that you cannot watch Flash-based video on Hulu.com directly on your iPad (built to be HTML5 friendly). If Verizon provides this kind of app, it will clearly give many people a reason to stay with their cable service. After all, Hulu’s premium service provides a pretty compelling reason for dropping cable television, but Verizon’s service may add more overall value for iPad users. We’ll see.

The battle for the sofa (as the New York Times calls it) is just beginning to get truly interesting. For content creators, it means a distribution channel that previously did not exist. Specifically, Internet based entertainment will be available to people watching web videos in their living room. Sure, they can watch videos on their computer, but that experience is not quite the same as a nice, big HDTV. Familiar set top devices like the TiVo, game consoles, and the BluRay player offer direct connections from the Internet. Plus, new players like the Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, Roku, are all trying to elbow their way into the living room.

It took me a long time to get here, so if you’re still here, thanks. If you create content or manage content marketing campaigns, it is important to understand how all of these channels work. They represent powerful new pull-marketing channels that will help you connect your content with your target audience. It is less about interruption marketing and more about putting the right content in the optimal format, so that your audience can access it when they are ready.

For example, if I am in the market to purchase a car, I am going to research my top choices online. I will almost certainly read reviews, watch videos, and explore bit of information I can find before I go to the dealership. I will happily pull your marketing messages, including iPad apps and promotional videos, if it helps me to better understand the value proposition of your product.

But after I make my purchase, I don’t want you to keep pushing messages at me. It doesn’t help me, so I am going to tune it out, which wastes your marketing dollars.

We’re in the early days of this return-to-the-living-room technological revolution. It pays to start thinking about how you can reformat your message so that it’s viable for these new channels, which will include both the big screen (TV), the computer screen, and the mobile screen. If you don’t, there’s no shortage of content creators — including competing marketers — who are actively looking to satisfy the pull-content desires of consumers.

Also check out:

Shorteners Getting Bigger

bitly-logoWhen smart companies all start doing the same thing, it’s probably a good idea to figure out what they know. If you haven’t quite noticed yet, there’s some sort of micro trend percolating in the biz of making web URLs shorter.

In the past few weeks, several important websites have created their own URL shorteners. You’ve seen shortened URLs, which make long web addresses much more manageable for sharing on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Among the most popular services are Bit.ly and Tr.im.

For the most part, URL shorteners are just an interesting utility, but it’s clearly something more powerful than most people realize. That’s a bit like search engines. In the beginning, search engines were important, but nobody could have predicted the massive Google empire. (Except Google, of course.)

Now, URL shorteners are shaping up to be a very interesting micro trend. Consider the fact that several important sites have announced their own URL shorteners in the last few weeks, including:

Will this be a big trend? Not sure. From a publisher’s perspective, there are certainly some advantages to having people use your shorteners, particularly since it gives them interesting data about where people are linking.

Several experts are raising security issues around URL shorteners, so this micro trend may have serious industry repercussions. Yep, shorteners are definitely getting bigger.

Is the world ready for a shorter URL for me? Like Bud.dy or Scal.ra?

Google Search Stories – 53 Seconds to Message

As a marketer, I am always trying to provide the best possible message in the shortest possible time. People are busy, so you need to give them the information they need to decide if they want to learn more about your product. Give them the right message in the right place at the right time, and you’ve got their attention.

Loosely translated: You get to tell your story.

Check out the video below from Google Search Stories. In 53 seconds, Google and YouTube reinforce the motivational power of storytelling.

And just for fun, check out the Batman Search Story.

Microsoft + Yahoo = MicroHoo Search

The Search landscape is once again changing. With Microsoft’s purchase of Yahoo, there seems to be a new challenge to Google, which currently holds a majority share of search traffic. In fact, Google is both #1 (through Google.com) and #2 (through YouTube, which is not typically thought of as a search engine).

It’s always exciting to see new innovations and changes. To their credit, the folks at Google have not simply sat on their lead. They keep giving us search marketers new and interesting tools for attracting leads and running Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine has been showing a lot of promise, and we’re already running campaigns there. MSN search always had some intriguing demographic targeting tools, but they never pulled enough traffic to see if the system would scale.

As they join forces with Yahoo, it will be interesting to see how MicroHoo (that’s Microsoft + Yahoo to you) approaches services beyond keyword search. Let’s see some solid new ways to drive and measure relevant traffic from content, site, and video targeting.

Microsoft and Yahoo have some solid resources and assets. It will be interesting to see if Yahoo can effectively pull properties like Flickr, Delicious, Yahoo Video, or even Avatars into Search. On Microsoft’s side, they have some interesting properties that could be part of Search, including Silverlight, X-Box, Zune, Healthvault, Money, Streets, and Windows Mobile.

Let the (new) games begin!