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

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

Cross Channel Book Marketing

Creating Comics book by Buddy Scalera

My new book Creating Comics from Start to Finish is just beginning to hit stores now. And despite the fact that I do this marketing thing every day for my clients, I’ve found it to be challenging to apply the same principals at home for my own projects. Crazy, right?

There’s an old saying, “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” That pretty much means the stuff you do at work is not the stuff you want to do when you get home. But a book being published is a timely event, and that time will soon pass, so I need to take the opportunity to market my book while I still can.

Initially, I was spending most of my efforts on my Facebook Fan Page, which had around 700+ followers and is now over 800. This group has been supporting my photo reference books, so they were most receptive of the new book. A good start.

Then I did a little bit of content seeding. I created a video flip through of my book, which I placed on the Facebook Fan Page, YouTube, Flickr, and even Amazon. I’m monitoring all of the channels through Google Analytics to see which drives the most qualified traffic.
Continue reading

10 Marketing Tech Predictions for 2010

2010-PredictionsI’m a total nut for tech predictions. Love ’em. Not only does it get me excited about the future of technology, it warms my marketer’s heart. Every new tech channel represents a new way for marketers to communicate with their target audience. And for people to discover brands and solutions that they actually want.

Since I primarily write about tech trends that affect marketers, here are my:

The Words + Pictures = Web
10 Marketing | Tech Predictions for 2010

1. Widgets and Apps Will Explode
Yes, we saw a pretty big year for Apps, thanks to the iTunes store servicing the iPhone and iTouch. But with Android and Kindle and even HP having stores, we’re going to see a big, fast expansion of useful apps. And people will want these apps to synchronize across devices and platforms.
What it means for marketers: A lot. Brands that create useful apps will see adoption rates soar. It doesn’t matter if it’s branded. If people need something, they will use it. If it happens to keep your brand top of mind, well, then good for you.

2. Web Analytics Will Improve
Every marketing initiative needs to have some sort of measurable ROI. Without a strong analytic package, you can’t tell what works and what doesn’t. The tools that we use are probably (hopefully) going to get better now that Adobe owns Omniture. Even free packages like Google Analytics are getting better, which pushes paid solutions like WebTrend and Omniture to innovate to remain competitive. Expect to see better tools for measuring Flash.
What it means for marketers: Good news for marketers who like numbers. Now, you will have even more numbers.

3. Microsoft Will Strike Back
Signs of life are bubbling up again from Redmond. Microsoft took a beating from Google, which has reinvigorated their competitive spirit. Bing is turning out to be a pretty decent search engine, which is encouraging for search marketers.
What it means for marketers: Microsoft is serious about making money in search, so they are actively courting search marketers. We’re already seeing them push Google to release new features, which is good for everyone. If you are using search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, you can expect more options from Bing. And from Google, who will continue to maintain their lead.

4. Tech Will Move Off the Desktop
In recent years, everything has been focused on the desktop. But powerful mobile tools have changed the way we interact with websites. The traditional desktop will survive 2010, but it won’t be the only way people interact with the web.
What it means for marketers: It means that every new device — from the Kindle to the television — is now a new channel to communicate with customers. Smart marketers will be putting messages everywhere.

5. Newspapers Will Slip Further
Okay, this one is almost a little mean. Like teasing the short fat kid in school for being, well, short and fat. But newspapers are going to slip even more rapidly than they did in 2009. In the end, it’s likely that we’ll end up with a few national papers (like USA Today), a few regional papers (like New York Times), and maybe a few weekly local papers.
What it means for marketers: It’s a mixed bag. If you have a good PR team, you can get a story on the wires and have it syndicate to a lot of readers. That’s very encouraging. But with fewer reporters and papers, it’s going to get harder to get some ink. With less print out there, it will get a little more challenging to communicate with older demographics.

6. Mobile Marketing Will Get Sophisticated
We’ve been marketing to mobile devices for years now. Some agencies are quite good at it, but sadly, many more are not. Most mobile marketing is pretty lame. This year we’ll see the good agencies roll out marketing campaigns that make full use of mobile devices. Right now, mobile marketing is still rather simple. Look for more sophisticated and personalized applications.
What it means to marketers: It means that mobile content and incentives will need to be formatted for multiple screens. Don’t expect users to wait for your massive homepage to load.

7. Electronic Coupons Will Become Location Aware
Everybody loves a good discount. But if you forget your coupon at home, you may wait until the next trip to the store before you make a purchase. That’s a missed opportunity for brands. Many new devices have location-based software, so more marketers will figure out how to use this for offering coupons and incentives at just the right moment….like when they’re in close proximity to a store.
What it means for marketers: More sales and happier customers. Also, brick and mortar stores will star to win back customers from online shoppers.

8. Content Marketing Will Matter Again
Traditional media is slipping fast. That doesn’t mean people don’t need content. People want to know more about the product you sell, but also about how your product compares in the category. Content marketing will mean that your content must be fresh and vital for your target. Set it and forget it? Forget that. Write more content and make sure it’s formatted properly for the channel.
What it means for marketers: Make friends with a good copywriter. Try to tap them for ideas on how to update websites and other resources, so that your are providing proactive content for your audience.

9. Social Media Marketing Will Mature
Over the last few years, social media channels have become an effective way to connect people and products. But as the audience grows and diversifies, Facebook (and other social channels) will offer more mature and measurable ways to talk to targets. Banner ads? Sure, for certain awareness campaigns. But also look for more powerful fan-page types of services that give more flexibility and power to the brand.
What it means for marketers: Social media is probably going to get more expensive, but you’ll get more for your dollars.

10. New Hardware Will Change Brand Messaging
Kindles, iPhones, and the eagerly anticipated Apple tablet will give us new and interesting ways to tell people about our brands. But as the hardware becomes more powerful, it takes longer to figure out how to truly use it effectively. Initially, we just mash up existing technologies with new technologies (look it’s video…and now it’s on an iPhone!). New hardware will give us some immediate and measurable ways to deliver messages. But this year we’re going to peel back another layer to these devices, and discover new applications and opportunities.
What it means for marketers: Figure out how your message scales to new hardware before the competition figures it out first.

So there you go. Those are some of the tech trends that I believe will affect marketers in 2010. I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, but now you know what sort of stuff I’ll be working on this year.

Did I miss anything? Let me know your thoughts.

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?

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!

Presented at Marketing Conference

As a marketer, you have to get out there sometimes and interact at events. I was fortunate to be invited to be a faculty speaker at ExL Pharma’s “The 3rd Pharmaceutical Search Engine Marketing Strategies Conference: Best Practices for Integrating SEM into a New Media Mix.” The conference was held in Princeton, NJ, which is a really inspiring location.

This was a smaller, more intimate conference, which was nice because you really got to engage with the speakers. In a larger room, you can sometimes get overlooked in the conversation. But here, we could really ask questions, get involved, and interact.

During my part of the conference, I discussed interactive content and how it affects search engine optimization and some of the latest SEO techniques. Of course, it was a pharma marketing discussion, so everything I presented was customized to the needs of the audience.

Here’s the actual description of what they had me present:

Demonstrating What Skills are Essential for Building a User-Friendly, Search-Friendly, and Persuasive Site

  • How To bring consumers to your site and convert them into customers
  • Significant changes/shifts in SEM for Pharma over the past 12 months: What is new right now?
  • Competitive SEM research: Search engine marketing does not occur in a vacuum of just your company. Learn what competitive data is out there and how to best leverage the information prior to launching your campaign or to optimize on an existing campaign

During my presentation, I really tried to engage the audience and invited them to participate. I used one of the core decks our agency uses to pitch new SEM business, but modified to to be more educational and less sales oriented. It was a good deal more colorful with larger pictures and fewer words.

There were several really impressive SEM/SEO presentations over those two days. And even though I do this full time, I found myself discovering new techniques and perspectives that helped me improve at my job. That alone was worth the price of admission.

Plus, it was really interesting to see how several micro-bloggers used Twitter to cover the convention for people who could not attend.

I need to offer special thanks to Jason Youner and Shawn O’Hagan for inviting me to participate at their event.

Here’s my  bio from the ExL Pharma event. Kind of cool to be called “faculty.” I like that. Makes me wish I had gotten an MBA or something so I could teach at the college level.

Help Wanted: Search Specialist

As we increasingly move to an Internet-centric society, we’re seeing all kinds of new and interesting careers spring up. Soon, we’ll see some interesting career opportunities for smart, adaptable workers.

A few years ago, we saw the rise of professional bloggers and search engine marketing specialists. Right now, we’re seeing professionals developing mobile applications and social media widgets.

In 2009, we’ll see the evolution of the Search Specialist. Now, these people are already out there in niche jobs (and they’ll probably be able to find this blog posting). But coming soon, we’ll probably see headhunters and HR departments looking for knowledge workers who can quickly and effectively mine the Net for super-specific information.

It would be natural to expect this to go to someone with a library sciences degree, but I think Search Specialists will evolve from people who work within specific industries.

I’ll give you an example. I worked as an editor at a small e-marketing agency specializing in pharmaceutical communications directed at healthcare professionals. On my team, I had an editor who was a wizard at uncovering information on the web.

Sure, she was good at Google, but that’s a given. She also knew how to dig deeper and get information in other search engines, like Yahoo, Ask, and MSN (all of which give different results). She also knew how to search blogs, message boards, and news articles to dig up more information.

This is going back a few years before the big YouTube and Twitter explosion. But a Search Specialist will be the kind of person who can quickly and effectively dig up, organize, and present highly focused data sources.

In our case, this editor could dig up information, sort the gems from the junk, and generate an informed position on just about any topic you can imagine. Going forward, and it’s going to be important to access all kinds of information on the public Net, even the stuff that isn’t well tagged and indexed by Google.

Blogs, videos, Flash interfaces, games, e-books, Twitters posts, social networks (including Facebook & MySpace), manuals, databases, closed communities, news archives, software, all contain valuable information. Some of this information is indexed, but most of it is not.

Several industries already leverage search specialists, including patent and other legal businesses. In the future, other industries will seek people out who can mine and measure information from Net sources.

Search Specialists will be needle-in-a-haystack researchers who defy traditional job roles. Some of them will be research specialists or editors or scientists or journalists or work from home entrepreneurs.

In the beginning, they will be underpaid and under appreciated. But one day they will be valued and coveted knowledge workers who can extract stubborn data from nearly any source. In the right organization, they will be highly paid and highly promotable, especially as they research corporate strategies.

If you like to search, discover, and organize, it’s probably a good time to start positioning yourself as a Search Specialist in your current career. Eventually, as the career landscape shifts, you’ll be prepared for a new career as a Search Specialist.

Techronyms for Search

In the technology business, there’s a new acronym for every new product, idea, or process. They call these “techronyms.”

Anyway, I find that mnemonic tricks sometimes help me remember techronyms and people’s names.

I wanted to share a quick one that comes up all the time when I talk with people about Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing. Here’s one to help you remember the difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Remember that the “M” in SEM stands for “money.” The “O” in SEO is for “zero-dollars.” That’s because SEO is free.

As I think of more techronyms, I’ll post ’em. If you’ve got any, post ’em.