Friday, February 24, 2017

Organic SEO: Increase Sales, Reduce Costs

Even in today’s tech-obsessed business world, digital marketing is often discounted as a mere additional expense. Conventional wisdom tells businesses to limit costs, and many business owners see digital marketing as a risky investment--an expense that may or may not increase sales.

When faced with the decision to invest in digital marketing, then, these same business owners inevitably choose to limit costs. In reality, you don't have to choose. Here is a secret successful online businesses know: Digital marketing--specifically organic SEO--can increase sales while reducing costs.

Digital marketing--specifically SEO--improves the quality of your content and the speed and efficiency of your website. The result is increased conversions and decreased costs. [Photo Source]

Digital Marketing: Quality > Quantity 

Obviously, different digital marketing firms employ different techniques with varying results. Some firms use traditional marketing techniques such as banner or website ads. These sort of display ads reach many people, but the click-through rates for these ads have been plummeting for years.

Of course, display ads can be targeted to specific demographics--but demographics alone do not define a unique customer base. For most people, the Internet is inescapable, integrating, informing, and often defining daily lives. Display ads act as intrusions. Inevitably, we confront display ads in the wrong place at the wrong time, and often in the wrong state of mind.

We use the Internet to be more efficient, to accomplish specific goals--and when we confront an unwanted ad, we click away. Are all advertisements ineffective?

Alice Truong, writing for Quartz, notes a distinction between display ads and native ads: "Display advertisements on websites—the kind that stand apart from the content and invite you to click through for more information—are widely seen as ineffective and annoying. That perception is confirmed in a new study that found native ads, which blend into a website’s design and sometimes even offer related content, more engaging than traditional display ads."

The study Truong cites--linked in her article--and covered more extensively here, also reveals that native ads are consumed in the same way as original content, and that consumers look at both native ads and original content for roughly the same amount of time.

The distinction this study reveals between traditional ads and native ads speaks to an elemental point: Banner or website ads rely on quantity—reaching as many people as possible without concern about the consumer’s tastes or preferences. This is also called spam. Digital marketing, instead, endorses quality.

Traditional marketing techniques, like display ads, do not translate to online success--
most displays ad are dismissed as mere spam.
[Photo Source]
Organic SEO: Increase Sales while Reducing Costs 

Native advertising is seamlessly blends into a website's existing content--content that a browser is already looking for. Why else would the browser click to the website in the first place? However, the challenge of attracting visitors to the website still remains. The Internet empowers businesses small or large, local or global, to profit from direct and immediate access to targeted customers.

However, no company will realize this singular benefit merely by creating a website.

Most websites, even newly-developed websites, are not effectively marketed--most websites, in fact, amount to little more than a high-priced digital business card.

The key, of course, is finding a digital marketing strategy that makes sense for your business. If your concern is cost, the best possible solution is organic SEO. Organic SEO is not a technology; it’s not a tool; and it’s not special equipment. It is a strategy applied to a website’s content, and partially to technical development aspects, that empowers the site to be easily “crawled” by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines.

Search engines like Google are always hungry for new, exciting, and informative content. You never know what a visitor has in mind when browsing your site. You can only hope your content, including text, images, and video, will transform your visitor into a customer--a conversion. Likewise, your website should offer the best experience for visitors. Speed and reliability matter.

If your website loads quickly, visitors will easily navigate between pages, and will be less likely to visit other websites for the same product or service. In working with the search engine algorithms, organic SEO practices targeted marketing. Banner ads may or may not reach your intended customer. Organic SEO, on the other hand, helps your intended customers find your website with ease.

Unlike advertising, however, both traditional and native, organic SEO is not tied to any specific cost. You can perform your own search engine optimization by using the tips and tricks detailed on this blog.

The Organic SEO Blog is sponsored by a top SEO specialist, Alex Stepman of Stepman's PC. If you're a website owner in need of SEO, we suggest calling Alex today. If you're hesitant to try SEO, we suggest reading our series of articles for website owners: 215-900-9398.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

What is "Organic" SEO?

An "organic search result" appears on a search engine results page (SERP) because it is relevant to a browser's query.

The search engine industry uses this term to make a distinction between results that satisfy the search engine's algorithm and paid results. Google calls an organic result a "free listing," whereas "non-organic search results are paid advertisements."

This is the standard definition you will find, say, on the Wikipedia page for "organic search." However, in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), the meaning of "organic" is more nuanced.

Why "Organic"?

For most people the word "organic" conjures images of the bountiful fruit and vegetable displays at Whole Foods Market. For a select few "organic" conjures a discipline in chemistry.

Few people, however, are familiar with the word "organic" as it applies to search engine results and search engine optimization (SEO).

For all of these examples, one definition of "organic" is relevant. From Merriam-Websteror·gan·ic : of, relating to, or derived from living organisms.

Organic Strawberries from Whole Foods Market
For the first two examples--produce and chemistry--the relation to "living organisms" is obvious. Of course, a search engine's results cannot be classified as living, carbon-based organisms. Nevertheless, search is alive.

The Six Pixels of Separation explains Twitter and Facebook's "living" nature quite eloquently: Twitter and Facebook are "living organisms that change, evolve and adapt based on who is putting what into it and how the content is being collaborated on and extrapolated."

The same explanation can be applied to search engines results. Just like living organisms, search engine results "change, evolve, and adapt based on who is putting what into it and how the content is being collaborated on and extrapolated."

What is Organic SEO?

To appear on the first page of search engine results, a website has two options: organic SEO or paid advertising. Organic SEO describes the use of certain strategies or tools to elevate a website's content in the "free" search results.

Many websites use a mix of organic SEO and paid advertising to ensure placement on the first SERP. Organic SEO can be the most cost-effective solution to online marketing, yet SEO can take time to produce a first page result. 

The goal of organic SEO, of course, is to maintain a high placement on the "free" search results. To do so, organic SEO as a discipline studies the search engine's ever-changing algorithms to keep up with the evolution of organic search. This work can be tedious and time-consuming. 

As Wikipedia's helpful article on SEO notes: "According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day."

Google's goal, of course, is to increase the quality of organic results. Organic SEO, then, works with the search engine algorithms to produce quality content that satisfies the algorithm.

Even then, the guiding principle of Organic SEO is to "write for users, not search engines."

Although organic SEO and search engine algorithms often focus on technical aspects of search, the goal for both, in the end, is to promote quality content to users. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Super Bowl Ads and Digital Marketing

We all know Super Bowl ads are big business. Last year USA Today released an infographic showing just how big. Since 1967, when a 30-second commercial cost $42,000, the cost for one Super Bowl ad had skyrocketed to $5 million--or, as USA Today noted, $166,666 per second.

This year, according to Variety (reported on SI), FOX charged brands between $5 million and $5.5 million for 30-second ads. "For comparison," SI notes, "the average price of a 30-second ad during Game 7 of this year’s historic World Series was just over $500,000. The price for a similar spot during the 2016 Oscars cost about $2 million."

This is just the cost to run the ads. A splashy ad also requires money for production and and promotion. Yes, increasingly, brands are promoting the promotions:

"In fact, one marketing executive told The New York Times that it's common for advertisers to spend an additional 25% or more of the cost of their commercial slot just on promoting the ad in the lead-up to the Super Bowl" (Source: Fortune).

With so much cash going to production, promotion, and air time, it's no wonder brands attempted to get more mileage this year by releasing ads and teasers early online. As Search Engine Land reports, of the five brands that released early ads, all saw major search traffic lifts before the game, yet only one saw a bigger lift after the game. In other words, according to this one metric, search volume, the online ads and teasers outperformed the Super Bowl ads themselves.

How important is search volume?

Super Bowl ads are expensive for a simple reason: The game attracts the largest television audience each year. 111.3 million people watched the game this year in the United States, slightly down from the two previous years. The only comparable audience is online.

We like how Jenny Servis, a Vice President of Marketing for SnapRetail, answered the question in a Forbes article from 2015: "Consumers have too many choices these days and they have to be constantly reminded that you exist. The best way to reach them is where they spend a good bit of time...online."

Next year, pre-Super Bowl ads and teasers will likely become the norm. The online community is to vast to ignore--and it must be courted, specifically, online.

A still from Snickers Super Bowl teaser starring Adam Driver, which the brand promoted as a "live" commercial [Photo Source]

The Importance of a Viable Online Presence 

Whether you are a small online business or a local brick-and-mortar shop, you need to create a viable online presence. On the Internet, everyday is the Super Bowl--millions and millions of people browsing and shopping, and, let's face it, living their lives, online.

Now, traditional marketing is not dead--not by any means. Search Engine Land noted an interesting fact in its article about the online ads and teasers: "The two advertisers that released teasers online — Mr. Clean and Snickers — saw the greatest post-game lifts in brand search."

So a combination of online advertising and a television presence seems to have worked best for this year's brands.

But the fundamental lesson here is simple: A successful marketing strategy requires an online presence.

Should You Outsource Your Digital Marketing 

In our experience, many smaller businesses neglect online marketing in favor of traditional marketing.

Marketing is not an either/or equation. As brands like Mr. Clean and Snickers show, a solid marketing effort can include both traditional and online marketing.

However, there is a crucial difference between traditional and online marketing: cost. A Super Bowl ad spot costs up to $5.5 million.

Outsourcing your marketing to a digital marketing firm is a relatively inexpensive business cost with a high ROI--a number which should be easily quantified (if not, your digital marketing company is not doing its work).

Outsourcing digital marketing, most businesses ensure their website is visible on Google; optimization attracts more traffic to their site; increased traffic often translates to increased profits.

For many small businesses marketing, online or traditional, is an undisciplined, scattershot effort. Outsourcing marketing to a reputable firm guarantees a calculated effort, which is often the determinant of success. This is evident in this year's Super Bowl ad winners--Mr. Clean and Snickers, two famous brands, leveraged online audiences strategically to boost the performance of their Super Bowl ads.

Digital Marketing with Stepman's PC

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with good content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How to Use SEO to Compete Against Online Giants like Amazon, Target, and Walmart

The brick and mortar world is replete with David and Goliath stories of mega-retailers, like Walmart, displacing smaller, regional businesses. Joe Persky, an economics professor who co-authored a 2012 study on Walmart's effect on local business, noted in an interview with CityLab, "No matter which direction you go from Walmart, there's a very high rate of business closures in the immediate vicinity"--between 35 and 60 percent.

"When a Walmart comes to town," TIME reported, "the local economic framework is immediately thrown into turmoil. Many small and regional businesses get trampled by the low prices made possible by the massive economies of scale of the giant retailer. It's nearly impossible to compete."

TIME's report dates to last January, 2016, after Walmart announced plans to close 269 stores, including 100 smaller stores that served rural communities. For many of these towns, the effect was devastating. First Walmart had displaced local stores, then Walmart closed, leaving many towns with no viable alternatives.

"Many of these towns will be left without a grocery store or pharmacy," TIME reported, "frustrating residents with inconvenience and lower property values. For some towns, which often skew elderly, the nearest option for essentials may soon be 50 or so miles away."

We mention these reports to illustrate two points: 1) Big retailers can easily displace smaller businesses; yet 2) big retailers are not invincible. The latter is a crucial point--for small towns, brick and mortar businesses, and online retailers.

Online, the effect of mega-retailers varies, according to the industry and other dynamics, yet the familiar wisdom says that sites like Amazon, Target, and Walmart will trample smaller sites.

This is not necessarily true. Of course, a smaller online business will likely lack the authority and reach (two important SEO ranking signals) of an Amazon, Target, or Walmart. And, of course, only the rare small website can match the prices of the big guys. However, with a little ingenuity and a good SEO, a small e-commerce site can compete. Here's how.

Can you compete against the big guys?
Yes, with a little ingenuity and a good SEO campaign.

Sell on Amazon

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Instead of competing directly against Amazon, take advantage of the popular platform to sell your own products.

As Amazon says: "Since 2000, selling on Amazon has been helping individuals and businesses increase sales and reach new customers. Today, more than 40% of Amazon's total unit sales come from third-party selection."

However, Amazon does represent another competitive marketplace. On Amazon, you're competing against a world of third-party sellers. To compete, a thoughtful SEO for Amazon campaign is crucial. We suggest using precise and abundant keywords in your product title, writing clear bullet points and a descriptive product description, and soliciting product reviews from your current customers.

For more information on each, read our Amazon-specific SEO guide: "SEO for Amazon: A Few Simple Tips."

Sell Unique Products with Good Stories

The men's clothing world offers a perfect example smaller sites competing with the giants by offering unique products with good stories. Sites like Bonobos Everlane or the upstart, Pistol Lake, offer artisanal products with the type of stories that intrigue savvy or conscientious shoppers.

Here is how Everlane describes a recent new release, the Japanese Slim Fit Oxford:

"When slower is better. We made this oxford in a premium Japanese fabric that’s slow-spun for a soft hand that looks great. Pairs just as well with your work trousers as your weekend denim."

For the savvy #menswear shopper, this story hits all the right points: "premium Japanese fabric," "slow spun," "soft hand." In addition to the product description, Everlane offers details on the fabric and factory of origin--the sort of details you won't easily find, say, on the page for J. Crew's oxford cloth button down, which offers mere boiler-plate:

"Few shirts age better than an oxford. The frays, the fades—these are the kinds of details we love. We selected this fabric because it can—and will—hang with your old favorites."

What differentiates the two descriptions is the unique nature of Everlane's content. J. Crew is writing about any oxford cloth shirt. Everlane is writing about a very specific product tailored to the sort of customer who cares about the details. Not every customer will care, but enough care. By selling unique products with good stories (not to mention competitive prices), Everlane has attracted niche customers--a prime SEO goal for smaller businesses.

For a smaller site, a niche product is a necessity. Even then, the story is equally important--and, unfortunately, is often the downfall of many earnest companies with genuinely good products. This is why a unique product description is a cornerstone of a good SEO campaign.

Read: "To Compete, Discover Your Niche." 

Add Rich Product Snippets

Rich snippets help Google characterize (and rank) your products. Rich snippets are a crucial part of your product and website's story. The rich snippet is the information that appears under your ranking in a Google search result. The more descriptive the better--but you don't want to get too creative. Keep it basic (and leave the distinctive details for your actual page). For more on rich snippets, read Google's rich snippets guidelines.

A unique product, a good story, and good SEO practices, like rich snippets, 
will help you fight the big guys.

Fight the Big Online Retailers with Stepman's PC

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to compete against large online retailers content, contact our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepman's PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective marketing campaigns.