Link building and Google Analytics

Years ago we bought a house with a nice 50ft pine tree in the side yard.  A  month after we moved in a decent wind storm came through and that nice looking 50ft pine tree fell down.  Fortunately it just missed the neighbors house and layed down diagonally across their front lawn with the tip laying in the street.  Part of the clean up efforts involved pulling the rest of the stump out of the ground which taught me a bit about how trees are engineered.  Soon after I found more tree stumps to pull out in the back yard so I could build a fence and plant a new lawn.  More lessons in how trees are engineered.  This week’s lesson about link building reminded me of those tree stumps.  The more roots there are the better the tree stays in the ground.  The more links there are to my site the better Google sees my site as a relevant and quality site to show ads for.  Link building is a slow process; I wouldn’t expect immediate results, but getting linked to consistently is a good thing.

Speaking of number of links, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a website is crucial to know what to tweak, what to leave behind, and what to leave in.  One of the biggest things I learned this week was not to focus on just one measurement.  It takes multiple factors to decide which keyword, landing page, or ad is not performing well.  Sometimes one measurement will point  you in the direction of discovering a trend, but checking it with a couple of other measurements is ideal.  And while there is not a perfect report, there are some useful tools to help figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Hmm, tools and roots, websites and roots, they all seem to go together.  That’s nerdiculous!

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Social Media

Social media.  It’s interesting that social media affects businesses as much as it does.  Sites and apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pintrest have all captured the world’s attention.  And where there’s attention there is money to be made.  Enter social media.  Businesses can interact directly with customers, and customers can communicate right back.  This seems to fill the gap between face-to-face contact and static one-sided commercials.  As I see it, social media taps into the word of mouth of customers in a big way.  Word of mouth is still the best avenue for influencing and convincing potential customers to become real customers.

There is more than one way to approach social media to advertise a business and website.  In the end it all comes down to reaching out to more and more people, reaching through connections to discover more connections.  For those that are successful at it there are huge financial rewards.  It’s the new age of media, and it’s a social thing!

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Racing engines

This week’s reading and discussions were about landing page and SEO.  Search Engine Optimization means your site is designed/configured to boost search engine quality and relevance scores.  In this way an ad campaign will run more efficiently, target the intended audience better, have lower cost-per-clicks, and have higher click-through-rates.  Google is happy because the user experience should be better, users are happy because they are finding things more relevant to what they searched for.  Marketers are happy because it’s cheaper to run a campaign in this way.

It appears to me that SEO is a bit like a racing engine: it never really stays static.  We’re always looking for a way to tune things up, get better performance, decrease the volume of resources needed while still running at a good pace to stay in the lead.  So changing a keyword, enhancing the landing page experience, creating unique and useful content, using keywords in page headers, titles and URLS, and even naming the image alt tags with text that a search engine can use to confirm your page is really what users are searching for.

Some of this process is trial and error.  Well, most it.  Change something, record how it performs, change something else, record it.  I think a few patterns emerge over time, but we’re also talking about human behavior.  And while people are sometimes predictable, often they are not so when attempting to optimize there is an element of the unknown involved.  It’s nerdiculous!

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Conversion tracking and Ad performance

It’s too bad we don’t have the ability to put code in everything in our lives we want to track progress on easily.  I mean, sure, we can open a spreadsheet and manually track things.  But I’m talking about adding code to places and events and having smart tools do the heavy lifting for me.  Let’s say I wanted to track how many times someone knocks on the front door of my house or how many times and where I honk the horn in my car while driving.  Google Adwords does stuff like this.  Well, at least related to a website where we have adwords enabled.  I was a bit confused at first on what was considered a conversion.  Turns out it’s whatever I want it to be!  If  it’s meaningful just to have someone visit a particular page of my site then I could consider that a conversion and put Google’s conversion tracking code on the page and Google will count a page visit as a conversion.  If I have a PayPal button to buy a product then the page PayPal returns to after the sale could have the conversion code on it, counting those page landings after a sale as a conversion.  A button click, a link visit, a newsletter sign up; those all could be considered conversions.  Just have to get the conversion code to fire off when the activity deemed as a conversion is activated. ‘Nuff said.

Now onto the Ad performance.  This is a trickier subject.  In general terms we need to improve the quality scores.  Improving the quality translates into cheaper ads, more relevance, better click-through and conversion rates, and more sales.  Oh, and Google considers them a better experience for users who are searching for products related to your business.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  Digging into the details requires some patience and thinking through the entire process of what happens when someone opens Google in a browser and types in a search, sees an ad, clicks on it, and arrives at your website.  I will have to admit it’s overwhelming at first to know what to do because there are so many percentages and numbers to evaluate.  But with some time and experience during the experimenting and trial-and-error phase I think it will work out.  Sounds a bit nerdy, eh?

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Relevance, Google ads

Relevance.  Does what I’m looking at have anything to do with what I was looking for.  If I’m shopping for socks I probably won’t have much interest in perusing the toy section.  Google knows this and wants all users on it’s site to have a positive experience.  This is accomplished in large part by returning relevant search results.  If people find what they are looking for they will be happy with the experience and more likely to come back.

The same is true for advertising on Google.  Google still wants users to have a positive experience, so advertisements that show in the search results page should have something to do with what was searched on.  If not, users usually feel a little irritated or frustrated that ads that have nothing to do with what they are searching for keep showing up.  If I search for athletic socks online and an ad is showing on the results page with a line about a sale, free shipping, or a brand I like, I’m much more inclined to click that ad so I can get to the part of finding exactly what I need and a simple way to get it.

In order for this to work there are a few rules.  Google rates text ads with a quality score based on a few factors including keywords, landing page, how closely the ad is related to the ad group, etc.  Bottom line – is the ad relevant to the search AND is it relevant to what is promoted on the site being advertised.  If not the quality score is low and it will be more expensive to run that ad.  Reviewing the quality scores of keywords, ads in different ad groups, and landing pages are vital to run a successful ad for the lowest price.

I suspect some users get suspicious when an unrelated ad shows up on a search page; I know I do.  Usually I think that either I typed my search criteria wrong or the company advertising is a bit shady and pushing something I don’t need.

The framework Google has set up drives the process to achieve relevance, which is how we started this whole discussion.  That’s nerdiculous!

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Ads and Adgroups – mini billboards of the internet

When you are driving around town and your eyes scan the road for obstacles, cars, pedestrians, signs, and stop lights – do they also catch the billboards?  I think most of us do.  That’s why companies advertise on billboards.  People will see them because of the traffic.  I suspect that the amount of time available to see and read a billboards is measured in seconds, 6 touted as being the industry standard, so the ads have to get right to the point.

Google ads seem similar in my mind.  Except instead of traffic going past the billboard the billboard travels to the user.  And the billboard only shows ads related to what the user is searching for.  From an advertiser’s point of view it’s targeted to those who are thinking and searching for a product or service directly related to what their company provides.  Google keeps a whole room full of the min-billboards, pulling out the most relevant ones to drive out to the user’s screen and display at the right time.  There could be a few more words than a regular billboard, but not many.  Users may not spend much time looking at it, though I couldn’t find a metric anywhere.  My guess is 1 to 6 seconds.  The great thing about these mini billboards is that if the reader is interested they can click on the billboard and arrive at your website where you have a second chance to convince them that your product or service is right for them to buy.  Another great thing about these mini billboards – changing them is much simpler than a real billboard.  And much cheaper.

Google ads are the legos in a cinder block world.

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Keyword: keyword

The word is keyword.  As in Google AdWords.  A strange combination of english, math, psychology, and art.  English because using keywords requires some knowledge of words and what they actually relate to when 2 or 3 of them are strung together.  Math because keyword women’s yoga pants -cheap is really subtraction in disguise.  Psychology because knowing what people type when they are searching for something requires getting inside their head.  Art because it’s not an exact science otherwise we would all use the exact same formula to achieve the exact same results.

Now, I’m talking difficult.  But not impossible.  With some knowledge, some wisdom borrowed from those who have gone before, and some curiosity to find out what works best this Adwords campaign is about to lift off.  I will say that after studying a bit about what makes a good keyword I have been thinking of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Keywords that are too broad have the potential to show up for searches that don’t have anything to do with your business.  Too specific and very few users, if any, will click on your ad link.  So it’s a matter of getting the keyword just right.  Specific enough to be relevant but broad enough to attract more than one visitor to your site.  Goldilocks and the Three Bears working on a web business together.  That’s nerdiculous!

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