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The Thrive Hive

Tips on digital marketing you can apply today.

Making Your Site Search Engine-Friendly - Expectations

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Shari Thurow had a great article today on realistic expectations for a search engine optimization campaign.

The article communicated this topic via frustrated comments by SEO practitioners about attitudes of clients and IT departments. While I felt that the comments sounded a bit like a complaint session, there were definitely several points that all companies who want to grow their site's organic search traffic should consider:

  • There is no quick, simple way to boost search results. Almost all websites have their own, unique architecture, and aspects of that structure can help or hinder search crawlers. If you wish to conduct search engine optimization on your site, understand that it will involve more than some simple content edits. Often, site structure must be altered significantly to give you content a chance.
  • Get your IT department, web firm, and any other relevant contractors on board. Shari mentioned difficulties in Marketing/IT department relationships, but I'd like to take this idea a little further. Often SEO involves a company's marketing department and several contractors in addition to the SEO firm. You the client need to make sure everyone is on board with the SEO project. Contractors look to you for direction, so there is no way the SEO firm is going to be able to convince other, doubtful contractors of SEO's importance. And often there is no way that the SEO firm can successfully implement an SEO program without the cooperation of the other contractors. Your leadership is vital.
  • Get educated. You definitely don't need all skills necessary to design and implement a website - that is why you are hiring professionals. But the chance of success of your SEO project will increase exponentially if you have some basic understanding of HTML and how websites are structured. Subscribing to a weekly newsletter or two about web design or search engine marketing will provide you with more perspective on your project. Your SEO firm (and your web firm) will love you for it!

There are so may aspects of any project that dictate success or failure, but these three in my experience can go a long way for a positive outcome for Search Engine Optimization.

Got Killer Content?

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Friday, June 03, 2005

Content has been a big topic among my clients, lately, and that's a great thing. Generally, content ends up being the "step-child" of the web process, so I am happy that content is getting more attention.

We are always so focused on a great design or fantastic interactive functionality or good search engine rankings and content seems to fall by the wayside.

Often it is a process problem -- there are not resources in budget or staffing to produce consistent, quality web content. Many companies do not realize that after they have invested significant budget for web development, they do not have someone to produce great content.

Sometimes it is a problem of objectives: without a strong understanding of a web site's objective, determining what content works and how to convey it can be incredibly difficult.

The bottom line, however, is that though website visitors enjoy a nicely designed site and may like interactive functionality, they have really come to your site for you content.

So if you have killer content, then you are in good shape. But what if you don't? has an excellent article on persuasive content today. Check it out.

Some Search and Travel Statistics from Yahoo

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Saturday, May 21, 2005

I'll keep it short today, since it is Friday. Ran across some very interesting stats on travel and search this morning. These stats were cited by a Yahoo representative on a panel at the TravelCom conference:

  1. 76 percent of online travel purchases are preceded by search.
  2. Consumers average six searches before any travel purchase.
  3. 50 percent of searches include two words or more.

Some more findings offered by Keynote Systems in a recent webinar:

  1. The average online travel purchaser visits 5.5 sites before pulling the trigger.
  2. 44% of a survey's respondents purchasing a vacation package went online as soon as they decided to take a vacation. (NOTE - NOT when they had already chosen their destination)
  3. Survey respondents booking hotel rooms online cited customer service as the most important factor leading them to book.

This is just a laundry list, and I will let you take away what you will from them. All right, no I won't. Some take-aways from these stats:

  • Search marketing needs to be a major aspect of your online marketing
  • Resign yourself to the fact that your site visitors will look at four and a half of your competitors in addition to you
  • Sale of a destination online is IMPORTANT, whether you do it yourself or else if your destination marketing organization is doing it.
  • Hotels - focus on that customer service, even online!

Have a good weekend, all.

What Is It About Blogs?

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Friday, May 20, 2005

What is it about blogs that fascinate the media and so many others as well?

Yesterday a story ran on National Public Radio about a Los Alamos employee who started a blog for fellow employees to voice their frustrations with the lab and propose solutions. Anonymous posting is allowed.

It has been a rough year or so for the lab, which has had some public incidents of high-profile injuries and a perceived security leak that precipitated the Director to shut the lab down for 7 months to review safety and security procedures (the "security leak" turned out to be a "clerical error). It was this shutdown that prompted the start of the employee blog.

Then some congressmen found out about the blog and read passages. It was apparently disturbing enough to them that during hearings about the contract renewal for the lab a Congresswoman liberally referenced the blog. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan actually suggested closing the lab, citing the blog as a symptom of all that is perceived to be wrong there.

Enough of the recap. I heard this during my morning coffee and it tempted me to ask the question, "What is it about blogs that fascinate and scare some of us?" Does this congresswoman see blogging as the problem?

If you look closely at  LANL: The Real Story, it seems evident that the source of the sometimes nit-picky complaints are not a result of the act of blogging, but of the more interesting social phenomenon of what people do when allowed to express their opinions anonymously.

So are blogs considered a problem? Or, have the actions people take on blogs always been a problem but this new means of expression is giving these behaviors more publicity?

I am getting a little philosophical this week.

What's On My Mind Today: The Impact of the Internet

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Thursday, May 19, 2005

I spent some time last night with an e-business class for MBA candidates at a local college. The purpose of my visit was to share my perspective "from the trenches" of what future trends I see in e-business.

We discussed a variety of hot new trends in Internet marketing, but the conversation often strayed to the more general concept of the Internet's impact on our personal lives and society. During the class, I suddenly and inadvertently boiled down so many things that I see every day - Internet marketing options like pay-per-call and blogging - into a larger concept:

  1. The Internet has changed every way we communicate.
  2. It has changed irrevocably all industries and processes of communication -- advertising, public relations, the postal service, publishers, and more.
  3. The Internet for the foreseeable future will drive trends in fields not fully engaging the Internet. It will be up to companies in those fields to either embrace this influence of become a dinosaur.
  4. And really successful companies in these fields will incorporate the influences of the Internet in society and take them a step further, creating a dialectic between traditional communication and Internet communication.
  5. This not only applies to companies but to individuals as well.

This means that merely looking at the Internet as "another" community or sales channel or advertising media may be short-sighted. Only seeing it as a core driver of human interaction will allow us to see it clearly and plan for the future, either as businesses or as individuals.

If you are a business or individual looking to grow or succeed in the future, it will be impossible to do so without considering the impact of the Internet's influence on all aspects of your field, business in general, and society. Whoa. Pretty deep for a Wednesday morning.

Do You Have the Courage to Blog?

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

There is so much buzz out there these days about blogging, I myself am starting to wonder if it is more hype than substance. The New York Times featured blogs recently, and Blogging was the cover story for a recent Business Week.

Though you may think that blogs today are the personal web pages of yesterday, filled with meaningless rants and the lionization of the mundane, consider reconsidering.

Thought the web became flooded with personal web pages, it also grew into the most measurable, effective, efficient new media of our generation. Can blogging do the same? I am not saying that for certain, but I also wouldn't write them off right away for three reasons:

  1. The blogosphere is a dynamic pool of opinionated, passionate writers that have developed an entirely new grassroots network of communication. Marketers are constantly seeking that holy grail of "word of mouth" for their business's products and services. Think -- is there an area of the blogosphere that can be passionate about your products and services? (Read: iPod) Can you be passionate?
  2. Blogging is becoming mainstream -- not in high quantity but in quality. There is now a blogger on the White House press corp. Bloggers are more and more participating in the wider conversations about national news and events, such as the prisoner abuse scandal.
  3. Blogging's unique medium allow you to be both personal and professional. What other means to communicate with a large audience as a marketer has quite this combination.

Blogging is not for every business, but it is worth every marketer's time to think on whether blogging could work for their overall strategy. And if it does, blog with courage: be personal, passionate and avoid sounding like body copy.

Measuring Pay-per-click Success: A More Effective Approach

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pay-per-click advertising is on my brain lately. It is a powerful Internet marketing medium that can bring instant results. But often "instant" does not translate to "effective."

For example, how do you measure the success of your PPC? Many people look at bid price,  click-through rate, and total visitors. Are you measuring actual conversions from pay-per-click visitors? Yahoo Search Marketing and Google AdWords have tools to measure which pay-per-click visitors coming to your site are purchasing from you.

With conversion tools set up, look at  your cost-per-conversion and your conversion rate. these can be more effective ways to measure PPC return on investment (ROI) than amount spent, visitors, and click-through rate.

I have seen examples where an advertiser's click-through rate may not be great, but its overall conversion rate for a given category or term is actually pretty good. I have also seen the opposite, where from a click-through perspective the category or keyword seems to be performing well but those visitors are actually not converting to sales.

Use the great tools provided by your pay-per-click vendors to measure pay-per-click advertising against actual sales.

Travel Search Engines Growing as an Impactful Distribution Opportunity

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Saturday, May 14, 2005

Travel search engines work similar to regular search engines, but they feature one type of content: travel deals online. These engines crawl through the travel sites on the web and pick up listings on hotel websites, travel agent websites, suppliers and more.

Growing travel search engines include Mobissimo, Kayak, and Yahoo's Farechaser and they are gaining audience rapidly.

For example, Hitwise research indicted that travel search engine traffic has grown 250 percent in the past six months, according to newsletter. The top dive travel agencies (includes Expedia, Travelocity, etc.) only grew 11.4 percent.

For hotels and rental car companies, these travel search engines may be a good new distribution channel to consider, particularly to grow direct bookings. additionally noted that visitors to travel search engines are more likely to be over 55 than other types of online travel engines. If this is your target market, travel search engines may be a uniquely interesting distribution channel online.

What Do People Click On, Paid or Natural Search Listings?

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Friday, May 13, 2005

I often get asked the question: "who actually clicks on pay-per-click ads, anyway? Do people really use them?"

Good question. Recent research from several industry outfits indicates that on average 70 percent of searchers use organic or natural search engine listings and about 30 percent use paid listings.

Jupiter research released a report saying that 6 out of 7 sales from search engines came from organic listings.

Another set of research describes a "golden triangle" of search made up of a visual diagram of where people look most on search pages which corroborates this information.

So what to make of this? Three main things to take away:

  1. Advertisers who avoid search engine optimization entirely and use the immediate gratification of pay-per-click as their only search advertising option could be missing 70 percent of their target audience.
  2. Those who write off pay-per-click advertising because of the impression that people do not look at the ads may be missing up to 30% of their potential customers.
  3. Though top rankings on both natural listings and paid listings bring the most traffic, it can still be profitable and effective to rank in the top 5 to 10 for either.

Understanding the potential of each of these Internet marketing tactics and how they apply to your specific business will ensure success, but the bottom line is that both can play a significant role in your online marketing program.

Average Pay-per-click Bid Prices Up 11% from March to April

Kristen Fowler Lindsey - Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wow. Pay-per-click bid prices continue to rise. The Keyword Price Index from Fathom Online reported an 11 percent increase from March to April to an average of $1.95. This is a continuing trend of bid price inflation that began getting a lot of attention last Christmas holiday season, when the growth in the number of advertisers using PPC and the tight, competitive holiday shopping season created drastic bid price jumps.

According to Fathom, the sector primarily responsible for the increase was finance, with mortgage refinance advertising showing the biggest jump.

It is important whether you are planning a pay-per-click campaign or are already conducting one to anticipate price increases. Small businesses are coming online in ever greater numbers and will slowly but surely ensure that costs will rise, because search ad inventory is relatively static.

Consider some additional factors as well -- if you have a seasonal sales fluctuation in your industry, then be sure to put aside for a price increase at that time. The summer travel market for Alaska is a good example of a business category with heavy seasonal fluctuations.

Keeping tabs on your competitive market will also help you stay on top of costs. If a large competitor suddenly comes online with Pay-per-click and has deep pockets, be prepared for inflation.

Active management of your pay-per-click advertising is critical to getting the most for your money.