Archive for January, 2012

Seven Tips for Improving Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be an effective way to drive traffic to your website quickly, but small businesses too often make mistakes that undermine their campaigns.

Here’s how PPC works: Through programs such as Google AdWords and Facebook Ads, marketers specify an amount they’re willing to pay for each visitor who clicks through to their sites. They also indicate whether they want their ads to appear in search engine results or content blocks embedded within websites, or both. It’s an auction-style system through which the advertiser that bids the most for a targeted keyword receives the most exposure.

Although PPC advertising may sound simple, plenty of novices have created campaigns that generate little click-through action because they target the wrong keywords or lack a compelling message. So, consider these suggestions for avoiding the seven mistakes that most new advertisers make:

1. Avoid “broad match” keywords.
One of the biggest mistakes is ignoring the difference between choosing specific keyword match types and setting all keywords as “broad match,” which means that your ad will appear not just for your chosen keyword phrase, but also for any similar phrases or relevant variations your advertising program deems appropriate. Although broad match placements can help increase your exposure, they can also attract irrelevant traffic that costs you money.

For example, a PPC ad with the broad match term “show ideas” could be displayed for the search query “baby shower gift ideas.” Even though the search query contains the broad match term, it isn’t a relevant match.

To avoid losing money on irrelevant clicks, focus on phrase or exact match keywords.

2. Separate search and content ad placements.
Search network placement refers to PPC ads that appear in search query results, while content network placement means websites that display PPC ads as blocks within their pages. Most new PPC marketers select both the search and content networks when they set up their first campaigns, and they usually use the same keywords, ad content and payment amount for each click.

But the specific queries and websites that trigger your content network placements can be significantly different than what yields results on the search network. Running the same ads on both networks, therefore, could cost you money in terms of irrelevant placements. Although customizing takes more time and effort, it’s far more efficient to tailor your keywords, ad copy and keyword bids for each network.

3. Use negative keywords, too.
PPC marketers often fail to use negative keywords, which allow you to specify where your ad should not appear. For example, in our “show ideas” and “baby shower gift ideas” example, the words “baby,” “shower” and “gift” could be designated as negative keywords to help eliminate such irrelevant ad placements.

4. Efficiently target ad campaigns.
Many advertisers aren’t precise enough in targeting their campaigns. To increase efficiency, take advantage of features in PPC accounts that allow you to specify who sees the ads.

Here are a few areas to consider in targeting your campaigns:

* Multiple countries. If you plan to advertise in several countries, set up an ad group for each. Otherwise, limit your ad to U.S. placements.

* Micro-geographic focus. If you create an ad for a local business keyword — “Mexican restaurants in Chicago,” for example — use the micro-geographic targeting features in your advertiser account to select the specific zip codes in which your ad will appear based on your business’s delivery area.

* Time of day. If your ads generate the most conversions during a particular time of day, set them up to run only during those time periods.

5. Match landing pages to ads.
Sending a visitor from your PPC ad to an irrelevant landing page not only disrupts the sales process, but also can also result in the assessment of lower ad quality scores. That means you’ll pay more for each click and receive less exposure than advertisers with higher scores.

To avoid low relevance ad and landing page pairings, decrease the number of keywords. That will help make your landing pages as relevant as possible.

6. Test ad copy.
Writing effective ad copy can be difficult. Unless you test different versions of ads to see which perform best, you aren’t maximizing the ROI of your campaign.

Most PPC platforms allow you to set up split tests that rotate different ads for each of your targeted keywords. To do the test effectively, adjust your setting so that ads will be served up randomly rather than according to the platform’s formula of displaying the ad it determines will result in the most clicks.

7. Track your return on investment.
To effectively manage PPC campaigns and improve your ROI, you need to know exactly which clicks are resulting in sales. To generate this data for free, tie your PPC account to Google Analytics to track which ads led visitors to your page and which visits resulted in sales. Without this information, you can’t adjust your keyword bids or eliminate less effective ads and keywords.

What You Need to Know About Brand Building vs. SEO

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

There’s no doubt you should aim to both build brand awareness and improve your company website’s search engine optimization (SEO). But how should you plan your marketing efforts when the two priorities don’t always align well?

For example, if your small business suffers from low brand awareness online, optimizing your website to rank well for brand keywords in search results might not be effective. An example of this could be targeting the phrase “Best Buy” instead of “32 inch LCD TV.” After all, few people are likely to be searching for those specific phrases if they aren’t familiar with your company in the first place.

The converse also holds true. If you’re looking to build a business that’s successful in the long run, you need a recognizable brand, not just a few high rankings for generic search terms. Home Depot, for example, doesn’t fare well in organic search results but still leads the home-improvement industry and enjoys enormous brand recognition.

Here’s how to balance these competing opportunities to promote your brand and build traffic through search engine results:

Analyze the Potential of Branding Your Business
Decide whether to focus on brand building or SEO by analyzing your business model and long-range goals. Are you simply looking to make a few dollars selling products online? If so, there’s no reason to build traffic for brand keywords. Concentrate instead on the buyer-oriented phrases your target customers will be looking for in search engines, as determined through keyword research and the search keywords found in your website analytics program.

On the other hand, brand building can be a must if you want to expand your company’s web presence and become recognized as a leader in your industry. In that case, consider splitting your efforts. Increase brand recognition by commenting on and contributing to industry websites and social networking sites, which can also help to improve your rankings for brand keywords. Consider targeting generic keywords in your SEO efforts — at least, until your recognition grows to the point that brand keyword traffic is self-sustaining.

Consider the New Role of Personalized Search
Recently, Google launched “Search, Plus Your World,” which displays items a business determines will be relevant to it based on its personal connections. They appear alongside the traditional SEO-based results.

As an example, say you subscribe to the RSS feeds of several different blogs about bodybuilding — a notoriously competitive search environment. When you search using keywords related to bodybuilding, you might get results from certain blogs because you’re already following them. With Google’s new feature, it doesn’t matter that the blogs aren’t strong enough to achieve high rankings on their own.

Because of this new development, a case can be made for the power of brand building. Companies with established brands are often more likely to be mentioned in blogs and on social networking sites than businesses without a strong image. Because these social mentions are now included in search results, brand building can be an important way to leapfrog the traditional SEO rankings and draw more traffic to your site.

Identify the Ideal Blend
No matter what industry you’re in or the type of business you’re trying to build, consider including both brand building and SEO in your marketing strategy. You don’t have to focus exclusively on one technique at the expense of the other.

If you determine that brand building should pay off better, focus on building links from other websites pointing back to your own pages that use brand keywords as your anchor text — the underlined text that people click on to follow a link — and invest a significant effort in your social media presence. Mentions of your brand in social media are likely to lead to increased exposure and greater awareness.

But because it may take some time for your brand to permeate the digital world, also consider investing at least a small amount of time in generic search phrases related to your business. As your brand awareness grows, you can dial down the amount of time spent on generic keywords.

And even if you plan to rely on generic keyword search results for the bulk of your traffic, there’s still value in doing some brand building activities. Google’s expansion of personalized search, as well as its elimination of thin content sites through the Panda updates, seems to indicate the company’s preference for strong, well-defined brands. Remember to include at least a few brand keywords in your SEO activities to reap the benefits they can bring to your website.

Facebook Readies IPO Filing

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Morgan Stanley Seen Leading Deal Valuing Giant at $75 Billion to $100 Billion

Facebook Inc. could file papers for its initial public offering as early as this coming week, people familiar with the matter said, as anticipation mounts for what is likely to be one of the biggest debuts for a U.S. company.

The deal, seen as defining moment for the latest Web investing boom, could raise as much as $10 billion and value the social network between $75 billion and $100 billion, said people familiar with the matter. A valuation of $75 billion would be below earlier expectations.

The website, which in less than eight years has attracted more than 800 million members, has changed the way people across the globe communicate, from organizing political protests to sharing baby pictures.

The Internet giant is close to picking Morgan Stanley to lead the deal, these people said. Wall Street banks, many of them struggling amid a crimp in trading profits, have been jostling for a leading role in the deal, which could yield them tens of millions of dollars in banker fees, potential new business and bragging rights.

A nod for Morgan Stanley would mark a disappointment for rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which a year ago was viewed as having an edge to lead the deal. One person familiar with the matter said that while Morgan Stanley would likely land the coveted “lead-left” spot on an IPO financial filing, Goldman would also likely play a significant role.

Spokespeople for Facebook, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Facebook could file documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission as early as this coming Wednesday, said one person familiar with the matter. But that timing is just one scenario Facebook executives are considering, the person said. Executives are also considering filing a few weeks later, the person said.

People familiar with the matter have said the company is targeting an IPO sometime between April and June.

A $10 billion Facebook offering would rank fourth among IPOs for U.S. companies, behind Visa Inc., General Motors Co. and AT&T Wireless, according to Dealogic. It would rank Facebook as the biggest U.S. Internet offering ever, replacing Google Inc., which raised $1.9 billion in 2004 at a $23 billion valuation.

At a $100 billion valuation, Facebook would be worth about the same as McDonald’s Corp. and nearly half of Google.

Facebook’s revenue is driven by its advertising business, as big brands rush to the site to interact with consumers through display ads and fan pages. Facebook has been able to increase its world-wide advertising revenue from $738 million in 2009 to $3.8 billion in 2011, according to estimates from research firm eMarketer. It isn’t known if Facebook is profitable.

Facebook’s final valuation will be determined by a variety of factors, people familiar with the matter said, such as investor demand for social media, the IPO market and the health of the European economy.
[FBOOK]

The IPO will mint a new generation of Silicon Valley millionaires on the level not seen since Google’s offering. Some 3,000 people work at Facebook.

An IPO will also test the ability of Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, age 27, to manage a global company whose financial performance will be scrutinized every three months by investors. Mr. Zuckerberg started the company in 2004 out of his Harvard University dorm room. Overall, about 500 million users now log into the site daily, according to Facebook.

Mr. Zuckerberg had been reluctant to push forward with an IPO. People familiar with his thinking said he has been fearful of the damage an IPO could do to the company’s culture. He wants employees focused on making great products, not the stock price, they said.

But outside forces are partly pushing his hand. Facebook executives began to realize in 2010 that Facebook would have more than 500 shareholders by the end of 2011, which would trigger a regulatory requirement that Facebook start publicly reporting financial information.

Mr. Zuckerberg decided it made more sense for Facebook to go public and reap some financial benefit from an IPO, rather than stay private but have to release its financial information, said people familiar with his thinking.

Leading the Facebook sale would be a huge win for Morgan Stanley, which last year cemented its position as the top Internet stock underwriter by leading the IPOs of LinkedIn Corp., Groupon Inc., and Zynga Inc. The bank’s global tech banking team, led by Michael Grimes and Paul Chamberlain, is also based in Menlo Park.

Facebook would cap a recent wave of Web IPOs, some of which have struggled amid growing investor scrutiny of the new Internet companies. But investors and analysts said now could be a good time for a Facebook offering.

This year, the overall market has risen, and on Friday other Internet stocks rallied on news that Facebook would soon file for a deal. “The excitement around Facebook is still enormous,” said Max Wolff, an analyst at GreenCrest Capital, which researches companies going public.

The recent IPO climate “hasn’t been particularly strong,” said Peter Falvey, co-head of the technology banking group at Morgan Keegan & Co. But Mr. Falvey added that with “the recent stock market strength and maybe some green shoots in the economy, there could be a fortuitous window for Facebook.”

21 Shoestring Marketing Secrets That All Small Business Owners Need to Know

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

There are twenty-one shoestring marketing secrets that will provide you with the right frame of mind so that you can begin the process of building a thriving small business without spending a dime on marketing.

What every small business needs to know is that Shoestring Marketing is:

1. Low-cost. In today’s internet and social media age, there are now more low-cost marketing options than ever before. Not only is it possible, but absolutely doable to substantially grow your small business on a shoestring budget.

2. Commitment. If your marketing is going to eventually take hold, then you need to make a strong commitment to see it through until it sticks. Don’t give up in the early stages.

3. Patience. The fruits of your marketing labors don’t happen overnight. You need to plant your marketing seeds and tend to them regularly before your marketing garden blooms.

4. Branding. Your clients and customers need to have a clear picture in their minds as to who you are and how your product or service can solve their most pressing problems

5. Consistency. Marketing is much like breathing. It’s the life of your small business and should be a regular part of your daily business activities.

6. Domination. If you want to explode your small business profits, then you must dominate a small part of your market. You need to become the “go-to” person in your particular niche.

7. Customer-focused. Your primary job is to clearly identify the problems that your prospects face and offer them the obvious solutions.

8. Identify your target market. It’s crucial that you know exactly who needs your product or service. Mass marketing doesn’t work in today’s business environment. Not only does it force you to water down your marketing message to please the masses, but it’s much too expensive for the shoestring marketer.

9. Elicits confidence and trust. Create experiences and situations that boost the level of confidence from your prospects. At the end of the day, people buy from those whom they like and trust.

10. Massive visibility. Since your prospects are exposed to over 4,000 ads every single day, you need to ensure that your small business is utilizing as many marketing platforms as possible. Your prospects should come across you in as many places as possible.

11. Repetition. Research suggests that prospects need to encounter your small business between seven and twelve times before they are ready to purchase. So, put yourself in front of your target market over and over again.

12. Ease of use. If your sales process, marketing materials or any other part of your business is too complicated, your customers will become confused. Confused customers simply don’t buy.

13. The WOW Factor. What are you doing to get noticed? How are you different than your competition? The fastest way to small business failure is to blend in with the crowd.

14. Quality. If your product and/or services aren’t top quality, then you won’t get repeat business. Your long-term success depends on satisfied customers who spread the word about your business and purchase from you repeatedly.

15. Education. Position yourself as an expert and educate your prospects as to why your small business can offer them the remedy to their most pressing pain points.

16. Relationships. Create real relationships with your prospects and customers. Answer their questions, solve their problems and help them if they’re stuck. Your prospects want to know that there’s a real person in front of your small business.

17. Increasing the lifetime value of customers. Over 20% of your existing customers will purchase from you again (since they already know and trust you), so create additional ways for them to make purchases.

18. Automation. We’re living in a fast-tracked society that doesn’t work using old-fashioned marketing methods. So, embrace automation tools such as landing pages, email autoresponders, shopping carts, customer management software, etc.

19. Tracking your results. It’s essential to your overall survival that you have a clear understanding what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to your marketing. Use link tracking software to track your ROI (even if your only investment is your time).

20. Flexibility. Things change quickly and you must be willing to adapt. When the next “great” marketing platform emerges, be willing to jump on board and embrace it with excitement. If you are a flexible marketer, you’re always miles ahead of your competition.

21. Everything that you do. Marketing isn’t just about your advertising campaigns. Every single interaction that you have with your prospects promotes your small business. So, be careful how you answer the phone, respond to your emails and treat your customers because all of it makes an instant and lasting impression on them.

So, there you have it, twenty-one Shoestring Marketing strategies that will literally transform your small business from “just getting by” to “flourishing.” And, the best part of all is that you can do it all on a shoestring marketing budget.

Social Media Trends With Benefits in 2012

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

The integration of social media and business has come of age: 38% of CEOs now label it a high priority, and 57% of businesses plan to hike their social media spend in 2012

As the use of social media advances across the business spectrum, Edelman’s David Armano has put together a list of the major social trends for 2012.

Might one of them hold untold riches for you? Take heed of these highlights, get the team together, and get creative!

Convergence. Social will go “transmedia,” further integrating with the offline world. Example: Last year, Domino’s Pizza posted unfiltered consumer feedback, from across the Internet, on screens in Times Square. Watch for more of the same.

Influence scores. Everyone has digital influence, some more than others, and it pays off. The race is on to develop a system for quantifying that influence. Consider Klout’s efforts to track it and offer influencers “perks.”

Gameification. Expect gamelike qualities to enhance social experiences and motivate people to not only engage, but advance in a given experience. It may even be helping solve the mystery of AIDS!

Social sharing. Sharing’s taking a more transactional bent. Sears already lets users share products or reviews with their socnets directly from its site.

Social TV. Watching TV is already a social act, as those who tweet to Glee can attest. Networks are smartly trying to cash in. The X Factor lets you vote on Twitter, along with other social promotions.

Micro economy. This may be the most exciting trend this year! Watch for social approaches to solving huge business problems. Kickstarter, anyone? Or what about AirBnB?

The Po!nt: Keep your social chops sharp by tracking how the space matures. Spot a previously unimagined opportunity for your business? Now’s the time to jump on it!

Six Ways to Make Your Content Shareable

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Content isn’t meant to stay grounded, it’s meant to soar across the social Web, says Ann Handley in an Entrepreneur article titled “How to Increase Social Sharing to Generate More Leads.” She offers these tips for getting folks to share your content online.

Display Twitter buttons. Among the 10,000 largest websites, those featuring Twitter share buttons are, on average, mentioned in 27 tweets that contain a link back to the site, whereas those not featuring tweet buttons are mentioned, on average, in only four tweets that contain a link back to the site, Handley says, citing a BrightEdge study.

Ask yourself, “Would I share this?” “People spread stuff that inspires them to care,” Handley points out. Content that makes you laugh, think, or just feel something is what gets shared online. People pass along content that says something about who they are and what they care about.

Take a stand. Don’t be a wallflower, afraid to stand out. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to dance. Just put yourself out there. Be passionate about what you’re doing. Stand for something. “Let your readers know where you are coming from, or how you feel about a topic. In other words, give them something to react to.”

Make sharing easy as clicking. Add social sharing icons (those buttons for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.) to any content that you publish online. The icons will catch the attention of readers and inspire them to share with just one click.

Use social links/plug-ins on homepages. Pasting those buttons prominently onto your online content encourages sharing by making it easy, says Handley, and it adds an element of social proof—validation—to whatever it is you’re producing. That includes “standalone content like e-books and whitepapers, as well as landing pages, graphics or infographics, customer success stories or case studies, and more.”

“Create wings.” View your content as birds that can take flight and spread their song throughout the Web. “Create things people want to share and that they’ll find useful, helpful, or just plain fun: branded e-books, whitepapers, audio or video downloads, infographics, PowerPoint slide decks, research charts, tools, or photos.”

The Po!nt: Just creating engaging content isn’t enough—you also need to give your readers quick and easy ways to share it.

Fox’s ‘Touch’ Inks Historic Global Deal With Unilever

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Ad Giant Backs TV Drama Debut Around the World in Landmark Advertising Pact

When he played Jack Bauer in “24,” Kiefer Sutherland outmaneuvered terrorists, mad bombers and other threats to national security. Now he’s teaming with Unilever to conquer the world.

In a move loaded with challenges, News Corp.will simultaneously launch a Fox drama starring Mr. Sutherland, called “Touch,” in more than 100 countries with a global marketing effort from Unilever. Advertising for the popular deodorant known as Sure in the U.K., Degree in the U.S. and Rexona everywhere else will accompany the effort.

The concept, which took more than a year to organize, illustrates the pressures big media companies face as digital technology and social media make it easier for consumers worldwide to follow TV programs. It also shows advertisers’ demand to court them.

“People feel so connected now, and they can, via the internet, know exactly what’s happening in the U.S.,” said Marion Edwards, president-international television, Twentieth Century Fox Film Distribution. “They can access episodes immediately after they air here. They can follow on Twitter. It’s all part of this huge informational universe where everyone feels very up to the moment.”

But finding a piece of content that reaches them all at a single moment is tough. In a typical process, it often takes months for a U.S. TV program to debut on foreign shores. Dialogue has to be dubbed and tweaked for different audiences. Promotions and marketing materials that appeal to various cultures have to be designed. While various News Corp. divisions can broadcast “Touch” in different parts of the world, the company isn’t everywhere, and in some instances had to tap outside partners to ensure “Touch” and Unilever had proper scale.

“It’s totally rare,” said Shari Cohen, executive director at WPP’s MindShare, who represents Unilever and supervised Ellen Ferrari, a MindShare managing director who helped put the program into place.

But more marketers may want just this sort of opportunity — particularly as different companies gain the ability to distribute their products on a broader scale and want to winnow the number of agencies overseeing their accounts. At Unilever, executives simply wanted a megaphone to help them talk to a broader audience. “This type of global sponsorship enables us to connect and engage consumers around the world with one culturally relevant content platform,” said Luis DiComo, senior VP-global media for Unilever.

“Touch,” debuting March 19, features Mr. Sutherland as the father of an emotionally challenged 11-year-old boy who can predict events around the world.

The show “will touch all areas of the globe and have characters speaking in their native languages for authenticity, which was a unique approach and obviously quite relevant to Unilever,” said Mr. DiComo.

Launching shows in this manner could give U.S. TV networks a greater ability to capture ad dollars from global clients. Unilever’s media buy for the show will encompass Europe, Asia, Latin America and the U.S. “Touch” will appear in more than 160 markets, on such outlets as Global Television in Canada, Sky 1 in the U.K., ProSieben in Germany, Yes TV in Israel and Channel One in Russia. Fox International Channels is launching “Touch” in 64 countries throughout Latin America, Asia and Europe.

Unilever will also sponsor an international media tour in which Mr. Sutherland will hopscotch around the globe to various events. Exclusive online content from “Touch” will be presented by Unilever products. And to get the word out, News Corp. has designed a “global” Facebook page for the show. The norm, executives said, is to create lots of different pages for different international audiences.

Will the effort be worth it? If News Corp. can create a template, “we can work with the client to say we may want more in certain regions than they normally would spend,” said Jean Rossi, president of Fox One, News Corp.’s cross-media sales division.

This may be the business of the future. “We are definitely getting more and more questions” from clients, she said. Automotive marketers, who typically launch vehicles around the world over a course of a few months, could also be potential customers.

“It’s the only way to think about the future in the marketing and distribution of content,” said Liz Dolan, chief marketing officer for Fox International Channels.

Giants’ Win Seen in 33.4% of U.S. Homes

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The victories by the Giants and the Patriots gave marketers the Super Bowl they most wanted.

The New York Giants’ 20-17 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers yesterday drew the best preliminary TV rating for any National Football League conference championship game since 1995 — and proved that live events can still reassemble the kind of TV audiences that are increasingly fragmented these days.

The game, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, was seen on Fox in 33.4% of homes in the top 56 U.S. TV markets, according to Ileana Pena, a spokeswoman for the News Corp.network.

That makes it the highest-rated conference title game since the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-28 in January 1995, which drew a major-market rating of 34.2.

The Giants’ victory drew a rating 11% better than last year’s NFC championship between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, which earned a 30 rating while airing earlier in the day.

New York topped the 49ers 7:54 into overtime on a 31-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes. The kick came after the Giants recovered a fumbled punt by Kyle Williams at the 49ers’ 24-yard line.

The New England Patriots’ 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens — also decided in the closing seconds — had the highest rating for an afternoon American Football Conference championship since 1994. The Patriots-Ravens game earned a 29.1 major-market rating on CBS. That’s the highest such rating for an afternoon AFC championship since a 1994 meeting between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills that drew a 29.5, according to CBS Corp.

The victories by the Giants and the Patriots gave marketers the Super Bowl they most wanted.

The teams will meet in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in a rematch of the 2008 title game, which New York won 17-14. Last year’s Super Bowl, won by the Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the most-watched program in U.S. TV history, drawing an average of 111 million viewers.

The 2008 Super Bowl drew an average of 97 million viewers — a record for the event at the time — and a 43.1 rating, according to Nielsen.

How Search Engines Work

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

It’s been 10 years since I wrote the second edition of a book about search engines called “Search Engine Marketing: The Essential Best Practice Guide”. It was a very big seller and, in fact, it carried on selling through to the beginning of 2010 when I took it offline.

I’ve decided to start this year by revisiting the chapter in the book about how search engines work. I’ve said many times over the years that, most books about SEO have a section called how search engines work. But rarely (if ever) do they describe the interdisciplinary approach to information retrieval (IR) covering mathematics, computer science, library science, information architecture, cognitive psychology, linguistics, and statistics – to name but a few.

Previously, I had written mainly about methods of manipulating rankings by keyword stuffing and other black hat type techniques of the time. But as I began to realize the importance of linkage data and even more so, link anchor text, I became more and more inquisitive as to what it was exactly that search engines used in their ranking technologies.

After talking to one of the pioneers in web search (Brian Pinkerton of WebCrawler) I was introduced to the work of foremost information retrieval scientist, Gerard Salton. This was a major breakthrough for me.

Salton’s work was cited in just about every IR research paper I read at the time. So I tracked down and bought a copy of his seminal work “Modern Information Retrieval” (written back in 1983, however Salton’s work in the field goes back to the early 1970s).

As a marketer, not a scientist, this was no easy read. Yet, as I began to grasp the basic concepts and drivers behind information retrieval (and the way it is applied to the web) the more I was able to understand the major challenges involved. And that led me to change, not just the amateurish and spammy techniques I’d used previously, but to thinking about SEO in an entirely different way.

And to this day, I still firmly believe that a basic understanding of the science of information retrieval on the web goes a long way toward helping search marketers dispel myths and do their jobs more professionally and proficiently.

Of course, 10 years later my personal library has grown to include a very large section of information retrieval and data mining texts as more and more become available. This is also largely due to the fact that the subject matter is so fascinating it’s hard not to become engrossed.

As I revisited the chapter I’d written on how search engines work from a decade ago, I expected it to be a bit stale, but it wasn’t at all. Although, I dare say, to an IR scientist, if not stale it probably seems about as elementary as it gets. I wrote the chapter placing great emphasis on trying to make it non-mathematical. By that I mean highlighting concepts and background theory rather than matrices and formulae. That said, it’s extremely hard to cover the subject without references to linear algebra and other mind-numbing math.

Anyway, if you’re genuinely interested in how search engines work (but really, not the anecdotal stuff generally bandied around) then it’s as good a place as any to start. I mention in the introduction that it is totally unchanged from the very quirky, very British flavor it had when it was first published. A few pages were eliminated purely because they were totally irrelevant a decade later. There are a few little gems in it which I’d forgotten about.
? !

No the subhead above isn’t a typo or spelling mistake. It’s actually a conversation.

When the French author Victor Hugo had Les Miserables published, he was not living in Paris at that time. He was waiting to hear news from his publisher about the kind of reception his new book was having. When he could wait for news no longer, he sent a letter to his publisher which contained only the character: ?

On receiving this, his publisher knew exactly what it meant and he returned a note to him containing only the character: ! This let Victor Hugo know that his book was a huge success. It is said that this is the shortest correspondence in history.

What’s that got to do with anything? It was actually a good analogy I used relating to the length of the average query at search engines at the time and how difficult it is to deal with short queries.

I’m seriously thinking about trying to find the time to update the entire book this year and make it available free to Search Engine Watch and ClickZ subscribers. More recently I’ve been reading about a feature-centric view of information retrieval and also learning to rank for information retrieval and natural language processing (very hot research topics). I’ll be writing a couple of follow up columns covering these subjects combined with fascinating insights into the strength of end user data and, of course, weaving that into the update of the book once I get time to make a start.

Top 5 Trends in Sales 2.0

Friday, January 20th, 2012

It was a jam packed day at Sales 2.0 in Santa Monica today. It was a great opportunity to meet with and learn from some of the brightest in the Sales 2.0 community. I have summarized my key takeaways for Sales 2.0 leaders below:

#1 – Attract many, then focus on filtering

If your prospects do research online, will they find your company, or your competitor? Mark Roberge, VP Sales from HubSpot argued that you should keep the top of your sales funnel as broad as possible. Attract as many people as possible to your website through good content. HubSpot itself is attracting 50,000 leads a month, of which 40% get passed to the inside sales team and about 400 (or less than 1%) convert into new customers. The leads that don’t convert still help to reinforce the HubSpot brand and trust. With so many leads, strong filtering and lead scoring algorithms are keys to sales success.

#2 – Give all sales people a social media address

Scott Holden, Senior Director at Salesforce.com argued that not just companies need to be discoverable, but also individual sales representatives. Social pages are often the first ones to come up in search results. Darren Suomi, VP Sales from HootSuite called it “giving all sales reps a social media address”. He said it is no different from issuing a rep a cell phone and e-mail. IBM indeed has done just that, said Douglas Hannan, BU Executive at IBM: all 1,000 IBM sales reps have a web page with built in 2-way video and chat. They are also asked to get on Twitter and LinkedIn. IBM marketing maintains a social messaging calendar to make it easy for reps to find content to post.

#3 – Deliver value first, sell later

Jim Cathcart, the well-known author of “Relationship Selling”, defined what customer relationships are all about: in a relationship people know each other and have an exchange of value. Ask yourself: who is truly glad to know me? In a sales relationship, provide value first, sell later. Don’t talk about up selling customers, but rather up serving them. If you do a good job others will vouch for you and recommend your services. Scott Holden summarized this as moving from self-promotion to social referrals: “trust me, he is a great lover” and not “I am a great lover”. I expressed a similar sentiment in my blog earlier this week on Genuine Customer Engagement.

#4 – Use online demos to drive sales

Salesforce.com recently did a survey of 1 million influencers in the buying process and found that 50%-70% of sales processes start long before a sales person ever gets involved. The most important deciding factor in the sales process was “online demos”, not sales person interaction. HubSpot data points in the same direction: the most reliable indicator that a lead will convert into a customer is a request for a demo (46%) as compared to download a white paper for example (22%). As we discussed in many blogs including Trial Conversion is Top Priority in SaaS, I would add that interaction with a free trial version of your product has an even higher correlation with conversion to customer.

#5 – Consider a territory model based on social proximity

A somewhat radical idea was presented by Michael Lodato from Network Hardware Resale. He argued that in a commodity business (he sells network hardware) buyers are deciding based on personal relationships and customer service. Therefore he moved to an open territory model, where leads are assigned based on the personal relationship of a rep to the lead, rather than geography. On paper this social proximity model sounds great, but in reality it is still difficult to implement. Michael admitted to have a team of marketers manually assigning leads based on social parameters.

#6 – Move towards a lower touch model

Gerhard Gschwandtner pushed speakers to learn from B2C selling models: Amazon has $30 billion in sales with ZERO sales reps. B2B companies need to learn from this and move to lower touch selling models, wherever possible. One of the speakers, Rini Das from PAKRA, has achieved just that. She is closing 95% of her business based on social media leads. She has hardly met any of her clients in person, but is still doing $30,000 to $150,000 in revenues per customer each year.