Generally I have not been a huge fan of registering all your websites with Google (profiling risks, etc.), but they keep using the carrot nicely to lead me astray. … So much so that I want to find a Googler and give them a hug.
Google recently decided to share some more data in their webmaster tools. And for many webmasters the data is enough to make it worth registering (at least 1 website)!
When speaking of keyword search volume beakdown data people have typically shared information from the leaked AOL search data.
The big problem with that data is it is in aggregate. It is a nice free tool, and a good starting point, but it is fuzzy.
There are 3 well known search classifications: navigational, transactional, and informational. Each type of query has a different traffic breakdown profile.
Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that the appearance of vertical / universal results within the search results set can impact search click distribution. Google shows maps on 1 in 13 search results, and they have many other verticals they are pushing – video, updates, news, product search, etc. And then there are AdWords ads – which many searchers confuse as being the organic search results.
Pretty solid looking estimates can get pretty rough pretty fast.
If there is one critical piece of marketing worth learning above all others it is that context is important.
My suggestions as to what works, another person’s opinions or advice on what you should do, and empirical truth collected by a marketer who likes to use numbers to prove his point … well all 3 data sets fall flat on their face when compared against the data and insights and interactions that come from running your own business. As teachers and marketers we try to share tips to guide people toward success, but your data is one of the most valuable things you own.
In their Excel plug-in Microsoft shares the same search data they use internally, but its not certain that when they integrate the Yahoo! Search deal that Microsoft will keep sharing as much data as they do now.
There have been some hacks to collect organic search clickthrough rate data on Google. One of the more popular strategies was to run an AdWords ad for the exact match version of a keyword and bid low onto the first page of results. Keep the ad running for a while and then run an AdWords impression share report. With that data in hand you can estimate how many actual searches there were, and then compare your organic search clicks against that to get an effective clickthrough rate.
Given search personalization and localization and the ever-changing result sets with all the test Google runs, even the above can be rough. So what is a webmaster to do?
Well Google upgraded the data they share inside their webmaster tools, which includes (on a per keyword level)
Even if your site is rather well known going after some of the big keywords can be a bit self-defeating in terms of the value delivered. Imagine ranking #6 or #7 for SEO. Wouldn’t that send a lot of search traffic? Nope.
When you back away the ego searches, the rank checkers, etc. it turns out that there isn’t a ton of search volume to be had ranking on page 1 of Google for SEO.
With only a 2% CTR the core keyword SEO is driving less than 1/2 the traffic driven by our 2 most common brand search keywords. Our brand might not seem like it is getting lots of traffic with only a few thousand searches a month, but when you have a > 70% CTR that can still add up to a lot of traffic. More importantly, that is the kind of traffic which is more likely to buy from you than someone searching for a broad discovery or curiosity type of keyword.
The lessons for SEOs in that data?
Search is becoming the default navigational tool for the web. People go to Google and then type in “yahoo.” If you don’t have a branded keyword as one of your top keywords that might indicate long-term risk to your business. If a competitor can clone most of what you are doing and then bake in a viral component you are toast.
Arbitraging 3rd party brands is an easy way to build up distribution quickly. This is why there are 4,982 Britney Spears fan blogs (well 2 people are actually fans, but the other 4,980 are marketers).
But if you want to pull in traffic you have to go after a keyword that is an extension of the brand. Ranking for “eBay” probably won’t send you much traffic (as their clickthrough rate on their first result is probably even higher than the 70% I had above). Though if you have tips on how to buy or sell on eBay those kinds of keywords might pull in a much higher clickthrough rate for you.
To confirm the above I grabbed data for a couple SEO tool brands we rank well for. A number 3 ranking (behind a double listing) and virtually no traffic!
Different keyword, same result
Link building is still a bit of a discovery keyword, but I think it is perhaps a bit later staged than just the acronym “SEO.” Here the click volume distribution is much flatter / less consolidated than it was on the above brand-oriented examples.
If when Google lowers your rank you still pull in a fairly high CTR that might be a signal to them that your site should rank a bit higher.
Enough about our keywords, what does your keyword data tell you? How can you better integrate it to grow your business?SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.
You need to be from the United States (or have access to a US IP address) to see this ad, but Yahoo! is testing monetizing their organic search results.
An ad in the “organic” results? A sponsored shortcut? Say it ain’t so.
And that is *before* Google releases their vouchers program & other ad options which will frequently extend AdWords ads and further push down the organic search results.
A bit of home cooking for the fellow IAC company.
Not that long ago I highlighted how exact match domains are often over-stated as an SEO strategy. The above is another dimension as to why. When you have 3 or 4 ads above the organics AND in some cases the organic results are monetized too, then if you rank #2 algorithmically you might be below the fold.
If that ranking for that 1 keyword is your strategy for building your unique competitive advantage, then of course you are going to lose badly to those who are investing into building solid brand equity. They will be able to outbid you for the clicks, so you are toast.
Domainers are already getting killed by parking revenue drops, browsers that turn the address bar into a search box, and now resell values are further being diminished by search engines which are deciding to eat the ‘organic’ search results with more ads.SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.
Posted by Aaron Wheeler
Brands and company-specific brand name products have become much more important to search engines recently. Google tries to serve us with relevant content, so if it thinks we want to know more about Adidas or Puma, it’s going to tell us about these brands rather than about the random online shoe stores that we’ll probably click away from (you know the ones!). This might be great if you’re a major brand, but what if you’re not? And what’s happening if you are? How is it working? This week, Rand is here to let us know more about search engines and how they rank brand name products and sites.
Dobar den! Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. That’s my attempt at some Bulgarian. I think "dobar den" means hello/good day in Bulgarian. We’ll find out. I’m sure someone will comment on the blog.
Welcome to Whiteboard Friday. Good to be back in the States. Good to be back here in Seattle at SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday studios talking about an interesting topic that’s come up quite a bit — search engines and brand entities. There’s this concept that’s been talked about in the SEO world for a while, for a couple of years now, that Google sort of has this favoring of brands, of sites that have built up what you would call brand recognition and brand entities in the minds of consumers. It is sort of interesting because SEO folks have been asking some questions like, "Well, how do I know if I am a brand? What constitutes a brand and what doesn’t? Why would Google be going in this direction? What can or should I be doing?" We don’t have scientific great answers to all of these questions, but we can start to try and tackle some of them and at least get a lot of folks in the search marketing sphere thinking more about this branding stuff. I think that definitely the changes that Google’s been making around the Vince update, maybe some of the things around MayDays, certainly some of the things around showing more branded results in queries when, for example, someone types in a search plus SEOmoz, they might be showing a lot more than just two results from the SEOmoz.org website thinking that there is a brand intent to show things from just one site.
So, first let’s start by talking about why brands? Why does Google care so much about this? There’s that famous quote, of course, from Eric Schmidt, Google’s president, that Aaron Wall has brought up on SEO Book a number of times saying, you know, "Brands are how we sort out the cesspool." So, there is this cesspool of content on the Web, a lot of it being stuff that users don’t want.
You can kind of imagine this if you
put yourself in the mind and the shoes of a searcher. Shoes particularly, right. So, in this case, Google is kind of looking at these the way a human would. So maybe we’ve got our guy over here and he’s sort of looking at these different sites. He’s done a search for running shoes. He sees Adidas, which makes tons of sense; Adidas is a running shoe brand. Great, great thing to have in the result. Puma, sure. Vibram, okay, that’s kind of an emerging brand coming up. And then there is tennis-shoe-store. Yeah, I mean, maybe they’ve done a great job earning links and maybe they have a good website and that kind of thing, but consumers get kind of suspicious of this. Searchers get kind of suspicious of this. The non-brand results bring some dissatisfaction. You can see that in some of the search engine research and result testing that various organizations have conducted, including the search engines themselves. You can kind of feel it viscerally. When you look through the results yourself you kind of go, "Man, I don’t know about these. It’s a lot of hyphenated domains and sites I’ve never heard of. Can I trust them?" I go and visit them and they look sort of almost SEO heavy but not content or usability heavy. It’s so frustrating, right. I think Google is kind of saying, "Hey, we’ve got some ways to identify this. Maybe we’ll send some of the preferences over to brands."
So, let’s try and tackle the question, what makes a brand? What is it that separates a brand from a non-brand in the minds of the search engines when it comes to domains, when it comes to websites and pages? You can think of a lot of different things. Certainly Google has put out some patent applications that suggest some of the things they might look at. They made an acquisition of a company called Metaweb that does a lot of these things, including a service called Freebase that kind of makes entity associations from context and text and word usage. These things can include stuff like appearance and repetition of text content. You can imagine that Adidas, Puma, and Vibram, these show up on the Web a lot more than tennis-shoe- store.info or whatever it is. There is kind of this idea, "Huh, maybe that’s a brand, maybe that’s not." And then there is context of use and positioning of that text and content. You can see that those brands are all mentioned in news and they’re mentioned in blogs. They’re in stores. They’re in different stores both on and off the Web. They’re in eCommerce shops. They’re featured in traditional media outlets, online and offline. You see them in offline media as well. They show up in links. They show up in advertising. Certainly things like Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick and looking at tools like the DoubleClick Ad Planner could give you some insight into things that they view as brands and entities and how they associate those verus sites that they don’t really have an audience association or brand association with. The brands appear in things like patents. They appear in licenses. They appear in government and official documentation. There is all this sort of context and use of positioning.
Finally, brands have these user base kind of signals as well. Brands get talked about when people participate in social media. They get talked about when people perform search queries themselves. If Google sees that lots of people are searching for things like Adidas, Puma, and Vibram, but not searching for tennis-shoe-store, that could be a signal that this is a brand entity and these aren’t. There is language and communication which Google has been getting heavily into. They have their GOOG-411 service. They certainly power Gmail. They power a lot of other services where they are essentially looking at what’s being talked about, what’s being said, what’s being recorded, and written by humans all across not just the Internet but across our societies. All of these signals might help Google to make associations around what is a brand and what is not and then return results that are sort of this brand biasing.
A lot of this is sort of interesting theoretical stuff, but I know that many SEOs are going to be asking the question, "Well, what do I actually do with this data?" So, some good things to keep in mind is that we as SEOs sometimes ignore branding. We ignore the impact of let’s do broad-based advertising, let’s participate in display, let’s participate in media or in video or in offline advertising or in things like getting our brand name out there and events, those kinds of things. We become very obsessed and focused on just sort of the very basic elements of SEO — the on-page, getting links, those kinds of things. That might work. But if you’re seeing this brand biasing, you might think about some of these branding tactics as a way to move your site and your rankings forward.
Secondarily, don’t let your SEO get ahead of your organic momentum. What I mean by that is, I see and feel a lot of the times that many SEOs who get very aggressive with their domains, particularly in competitive spaces where there is brand preferences or where Google appears to be trying to do some of those things, we’ll see that they’ll do a great job earning links. They’ll get lots of good anchor text. They’ll earn those links to those pages. They might not always be from the best sources, and they don’t do a lot of these types of things. People are not saying things about them in social media. They’re not positioned in context. They are not mentioned in the news and in natural normal blogs, offline stuff, and advertising. They appear to be these sort of solely pseudo Internet brands. That could potentially be a negative signal, or at least it might not track as well as someone who’s got both signals going.
You know, as part of that, finally, I would say, try and work on making your site and your product and the naming conventions that you use as brand friendly, as branding friendly, as possible. All of those things are going to potentially impact the way your brand is perceived.
The great thing about all of this stuff, about these recommendations and about the concept of branding in general, is that there’s a lot of psychology, a lot of years, decades of marketing science and research going to the fact that, hey, brands get positively associated in consumers’ minds and they drive a lot more behavior. They drive sales, traffic, demand, and all these kinds of things. Certainly search engines can help with that, but remember that in one case when you’re doing brand building, you are sort of building and creating demand that might not have existed otherwise. When you’re doing SEO, all you can really do is serve existing demand, rank for the kinds of things that people already are searching for. This is a great thing to be thinking about not just from an SEO perspective, from a rankings perspective, but from a company building perspective and from a holistic marketing effort. It certainly feels like SEO is going in that direction.
All right, everyone. Take care. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.
Video transcription by SpeechPad.com
If you have any tips or tricks that you’ve learned along the way, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Post your comment and be heard!
The little guy often loses.
As market niches get saturated, the winners are typically those with the deepest pockets.
Up until the last few years, the little guy has been able to prosper with SEO. The little guy didn’t face much competition from big companies, because the big companies didn’t get SEO. However, Google’s current algorithmns and corporate strategy often have the side effect of benefiting large companies.
According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the Internet is a “cesspool” where false information thrives….Brands, he said, are the way to rise above the cesspool
There is a danger in reading too much into Schmidt’s words, however this statement mirrors a lot of what happens in the search results. A big company or brand, with a crawlable site, will find it easy to dominate the search results. A big company will be linked to, discussed in the media, and have established keyword query volume – all factors which Google rewards. All these factors are becoming increasingly difficult for the small guy to emulate.
Factor in Google’s ongoing moves to “own” verticals, and many more little guys will be crushed underfoot. It doesn’t matter if your site is white hat, grey or black, if your site competes directly with a big company, or with Google – who are now a big company themselves – you’ll almost surely lose.
This isn’t just true in the SERPs, of course. It’s also true in Adwords, which essentially rewards those with deep pockets. It’s true in print. It’s true across all media. It’s true in politics, in money markets, and in life.
Power is like that.
Even if you don’t face competition from big operators, you’ll face competition from a million other little guys, especially if there is no barrier to entry. This is often the case on the web. Check out this article by Tim O Shea, founder of the short lived UK group buying site Snippa. Snippa was similar to Groupon.
Due to the number of players, commission levels are being eroded far from the 40-50% that Groupon achieves down to 0% just to get the deal (at Snippa our deals averaged around 10-20%). Merchants are getting numerous phone calls from prospective group buying companies and the conversation with many is more about the commission level charged rather than how they could offer a great discount for a group of new customers. This will continue until a clear leader emerges that can demonstrate a large customer base allowing them to negotiate better deals and commission levels. Many companies chasing the same deal is counter productive for the end customer.
Too many competitors errode margins to zero. Eventually, the biggest operator wins.
When you’re looking for a niche to get into, how do you evaluate it?
Do you look at the search volumes and look to position a site top ten for that search volume? An ok strategy, and one used by many in the SEO business.
However, lets take it a step further.
If you’re thinking long term, you need to consider other factors, especially competitive threats. Ask: is this niche likely to be so lucrative that it will attract big companies? If so, then you may need a strategy to become one, or be bought out by one. You may win such a fight for a while, but the big company will invariably win in the end through greater reach and purchasing power.
Are you the cheapest, or are you the best?
The little guy is almost always better off aiming to be the best at what they do. Being the cheapest requires volume, and is very difficult to sustain. Many companies, both big and small, get locked in a downward spiral of price cutting. Again, you’ll last being the cheapest until a bigger company turns up. Bigger companies can get price advantage through volume. If the internet equivalent of Wal Mart is your competition, you’re in trouble if you compete on price.Zappos was a small company, that eventually became a big company, not by competing on price, but by competing on service. They aimed to be the best at service. Had they competed on price, they wouldn’t have got anywhere. The big shoe and clothing chains would have crushed them.
Is SEO your only strategy to dominate a niche? If so, then you’re vulnerable to the whims of Google. Instead, think about ways you can develop a brand. I use the term brand in the widest possible sense. Being the best guy in the world to talk to about, say, the eating preferences of neon tetra fish – is a brand. Whatever it is you do, if you’re not competing on price, aim to be the very best. If you have to carve a niche even finer, do it, at least until the costs outweigh the benefits.
Think about ways you can lock in customers/visitors and keep them coming back. If you only ever have search volume, then you rely on people who haven’t seen you before. Encourage visitors to bookmark you, or sign up for a newsletter. Hook them in some way. Above all, be memorable. Being memorable will create search volume out of nothing (how many people searched for Zappos years ago? Or SEOBook? ). Building an audience may not be enough to fend off big companies, but it will help you fend off other small companies and new entrants, especially if they only rely on SEO.
Be the big guy in the little niche SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.
When Bing launched, one of the interesting things they did to make the organic search results appear more relevant was to use link anchor text to augment page titles (where relevant). This would mean if people searched for a phrase that was mostly in your title (but maybe your page title was missing a word or 2 from the search) then Bing might insert those words into the page title area of your listing if they were in some of the link anchor text pointing into your page.
Before being switched over to Bing, Yahoo! would sometimes display the H1 heading as the clickable link to your site (rather than the page title). Bing also uses on page headings to augment page titles.
Historically if Google has thought it would appear more relevant to searchers, sometimes they have shown a relevant machine generated piece of your page displaying those keywords in context rather than the meta description in the snippet, but typically Google has been far more conservative with the page titles. Sometimes Google would list the ODP title for the title of a page, most until recently they have generally typically just listed the page title as the clickable link to your site.
Recently Google has grown more experimental on this front, being willing to use link anchor text and on-page headings as part of the listing. In addition, if the page title is short, Google may add the site’s name at the end of the title.
Here is an example in Google of the page title being replaced by part of an on-page heading & also showing the site’s name being added to the end of the link
And here is the associated on-page heading for the above
I have also seen a few examples of the link anchor text being added to the page title in Google, however it was on a client project & the client would prefer that I didn’t share his new site on an SEO blog with 10’s of thousands of readers.
Last November Matt Cutts recently did a video on the topic of Google editing the page titles for relevancy & how it was a fairly new thing for Google. Even back then Google was quite conservative in editing the clickable link … I think they have only grown more aggressive on that front in the past month or so.
Posted by Suzzicks
When this happens, the search engine will show the full search engine listing for the mobile-unfriendly page (like normal), but when you click on it, they will automatically take you to a temporary url that represents a ‘transcoded’ version of the page you requested, (rather than delivering you to the actual page listed in the search results). This temporary transcoded page actually lives on a subdomain hosted by the search engine, and shows a scraped version of the page you requested. The scrape usually just shows the text and small images of the page, but omits anything that might cause problems for a mobile browser; sometimes this can include background images, big images, animations, videos, iFrames, and heavy/complex code.
You Might Want Transcoding, but Probably Not
If you have totally ignored the mobile web, transcoding can be a good thing, because it allows you to rank in mobile results when you otherwise might be omitted. (Ranking with transcoding is better than not ranking at all). Unfortunately, none of the search engines do a stellar job with their transcoding. In Google, pages that are transcoded usually closely resemble the ‘text-only’ version of the page that Google keeps in its cache. In some cases though, the transcoding can really mess up a page, missing core navigation, breaking long pages into multiple pages at odd places, or cutting out important sections.
Remember that the search engine use of transcoded pages differs from phone to phone, so just because pages are not being automatically transcoded from search results on your phone does not mean that they are never being transcoded by the mobile search engines. The less sophisticated a mobile browser is, the more likely the search engine is to transcode a page; based on my experience, this is happening mostly on BlackBerry’s and WindowsMobile devices. To see what a page looks like when Google transcodes it, there are two options:
1.) You can perform a search on a mobile phone, then click the ‘options’ button to the right of one of your results in the SERP, and then select ‘Mobile formatted.’ (Illustrated below)
2.) You can also put your url into Google’s tool, here: http://www.google.com/gwt/n? from your computer or your mobile phone.
If you are pretty confident in your mobile site rendering, you can include the ‘no-transform’ cache control in the headers of your template, and that will usually prevent your pages from being transcoded by the search engines, but it is not 100%. The good news is that with faster network connections and better mobile browsers, transcoding by the search engines is becoming much less common. The important take-away here, is to at least test to see what your pages look like when they are being transcoded (even if you have a no-transform cache control in place). In many cases, minor on-page code tweaks can make the transcoded experience much more user-friendly and palatable, improving your ability to reach the widest range of mobile customers, regardless of the phone they are searching from.
Earlier this week Google launched the latest iteration of the SERP’s, Google Instant. While I, like everyone else, had fun playing and finding some of the holes in it, it’s really not a product that I think will succeed. To Google’s credit, I can’t ever say that I’ve heard people complain that Google takes too long to serve them results. What I do hear and personally experience is that I wish Google understood what I was looking for …
I understand why Google launched a product like Google instant search: they feel that, because they are smart enough at predicting what you are looking for, they can interpret your query after a word or two–or sometimes after just a few letters. They think they know you so well that they can guess what you want without being told. Without getting too involved in what’s going on behind the scenes, Google is using previous search volume to predict the most likely term(s) you are looking for. It’s a sophisticated leap forward in technology to be sure, but it’s not something that solves a problem I hear people complain about. (As a side, this does give a lot more context to the bizarre statement Eric Schmidt made a few weeks ago: “They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”)
The problem that I have is getting Google to understand what I meant by that query. I work with search engines all day, so I like to think I have some expertise and can form queries that will get me the right result after one or two tries–or at least help me figure out what I should be searching for. Recently I was searching for a way to import an accountant’s file into Quickbooks on a Mac, so I started with [import accountants file quickbooks mac]. It turned up all sorts of lovely sales pages for the Mac version of Quickbooks. A few tries later I found that the combination I needed was [quickbooks mac accountant’s copy]. Now, if Google was able to figure out my intent and serve up the results for the second query and save 15-20 minutes of digging around, that would be a great product, but serving me the wrong information faster via an ajax interface doesn’t solve my problem and doesn’t help me as a user. Oh–and for the record, at the time of this post’s writing, you can’t create or import an accountant’s file in Quickbooks for a Mac.
Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist nutjob, but what we’ve really got going on are the two wrong problems being solved. Google engineers and developers are smart people, and they want to do cool stuff and need to feel challenged (see users vs developers) . However, they move at pace much faster than most of the world and think that, if the rest of the world would just catch up with them, everything would be better. So we’ll just opt everyone in to this new advance we made. No need to thank us. Google opting everyone in without asking is pretty much standard operating procedure. It’s how they have decided to drag everyone into the future. Secondly, by using search volume as a predictive indicator, Google is almost always going to be showing the highest dollar advertising first. I get it, NO ONE at Google will ever say that profitability has anything to do with user experience. Eric Schmidt says some bat shit crazy things on a predictably regular basis, but even he won’t say that out loud. They will all just realize it without it needing to be said.
Personally, I don’t think it’s useful. In fact, I think it’s distracting, like your annoying, nerdy, know-it-all nephew who answers your questions before you finish speaking. However, Google didn’t learn that all this complexity isn’t what people want from the failed Google wave and Sidewiki experiments. I can tell you that if I wasn’t an SEO, this would push me over to Bing … I suspect I’m not alone …
This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.
I Wish We Had Google Understand Not Google Instant Search