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30

June

2015

The 7 Must-Have SEO Reports to Meet Today’s Search Optimization Challenges :

Measuring paid ad channels is fairly simple: For every dollar you spend you get X number of visits and a pretty stable amount of conversions. But understanding the value of your search engine optimization efforts keeps getting more complex. With search algorithms favoring long-tail content, it’s trickier than ever.

SEO includes many activities, each with its own set of key performance indicators (KPIs). Tracking each KPI separately and then marrying them to see the big picture can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be – if you have the right reports.

Whether you are managing your search engine optimization in-house or working with an external SEO team, we recommend the following battle-tested reporting framework that has been developed by the SEO specialists at SEO PowerSuite. This framework of reports enables business owners and marketing executives to supervise the full range of SEO tasks.

Before we dive in, note that different types of reports map to different stages of your SEO campaign. Reporting should begin before the launch of an SEO campaign in order to determine the baseline, set the strategy, and determine goals. Reporting should continue with weekly reports, and you should get reports post-campaign when anything changes.

Initial Reports

Generated before an SEO campaign begins, these reports will allow you to measure results later. They can be generated repeatedly.

Keyword Research Reports should contain information that helps to evaluate the SEO budget and the potential cost, including a list of keywords, how many additional visitors the site can get if it ranks in the top 10 for the keywords reported, how difficult it will be to rank in the top 10, and whether it’s cost-effective to promote highly competitive keywords.

Competition Analysis Reports will uncover the SEO strategy behind your competitors’ websites. They should tell you which keywords your competitors are promoting, whether it’s necessary to target keywords used by competitors but not by you, and from what sites your competitors are getting their links.

Website Audit Reports will cover myriad factors related to on-page optimization. It’s important to check these factors against industry standards in order to identify potential trouble points and elements that need to be improved. They should also include website and page statistics, such as PageRank, link popularity, and the number of indexed pages. A good Website Audit Report should provide information on different content-related issues:

  • Page titles
  • Meta tags
  • Keyword density
  • HTML formatting tags
  • HTML validation errors
  • Broken links

Outputs:

  • A list of keywords and/or a keyword matrix
  • Competitors’ backlink profiles
  • A list of suggested improvements to the site

Ongoing Weekly Reports

These reports are used to track the SEO progress. You need them to make sure that the SEO team is heading in the right direction.

Keyword Rankings Reports: It’s vital to track keyword rankings regularly to diagnose problems at an early stage. A decline in rankings during several weeks may indicate a problem such as backlinks whose anchors were removed or have been devalued.

It’s also good to compare your current keyword rankings not only against the previous check, but also against the best results ever achieved. You may also align rankings and traffic for the keywords to see if you are getting what you expected.

Competitors’ Rankings Reports: Keep an eye on your competition. If an abnormal growth in their rankings is detected, it’s time to look into their backlink profiles and their on-page SEO again to see what they are up to. Then, steal…we mean, borrow…their strategy.

Link-Building Reports: Link-building is the most tedious of all SEO tasks, consuming time and money. To keep your expenditures to the minimum, closely follow your link providers’ activities, whether it’s an in-house link-building team or an outsourced company.

A link-building report should include:

  • Link source URL
  • Link destination URL
  • Anchor text
  • Linking page’s PageRank
  • Number of external links on each linking page
  • Number of backlinks on each linking page

You should also be able to compare these to older reports to see if backlinks are still in place and the backlink pages have not deteriorated.

Outputs:

  • Current keyword rankings compared to the previous rank check
  • Current competitors’ rankings compared to the previous rank check
  • A list of links obtained during the reporting period

Post Campaign

Don’t set it and forget it. You should implement continuous, automatic monitoring of your SEO to make sure that your website is performing well, and you are continuously getting traffic from important sources.

Automatic alerts: Many site owners use Google Analytics, but many are not aware that this tool can send you automatic alerts based on the parameters you predefine. For example, you can get an alert if the website stops getting traffic from Google or Bing. You can then take immediate action to diagnose the problem.

Outputs:

  • Automatic warning messages or alerts

A Final Note

Every SEO report should tell a story, both to the search engine optimization expert and to business clients, whether internal or external. When building your killer SEO reporting arsenal, consider customizing it to make sure that it gives everyone who’ll read it a clear picture of SEO results. Analyze each element of each report to see whether it makes sense to include it. Don’t clutter reports with irrelevant factors, but make sure to include factors that reflect exactly the data you want.

You may also want to rearrange modules to tell a more coherent story. Finally, adding some explanatory text at the beginning and end can help readers who aren’t so comfortable with charts.

SEO campaigns vary, and therefore it’s vital to have flexible, customizable, responsive reports that will provide you with a competitive edge.

10

April

2015

Mobile Marketing is a Must-Have :

#mobileforthewin

The march toward mobile continues as steadily as ever, and now that the holiday shopping stats are in it is a valuable time to look over how businesses advertised and how shoppers shopped. In a report that documented the largest marketers’ spending habits (and by large meaning those who spent $1 million+ annually for search, display, mobile and social marketing), one can better understand platform performance for mobile.

“Mobile certainly isn’t going anywhere,” says Phil Thow, President of digital marketing agency, SEM Media Group. “It’s widely reported that mobile now drives over 50 percent of all social activity. Mobile has surpassed desktop in internet usage, and together with tablets, mobile accounts for 60 percent of all time customer’s spend online.”

Similarly reported is that the mobile market is also a younger market, with 70 percent of adults 18 to 24 viewing retail content on a mobile device.

“As we study the heavy-hitters in digital advertising,” says Phil Thow, “we see that they spent nearly half of their search budget aimed at mobile marketing, even though mobile conversions only made up 30 percent of all search conversions.” Advertisers, by this metric, obviously believe in the power of mobile marketing even if it tends to driver fewer conversions than desktop searches.

“What’s noteworthy about mobile searches is their ability to serve a customer during an in-store visit both at the top and the bottom of a conversion funnel,” explains Phil Thow, whose company, SEM Media Group, specializes in mobile marketing.

At the top-end of a conversion funnel, a customer can use a mobile device to search for a specific brand of item while in store if he/she isn’t finding it on the shelf. For a mid-level conversation, the customer may search for brand/product reviews while holding the product in-hand. At the bottom end of conversions is when a customer uses a mobile device for price comparisons.

Where mobile marketing is showing gains is with click-through rates. Click-through rates are consistently highest on mobile devices, which means the ads are engaging and capturing the customer’s attention. The lower conversion rate, though, is likely a holdover that customers are more willing to complete a purchase in the comfort and safety of their home rather than on their mobile device.

“The desktop may still be at the top of the pile for conversions,” says Phil Thow, “What we’re seeing here at SEM Media Group is what all the reports have shown, and that is that mobile marketing does a better job of getting the customer’s attention and driving them to a website or landing page. So if one wants to get in front of consumers, they will have to strongly consider investing heavily in mobile marketing.”

6

April

2015

Should a Brand Outsource its Content Marketing? :

#outsourceorinhouse

According to a recent finding, senior executives from over 50 global brands, including Coca-Cola, Nestle, GE, and Adobe, said they wanted to create their content marketing in-house. In fact, 100 percent of these brands said as much.

But when asked what agency the brand would select when they did outsource content marketing, the overwhelming answer was “NOT a social media agency,” as they were “too trendy.”

“To be a relevant, successful PR agency today one’s company has to be universal and universally creative,” says SEM Media Group President, Phil Thow. “It’s not enough to be really good at one or two types of creative content. Brands are looking to hire a few different ‘boutique’ agencies to cover all their bases. Just like SEM Media Group, a competitive agency has to understand all forms of content creation and delivery.”

When a brand is looking to outsource its content creation, there are some important criteria it should consider.

“The first is for the brand to know exactly why they want to hire an outside agency like SEM Media Group,” says Phil Thow. “Is it because they lack the right talent in-house? Or do they need help with strategy development?”

By knowing why the brand needs the expertise of a PR agency, it will help them identify the best shortlist of candidates.

“Strategy comes before all else,” says Phil Thow of the second criteria. “Strategy and tactics are two different things entirely. At SEM Media Group, we always insist a brand or company have a strategy in place before we start discussing the tactics we’ll use to follow the strategy. For instance, saying a company needs a social media presence is not a strategy. It’s a tactic.”

Equally important to agencies like SEM Media Group is knowing where to end, not just where to begin. “Any good strategy should include success criteria and key performance indicators,” says Phil Thow. “Knowing how success will be measured and marked is considered. That doesn’t meaning getting X number of new fans on Facebook, but increasing sales leads, or generating a shorter sales cycle. It’s not always about the metrics.”

If a business is ready to outsource content marketing, it must spend some in-house time to know exactly what it’s looking to gain from outside expertise. A brand shouldn’t turn to an agency to tell them what they need. They should have that in mind already and then ask the agency how they can help them achieve their content marketing goals.

27

March

2015

Google’s PLA Drives Most of Adwords Click in Q4 :

#PLAtoplay

Google’s PLA (product listing ads), which was launched in 2012, is continuing to drive more and more traffic to e-retailers, and SEM Media Group is taking note. In 2014-Q4, PLAs drove 56 percent of non-brand click and 30 percent of overall Google search advertising clicks, according to RKG.

“Google has shown a greater preference and placement for PLAs in 2014,” says SEM Media Group President, Phil Thow, “even to the point of placing PLAs above organic listings instead of putting them off to the right-hand side of Google’s search result, the “typical” home for paid search ads. PLAs, therefore, are here to stay and are dictating the pay-to-play strategy of digital marketing.”

Click-through rates are also on the rise. In Q4, the rates on Google’s PLAs were 130 percent higher, and conversation rates were 30 percent higher too, than non-brand text ads.

PLAs are only relevant for websites that have physical products to sell. In SEM Media Group’s case, the agency specializes in representing automotive parts dealers. Of course, different industries have different expectations and outcomes for securing search traffic with PLAs. For instance, apparel-related websites generate the lowest percentage of their non-brand Google click from PLAs, but electronics, healthy and beauty, and home and garden retailers get the majority of their non-brand Google clicks via PLAs.

The other search engine now hosting a similar PLA format is Bing Ad’s nascent product ads. It, too, realized a strong growth in 2014-Q4. Product ads drove seven percent of non-brand clicks in that quarter, doubling from the previous quarter. Now, product ads on the Yahoo Bing Network account for 14 percent of clicks.

“In this visual online world we are becoming accustomed to,” explains Phil Thow, “especially with social networks and photo-centric sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, it makes sense that more people shop with their eyes, and to a lesser degree, with any specific store loyalty. To be relevant in today’s e-commerce landscape, as we tell our clients at SEM Media Group, one has to go where the business is, and right now the business seems to be in PLAs and enhanced digital marketing campaigns.”

Businesses that have physical products to market should strongly consider the value of PLAs, and SEM Media Group can field questions from retailers interested in learning how to utilize this growing trend.

20

March

2015

More Money Being Spent on Paid Search :

#digitalmarketingsoars

The top-spending 500 web merchants in the U.S. with the largest paid search budgets sank even more money into paid search digital marketing. In fact, the average increase in spending for all 500 merchants was an 18 percent growth in 2014 over the previous year, with Amazon coming in with the largest overall increase.

“Search engine marketing is still the digital advertising form that soars above the rest,” says Phil Thow, President of SEM Media Group. “And it doesn’t seem to be budging off its perch.”

Just considering Amazon, which itself bids on 3 million keywords, the company increased its spending on paid search by 56 percent in 2014.

SEM Media group has been tracking these reports on digital marketing and paid search to be able to adjust their online advertising strategies for their clients. “We pore over reports like these to not only know what successful companies are doing, but why,” says Phil Thow. “I consider these reports as the proverbial canary in the mineshaft.”

The results have shown substantial increases in e-commerce and web traffic. SEM Media Group noted that by honing paid search advertising, from bidding on keywords to developing a stronger landing page, conversion rates on some high-dollar products more than doubled for some of the top e-retailers.

The equation is proving to show that spending more on paid search is also yielding more business. One of the newer Google search campaigns that retailers are using is Google’s product listing ads (PLAs), which was introduced in 2012. Many searches for specific products are now yielding a horizontal row of product images above the first page of query results. With these “hyper results,” Google ads can show more dynamic pay-per-click ads with more specific keywords and descriptions.

“When retailers use PLAs to their fullest advantage,” says SEM Media Group President, Phil Thow, “they are finding that their customers are much more motivated to make a purchase from these highly visual ads.”

There is a lot of insightful information SEM Media Group pulls from Internet Retailer researchers who pull together all aspects of spending, marketing, and budgeting from the most successful, and often largest, retailers on the web.

“Any business that does business online should take a long, serious look at their digital marketing budget,” says Phil Thow. “The dollars spent on paid search can literally make or break any e-commerce website.”

13

March

2015

Where Do Keywords Go for SEO? :

#keywordsforSEO

Keyword-based SEO practices have long been the top choice for digital marketers, but in recent years the practice has been dying a slow internet death, of sorts. The reason is the rising popularity of long-tail keywords.

“Keywords are often times headaches for clients who come to us at SEM Media Group for help,” says SEM Media Group President, Phil Thow. “It use to be a simple 1-to-1 relationship, whereby a company could see its ranking for each keyword in a search campaign and determine the success of that campaign, but that’s not really the case anymore.”

According to SEM Media Group, placement of keywords is now trumping the actual keyword. This means, for instance, that posting keywords in the title of the site and in the header is doing more SEO good for a website than keyword-stuffing a phrase or word five or more times in the body of the copy.

“Google dismantles a website into key areas,” says Phil Thow. “It considers meta information and headers as a first priority, and then it looks at body copy next, followed by side bars and footers. At SEM Media Group, we generally adhere to this hierarchy and have witnessed excellent results for our clients.”

The other important thing Google is doing now for SEO is actually considering the meaning of keywords by interpreting the data on a website, and actually forms a conclusion about a website in comparison with what an internet user is searching for. For an example, while someone might search “auto repair shop,” and a company’s website might contain that exact phrase many times, Google will also look for synonyms of that keyword phrase, like “car repair facility” or “vehicle repair specialists,” so having similar keywords throughout a site is as important as actual keywords.

“When Google released its Hummingbird update back in 2013,” says Phil Thow, “it included an algorithm for semantic searches, so Google now will take a search question and dissect its true meaning. If someone is looking for cheap food in Seattle, and searches that phrase, Google won’t look for the word “cheap” but instead look for restaurants that are budget friendly. It’s is a powerful tool for the user, but one that needs to be considered by the retailer too.”

When considering SEO practices, it doesn’t always come down to keywords. It really does matter what a website does, its security, and how fast it is. Google still prefers websites that load fast over ones that lag. And site authority is directly tied to site security. In an effort to protect its own consumer (i.e. the Google user), Google will choose more secure websites over one’s with shoddy credentials, so having SSL encryption will boost one’s search ranking.

“In the end, it’s really about the customer experience as much as keyword relevance,” says Phil Thow. “If your site is good for users, it’s good for Google.”

4

March

2015

Mobile Marketing is a Must-Have :

#mobileforthewin

The march toward mobile continues as steadily as ever, and now that the holiday shopping stats are in it is a valuable time to look over how businesses advertised and how shoppers shopped. In a report that documented the largest marketers’ spending habits (and by large meaning those who spent $1 million+ annually for search, display, mobile and social marketing), one can better understand platform performance for mobile.

“Mobile certainly isn’t going anywhere,” says Phil Thow, President of digital marketing agency, SEM Media Group. “It’s widely reported that mobile now drives over 50 percent of all social activity. Mobile has surpassed desktop in internet usage, and together with tablets, mobile accounts for 60 percent of all time customer’s spend online.”

Similarly reported is that the mobile market is also a younger market, with 70 percent of adults 18 to 24 viewing retail content on a mobile device.

“As we study the heavy-hitters in digital advertising,” says Phil Thow, “we see that they spent nearly half of their search budget aimed at mobile marketing, even though mobile conversions only made up 30 percent of all search conversions.” Advertisers, by this metric, obviously believe in the power of mobile marketing even if it tends to driver fewer conversions than desktop searches.

“What’s noteworthy about mobile searches is their ability to serve a customer during an in-store visit both at the top and the bottom of a conversion funnel,” explains Phil Thow, whose company, SEM Media Group, specializes in mobile marketing.

At the top-end of a conversion funnel, a customer can use a mobile device to search for a specific brand of item while in store if he/she isn’t finding it on the shelf. For a mid-level conversation, the customer may search for brand/product reviews while holding the product in-hand. At the bottom end of conversions is when a customer uses a mobile device for price comparisons.

Where mobile marketing is showing gains is with click-through rates. Click-through rates are consistently highest on mobile devices, which means the ads are engaging and capturing the customer’s attention. The lower conversion rate, though, is likely a holdover that customers are more willing to complete a purchase in the comfort and safety of their home rather than on their mobile device.

“The desktop may still be at the top of the pile for conversions,” says Phil Thow, “What we’re seeing here at SEM Media Group is what all the reports have shown, and that is that mobile marketing does a better job of getting the customer’s attention and driving them to a website or landing page. So if one wants to get in front of consumers, they will have to strongly consider investing heavily in mobile marketing.”