All Posts by Infinity Media

With Page Rank (Presumably) Gone, Will SEO Survive?

If you’re as proactive in search marketing as myself, any and all metrics mean something at some point. I’ve been optimizing websites since the advent of blogging, perhaps (if my memory serves me correctly) since .html was an exciting newborn child. After reading how Google’s John Mueller did not anticipate toolbar Page Rank updates moving forward, only a small part of me frowned. I was actually elated.

First, let’s refresh the minds of search marketing professionals to underscore why I’m happy.

The ginormous machine receiving billions of searches daily only wants what’s best for researchers. Businesses want to be that ‘best’. In an attempt to appease both sides, measures against unnatural methods of positioning businesses in searches were enacted – you may know them as Panda, Penguin, Pigeon or maybe some other waterfowl I’ve never heard of. For many, these search spam measures hurt their already malformed business practices; to ethical marketing pros, it’s merely a digital version of ‘The Purge’.

Everyone knows (or soon will) that relevant, well-written content tells a story and doesn’t force a hard sell. We all know that developing internal link structures helps create your own ‘map’ for researchers to follow. And, of course, the use of links should (theoretically) be for the sole purpose of citing sources who’ve covered similar sentences or stories as yours – if you’ve ever read books where you flip back and forth to create your own ending, you’ll understand what linking truly was meant for.

Should your content have relevancy and appeal to broad audiences, expect other blogs or newsworthy sources to cite your works; we call this natural linking. Problem has been, and always will be, the fact thousands of SEO workers across the planet are forcing a process meant to happen in its own due time. Small businesses hungry for higher ranks pay nearly anything just for the chance to hit page one.

Digitally based businesses who hire these firms are happy when they’re waking up to a coveted first page ranking, yet those tears of joy quickly turn south when Google appends a manual action to this suddenly #1 website. When penalty happens, it’s party over until a recon is submitted.

Guys like Matt Cutts and John Mueller weren’t hired for their good looks (not to say they’re not dashing); they’ve viewed thousands of websites, pages of data and have come to the conclusion Google should probably stop encouraging sketchy link building practices which, inevitably, rest on the laurels of shoddy Page Rank manipulations and irrelevant guest posting procedures.

Which brings me back to the title. SEO will be remanded back to ethical procedures, or die.

I’ve told people hundreds of times, so I’ll repeat myself in three bullet points:

People in Bangkok can’t buy plumbing services in Seattle. Yes, I know it breaks your achy breaky heart, so stop optimizing your small local business for a global audience unless your product or service ships, is useful and would benefit a global audience. Your buyers are in your backyard – literally. Start there.

Pay pennies for optimization, and penalty shall await you. Watch who you’re hiring, plain and simple. If you’re nickel and diming your way to Page 1, Google has a nice penalty waiting for you on the other side. Good marketing services exist, so do your due diligence ahead of time. An interesting group of articles which would appeal to professionals and potential businesses that want to hire ethical outside help was written by executives at Michigan-based High Level Marketing. Factual stuff right there.

Poor practices are obvious to spot. When you’re looking for search marketing assistance (and you are, admit it), avoid those individuals who’ll provide mass comment spam, directory links, profile links and other practices that make you go ‘hmm’. These services often cost pennies on the dollar, making the business owner think they’ve gotten a killer deal – until they’re submitting reconsideration requests.

While everyone else is scrambling to find themselves again after this (possibly permanent) event, it’s just another day for those providing ethical SEO. Watch as people begin buying up blogs that are pulling Page Rank since, essentially, the ranking won’t move if future updates are cancelled. It should be fun watching how search engine marketing unfolds moving forward, although I can already tell you with 99.5% accuracy that the above three bullets are pretty much as spot on as they’ve always been. And that, my friends, is why I’m happy. If you’re a realist, you should be excited as well.

5 Ways Google Is Changing SEO

Just a few years ago, search-engine optimization was widely considered a specialized knowledge of how to manipulate Google’s search rankings with clever, secret tactics. While that was an accurate assessment then, the SEO industry has matured. It is now a dynamic, multifaceted online-marketing discipline that transcends clever trickery, and has become an essential requirement of expertise for every online marketer.

Google has facilitated and accelerated this shift by changing the game in ways that help users find information faster and in a manner that emphasizes the giant’s own products. So how is SEO evolving, and what is Google’s goal? What can online-marketing professionals learn about the future best practices of the SEO industry by studying Google’s present pattern of changes? Read on.

  1. SEO is now more about building a brand than manipulation or trickery.

Changes over the past two years already have shifted our perception of search-engine optimization. We’re no longer talking about just links, keywords and PageRank. Instead, we’re discussing branding and content strategy. But building a brand and publishing high-quality content are not new concepts, they’ve always been key parts of inbound marketing. So why the sudden shift in buzz within the SEO industry?

Related: 6 Things Innovative Search Engine Marketers are Doing Right Now

Google’s launch of its Penguin and Panda algorithm updates sent a clear message to webmasters and marketing professionals: Google will not tolerate manipulative tactics or low-quality content in its search results. The result? A strategic, quality content strategy became the only option to achieve visibility in search results.

A content strategy is only effective, however, when executed by a strong brand, otherwise, that content achieves little reach, viewership or audience. Simultaneously, an effective content strategy is the road to building a brand. As a result, the focus is now on content and branding rather than manipulation and trickery.

  1. Google is no longer just a search engine.

Yes, Google started as a search engine and it continues to serve that function. But Google has also become the leader in consumer-facing, data-oriented projects. Knowledge Graph, which attempts to figure out what searchers want, quickly supply the information and anticipate the next questions, is one example.

Many searches are location-based. “Vegan restaurants in Brooklyn”, “Spas in Brisbane”, “Where do I get designer shoes in Milan?” All these queries return search results that are peppered with extra information, from reviews to price ranges to maps. Throw in paid ads, which dominate the top spots in the rankings, and the top-ranking organic search result now appears a few hundred pixels down the page. That number-one ranking has lost a significant amount of value and visibility.

  1. Links are key, but for a different reason.

Currently, it’s widely thought that the quantity and quality of inbound links to your domain and individual pages on your site are the primary factors in the ranking algorithm. Because of the resulting market for link buying and selling (which Google hates), Google might be tweaking its algorithms to give lower algorithmic weight to inbound links. However, even if links become irrelevant for SEO purposes, that doesn’t mean they won’t still be vital for your online-marketing campaign.

Before anyone knew what SEO was, they tried to get other websites to link to theirs for a different reason: referral traffic. How does John Doe discover your website if not via Google? Maybe he sees it mentioned on a blog. Maybe he found you on Twitter or Facebook. Or maybe he saw a sign you put up in the offline world. In every case, he arrived at your website through a “link.”

Ask yourself: If Google were not in the picture, would marketers still need to build links? If you’re in it for the long term, the answer is yes.

Related: 7 Marketing Alternatives to SEO (Infographic)

  1. The future is “Now.”

Google Now is more than a mobile voice search challenging Apple’s Siri. It’s an entirely different mindset that pulls answers from geolocation, search history and preferences, as well as recent activity on Google products and other places.

It can search your calendar for birthday reminders. It can find your travel itinerary in your Gmail and spit out a weather report for where you’re headed. The emphasis is on serving answers, not webpage results. The challenge is making yourself relevant enough in people’s lives so that you show up in search results.

Because most of this takes place on mobile devices, SEO also means optimizing websites to be mobile-friendly.

  1. Approach online marketing with a “product” perspective.

If you have a bad product, you can sell a few units through excellent marketing. But this strategy not only won’t last long — it’ll kill your brand as the word spreads. This is why you should treat every aspect of your inbound marketing campaign as a product.

Consider content as your chief product. Content can be a blog post, an ebook, a video, an email newsletter, an infographic or just about anything that’s going to be consumed by an audience.

As marketers and advertisers, we tend to value campaigns (the process) over the product. But the opposite philosophy is your ticket to long-lasting success. Apple has created great marketing campaigns, but their focus is always on creating the best products.

Conclusion.

The irony is that many folks who try hard to get that number-one ranking in the search results often fail, while brands and marketers who patiently and systematically follow these steps not only reach their goals, but stay there over the long haul.

Google has carefully crafted its strategy to encourage strong, quality content publication so its users don’t have to see the spammy content that used to litter its search results. Google’s future moves will be to further encourage this trend of quality and branding instead of manipulation and trickery.

How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

facebook ads drive website traffic How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads [AUDIO VERSION: I also recorded an audio version of this blog post. Click below to listen. Let me know if this is something you find helpful!]

Facebook drives by far the most social referral traffic to websites. According to a report from Shareaholic, Facebook referred 23.39% of all website visits during Q2.

Social Media Traffic Referrals Q2 July 2014 graph How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

Not only is the next social network not even close (Pinterest at 5.72%), but Facebook’s share of social referrals is growing, up 10% since Q1. Facebook’s referral share is the only one that is headed in a positive direction.

If you have a website, you need to use Facebook to help drive relevant people to your content. One of the powerful ways you can boost this traffic is through the use of Facebook ads.

You’d probably be shocked to know that Facebook is not the number one referrer to my site. Instead, that role is held by organic search. More specifically, Google drives me a big bulk of traffic.

However, not only does Facebook undoubtedly influence whether Google refers traffic to me (more traffic, more activity, Google likes me), it’s not even close regarding which social network refers the most eyeballs to my content.

google analytics social referrals facebook How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

Nearly 84% of my social referrals come from Facebook, and I also have more time on site and page views from Facebook than I do from other social networks.

Of course, not all of this is paid, and not all of it is from my page or ads. But my audience of nearly 70,000 fans as well as my ability to target highly relevant people who will want to read my content certainly helps these numbers.

Share Organically at the Right Time

I want you to understand my publishing routine since you can possibly take bits and pieces from it to apply to your own strategy.

These days, I only write blog posts once per week. They are generally published on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon on my blog.

However, I don’t immediately share these posts to Facebook. I’ve found that the “prime times” are often far from ideal if I want to get the most engagement and drive the most organic traffic.

I’ve seen that sharing at 2:15am my time is optimal. Of course, quality of content has the most impact on engagement and ability to drive traffic, but competition in the News Feed is also important.

Promote to Fans

Once I schedule my post to be shared on my Facebook page, I create a couple of ads and schedule them for the next day. While there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong for the timing, I choose to allow my post to run organically for a few hours prior to promoting it.

So the post will publish at 2:15am my time, and then my ads will begin running at about 8:00am.

The first group of people I always target is my fans. Even though I tend to reach a decent chunk of my fans organically, I want to reach more of them. Algorithm or not, many of my fans won’t be on Facebook when I originally published a post, so promotion is helpful.

Since I only write one blog post per week, I keep these ads running until the next post is promoted (so about a week). While I budget a modest $10 per ad set per day, I may stop or accelerate based on performance.

I generally shoot for between 10 and 15 cents per website click. If I’m spending more than 20 cents, I’ll stop the ad. If I’m spending at or under 10 cents, I’ll increase my budget.

Promote to Website Visitors

When I schedule a campaign to promote a new blog post, I always start with two ad sets:

  1. Targeting Fans
  2. Targeting Website Visitors (30 Days)

While I have nearly 70,000 Facebook fans, I get upwards of 200,000+ visitors to my website per month. That means that there are plenty of people who have read my content recently who don’t already like my page!

As a result, targeting this group through the use of Website Custom Audiences is important. I generally target all website visitors during the past 30 days.

As is the case with targeting fans above, I set an initial $10 daily budget and increase the budget or stop the ad depending on performance.

Promote to Specific Website Visitors

Since my website visitors are similar regardless of the post they read, I don’t do what I am about to explain. But it could be very helpful for many publishers.

If you have articles that cover distinct topics, it may be necessary to segment your Website Custom Audiences. Additionally, you may be wasting money if you promote to all website visitors since some readers may have no interest in particular topics.

While my site is focused entirely on Facebook advertising, let’s assume I also wrote about Twitter, YouTube and SEO. If I publish a blog post about Facebook ads, I may want to reach only those who previously read posts about that topic.

You can do this with Website Custom Audiences. Hopefully the URL of your articles include key words or categories. If so, you can create a Website Custom Audience of anyone who visited pages with those key words within the URL.

Like this…

facebook website custom audience category How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

If you write about a few main categories of content, consider including the name of that category within the URL of your posts so this can work for you.

Once that Website Custom Audience is created, I could then target people who have read a similar blog post on my site during the past 30 days (or whatever time period you choose up to 180 days).

Promoting to Other Groups

I prefer spending money to reach people who already know who I am. These people are most likely to click my ads and want to read my content.

But there are two main reasons why I or someone else may want to go beyond these groups:

  • You’ve exhausted the groups of people closely connected to you
  • The ad and post are performing extremely well

Let’s say you have a fan base of 1,000 people and you get 5,000 website visitors per month. You should certainly promote content to these people. However, you will not be able to spend much on these groups. You may then want to expand the net.

Earlier I talked about increasing my budget if I’m getting at or under 10 cents per website click. Another approach I may take is expanding the net for such content since that performance could be a clue that it would appeal to a wider audience.

Following are the ways I will target when I decide to move beyond those who know me:

For Lookalike Audiences, I’ll target people similar to my fans, website visitors and paying customers.

For the rest, I’ll use Audience Insights to break down my audience to get a better idea of the demographics, behaviors and interests I should be targeting.

Using Audience Insights, I’ve determined a few things about my fan base…

They like Amy Porterfield, Social Media Examiner, Hubspot and Facebook for Business at a high rate.

facebook audience insights page likes How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

Most have gone to college (88%) and an above average percentage are married.

facebook audience insights education How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

An above average number make $75k or more in annual income.

facebook audience insights income How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

They primarily use credit cards (74%).

facebook audience insights spending methods How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

They are 233% more likely than the typical Facebook user to make business purchases.

facebook audience insights credit cards How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads

These are all things I can target with Facebook ads (the final three would only be in the US).

Exclude Those Who Read It

Finally, there’s an important step that many miss and as a result waste a little bit of money: Exclude those who have already read the post!

Why pay to promote a post and show it to someone who already read it? It’s a waste. Exclude them!

Immediately upon publishing a new blog post, I will go into Power Editor and create a Website Custom Audience for that post. For example, I’ll create one as soon as I’ve published this post called:

Viewed Drive Website Traffic with Facebook Ads Post

Then when I create my ads, I will specifically exclude anyone who has read this post. Here’s an example of that with another ad:

facebook website custom audience exclude How to Drive More Website Traffic with Facebook Ads
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