Not Enough to Rank #1 on Google

I’ve had number 1 spots for various keywords in different niches and from what GWT tells me, the highest CTR I could get from being at the top spot is only 35%. Why? Check out the infographic below.

Larry Kim of WordStream says Google is fighting a war on free clicks.

Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) vs. Organic Search Listings (SEO)

Wikipedia Blackout: How to Use Wikipedia for Next 24 Hours While on SOPA Protest

The Wikipedia blackout is a big surprise to many users of the web’s free encyclopedia as they restrict access to their pages for 24 in protest of the SOPA.

Likely be a huge inconvenience to many loyal users, but it is for a good cause. But for those who cannot live without Wikipedia even for a day, here is how you can use it courtesy of a friendly search engine, Google.

Here’s how.
1. Do a normal search on google, for instance, Puerto Rico
2. On Google’s search result page, find the wikipedia link, click it.. you will get a black screen
3. Hit the back button to take you back to Google’s search results page, then copy the URL as you see on google, in this case.. “
4. Still on Google, on the space above, type cache: and then paste the copied URL, it would appear as then hit enter
5. You will now see that Wikipedia page on Puerto Rico, courtesy of Google

If you thought this was cool, please tweet, share, send to others who can’t wait to for Wikipedia to get back online.

Old Navy Using Weekend Sale to Build Mailing List; Send SPAM

I am certain they already have one or several, as it makes sense for a clothing chain that big to have one. However it looks like Old Navy is collecting even more emails through the current sale and using is going to benefit from all the data they collect and likely will have the opportunity to directly market to buyers
based on your purchase.

I rarely walk in to a brick and mortar store to shop, well firstly because I rarely shop. Second reason is, shopping online is just more convenient, and I don’t end up feeling like an idiot cutting in to check out and someone telling me out loud, “there’s a line back here.”

To make a long story short, upon paying for the purchase I get asked for my email address, and while I could have probably declined, I thought I’d go with it to see how Old Navy will use the information they have about my purchase, and if they were going to send me any unsolicited email. I gave the cashier an email address I rarely use.

But what kind of information does Old Navy actual get from this?

Aside from what was purchased and an email address associated with a purchase, they know what items are most popular, for what pricing, in what location, and whole lot more which I will not get into now.

The most important question is, will Old Navy SPAM me with unsolicited email? The answer, YES.

When I was asked by the cashier for my email address, I asked what for and she replied “for the receipt.” She did not say any more.

When I gave her my email address, the understanding there is that is the only purpose for the email address request. If Old Navy sends me an email whether marketing or not, this is spam because I did not request for them to send me anything through email and would then be sending me an unsolicited message. They did not ask for my permission to send me email, and so did not get any so they should not be sending me an email.

Well, as it turns out.. they did send me an email immediately after purchase, sending me a copy of their receipt and a survey.

The rule of thumb in collecting emails for marketing purposes is, always get explicit approval and the person giving you their email address should know what you will use the email address for, otherwise you will be sending out SPAM just like Old Navy did.

Setting SEO Expectations and Commitments with Clients

Today, there is growing dissatisfaction among business owners with SEO consultants and are questioning the effectiveness of SEO and if they should actually allocate a budget for hiring someone who can manage their SEO campaigns.

While there is some truth to the fact that a lot of SEO providers don’t really know what they are talking about and employ tricks to merely game search engines, I believe many legitimate SEOs fail to clearly set expectations and commitments with clients.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become very popular today because of the constantly growing number of people who find information, products and services through search engines.  As a result, more and more companies try to get their service offers across by being visible to their potential customers at the moment it is needed. This has created a greater demand for SEO service providers who work with clients to get their websites visible on a search engine, and by visible the ultimate goal is to get a website ranked number 1 for words or phrases that a potential customer may be using; to educate himself and or make a purchase decision.

Here are some points that both the SEO provider and client should be aware about and agree upon.

1. Top Rankings are not Guaranteed

This may sound appalling to the business owner who engages someone for SEO services, but the truth is no one can actually guarantee top rankings on search engines like Google, unless they own it. I remember a conference I attended some time ago that Bruce Clay spoke at.. he talked about how his clients want guarantees on rankings and he simply replies rather smugly, “buy me Google.”

Good SEOs are constantly up to date with what works and how search engines works, especially Google which constantly tweaks its ranking algorithm, as often as 500 times in a year, or so they say. I want to underscore the “so they say” part because no one really knows what Google does, they keep everything secret and for good reason. Spammers that learn how to rank well on Google will only abuse this knowledge.

The bottom line is, how to rank well is a mystery. SEO is not an accepted science with known rules. SEO providers try to keep updated constantly because what may work today may not work tomorrow, and they do more than just surfing the web and reading posts online but I won’t get into that now.

The practice of SEO is the application of current knowledge of the SEO provider to improve a website’s chances for ranking well for its target keywords and at the end of the day a business owner engages an SEO provider not for guaranteed rankings but for the legitimate process that a provider is able to show, that has yielded good results for other clients through a span of several years and numerous algorithm adjustments.

2. SEO is about Process and not just Results

It is important for the client to understand that SEO is a process to achieve a result, and results are not instant. In fact, the metrics you use to gauge results of the management of that SEO process can sometimes be erratic. What is important is long term consistency that helps build legitimacy and authority.

The business owner must realize that they hire a provider for an SEO management process that makes sense to them, that as revealed by past results of using that process, can lead to better rankings. Just stick to the plan.

3. Adapting to Google’s Changes Quickly

Regardless of what other people may say, I don’t really do much to optimize for rankings on all search engines, just Google. This is where most of the traffic comes from. Of all projects, websites and analytics data I have access to, among the top search engines, Google delivers up to 70% of organic search traffic. So I don’t really bother with Bing or Yahoo.

That said, Google does not only make several constant tweaks, they roll out major updates that is disastrous for many websites, even the ones that the update did not intend to target.

When Google rolls out with an update, and if rankings take a dive, the SEO provider must know how to quickly react and adjust strategy to arrest any drop, maintain current rank or even regain the rank.

Again, this is why no one can guarantee rankings; because the SEO game is a game where rules are not all clearly known and are subject to change as Google deems necessary.

4. Trust

The business owner has to trust the SEO provider. Most of my successful projects were a result of having control of every aspect. Some projects had delayed results because there were too many people to coordinate with and get approval from, or the website owner had to consider other opinions before making a decision.

5. A Mutually Proactive Relationship

Some business owners may leave an SEO person to his own devices… actually there needs to be close coordination between both. Apart from being able to correspond constantly especially in trying to measure results of actions, the SEO provider needs to understand and know what is going on with the business and see how these things may have an impact on the SEO process. I believe for an SEO provider to help the business, he should understand the business and how it works.

6. A Marketing Plan

SEO is not merely link building or slapping on a few articles on some free blog sites.. it is marketing.

Some small business owners with brick and mortar stories, and several online business owners know little about marketing and may not have a sound marketing plan in place, in fact many think that link building is all that is needed. On a side note, this is why a lot of online entrepreneurs that turn to freelancers on sites like ODesk for writing or link building, end up closing up shop. They were made to believe that was all they need to do, by all these info-products and SEO / online marketing gurus.. inevitably their venture fails and they conclude that online marketing or SEO is not effective, when what was really lacking was a solid marketing plan.

There is a need for the SEO provider to connect and coordinate with the business’ marketing person, or directly with the business owner to ensure that whatever they do online is consistent with a decided marketing strategy.  If a client does not have a marketing in place and expects link building to be all that is needed, then the SEO provider needs to develop a marketing strategy for them. There are generally two types of successful SEO consultants, those with a programming and web development background and those with a marketing background. I belong to the latter, 15 years of traditional marketing has helped me develop sound yet cost efficient strategies to help clients achieve their ranking goals.

Anyone can build links and deliver results; short term results that get wiped out when Google does something to get rid of low quality low authority website. What is actually required to succeed is having a good online presence and a diverse marketing mix that would involve traditional marketing channels.

So what expectations should be set and agreed upon? What helps a client decide on a provider?

The answer, the SEO provider’s experience and methods of managing the SEO process, a verifiable successfully strategy that has delivered favorable results, prevailing over numerous search engine updates and changes, not by simply building links but by marketing the business’ brand unique service offerings on the offline and online space that both permeate to and support the other.

How Much Should You Charge for Banner Ads On Your Website

I am writing this article in response to a question that was sent me that goes..

“Hi Mr Sencio. I’m just wondering where you are based because my question has something to do with where I’m from which is here in the Philippines. I made a website and I want to start asking sponsors to help me pay for my own domain. How much does a website charge for ads?”

First of all there “there are no standard pricing structures across the Internet” for banner ads. The only way to determine how much you should charge is to see how much other sites just like yours are charging.. and by other sites I mean, websites with similar traffic, demographics, banner sizes and location on the page or on the website.

Advertisers are paying for exposure on a website, so they put their ads on websites that have traffic. If your website does not have any, it is likely you will have a hard time getting anyone to book ads on your website.

More than just exposure, advertisers want the right exposure. They want to reach out their target audience who are the people they see buying the product or service they want to advertise.

Banner Sizes
There are many different standard banner ad sizes, and pricing is obviously also influenced by size. The bigger the size, the bigger the ad creative you can use, and the clearer an advertiser’s message may be read by the web site’s visitors.

Location on Page/Website
Where a banner ad is found on a page, or what page on the website also affect price. Think of banner ads as billboards; the ones that are easily seen by motorists and the ones that are on a busy street usually cost more than those that are not immediately visible or those that are in back alley.

Banner ads found visibly near the top of the page or anywhere above the fold (the lower edge of the visible webpage before a visitor scrolls down) are usually higher in cost. Furthermore, banner ad locations on the main page or pages that get the most number of views usually cost higher than other pages that have less page views.

Whether you are in the Philippines, the US or anywhere in the world, banner advertising is an Internet commerce channel that knows no boundaries and more importantly largely unregulated with standardized pricing. It really comes down to the value that your website offers to potential advertisers and being able to convince them spending their ad budget on your site is worthwhile, otherwise they can easily find another website that is cheaper than what you are offering and may beat you in the aspects of traffic, demographic, size options and site and page placement.

How Other Websites Charge?

Flat Rate – Where you simply charge a monthly rate for the exposure you are giving them on your website.

Per CPM – A little more complicated, it stands for cost per thousand, where an advertiser pays a certain dollar amount for a thousand impressions. This is often the standard method used, and common among large websites with a lot of traffic and a lot of potential views of these pages.

Per Click – As it suggests, an advertiser pays a certain amount each time the ad is clicked by a viewer, a little more complicated to implement and needs more advanced software and tracking mechanisms in place.

What to Do Next?

Start promoting your website in order to get more visitors to it. You should also have some sort of tracking mechanism in place for you to see how many visitors are getting. Later on you would need to determine the demographic of your visitors, and that is largely influenced by the content of your website and how easily your website is found through links on other websites or through search engine listings.

Lastly, I am a Filipino in New York City.

How to Get a Blog Indexed Fast on Google

How to get a blog indexed on Google seems to be every blogger’s dilemma. Getting indexed on Google simply means, Google is aware of your website and has a copy of the pages found on your site on its database. It does not mean that you will already rank for certain keyword searches on the engine, but that is the step in that direction.

But is getting a blog indexed on Google really that hard? To be honest, it really isn’t. Google is a lot faster today than it was last year or two years back.

Last night I launched a new blog on a new domain that I also registered yesterday. It is a WordPress powered blog and all I did was set it up and add one post. I also made sure to strip away the default post (hello world) that comes with a new WordPress install, and removed the About page and the links it had on it. So what did I do to get it indexed on Google.. in just an hour?

Here are the steps I took.

  • Installed WordPress
  • Removed default post, about page and links
  • Changed permalink structure from default to %postname%
  • Added plugins; SEO for WordPress plugin by Yoast, TweetMeme Twitter, Facebook Share button, activated them
  • Added proper title and description to the blog
  • Published first post
  • Added Google Analytics and set it up on Webmaster Tools
  • Launched sitemap, a feature built in to the SEO for WordPress plugin, made sure to check ping all four search engines option
  • Bookmarked the main page URL on Delicious, Reddit.. pinged the new pages that were created in the process
  • Submitted the feed to Zimbio, and checked if the new post also got published on Zimbio
  • Tweeted the URL using a relatively new Twitter account with 3 followers, but used 3 hashtags that related to the topic

After all that, and an hour later the site was already indexed on Google.

So it really is very easy to get a new blog indexed on Google. But here’s the added bonus which I had not anticipated to happen so soon, it now is ranked on the 9th page of Google for its exact phrase in the domain. The domain is actually a two word phrase for a specific service, and for security reasons and to ensure that my traffic data does not get skewed by people visiting it, I cannot reveal the domain name. It is ranking without any significant link building, and I am confident with a few more good links and some time, this blog will be on the first page of Google in a few weeks to a month. Of course I speak confidently because I have done this many times before.

Just follow the steps above and you fill find your blogs getting indexed quickly on Google, and you are going to be a step closer to ranking for your target keywords and more importantly increasing your chance of getting more people finding and reading your blog.

Google Penalizes JC Penney, Overstock

Google has been very busy lately.. levying penalties on JC Penney and Overstock just weeks apart and making some tweaks in their algorithm which is said to devalue certain types of pages.

I have been asked about this a couple of times and if you have not read the stories; you can simply Google them, the answers are all there.

The JC Penney incident is a clear case of acquiring a massive amount of links on low value pages. There can be many interpretations of what love value pages are but in my own words, these are pages that have nothing to do with the pages they link to, and likely offer very little information and are of very little value and usefulness to human visitors, if at all human visitors do find those pages. The truth is, a lot don’t. They are merely meant for Google’s bots to crawl and find.

The Overtsock case is also another example of a site getting a good number of links but this time, a lot of them coming from a .edu site, which are said to be more valuable in worth. Not only that, Overstock was actively soliciting for those links by offering discounts to those who did link to them. In the former example with JC Penney, they were simply buying the links. Either way, both companies were clearly actively involved in acquiring links that would benefit their rankings on Google.

Google does not want its system manipulated as it strives to deliver to its users the most accurate and deserving results. Both cases are examples of active manipulation or involvement in the link building process for the purpose of improving rankings.

So if you are actively involved in spurring our link growth or managing it, should you be worried? I say, NO.We need to be actively proactive when it comes to getting links and how people link to us.. but staying within certain limits.

You want your products, services, offers, and content to be found and it will not get found if you do not manage the process of acquiring links. So to be on the safe side here are some tips.

  1. Quality always over quantity. The best links are always those that are found on good quality pages, that offer value to readers, related to the content being linked to, that get visitors and best of all that have visitors that click through those links over to the pages that get linked to.
  2. If you find sites that have linked to you and you believe they could use better phrases to use as anchor text, contact them, thank them, then ask if they would not mind changing the link to the proper text to use. Optionally you can offer something of value in return.
  3. When buying links.. yes it is not bad to buy links or pay for ads.. this is a good way of getting traffic to your site. But you need to ensure that the links are “nofollow-ed” so that they do not pass over attribution to the page being linked to, thus affecting how Google would rank that page.

To do well on its search results page, don’t game Google.. just work with it!

The Top 3 Reasons to Use Search Engine Optimization on Your Website

Search Engine Optimization is one of today’s most effective website traffic and online branding strategies that website owners use. In my own words, it simply is the process of applying one’s knowledge of how search engine’s rank pages to ensure that web content you publish, easily gets found by the search engines’ users, who would find that content useful.

In practical application, people search for words or phrases on a search engine like Google, and a page on your website gets ranked visibly on the search results page, catching the searcher’s attention and getting him to click through to that page on your website. Pages that are highly visible, get more attention.

But why practice Search Engine Optimization?

Here are the top 3 reasons to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your website.

Increase Website Traffic
Every website has a purpose; goals that you can quantify and count. Websites are basically pages of information, created to conveniently serve the needs of people who need that information. Getting more traffic to your website means more people finding, reading, learning, and using the information you provide. In the online marketing space, websites are used to promote and sell products and services, or get leads for a business.

Regardless of purpose, any website can benefit from getting more visitors.

Build a Reputation
More visitors means a bigger audience for you and what you might have to say. If you are blogger or a writer who regularly publishes new posts that people find interesting enough to read and follow, you will be able to build your reputation amongst your chosen audience. A lot of people today use this to brand themselves or their businesses online; establish themselves as authorities and or credible sources of information about specific topics.

Create Opportunities
We have heard all to often that you need to grab opportunities that present themselves. However, in an environment where competition is fierce,you cannot simply wait for opportunities to present themselves, you need to create these opportunities. The proactive beat the passive.

The ability to put yourself, your brand, what you stand for or what you do out there helps increase your chances at opportunities coming your way. The Internet is just another medium of communication that you should leverage on in order to attract opportunities. Successful people do more than everybody else. They often fail more than everybody else, but that’s the idea.. doing more may mean failing in more things than the regular person but at the same time likely succeeding or accomplishing more than the rest.

Search engine optimization is certainly a useful skill any website or online business owner would greatly benefit from. Unfortunately, it takes time to learn and master, and SEO enthusiasts and students need to cope and keep abreast with changes that regularly occur with these search engines. To be successful at SEO you need to know how search engines work, and how they work constantly changes. The established search engines safeguard their systems of ranking, protecting it like some esoteric knowledge that won’t make sense to the uninitiated, in order to ensure the credibility of search results and delivery of the most relevant to its users. It may just be better to consult with a Search Engine Optimization consultant who has a history of proven and verifiable SEO results.

Three Questions to Ask Before Buying Banner Advertising on a Website

Buying banner advertising on websites is a very popular method of online advertising. To put it simply, it is the act of placing a banner ad about your business, products or services on another website for a fee. Banner advertising can be effective and profitable, but before you do decide upon buying ad space, ask yourself these 3 questions.

Does the Website Have Any Traffic?
The main reason you advertise on a website is exposure, and if a website does not have visitors, then you likely won’t get that exposure.

Most websites that sell advertising space on a regular basis have information about their site that will help you make a decision. This information is found in a Media Kit, that you can download or send an email or contact request for.

So the first thing you can do if you want to advertise on a website is see if they have a page where you can find, download or request for that information.

The Media Kit typically has an overview of their visitors, with general traffic figures, the types of advertising they accept, rates and other advertising terms. Some may go into more detail and reveal visitor demographics.

So what about the ther web sites that do not offer a Media Kit? You can ask the website owner or administrator for traffic information.  Ask them for a copy of their Google Analytics stats. If they refuse, then take your business elsewhere. If they do agree to give you Google Analytics data, try to get data for the last 3-6 months. What you are trying to determine is consistency of traffic, and what their general traffic sources are. A good sign that a site is a great place to advertise on is if they have consistent traffic and a huge number of them come from Google searches, and referrals from other websites.

Is the Website’s Traffic the Type of Traffic You Want?
Sometimes it is not about the quantity, but the quality of visitors. You need to verify if the visitors the website gets are the type of visitors you want to reach out to and would be interested in your products or services. This is where demographic information can come in handy. A website that regularly sells banner ad space almost always has information about their visitors like gender, age, status.. or even education and individual or household income.

If a website cannot provide you with such information, you can try various free tools online that can give you insight into their visitors, one tool you can use is the Google Ad Planner. To use it, all you need to do is type in website you want to do research on in the space, then hit the blue arrow beside it. You will also see traffic estimates using Google Ad Planner but this will not be as accurate as the site’s own traffic statistics.

Is the Price, Right?
There are typically three ways you can pay for banner advertising.  One, is simply an agreed fixed rate on a monthly or weekly basis. The second is by CPM, short for cost per thousands where you pay an amount for every 1000 impressions of your banner. An impression is one instance when your banner ad was displayed because the page it is found on was loaded on a visitor’ browser, which is what happens when a visitor landed on that page. So if the rate is 50 cents CPM, and you get 1000 impressions in a day, you pay a total of $5 for that day for those impressions. Third is per click, where you pay for every click your banner ad gets. There is no “better” means among the three, and it would depend on your costs and conversions and your being able to determine which method gives you the least expense per conversion.

Rates for banner advertising are not regulated, so a website can actually charge as much as they deem they are worth. What’s funny is some websites charge too much for ad space even if they do not have the traffic to make the placement worth the expense.

So one way to really be able to get a grasp how much to pay is to first get rates from different websites and make a note of how much traffic they get, and what kind of traffic they have. This will give you an idea what the rates are for websites of a certain size and who get a certain amount of traffic. You also do not need to target high traffic websites, you can find smaller websites that have fewer traffic, but it’s visitors may be the exact market you want to reach.

More than just getting traffic through advertising, you want to get converting traffic; visitors that becomes leads or customers.

That said, it is important to note that different websites may charge different rates, and at the end of the day you don’t go with the website that offers the best price, but the website that delivers an ROI.

What you would need to do is always ask to do a small test first before taking on a full blown ad package. This way you can determine if the traffic you get converts. As a test, you can run ads for a week or two and spend less. This way you get a sample of their traffic and determine if that web site’s visitors will respond favorably to your banner ad and your products/services offered, without you having to pay the full advertising amount.

If the website does not allow tests, ask them if carry an opt out clause in your contract, which will allow you to cancel your arrangement within a certain span of time if the advertising placement does not work for you, does not yield any conversions (leads or sales) for you. You will then only need to pay for advertising for the duration that your banner ad was live on the site.

To be a smart website or online business owner, you need to make some smart decisions especially with online advertising. Smart decisions can only be made if you have the necessary information that help you make an informed decision to do a small test, that if upon delivering good results, you can then scale up into a full blown banner ad campaign on that website, taking advantage of their visitors whom you have found to be that targeted audience you seek for what it is you are offering.

Inside Google Instant: How It Works

Google Instant is a new feature on the Google search engine that is characterized by predictive search and instant filtering of search results. This feature can be turned off and on depending on the preference of the search engine user.

Google’s goal is to quickly deliver what their uses are trying to find, by automatically filling up or completing the search phrase being typed, at the same time displaying other related keywords below.. while displaying organic search results and PPC results based on the auto-completed phrase that appears in the search box.

How Does Google Instant Work?

  • search engine user starts typing a keyword in the Google search box
  • search results and PPC results change as user completes typing a search phrase but the results being instantly displayed are for the phrase that Google auto-completes
  • as a search engine user types a search phrase, Google guesses and auto completes what the user is typing and the organic results and PPC results change accordingly
  • the way pages are being ranked remains the same, but this new feature will affect and change the way people search for information on Google

My Two Cents on Google Instant

Google Instant  is essentially a search engine browsing and research aid, it encourages exploring… and is helpful for search engine users who may not have something specific or not already know exactly what they are looking.

Is is also helpful for search engine users who have already decided what search phrase to use in finding the information they want, as it allows them to drill down further and make their search queries even more specific.

Google Instant’s Impact on Google Users and SEO

The Good

  • search engine users easily find what they are looking for, and faster
  • search engine users are able to define their searches better
  • user intentions are clearer due to more defined searches
  • search engine users can do a variety of more search queries and get a mix of different results in a shorter span of time
  • a possible increase in targeted traffic for sites that rank well for specific keyword searches that exactly match intentions of a search engine user

The Bad

  • predictive results while offering more possible search options to the user, can be a distraction:
  • may divert the user from the original search phrase they were intending on using, to a Google predicted/auto-filled search phrase or search results that catches their attention, while in the middle of typing
  • may divert user from topic they were searching for altogether, for instance a user interested in one topic may click another topic as it gets displayed in the search box when he types the first few letters of his query.. for instance a person interested in lawyer, starts typing the keyword lawyer, but gets diverted by lady gaga upon reaching “la”, or clicks off to law and order when having typed “law
  • a possible increase in less targeted traffic because of incidental clicks (through auto completed results)
  • a possible increase in less targeted traffic for sites ranked for broad keywords or phrases of 1 or 2 word phrases because of predictive results that may catch a user’s attention

Google Instant is a double edged sword;  disruptive and perceptive, ultimately dependent on the user and how he uses this feature.

The official statement goes, Google Instant is an update Google rolled out with to further develop its product for users. In the process Google also increases revenue as a result of higher ad impressions generated, as opposed to static search impressions.  Its effectiveness is dependent on the user and his intentions; capable of steering a user in the right direction to find exactly what he is looking for, or distracting an unsure researcher who proceeds with a different keyword / topic and takes a different browsing direction.