Posts tagged sem
What The Wire Can Teach Us About SEM - Part 2 of 2

(In case you missed it: Part 1 of 2)

“All in the game, yo. All in the game.” - Omar Little

Omar Little - All in the Game, Yo

At the end of the day, SEO is a kind of game. It’s a very serious game with billions of dollars riding on it, sure, but it’s a game nonetheless. There are rules and strategies that work - that have been proven to work for years. Even when the rules change (aka Google gets a big idea), smart players simply work to familiarize themselves with and exploit the new playing field.

There will be bumps in the road (there may also be a few boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and bags of cash dropped from on high), but dogged and intelligent pursuit of organic power using the rules that search engines created and SEOs have trail-blazed is a surefire route to success.

“I want my corners.” - Avon Barksdale

Stringer Bell believed in a new kind of game - the game beyond the game as he memorably put it - and he stopped believing in the importance of territory. It was a classic case of vision becoming unmoored from reality. Yes, in a perfect world Stringer’s strategy might have worked, but in the real world it was always going to be a flop. Owning the corners was a fundamental building block of the drug trade in Baltimore - you couldn’t divorce them from the rest of your strategy. The same idea can be applied to SEM; you’ll never get anywhere unless you execute on fundamentals. You’ve got to have your corners.

There are dozens of aspects of SEM that all contribute to a better organized and optimized web presence. There are a hundred ways to make your online presence more visible, more effective, and more profitable. But there are a few rock solid fundamentals that absolutely every SEM effort will fail without.

  • Content
    • Without it, you don’t exist to search engines.
  • Site Structure and Speed
    • Without it, you don’t exist to Google.
  • Analytics
    • Without it, you are flying completely blind.

Without those basic building blocks in place, nothing else you do is going to work the way it should, or the way you want it to. There is a game beyond the game, there surely is - but you’ve gotta have your corners.

“‘Failure to properly identify myself as a police officer.’ Sounds like what I was guilty of most of my career, actually.” - Detective Roland Pryzbylewski

Prez was not natural police. He got on the force because his father-in-law was a higher up in the department, he was unable to control his fear in the field, and he consistently failed to take his situation as seriously as he should. He just wasn’t a good cop - he wasn’t cut out for it.

But he was a fantastic teacher. After being drummed out of the force he ended up working in Baltimore public schools and making a real difference. It was a match for his skill set - it was his calling.

We see this happen a lot with e-commerce sites. They can get carried away chasing rankings and traffic for terms that aren’t their real strengths. If you’re a company that makes vacuum cleaners, then focus on selling vacuum cleaners! Don’t waste time and money trying to rank for other items that are insignificant in the larger scheme of things, and which are inferior products to your main offerings. Know thyself, and do what you do when you do what you do.

“A man got to have a code.” - Omar Little/Bunk Moreland

Perhaps the most quoted line from The Wire. It expresses the moral center of the entire show - that a man must have a personal code of conduct that transcends the law, and any traditional or makeshift authority or set of rules. It’s an acknowledgement from Omar that there is indeed a “game beyond the game” - but it’s not about what Stringer thought it was. It’s about integrity.

We would argue that’s the primary value of an SEO company as well.

At Delegator we don’t do black hat SEO - while it may pay off in short term results, we know it’s a losing strategy in the long game and a threat to the businesses of our clients.

We track and keep our clients apprised of their organic and PPC results at all times - good or bad. That keeps us accountable.

We assign an account manger for each client so that communication never breaks down, and there’s always someone looking out for your best interests with skin in the game.

We believe in comprehensive packages that keep us flexible, rather than monthly draws on your bank account for services you might not need anymore or that may have become less important to your business.

It’s all in the game, yo. All in the game.

What the Wire Can Teach Us About SEM - Part 1 of 2

The Wire is everyone's favorite show for a reason. A deep well of characters, a sprawling narrative that felt intimate and alive, a searing critique of the drug war and a top to bottom post-mortem on the heart of a once-great city. It could only be described as, well, "Dickensian." Sorry, Gus! The Wire was one of those shows that kept you on the hook with long-developing plot lines (investigations, mergers, a series of major news reports) that typically extended over an entire season. It also delivered incredible quotes and moments of drama and comedy on a weekly basis - sometimes both in the same scene. It's what gave the show its weekly entertainment punch to go along with its historical level of sophistication and "reporting."

Here at Delegator we're big fans, and we even started using some of those quotes around the office to reference some of the things we were doing for clients related to AdWords, SEO, Analytics, and more. With a recent upswing in attention on the show (thanks Grantland!) we thought now might be a good time to share with our clients and readers what we've been talking about for years. Search Engine Marketing - As Explained by the Cast of The Wire. Sheeeeeeee...

“When you take a shot at the King, you best not miss.” - Omar Little

Omar Little

Taking aim at the number one Google ranking is a formidable task. That’s especially true when you happen to be going up against another entity that a) has a clearly more relevant relationship to the keyword than you do or b) can spend you under the table. Unfortunately for most companies, it’s not a realistic goal.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn't try, or shouldn’t at least set it as your goal. Sometimes toppling the king is easier than you thought (just ask Marlo). But more often than not, as Wee-Bey found out, you end up eating chicken salad across from Bunk and McNulty. What is realistic for most companies is getting a few corners of their own - corners the big boys  might not know about. The way to do this in SEO is by investigating and then investing in long tail keywords. Maybe Huge Company X has the market cornered on "The Wire Posters," but you could get a real foothold in "Michael K. Williams Posters," "Omar Little Wire Posters," or "Omar Little Season 5 Posters." You won't get quite as much traffic as you would for a generic term, but the traffic you do get will be specific, and motivated to convert.

The only way to achieve a ranking like that for a competitive keyword is perfect preparation, determination in the form of time and money, and luck.

“Look the part, be the part.” - Proposition Joe

Proposition Joe

Joe came in for some ridicule from Avon when he showed up to the annual East/West showdown in full “Pat Riley” suit and tie regalia, but his commitment to looking like a “real” basketball coach helped him coach with more authority and confidence. In other words, getting the look right helped him get the job right. That, and a hired ringer. This is a lesson that can be easily applied to SEM.

Everything starts with your site design. A newcomer to your site should immediately be able to understand what you’re about and trust that you can deliver the goods. Building that initial trust element and creating a homepage that effectively funnels users to the pages you want them to hit is a complicated, multi-faceted process, but it’s a time and design investment well worth making. When you look like a “real” site, you’ll see yourself start to perform like one.

“Our job is to report the news, not manufacture it!” - Gus Haynes

Gus Haynes and Scott Templeton Season 5 of The Wire was about the breakdown of professional ethics within the main character, Detective Jimmy McNulty, as well as the august offices of the Baltimore Sun (where series creator David Simon began his career as a journalist). McNulty, frustrated with the lack of institutional support for his wire investigations, (SPOILER ALERT) fakes the presence of a serial killer by “adjusting” bodies post mortem. Scott Templeton, a hotshot up and comer at the Sun, began his career making up innocuous stories about wheelchair bound children going to Orioles games, but he eventually begins to stretch the truth about the serial killer case - he is the only reporter the “killer” ever contacts.

In the end McNulty loses his badge and Templeton wins a Pulitzer.

When you go with “black hat” SEO - SEO that attempts to get around Google standards and practices through any one of a dozen illicit strategies - you’re taking the same chance. Maybe it will work, you won’t get caught, and your business will go up, up, up. But maybe you’ll get caught, blacklisted, and penalized indefinitely in the organic results, crippling and even killing your business. Is that really a chance you want to take?

At Delegator we only do “white hat” SEO. Be very careful before getting in bed with any firm that doesn’t, and make sure that if you’re running your own SEO operation you don’t cross the line. It’s not worth risking your entire business.

“If Snotboogie always stole the money, then why did you let him play?”

“Got to. This America, man.” - McNulty and Man on Stoop

Anybody can play the AdWords game. Doesn’t matter if they don’t understand it, try to cheat it, or run their accounts into the ground. Because it depends on the quality of your site much less than the value of your dollar, it’s as open as it gets in the land of SEM. The only thing you need to play is money - Google allows you to set up your account and start spending faster than you can run down to your neighborhood game of bones (though your ROI is likely to be higher with Google). You will almost certainly need an expert to guide you through the weeds with no pain and plenty of profit.

Active AdWords management is the best way to navigate the choppy waters of paid search. Active management means going in every day and making changes, re-organizing, raising and lowering bids, and identifying and exploiting new best practices. That's the only proven way to consistently stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the wide open AdWords game.

Come back for more Wire action next week!

Part 2 of 2.

4 Ways Google Instant Affects SEM

Google Instant LaunchGoogle’s new search update, Google Instant, launched on September 8th and has everyone in the SEM (Search Engine Marketing) world talking. While the full effects of Instant have yet to materialize, I wanted to give my early ideas on its implications for the future of search and how it could affect your site. 1. User Behavior Will Change

The most interesting thing to keep an eye on with Google Instant will be how it affects user behavior. The consensus is that it will change the way people search, but because the technology is so new, no one knows exactly how it will make that change. My instinct is that it will create "lazier" search queries, as people rely on the Google suggestion to complete their thought. This could mean less long-tail searches and will almost certainly mean less click-throughs to the second page of results.

What we should see from an SEO perspective is a greater premium placed on ranking on the first page, and in the Top 3 more specifically. If this holds true, it would hardly be an unintended consequence. Google’s SEO guru Matt Cutts has stated that “a key insight behind Google Instant is that we want to get people answers and solve their problems faster”.

2. Big Brands Will Gain an Edge

Another side effect I’ve noticed in the Google Instant debut is a visibility boost for top brands. This applies to both the paid and organic listings. I cannot help but notice when I type A, I get Amazon, E is eBay, and W is Walmart. Instead of serving a hybrid distribution of results for the letter E (ESPN, E-Trade, Expedia, etc.), Google gives me a full page of eBay results and ads.

The cynic in me wants to say Google is trying to boost some of their top spenders on AdWords such as the aforementioned Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. The line of thought here is that these top advertisers will accrue residual impressions and clicks, increasing Google’s take from AdWords, their cash cow. The reality is likely less sinister than that, but there is no denying that big brands are afforded an advantage in Instant.

Google Instant - eBay

3. Long-Tail Searches Will Change

Long-tail searches ("green eggs and ham" vs "breakfast") are more focused and have less volume than a general one or two word search, but they often lead to more precise results and, thus, strong conversions. Some people have jumped to the conclusion that Google Instant effectively kills the long-tail and will hurt sites that have focused their efforts there. I think that is a bit extreme, and I would encourage anyone to watch their analytics as I think there are potential positive and negative effects.

Because Google Instant results are displayed as you type, users can easily bail from typing a long phrase and settle for what is shown with their partial search. If you do not rank well for the shorter phrase, you will likely see a decrease in traffic. Also, analytics might show keywords that do not make as much sense because they are only part of the searcher’s true search intention. On the other side, Google Instant could also increase your long-tail traffic in some cases because search refinements seem to be easier with the new feature.

4. Data Will Fluctuate

Web analytics and data are key drivers of search marketing strategies, whether paid or organic. Google Analytics and other packages offer detailed data on a user’s intent by showing the search query he or she typed to reach a given website.

Or at least they did.

With Google Instant, and its built-in suggestion feature, Analytics packages will now display the suggested query that led to the eventual click. This is not meaningless, - it will certainly be valuable to see how searchers are reaching your website - but it is not as powerful as it was previously. Search queries as they were previously reported served as a direct line to your customers’ minds. Now, they are a truncated version of a searcher’s question with a little Google suggestion sprinkled on top.

On the PPC side of things, Google has warned advertisers and managers of AdWords accounts to monitor their accounts for increased impression numbers and click volumes. To date, we have not noticed any major impression fluctuations from any of our AdWords clients, but there is evidence that Instant has been responsible for this with at least some percentage of AdWords users.

Overall Google Instant is not going to negate the value of Search Engine Optimization or even change it drastically, but I would recommend staying vigilant. As always, monitoring analytics, watching your Adwords stats, and reviewing your search engine rankings will ensure that your site does not go quietly into the night.