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2016 Online Advertising and SEO Conference Takeaways

August 31st, 2016 by Leslie Carruthers

There’s no doubt that rising to the top of Google ranks should be a priority for all businesses and brands, but it’s especially crucial for e-commerce sites that rely on online visitors to make money.

We recently attended the 2016 Online Advertising and SEO Conference in Sofia, Bulgaria to scope out the hottest SEO and advertising trends. Here’s what we learned about how e-commerce sites can step up their SEO game and make their search engine rankings skyrocket.

First, consider these striking statistics:

  • Mobile commerce (m-commerce ) is growing 3 times faster than e-commerce (42% m-commerce growth vs. 14% e-commerce growth). Currently one-third of all online purchases happen on mobile devices.


  • Though people spend most of their mobile time on apps, that doesn’t mean they spend their money there. Most mobile purchases happen via web browsers on mobile websites.
  • People use their phones on average 100 to 150 times per day. These are the so-called “micro-moments” where smartphones serve as personal assistants. People search for directions, for a good place to eat, or for a nearby store or service. Searches containing the phrase “near me” have grown more than 30 times compared to 2011.


  • Omnichannel users (people who use several channels to interact with a brand) spend 3x more money in the store vs. other users.
  • The importance of the brand is huge — the more branded searches there are, the higher that brand will rank for non-branded searches.

Three Must-Haves for Online Retailers in 2016

    1. Responsive design is not enough anymore if you’re selling online.

Mobile users are seeking a completely new experience, which you’ll need to provide if you want to successfully sell on mobile devices.

In order to create a mobile site that satisfies users, keep these features in mind:

  • Great images which load fast. High quality images sell, and site speed is what will keep your visitors on the site.
  • Write your product details as if you’re describing the item to a blind person — the color, the shape, the sizes, the feel of the material, how you can use it, etc.
  • Make mobile conversions as easy as possible — keep users logged in, offer them discounts, show when they qualify for free delivery, etc.

You’ll also want to incorporate these features into your strategy:

  • Good structure: categories, products, clear pathways
  • Technical SEO
  • Content optimization
  • Information for the search engines (structured data)
  • Social media information and links
  • Analytics tracking/Conversions tracking
  • Strong UX and CRO elements

    2. Being in front of your users in the precise moment they need something (usually on-the-go) is what matters for your business.

When today’s users want something online, they want it NOW, and they want it to come easily. That said, it’s more important than ever for businesses to stay top of mind and make themselves readily available. If they don’t, users will often go for the easiest, fastest option that they can get their hands on.

Some tips for gaining immediate visibility with interested users:

  • Claim and optimize your local listings to show up in maps results
  • Advertise on local searches to reach users in your area
  • Use technology to customize your ad messages. For example, if you sell 5,000 products you can use an .xml file to create ad copies with specific product names and discounted prices — these searches will have few occurrences but high conversion rates.


    3. Convert more visitors into buyers.

Attracting people to your site is a great start, but it won’t matter in the long run if you can’t convert them from visitors to buyers.

  • Use remarketing advertising to remind your users of the products they’ve visited on different channels — Facebook, Google Display, etc. Don’t forget to limit the frequency of the ad to 1-2 per day to lower customer annoyance rates!
  • Try to collect visitor email addresses because email marketing still holds the top position for highest conversion channel. Try a headline with a product discount in exchange for email address.
  • Use simple email reminders for people who’ve abandoned their shopping carts to finish their purchase.

Without a strong SEO strategy in place, e-commerce sites can miss out on valuable clicks and sales opportunities. With these helpful tips, you can craft a solid online strategy that gives your brand visibility and brings buyers directly to your site.

Need some help getting started creating an SEO strategy for your ecommerce site? Contact The Search Guru today for a complimentary SEO session!

Goldman Sachs 10KSB: 5 Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Business Leads

August 5th, 2016 by Leslie Carruthers

The Search Guru President & Founder Leslie Carruthers recently spoke at a 10,000 Small Businesses Event sponsored by Goldman Sachs.

During this CEO MeetUP event in Cleveland, Leslie leveraged her experience as a seasoned internet marketing professional to share the top five ways to use social media to drive business leads:

  • 1. Paid Social Advertising
  • 2. Social Listening (aka prospecting)
  • 3. Target > Engage (aka pitching)
  • 4. Earned Media (aka Word of Mouth)
  • 5. Leverage Content > Build Your List

Spoiler alert: this is NOT your standard “why you need to be using social media” article!

We get it – your goal as a salesperson or business owner is to bring in new business, and you don’t have time to sit around composing Twitter posts, right?

If you can relate to the sentiment above, we recommend that you stick around and keep reading, because this post was made just for you!

Today, we’re going to recap Leslie’s 10KSB presentation by highlighting some of the top marketers who are using social media the right way, and laying out in plain terms how it’s possible replicate their results for your own business or brand.

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Here are the top 5 ways to drive leads via social media.

1. Paid Social Advertising

Paid social advertising is highly undervalued and underinvested, accounting for $5 billion in missed opportunities!

There are several ways businesses and brands can take advantage of paid social advertising, including:

  • Promoting posts by sharing links to great content, leading to more likes and follows.
  • Using purchased lists to target those most likely to convert, creating new leads.

Paid social advertising can be leveraged on nearly every social media site such as Twitter and LinkedIn, but it can be especially effective on Facebook.

  • Retargeting: Target those audiences that you feel are likely to convert, based on specific behaviors (e.g. targeting audiences who have visited specific pages on your site, or those who did not fill out a lead form).
  • Lookalike Audiences: Target audiences that have similar demographics, interests, and buying habits to those of your past customers.
  • Custom Audiences: Target both current clients and leads by uploading contact information from a company list or purchased list.

2. Social Listening (aka Prospecting)

It’s tempting for businesses and brands who are new to the world of social media to want to jump straight into tweeting, posting, and sharing content. But this eagerness often leads to those marketers missing out on a key opportunity: learning more about audiences via social listening.

Social listening includes searching through social media platforms to uncover Twitter lists and chats, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, blogs, and more that are relevant to your business, following those users who participate, and seeing what they have to say.

Find users in your target demographic with a social footprint you can read through, and learn what their biggest pain points and needs are. Now’s the time to listen and learn!

Our top recommended tools for social listening include:

  • 1. Synthesio: measure the sentiment and reputation of your brand in the eyes of your customers to better engage.
  • 2. Hootsuite Insights: understand the conversation happening around your brand, respond to comments and follow trends.
  • 3. Twitter Lists: monitor influencers, industry trends, and even competitors.
  • 4. Brandwatch: monitor brand mentions, sentiment, and trends.
  • 5. Refollow: find the right people, manage, and measure.

Twitter Leads

3. Target and Engage (aka Pitching)

Now that you have a list of those users who are active online and who match your ideal target audience, it’s time to reach out to them in a smart way, by offering to help with the specific problems you saw them mention on their social platforms.

Find opportunities to be a connector, help people out, and share your knowledge, opinions, and experiences. Even consider doing some free work for potential clients to build up their trust in you!

For example, Nina Mufleh wanted to work at Airbnb. She created a full website analyzing the global tourism market, with insights into where Airbnb’s next market should be.

Social media is unique because it allows you to reach out to individuals without requesting or paying for email or phone numbers. Use this to your advantage!

To make the most of your social engagement with your audiences, make sure you:

  • 1. Re-tweet and share.
  • 2. Comment with value – don’t just suck up.
  • 3. Look for opportunities to create value.
    • a) Create content for them.
    • b) Attend their events and buy their products.
    • c) Direct message after a reasonable period of time.
    • d) Send them referrals and suggestions.

4. Earned Media (aka Word of Mouth)

Now, it’s time for your company to shine by showing off what you have to contribute. Commit yourself to providing the highest level of customer service possible. Be proactive, open, and honest when problems arise. Eventually, you may notice your most loyal customers beginning to support you and stick up for you online, even in the midst of brand crises.

By being straight and proactive with your customers, you create an environment where customer ambassadors actually defend you against criticism, without you needing to step in. This is how Word of Mouth (WOM) helps you grow leads and grow your business.

Here’s an example: A hosting company – where a problem with a single server can make 200+ clients unhappy – is experiencing server downtime. Instead of covering up the issue or waiting around for the complaints to roll in, they decide to communicate openly about what’s happening. As a result, their clients actually jump to their defense on social media!

This is where the magic happens, as your current customers start to drive new leads for you. This goes to show that good customer service is even better for your social reach than many marketing tactics!

5. Leverage Content & Build Your List

Once you’ve made your way through the previous 4 methods for driving business leads, the rest is easy: create great content,promote it, and build your list!

One strategy that is sure to help your brand generate leads is by promoting “gated content,” meaning customers will need to input their personal contact information to gain access to it. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your free content is strong enough to persuade customers to hand over their information in exchange for this premium content!

Similarly, you can also drive leads by promoting valuable premium assets on relevant LinkedIn groups. One company successfully promoted their ebook via LinkedIn groups and email which drove $6,000 over their goal value.

Powerful social media statistics you can’t ignore.

A lot of businesses and individuals are still skeptical about the power of social media. After all, tools like Facebook and Snapchat are just for fun, right? How much marketing power can they really bring to the table?

If you find yourself with the same hesitations, take a look at these powerful social media statistics that just may change your mind:

  • 72% of all web users are active on social media
  • 26% look to social media when making purchases
  • 33% prefer communication on social media versus the phone
  • 46% of businesses say they acquired a customer from blogs or
    social media

Don’t even think about getting started before you’ve nailed down your target audience!

Before you can start building your social media strategy or driving business leads, you need to have a very clear picture of who your target audience is, where they hang out, and how you can best reach them.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are your top 3-5 customer types?
  • Who is your ideal customer? In other words, who would you clone if you could?
  • Which social media platforms does your audience use? Which will allow you to best tell your story? (Hint: “all of them” probably isn’t the answer!)

Once you have a clear answer on each of these questions, it’s go time: you’re ready to start leveraging social media to drive new business leads.

Make Social Media Work to Your Drive Leads

In the end, making social media work to your advantage is all about knowing yourself, knowing your prospects, and generating great content that does the legwork for you.

Do you feel overwhelmed by social media and unsure of how it can work for your B2B or B2C business? We have the experience and expertise to help you drive the right leads to your business. Contact us today to find out more!

5 Ways Your Small Business Should be Using Facebook

July 18th, 2016 by Leslie Carruthers

Everyone is an expert at social media, right? If you’ve paid attention the past few years, I bet you’ve met dozens of “experts” in the social media field telling you what to be doing for your small business. So what’s the right direction to go? Where should you spend your time and dollars to have the biggest impact?

Is Facebook the right social media platform?

There are lots of options these days for where to spend your social media time (and money!). Did you know that many small and not-so-small businesses are now doing paid social advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and have a social media presence on sites such as SnapChat and Vine? These platforms are great resources for helping companies engage and talk directly with their customers and to stay up to speed on industry trends.  

But for many small businesses, starting with a Facebook page makes the most sense. With over 1 billion (BILLION!) active users each month, it’s the smart choice if you want to reach the widest audience and the most potential customers and clients.

Facebook allows you to create custom pages, have conversations with your customers and easily post photos and videos. It is also very user-friendly, and reaches a wide audience. Even if you don’t have a personal Facebook account, it is more than likely you know someone who does. When used properly, Facebook can be an amazing tool for generating business.

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So you’ve built your Facebook page…what next?

When just getting started, it’s hard to know what kind of page use will result in the best interaction with your consumers. Ideally, you want to engage your consumers in your brand, provide a value they can’t find elsewhere, and have them interact with you, your page, and your brand regularly. That’s a tall order!

Here are some of our best suggestions for how to use your new Facebook business page to grow and interact with your followers.

1. Promote your page with contests and giveaways.

For a small fee, professional-looking apps will run your contest or giveaway, and the built-in features will encourage the contest to go viral.

Be sure to offer some great incentives for prizes. Can you provide a referral bonus? Discounts on services? The more appealing the prize, the more likely your customers are to engage.

2. Promote your page at your business and on your website.

If you have a physical office space where you see clients or customers, make sure you promote your online presence and social media accounts there. Be sure your website has the Facebook “Like Us” link on your homepage and all other pages so your visitors don’t have to search to find you.

In the age of smartphones, people can “like” your page anytime, anywhere. Instead of just putting a sign up on your door or front desk, create a reason for people to “like” you right then and there. For example, offer an instant discount if they show you on their phone that they connected with your Facebook page.

3. Post content that encourages people to interact with you.

Your Facebook page should not look like a billboard. Post content that makes people want to interact with you.

Facebook has interactive features such as “Facebook Questions,” which allows you to create a status update that acts as a poll. People love polls, and they are more likely to interact with your question than to post a comment about your new special or promo.

Posting interesting photos and videos are also great ways to get people to interact with you. Users are more inclined to look at photos or watch videos than to read a  paragraph about how great your new product is. Facebook videos now launch and run even as people scroll through their timelines on their phones.

4. Pay for graphic design, photography & videography.

If you want your Facebook page to get to the next level, then it needs to have a custom look.

A welcome tab is the first step. When someone lands on your Facebook page and they haven’t “liked” it yet, a welcome tab not only prompts them to do so, but it also tells them why they should.

Using high quality photos of your office space, products and services is also a must. Videos that you use on your page should also be the highest quality that you are able to produce. Consider hiring a professional photographer and/or videographer to help best showcase your business.

5. Reward your most faithful social media followers.

If you want people to start talking about your Facebook page, you’ve got to start making your faithful followers feel special.

  • Have a “Facebook Fans Only” night.
  • Choose a particular person that always comments on your page and do something special for them.  
  • Offer special discounts, promotions and events that can only be learned about on Facebook.

This kind of stuff goes a long way, and it will really beef up your word-of-mouth marketing.

Use Facebook as a way to draw your followers back into your business and make them feel special.

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Remember to keep your end goal in mind.

The goal should always be to connect with as many people as possible and to get them to interact with you every day and ultimately visit your website and convert. Every bit of content and interaction on Facebook should be done with those things in mind.  

Your social media marketing should have a plan and a strategy.  Accumulating lots of “likes” is nice but if you don’t continue to provide interesting content that encourages your consumers to interact with your page, they’ll soon get bored of your page and your business.

Once you reach the critical mass of followers with regular interaction on Facebook you can add an additional platform to your social media arsenal and continue to reach additional fans, followers and consumers with your messages.

What questions do you have about using Facebook for your small business? Drop us a comment below!

3 Major Changes Coming Soon to Google AdWords (It’s a Big Deal)

June 17th, 2016 by Leslie Carruthers

Google recently announced a number of changes coming to the AdWords platform, some of which are the largest we’ve seen in years!

The evolution of Google’s AdWords platform continues to accelerate at its already dizzying pace. The recently announced changes include entirely new updates as well as upgrades to the core elements of segmentation and campaign management.

Most of these changes are not yet implemented but will be available to a subset of advertisers as the new features are tested and rolled out over the coming months. The Search Guru is working with our representatives at Google to get access to these updates earlier than others (as we always do) for our clients’ accounts where applicable.

What this means for you (soon) – the 3 most important upcoming changes:

  1. Expanded Headlines

Google recently sliced off ads on the right-hand side of the search results pages. The primary stated reason for this change was to increase congruency between the desktop and mobile experiences.

For the same reason, Google will soon be rolling out a new text ad format which includes an additional headline of 25 characters, and will combine the current two 35 character description lines into one slightly longer 80 character line.

This is the biggest change to the core AdWords text ads ever!

  1. Tablet Bidding is Back

A couple of years ago, AdWords upgraded to ‘enhanced campaigns’ which unpopularly removed the ability to create separate campaigns to target only Desktop, Tablet and/or Mobile, opting instead for device-level bid modifiers.

Though this functionality is not coming back, Google is reviving the ability to define a bid modifier for Tablets (currently you can only do so for Mobile phones).

In addition, you will able to choose which device is the ‘default’ bid and which will be modifier – i.e. we will be able to choose a mobile-first campaign as the default and have it apply desktop and tablet bid modifiers secondarily. Currently, desktop campaigns are the default.

  1. Attribution Models Advance

Attribution has continued to become a larger buzzword in the digital marketing industry over the last couple of years. Attribution is how your different digital marketing elements are given credit toward a conversion. Historically, the default model has been the ‘last click’ model – the last channel / element that drove the conversion is given all of the credit.

However, as online actions, research, considerations and purchases have evolved from single touch to multi-touch and now to multi-device touch, last-click has quickly become a very outdated way of looking at your sales funnels.

Google Analytics has long provided the ability to view your data according to different attribution models, but soon AdWords will also gain this ability. Moving forward, AdWords can permanently alter your attribution model and therefore, we will better be able to optimize for conversions. This will be a game changer, without a doubt!

As we stated, none of these features are fully launched yet and there are no firm launch dates. However, Google is beginning to roll out these updates to select advertisers and we have made all of the necessary arrangements to acquire the functionality as soon as it becomes available.

We are looking forward to continued AdWords excitement in 2016 and beyond!


Google ranking on facts, not links? You’d better audit your fact checking!

April 17th, 2015 by Kelly Boyer Sagert

If you’ve been reading about Knowledge-Based Trust (also called the “Truth Algorithm”), you know that Google has looked into ranking websites based on the factual information it contains, either instead of – or more likely in addition to – rewarding sites with quality links pointing to the site. Google engineers published a paper about this technology on February 12, 2015.

According to Search Engine Journal, which quotes New Scientist, Google would assign trust scores to a web page based on the accuracy of the facts it contains. Then, it would rank pages based upon their factual reliability. And, while this isn’t good news for companies and websites willing to tilt the truth in the pursuit of sales, it’s excellent news from a journalistic perspective.

For journalists, fact checking is nothing new

Fact checking has always been a crucial element in journalism; the recent scandal with Rolling Stones illustrates what happens when a publication decides that a story is “too good to double-check.” But, it never hurts to have a refresher – or a new point of view about what’s important in fact checking. So we took a look around the web to see what we could share.

Many of the sites mention the basics – to always double check dates, dollar figures, the spelling of proper nouns (whether people or locations) and so forth. Make sure that any mathematical calculations are correct, that people’s ages are accurate and so forth. Making mistakes in these areas can damage your credibility, even if you get the rest of the piece right.

The process of fact checking describes it succinctly. “If you are writing for publication or academic purposes, you will want to do the final step of recording what you find. If you are fact checking for your own edification, this step may not be important to you.

  1. Read the material.
  2. Read the material a second time, marking passages for checking.
  3. Write down the claims to check and list keywords and potential resources to research.
  4. Do the research.
  5. Record results including the source.”

We recommend that you read the entire article for tips on how, more specifically, you should check facts.

Helpful tips

At, we found more good tips, including:

  • “If the story refers to a number of items within the story (15 steps to better health, 10 reasons to use an iPad), count the items.”
  • “If a story refers to someone as ‘the late,’ make sure the person is dead. Also, if a story refers to someone you remember as having died, check it.”
  • “If a story refers to a direction, check it. That may mean getting out a map and looking at the direction.”

If you’re writing for a site that reports breaking news, you want to break it first – but you also want to share it correctly. One easy way to get tripped up, especially when in a hurry, is to misinterpret or otherwise misreport statistics – and in today’s data journalism world, stats are frequently a key portion of the story. offers three useful tools to efficiently check data before publishing. One recommended resource is The Data Journalism Handbook, available for free online.

And, if you’re writing about politics – or even referencing political events in your writing – it can be doubly challenging to get to the facts. Much of what you read contains bias, whether subtly or openly. To fact check this material, consider, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception in U.S. politics.”

Not sure if you’re falling victim to an Internet hoax in your content? Check, and/or

What if you publish incorrect information?

Even the best writers, editors and fact checkers make mistakes. In print, you will sometimes see corrections published (often in small print in hard-to-find places); when you make an error online, it can be tempting to just fix it and hope that nobody has noticed. And, sometimes, you can get away with it (which still doesn’t mean it’s the right procedure!). In reality, of course, writers and publishers often find out about an error when someone else points it out.

When that happens, here is advice from the Digital Media Library Project that distinguishes between the terms “correction” and “retraction,” plus some basic advice about potential liability when inaccurate information is published:

“While the terms correction and retraction are sometimes used interchangeably, in general, a correction alerts your audience to factual errors that do not take away from your main point, while a retraction informs your audience of factual errors that impact the main point of the statements.

“Your willingness to correct past errors in your work will provide several benefits. First, it will make your work more accurate and reliable. This will increase your credibility, influence, and (hopefully) your page views.

“Second, it will likely diminish your liability for defamation and other potential legal claims. Keep in mind that correcting or retracting something you’ve previously published won’t not necessarily mean that you will escape liability. Although a retraction might satisfy the person making the request, in some cases the requester may still sue you for defamation.”

Fortunately, most errors aren’t serious enough in nature to lead to a defamation suit – but it’s good practice to check your facts as if it might, to keep your standards at the highest professional level.

What questions do you have about fact checking? What experiences can you share? Leave a comment below!

News about journalism and content marketing: what’s the ideal mix?

April 6th, 2015 by Kelly Boyer Sagert

Boy, were we happy to read “How Hiring a Journalist Can Improve Your Content Marketing” by Robert McGuire (March 31, 2015) on the Content Marketing Institute website. We’ve been advocating the use of professional journalism techniques in content marketing since at least 2013 and it is wonderful validation to read this recommendation on a well-respected high-profile site.

McGuire says that, “The world is full of snappy writers who can garner traffic, clicks, and ‘likes’ that give a short-term lift to your promotion. But it’s getting noisy out there. Successful content marketing has to make a lasting impression and provide something authentic to your customers to create a real return on your marketing investment.”

He also lists key reasons why journalistic techniques are essential to compete in today’s crowded Internet. Journalists:

  • Find the unexplored angle on a familiar subject
  • Develop good questions
  • Gather information from high-quality sources
  • Synthesize the information into a highly valuable, reader-focused piece

We’ve been promoting journalism in content marketing since at least 2013 on our blog – and we talked about it internally even earlier than that.

Seek authoritative sources

McGuire points out a journalist’s ability to seek out sources of authority. Here are some of the times that we’ve provided resources to help in that quest.

In October 2013, we published Trusted sources: how to select the best interviews for your article or blog post. In this post, we shared – among other things – how to:

  • educate yourself before interviewing someone
  • find the right people to interview
  • distinguish your interviewee’s opinion from factual information provided

In February 2014, in Catch 22: expert sources or engagement first?, we offered more tips on using expert quotes effectively – and how to get the experts to provide you with these quotes without having to work so hard. Tips are also provided about how to use the same expert in multiple ways.

In May 2014, we talked about ways to find and use both primary and secondary sources in our post, Subject matter experts: how to find and choose expert sources.  This post includes more tips on vetting your experts to get the best information possible for your content.

By June 2014, we’d gotten feedback from some people who were afraid to conduct interviews. And, since many interviews are handled over the phone, rather than in person, we shared strategies in our post, Creating content that Google rewards – without (too much) phone anxiety. (I talk about one especially scary phone interview of my own!)

Embrace feedback – and, as McGuire says, check the ego at the door

McGuire writes the following (bolding his): “Reporters expect what they thought was an excellent article to be reviewed and edited by several other people before it is published.”

And, again, we totally agree that this trait of journalists will serve a company well when creating online content. In fact, being open to feedback, and knowing how to offer useful feedback, was the focus of some of our blogging in 2014.

In March 2014, we shared How to be open to receiving quality writing critiques, including on how to find the right critique partner and how to avoid being defensive when given feedback you don’t necessarily want to hear. And, when you find the right critique partner, that person is a keeper!

We also blogged about How to critique writing effectively that month, covering topics such as how to determine if you’re the right critique partner for another writer, how to effectively critique – and knowing when to push and when to back off.

In the same vein, we asked accomplished writers to share stories of their writing mentors in Celebrating writing mentorsand to help prevent the NEED for as much editing, we’ve provided proofreading tips (Proofreading tips: excellent ways to find mistakes inn copyFebruary 2014) and a behind-the-scenes chat with K.D. Sullivan, CEO of Untreed Reads Publishing (February 2014).

Highlighting a few more posts

We’d like to mention just three more related posts that we’ve written over the past year:

Here is the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) code of ethics:

  • Seek truth and report it
  • Minimize harm
  • Act independently
  • Be accountable and transparent

For more detail, look at the bullet points under each main item in the code of ethics.

What journalism-related topics would you like covered in this blog? How can we help with your copy? Let us know in the comments below!

Bolster your holiday Internet marketing strategy with effective PPC marketing.

September 30th, 2014 by Phil Segal

PPC marketing strategy: Incorporating paid search into your holiday Internet marketing strategy

As an online marketer, the holiday shopping season seems to start earlier each year; that’s because, in many respects, it does. Advertisers push the bar by offering sales and other promotions earlier and earlier every year. For all practical purposes, you should consider November 1st the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and you should have your PPC marketing strategy planned well in advance.

Interest in ‘Black Friday Deals’ for the past 3 years:

Christmas Holiday Shopping

C = 2013
B = 2012
A = 2011

Key Christmas holiday shopping dates

Mark your calendar for these vital online shopping dates:

Veteran’s Day Weekend
Nov. 8 – Nov. 10, 2014 – Many retailers kick off the holiday sales push over Veteran’s Day weekend by offering a variety of discounts on Christmas gift products.

Nov. 27, 2014 – Christmas holiday shopping is about the only thing we do as well as eating on Thanksgiving weekend; perhaps the sheer volume of food consumed makes television, napping and online shopping the only viable options.

Black Friday
Nov. 28, 2014 – The Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. Ensure that you are price competitive or have some other compelling offer to lure open-walleted shoppers like zombies to brains.

Cyber Monday
Dec. 1, 2014 – The online counterpart to Black Friday, Cyber Monday generates more revenue for retailers with each passing year, and is absolutely vital to your PPC marketing strategy.

Green Monday
Dec. 8, 2014 – coined by eBay to describe its best sales day in December, Green Monday is traditionally the 2nd Monday of December. Be unabashedly greedy with high bids and deep discounts for effective pay per click on this day.

Free Shipping Day
Dec. 18, 2014 – a one-day event when thousands of merchants offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve

How important is free shipping to your holiday Internet marketing strategy?

Paramount. There have been countless studies done that indicate the undeniable psychological impact of free shipping – even when the consumer ends up paying more in total for their items! – so I won’t beat a dead horse. If there is any way you can viably integrate free shipping into your holiday pay per click marketing offering, do so, and advertise it blatantly in every way you have available.

We hope this has been a helpful guide to bolstering your PPC holiday Internet marketing strategy. If you need help this holiday season, reach out to a seasoned pay per click marketing manager at The Search Guru today!

Try these free writing tools to improve your blogging

August 27th, 2014 by Kelly Boyer Sagert

Improve blogging with these free writing tools

Free Images

Make your blog posts more appealing by including eye-catching images. If you don’t have much of a budget, use Google to find royalty-free ones (but we advise further copyright verification).

1)   Search on Google images for what you need (let’s say, a happy writer):

Happy Writers

2)   Choose advanced search from the gear icon in the upper right:

Advanced Search

3)   Scroll down until you see the usage rights scrollbar and then choose “free to use or share, even commercially” or “free to use, share or modify, even commercially.”

Usage Rights

4)   In theory, these are free images (no 100% guarantees, though):

Free Images

Cut the flab

Plenty of free writing tools rate the effectiveness of a piece of writing but I’ve recently found one that I really like at You can copy and paste anywhere from 100 to 1,000 words into a box and then click “Run the test!”

The tool then provides automated feedback on these categories:

  • Overall
  • Verbs
  • Nouns
  • Prepositions
  • Adjectives/adverbs
  • It, this, that, there

Each will be rated as one of these:

  • Lean
  • Fit & trim
  • Needs toning
  • Flabby
  • Heart attack territory

Your goal: to have your text rated as lean or fit & trim. Our post’s text is rated as follows:

  • Overall: lean
  • Verbs: lean
  • Nouns: lean
  • Prepositions: lean
  • Adjectives/adverbs: lean
  • It, this, that, there: fit & trim


Writer's Diet

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer

Although the tool’s title sounds a bit flabby, the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer is kind of cool. You enter a headline of up to 20 words and then select, from a scrollbar, the intended industry of your audience. You’ll receive a rating, plus whether the type of headline is:

  • Intellectual
  • Empathetic
  • Spiritual

Here are results for our blog post:

  • Rating of 57.14%
  • Most professional copywriters’ headlines will have a rating of 30-40%
  • The most gifted copywriters will have a rating of 50-75%
  • This headline appeals equally to people’s spiritual and intellectual spheres


Advanced Marketing Institute

Which free writing tools do you recommend? Leave a comment below. 

Value content quality over quantity: experts share why

August 13th, 2014 by Kelly Boyer Sagert

Rare consensus: content quality over quantity

Quality rules!

We’ve all heard some version of this old joke: put ten experts in a room and you’ll get eleven different points of view. And, it’s largely true – in part because each human being has his or her own perspective. It’s also true because, in today’s noisy online world, having a different viewpoint can bring you much-wanted attention.

So consensus . . . it really gets our attention.  

We’ve noticed strong consensus on one particular issue, and that’s choosing quality over quantity when creating content. What’s interesting is that this consensus is built across disciplines as we’ll demonstrate below.

Let’s hear from HubSpot

Hubspot, a well-known inbound marketing platform, published the following advice (with the bolding appearing in their text): “Don’t dilute your high-quality content with mediocre or low-quality content. The consequence for doing so is the cheapening of your audience’s overall perception of your content and, thus, your brand. And who wants that?” (Content Quantity Diminishes Quality [Research] by Pamela Vaughan)

This isn’t simply Pamela’s – or HubSpot’s – opinion. Instead, it’s a conclusion based on studies that show how “coupling a high quality item with a low quality item diminishes the perception of both items’ overall quality.” This text is also bolded by HubSpot, which shows how important this concept is to the inbound marketing giant.

And, while we’ve known for years that Google holistically discounts sites that contain low quality content, these studies show that the human brain does, as well.

A blunter perspective

Content marketer Cairbre Sugrue from the United Kingdom says the following in his article, Content Spoils Broth: Quality Not Quantity: “Hastily crafted content with weak messages and little meat on the bone will inevitably end up dumped on the waste pile.

“I would go further and say that the content-marketing hype cycle is firmly wallowing in its own ‘trough of disillusionment’, because this obsession with content has clouded the true value of digital engagement. This is driving targeted – and therefore more efficient – engagements with customers that will ultimately increase customer intimacy and drive sales.

“At the heart of a successful strategy must be this focus on quality.”

From a public relations standpoint

Ragini Bhalla, a former journalist, shares the secret to PR success in her article, Don’t Bully Your Content Into Favoring Quantity Over Quality. Her perspective reads as follows: “So what is the secret to PR success? As Henry Ford once said, ‘Quality means doing it right when nobody else is looking.’ In today’s competitive marketplace, a brand’s PR success can live and die by its ability to tell and build its stories through content that is smart, authentic, compelling, useful, informative and engaging.”

Socially speaking

In the latter part of 2013, LinkedIn invited influential people to comment on the biggest trend for 2014. Tara Hunt, social digital leader at MSLGROUP, titled her perspective Big Idea 2014: Content Shifts to Quality Over Quantity.

Although it’s somewhat shocking to think that this could be considered a new idea in 2014, we agree wholeheartedly with Tara’s point of view. Part of it reads like this: “From my experience, there is a still a lack of understanding that goes into the creation and production of content…especially content that goes beyond the pushing of ad messaging through various social channels. The questions are too often, ‘How many posts on how many channels will I get for $x?’ and ‘How many fans can you get us?’ Companies are still viewing social media as outbound channels to acquire eyeballs and push messages and, therefore, attaching traditional notions of ROI to it. I look at this and think, ‘This relationship won’t end well.’”

Visual perspective

Finally, we want to share what Issie Lapowsky says in Upworthy Gets Smart About Quality Over Quantity: “the insanely fast-growing purveyor of inspiring video content wrote that it was taking a new approach to gauging success, one that’s based not on unique visitors, page views, or time on the site, but user engagement. They’re calling this metric ‘attention minutes.’”

And what captures our attention in a video clip – or in any other form of content – is not how many pieces exist, but the quality of the content that we’re looking at right now.

Question for readers

What do you think? Is there a case to be made that quantity is more important than quality? Or can we finally put this issue to rest? Leave a comment below. 

How effective listening skills are at the core of SEO

August 5th, 2014 by Kelly Boyer Sagert

Effective listening skills are at the core of SEO

Listening is the core of SEO

“I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.” Henry J. Kaiser

Listening served Kaiser well. He became known as the father of modern American shipbuilding (Kaiser Shipyards, Kaiser Steel and Kaiser Aluminum). He also created Kaiser Permanente to provide health care benefits to his workers and formed two auto companies that focused on safe design.

He also:

  • Became involved in the construction of civic centers and dams
  • Initiated the Kaiser Family Foundation to help solve tough health care issues in a non-partisan way
  • Kaiser listened well, no doubt. All too often, though, we listen for what we expect to hear, rather than hearing what is actually being said. All too often, we’re formulating our replies when we should be seeking to understand another point of view.

    And, who can educate you the most about what your business needs? According to John F. Smith, former CEO and president of General Motors, the answer is your customers: “We listened to what our customers wanted and acted on what they said. Good things happen when you pay attention.”

    Here are eight ways that listening is at the core of SEO:

    Listening tips for SEOs

    1)   You can listen to how your clients and prospects talk about issues that your products and/or services can solve through:

    1. Keyword research
    2. Keywords used to find your site
    3. Questions/comments (email, social media, in person)

    2)   Use a good portion of your copywriting time to address the issues being raised – by answering the questions actually being asked along with any deeper questions that you can discern. Remember that “the most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” (Peter Drucker, a consultant who contributed greatly to the formation of the modern business corporation).

    3)   Carefully read the comments made on your blog and provide a personalized answer to each person until you have so many that you need to be more selective. Which posts generate comments and which ones don’t?

    4)   Listen to what’s being said about your company online and then respond appropriately. You can monitor these comments by setting up Google alerts, Twitter searches and more.

    5)   Set up A/B and/or multivariate testing on your site, and then experiment with different messages, images and so forth. You can listen in on your visitors’ preferences by seeing how successful each message mix is.

    6)   Site visitors send messages, loud and clear, by how long they stay on your site, how many pages they view, how quickly they leave your site and so forth. So, view your Google Analytics data often – with an open mind and listening ear. Leave your preconceived notions behind.

    7)   What are people saying about your company or your content on social media sites? How often are they sharing your content? What types of content performs the best? What doesn’t resonate?

    8)   Survey your customers and prospects, using tools such as SurveyMonkey. Ask targeted questions, make sure you have a statistically significant sampling – and then heed what is said.

    Note: if you’re not hearing negative messaging about your company on your blog, in social media or the search engine results pages, that’s good. But, are you hearing any positive messages – or is the reality that people aren’t talking about your company at all?

    If the silence is deafening, then you’ll need to step up your content creation and promotion, along with your interaction with social media fans and followers.

    Listening test

    “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” Doug Larson

    How good of a listener are you? Take this listening test for some interesting insights. What can you do to improve this crucial skill? Also discover why clarity is at the heart of SEO.

    What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!