Monthly Archives: March 2011

Helpful Google Tools: Google Insights

Google Insights is a truly insightful tool (pun intended). This hidden gem of a tool is a bit more advanced in nature and can really assist with narrowing in on keyword selections as they relate to geography (states, subregions), category (food & drink, home & garden, lifestyles), and time frame (last year, last 2 years). Google Insights is in beta mode as of yet, but I still thank the heavens for this geeky gem because it has helped me greatly in my internet marketing work.

I work extensively with High Country Gardens. High Country Gardens is “the” source for waterwise, drought tolerant, “high country” perennial plants, low-water lawn grasses, cactus, succulents, and even yucca trees. They have a large nursery and greenhouse in Santa Fe where they grow many of their own plants and develop new varieties. I love this company. They are eco-friendly centric. They care about plants that help the earth. They adore plants that feed butterflies and hummingbirds. They sell hardy grasses for smart, low-water guzzling lawns. They are experts in replacing traditional lawns with xeriscapes, especially for the southwest where lawns don’t thrive naturally. If I didn’t live in the snow-ridden wastes of Maine, they’d be my perennial plant company. But….but….they do sell perennial varieties that will live in my area…things like Salvia, Rudbeckia, Lupine, Columbine, and many others.

High Country Gardens is a very smart company and they are just as fastidious at making their marketing dollars work as they are in providing top-quality perennials that will thrive in your growing zone. They understand that they own the southwestern quadrant of the US. It’s where most of their sales come from. Yet they do get sales across the country. With Google AdWords, it is my sole mission to ensure they the money they spend there is as profitable as it can be – and that means tailoring campaigns, ad groups, and keyword selections primarily to geography. We shouldn’t be showing ads in New Hampshire for Agave Plants. It’s akin to trying to sell meat to a vegetarian. It just doesn’t work.

Google Insights combines the technology of Google’s Keyword Tool with that of Google Maps, Google Places, and a bit of the Display Network. Talk about cross-channel marketing! For geeks like me, this tool is an Internet Kitchen-Aid.

1. I go to http://www.google.com/insights/search
2. I compare by location
3. I select the United States
4. And I filter by Web Search, the search term Agastache, timeframe of 2004-present, and Home & Garden category

and what I see is that searches for “agastache” are very seasonal and cyclical (as is true of most horticultural companies) and that the “big states” are Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, followed by California, Texas and the Great Lakes region and mid-atlantic states.

The results are very different for “agave”, “salvia”, “lupine”, and “rudbeckia”.

(and yes, I know that scientifically these genus references should be capitalized – but bear with me…)

This really lends credence to the notion that geographical segmentation by product line (oh my!) is important for this beloved customer of mine.

Now, that’s not to say to that they don’t get sales from all parts of the U.S., because they do, but there exists some level of the law of diminishing returns where we draw the line and say “It’s not worth advertising to region X or Y, because the effort and cost involved isn’t covered by the sales achieved.” And this is the internet marketer’s challenge – finding that “sweet spot” for maximizing sales given the investment – and that sweet spot changes depending on time of year, weather conditions (as I type, Maine is buckling down for a hefty Nor’easter that is about to dump a foot (or more) or heavy, wet snow on us on April Fools Day!), and product line.

As with all Google Tools, I use Google Insights for it’s richer, deeper focusing abilities, but I don’t use it in authoritative totality. Data must be balanced with experiential knowledge and gut instinct. A hard balance indeed – luckily – I excel at it.

If you are curious how search volume for keyword phrases for your products or service have varied over time, space, and dimension (why yes, I am a Trekkie), Google Insights is your Enterprise tool :-) (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Helpful Google Tools: Google Places

When I talk with companies about helping them improve the visibility of their website and I mention Google Places and what it is, the effect is like presenting a giant lollipop to a child; their eyes open wide and they get this grin on their face.

Google Places for Business is a free (yes, free) listing service provided by Google and many companies don’t know it exists. Not only is it free (did I mention that it’s free?), it is also very quick and easy to set up.

1. Go to http://www.google.com/places

2. Click on the blue button on the right called “Get Started”

3. Sign in with your Google account (and if you don’t have one, create one for your business – it’s also easy and free).

4. Click the dark blue text on the right called “List your business”

5. Type in your business phone number in the format (xxx) xxx-xxxx and click “Find business information”

6. If there is no match for the phone number, you’ll be given an empty form to fill out. Fill out as much as possible or as is relevant to your business. If it does find a match, click on the “edit” link and look at the existing listing, and make sure it’s accurate and as completely filled out as possible.

7. One of the important parts of the listing is the “Category” section. Google let’s you define up to 5 categories (and one of them must be one of their suggested categories that appears in the drop down when you start typing). So, for example, if I type in “internet” into the box, one of the suggested categories is “Internet Marketing Service”. So I pick that one. The other 4 categories I can type in something unique or I can select a “pre-filled” match.

8. Also, make sure you fill out the description field. 200 characters. Make it good and include important keywords that you can that describe your company, product lines or services. Save this 200 character description – you can leverage it at the Open Directory, the Yahoo Directory, and for your META description tag on your web pages.

9. Submit your listing and Google will give you 2 options to validate the listing. They will call you (almost immediately) at the phone number for which you set up the listing OR they can mail you a postcard to the business address you specified in the form. The phone call or the postcard will contain a PIN that you will need to complete your listing.

10. Voila! It’s done. Be there or be invisible. Your choice! And psssst – It’s FREE! What’s better than free marketing?

Having a Google Places listing places your company information near the top of the search results with a little reddish colored balloon and a Google Maps location box when someone searches for any of the categories you specified in your listing combined with your city, state or region. This is a great tool for smaller companies who depend quite a bit on local searches.

Once the listing is complete, you have the ability to edit it any time you need to (just log in with your Google account and go to http://www.google.com/places). Just keep in mind that any time you change your listing, you have to validate it again with Google, so be on the lookout for the new PIN each time you submit changes.

Search Engine Optimization & Physical Therapy

In late January of this year I had a bunionectomy performed on my left foot to get rid of a very big, painful, and walking-inhibiting bunion. It’s right-footed partner will have the same surgery performed around May 2012. The doctor who performed the surgery is excellent and he told me that recovery would take 6-8 weeks. I said to myself: “Oh good, so at a maximum I should be back to ‘normal’ in 8 weeks!”

I am just now “on my feet” and we’re closing in on week 9. It’s not that anything is wrong, it’s just that the doctor’s 6-8 week prognosis meant something different in his frame of reference compared to what I heard and inferred when he said it. I was wanting to hear that results would be more immediate. He was saying that in 8 weeks, I’d be allowed to put my foot on the floor for the first time. Big difference there!

For the next 4 weeks, I’ll be in aggressive physical therapy (3-4 days of sessions per week). After 13 weeks (not 8), I’ll be able to resume a fairly normal amount of activity, but it can (and probably will) take up to 6 months for “full recovery”, and because it is a surgical site, I will always need to do some level of exercise maintenance and stretching to keep my foot (and leg and hip and lower back) is good working order.

As I sat there listening to my doctor provide this forecast, I thought, “Holy Cow, insert some words and phrases and I could be talking to any one of my search engine optimization patients – er, ummm, customers.”

And today, I had my 3rd “pre-aggressive” therapy session, and what the physical therapist asked and explained to me today, just about 1.5 hours ago, resulted in this blog posting.

Cathy asked me: “Have you done your homework?” (meaning exercises).

Type A, stubborn and determined personality that I am, I answered firmly “Oh, yes.” I am determined to get back on my feet as soon as is reasonably possible. She had me run through 15 minutes of the exercises they had assigned me and she could clearly see that I had done my “homework”.

“Good for you!” Cathy said, “You don’t know how many patients I see who say they’re doing their exercises, and then come to me and complain that physical therapy just isn’t working and why should they have to pay for it? And when I ask them: Did you do your exercises? Have you been stretching? Did you do the water bath treatment we recommended? And always, the answer is no, no, and no. These patients think they have absolutely no responsibility to make themselves better and that our 1-hour sessions 3 days a week are completely responsible for getting them back to 100% mobility.”

I sat there stunned. Then I said a silent “Amen, sister! I know exactly how you feel! Many of my “patients” follow the same path!”

So what do search engine optimization and physical therapy have in common and why did I feel a moment of professional bonding with my medical comrade?

Most customers who come to me for search engine optimization are in a state of pain. Their website doesn’t get enough traffic. Their sales are down. They are paying money for “services” to get them more visible, but it hurts because they aren’t seeing the results they heard about or expected. They want results almost overnight – and – they often feel that if they hire an internet marketing professional, that he or she is 100% responsible for making it “work”. And why should they have to keep paying? If the internet marketer knows what he or she is doing, they’ll just “fix it”, right? Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Reality Set #1: Good search engine optimization, meaning for organic (non-paid) listings, takes time, effort, repetition and there are no guarantees.

  • Good ranking doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks to months.
  • Good ranking doesn’t occur because of a single activity (like optimizing a page and submitting it to the engines) – there are many factors involved with ranking algorithms.
  • Search engine optimization is not a “set it and forget it” item. After an initial “aggressive optimization”, small efforts need to be made routinely to maintain good ranking
  • Anyone who tells you they can guarantee you a #1 listing, or first page results, is not a professional internet marketer. Google changes its ranking algorithms an average of 1.5 times a week. They don’t warn marketers. They don’t offer explanations unless it’s a “big change”. The Google system cannot be “gamed”.
  • Good rankings come from repetitive, ethical, and variable efforts, and as with good physical therapy, strength (or rank) continues to build over time.

Reality Set #2: You, the customer, are responsible for participating in the improved visibility of your site.

  • Your internet marketer is not a mind reader and doesn’t have “historical knowledge” of your business. They don’t just “know” what to do. Success depends on business strategy, goals, and what you’re feeling the most “pain” in. You need to communicate with your marketer so they understand your mission, your products or service, your goals, and where things “hurt the most” so they can be effective in helping you. Your internet marketer is your cooperative business partner.
  • Only doing SEO, and nothing else, will not result in long-term success, though it may seem to result in short-term success. Search engines looks for actively updated, relevant, and sufficient content. This means that you must be actively contributing fresh content for spiders to index. A blog, a forum, email archives, postings of articles, adding pages, updating existing pages with current information, all of this matters for search engine ranking – and your internet marketer is not responsible for doing this – your company is. You wouldn’t have surgery by a doctor who isn’t knowledgeable of current methods and procedures. Search engines will not pick up your site if it sees that it has nothing to “add” to the internet or hasn’t been updated in months (or years).
  • You need to build link relationships with other quality sites. You could hire the best search engine marketer in the world to optimize your pages, but search engines will not index your site if no one “out there” links to you. And it’s not just quantity that matters, it’s also quality. Links from industry associations, your chamber of commerce, membership listings, complementary product or service sites, internet directories (Yahoo Directory, Open directory), affiliate marketing sites, FaceBook, YouTube, LinkedIn, people who are passionate fans of your product or service and have a list of links page, etc. are important to build over time. The more sites “out there” that link back to your site and the better the quality of the site, the more relevant Google will consider you, and the greater this factor plays in your rank.

Reality Set #3: You’re investing money, make sure you’re investing wisely. You have every right to question whether or not you should be paying for a service. And you generally want to pay for things that will eventually pay for themselves (within a reasonable amount of time, of course). Internet marketing encompasses many activities, from SEO and SEM, to email marketing, to social media and affiliate programs, and more. You may be one of the few that knows exactly where and when to spend your marketing dollars at all times. Or you may be like the majority who test different channels and efforts until they find a mix that works, and the mix changes over time. The way to know if your investment is worth it is to implement some system for tracking leads, conversions, and sales and understanding what the value of each of those is to your company. When you have the revenue generated and the advertising expense, you can calculate an ROI. As before, this is a cooperative effort. Your internet marketer can track some things by themselves, but if you define success by increased phone calls or emails, they’ll need this data from you to generate an ROI for you.

Internet marketing is usually very successful when everyone is on the same page of understanding and has realistic expectations of inputs and outcomes. Goals, metrics, and values are defined. A plan of execution is made. Results are tracked, analyzed, and reported on. That information is then used to refine ongoing efforts. Internet marketing is a very iterative process that requires thought, time, and investment. It is never a solo-flying quick fix.

So be a good patient. When you consult with your doctor, provide history and perspective, listen to the available alternatives, devise a plan for recovery together, communicate clearly and well, and make sure you do your homework!

Helpful Google Tools: Google Dance

As an SEO & SEM marketing professional, there are a number of tools that I use to help myself and my customers. The majority of those tools are lumped under a single name: Google. I use 8 of Google’s Tools routinely in my day to day and in my work. I thought I’d embark upon an 8-day review of each of these tools, since many of them are relatively unknown!

I’ll start with the Google Dance Tool. A couple of customers I work with recently came to me and asked, “Why is it that if I do a search for XYZ on my computer at home, then I do the same search from my computer at work, the results change? I cannot find what I was looking for earlier.” Along similar lines, I’ve been on the phone with a customer, who is in another state, and been doing a search with them in Google, and we’ve both come up with different results while executing the same search at the same time.

These search results are what internet marketers and geeks call the “Google Dance“.

As you might know (or hazard to guess), Google has an insane number of servers across the universe. we also know that the machines from which people access the internet have different IP addresses and are connected to the internet in different geographical locations. Google spiders, called googlebots, index massive amounts of content on the internet each month, and as you might guess, the spiders crawl forth from their particular “server cave” at different times to index web pages across the globe, which takes several days.

When a person does a search on Google, the results are pulled from more than 10,000 servers. Since it’s not possible for all of these servers to receive the updated monthly index information at the same exact time, some servers contain the old index info while others grab the new info. Google has a much more technical explanation that you can read if you are interested. But basically, two people searching for the same query in the same town may see different ranking results because Google’s updated indexes take time to crawl to the particular data center that receives the updated index.

The Google Dance Tool allows you to see when Google is spidering the internet and, for a particular search query, it will show you when the site you are looking for will rank with Google. Of course, none of this is an exact science. So say a prayer and throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder, just for good luck :-)

Introductions

Hello there! I’m Alisa, the owner of Green Sky Development. Green Sky Development specializes in all aspects of internet marketing for the green industry (gardening, horticulture, agriculture). I’m employed by companies outside of this niche as well. Gardening runs in the family and is one of my passions; so being able to combine gardening with internet marketing is a dream job!

Being here, in the blogosphere, is long overdue. I’ll be posting here at least once a week; more often if something really captures my attention. The personality and tone of this blog will no doubt change over time. I tend towards tutorials and instruction, as I really enjoy empowering people to do good, “white hat” SEO on their own.  Of course, I am always available for hire for those folks who need an SEO expert to “just take care of things” so that they are empowered to do what they do best – run their own companies!

I’ll also treat you from time to time with pictures of my own garden – and those yucky tomato hornworms  that always attack my heirloom tomato plants!

By the way, up in the right-hand column is the title for recent blog posts: “Can you dig it?” This is warmly dedicated to Richard Hager, a Ph.D and Associate Professor of Marine Science at Richard Stockton College. I had Rich as a professor for 2 of my marine science courses and when he got really excited about a topic, he’d scribble on the board, then look over his right shoulder with “this smile” on his face and say “Can you dig it?” It always made me smile, and still does. I get pretty excited about internet marketing. Rich would probably wonder how the hell you jive internet marketing with invertebrate zoology, but hey, it works. So here’s to you Rich. Thanks for some great teaching. I still manage to find analogies between marine science and internet marketing. If you ever read this post, hopefully you’ll dig it!

So stay tuned. Thanks for reading. More to come soon!

Adding a Subdomain to Google Analytics for Tracking

Look at that – a real first post! As I was finishing configuring this new internet marketing blog, I realized that I set up a sub-domain: seomarketingblog.greenskydevelopment.com for it and that I want to make sure that the Google Analytics’ asynchronous code that I have on the pages tracks the sub-domain for reporting within Analytics. I then realized that this would make a great first post – and true to my word – it’s a sort of tutorial. I hope you find this helpful.

I have Google Analytics asynchronous code on my pages, and “out of the box” it looks like this:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-10861556-1’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();
</script>

This code tracks traffic for www.greenskydevelopment.com. Now I want to make sure that it tracks seomarketingblog.greenskydevelopment.com as well.

I need to add 3 more “_gaq.push(); statements to make it work:

_gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘.greenskydevelopment.com’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setAllowLinker’, true]);
_gaq.push([‘_setAllowHash’, false]);

So the end piece of code looks like this:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-10861556-1’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘.greenskydevelopment.com’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setAllowLinker’, true]);
_gaq.push([‘_setAllowHash’, false]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();
</script>

Dealing with tracking a sub-domain of your domain name with Google Analytics is fairly simple. Tracking cross domains (domain names not related to the base web site) or sub-directories on different domain names can get trickier. Luckily, Google has an excellent “how to” document for this.