+=+=+=+= INSIDER REPORT =+=+=+=+

ISSN 1710-0747
E-Zine #144
September, 2004

The SIM INSIDER REPORT is dedicated to helping readers succeed online while saving time and money with cutting-
edge tools, tips and strategies for internet marketing,
online advertising and website promotion.

==> Tip of the Month
==> Tips, Tools & Resources
==> Feedback & Contributions
==> Food for Thought
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SIM's Insider Report free marketing newsletter

First, a warm WELCOME to all new subscribers and a quick apology for being a few weeks late with this issue. This is the first time I've been late in 4 years of publishing the Insider Report (been tied up with a client for 6 weeks).

I've got a couple of new products that I want to bring to your attention.

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The second piece of software I want you to be aware of promises to send you a ton of search engine traffic. It comes from Brad Fallon and Andy Jenkins and is aptly called "Stomping The Search Engines."

Brad is the CEO of SEO Research. His firm is a think tank of search engine professionals that conduct laboratory-style tests to determine how search engines attribute ranking.

The package is comprehensive consisting of 10 CD's with nearly 14 hours of cutting-edge search engine optimization material from search marketing professionals that walk their talk.

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The Strategy of Search

There's a reason not every chess piece moves the same way. Together, you can use the tactical advantages of a knight, a queen or a rook to execute your strategy. There are chess players that react to every move as it comes, playing the game at a purely tactical level. This is the way most of us start (and pretty much still the way I play). You don't think ahead to what the next move could be. Strategy plays no part. Each turn, you look at the board and make what appears to be the best move.

Now, if your heart is set on becoming a competitive chess player, you probably won't go too far with this tactical approach. At some point, you'll have to start playing the game at the strategic level. You will need to look at the big picture, and explore the possible impact of all your opponent's future moves.

In my opinion, search marketing is a game that's been played at the tactical level for the past 8 years. Strategy hasn't really been part of the game. That's going to have to change.

What's a Search Tactic and What's a Search Strategy?

Sometimes it's difficult to determine the difference between tactics and strategies, especially in a situation where everything is still relatively new. Let's imagine you're doing search marketing for an accounting software developer. A search tactic would be achieving a top 5 ranking for "small business accounting software" on Google, or bidding a certain amount for "accounting software packages" on Yahoo. Even measuring conversions and making necessary adjustments would be considered a tactic. Each of these is analogous to a single move in a chess game. Even if you're doing all of the above, it's still a collection of tactics. There's not an overlying strategy.

A strategy would entail looking at the target customer and really understanding how that target customer would research accounting software. Let's create a quick profile. The target customer is the owner of a small business who's looking for more powerful accounting software than the entry level package she currently has. She typically researches larger buying decisions online. She usually uses a search engine to help find information about a product or service fairly early in the buying cycle. She prefers unbiased information sites to manufacturer's sites.

With even this rudimentary level of understanding, you suddenly have a much larger picture of the strategic approaches you can take. You can research the best potential keyword choices, understanding that the target will likely use many iterations of the query. You can see how other marketing channels might affect your search strategies. You have a good understanding of how your target customer will react with paid and organic listings. Now, you can start to look 2 or 3 moves ahead, anticipating what the customer might do. And, as you do so, you start to move from tactical marketing to strategic marketing.

The Questions You have to Ask Your Customer

To use search strategically, you have to ask your customer some specific questions about their use of search engines in regards to your business:
  • Which search engine do you use?
  • Where do you first look on a search engine results page?
  • Would you use a search engine when looking for the product or service I provide?
  • When would you use a search engine?
  • Why would you use it?
  • How would you use it (what keywords or series of keyword queries would you use)?
  • What other sites would you visit during your research?
  • What would you be looking for to cause you to click through to one site rather than another?
  • What would you be hoping to find on the site once you did click through?
This represents the bare minimum of information you need to start to get some understanding of how your customer will use search in their buying cycle.

Survey the Competitive Landscape

Now, you can begin to see how you'll compete for the user's attention against other sites that may be listed for the prime keyword queries. Understand that searching is usually an iterative process and you'll have to intersect your customers awareness at least once in this process, and hopefully more often.

Go to the primary engines (the first one is almost guaranteed to be Google) and look at the first place your target customer's eyes will go. See what other sites are currently showing here, and what they're offering to your customer. Is it what they're looking for? Click through on the most promising links and see if the competitors fulfill the promise once the searcher lands on the site.

Can you see the strategic perspective, rather than a purely tactical one? Suddenly, strategic objectives become much more important than the ones you've probably been obsessing about. Position is important, but the text in the listing is at least as important. Being outbid by your competitor on the sponsored listings becomes less irritating if you know that it's the organic listings that represent the prime real estate.

Why Search hasn't needed Strategy until Now

Eight years is a long time to be doing anything at only a fraction of its potential. I believe it's a testament to the power of search that it's been providing good, and sometimes exceptional, results with this tactical approach.

Most search advertisers have been quite happy with their results. If you happen to get a good position on a high traffic word, you're going to generate a lot of traffic, no question. And for many marketers, this has been good enough. But as search matures, the thinking that goes into maximizing the potential of it has to mature too.

The Missing 40% of Search Marketing

The best marketers understand that there are 5 strategic steps to marketing:

1. Understand the Customer

You have to have a good, general understanding of your customers. You have to know how they live, what motivates them, what their pains are and what they care deeply about.

2. Understand Your Customer's Feelings about Your Product

Now, you need to know how your target customer feels about your product specifically. What motivates them to purchase? What pains do you solve? What hot buttons do you have to push to encourage the sale?

3. Find the Channel to Reach Them

With target customers identified, you have to find the most cost effective means of reaching them. What channels will deliver the message to the right person, at the right time, at the right price?

4. Deliver the Message

You've got the medium, now you have to craft the message. Here you find that magic match between your target customer's needs and motivators and your product or service's benefits, relative to your competitors.

5. Establish an ongoing Relationship

It's not enough anymore to just close the sale. You have to work towards building a relationship with the customer. You have to maximize the lifetime value of that customer by giving them a reason to continue doing business with you.

Search marketing has largely ignored every step except 3. We've been obsessed about rankings, without considering what the ranking means to the business or the potential customer. Yes, rankings are an important tactic (Atlas One Point's latest release on the effect of paid search rankings on click through rates seems to confirm this) but only when taken as part of a bigger strategy. You have to know the right keywords, the right engine, the right place on the page, and the right text in the listing to capture the attention of the customer. You can only do this if you understand the customer. Then, after you've captured the click, you have to deliver the right information on your site, and nurture the lead into a prospect with the right conversion triggers. Again, it comes from understanding. Search marketers have to start looking beyond simple rankings.

Strategy is Hard Work

It's not easy to think strategically. When you approach things on a tactical level, you have the luxury of focusing on the task at hand. With a strategic approach, you constantly have to be making decisions based on a delicate balance of a number of different factors. Every choice has to be made with an understanding of the impact it has on all the other factors.

When it comes to search, you not only have to be aware of the entire search process, but also how all the other channels might affect the consumer's use of a search engine. Is there a television campaign running that might generate additional or unique search engine usage? Will the story that's running in a newspaper create more traffic through search?

The pay off comes with the dramatic improvement in effectiveness. When search advertising budgets climb to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly, the time invested in crafting your strategy will pay you back several times over. And once you make the move to thinking strategically, it will give you a whole new perspective on how to use search as a marketing channel. It will also put you far ahead of your competition.
. . .

Copyright 2004 - Searchengineposition Inc.
Visit Search Engine Position to get all the latest search engine optimization and marketing tips you'll need to stay on top of the search engine optimization game.

SIM's "Tip of the Week" back issues available at... http://www.startupinternetmarketing.com/ezines


Master Spambot Buster
This is a method to protect your email address from spammer's email harvesting robots on web sites, in emails, in newsgroup postings, anywhere you would publish your email address that is also accessible by Interent robot. http://willmaster.com/a/26h/pl.pl?266par

Google Deskbar
Google Deskbar enables you to search with Google from any application without lifting your fingers from the keyboard. Installs easily in your Windows taskbar. http://toolbar.google.com/deskbar/

Meet The Crawlers
Representatives of Yahoo, Google, Ask Jeeves and Looksmart offer an inside glimpse of recent developments at the major search engines. http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3383871

Enhanced Whois Lookup
Want detailed information about a particular web site? Network Solutions has significantly enhanced their classic Whois service, providing richer information and more useful tools than most other domain lookup services. http://www.networksolutions.com/en_US/whois/index.jhtml

New meta search site that lets you meta search several major search engines at once or allows you to search just major sites, paid listings, "pure" listings (Yahoo gets dropped from this category, apparently because of its paid inclusion) and human listings from the Open Directory. http://www.informiti.com/

New Search Technology
MSN's "New Search Technology" had been available for testing for about a month now. There are currently about 1 billion Web pages in the index (this number will grow quickly). Although still in the "test" phase, I highly suggest that you take a look at how "your" site ranks in MSN's test site and subsequently make adjustments as necessary. http://techpreview.search.msn.com/

htAccess Generater Demo
Use this online htaccess generator to create your apache configuration files. Dot Htaccesser simplifies the process of creating Apache .htaccess files. Users fill in the HTML form for the configuration desired, and it generates the .htaccess file syntax. It handles options (execCGI, includes, MultiView, etc.), authentication files, IP address blocking, custom MIME types, and error documents. http://www.bitesizeinc.net/demo.htaccesser.html


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Understanding Your Website's Performance
--The analysis of your main page

One of the most under-rated aspects of any Website business is in its statistical data, or more accurately, its owner's ability to interpret that data.

Among the myriad of information that your web host (or stats manager) can provide you with, none of it actually provides real value at all given times.

Let me explain...

Here is a real life example of one local accommodation website and their statistics as of the time of writing this article. It's a relatively new website, and has had some modifications progressively done to it over the past few months.

First up, the one piece of data that almost everyone knows about is Page Views.

Page Views provide you with a quick picture of your overall traffic. When you compare this information with previous weeks or months it's a good snapshot - nothing more.

However, Unique Visitors are more important because they represent the actual number of different people who have viewed your site's pages, rather than repeat visitors, within the same day, same week, and with disregard to how many pages any Unique Visitor visits on your site.

In practical terms, the Demo Site that I am using here has had 2610 Page Views so far this month, but only 1171 Unique Visitors - which means that each visitors has viewed an average of 2 - 3 pages each.

What does that mean?

This Website only has five pages, so based on these numbers we can ascertain that only its visitors view half of those pages. With this information at hand, before we do any work on the site, we need to first see which pages are being viewed.

Using the Entry Pages report we are able to see that 85% of all visitors this month so far arrived on the main page. This alone is an interesting fact as it tells us that the site is receiving search engine traffic to the other pages because there is simply no other way to find them otherwise. It also tells us that the content of the main page may need to be modified if people are not going deeper into the site.

So how do we find that out? We go into the Exit Pages report. Here (in our demo site) we find that 73% of visitors are leaving from the main page. First up, that does not look too good. Could it be that once people arrive on this site that they don't like it at all?

Finally, to determine this, we need to view the Single Access Pages report - and it this case - yes, it is bad news. 68% of all visitors to this site are arriving on the main page and then leaving again.

Here is the question that we need to ask: What is it about the main page that people don't like? (And the question I ask to you - Do you even know how many people arrive on your main page and then leave again?)

The next tactical piece of information I would want to know here is, what is bringing them to the site. Are they qualified customers, or are they kids looking for games to play?

Checking the Search Engine Keywords report, we were able to ascertain that just over 25% of all their traffic this month had come from 15 different search engines, through a combination of over 100 different keyword search phrases.

That alone is not enough to determine the problem here. All of these people were targeted customers. However, also using the Referring Website Domains report we could see that a whopping 68% of all visitors came from a recent email marketing campaign advertisement.

Ah Ha! Now, we are getting to the meat of it. Speaking with the owner I was able to determine that in the previous week they had placed an ad about a few limited available rooms they still had available for let January, at the end of the School Holidays. The ad had gone out to almost 1200 people (opt in subscribers of a local tourism Website) and 673 of those people had clicked on their URL (a massive 56% response), wanting to look over their available holiday dates.

And guess what was on the main page? Yep - the details of a limited offer 7-night package.

So right now we've gone a complete circle. We knew that there must have been something wrong with the main page (in fact we actually knew exactly what it was in advance), but the exercise had allowed me to explain to you in finer details just how you should be looking to evaluate and interpret your own Website statistics.

What if you were not running a targeted campaign for a special offer? How about if these were the results on any normal given week? Then what?

As a closing thought - the first thing I'd want to know is this: Time Spent on Site.

Before making major changes to your website content, you need to determine if people are reading / viewing it or not. Using the above example, 51% of visitors to this site in the past two weeks have stayed between 1 - 5 minutes. Good or bad?

A bit of both. We'd like people to stay onsite for more than five minutes, but with only five pages, that's not going to happen unless you have a very long sales letter up front. So that's the good part. The bad part is only 38% of these visitors invested the time to actually read the home page sales information. The rest just left.

If this were your website, you'd now have to decide how best to service those 38%. Do that, and you'll strike gold.

So back to the title: How well do you understand your Websites performance?
. . .

Paul Barrs is the owner of many successful websites,
including his latest "How-To" video series, the "eBusiness
Mastery Video and Audio Learning System".

If you have a promotion tip to share (or an affiliate program that would be of interest to the rest of us) or if you have a web design tip, or a specific question, please feel free to post all tips, questions, or answers to posted questions here and I will add your email or URL with it. It's FREE promotion!

Send your tips, questions or answers to:


Five Things Most Search Engine Optimization Firms Won't Tell You -- But That You Need To Know Before You Spend A Dime

So, you want your Web site to rank high on Google and other search engines.

To do that, you're planning on hiring a search engine optimization (SEO) firm. Good move -- maybe. A good SEO firm can help make your rankings and sales skyrocket. That's the good news. The bad news is there are a lot of SEO firms out there that will charge you big bucks without delivering results. As someone in the SEO business myself, I've heard countless horror stories about people who have gotten ripped off by paying for services they didn't need, or simply not understanding what their SEO firm is supposed to be doing on their behalf.

Below are some of the things most SEO firms will never tell you. Knowing these insider secrets can save you thousands of dollars and many hours of frustration.

1. Most SEO work follows the 80/20 rule. In other words, 20% of the work will account for 80% of the results. If that's true (and believe me, from personal experience I know that it is), you should make sure that the fee structure reflects this. Ask for an itemized quote, so you can make sure that you aren't paying too much for the other 80%. For example, a lot of SEO experts will tell you they're going to spend X number of hours tweaking your site's keywords and meta tags, but there's really no hard evidence that those techniques have a significant impact on your rankings. Doing simple things like making sure your page structure is "search engine friendly" (ensuring all your pages can be indexed by search engines) is infinitely more important. As part of a comprehensive SEO strategy, you still want to do the other 80%, but you want to make sure that the bulk of the priority (and cost) is focused the effort that will produce the most results.

2. You can receive a guarantee. Most big SEO firms say to watch out for anyone who guarantees results. They'll tell you most places that do so are nothing but scam artists. Here's the truth: I can absolutely guarantee any business I can get you ranked in the top 10 on Google for any keyword you choose. It all depends on how much money you're willing to spend and how long you're willing to wait for the results. If an SEO firm is confident in their ability to improve your rankings, why wouldn't they offer you a guarantee?

3. You can see immediate results. Most SEO firms will try to tell you it takes months to see tangible results. Wrong. In fact, it's often possible to see results within a week, depending on the keywords you're targeting. I know because I've accomplished this for my clients time and time again. Unless you're going after extremely competitive keywords, if the SEO firm bidding for your business says it will take three months to accomplish anything, they're probably just looking to sign you up for a lucrative long-term retainer.

4. SEO work is not too complicated to explain in detail. Too many SEO experts will balk if you ask them to explain in detail the work they're going to do for you. But don't let them off the hook. While some strategies may indeed be technical, most of the techniques are easily explained -- especially some of the most important ones (see point #1 above about the 80/20 rule). If you're going to pay someone a lot of money to work for you, you deserve and explanation of exactly what they're going to do.

5. The greatest factor in SEO has nothing to do with your web site. In my research, I've found that around 80% of the Google ranking factors have nothing to do with the web site itself. The real determining factors are links to your site from other web sites. As long as your site is easily crawled by Google, most of the energy should be focused on getting these outside links. If a SEO firm tries to sell you an expensive package to simply "optimize" your site for Google, it's probably going to cost you a lot of money for very little result.

For more information about achieving Top Search Engine Rankings - visit http://startupinternetmarketing.com/stomp


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