Blog Case Studies

I remember reading a fair few months ago, according to Technorati;
100,000,000 + blogs have less than 20 in-bound links.
400,000 blogs have more than 20,000 in-bound links.
The top 2,500 bloggers have greater than 100,000 in-bound links.

Maybe I’m naive, this illustrates to me that reaching the top isn’t a monumental task.

Blogs on their own can do very well as a marketing tool. When optimised, socialised, and linked out to other blogs, they’re phenomenal. Basically, if you can optimise content that’s relevant, a good read and adds value, then you’ll get promoted.

Blog Case Study 1: Our Online Marketing Consulting

A senior citizens housing developer. Worked with the developer on a consultancy basis. Strategy was to create a communication channel to target a market that’s less formal than on the corporate website.

Tactically – upgraded the blog, optimised it according to our advice, and reach out to other bloggers in their space. Within a few months, became a top source of traffic to site: rankings went up, visitors increased. Very nominal effort with very tangible results.

Blog Case Study 2: Large SEO Investment

A book and game retailer wanted to generate sales. Many in the buying space are passionate about games and brain teasers. We wanted to create a place for people to play games.

Tactic – created an SEO’d blog, created communities on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Stumbleupon. We mined Twitter data to find out what people are talking about and to friend people based on this research. Result – great top 3 rankings for target keywords.

Did a social promotion for an old style carnival game. Created a flash version, and promoted that via social media.

Results – Many wrote about this game and we create a big spike. There was another spike as a latent effect, people started searching for the game. Traffic and page-views quintupled! Now the blog sell ads in addition to products and generates a very good revenue stream.

Blog Case Study 3: Small Business SEO

An Online Marketing Blog. Strategy – Increase thought leadership – cover tips, thoughts, news and the SEM basics. Goal – Eventually to generate leads. Tactic – create unique content on a regular schedule via relevant SEM subjects, agency insights, etc.

What happened over time? Generated No.1 Keywords, regular readership and brand awareness.

Next Step – Make the blog into a conversion tool for consultancy and create advertising revenue.

Still a slow burner as budget and time are limited, but has great potential and a very important digital asset.

Key takeaways:

Goals drive content. Automate SEO as much as possible – Socialise – Measure – Refine – Repeat. Make sure you focus on end objectives.

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How Do You Tell Your Client about the SEO Work You’re Doing?

A common question from a small business SEO

How does one who may sell SEO services for their SEO company in the future give away information without giving away too much information (and fearing that the client will run away with the proposed strategies and implement them himself/herself?)

That’s a difficult situation and one I think a lot of people find themselves in. They are compelled to sell themselves by proposing a strategy but are afraid it can backfire. However, many clients who solicit the advice of SEO services are doing it because they cannot execute that detailed plan.

A great analogy that should make you feel a little bit better about providing that information:

Here’s an example: We were recently at an arts festival watching an artist scultping a log with a chainsaw. Suppose that artist were to spend time with me explaining his technique and showing me how to do it – even what he was thinking when he applied his technique. Then suppose he handed me the chainsaw and told me to do it myself. I couldn’t do it. Because I would lack the basic understanding of the skills of using a chainsaw. And even though he explained the technique…I couldn’t do it. It’s a combination art, technical ability, and experience that I don’t have with a chainsaw.

That should alleviate those fears you have about giving away SEO ideas (unless the client is well versed in this area of marketing). Most people can hear your suggestions but have no idea about how to execute. In the end, giving out more information does seem to show that you have the expertise and indicates that you’re willing to help.

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How Consumers Search For A Perfect Meal

Mark Sprague wrote this fantastic post for Search Engine Land Oct 15, 2010

Personally i feel every small business SEO should read this post.

How do consumers find the perfect restaurant? Word of mouth plays a role, but there are other elements at play. How important is your brand? Is value more important than quality? What role does content play in this quest? Here I take a look at the term “restaurant” to show what consumers value when searching for a good place to eat.

In this data set there are eleven distinct high-level categories of behaviour. The categories are sorted by volume (the first number reflects the number of keyword phrases in that group).

* 22 Informational – 65,650,450 searches
* 308 Location based – 13,577,700 searches
* 76 Type of restaurant – 4,261,540 searches
* 51 Quality of restaurant – 1,835,520 searches
* 36 Restaurant business – 1,299,270 searches
* 150 Restaurant by brand – 1,236,530 searches
* 81 Request for content – 850,020 searches
* 42 Value (cost reduction) – 500,660 searches
* 12 Industry events – 376,600 searches
* 4 Restaurant directory – 218,000 searches
* 1 Software tools – 2,400 searches

When you examine these categories you are struck by the specificity of intent here. Generally, there are large numbers of vague informational keyword phrases being used. In this case, there are just 22 of them, but they account for 65M searches a month. The second important item to note are the top three themes that dominate restaurant search behaviour: location, quality and type. From an information architecture perspective these three concepts, which represent almost 30 percent of consumer traffic, should be infused into website copy. The probability that a consumer will construct a [quality] [location] [type] query is very high.

Several of these high-level categories have sub-categories that provide useful information about consumer intent. This expands the unique categories to twenty seven. There are, for example, three categories of behaviour for content, and five categories for the Type of restaurant.

* Information – 65,602,880
* Location – 13,538,000
* Type by nationality – 2,380,480
* Quality using Best – 1,251,600
* Brand – 1,211,340
* Business products – 1,043,370
* Type by food – 901,190
* Type by style – 733,390
* Industry events – 376,600
* Content (reviews) – 352,120
* Quality using Top – 345,720
* Content (guides) – 277,180
* Value (coupons) – 266,790
* Business – 255,900
* Quality – 238,200
* Website directory – 218,000
* Content (menus) – 168,020
* Type – 136,480
* Value (vouchers) – 126,080
* Type for delivery – 110,000
* Value – 107,790
* Content – 52,700
* Information (names) – 44,200
* Location by country – 39,700
* Brand by location – 25,190
* Information by zip codes – 3,370
* Software tools – 2,400

When you look at consumer intent by category, you can make assumptions when developing your website architecture. For example, many more consumers are interested in reviews rather than looking at menus by a two to one margin. Both content types are important, but from a volume perspective restaurant reviews should get top-billing.

Let’s take a look at the categories in a little more detail.

Brand: There are 1,211,340 searches a month for restaurants by brand name alone (no location was specified). Interestingly, the search for a brand by location comes in on the low side at 25,190 searches a month.

Business: As a restaurant business owner these searches are of no value to you. The majority of the traffic is for products and services (1,043,370 searches), while the rest (255,900 searches) are about franchises and for sale opportunities. The majority of the traffic for business products is searched for with just a handful of secondary terms. This makes it straightforward to manage where your ads should not be displayed. These terms in order of importance are:

1. Supply
2. Supplies
3. Equipment
4. Tables
5. Chairs
6. Furniture

Content: These are, for the most part, three very specific content requests. Reviews are the top-dog in terms of volume, but this volume is clustered in just 10 keyword phrases. Guides show up in 53 different queries, most of them city-based. Most of the request for menus is by national cuisine (Chinese, Italian and Mexican). There is very little traffic for menus from brand name restaurants.

* Content – reviews (352,120 searches)
* Content – guides (277,180 searches)
* Content – menus (168,020 searches)
* Content – non specific (52,700 searches)

Events: There are 376,600 searches a month for restaurant week. Coming in at four million searches a year, this looks like a microsite opportunity worth exploring when this event occurs in your city.

Information: Not surprising, the majority of this traffic is on a single term: restaurant(s). It’s hard to divine user intent in this traffic. It could be businesses looking for services, or a mom looking for a birthday party restaurant. There are a number of queries looking for a list of restaurant names by nationality. Are these queries coming from someone looking to start a new restaurant, or is this an unusual way to search for a place to eat? I suppose you could target this traffic to see how it converts.

* Information – vague intent (65,602,880 searches)
* Information – request for list of names (44,200 searches)
* Information – request restaurants by zip code (3,370 searches)

Location: With 13,538,000 monthly searches, these location-based searches are the second largest behaviour category. This group is looking for a restaurant in a city without mentioning any other attributes, such as food type, content or quality.

Quality: Consumers are certainly interested in a quality eating experience, and they use relatively few adjectives to describe the restaurant they are looking for.

* Quality using the term best – (1,251,600 searches)
* Quality using the term top – (345,720 searches)
* Quality, various terms e.g., good, famous, 5 star – (238,200 searches)

Tools: There are just 2,400 searches a month in this data-set for calorie counters. At this level you can’t really be bothered with such a tool. Perhaps if you are offering fast foods this becomes a more useful option.

Type: There is a lot going on in this group, and it provides a restaurant owner the option to construct landing pages with ad copy that reflects the probability that consumers are searching for your restaurant in five different ways. The probability that consumers will search by national cuisine is very high – the probability that they will search by delivery is almost twenty times lower.

* Type by nationality e.g. Chinese, Mexican – 2,380,480 searches
* Type by food e.g. seafood, burger, pizza – 901,190 searches
* Type by style e.g., family, romantic, buffet – 733,390 searches
* Type, various one-off terms e.g., gluten free, waterfront – 136,480 searches
* Type, for delivery – 110,000 searches

Value: Cost is important in this category. The majority of consumers focus on just two terms: coupons and vouchers. When consumers search for coupons, you do see some request for coupons by brand name. When they search for vouchers, none of the consumers specify a brand.

* Value – coupons 266,790 searches
* Value – vouchers 126,080 searches
* Value, various terms – e.g., cheap, kids eat free 107,790 searches

Website directory: 218,000 consumers a month search for directories of restaurants. There is certainly enough traffic here to justify registering your restaurant with every local and hyperlocal directory you can find.

Secondary terms

It’s always useful to look at term density in the dataset, as it provides more insight into what customers value. In this case the top term is best. This would suggest a great landing page opportunity e.g., “the best seafood restaurant in Boston.” In this label you have captured the three main themes identified earlier: location, quality and type.

Stop Words: If you have been around search for a while, you know that stop words (a, in, the, of, for, be) are supposed to be of little value in search relevancy. However, if you look at the list of secondary terms below, you see that the term “in” has the fifth highest density. In this case, it is very valuable because it is a geo-indicator. You see a lot of traffic using the following two forms:

* Best in [your city]
* Restaurants in [your city]

Since the best search result is an exact match with a consumers query, the term “in” becomes important because:

1. It’s used often
2. It’s a geo-indicator
3. It’s important in an exact (word-for-word) query match

By the way, the term “near” plays this roll as well, as in restaurants near Kendal Square.

When you examine the rest of the top 25 secondary terms you see several themes reflected in the list. These are listed roughly in order of value. The first six provide insight into what is valued by consumers, and should govern how you develop your website architecture and page copy.

1. Looking for a quality dinning experience
2. Looking for restaurants by national cuisine
3. Looking for content (reviews and guides)
4. Looking for a restaurant by food type (seafood and vegetarian)
5. Looking for a restaurant by style (family and romantic)
6. Looking for value (coupons and vouchers)
7. Looking for directories (city cheat and table-table)

Some secondary terms are off-topic, and are of no use to you. In fact, if you talk about the state-of-the-art restaurant equipment you have installed in your restaurant, you may well attract traffic looking to buy stoves and chairs.

Summary

So, what does this analysis do for you as a restaurant owner? Let’s list some of the more important items to think about.

* At the highest level, consumers are interested in location, quality and type. These themes should underpin your website copy.

* Consumers are much more interested in quality than value by a three to one margin. The terminology they use (best and top) and the most requested content type i.e., Reviews supports this observation.

* When consumers search by brand, they already know about you. If they have never visited your restaurant before you should support this group with reviews and location information.

* Many consumers are cost-conscious, and search for discount coupons. What was a bit of a surprise in the data was how often the term voucher was used. I think this reflects the relationship that hotels have with the local restaurant community. I don’t think I’ve ever received a coupon from the concierge, vouchers yes, coupons no.

* Last but not least, you have the option to provide potential customers with three distinct ways to find your restaurant. Statistically large numbers of consumers search by nationality, by food type and by the style of the restaurant. This behaviour suggests a multiple landing page strategy.

The last point about the style of restaurant is important. What if you are “family restaurant?” Does search behavior differ when searching for a restaurant when children are factored in? It does and it doesn’t. Many of the categories of behavior are the same, but with dramatically different volume. For example, there is also almost no interest in reading reviews in this group, and brand searches tops the list. Next month I will develop a family restaurant search behavior model, and contrast it to this model to show that behavior can be different depending upon the type of restaurant consumers are looking for.
Advice

This analysis is high-level, and it is very useful to understand what is going on at the industry level—the dominant themes and so on. However, most restaurants are not one-dimensional. They have multiple characteristics such as in this tag line: “Brazilian steakhouse specializing in romantic dining.” My advice here is to go the extra mile to understand the behavior associated with consumers searching for a romantic restaurant. No doubt, the behavior will differ from this analysis.

As in politics, all restaurants are local. If you have not claimed your business in Google’s, Yahoo’s and Bing’s local search services, you should do so. You will not automatically get added to these local search indexes. There are local search requirements for being included. Make sure you understand what they are.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

My Thoughts

So SEO training can only help you to get so far. This article borders on persona training. Which is the complex understanding of user and searcher behaviour around a webpage or places search result .

Sensible online marketing strategies dictate that knowing your audience, alongside searcher decision making and keyword research are absolutely key to any strategic decision

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Domain Strategies for Search Engine Optimisation

You’re optimising your Web site. You’re working on building links to your Web site. The best SEO will ask you ‘are you paying attention to your domain name strategy?’ Yes, your domain name strategy.

Although you have one main domain name, every small business SEO knows it’s important to take a look at your domain strategy as a whole and check for things that may help — or hurt — your search engine rankings.

Redirect Domains to Main Web Site

If your main Web site is www.maindomain.com, then you’ll want to 301 permanent redirect all the domain names you own that aren’t in use to www.maindomain.com. There are several reasons for this, such as stopping mirror sites from appearing, making sure your main domain name gets credit for links to other domains you own, and making sure your main domain name gets the PageRank credit for links to other domain names you own.

This brings up another issue: the links pointing to other domain names. By doing some domain name research, you can find domain names that were previously on the same topic that might have traffic, backlinks, and PageRank. You can benefit by finding the right domains, buying the right domains, and redirecting them to your Web site with a 301 permanent redirect.

Choose the right domain name and you may benefit from better search engine rankings. If you were to find a domain name that was formerly on the same topic of your main Web site and you’re able to buy that domain name and redirect it, it could mean additional traffic and additional sales.

Depending on how the search engines deal with that domain name, it could mean getting credit for additional backlinks and more Google PageRank to your site. And, if your domain is new to the Internet, there could be benefits to gaining some quick “authority” through domain purchasing/redirecting.

No Guarantees

Buying domain names and redirecting them won’t necessarily bring more traffic, backlink credit, or Google PageRank to your main Web site. There are many factors that might prevent this.

Whenever you buy a domain name, you don’t know if traffic is already going to that domain name until you take ownership of it and point it to some place where you can look at the traffic (you could point it to your Web site, set up separate Web hosting for it, or use a domain parking service).

There are many factors that can influence whether you get backlink and PageRank credit, including whether the search engines give you that credit. Some search engines, such as Google, have been rumored to “zero out” PageRank and backlink credit when a domain name changes owner; they’ve also been rumored to “zero out” PageRank and backlink credit for other reasons, as well.

There are many checks you can perform before you buy a domain name, and that’s probably best covered in a separate Google SEO discussion. Those include going to the search engine and typing the domain name to see what comes up — and searching for it in quotes to research it. You can also look at the domain name in the Wayback Machine to see its history.

Domain Auctions

There are several ways to find domain names, including searching at the expired domain name auctions such as Go Daddy’s TDNAM.com auctions, Sedo auctions, and eBay. There are other domain auctions at NameJet, SnapNames, Pool.com, and TUCOWS Auctions. Most of these are covered all at FreshDrop.net, a domain research service that allows you to search those auctions for domain names. You can also sort the results using several helpful factors, including sorting by domain age, PageRank, and number of backlinks.

By doing some domain name research, you may be able to find domains you can buy that were on your site’s topic that might bring some additional traffic to your site. And backlinks and PageRank might just come along with that on the side, as well.

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