Brian Kaminski – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 10 Mar 2015 16:53:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 Take Off The Blinders! Your Competitors Are Killing You, Whether You Realize It Or Not /take-off-the-blinders-your-competitors-are-killing-you-whether-you-realize-it-or-not-14043 Wed, 21 May 2008 11:09:35 +0000 http:/beta/take-off-the-blinders-your-competitors-are-killing-you-whether-you-realize-it-or-not-14043.php The guy was in a panic. His ROI had been in a nose dive for the last few months, and he couldn’t figure out why. With no major changes to keywords, copy, landing pages, bids or budget, he was dumbfounded about the decline. But when I asked him what his competitors were doing, his response […]

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The guy was in a panic. His ROI had been in a nose dive for the last few months, and he couldn’t figure out why. With no major changes to keywords, copy, landing pages, bids or budget, he was dumbfounded about the decline. But when I asked him what his competitors were doing, his response was telling—he looked at me like I was from another planet. Suffice it to say, he failed to see the connection.

Unfortunately, he’s not alone. Many marketers fall into this trap. And this trap can be lethal to your paid search success.


More often than not, they establish goals and measures of success— in fact, many get caught up in metric madness as they grapple with the merits of measuring their CPA, ROI, CTR, or ROAS—but fail to track the one thing they need most. Yet it’s readily available. And better still, it’s not another damned acronym.

What is it? External factors.

To be sure, internal metrics are important, but do you think that they exist in a vacuum? Hardly. They are influenced by other external factors—anything from the number of competitors in the marketplace, to competitor strategies, and even competitor funding.

Think about it. How would your metrics be affected if your top competitor got additional funding, and started bidding in top positions and pushed bid prices up? What about fluctuations in the number of people bidding on your brand? Are they partners or competitors? How would that affect your metrics? What about the pricing of competitors’ products? If they change their prices, their conversions may shoot up, and their bids may get more aggressive. Surely, that will have an impact on your metrics.

The point is that external factors can play a big role in a campaign’s success or failure. Yet many marketers envision themselves as the mastermind behind the curtain (campaign) pushing and pulling the levers and in complete control of the results. Unfortunately, this thinking is myopic.

Today, marketers need to look beyond what they are doing. It’s time to take off the blinders and understand the other forces involved.

Take our above friend for example. He couldn’t figure out the cause for his declining ROI; however, his analysis didn’t include external factors either. If it did, he might have realized that a new competitor had entered the same PPC marketplace in an aggressive fashion, and that another competitor had finally gotten their act together. Clearly, these developments were out of his control, but they translated into serious threats to his success. In the end, he learned two important lessons: 1. It is essential to keep an eye on the marketplace; 2. Assuming your ROI will continue to cruise along is a very flawed assumption.

And while he learned this the hard way, you don’t have to. Instead, toss the blinders and start paying attention to the external factors that can influence your success. Below are suggestions for a few items you may want to keep an eye on.

Competitor Ad Copy

It is critical to understand the types of messages that your competitors are using. Are they doing a good job of attracting users? Do they qualify their audience? The more insight you can gain on what they are doing in this area, the better positioned you will be to take advantage of opportunities to stand out from them.

Competitor landing pages

Take a look at the landing experiences your competitors are providing for their users. How compelling are they? How easy is it to convert? Do your competitors give users multiple conversion options (i.e. download a whitepaper, or get an RSS feed, etc.) or is there a single conversion point? This insight will help you understand what to offer your users. In addition, it could also help you develop an angle that others haven’t thought of yet.

Share of views

How often do your ads come up in relation to your competitors? Many search firms have tools to gather this data, and there are self–serve tools (e.g. AdGooroo) that do the same job. The insights gained from this information can help inform budgeting decisions. For example, you might learn that a certain keyword presents opportunities for you to gather more clicks and conversions at a reasonable cost, or that some terms are just too expensive for you to try and gather additional share of view.

Keyword bidding

Pay close attention to the terms your competitors are bidding on. Doing so will help you better understand what terms they are not bidding on. As a result, this information could help you uncover some hidden gems that you can bid on with little to no competition, which in turn would allow you to obtain relatively cheap clicks and conversions.

The bottom line is that while internal metrics are useful to marketers, they don’t exist in a vacuum. Smart marketers will pay attention to the external factors that can affect their metrics, and in doing so, gain additional insight in the process.

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Leveraging PR To End The B2B Content Development Struggle /leveraging-pr-to-end-the-b2b-content-development-struggle-13845 Wed, 23 Apr 2008 18:27:34 +0000 http:/beta/leveraging-pr-to-end-the-b2b-content-development-struggle-13845.php One of the biggest challenges B2B clients grapple with is content creation. Developing material that is fresh, relevant, and keeps users coming back—while also being SEO-friendly—can be difficult. This is a problem. Fortunately though, there’s an easy and effective solution. And it’s closer than you might think. The situation For the most part, B2B organizations […]

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One of the biggest challenges B2B clients grapple with is content creation. Developing material that is fresh, relevant, and keeps users coming back—while also being SEO-friendly—can be difficult. This is a problem. Fortunately though, there’s an easy and effective solution. And it’s closer than you might think.


The situation

For the most part, B2B organizations struggle with content development for one reason, and it’s not because they don’t have anything to say. Rather, the problem can be attributed to staffing, or a lack thereof, as content development typically is quite lean in most B2B organizations.

However, these same organizations tend to have solid PR teams in place—whether in house or on the agency side—that are ready, willing, and able to generate new material. In essence, what these organizations lack in the area of content development, they make up for in PR.

The solution

Given that, B2B marketers struggling with content development should try to capitalize on PR to generate new content. Doing so could provide the ideal solution. In fact, my experience has shown that once PR is brought up to speed on the goal and how they can assist, they are excited to contribute.

But before you run down the hall to ask for their help, let’s first take a look at how you can get the most out of the resource.

Getting clarity

To start, if you are going to partner with PR, then it’s critical to get some clarity. Specifically, what constitutes content? Good question. And timely too, especially given the development of blended search.

Over the last year, the major search engines have started to display blended results, which integrates different forms of digital content—images, news, videos,—into the general search results. Now web pages are not the only type of content that matters. Instead, the search results landscape has changed.

This is actually a good thing. The change represents considerable opportunity for marketers as it allows them to leverage their various forms of digital content, and as a result, increases their chance to stand out amongst the clutter in the search results.

But for some reason, when marketers think of content, they limit themselves to web pages. This is a mistake. For example, most marketers fail to realize that a white paper is content too—just in a slightly different format—and that if it is optimized properly, it can do quite well in the search results.

But now with blended search, there’s so much more opportunity. Images, videos, and yes, even press releases are considered content too. In fact, a recent study on blended search reveals that of all the types of specialized content now displayed in the general search results, users prefer news items the most.

Success factors

Clearly, the opportunities for content development are endless, and PR is a great resource to leverage. However, what are the chances that the PR team is idly sitting around waiting for your call? My guess? Not very likely. So if you are considering tapping into PR, you would be wise to keep the following factors in mind as you move forward. Doing so could make the difference between the success or failure of the initiative.

Strategy. If you want to leverage PR, you’ll need their buy-in first. To start, discuss your overall strategy with them. Take the time to explain the content challenges you are experiencing, and that you value their opinions in developing a solution. While this might seem like a very trivial part of the process, it’s not. I have seen numerous organizations fail right from the starting blocks because they did not get buy-in from their PR folks.

Education. To successfully tap into PR, you need to educate them first. Again, this might seem very basic, but it is another area where organizations regularly shoot themselves in the foot. Most of the PR folks I have worked with on this were initially intimidated by the task of developing content for searchers. For the most part, I think their trepidation can be attributed to the fact that this is a new area for them. To help them feel more comfortable with the task, provide a few training sessions on what SEO is, what your goals are, and specifically what you are looking for them to do. But keep in mind that your PR folks may be wary that you’ll want them to turn everything they create into marketing fluff instead of meaningful content. Given that, be sure to spend a good amount of time discussing the types of content you are looking for them to produce. Then allow them to brainstorm some ideas; it will get you more buy-in that way.

Develop a pilot. To effectively leverage PR, start small. From my experience, the most successful initiatives start as pilots. The benefits of doing so are twofold: Not only will it help you get it right—by getting everyone on the same page first—it will also make it much easier to create momentum and show the results. This will get people excited about what you are collectively accomplishing, and as a result, they’ll be more willing to make it a regular effort.

Other formats. Leveraging PR for content development also means capitalizing on other media formats. You can involve your PR team in the optimization of additional types of digital content such as videos and podcasts. Many PR teams already create these digital assets for a variety of reasons, so take the time to train them to make subtle but effective changes, such as incorporating keywords in questions and using keywords to describe the video.

Measurement. Last, but not least, to fully capitalize on PR, you need to set goals and measure performance. A good way to start is to work with your PR team and the results of your pilot to set goals for your efforts. Be sure to set goals in terms of pages of content and frequency of update. More importantly, you must also set performance goals. But be mindful that the best goal setting is done as a collaborative effort. Make these performance goals aim for better placements in the search engines, more traffic, and more registrations or leads (some form of business results). And make sure to track these metrics monthly and report back to all involved so that everyone feels as though they are part of the effort.

Overall, if you are a B2B marketer struggling with content creation, your PR team could be the solution to your problem. But to make it work, you need to get their buy-in, run a pilot, and set and measure the goals for these efforts. If done properly, you have the chance to really make a difference.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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B2B Marketing Priorities 2008 /b2b-marketing-priorities-2008-13642 Wed, 26 Mar 2008 11:37:13 +0000 http:/beta/b2b-marketing-priorities-2008-13642.php Let’s face it, life is about priorities. There’s never enough time, money, or resources for everything. Consequently, we must prioritize. Doing so forces us to choose between what we want and what we actually need. And marketers are anything but exempt from such choices. When times are good—and we have a bit more money to […]

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Let’s face it, life is about priorities. There’s never enough time, money, or resources for everything. Consequently, we must prioritize. Doing so forces us to choose between what we want and what we actually need.

And marketers are anything but exempt from such choices.

When times are good—and we have a bit more money to work with—we can be creative and try some new things. But when times get tough and we need to tighten our belts, we’re often forced to determine what initiatives we can’t live without. And posthaste.


Setting priorities. So with all the buzz about a softening U.S. economy, are your marketing priorities clear for 2008? If not, you may find the results of a new B2B study of interest.

Published in February by Forrester Research, the B2B CMO Investment Priorities For 2008 study sought to identify how B2B marketing executives plan to allocate their budgets for the coming year. Stemming from interviews with 32 marketing executives at companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, and Symantec, the study offers marketers important insights. Let me give you the top line on a few of the findings, and provide you with my take on each.

Web spend forecast. The study reveals that 84 percent of respondents intend to bolster their Web marketing efforts this year. And based on what I’ve seen with most of my B2B clients, I think these executives are right on track. I will spare you my normal song and dance as to the benefits of expanding your online marketing initiatives, but suffice it to say that search continues to grow and you would be well served to continue to increase your investment in this area. With new offerings such as blended search, marketers need to think about leveraging their digital assets—videos, press releases, images, blogs—to connect with their audience.

Vertical focus is key. The study also shows that the majority (56%) of B2B marketers plan to focus on specific verticals. This is good news. I see this as a positive movement for this crowd, as B2B marketing efforts have historically been generic and tend to use one message and one voice. I have seen many B2B clients fare well by developing specific keyword and content strategies to target the needs of a certain vertical. However, while this strategy can be effective, I would caution you about making this type of a campaign part of your foundation. Instead, it should be secondary. First you need to develop your basics.

Cross-channel consistency. The majority of respondents of the study (53%) identified customer experience across multiple channels as a priority. This finding speaks to the need for consistency. And I couldn’t agree more. Yet I find that many marketers continue to speak to their customers and prospects in very different voices via different channels. This is a mistake. While I am not saying that your message needs to be exactly the same in each channel, I would encourage you to make certain that synergies exist between them in order to improve your overall brand experience and develop a deeper and more consistent relationship with customers.

Better customer data. Finally, half of the marketing executives in the study expressed a desire for better customer data. Frankly, I was surprised by this number; I expected it to be much higher. I think if B2B marketers were honest with themselves, nine out of ten would admit they need significant improvement on this front. From my experience, I have found that most B2B clients lack good and actionable data. This reality is far from surprising considering the inherent challenges of B2B marketing, such as the relationship between offline and online, and a very long sales cycle. These factors can make tracking what is working a chore. Overall, improved customer data should be a top priority for B2B marketers since there are so many disconnects and opportunities for data to get lost along the way.

Hard times ahead? How do your B2B marketing priorities stack up with the above? Whether or not they’re in alignment, I wanted to make note of one thing. The study was conducted in the third quarter of 2007, before the US economy started to show any signs of weakness. Obviously, things have changed since then. And while we might not want to admit it, we need to be realistic—the threat of a recession is very real. Given that, it couldn’t hurt to re-examine your marketing priorities.

Don’t neglect regular exercise. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s time to run for the hills and hide your entire marketing budget under your mattress. Rather, I’m merely suggesting that you give careful consideration to which initiatives are most vital to your overall success.

The key, however, is to do it now.

Don’t wait for hard choices to be foisted upon you by economic uncertainty. You can thwart the situation entirely by regularly performing a simple exercise. Take the time to periodically identify what new campaigns you would start and/or increase investment in given a budget increase, and which programs you would cut or reduce if necessary. The insight gained from this straightforward task will not only help you understand what’s working and what isn’t, but it could also prove invaluable when hard times hit and you need to act fast.

Overall, marketing is like everything else in life; it’s about priorities. And it’s just as true in times of great prosperity where it is easy to get distracted by spreading yourself too thin, as it is during hard times. Smart marketers will take the time to gain clarity about their initiatives so they can accurately prioritize them. Doing so will make those hard choices a lot easier.

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Leveraging Search To Meet B2B Challenges /leveraging-search-to-meet-b2b-challenges-13466 Wed, 27 Feb 2008 11:46:22 +0000 http:/beta/leveraging-search-to-meet-b2b-challenges-13466.php B-to-B marketers have unique challenges to overcome—everything from the lengthy sales cycle, to tracking gaps from leads to sales, to heavy competition on top terms. But the good news is that search engine marketing helps marketers meet these challenges head-on. The bad news is that this list of challenges is far from comprehensive. In fact, […]

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B-to-B marketers have unique challenges to overcome—everything from the lengthy sales cycle, to tracking gaps from leads to sales, to heavy competition on top terms. But the good news is that search engine marketing helps marketers meet these challenges head-on. The bad news is that this list of challenges is far from comprehensive.

In fact, research by the Institute for the Study of Business Markets identifies five key challenges for B-to-B marketers in the next few years. I was particularly struck by the two below:

  • B-to-B marketers need to better learn about customer needs and match them with their offerings
  • B-to-B marketers need to discover new growth areas for their businesses

Clearly, these challenges are considerable and warrant priority. Fortunately, search engine marketing can help organizations address these issues too. Let’s take a look at how.

Customer insights

Search engine marketing is not only a performance-driven marketing tool, it is also a valuable research device as it provides marketers with a wealth of information. In fact, it offers precisely the kind of information you need to learn about your customers and their needs. Yet, few marketers actually leverage this invaluable data (which is a fact that continues to baffle me to no end). The bottom line is that your search data can tell you a lot. But keep in mind that data without action is, well…just data. To fully capitalize on it, you need to apply your learnings. Below are a few ways to do just that.

Most folks know that you can use analytics data to see what types of keywords people query to find your website. But the question is: what do you do with this information? One way to leverage it is to subsequently monitor the seasonality of your keywords. Doing so will help you understand when people begin to look for things online. My experience is that most marketers greatly underestimate the overall range of time that customers search. Once you understand the "search cycle" for each of your products, you can organize your marketing calendars accordingly.

Messaging is another area full of invaluable information about your customers. To capitalize on it, test different creative messages in your PPC and SEO campaigns. Once you have learned which messages resonate with your audience, leverage this information to inform other initiatives, such as email campaigns, print ads, and your public relations strategy. Sharing these findings with other channels—particularly offline channels—is especially important given the synergy that exists between them and search. In fact, research has shown that offline channels are a powerful driver of search. Ultimately, you want to foster regular cross-channel communication so you can not only share your learnings, but also gain insight into other initiatives to capture the demand they create.

Your search data can also tell you how to maximize your content medium. Do your consumers prefer text content or videos? How many subscribe to your RSS feed? Other than within your website, does your audience have a strong place where they talk about you? These are just a few of the many questions that can be answered by examining your search data. But once you understand the different media that your customers and prospects choose to consume, as well as the where and how they go about doing so, you need to act on it and speak to them in their preferred "listening" method. For example, if the data reveals that your audience regularly consumes your video-based content, you might want to consider issuing video press releases. Overall, you will be significantly more successful if you engage with your audience in a format familiar to them.

Growth & innovation

Everyone is always looking for an edge to sharpen their offerings and to leave everyone else scrambling to catch up. But doing so is far from easy. How do you continue to innovate and distinguish yourself from your competitors? Well, if your organization’s approach to innovation is to lock your smartest people in a room until they come up with the latest and greatest new thing, then you wouldn’t be alone on that one. Fortunately, though, there’s a better way. Search engine marketing can help organizations discover new growth areas for their businesses.

I have found that actually speaking to customers and gathering data about them is a great source of feedback. It not only provides you with insight into how you could better meet their existing needs or solve an existing problem, it can also help you learn about emerging needs for which you could develop a solution. But while this approach may sound good in theory, how do you make it actionable?

To solicit such feedback, you must invite your audience to experience a diverse array of content from you. This means your search marketing efforts must be set up to capture all the segments of your audience. In addition, make certain that your content remains fresh. Then, give your audience a chance to engage in a dialog with you. This conversation can take many forms, anything from an official company blog, to customer forums, to popular industry blogs, or any growing number of social networks. Next, monitor what people are saying about you. You might not always like what is being said, but if you are committed to growing and improving, you need to take their opinions to heart. Lastly, act on your findings— it’s as simple as that. There’s not much point in going through this exercise if you don’t plan on applying your learnings. Ultimately, the more you are able to learn about your customer and their challenges, the better prepared you will be to not only help them, but also grow your own business at the same time.

Search engine marketing is a powerful tool for driving business results, but smart marketers know it offers even more. Specifically, search data provides invaluable information. When leveraged properly, it can help organizations to better learn about their customers’ needs, and to discover new growth areas for their businesses.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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The Big B2B PPC Mistake /the-big-b2b-ppc-mistake-13249 Wed, 30 Jan 2008 12:02:58 +0000 http:/beta/the-big-b2b-ppc-mistake-13249.php It’s been said that the three rules of marketing are brand recognition, brand recognition, and brand recognition. Given that, marketers spend considerable funds and resources to ensure that people recognize their brands and connect with them. In other words, brand matters. Yet, when it comes to PPC marketing, the importance of brand gets a little […]

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It’s been said that the three rules of marketing are brand recognition, brand recognition, and brand recognition. Given that, marketers spend considerable funds and resources to ensure that people recognize their brands and connect with them. In other words, brand matters. Yet, when it comes to PPC marketing, the importance of brand gets a little fuzzy—especially for B2B marketers.

From my experience, branded keywords tend to play a relatively small role in the PPC efforts of many B2B marketers. In fact, the number of B2B companies actually leveraging their brands in PPC appears to be quite low. The reason? Many B2B marketers feel that their customers and prospects already know their brand and/or how to find them; or that their sales force is already speaking with anyone they could envision as a client. Ultimately, they feel that spending money on branded PPC search ads would be a waste.

Unfortunately, they are mistaken.


I have seen numerous B2B clients experience huge increases in traffic, conversions, and branded search queries from leveraging their brand in both paid and organic search. As such, I advise clients to strive for consistent coverage across the search engine results pages via organic and paid search vehicles.

But don’t get me wrong—not all B2B marketers are averse to leveraging their brand in PPC. Some might just be starting to embrace it, others might be further along and testing its impact, while still others might be more advanced and already incorporating display ads into their efforts. Clearly, a range exists. Given that, I’ve divvied up the range into five categories based upon a marketer’s use of branded terms. Let’s take a look at each.

Standing and watching. Marketers in this category are not making use of their brand in PPC marketing. They are failing to consider the downstream and indirect influence on their overall objectives that could result from not leveraging their brand in PPC. Marketers in this group would be wise to consider the possibility that they could be significantly limiting their outcomes by the choices they are making. A great way for these marketers to get started is to run tests to determine the impact that branded terms could have for them.

All terms are the same. Marketers in this category look at their campaigns solely in terms of pure outcomes. Their stance is that branded terms either contribute to the overall goal of the campaign (sales, leads, etc.) or they will be removed. This group is focused on instant gratification, and will argue that if it a positive outcome does not immediately follow a click, then they have wasted money. Trust me, convincing these marketers to begin testing is tough enough, but their unwillingness to allow for sufficient time for latent conversions can be even more frustrating.

Testing. Marketers in this group have done a solid job of testing and learning, and deserve a pat on the back for doing so. The most common tests can be simply executed. First, identify which of your branded terms have solid organic rankings. Then, turn off your PPC ads for those terms for one or two weeks (two is usually necessary unless you see thousands of branded search queries per week). During this time, measure your clicks, conversions, and conversion rate. Next, turn those PPC ads back on for the same amount of time, and measure the same stats. Chances are, if you have both organic and PPC engaged, you will like the test results.

Use of display ads. In addition to testing alone, marketers in this group are also leveraging display ads to help fuel the demand for their brand. This is a great overall strategy, and an easy one to test. For example, try turning the display ads on and off, and measure the impact on branded impressions, clicks, and conversions, and the delta between those two during your different periods. However, when you assess the results, be sure to account for any seasonality and/or significant external factors such as positive or negative corporate news.

Offline conversions. Marketers in this category are ahead of the curve and deserve serious recognition. These savvy marketers are not only running the tests I have described above, but they are also going the extra distance by examining the impact of their efforts on offline sales. Given the nature of B2B companies, it is imperative for marketers to do this. If you merely consider online results, you will find that you are not fully recognizing and giving credit to your online initiatives.

The bottom line is that brand does matter, and smart B2B marketers should be fully leveraging their brand in PPC marketing. Doing so could yield significant improvements to traffic, conversions, and branded search queries. As you review the above categories, find where you fit in, then examine your budgets and your overall marketing situation. If you fall into the first four categories, I strongly encourage you to commit to moving ahead by at least one group in the coming months. Give it a try. I am confident you’ll wish you had done it sooner.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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A B2B Search Marketer’s New Year’s Resolutions /a-b2b-search-marketers-new-year%e2%80%99s-resolutions-13040 Wed, 02 Jan 2008 12:10:07 +0000 http:/beta/a-b2b-search-marketers-new-year%e2%80%99s-resolutions-13040.php Resolutions. We all make them. And some folks actually keep them. But regardless of the outcome, each year we have the opportunity to start fresh. As you commit to improving your personal lives by eating healthier, spending more time with your family, or finally doing the one thing you’ve only dreamed about, I’d like to […]

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Resolutions. We all make them. And some folks actually keep them. But regardless of the outcome, each year we have the opportunity to start fresh. As you commit to improving your personal lives by eating healthier, spending more time with your family, or finally doing the one thing you’ve only dreamed about, I’d like to encourage you to think about making a few changes in your professional lives as well. Specifically, I’d like to see B2B search marketers make the following resolutions for 2008.


Commit to providing the best user experience possible. Yes, this means that you will need to create content. And by content I mean information that your audience would actually be interested in and find of value. You should also aim to get your content to users on their terms, such as via RSS, newsletters, podcasts, and blogs. Also, strive to create an ongoing relationship with your audience where they desire to hear more of what you have to say. Sure, this is more work—and it’s a bit more difficult to do—but ultimately it leads to a more satisfied audience.

Commit to taking advantage of what the engines give you. The major search engines deserve a huge pat on the back for the new functionality they now offer. They have invested resources to provide us with better online help information such as the Google Webmaster Central. They have also provided us with new sitemaps functionality where we can prioritize top pages, check inclusion and crawl status, remove pages, and select which pages we do not want to serve as sub-links. Personally, I see significant value in all of this added functionality, yet I continue to be surprised at clients and prospects who are not leveraging it. Their reason? Often they claim that this type of functionality is geared toward huge product-oriented sites, and that it doesn’t really help them. While this may be true to some degree, the bottom line is that more marketers should be using them.

Commit to integrating your organic and paid search efforts by leveraging data from each. Maximizing the value of integrating your paid and organic efforts requires leveraging data between the two. To start, review keyword data between campaigns to understand which terms are performing best. Most likely you will find that it takes more time and effort for certain terms to rank organically. During that time, be sure to leverage paid search to purchase your laggard terms. You can also capitalize on your keywords that are ranking well by running tests to determine the impact of organic combined with PPC. You should also run a test to improve your click through rate (CTR). To maximize the speed of your test, run different PPC creatives to determine which produces the best mixture of CTR and conversion rate. You can then apply the learnings to the meta data that you are using for PPC (note: apply the learnings, but not the actual word, as such a creative has been shown to cause user confusion). Last, make sure that you are using other data—including clicks and conversions by engine and keyword—to drive the work you are doing to improve your overall performance.

Commit to trying at least two new things this year. With all that is available in the search marketing arena, marketers need to be more aggressive about trying new things. Now, I am not asking you to be reckless and bet the farm by pouring a huge amount of money and resources into a project. Rather, I am asking you—and maybe even begging—to think about two areas where you can push the envelope without breaking the bank, and give them a try. Of course, you’ll need a plan and the proper measurement before you can get going. But remember that even if your efforts aren’t successful, you will still generate numerous learnings which can influence your future search efforts, and maybe even provide valuable audience insight which can benefit other areas of your business.

There you have it—four worthwhile resolutions that you can commit to. Smart B2B marketers will seize the opportunity and make the most out of this year. Here’s to you making—and ideally keeping—these resolutions in 2008 and beyond. Happy New Year!

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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Communication Breakdown: 5 Avoidable Failures That Derail Search Marketing Campaigns /communication-breakdown-5-avoidable-failures-that-derail-search-marketing-campaigns-12741 Wed, 21 Nov 2007 11:04:32 +0000 http:/beta/communication-breakdown-5-avoidable-failures-that-derail-search-marketing-campaigns-12741.php Last week I had occasion to visit with a B2B prospect. Halfway through our meeting they voiced concern about their ability to uphold their end of the SEO partnership. Naturally, soon thereafter we were engaged in a spirited discussion on the main reasons B2B campaigns fail. As it turns out, they were already familiar with […]

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Last week I had occasion to visit with a B2B prospect. Halfway through our meeting they voiced concern about their ability to uphold their end of the SEO partnership. Naturally, soon thereafter we were engaged in a spirited discussion on the main reasons B2B campaigns fail.

As it turns out, they were already familiar with how both lack of implementation and lack of measurement can contribute to campaign failure. However, they were genuinely surprised to learn that lack of communication between internal teams can play a huge role in determining whether a campaign succeeds or fails.


Personally, I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen a lack of internal communication either significantly hold up a campaign or send it off in a tangential direction—or worse still, completely derail it. Here are five of the most common internal communication issues that adversely affect SEO campaigns, and a few thoughts on how to deal with each one.

Lack of common goals. While sharing a common SEO goal might sound like a pretty easy objective, in reality it’s not. Why? Sometimes two or more internal groups are involved in SEO, and each has a different agenda. The most common of these groupings is IT and marketing. Both want to see SEO be successful, but their definitions of progress are different. IT wants an easy to maintain site, while marketing wants to launch all sorts of new initiatives and push the envelope with blogs, videos, and social media—all of which makes life more challenging for IT.

Improved communication between these groups will do much to help achieve a common goal for the initiative. I recommend getting everyone’s goals out and on the table so that all involved parties can understand what they need to be thinking about.

Inconsistent messaging. Successful marketers provide a consistent experience for their audience. Yet I see disjointed campaigns every day. Sometimes it is simple things like not having a consistent look and feel between a website and the print and TV ads. Other times it’s more serious issues like when marketers send users to many different websites with what appears to be little consistency, or when the messaging is radically different by medium. This makes it difficult for your audience to understand your message.

To keep this from happening, smart marketers will make sure their internal teams agree on a few message points at most, and give sufficient attention to consistency across the board.

The big disconnect: search and offline marketing. The impact of offline initiatives on a search campaign is dramatic. But search does not generate demand—rather, it captures it. In fact, a recent iProspect study found that 67% of online users are driven to search by offline channels. Yet, despite their interrelationship, rarely do I see the two disciplines in synch.

Ideally, you want your offline and online folks to be on the same page. They should be communicating and meeting regularly. For example, as your offline initiatives spike, the search team needs to understand where the demand is coming from to ensure that you are well positioned on those terms. Failing to communicate such information would allow your competitors to capture the demand you created, and capitalize on your offline spend.

Now I’m not saying that these two groups have to be joined at the hip, but each should definitely know what the other is doing. I would even recommend that you begin to measure the peaks and valleys in searches for your brand and product terms to understand how much demand your offline activities are creating.

Lack of alignment: search and public relations. Similar to the above issue, your search and public relations teams need to be in alignment. This is especially important given the development of Google’s Universal search, which now delivers various forms of digital content into the main search results pages – including press releases. Yet, few organizations have regular communication between these two groups. This is a mistake.

If you are going to put out a press release, you want to make sure that it can be found when people are searching for your brand or the specific product name. If your search team is aware of your plans, they can work to optimize around the terms you plan to mention in the release. Since a press release is almost always a quick turnaround, you will find that, in addition to optimizing the release itself, PPC marketing is going to be your best bet. It provides a quick solution to create a skeleton campaign with the major engines to which you can add keywords and be off bidding within a few hours. However, all of this becomes much more difficult without regular communication between these two groups.

Lack of alignment: SEO and PPC. This might sound odd, but at many companies, especially larger ones, these functions are actually handled by different groups. Not surprisingly, neither one usually knows what the other is doing. This scenario often results in inefficiencies in both programs, and keeps each one from reaching its full potential.

Improved communication between these groups will help you avoid this situation. You can start small by simply understanding what keywords each program is focusing on. Those who are a bit more advanced can start to leverage their findings from creative testing to improve their meta tags. As your campaigns mature, you should also consider sharing keyword level data for clicks and conversions to help both teams be more informed.

Search marketing is a complex, iterative, and involved endeavor. Consequently, good communication is vital to its success. Smart marketers will take the time to align internal teams, encourage regular communication amongst them, and provide them with an open forum to share their learnings. Doing so will help keep your campaign on track.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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Lessons From Baseball: How To Discover & Track Your “Quality Starts” /lessons-from-baseball-how-to-discover-track-your-%e2%80%9cquality-starts%e2%80%9d-12515 Wed, 24 Oct 2007 11:29:07 +0000 http:/beta/lessons-from-baseball-how-to-discover-track-your-%e2%80%9cquality-starts%e2%80%9d-12515.php For millions of sports fans, October means one thing—the Major League Baseball playoffs! And as any ardent fan of our national pastime will tell you, it’s “do or die” time. Without a doubt, the post season is all about wins and losses— with little regard for how the game is played. Similarly, many B2B marketers […]

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For millions of sports fans, October means one thing—the Major League Baseball playoffs! And as any ardent fan of our national pastime will tell you, it’s “do or die” time. Without a doubt, the post season is all about wins and losses— with little regard for how the game is played.

Similarly, many B2B marketers measure their search marketing campaigns in much the same way. They invest in PPC and/or SEO and judge their campaign’s success solely based on its number of conversions and average cost-per-acquisition. In essence, they’re only interested in the final outcome.

However, limiting the evaluation of a campaign’s success to these two metrics can be a mistake, and, more often than not, leaves many search marketers wondering how they can better understand what their investment is truly yielding.


This is particularly evident in B2B campaigns where the lag time from click to conversion can often be months. But you can’t afford to sit around and hope that your efforts are going to pay off. Rather, you need to set intermediate benchmarks which you can use as indicators that your campaigns are healthy and on track. Doing so will provide you with great campaign insight, and—believe it or not—baseball provides us with a great example of why.

Inside baseball. Statistical analysis has become a regular part of evaluating baseball players. For example, scouts have always examined things like batting averages, home runs, and RBIs for hitters, and wins and ERAs for pitchers. However, there’s a new metric being used to evaluate the bullpen’s brethren. It’s called a “Quality Start.”

And according to Wikipedia, “…it is awarded to a starting pitcher who completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs.” Clearly, even though this metric is not based on wins or losses, it provides good insight into a pitcher’s performance. B2B marketers should develop their own “Quality Start” metrics to supplement what they presently use to measure their campaigns.

Scouting tips. The first step in the process is to define what a “quality start” means for you. For many, this is the most difficult part, and I have seen numerous clients struggle with it. My advice? Spend some time with your customers. Understand their buying process. Ask them questions about how they went about their research and ultimate selection. Pay particular attention to clues about when they started to feel a connection with your brand. Was it after they added your RSS feed? Or after they were contacted by a sales rep from your company? Or simply after they read your latest white paper? The answers to these questions will allow you to develop a short list of definitions.

Reading the signs. The next step is to examine your current SEO and PPC campaign data to understand what you are tracking. You will probably find that there are items on your wish list that you cannot track. You need to determine if this additional data is worth the time and cost of setting up the necessary data collection and reporting.

Know your stats. Next, examine the data for the items you can track. This will allow you to verify that the items on your short list are indeed happening with frequency. If, for example, you see that very few online people signed up to be contacted by a salesperson via the web, maybe this is a bad success metric for you.

The kine-up. I suggest starting with a larger list of items that you think indicate a successful visit, and then narrowing it down after you have monitored the data for a quarter or two to see if your ideas were on track. I have seen clients have the most success at tracking elements such as leads from completed forms, number of unique readers who have viewed one or more white papers, and people who have registered multiple site visits within a short period of time.

Avoiding errors. It has often been argued that the number of pages viewed and time on site should be considered as success metrics. I would strongly encourage you to think twice about placing too much emphasis of either. My experience has been that only content sites should concern themselves with these metrics. Sites with a call to action can often have high numbers of page views and a longer time on site simply because they are difficult to use.

The farm team. You should also factor in offline information. One the most powerful metrics I have seen utilized is telephone calls. At the very least, the people answering your phones should ask how someone heard about you. However, we all know that this data will be quite poor. Therefore, I suggest using different telephone numbers for different programs in order to provide yourself with more reliable data which you can feel comfortable acting upon.

Driving it home. One of the biggest advantages of search marketing is its measurability. Yet, for some reason, the only measures of success B2B search marketers seem interested in are conversions and cost per acquisition. Smart marketers will strive to deepen their bench by developing new measures that that will provide additional insight into campaign performance. Give the notion of a “Quality Start” a chance, and you will gain additional insights into the overall performance of your campaigns.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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Integrating SEO & PPC: Three Pitfalls To Avoid /integrating-seo-ppc-three-pitfalls-to-avoid-12276 Wed, 26 Sep 2007 12:36:42 +0000 http:/beta/integrating-seo-ppc-three-pitfalls-to-avoid-12276.php Chances are, your search marketing efforts could be missing as much as 80% of your target audience. Don’t believe me? It’s true. Why? It’s fundamental. Most search marketers agree that about 70%-80% of all clicks come from the natural (organic) search results, while the other 20%-30% come from sponsored listings (PPC). Yet despite these stats, […]

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Chances are, your search marketing efforts could be missing as much as 80% of your target audience.

Don’t believe me? It’s true.

Why? It’s fundamental. Most search marketers agree that about 70%-80% of all clicks come from the natural (organic) search results, while the other 20%-30% come from sponsored listings (PPC). Yet despite these stats, it seems that the only thing B2B marketers want to talk about lately is their PPC campaigns.


Now am I saying that most B2B marketers only engage in PPC? Hardly. Thankfully, most organizations today participate in both PPC and SEO (and those who don’t need to step up their game, and pronto). However, I have seen companies that have so much money invested in PPC, that they largely ignore SEO. But I can understand the allure of PPC as it appeals to our desire for instant gratification – it’s very satisfying to make campaign adjustments today, and see the results tomorrow.

However, if you are leveraging both PPC and SEO, you should be thinking about how you can improve overall performance. And one sure way to do just that is through integration. But while bringing PPC and SEO together sounds easy enough, successful integration can be challenging. Trust me, it has its pitfalls. I see the same integration mistakes made over and over. Given that, I’d like to help you avoid making the same errors. The following are a few common mistakes marketers make when trying to integrate their search marketing efforts.

Cross communication

Not surprisingly, communication—actually, a lack thereof—tops the list of pitfalls during the integration process. Though largely considered a no-brainer by many, lack of communication trips up more organizations than you might think. Personally, I have seen it ruin the search marketing efforts of more than a few businesses. Why? More often than not, it’s due to the fact that PPC and SEO are separated in one way or another. For some reason, many organizations mistakenly adopt a divide-and-conquer modus operandi. While the actual work structure can vary greatly, the two efforts end up distinct and separate. I’ve seen situations where an entire team of individuals is responsible for SEO, while another completely separate group handles PPC. Alternatively, I’ve seen search teams that subdivide into smaller units to handle each discipline.

Unfortunately though, separating PPC and SEO has a myriad of ill effects, and is a sure recipe for disaster—especially in large organizations. Such a divided set-up impedes—rather than facilitates—communication. This, of course, can wreak havoc. Poor communication between the groups can produce inconsistent programs where different keywords are often assigned different priorities, and/or where some paid and organic listings are prominent, while others only have a presence in one area. This approach can also negatively affect creative messaging as it creates inconsistencies, which in turn can confuse potential site visitors. In addition, such division can also produce considerable differences in landing pages.

So what’s a marketer to do? I recommend centralizing the search function as much as possible. However, if your organization demands that the search functionality be decentralized, your best bet is to foster cross communication. Sharing data across campaigns is a great way to improve results. For example, if you see that several terms are driving great results for your PPC efforts, you should leverage its data for the benefit of your SEO campaign so you can also show up well in the SERPs on the same terms. Conversely, if certain terms are under-performing in the SERPs, you would be wise to make sure you have solid PPC coverage on these terms. At the same time, while your ROI or ROAS metrics might price you out of the game on expensive terms, they can easily be identified and made a priority in SEO. In addition, PPC campaigns provide a great way to quickly test creative messages; smart marketers will use information gleaned from such tests to inform the Meta Data for your SEO campaign. Doing so will help to entice your desired users to click through.

Play to strengths

Another mistake marketers often make during this process is failing to leverage the strengths of each program. Let’s face it; both have their strengths and weaknesses. However, a key element in maximizing your performance is to have each campaign play to its strengths. Let’s say you want to market a short term promotion. Naturally, your efforts should focus on PPC as it offers both speed and flexibility. Not only can you control the start and stop dates of your campaign, you can select the exact messaging you would like to deliver, and even use it to quickly step up volume for an end of the quarter rush. It also allows you to easily create new landing pages to accomplish your desired goal. With PPC, all of these elements can be up and running quickly, whereas SEO’s lack of speed makes marketing short term campaigns less productive.

On the flip side, SEO is best at driving large volumes of traffic by optimizing for content that is consistently featured on your site. Therefore, it is ideal to optimize for your core terms in SEO, and work to maintain consistent placements in the SERPs and drive quality traffic. Should you need a short term burst, go with PPC. However, if you want to leverage SEO to get some more immediate returns, I suggest optimizing for video and image search as you can typically gain traction in theses areas more quickly than with conventional SEO methods.

Poor understanding

Lastly, one of the biggest mistakes marketers make while trying to integrate their search efforts is failure to understand what each program delivers. I find this not only disheartening, but also incredulous—especially in light of the significant investment required for each. But the fact is, many marketers struggle to discern exactly what their individual PPC and SEO campaigns are delivering for them.

But the struggle is for naught, as the information needed to facilitate this understanding should be at hand. Specifically, it can only be gained through the following: a clear understanding of your specific goals (which often differ for PPC and SEO), a plan for how you are measuring everything, a rigorous analytics system, and internal performance accountability.

Invariably however, organizations—both large and small—fail in delivering on one or more of these elements. Quite frankly, I think that failure explains a lot. If you don’t have a handle on all of these factors, it’s impossible to truly understand what you should be expecting from each program. In addition, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of proper measurement. Ultimately, those who succeed integrate their SEO and PPC efforts, but measure each individually.

In the end, well optimized and successfully integrated SEO and PPC campaigns are a powerful combination. As you strive to integrate your search efforts to improve overall performance, be sure to avoid these three pitfalls. Doing so will help position your organization to reach its full potential from driving business outcomes from search.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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B2B Engagement Matters: Seven Ways to Keep ‘Em Coming Back for More /b2b-engagement-matters-seven-ways-to-keep-%e2%80%98em-coming-back-for-more-12044 Wed, 29 Aug 2007 11:59:32 +0000 http:/beta/b2b-engagement-matters-seven-ways-to-keep-%e2%80%98em-coming-back-for-more-12044.php Ah, summertime, and the living is easy. Time to crack open a cold one and watch the qualified visitors roll in. After all, if you read my last two articles, you’ve probably identified your audience, and have a plan for measuring the business impact of your traffic. Naturally, kicking back must be next on the […]

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Ah, summertime, and the living is easy. Time to crack open a cold one and watch the qualified visitors roll in. After all, if you read my last two articles, you’ve probably identified your audience, and have a plan for measuring the business impact of your traffic. Naturally, kicking back must be next on the list, right?

Wrong.


Merely driving traffic is not going to make you successful. Instead, you need to foster engagement and build a relationship with your users. Specifically, you need to make sure that they find value in your content, that they come back and visit often, and that they ultimately become your customer.

Making this happen is a must. However, the actual approach will vary depending upon your industry and UVP (unique value proposition). Today, let’s take a look at a few approaches that have worked well for many of my B2B clients. It should give you some ideas on how to improve your engagement efforts.

Branch out. If you want to engage your audience, you not only need to create a compelling offer, you also need to supply alternative means of access to it. Quite simply, access shouldn’t be limited to just your website; you need to offer them different ways to hear your message.

Unfortunately though, many people become too focused on driving everything to their website. This is a mistake. Instead, you should aim to provide diverse access, of which there is no shortage today. You can get your message out via direct emails, RSS, online video content, podcasts, or some combination therein.

For example, one of my B2B clients now offers an online “Tip of the Day” via their website, RSS feeds, and online video. As a result, they have developed a sizable following that often checks back to see the tip. This is a great example of how access diversity helped make the offering a success. Ultimately, the success or failure of an initiative shouldn’t be based solely on a website visit, but rather on whether or not someone heard your message.

Make them look good. One way to provide value to a potential customer is by supplying them with information that not only makes them look good in front of superiors, but also generally helps them do their job better. This is an area where industry research is particularly effective at doing just that. For example, supplying potential customers with relevant studies that contain interesting findings with important implications will surely serve them well, whether the material has never been published before, or is outdated and no longer accessible. Moreover, supplying them with such research will do more than provide them with value; it can also quickly enhance your organization’s credibility, and in turn help you attract loyal customers.

Ask for input. While it might sound like a “no-brainer” to have this item on the list, you’d be surprised to learn how few organizations actually ask customers for input on the types of content they would like to see on the website, or in studies or white papers. Personally, I have always found that when you ask customers what is on their minds, you get some fantastic ideas.

Offer premium content. A great way to start building a relationship with potential customers is by offering them premium content that requires initial registration and subsequent log-ins to view the material. This grants them special access to great content, and allows you to gain more information about your potential customers, such as their name, company, title, and email address. Clearly, this method is a win-win situation for both parties.

Leverage your players. Another way to foster engagement is to introduce your audience to some of the key contributors in your company. For example, a few of my clients allow different members of their organizations to contribute various types of content to the website on a regular basis. Doing so allows their visitors to “meet” many of the players within the company. An effective way to do this is to allow the different subject matter experts in your organization—and not just at the executive level—to contribute to a newsletter which can be sent to customers and members of your online community. In addition, you can also foster engagement by encouraging readers to ask questions and propose topics.

Facilitate connections. Many B2B organizations are reluctant to allow their clients to interact with one another in a relatively unsupervised format. Perhaps they’re afraid that they will get together and bash the organization. To be honest—it’s a risk—it could happen. However, doing so could also hold great benefit. For example, bringing clients together could facilitate a great exchange of ideas on how to better leverage your product or service. In addition, the community can also be a great source of feedback about your organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

Manage the flow. Regular communication with your constituents can greatly enhance the relationship, but only if the flow of information is carefully managed. Today, everyone is bombarded with information. Given that, be sure your communication frequency isn’t to the extent that it begins to annoy people. On the flip side, you need to communicate often enough; otherwise, if you disappear for too long, people will begin to forget about you. While I can’t provide you with specific parameters on how often to communicate with your community, I have found that an audience’s appetite for information varies by industry and level of engagement. The best thing to do is to be mindful about it, and gather feedback from your users.

Overall, just driving traffic won’t get the job done. You need to keep your audience coming back for more. So be sure to devote time and effort to foster engagement and build those relationships. The above methods are effective ways to do just that. They have been successful for many of my B2B clients, and I’m confident they will prove helpful to you as well.

Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at b.kaminski@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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