Category Archives: Search Engine Marketing

Web Mastered

By | Business Intelligence, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Uncategorized, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | 4 Comments

Chris Gandolfo SEO Specialtist

Daily Sparks Tribune
Business – May 21, 2009

By Jessica Garcia
Most Web users tend to ignore flashing display ads or the text ads on Google surrounding their desired search results.

But to Chris Gandolfo of Sparks-based Westward Strategy and Design Group, those blurbs hold a key to determining how well a company’s Web marketing strategy works.

He makes his living evaluating the effectiveness of text-based or visual ads for his clients through a process called “analytics,â€Â? in which he counts the number of clicks or tests keywords.

While most Web marketing businesses do at least that much to find out how strong a business’ presence is on the Internet, Gandolfo has taken his four years of experience and put it to the test â€â€? literally. Gandolfo recently passed an exam and became, to Westward owner and marketing specialist Kristy Crabtree’s knowledge, the only local person to be certified as a Qualified Google Advertising Professional.

“The reason I did it is, one, I wanted the experience of working with my clientele; and, two, I wanted to continue to invest in my craft and develop my skill set,â€Â? said Gandolfo, 28.

According to Google, the certification requires four basic criteria.

  • The user must sign up for the program and remain in good standing.
  • They must manage at least one account in AdWords, a program through which webmasters can create their own display ads and select keywords for search engines.
  • They have to build and maintain an account where they manage the campaigns of their clients, who must spend at least $1,000.
  • Finally, they must pass the exam.

The exam is about 110 questions long and is taken online.

“It took every bit of my four years of experience to pass,â€Â? Gandolfo said. “It was not easy. … It covers aspect of platform analytics, campaign management, budget, how to write ads.â€Â?

For the company, it’s as if Gandolfo attained a Bachelor of Science degree but with experience instead of academics.

For the client who wants to market on the Web, the value of the certification can be equated to being a money manager, Crabtree said.

“It’s like you’re the professional who tells me where I should put the money and how to track it to get the best retail dollar,â€Â? she said. “It shows you invested time to make your business better.â€Â?

Being a qualified Google ad professional will equip Gandolfo to show his clients how they can improve their search engine optimization by targeting their traffic and rankings.

For example, with one client called PDUs Direct, which sells power distribution units, the Web site offers image-based advertisements, which works well because it’s a new business, Gandolfo said.

“With a brand new business, you want many eyes on it, as many as you can,â€Â? he said. “Right now, they’re averaging 12,000 to 15,000 impressions a day.â€Â?

An impression, he said, is one appearance of a rotating ad on a Web site. Many impressions is highly desirable when browsing a search engine like Google or Yahoo, which Crabtree said are the only two companies so far pushing for professional certification in Web marketing to help businesses attain the top-paid placements for ads. On Google, for example, those placements are the top few lines in a shaded box or are listed on the right-hand side of the page.

In an age in which many people go online to make purchases from home and in which 84 percent visit search engines for comparison shopping before making a purchase, companies would miss on advertising opportunities by not having their postings placed as close to the top as possible, Gandolfo said.

“(The postings) are based on the quality of the ad and quality of the landing page (the site to which the ad takes a user) and what you bid,â€Â? Gandolfo said.

Business has been slow for Westward as its clients reign in expenses, but Crabtree and her staff don’t have much time to notice.

“You have to do whatever you can to remain on the forefront,â€Â? Crabtree said. “You want to be the lead horse.â€Â?

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For more information about Westward Strategy & Design Group’s Search Engine Optimization services, sign up for a complimentary SEO Consultation. Westward Strategy & Design Group is a Reno Web Design and Marketing Agency specializing in Web Design , Web Development, Search Engine Optimization and Email Marketing.

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Photo by Debra Reid – Chris Gandolfo, marketing & design specialist for Westward Strategy & Design Group, helps companies increase their website traffic.

How Westward Strategy Builds Client Trust

By | Client Successes, Portfolio, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Strategic Planning, Web Design, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | No Comments

You can advertise in many ways, from web based to print to word of mouth, but how do you actually get customers and build a clientele? How are your marketing strategies working for you? Do you constantly have to followup to get clients?

Here are just some ways that Westward Strategy Builds Client Trust

1: Testimonials
Westward Strategy encourages all prospective clients to call our current and past clients for a testimonial of our work. You can ask questions that we may be impartial to answer. We also feature testimonials on our website and our brochures.

2: Knowledge
We continue to stay educated in all of our online marketing services. We also continue to only work with professional contractors who are proven in their field of expertise.

3: Examples of Our Web Design and Internet Marketing Work
We show all prospects our portfolio and are happy to show examples of our work or situations that we have been in to be sure to put the prospects mind at ease of what we have experienced.

4: Passion
We believe that passion plays a key part in client trust. We love what we do and believe that a client will feel more comfortable working with a business who has fun.

5: Telling the Truth
We always tell a prospective client the truth – maybe to often. If we can’t do the job, we don’t take it. We believe that it’s better to be able to deliver the BEST JOB rather than a subpar job.

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Contact Westward Strategy & Design Group, LLC.
If you are interested in the services we offer, please contact us at (775) 626-8330.

Online Marketing and Economic Downturn Discussions are Hot Again

By | Business Intelligence, Email Marketing, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Strategic Planning | 5 Comments

We talked about it back in July (with a bit more of a green tint), but the discussion of how beneficial all forms of online marketing can be in an economic downturn has definitely raised its head again. Rand at SEOMoz.org touches on search engine optimization in a downturn in his post today and the latest issue of Search Marketing Standard has an article by Laura Callow asking, Is Search Marketing Recession-Proof?

Rand’s article raises some valid points about the SEO industry. Now that other forms of advertising and sales channels have slipped up a bit due to their high costs or lower ROI, online marketing – including SEO, is taking more of the marketing budget pie in a lot of corporate environments. Internal marketing departments and external marketing agencies are having to prove their worth more, now that budgets are getting stretched and squeezed to their fullest. If a channel isn’t accountable for spending vs. sales then the likelihood that it will survive this downturn is unlikely.

Also, SEO is coming out of the shadows. As myths get debunked and education is expanded to business owners and marketers, true SEO is gaining ground as a viable marketing initiative. Of course there are still gamers, hacks and snake oil salesmen out there and until our industry grows up a lot more and sets some standards the fight will rage on between white hat and black hat SEO.

On the other side of the fence Ms. Callow discusses the benefits of search marketing or PPC advertising. Which is one arena where we have seen tremendous growth in the last several months. Of course a majority of this growth can be attributed to the holiday season, as we handle pay per click advertising for several online retailers. However it is not just retailers looking to leverage this channel over traditional advertising – many of our b2b customers have been asking about it as well. I believe Ms. Callow nails the reasoning for this perfectly in her article.

Often marketers are attracted to PPC advertising due to its inherent benefits such as advanced targeting, accountability and cost effectiveness. With PPC advertising you can start or stop ads at any time, run them only when you know people will be looking for your product or service, target by geographic region (down to the city level) and attract customers using their nomenclature at the exact instance of their interest and query. With advanced web analytics you can track click to conversion metrics to further account for each dollar spent vs. each dollar generated.

There is also a “safe” factor to PPC advertising. Marketers know that they can invest a minimal amount upfront and give it a test run. If they feel it is not working for them they can stop all ads and outgoing costs instantly or they can retool ads and spend more time doing keyword research to find better converting terms. Right now these are especially attractive features.

Don’t Stop at SEO and PPC Advertising

The only thing both of these articles are missing is any mention of other online marketing initiatives, like permission based email marketing. Email marketing is still a tremendous way to market on a very cost effective platform. It literally costs pennies, and in most cases fractions of pennies, to leverage an internal customer or lead list that may be gathering dust and turn it into a powerful customer relationship management channel and sales tool.

So if you are not already involved in online marketing, you better get your move on! You are already losing ground, market share and revenue to your competitors if you are not actively working the online channel. In all market conditions it is a powerful marketing tool, but especially during an economic downturn.

Top 5 On-Page Lessons From Google’s SEO Starter Guide

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, seo | One Comment

Google, amid much fanfare and crazed celebration, recently introduced a starter guide on search engine optimization (SEO) to the webmaster community.  The PDF document is aimed at users less familiar with standard SEO techniques and those that “wish to improve their sites’ interaction with both users and search engines.”

Titles

Hello my name is Fred and there’s nothing unique about me.  Would you be interested in hiring me?  Seems like the job interview from hell.  The funny thing is many websites have this same mentality in regards to title tags.  Titles are the first glimpse of a page users have with your site.  When a user bookmarks a page, the title is what is saved in the bookmarks folder.  Could you be missing conversions simply because your titles are not unique with your site’s main keywords?

Google recommends using accurate, unique and brief titles for each and every page on your site.  This is simple SEO at its finest, but quite often gets overlooked or forgotten about.  The title is valuable real estate for your site and as such should be effectively communicating the topic of the page.   All search engine queries that have keywords in your title will be bolded, instantly encouraging eyes of searchers towards your listing.

Descriptions

The meta description tag gives search engines a glimpse or summary of what the page is about.  Google recommends accurate and unique phrases that inform and interest users.  In essence, your site’s description is a brief piece of marketing copy that can make or break someone clicking on to your site.  There are many worst practice scenarios that seem to come up over and over again and should be avoided:

  • duplicate descriptions across a website
  • copying the title tag into the description tag
  • stuffing the description tag with a list of keywords
  • using a description that is not compelling marketing copy and lacks uniqueness

URL Structure

Hello, my name is Fredrif-06390p=12.  What’s your name?

Who’s going to remember Fredrif-06390p=12 and what makes him unique?  No one.  In the same sense your  website’s URL structure plays an important role in best practices SEO.  Google recommends using a URL structure that uses keywords from that specific page.  In addition, from a usability standpoint, a nice looking URL structure will make it easier for others to remember pages from your site.  Google also recommends having one URL for one unique page.  Many sites have duplicate pages with different URLs causing a duplicate content issue.  Set up a 301 redirect to solve this problem and clear any duplicate content issues.

Navigation

Your site’s navigation should be both intuitive and user-friendly.  Visitors on your site should find it easy to navigate to the page they are looking for.  Google recommends:

  • text-based navigation
  • properly formatted site-maps
  • useful 404 pages

Content

The brunt of your site lies within its content.  It’s the reason that someone visits your site.  Google’s guide has quite a bit of good information on this subject.  Here are some of the key take-aways:

  • make effective use of heading tags
  • make text easy to read, staying organized on the topic
  • use relevant language with keywords that users are searching for
  • keep anchor text intuitive and relevant
  • name images in a more intuitive way

The Top 2 Online Activities – Email and Search

By | Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, seo | No Comments

If you were looking for more reasons to hire a search engine optimization firm maybe this article and the data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project will give you all the reasons you need.

Pew found that the use of search engines, both the large generic kind and the small site specific kind, has risen dramatically since 2002. Where the use of email on a daily basis rose just 15 percent, the use of search rose 69 percent.

The best part is Pew gives us the demographic information to go with their study.

Those who are using search engines on an average day are more likely to be socially upscale, with at least some college education and incomes over $50,000 per year. They are more likely to be Internet users with at least six years of online experience and to have their homes wired for fast Internet connections.

Younger Internet users are more likely than older users to search on a typical day, and men are more likely than women to search on an average day, Pew reported. And those who use broadband connections at home are significantly more likely than those who use dial-up to have ever tried using search engines at all, by 94 percent to 80 percent.

With the explosion of content on the web, more and more users are integrating search into their daily activities with the expectation that utilizing this tool will garner the information they are looking for from an otherwise impenetrable mountain of information. Thus far major search engines have been able to answer this call (from the user’s standpoint) and each successful return of relevant information from a search query builds trust with the search engine and warrants it’s use the next time the user is seeking assistance.

As we tell all of our clients, just having a website does not mean it will generate traffic or dollars to the bottom line. Your website must be functional and findable.

Sports Attack’s Snap Attack in the News

By | Client Successes, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, seo | No Comments

The Ball Game
Rob Sabo, 7/14/2008 – NNBW.biz

A new football-tossing machine by Verdi-based Sports Attack LLC might just give the tiny 13-year-old company a leg-up in the sports throwing-machine industry.

Sports Attack last week introduced its “Snap Attack,â€Â? a throwing machine that simulates the quarterback snap, as well as the passing and kicking aspects of football. The company introduced the machine at football clinics in Georgia and Florida, but Sports Attack co-founder Doug Boehner says it’s too early to gauge feedback for future sales. Read Full Artcle>>

Sports Attack Snap Attack Football Throwing Machine

All of us at Westward have had the privilege of working with Sports Attack, LLC for a few months now and have helped them exceed their sales goals by adding search engine marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to their arsenal of marketing tactics. Their passion for their business is evident in every pitching machine, serving machine, and now football throwing machine that leave their facility.

It has been a rewarding experience to work with such passionate people!

SEO Myth: Having a Blog Means Top Rankings

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks | 18 Comments

Webmasters and site owners everywhere are looking for the holy grail of search engine optimization. They’re looking for that one thing they can do to get top rankings in the search engines. They want SEO to be easy. They don’t want to invest in time-consuming link building, article marketing, social media marketing, or website usability improvements. Worst of all they are still under the assumption that one thing will get them to the top of the search engines – blogging.

Enough websites, business periodicals, and newspapers have written about the benefits of business blogging that business owners and marketing managers with little to no experience with internet marketing have latched onto it as the holy grail of search engine optimization. Those in the business of web development and SEO have not helped matters at all. They continue to push the easy sale of business blogging on every client that walks through their door even though some businesses just have no reason to blog. Other businesses simply have no time to blog. Believe me blogging is time consuming as is often the first thing in our office to get neglected when we get outrageously busy. If you don’t have the time to manage your regular website do you think you will have time to blog as well?

Beyond the question of whether or not your business should have a blog lies the fact that blogging is not the holy grail of search engine optimization. There is no holy grail of SEO. There is no one thing you can invest minimal time in to achieve top rankings. It takes a considerable investment of time, either your own or that of an internet marketing consultant, in all of the items mentioned at the beginning of this article – link building, article marketing, social media marketing, website usability improvements, on-page content optimization and more in order to get top rankings for your chosen keywords.

Many web designers tout blogs as automagically having search engine optimized structure and code. This is a flat out fallacy. On-page optimization is dependent upon the SEO knowledge of the developer and/or designer. I have seen plenty of blogs with horrible on-page optimization. Even prepackaged free templates can suffer from under-optimized structure and leaving the blog engine’s default settings in place is virtually always an SEO killjoy. (Even our blog is not as optimized as it could be. Feel free to comment on it.)

Are we completely against business blogging? Of course not!! If we were, would we have a blog? We know that blogging can be a very powerful tool in any business’s online marketing arsenal. It is a great way to communicate directly and openly with your customers and potential customers. Blogs can give clarity as to what you or your product does and they can help greatly with online reputation management and customer service. They can even help garner good rankings for long tail terms and phrases related to your main keyword list, but it is not the only thing you, as a site owner, should be doing to create a powerful online identity. Most importantly, business blogging is not the holy grail of search engine optimization.

Green Marketing in an Economic Downturn

By | Business Intelligence, Email Marketing, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Strategic Planning | One Comment

Altered BambiEveryone wants to go green. It’s become hip to be environmentally conscience. At the same time we’ve hit very uncertain economic times. Every day we read headlines on record setting gas prices and more housing foreclosures. With things looking so uncertain many businesses are searching for ways to utilize their greenbacks more effectively, but also want to jump on the carbon-free, tree-hugging enviro-bus. So if this describes you, what can you do to accomplish both?

You can shift your marketing dollars away from traditional print and direct marketing to internet marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and PPC advertising. As we say on our solutions page, your website is the core to all your marketing initiatives. It is the only marketing tool that gives you direct, almost real-time, feedback of marketing campaigns. No more guesstimates as to how that direct mail campaign went or how many people even saw your ad in the yellow pages, let alone called you because of it.

With the tracking and analytics capabilities of the internet you know almost instantaneously how well your marketing collateral, ad buys, or email campaign was received. You get real numbers allowing you to understand where you should invest more or curtail other initiatives. If you are not receiving statistical data from your web development company, internet marketing firm, or email marketing agency you should probably seek additional vendor help in those areas.

Now more than ever it is critical to be strategic with your marketing dollars. It’s time you know exactly where your marketing dollars are going and exactly what you are getting for them. Return on your investment (ROI) can be determined almost immediately and there is no guessing. Can you say the same about your last print ad campaign?

Not only can you be more strategic with internet marketing, but you can also claim you’re going green! By not running print ads your business is not using the paper to print the direct mail pieces or using the toxic and environmentally unfriendly inks used in printing those items like postcard mailers or newspaper ads. Some people in the print industry or more traditional graphic design agencies may want to argue the validity of that statement, but stop and think about every aspect of creating and delivering a single direct mail piece. If you compare the total process from creating the ink, making the paper, printing the item and then delivering the item,with the alternative of using electrical energy to keep the ad servers up and running you can see the environmental impact for online marketing is dramatically lower than many other advertising options.

With online marketing, not only can you feel warm and fuzzy inside about doing your part to save the planet, but your wallet will also feel good. Because online marketing does not use those physical, natural resources it does not carry the same high cost as print advertising. When you hire an internet marketing firm you are paying for their time, energy, and effort to create your digital ad. You do not have to pay for the ink company to create the ink or the paper company to create the paper or the printer to print the creative piece – all those items that get built into the cost of doing direct mail. Instead your budget can be put towards what is most important – creating powerful ads that drive real customers to your door! Isn’t that the point of marketing in the first place?!?

When things look to be getting tougher many businesses immediately start to slash and burn their marketing budgets – one of the worst things to do in these times. You don’t want to bury your head in the sand and wait out the storm while your competitors expand their branding and advertising online. Instead you should contact an internet marketing consultant to help you put your marketing dollars to better use.

Vanity in Your Address Bar – WWW or no-WWW

By | Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Tips and Tricks, Web Design | 3 Comments

This is one of those elliptical conversations that seems to never really go away, it just keeps coming back again and again. This time around it is SitePoint that tossed the boomerang in one of their blogs. As they say this is really a rather geeky topic that stays mid-brain with most designers and developers, but is not something most business owners would even care to think about. However this is a top-of-mind topic for most SEO experts and can carry big implications if not handled correctly. First I will touch on the vanity aspect and then move on to the SEO concerns.

Is the WWW Necessary in Today’s Internet?

The answer – it depends.

It depends on a lot of things including the psychology, demographics and the users’ comfort level with computers among many other things. In the SitePoint article they note the launch of their own site, 99designs.com, as well as the social networking service Twitter.com as two examples without the WWW prefix. However, these two sites are targeted at a younger, more technically savvy, demographic that most likely will not even bother typing the WWW prefix in the first place.

With an older demographic on the other hand I would argue it is a requirement to include the WWW. When I used to do computer training courses for a public entity with a large percentage of older employees, instinctively I would speak domain names without the WWW and inevitably someone would ask if they needed to type WWW before that. Their limited knowledge in this area dictated how they interacted with websites. No amount of explaining the how’s and why’s of the internet would make them more comfortable in their interaction.

Any Ol’ Domain Will Do

While browsing through the comments on the SitePoint blog I noticed an overwhelming majority of people stating they didn’t care either way, but they set up domains to work with both the prefix and without it. They do this by changing the setup of their domain records. Few of the respondents indicate whether they use 301 redirects. While I am a proponent of having WWW and no-WWW take the user to a working website I also understand that if you fail to set up a redirect to one or the other it is possible to create a real search marketing snafu. More and more we are finding this to be one of the most overlooked aspects of web design and development. As an example we just took on a client who has had a website for over 7 years and yet their was no domain preference set via a 301 redirect.

The problem with this is referred to as canonicalization errors or canonical problems. It is a huge ugly name for something very simple. Basically search engines will count www.domain.com and domain.com as two separate pages. It doesn’t end there either. They will also see all of the variations below as separate pages.

  • www.domain.com
  • www.domain.com/
  • www.domain.com/index.html (or index.php, index.asp, index.cfm, etc.)
  • domain.com
  • domain.com/
  • domain.com/index.html (or index.php, index.asp, index.cfm, etc.)

Having multiple instances recorded by the search engines is a bad thing. Your website will suffer in the SERPs. One quick way to find out if your site is suffering from this problem is to use the site: and link: commands in Google and look at the total number of results returned.

So for example, type in site:www.domain.com and then try site:domain.com

If the numbers vary then you may have a canonicalization problem.

Which One Should You Use?

From an SEO standpoint I analyze all of the potential versions floating around that may or may not have links to them or may or may not be indexed by the search engines before I just hop on board with one or the other. If the non-WWW version has more backlinks and is generally performing better, I might redirect the WWW version there. However, coming back around to my first point in this article, current SEO performance should only be one piece of the puzzle. Usability and understanding your demographic should also play a role, because your domain name will be on everything (remember Integrated Marketing) from business cards to outdoor billboards to email marketing and PPC campaigns and should always look the same. Right down to how it appears in your address bar.

Get Your Oil Changed at Your Dentist and Your SEM from Sam’s Club

By | Business Intelligence, Search Engine Marketing, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | One Comment

I brought up the fact that Sam’s Club is offering SEM services in my last RFP (Random Friday Post) of 2007. At the time I didn’t break down exactly why nothing says craptastic like buying your SEM from a big box store, but today Ian has posted an excellent starting point for the conversation. It is definitely worth the read! I’m sure the conversation will explode in a million other blog posts before I even have a chance to do an in depth review of Sam’s Club services. So go, read and explore and when it comes time to hire a local, Reno SEO company don’t forget about us!

And, yes I stole my post title from Tracy Beach’s comment on the original post. 🙂