Nick Stamoulis

Author Archives

  1. 3 Ways to Measure Your SEO Success

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    Like any other marketing tactic, site owners want to see the results of their SEO investment. Are their efforts/time/money paying off? Since SEO is long-term, it’s often hard to show immediate progress, but with a few months of link building, content creation, and social activity under your belt, it’s usually possible to see some semblance of positive progress. Here are three ways site owners can measure their SEO success:

    1. Increase in non-branded, organic traffic.

    Probably the easiest way to measure SEO success, a growth in non-branded, organic traffic is usually a sure sign your SEO campaign is having a positive impact on your website. Visitors who come to your site through non-branded keywords didn’t necessarily set out looking to do business with your brand; they found you through the search engines. As you optimize your website and begin to build new links and fresh content and grow your social presence, your website earns more SEO value, helping it do better in the SERPs for various search phrases. Depending on your niche, your SEO growth might be a steady upward slope month after month, while for other companies it has its ups and downs and is a slower process. But even a small increase in organic traffic month over month adds up. While 50 new visitors a month may not seem like much right now, at the end of the year that’s an extra 600 visitors.

    2. Increase in referral links and visitors.

    As you build more content, both on your blog and on other industry sites, you are also building/earning natural links. One blog post on a popular niche blog can send hundreds of visitors to your site over a few months. For instance, I did an interview with link building expert Eric Ward, which he linked to from the homepage of his site. In a month that one referral link sent 800 unique visitors back to the blog post! As you build/earn links you might start to notice new referral links and extra bursts in traffic. For instance, one of my clients wrote a blog post that got linked to from a Forbes blogger (perfect example of earning links through content marketing!) and that post is still sending 25-50 visitors a month to their blog. Take a look in your Google Webmaster Tools account and download the latest links to see if there are any new referral links that indicate your SEO program is proving successful. You can also look in Google Analytics as well as Moz’s Open Site Explorer for new referral links.

    3. Increase in number of non-branded keywords driving traffic.

    While you may have a short list of “money keywords” that you want to do well for, those aren’t the only search phrases that could be driving traffic to your website. A good SEO program is about building organic traffic from as many relevant search phrases as possible because no two people are guaranteed to search for the same thing in the same way. You want your website to be a viable result for a wide variety of non-branded search phrases in order to connect with as large a customer base as possible. Take a look at your Google Analytics account, pick a time frame 6 months before your started your SEO campaign, and compare it to now—how many new non-branded keywords are appearing? It doesn’t matter if those new keywords sent 10 visitors apiece or just 1—more non-branded keywords is a good sign that your SEO campaign is helping improve your organic search presence.

    Obviously the end goal of any marketing program is to increase sales, but it’s equally important to look at these SEO successes as steps along the conversion path. You can’t reach more customers if they can’t find your website, right? An increase in traffic, referral links, and non-branded keywords are all signs that your overall online presence is growing and with that comes more leads into your sales funnel.

    About the Author

    Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com/), a Boston-area SEO company. With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.

    Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com

  2. Can Social Activity Replace Traditional Link Building?

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    As Google continues to crack down on link building practices many site owners are left unsure of how to proceed. Could one bad link upset the algorithm? How much influence is their link building past having on their present day success? Could another update come down the pipeline that changes the game again? This fear of what may be has a lot of site owners running scared from link building. And when you couple this crack down on links with the growing influence of social signals and author authority many are starting to wonder—could social activity replace traditional link building someday? Is a Tweet worth more than a link?

    Here’s what Julie Joyce of Link Fish Media had to say about that;

    I’d prefer a text link but I’d accept a tweet though, because I do think that good social signals can raise a site up in the rankings even if it’s temporary, and the traffic is good. I imagine you can get better traffic from a good tweet than you can by many links on sites that no one goes to.

    I think Julie makes a great point—links are still very much the bread and butter of SEO, but social links from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and so forth can send a phenomenal amount of targeted traffic over to your site. And at the end of the day which would you rather have? A decent link or 10 more unique visitors? In a perfect world every link you built would be relevant and authoritative (the kind Google loves to reward) AND it would deliver a noticeable amount of targeted traffic. But we don’t live in a perfect SEO world; some of our inbound links are less than great, and plenty of quality links on quality sites send next to no traffic. In my opinion, a strong SEO campaign needs to balance referral links that can drive traffic (but maybe aren’t on the strongest sites) with links on incredibly valuable and trusted websites that add a lot of credibility to your link portfolio.

    For instance, you could write a guest blog post on a relatively small site but if it has as strong social presence and a small, but dedicated, network of followers that post could get a lot of social love and send a decent amount of traffic your way. On the other hand you could write for a site with a higher domain authority (meaning a more authoritative link) but perhaps because it’s bigger and there is more content going live everyday your individual post doesn’t get as much social love and attention as the feature post on the smaller blog. There are pros and cons to writing for both sites—one creates more valuable links, the other creates more social pull and traffic. Does that mean one site is intrinsically better than the other? Not necessarily—my advice would actually be to try and write for both sites and cover your SEO from every angle.

    I imagine that Facebook and Twitter are wildly protective of their data when it comes to sharing with Google, but the search giant is assuredly taping into Google+ to see what kind of linking and sharing is going on. While there is no proof, I’d wager that Google+ activity is being weighted by the algorithm in some way, shape, or form. If Google sees a particular blog post on a quality site (with a few links back to your site) AND that post is getting heavily shared on Google+ it helps legitimize those inbound links as something more than just an attempt to bolster your link profile.

    Perhaps Google will never replace traditional links with social activity, but as Erin Everhart pointed out “Links will always matter, but links without social signals could easily be coming under scrutiny.” It’s entirely possible that SEO is moving into a realm where inbound links are still wildly important, but those links need to be backed up by social authority and activity in order to “count” in your favor. In my opinion, Google wants to encourage transparency and above-the-board link building practices and one of the best ways to encourage legitimacy is to rewards those sites that use real people to help market their brand. It’s much harder to spam when your name, face, and reputation are on the line.

    What do you think? Is traditional link building on the out?

    About the Author

    Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston search marketing firm Brick Marketing. With over 13 years of industry experience Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog, as well as guest blogging for numerous top SEO industry sites.

    Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com

  3. Do Your Keywords Account for Every Stage of the Customer Buying Cycle?

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    At the end of the day, the main goal of most SEO campaigns is to drive more targeted, organic, non-branded traffic from the SERPs to your website. The keywords you target on your site and with your content marketing efforts have a significant impact on the kinds of searches your website will rank for. Not everyone is going to search for the same thing in the same way, and depending on where searchers are in their buying cycle, they might be looking for different kinds of information. That’s why your keywords have to cover every stage of the customer buying cycle and include both informational and commercial keywords.

    Informational Keywords

    Informational keywords tend to have the highest amount of search volume because they are being used by searchers at the very beginning of their buying cycle and can lead searchers down many paths. Since these keywords have more search volume, they are “worth” a lot more to the companies targeting them with their SEO, since even 10% of 20,000 searches from one keyword would be a nice bump in organic traffic. This increase in competition makes it that much harder to rank well in the SERPs for these informational keywords, simply because so many other sites are fighting for top billing.

    Let’s say I am an inventor and I need to hire a patent attorney. I have no idea how much I should pay for their services, how to tell if a patent attorney is trustworthy, and so forth. So my searches for “patent attorney” are going to involve more informational and broad keywords at the beginning as I’m looking to gather as much information as I can before making a final decision.  As I learn more, I might search for things like “patenting my idea,” “how to patent my invention,” “invention patent,” and more.

    Broader keywords don’t usually convert as well as long-tail keywords because, as I mentioned before, they can take so many directions based on user intent. For instance, when I did a quick search for “patent attorney” the 4th site I saw in the SERPs (after all the local listings) was about how someone can become a patent attorney. As an inventor, that doesn’t help me very much. However, an actual patent attorney isn’t going to avoid targeting “patent attorney” as a keyword simply because some of the searchers might be looking for a new career path. This informational keyword could drive a lot of potential business to their site early on in the buying cycle, giving them more time to educate, inform, and build a rapport with those visitors. As the inventor, I might not pick up the phone and call the first result I click on, but maybe I scope out their services, read some of the blog, download a white paper about filing patents, and file that particular attorney away in the back of my mind. As I continue my searching and move further along my buying cycle, if I see that site again I might be more inclined to click back over.

    Informational keywords are an important part of your SEO program because they can help introduce your website to a wider audience and help turn your company into a resource for those customers as they move through their buying cycle.

    Commercial Keywords

    Commercial keywords tend to be used by searchers who are further along in their buying cycle and are getting ready to pull the trigger. Obviously words like “buy,” “download,” “order,” and so forth are strong indicators that someone is looking to convert soon, but not every commercial keyword has to include a purchasing word like those. For example, let’s say I was interested in starting a vegetable garden in my backyard. My informational searches might be things like “planting a vegetable garden, “easy vegetables to grow,” “first time gardening tips,” and so forth. I’m not necessarily looking to buy anything just yet; I’m just trying to get a better understanding of what I’m getting myself into. However, as I move through my buying cycle and am getting ready to actually start planting, my searches might evolve to included things like “vegetable garden starter kit,” “vegetable garden soil mix,” or “raised vegetable garden bed.”  I don’t specifically say I want to buy something in my search phrase, but what I am searching for indicates I’m looking for a specific thing as opposed to general information.

    Commercial keywords are an important part of your SEO campaign because these are the keywords that tend to make the money. While the conversion rate might be higher, more long-tail and specific keywords also tend to have a smaller search volume, meaning a smaller pie for you to drive traffic from. For instance, “vegetable gardening” might drive 3,000 visitors to a particular site while “organic vegetable garden pesticides” may only send 50 in the same time frame. However, someone using the more commercial keyword knows what they are looking for specifically and might be more inclined to buy sooner rather than later.

    When it comes to SEO, you have to make certain that your keywords cover all stages of the buying cycle—all the way from the initial information gathering phase right up until the point where they pull out their credit card. Depending on what you are selling and how much it costs, the buying cycle might take several months to complete. Imagine if you had to lay down $10,000 for a product—you would probably take your time, right? Or your customer’s buying cycle could be relatively short if it’s a relatively straightforward purchase. But a good SEO campaign seeks to target both informational and commercial keywords because it helps your website appear in the SERPs for the broadest possible audience.

    About the Author

    Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston SEO solutions company Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com/). With over 13 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.

    Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com