In-House SEO: Factors to Consider Part 1

mobile apps concept 639 x 268 px  8.88 x 3.72 in  72 dpiThere are a number of considerations that should be taken into account when deciding to keep Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts in-house. For example, the importance of SEO needs to be advocated from the top down in order for the goals of the program to be accomplished. Additionally, high-quality SEO work requires the integration of multiple disciplines. In order for your organization to avoid potential pitfalls, consider these in-house SEO dynamics:


Documenting the process of optimization is a good first step in order to determine whether or not your organization has the necessary time and resources for SEO. A well-maintained SEO program typically requires a minimum time commitment of 40 to 50 hours per month. The speed with which your company wants new optimized pages in market is another consideration. In-house SEO typically faces fewer roadblocks when implementing changes, but the SEO team may or may not have the time or expertise to address every issue. Results will heavily depend on time management and internal organization.


In-house SEO typically has greater control over content requirements because they have easier access to other departments involved in implementing changes. This can be a significant advantage of keeping SEO in-house, but it can become a disadvantage in some circumstances. Depending on the size and scope of resources available, inter-departmental communication issues may prove to be a challenge if they hinder an in-house SEO team from delivering results. Lines dictating responsibilities can also become blurred internally, so it may prove difficult to hold an in-house team to the same level of accountability to which a third-party agency can be held.


The search marketing industry is an ever-evolving one. In addition to the ongoing management of an SEO program, you should consider whether or not an in-house team has the bandwidth to stay current with industry trends and changes. Your company should take steps to ensure that time is being dedicated to staying current (or even ahead of) the trends and developing in-house resources. Employees may need supplemental training on software or procedures to maximize productivity and effectiveness. So in weighing the financial considerations of in-house vs. outside agency SEO, remember that the salaries of your in-house team are not the only factor to consider.

Whether working through an agency or not, those responsible for SEO work should be well-versed in a brand and its technical and legal nuances. One question to keep in mind is whether your SEO team needs to be equipped with an exceptionally rich understanding of your company’s industry and/or products at hand. Companies that make significant ongoing updates to their websites and franchise operations, and companies that provide highly technical products or services may prefer to keep SEO in-house rather than hiring an agency. The benefits of having a staff member dedicated to finding and resolving issues may outweigh any associated costs if the job requires a deep understanding of industry or brand-specific nuances.

Although in-house SEO teams tend to have greater control over resources, they may not have full control. Unexpected challenges may or may not outweigh the cost-saving benefit of not hiring an agency.  If your organization decides to keep SEO in-house, it is imperative to make sure the individual or SEO team is well-equipped with the resources needed to deliver results and drive overarching business goals.

What benefits does your organization find with keeping SEO in-house?

How to Practice Integrated SEO

search marketing integrated approach to search engine optimization

What is Integrated SEO?

You have your content marketing team, your PPC team, business operations, and sales team. Are these departments working together toward common goals? SEO is one way to build your brand’s visibility on the web, and bringing everyone into the loop can help you accomplish that in ways you might not expect.

An integrated SEO program is one that is intertwined with broad organizational goals as well as synchronized with the individual activities of other departments. It requires understanding that on-site elements—such as content and the website’s technical focus—need reinforcement through off-site components, such as social signals, link signals, and user signals. Here are some steps you can take to implement an integrated SEO program across all departments.

Define Your Goals

What are the business goals of the organization? What are the goals of the marketing department? How do marketing goals relate to the larger business goals? Before beginning any program, you must know the goals and how you will measure them. For an integrated SEO program, understanding the overall goals of the organization will help you make informed decisions. This understanding is crucial in helping you determine the specific operational goals of the SEO program. By defining goals from the outset, you can make sure your SEO program is enhancing an overarching marketing strategy rather than becoming a separate (and potentially misunderstood) component of it. Since this is an integrated approach, all initiatives must be working together.

Another point to consider during this preliminary process is how the success of the SEO program will be measured. Defining success metrics can help you choose the best tools to operate and track your program and manage expectations for the program as it evolves. Building shared metrics or KPIs is a great way to ensure collaboration and integration from the beginning.

Enable Success

It is important to keep your team informed about SEO objectives and how those efforts connect to the overall marketing goals. In addition, it may be beneficial to equip other departments with resources to help them incorporate SEO best practices into their routines. For example, a list of the top 20 keywords can help the marketing department, PR, and other teams better focus their efforts and message when working on their initiatives. Building shared resources and project plans make it easier to work together for success and maximize results. Open lines of communication and education about SEO can help keep everyone on that same path toward success.

Measure Results

A well-executed SEO program will require the use of various on-and off-website tools. Defining goals and metrics early on can streamline the tool selection process.

Competitive situations, business goals, and marketing goals all play a part in the selection of keywords, so it may be wise to invest in a keyword research tool. Other tools will analyze content and suggest changes in structure or verbiage. Integrating SEO with an overarching marketing program also requires providing an education on best practices and reinforcing them through the reporting process. In addition to research tools, you may want to acquire reporting tools that will help you effectively analyze and present the results of your optimization efforts.

With the right tools, you can track the success of your program and compare your program to your competitors over time. It is a best practice to examine comparative data month over month, as well as year over year, to properly account for the impact of seasonality.

Bring Everyone to the Table

SEO is a changing and evolving tactic that is often misunderstood. Instead of practicing SEO as a stand-alone service, integrate SEO wherever possible. It is a best practice to include all company departments involved in marketing initiatives, especially those responsible for content creation and website design. Keeping everyone in the loop helps connect the dots between individual departments. It also helps the organization capture every opportunity for optimization, such as time-sensitive or impromptu campaigns, partnerships, and promotions. In some companies, keyword research also impacts product research teams, as users’ needs may be expressed through queries and also through the words they use to describe products.

Key Takeaways

The results of an SEO program will vary depending on the specifics of your organization. Understanding goals, agreeing on metrics, and involving everyone in the process makes it easier to discuss objectives and how to achieve them as the program evolves. By understanding where SEO fits, setting realistic expectations, and fully integrating the idea of SEO into your organization, you will establish the foundation required to produce measurable results.

Does your organization practice an integrated approach to SEO? Share your tips in the comments!

Investing in SEO: Factors to Consider

SEO, SEM, digital marketingWhen it comes to implementing an SEO program, there are many factors a company needs to consider. What are your goals? What resources are available internally? What areas should you invest in to be successful? The best option for your company will depend on a complete assessment of what you want to accomplish with an SEO program, the internal time and budget resources available, the level of expertise required, and how SEO will fit into your integrated marketing mix.

Establish Goals

Before diving into the logistics, it is important to understand what it takes to perform SEO correctly and effectively. An assessment of expectations should be completed before determining how and where resources will be allocated. Is traffic or sales more important? Is there a geographic set of goals? What are the business outcomes and the interim milestone goals? What does a solid SEO program look like? Do you have the time and expertise necessary to carry out such a program? Once you have established goals, you can better determine whether or not you have the manpower, time, and level of expertise required to deliver success.

Experience and Expertise

Once goals are established, your company will have to determine a budget. Setting a budget helps to properly strategize how your program will operate. One of the primary questions to consider for a budget is whether or not staff is available to manage an SEO program, or if hiring a dedicated in-house SEO expert is a realistic option. It is important to keep in mind that a well-maintained SEO program requires a significant time commitment— 50 – 100 hours per month could be expected. If neither option is feasible, finding an SEO agency may be a worthwhile alternative. Even with an agency, though, you’ll need to designate an employee who will own the program and help ensure success.

There are many educational resources available to help users learn about SEO, as well as tools that can maintain various components of an SEO program. Choosing to remain in-house may help absorb some costs, but it may become necessary to invest money in tools necessary to implement and maintain an SEO program. Total costs for a complete suite of on- and off-website resources should also be factored into your budget. Remember that a correctly executed SEO program can take an average of 4 – 6 months to deliver real results. Your company should decide whether it has the time and money to experiment with various tools.

Another factor to consider is the level of knowledge at hand in comparison to the knowledge required to carry out SEO. An effective SEO program is multifaceted; it is imperative to understand how various components—such as content writing, link signals, page-load factors, platforms, and more—work together to drive results. While someone in-house may have enough time to dedicate to SEO efforts, you should consider whether or not they have the level of foundational knowledge needed as well as the extra time required to stay up to date with important changes in a fast-paced industry.  Agencies that specialize in SEO are committed to keeping up with the latest industry news, trends, resources, and best practices. In addition, agencies usually have experience managing SEO for a wide range of clients. By investing in an agency, your company essentially purchases a level of reliability, experience, and accountability that is not always attainable internally.

Overall Marketing Integration

After considering internal resources and capabilities, you should determine how SEO will fit with other marketing efforts. Companies that already work with agencies for other marketing tactics may choose to take the same route with SEO. Many agencies also provide a full range of services to help integrate SEO with overall marketing efforts to boost its effectiveness. If your company decides that working with an agency is the most cost-effective option, it is critical to define what the agency’s unique role will be within or in conjunction with your existing marketing structure.

A decision on how to invest in an SEO program will ultimately depend on your company’s goals and resources. With all these considerations taken into account, your company should be able to easily determine how and where to allocate resources in order to implement an SEO program and find success with it.

Have you decided to keep SEO in-house? Stay tuned. In a later post, we’ll discuss how to implement and manage an in-house SEO program.

How does your company manage SEO efforts? Do you work with an agency? Let us know in the comments.



Has Blogging Outlived its Usefulness in SEO?

In an ever-changing industry like digital marketing, it’s important to stay current and implement practices that will give your business an advantage over the competition. With close to a billion blogs on the Internet, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. With so much competition, has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? The answer depends on a few factors.

The Importance of Content

Whether or not blogging for SEO is useful anymore is a complicated question. No matter what your goal, a blog post needs to be compelling to both readers and search engines in order to be effective.

Long gone are the days of writing blog posts stuffed with keywords for “SEO.” Now, blogs should focus on great, sharable content. An initial focus on blog content rather than intent can ultimately increase SEO value through the result of engaging content. Blog posts that are useful to readers are more likely to have a positive impact on overall traffic than those written with the intent to lure visitors to your website. Engaging blog posts shared on social media drive traffic back to your website, improving social signals picked up by search engines.

Search engines have become sensitive to the content itself, so a blog lacking rich content can be counterproductive. Search engines’ complex algorithms pick on up on the content as a whole. A blog with well-developed content can help leverage your business or brand as an informed thought leader in the industry, fostering an engaged online community. This thought leadership sparks engagement in the social space, resulting in improved SEO value.

Additionally, consistent blog posting helps keep websites fresh and up-to-date, something search engines like to see. Many business owners struggle with keeping their website pages updated. Sharing blog posts on your website provides a solution to keep the website fresh.

How SEO Can Help

But is great content enough? SEO best practices should always be utilized to leverage your content. Conducting comprehensive keyword research can help you write an effective headline, develop proper meta tags, and contribute to on-page SEO. An SEO-friendly blog post should also include internal links to relevant content, descriptive image tags, and more. While these steps are no longer the only thing needed to maximize a blog’s reach in modern times, they are still an important foundation.

Proper search engine optimization on your blog posts can help drive high quality traffic to your site. Good SEO practices attract links, general social signals, and allow search engines to pick up on more keywords.

Harmony is Key

So has blogging outlived its usefulness in SEO? Not at all! Blogging and SEO are integral and interactive parts of a successful digital strategy. Today, it’s less about blogging for SEO and more about learning how to blog with SEO.

Engaging content combined with good SEO practices is still a great way to enhance your digital presence. Be sure to anchor your blog on high-quality content, but increase the reach of that content by incorporating SEO tactics on select blog posts. Once that foundation is in place, social signals can maximize SEO value. Blogs are still a critical component in a comprehensive digital strategy, but it is important to make sure great content, smart SEO strategies, and social media all work in harmony with one another in order to make the effort worthwhile.

Does your website have a blog? Why or why not?


Identity Crisis: Do you know what I do for a living?

Recently, a respected veteran of the search engine marketing world – who also happens to be the head of search engine marketing for one of the largest and fastest-growing companies on the planet – asked something on his Facebook account that surprised me. I won’t give a direct quote, but the gist of the question was: What should I call my department?

Few would think that the head of SEO at one of the world’s largest companies would have such a basic identity crisis. After all, this search engine optimization thing has been around for a long time. I started doing “SEO” 15 years ago in 1998. There are others who I know who were in the profession well before then. And, very few people would argue that Search Engine Marketing is not important to most companies.

However, my friend’s identity crisis was real. In fact, I think it is a real crisis for many of us who are members of SEMPO and members of the search marketing community worldwide. It’s very rare that I meet a search marketer who describes the whole of their job as “getting stuff to rank in Google.”

We’re asked to be analytics experts, coding experts, content marketing consultants, conversion rate optimization specialists, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention that we are the ones responsible for knowing about that latest thing that Google did, or the new mark-up language requirements that need to be followed, or how Bing and Yahoo! will react to the new website. Then there’s also the fact that many of us end up being business consultants, guiding our clients and employers on basic business principles – the same principles that, if presented without an online component, they would have no trouble understanding. But, put a piece of HTML code in the mix … well, you get where I’m coming from.

What do you do when your job description doesn’t adequately describe your job anymore? In the real world, most ask for a promotion. I think that’s exactly what many of us need to do. I believe that the company website should be the center of the marketing universe for most companies. Everything a marketer does should aim to drive consumers to properties you own and control. This has been a controversial opinion in some circles. Why not just convert the visitor on Facebook or Twitter? That’s great if you can, but those conversions should be considered gravy instead of the main course.

Sustainable and scalable marketing comes from a consistent flow of customers through a variety of channels. Over-dependence on any channel is a recipe for long-term disaster. Those of us in search have realized this earlier than many other marketers. We learned because we have a harsh teacher. Google has taught us that what works today may very well not work tomorrow. Those who survive in the ranks of search engine marketers don’t just expect change – they embrace it. Most SEOs I know have a near obsession with solving problems, and that is what makes them more valuable every year.

That’s why I think search marketers need more than just a seat at the table. We need to run the table. The time is right. No, Mashable, SEO is not dead. We’re just switching to the big, comfy marketing chair at the head of the table.


The Future of Digital Is Here and It Is Targeted

Here at SEMPO we’ve been thinking a lot this month about how digital has evolved so far this year and how we expect it to continue to evolve over the second half of 2014. There are many angles from which we could write about the topic—from Matt Cutts’ statements on the changing nature of guest posting, to Google’s de-emphasis of Google +, to the penalization of content networks and more.

With this article I want to focus on one specific way in which digital is changing, specifically, how we target and address our audiences.

The graphic below is from SEMPO’s State of Search research study. The ‘peaks’ in each section represent where marketers are developing a keyword strategy based on the position in the buying cycle of their audience. Although the degrees to which this is occurring vary widely based on the activity, the presence of the peaks—and the inclusion of the question in SEMPO’s annual report for the first time—reflect a mindset shift for marketers towards a more targeted approach in addressing their audience.SEMPO_Future of Digital




















In 2014, what we are witnessing is the next step in the maturation of digital marketing. Carried by the renewed focus on content marketing, digital is evolving from the old ‘cast one wide net and see what lands’ to the new ‘cast multiple focused nets’ with a clearer expectation of not only what will land, but what will drive the prospect to the next step in the buying cycle, culminating in a conversion event.

The ‘multiple nets’ approach applies not only to content focused on speaking to your audience based on their specific needs based on their position in the buying cycle, but it applies to evolving from speaking to a broad ‘audience,’ to speaking to individual personas who each have their own unique pain points, desires, and motivations for evaluating your product or service.

Oracle Study Foreshadows the Future

In the same way the ‘peaks’ in the graphic above portend the writing on the wall when it comes to a shift from ‘broad’ targeting to ‘specific’ targeting, the chart below from an Oracle/Eloqua study foreshadows a coming shift to specific targeting.

Nearly half of marketers surveyed say they are in the process of learning to align content with strategy and better map it to the buyer’s journey. The fact that this group–those ‘learning to align content’–is the largest group of all respondents shows that change is one that is occurring now. Yes, respondents to an Oracle survey likely skew to the enterprise, but changes in the enterprise often foreshadow coming to mid-market and SMB’s and this is a case where all digital marketers should be aware of what’s coming.

SEMPO_Future of Digital 2









What Does it Mean for You?

Certainly there’s no expectation that you transition overnight from broad to targeted digital marketing. But you can start thinking about who the personas are that you are addressing, what their pain points are, and how you might better map your content and SEO efforts to target them. If you do so, you are likely to find that better targeted content results in higher click-through, consumption, and conversions.

How to Optimize for Local Search

Most experts agree that local search should continue to be an area of focus for search marketing professionals in 2014. Google continues to pay attention to improving local search results, and expanded use of the Local Carousel is just one example of Google’s recent enhancements. How should your business — assuming it has a physical location and regardless of size — optimize for local?

Here are some tips:

–  Claim Your Google Places Listing: Google Places are business listings that allow your business to be found on Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices. By claiming your Google Places listing, you’ll be able to ensure your address, telephone number, hours of operation, and contact information are correct, and you’ll be able to connect with customers by sharing photos, updates, news, and special offers. In addition, claiming your business allows you to respond to reviews that are placed within the site. Visit Google Places for Business to claim your listing.

Build a Dedicated Local Page: When building a page for local, remember that people searching locally are likely to have a more immediate need for your services. Thus, it’s important to add elements that will easily enable visitors to find your physical location. Store locators, mapping technology, telephone numbers, and product/service reviews are essential to your dedicated local page.

–  Identify Local Search Terms: Your market is generally coming from a geographic area that can be as narrow as a few-block radius or as wide as several counties. The geographic qualifiers depend on the size of your  community and the competition for your service. Think about how far your geographic reach is and add those search phrases to your dedicated local page. For example, people likely travel a short distance for a grocery store but may travel a significantly larger distance for fine arts and  accessories. Then, infuse the page with geographically relevant search terms including surrounding towns that searchers may include in their search to learn more about your business.

Get Listed in Local Directories: Once you have a dedicated local page, getting listed in many relevant local directories is an important local search factor. It is vital to make sure your citation information (name, address, phone number, description) matches the information in your Google Places listing. Google will discredit your business if there are inconsistencies between the Google Places listing and those listed in other directories such as Yelp, Foursquare, YP, and Patch.

You can quickly and easily manage your online business listings with a single click at Moz Local. Moz Local pushes your listings to all of the major local data aggregators, where search engines can access your information, ensuring it is correct, consistent, and visible across the web.

Be careful when using paid submission services. Some services will remove your listing(s) once you stop paying for the service. It’s worth noting that another advantage to manually submitting your business listing is that you’ll maintain control over your listing’s passwords.

Optimize Your Website for Mobile: With mobile penetration expected to reach upwards of 75% this year, more consumers are likely to be searching for your business from their mobile device. “If you want to stay relevant and attractive to your visitors, you need to provide them with easier access through their mobile devices,” says Ben Oren, Director of SEO at WhiteWeb Technologies.

Businesses should consider site design from a mobile-first perspective. Content, navigation, and interactions must be carefully developed for mobile. For example, content order is important because of its tendency to restack on smaller screens, and logical navigation is important because people are tapping buttons or links with their thumbs.

One option for mobile that many businesses are considering is responsive website design. With responsive design, your site adapts to the screen size of the device on which it’s displayed, which means that you won’t need a separate mobile version for your website. According to Google, responsive website design is considered an industry best practice and is their recommended configuration.

From an SEO perspective, site owners can develop a mobile SEO strategy that includes location-based terms more likely to be used from a mobile device. Likewise, you won’t have to duplicate your link building, site authority, and social share efforts, as you’ll be able to dedicate your efforts to linking to a single site.

Engage With Your Customers: Google Places, Google+, Yelp,  Foursquare, and others are relevant because of the independent review provided by consumers. Engage your customers via social media or other methods, and encourage them to leave reviews on local directory sites. Positive reviews add credibility to your brand, increase your domain  authority, and provide Google with clues that your business should appear high on search results.

Optimizing for local search is no longer an optional activity. It’s an essential part of your overall optimization strategy and should not be overlooked.


Factors That Impact Your Positioning in a YouTube Search

In our last blog post, we discussed optimization strategies for your video content. By providing visitors with compelling titles, descriptions, and tags, you are providing YouTube’s search engines with the triggers to support your optimization efforts. Like the content triggers discussed earlier, there are several engagement factors that are influential in getting your videos to the top of YouTube.

Much attention has been paid to Google’s ranking factors and algorithm and how they impact your positioning on Google.  By becoming aware of YouTube’s ranking factors, you could improve your video’s rankings on both YouTube and Google. Here are some critical engagement factors that influence your video’s YouTube ranking:

1. Trust and authority of your YouTube channel

YouTube prefers video producers that routinely produce quality video content. Thus, it looks not only at engagement of individual videos but also at engagement of your video channel overall. Factors such as number of subscribers, number of channel views, and the overall age of your video channel are important in ensuring consistently high ranking videos.

2. Engagement of your videos

While the overall number of views is surely an important factor in a high-ranking video, it is more important for your video to be interesting to those who choose to view it. How long do your videos keep your viewer’s attention? Generally speaking, videos that capture 40% of the viewer’s attention (i.e., over two minutes of a five minute video) will help your video rank higher. YouTube looks at two audience factors – absolute (what percentage of your video is watched) and relative (how does this compare to other videos of similar length?).

3. Social signals

As with traditional SEO, social media links appear to be an increasingly important factor in the overall strength of your content. Factors that indicate video social sharing include embeds, external links, and the strength of the sites the video is being shared on. Particularly strong social sharing sites include Digg, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ so be sure to prompt sharing to these and other sites when posting your video.

4. Comments, responses, and reactions

YouTube wants to gauge how much dialogue your video generates. The numbers of comments, likes, and responses are important factors in determining your video’s ranking. Note: video responses in particular are hugely important. After all, YouTube is a video sharing site. If your video is responsible for creating additional video content for YouTube, you’ve hit an SEO home run.

Likes and shares are also factors that determine level of interest in your video. YouTube gives significant weight to the number of shares.

YouTube has determined that engagement is a better measurement of quality and satisfaction than simple views. As Google has given greater importance to Quality Score, YouTube has given greater importance to engagement. In both, the common threads are quality and relevance. If you create quality and relevant content for your readers and viewers, you stand a much better chance of getting to the top of every search engine.




How Optimizing Video Can Lead to Traffic and Conversions

What’s the second largest search engine behind Google?

Bing? No.

Yahoo? No.

AOL? No.

The correct answer, of course, is YouTube, which processes more than 3 billion searches each month. Additionally, since November 2011, YouTube video results are embedded into Google search results. Try typing “psy Gangnam style” into Google, and the first four results, ahead of Wikipedia, Facebook, and Billboard, are YouTube videos. (Psy’s Gangnam Style, incidentally, is the most watched video of all time with nearly 2 billion views as of February 10, 2014. Thus, it seems logical for search marketers to think beyond Google and Bing. Search strategies must include all aspects of digital marketing, including video. Let’s examine the key strategies for optimizing your video content.

1.  Choose the most relevant content for your business – Context is equally important in video optimization as it is in search optimization.  A simple tutorial on how to use your product is a great video for product marketers. Hosting a webinar that conveys your expertise on a particular subject is a great choice for service marketers. Remember, consumers like video because it gives them a better understanding of your product or service. It aids in the decision-making process. As you develop your script, put yourself in the mind of the searcher. Include phrases that are searched on often.

2.  Select a keyword relevant title for your video – The title of your video is like a PPC ad. Its purpose is to gain a click-through. Choose a title that is relevant to the content of your video, but exciting and engaging enough to get that coveted click-through. Your title should include a key phrase that your research determined to be the most relevant search phrase for your desired action.

3.  Include tags – Tags are keywords and phrases that provide the YouTube search engine with clues as to what your video is about. Think of them as hashtags for your videos. List your most relevant tags first, as order does play a factor in YouTube’s algorithm. Be as specific as possible so you can limit the amount of competition for your video. What makes your video unique? Try to include the same keywords you included in your video’s title.

4.  Write a keyword-rich description – Make sure you use the same relevant keyword phrases that you included in your title and tags. This consistency will go a long way towards establishing the relevancy that is so important to both Google and YouTube. Be thorough and comprehensive. So many video creators cut corners when developing their video’s description, but you can really give yourself an edge if you provide YouTube visitors with an in-depth description.

5.  Upload a transcript – Uploading a transcript to YouTube is an easy way to ensure your targeted keywords are interpreted correctly by the search engines. Simply create a .txt file of your video’s script, and upload it to YouTube via the Video Manager section of your YouTube account. When you name the .txt file, use the search term you’re optimizing for in your .txt file’s name. Additionally, by uploading a transcript, you automatically enable YouTube’s captions.

6.  Create a video sitemapGoogle Webmaster Tools provides simple instructions on how to create a video sitemap.

Each entry must contain the following pieces of data:

1. Title
2. Description
3. Play page URL
4. Thumbnail URL
5. Video file location or player URL

It is recommended that you host your video on YouTube and embed the YouTube video on your own site.

Optimizing video is a process, and like traditional SEO, will reap tremendous benefits to your business or your client’s business when followed correctly.



Keyword Insights: An Interview with Bill Hunt

How are Hummingbird and “not provided” affecting the Search Marketing industry? What are some insider tips and tricks? SEMPO recently chatted with Bill Hunt, President of Back Azimuth Consulting and co-author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., about his views on Search Marketing and the latest industry changes.

1. What initially attracted you to work in the Search Marketing industry?

I got pulled into it indirectly by optimizing my own earthquake preparedness site to rank well in US and Japanese search engines.  After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, we did significant business with Japan and that success was reported by a number of business magazines.  The phones were ringing off the hook but not for the earthquake kits or consulting but from companies. Most wanted us to help them enter Japan using search engines.  I sold the kit company and my wife Motoko and I focused on localization and optimization of sites for large companies like AT&T, HP, and Western Digital.

2. Tell us a little bit about your approach to gaining keyword insights.

My process is a multistep process to segment the words by logical categories and let the data point us in the right direction.  Keywords from different sources can tell us a lot about our consumer.

The first and primary insight I want to know is how are we performing for our products and services.  It is not sexy but performance for all products, services, categories and their buy cycle attributes.  These don’t need to be researched or supported by any data – they are your primary keyword universe and should be non-negotiable.

Once we have the products and services data all set, what does the data tell us? Do any patterns emerge when you look at a cluster of words?  Do they use one over another; is there a price relationship or a lack of knowledge about the product? Some interesting examples I have found are:

Las Vegas Hotels – what do they really mean when they use that phrase?  We found that 83% of the search volume for variations of this phrase were related to “cheap or discount” hotel rooms.  That while they searched using “Las Vegas Hotels” they really meant “cheap Las Vegas Hotels.”  So if the #2 ranking page has a snippet of “The premier Resort on the Strip,” which clearly does not sound cheap, you are not going to get clicked.

Cloud Computing – along the same lines, we found 87% of the variations of this phrase were “what is” or “what are the benefits” related to cloud computing and all the pages ranking on the first page were educational pages that described what cloud computing was.  Once my clients changed the content they jumped to the first page.

Some other sorts we want to look at are:

By revenue – what keywords make you money?
By margin – where do you make the most money?
Misspellings – how many ways do they misspell different words?

Currently I am finding one of the best sources of insight is site search data.  These are phrases that are being used on your site showing specific interest in the product or service.  For one of our retail clients, we identified over $4 million in untapped opportunity to upsell and cross sell site searchers who wanted to upgrade or add to their products but none of the content supported these phrases.  Simply adding the ability to buy up recovered the cost of the effort in less then two weeks.

Another big analysis I think people should do is to look at their top 20 highest CPC paid search terms and see if they rank in the top 3 organic and which page is ranking.  So far nearly 200 people have told me that less than half of their terms are ranking for their most expensive words.  Google research shows that as much as 66% of the paid listings that are clicked don’t have a corresponding organic listing.  This is pure gold if you can fix this not only from a cost reduction but from a brand and shelf space opportunity.

3. What kind of tools do you use and recommend to gain keyword insights or research? Does this differ based on the size of the company and, if so, how? What can be gained from drilling down through keyword data?

I honestly believe the process is the same no matter the size of the site or company.   I think that some search teams get overwhelmed thinking about keyword data modeling for an enterprise company with millions of words.

The #1 tool is your brain. I don’t think enough people spend time thinking about their keywords, their audience, and, most importantly, what did they want when they searched and why did they use a specific phrase when they did it.

As far as commercial tools, this is the interesting thing about our industry – there are not any available.  Sure all the tools have keywords in them and give you data and a few even have some basic classification but none are really enabling you to do anything with the words and data.

I am obviously partial to the keyword management/mining tool that I have spent the last 2 years developing – it pulls in all your keywords and associated data and does the segmentation I have already mentioned.

For those without a tool like mine, I think a simple database or pivot tables in Excel can work wonders.  Once you have tagged the words into classifications, you can sort them any number of ways to find opportunity.  I am finding most advanced search programs, like those at SAP and TripAdvisor, require their Search Team members to be proficient in SQL to be able to mine for opportunities.

There is a lot of data that can be gleaned from the data.  I have hundreds of examples of opportunity that was mined.

4. Has Hummingbird impacted your process for recommending/prioritizing keywords or phrases?

It has not changed our process but has been helpful to get companies to better understand the need for Searcher Intent Modeling.   This is especially true with any phrase related to “how to” do something.   Hummingbird is trying to deduce the intent of the search and we have seen a number of pages drop for companies that are not specifically answering the “how to” or don’t specially match the intent of the searcher.   Also we are pushing content type alignment – for one of our clients that has a lot of cocktail recipes, many of their web pages were replaced by their YouTube videos on making various drinks.  We have made some changes so that the video and the page are ranking, increasing their SERP shelf space.

5. In your opinion, when should you trust your gut instincts and when should you trust data in keyword selection? 

I think you have to always trust your gut first since it is a great gauge of intent. Search Marketers rely too heavily on tools to guide them rather than instinct.

6. How important is it to reevaluate/review keywords? When should this be done?

It is critical to do it at least quarterly, and I have a few clients that review all new keywords on a weekly basis.  It really depends on the turnover of your words and how many new products you have.

7. How has “not provided” impacted your process of measuring keyword optimization success? What metrics do you recommend for evaluating keyword success?

It has had a pretty significant impact but we are starting to work around it.  I am well known for my “Missed Opportunity Models,” which use the gap between search volume and organic visits for a specific keyword.  These models have been used by many companies to justify their search programs and they are nearly impossible to do now.

Most of the companies I work with still use rank and organic search engine revenue as their key drivers.   While we cannot tie it to a specific keyword, we can show that overall non-paid search revenue is increasing.

We just built into our tool the ability to leverage PLP’s, rank, and page revenue data as a proxy for organic performance.  How this works is every Tier 1 and Tier 2 keyword we have assigned a “preferred landing page” – the page we believe has the best opportunity for conversion.  We then look at organic attributed revenue month over month and rank of the assortment of words month over month.  This allows us to show that an increase in ranking or the swap of a PLP over another page has had positive impact.  We can see the same when a word or a set of words drop in rank.

We also look at traffic based on Google Webmaster Tool data which we pull in but it is only a fraction of actual data.

8. Where do you see the role of keyword research and optimization going in the future?

They are becoming even more important, especially since we have less data to support performance improvements with not provided.  I have been advocating a Keyword Czar role for a number of years, and there are a few companies that are starting to adopt this at least as a part-time role.  With the increase in social media conversational mining and the demands for content ideas, this is becoming more and more important.

It is a great tool for content creation efforts.  We do a lot of modeling of words and opportunity and if you lay that out in a hierarchical flow it pretty much tells you exactly what content your are missing and how to better speak the language of your consumer.

How are Hummingbird and “not provided” affecting you? Where do you see the role of keyword research and optimization going in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily SEMPO.