Category Archive: Uncategorized

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

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    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.

     

  2. State of Search Marketing Infographic – Measuring Performance

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    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic on Measuring Performance. This infographic shows the ability to measure ROI continues to be a struggle for social and mobile marketing. While marketers are confident in their ability to measure paid search and email, more needs to be done to improve the ability to calculate overall ROI of all digital marketing programs separately and in an integrated fashion.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and offers insights into what to expect in 2014. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report, which was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

    SEMPO_State of Search_Measuring Performance

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report here.

    If you would like to become a SEMPO member, please click here.

    Past State of Search Marketing reports can be viewed here.

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  3. State of Search Marketing Infographic – Budgeting Trends

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    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic on Budgeting Trends. The infographic shows that as search marketing increasingly becomes an integrated discipline, companies will need to be more agile in shifting their budgets to stay ahead of their competition.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and offers insights into what to expect in 2014. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report, which was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

    SOS_Budgeting Trends
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report here.

    If you would like to become a SEMPO member, please click here.

    Past State of Search Marketing reports can be viewed here.

     

  4. State of Search Marketing Infographic – Mobile Trends

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    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic on Mobile Trends.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and insights into what to expect in 2014. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The Mobile Trends Infographic reveals mobile is likely to play an increasingly important role in marketing plans, yet marketers have not set aside significant budget dedicated to mobile marketing.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report that was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

    SEMPO_State of Search_ Mobile Trends

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Share this Image On Your Site

    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report here.

    If you would like to become a SEMPO member, please click here.

    Past State of Search Marketing reports can be viewed here.

     

  5. State of Search Infographic – Overview

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    SEMPO is excited to present the State of Search Marketing Infographic.

    The State of Search Marketing Report showcases changes from 2012 and what to expect in 2014. The report includes data from both company and agency respondents. This annual report is a critical touchstone for digital marketers looking to assess where they stand today and where they should be looking for success tomorrow.

    The infographic is a visual representation of the 9th Annual State of Search Marketing Report that was fielded by the SEMPO Research Committee in conjunction with Econsultancy.

    (Click to Enlarge)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Share this Image On Your Site

    SEMPO members can download the State of Search Marketing Report

    Click on the link if you would if you would like more information on SEMPO membership and benefits.

    Click on the link to view past State of Search Marketing Reports.

  6. Agency Pricing Realities

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    Walk around the halls of any ad agency and you will hear a wide array of colorful language more suited for a locker room than a place of business, but the dirtiest word you are likely to encounter is the dreaded “procurement”.  This word universally sends shivers down the spine of anyone that’s had the pleasure of negotiating scopes of work and more precisely, the agency fee associated with said document.

    I do not claim to offer a surefire cure for the pain of scoping negotiations, however the best remedy to steer clear of “procurement hell” lies in the art of the scope.  And while I can wax on poetically about the importance of defining and outlining objectives, tactics, goals, deliverables, timelines, blah, blah, blah, let’s cut to the case – agency fee model is the biggest hurdle we encounter.  The question we must answer is what is the best pricing model for agencies and clients alike – a retainer approach or an hourly bill model.

    Now I’ll be the first to admit that an endorsement for a retainer approach sounds a bit biased coming from the agency side. But when compared to a billing by the hour model, that tends to be the option of choice from your friendly neighborhood procurement person, the retainer approach offers benefits that stretch well beyond cost alone.

    Why you ask?  Let’s say you have a household project that does not fit into your expertise as a proud, do-it-yourself homeowner. And let’s also assume you don’t have the time and/or equipment to accomplish this project. What gives you more comfort in dealing with a general contractor – a flat cost based on competitive marketplace considerations or the unknowns of paying an hourly rate with variables such as undefined timelines, non-guaranteed staffing (workers) and the inevitability of cost overruns.

    Flashback to the agency world – the reality is staffing is lean even the best of times. Agencies do not hire ahead of the curve and we are not built to have employees sitting on the sidelines waiting for their next assignment.  A retainer approach secures resources by locking in a team and reducing variables such as waiting on team members assigned to multiple projects (i.e. extended timelines and billable hours) as well as the removal of any incentive on the agency side for efficiency of timing. The best agency/client relationships are based on continuity – we are service organizations at the heart and if it’s my money, I want the best talent with the least amount of risk for turnover. The promise from the agency side is that a retained team will provide dedicated resources and that promise must be kept for this approach to work.

    So while procurement may never be an enjoyable process, the pain can be minimized when we are able to provide competitively priced dedicated teams that are set up for success. And isn’t that what both agency and client ultimately want to achieve?

  7. Retainer vs. Hourly Billing: How Do You Devise a Pricing Model That Works for Both Agency and Client?

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    Part 2 of a series
    This is part two of a two-part series about pricing models. Part one discussed how to determine consulting rates.

    There was a time when most search marketing agencies used the traditional advertising agency model and charged a percentage of their client’s advertising spend. Over time, many realized this form of payment actually dissuades your client from administering their budget effectively or efficiently and incentivizes quantity rather than quality of work or results.

    Today, the prevailing pricing methods for search agencies are monthly retainers or hourly bills. Which one is right for your agency? How do you determine the best pricing model for both your agency and your client?

    To answer this, ask yourself some questions about your client and the work you’ll perform on their behalf. Does your client have a set budget for your work? If so, they’ll insist on staying within that budget and will also likely want to spread that cost over months. If so, a retainer will work best.

    Retainers, when staffed correctly, allow agencies to commit resources to the client, enabling them to work on client projects and tasks at any moment in time. They enable brand managers to have a focused, knowledgeable team that in essence becomes an extension of themselves. Retainers, thus, permit energy and focus to be on critical thinking, rather than on hours billed or time and resource constraints.

    The retainer price will be based on several factors, including services performed, anticipated number of dedicated hours per resource, and overall budget. It’s essential that the agency price the retainer effectively. Thorough and transparent collaboration between the agency and brand will result in a properly staffed, timed, and billed retainer agreement that will benefit both agency and client.

    The hourly rate pricing model has certain advantages as well. It’s simple to calculate and understand and provides both agency and client an opportunity to test each other out. Neither side may be willing to commit to a long-term relationship without first knowing that their work styles are compatible.

    The hourly rate pricing model works best when clients require semi-regular task-oriented work. It’s not optimal for clients who require full-time agency support. Likewise, if the client doesn’t have the wherewithal to support working with the agency on a full-time basis, which requires a significant time commitment, both parties will be served best by an hourly rate price model.

    If clients choose an hourly rate price model, they need to understand upfront that the agency will not allocate resources to projects until an agreement is in place. This agreement should come with an understanding as to when the work will be performed and when it will be completed. Agencies are not expected to “drop everything” as they typically would with larger retainer clients.

    Another consideration is that agency hourly rates tend to be priced higher for short-term projects. Retainers give agencies more flexibility to offer blended or reduced hourly rates in return for the longer term commitment.

    Most typically, a combination of retainer and hourly rate will meet the needs of clients and agencies. Any work deemed above and beyond the retainer agreement will be billed hourly. Dedicated resources still will be allocated, but those resources will bill any hours above the agreed-upon retainer allocation at an hourly rate.

    Which model do you prefer? Share your experiences in the comments below.

  8. Determining Pricing: How Much Are Your Consulting Services Worth in the Open Market?

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    Part 1 of a series

    Are you diving into the world of consulting? Determining your hourly rate is tricky, especially for those new to the world of consulting.

    Here is a list of questions to help you begin to establish a rate that meets your financial objectives while keeping your client’s budget in mind.

    What is your specialization, and how rare is your skill set?
    Two very important factors that influence how much you can charge for your services are your specialization and the scarcity of the services you provide. If you are one of a select few who have your skill set (and you can prove it via customer testimonials, certifications, and specialized training), you can charge more for your services.  Keep this in mind as you develop your practice. Generalists are a dime a dozen. If you want to maximize your income potential, specialize in one area of digital marketing services, and do it better than anyone else.

    What is the average hourly rate for your services in your local geographic area?
    Base your rate on what your local market will bear. Don’t overprice or underprice the market, unless you have a very specific specialization or you are just starting your business and have a need to prove yourself to prospective clients.

    What is the age of your business?
    As stated earlier, young businesses might want to set their prices at the lower range of the local market. Older businesses, with testimonials from well-known brands, might consider charging above the mid-range of the local market.

    What are your financial objectives?
    If you’ve determined your annual financial objectives, you can do some simple math to determine your hourly rate. If your objective is to earn $100,000 per year and you plan on taking two weeks off for vacation, you can start by equating an hourly rate as:

    $100,000 / 50 weeks per year = $2,000 per week

    Assuming you work 40 hours per week, your hourly rate is $50 per hour.

    Keep in mind some of the factors above to determine if this figure should be adjusted upward or downward. Remember to consider and account for billable hours per week – not all 40 will be billable, or you may need to work additional hours to manage administrative and business issues to achieve 40 billable hours in a week. Also, factor in your expenses. Many consultants, regardless of industry, double or even triple the base hourly rate to get a net figure to charge customers. If this rate does not equate with what the local market will bear, or with your experience level and your level of specialization, you may need to adjust accordingly.

    As you determine your rate, it is important to remember not to devalue your business or yourself. Be prepared to justify your rate. Ways to justify include providing references, white papers, and examples of your success stories. Your clients should be your biggest advocates. Don’t be afraid to ask them for references when you are trying to acquire new business.

    The only time you should consider reducing your rate is if you believe the prospective client is trying you out before committing to a much larger budget and will provide you with a steady income in the future. If clients push back with regard to your rates, offer them additional services at the same rate, rather than devaluing your service. Another option would be to offer a reduced rate only if the balance of the bill is paid in advance. Be flexible, yet steadfast.

    Pricing is a lot like marketing itself. The best results usually come from a deep understanding of your market and testing different things in order to come up with the perfect mix. Good luck, and enjoy the ride.

     

    How did you determine the rate for your consulting services? Share your experiences in the comments below.

  9. Factors That Impact Your Positioning in a YouTube Search

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    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.

     

     

     

  10. How to be a Closer: A Look at the Art of Project Management.

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    Congratulations – you won the business. You worked hard to earn your clients by conveying your expertise and proving to them that the work you do will help them solve their problems and deliver a positive return on investment.  Now, how you manage the relationship will go a long way toward ensuring you retain your client long after the initial project is completed.

    Regardless of whether you are working on an initial SEO audit, or a robust social media engagement campaign, you must manage client expectations and communicate effectively with your client. You have a responsibility to your client to develop a plan that ensures there are no surprises that will prevent you from retaining the client moving forward.

    Some steps to follow:

    1. Build a team. Your team of experts should all be accessible and available to answer any questions as you collaborate on solutions. Each team member’s role must be effectively communicated to the client so the client knows who to go to when questions arise.  You must effectively demonstrate how each team member contributes to the overall goal of efficiently solving the client’s problems. These roles include, but are not limited to:

    a. Account Manager
    b. Technical SEO Analyst
    c. Content Curator
    d. Link Building/Relationship Manager

    2. Define your process. Define your process and effectively communicate to the client that deviating from this process will hinder your chances for success. Your process, which includes your firm’s unique value proposition, is your differentiator, and is likely the reason why your firm was selected in the first place. This is an important step as it enables you to retain control over the engagement and the dialogue. As you establish the rules of engagement, remember, your number one objective is to solve a problem that the client could not solve on his own. This is your opportunity to reaffirm to the client that you are not only valuable, but invaluable.

    3. Diagnose the problem. Many firms like to pitch solutions before they have accurately and effectively diagnosed a problem. It is up to you, as the expert, to evaluate and assess before you prescribe a solution. As part of this diagnosis, once again reaffirm your unique value proposition. Reaffirming helps those clients who may be suffering from “buyer’s remorse,” or who may otherwise have doubts about your ability to help. This reaffirmation will go a long way toward creating an ongoing partnership with the client, and will help you retain the client moving forward.

    4. Propose a solution. After you have diagnosed your client’s issues, your proposed solution should include goals and KPIs that reasonably establish your client’s expectations. Make sure to educate your client on the KPIs so that there is 100% buy-in on the goals. Setting proper expectations is vital to having both short-and long-term client satisfaction.

    5. Apply your solution. As you apply your solution, the tactical work necessary to reach your goals, you must not make excuses if roadblocks prevent you from following your process. If part of your proposed solution includes having them update blog content, the client must have the resources and wherewithal to make the necessary update. If they cannot, this should have been identified during the diagnosis and proposed solution phases. It is important that both agency and client collaborate effectively in order for your projects to be completed according to the expectations set forth earlier.

    6. Measure and reassess regularly. An important step in the project management process is analyzing and reporting on results. When you measure, make sure to report on progress made on the KPIs toward goals agreed upon earlier in the process. Communication is key, regardless of the success of the engagement. An important factor to preserving the trust of the client is to proactively take corrective action in the event that progress hasn’t been made toward achieving your goals. If you have followed your process, agreed to earlier in your engagement, and if you set proper expectations based on your past experience, the client will not be surprised by slow, yet steady progress.

    If you effectively manage the relationship from pitch to close, you’ll be retaining more and more clients. You’ll spend more time improving your clients’ business, and less time proving your worth during another pitch.