Snydey Web: A Reputation Management Tool

Online reputation management is a facet of online marketing that is still in its infancy.

Pioneers like Andy Beal are paving the way with books like Radically Transparent and tools like Trackur, which show us how to use the information out on the web to recognize issues that arise and how to combat them.

The issue, like with any new concept, is that CEOs and decision makers are still not educated enough on the concept to completely invest in it.

Tools like Trackur offer a trial period, but I have found that decision makers can still be quite closed off to concepts such as these.

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The Wiki:A Method to Your Madness

One of the hardest things to do in Internet Marketing is collecting and storing data.

Keyword research, site architecture, content ideas, link partners, and analytics analysis all need to be kept somewhere. Not having a system set up can lead to client or employer issues that could have otherwise been sidestepped.

My organizational method of choice is the wiki. This format allows you to save all of your work on a backed-up server, and also allows for multiple editors and remote use.

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Beyond Keyword Research: Competitive Analysis

Last weeks edition of Beyond Keyword Research looked at utilizing analytics to find more keywords than our original research may have bestowed upon us. We utilized site based analytics programs, as well as other data found around the web to unearth new longtail and conversion driven keywords.

This week we will be taking a bit of a step back to Competitive Research.

The reason I say a step back, is because I am hoping you took a long, hard look at your market before jumping in head first with a site and a dream. If not it is never too late, I just hope when you look beneath the surface you’re not staring straight into the face of a Great White.

We will be looking at our competitors and competitive analysis as a guide.

We already have some rough keyword research from keyword tools such as Wordtracker. We also have a more extensive list of longtail terms and and conversion driven phrases from our analytics, now we need to see how our competitors, which have often been in our market longer than us, have achieved their success.

What words are your competitors using?

What words are converting for them?

Oldies but Goodies

Let’s explore some of the more classic tactics for revealing our competitors’ keywords.

The first, and most basic concept is to simply take a look at what your competition is doing with their titles and meta information.

Titles still carry a great deal of weight in search rankings, but Meta information, especially Meta Keywords, have long been devalued. However, the reality persists that many webmasters still put faith into the dated SEO tactic of utilizing, and even stuffing Meta keywords.

Their mistake can be your reward.

You can often reveal your competitors entire keyword strategy simply by looking in the <head> tags of their web pages. To do this in Firefox, look at the source code by navigating to the page, and pressing Ctrl+U.

If you are not strong at reading html, then you can utilize the SEO Chat tool below.

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If you have a more advanced competitor on your hands you may have less to work with than the webmaster whose competitor stuffs their Meta Keyword tags.

One idea is to look at the competitor’s site the way the search engine bots do.

By spidering the competition’s site you can look at ONLY the individual words in the text of the page. This will allow you to look for heavily used terms, without the distraction of formating and design.

There are several free scripts on the web you can use to spider your competitors pages, below find one from SEO Chat.

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As you make your way through the on-page data found on your competitor’s site you will want to collect the information in a spreadsheet or some type of tabular form. This will allow you to utilize the information later. We are not simply looking at what others have done to their sites to get insight into the market, we are also looking for clues to the effective optimization of our site.

You will want to take this data and find the amount of estimated searches for each term according to your favorite keyword research tool. This will keep you from falling prey to a sly competitor using misinformation, and will also give you the data you will need to apply the keywords to your content and site.

Internet Monitoring

As we step off-site with our analysis, the best place to begin is with one of the many competitive analysis tools available on the Web. There is of course a difference between many of these tools, in both price and efficiency, and you will need to weigh these factors in coorelation with your own online needs.

As you move through these tools you will want to continue to add discovered terms to your tabular data.

Quantcast

Let’s start with the free option, as this is probably the first place you will want to begin regardless to get your feet wet in terms of competitive analysis. Quantcast has as many flaws as it does uses, but like any data, if used with a filter it can be useful.

Quantcast defines itself as:

Quantcast is a new media measurement service that enables advertisers to view audience reports for millions of sites and services to build their brands with confidence. The free service empowers publishers to demonstrate the unique value of their audiences by tagging their websites, videos, widgets and games for direct measurement.

Quantcast Corporation was founded in 2005 by a team of engineers and mathematicians committed to advancing the digital media industry. The Quantcast team has conducted extensive research and development to provide publishers with a free and easy way to report on the audience metrics that advertisers demand, including traffic, demographics and lifestyle assessments.

If you do some research on sites that you know, or that you own, you will find that many of Quantcast’s traffic projections are way off. There is however quality data on the site in terms of brand and site affinities, sites with a similar audience, and audience keywords.

Quantcast should really only be used as a primer for competitive analysis, as it is not setup to be an all in one tool. It can lead you to some new concepts in terms of keywords, possible competition, and the brands that your audience is tied to.

Remember that we are really focusing in on keywords and user search intent so the traffic analysis flaws are not really a concern at this stage.

Hitwise Competitor Report

Hitwise offers a very different level of competitive analysis than Quantcast. This service is state of the industry, and its research store offers individual reporting options for businesses that cannot justify the extremely high end subscription option.

Hitwise defines its process of data collection as:

The network-centric methodology employed by Hitwise enables the most efficient way of monitoring of how more people visit more websites than any other way of measuring Internet usage.

Hitwise has developed proprietary software that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use to analyze website usage logs created on their network. The anonymous data sent to Hitwise from the ISPs include a range of industry standard metrics relating to the viewing of websites including page requests, visits and average visit length.

Hitwise is also able to combine this rich ISP data with region specific demographic and lifestyle information across thousands of website that are reported on every day.

You can choose from a variety of research report options starting at $695. This cost is pretty pale in comparison with the Internet marketing budget you will likely be using to get your site fully optimized and conversion ready.

As you can see from the example of a competitive research document provided by Hitwise on Coca-Cola the research is very detailed and can be utilized beyond even our keyword analysis.

With this report you will receive the top keywords from search over the previous 4 weeks of data collection. You will also receive click stream data that will tell you where your competitors visitors are coming from, and where they are going to. This data can be used to refine your site’s conversion and usability.

Hitwise Search Intelligence

The Cadillac of competitive keyword tools comes in the form of Hitwise Search Intelligence.

Hitwise describes this product:

Hitwise Search Intelligence™ provides extensive insights on how people successfully search for products and services in over 160 industries, across all major (80+) search engines. This unique data gives Hitwise clients a competitive advantage when planning, monitoring and measuring search marketing campaigns.

Hitwise Search Intelligence allows you to Identify which search terms have driven traffic to competitive websites, analyze the search patterns and behavior of your consumers, customize reports based on your needs, and export and manage terms for campaign execution.

Think of Hitwise Search Intelligence as your everyday keyword tools on HGH.

The program allows you to effectively find search terms to a website or industry, finding keywords that have been successful in driving traffic to competitive sites, rather than a general estimate of traffic for terms. The tool also gives you search term suggestions and analysis.

It’s obviously a great tool, and you will pay for its greatness, somewhere to the tune of $50,000 a year.

Back to the Digger

Last week I told you how to use www.SEODigger.com to find important terms that you rank for, that may have slipped past you in your initial keyword research. This week we will want to use this same program to view the terms our competitors are ranking in the top 20 of Google for.

By examining the keyword rankings of our competitors, we not only will find out the terms they are actively optimizing for, but we may also get a glimpse at their overall optimization strategy, including how they are funneling their conversions.

Pay special attention to their long tail terms. Just as these are your most conversion driven words, they are also your competitors.

Checking Anchor Tags of Inbound Links

Another way to take a peak into how others view your competition is to see how others are linking to them. By analyzing the anchor tags of links pointing to your competition’s site you can get a good idea of the terms that Internet users utilize when talking about, and searching for your competition.

Anchor tags are also a factor in search rankings, so this analysis will likely lead you to a clearer idea of your competitions optimization strategy.

SEOmoz.org offers a great tool that finds the most used anchor tags that correlate to a site. You must get the Pro membership at the site to utilize the tool, but the money is well worth all of the great tools and information you gain from Rand Fishkin and team.

After we have completed our competitive analysis you should have a good idea of the terms that are currently converting in your market, both in terms of sales and traffic. You will know how your site is effected by keywords, and how your competition is effected.

The next step will be to look at terms that are currently not on our radar. Language is a state of constant flux, and this fact means that your keywords are volatile. Somewhere around 25% of all searches are totally unique, and have never been attempted before.

This means that even if you are dead on with your keyword research you may still only reach 75% of your intended audience.

There are steps you can take to limit the amount of search traffic you miss out on.

One is Heuristic Evaluations.

Beyond Keyword Research: Utilizing Analytics

The need for keywords does not stop once you have finished using WordTracker.

The importance of quality keywords is not something you need to stop worrying about after utilizing Google’s Keyword Tool.

None of what you do as an SEO Consultant initially changes what you intend to do long term.

Sure you can construct yourself a great foundation based on quality initial keyword research, but you need to build upon that. As we proceed through this series of posts we are attacking this concept under the assumption that you have already built a list of keywords, using basic keyword tools, and have optimized your site with those terms.

Now we are looking to take those pieces of coal, dark and undefined, and polish them into diamonds.

Let’s take a look at how to utilize analytics in the pursuit of keyword perfection.

The long and short of it

We will start with our on-site analytics. This can take several different forms, from Google Analytics, to high end analytics solutions such as Web Trends, and even basic server based web logs. All of these will be able to provide you with the information needed as you move forward, some just present the information in a more easily digested manner.

Note: If you are still completely reliant upon web logs do yourself a favor and get on board with Google Analytics. It is free and efficient. It offers a host of information and reports, and will improve your overall site analysis.

The first, and most obvious place to take the use of your analytics as a keyword tool, is to look at how the initial use of your keywords, in content, on your site, has effected your rankings for your broad terms, as well the longtail terms your content has produced.

Within your web analytics dashboard you can view the different keywords that are utilized to find your site through search. You can also see the initial interaction of the viewers using these terms to find your site, and the site itself.

The most important metric to look at here is bounce rate.

This simple metric, calculated by taking the total number of of visitors bouncing off of your site (a bounce is a single-page visit to your website) and dividing it by the total number of visits, can tell you just how useful your site is in terms of your visitors’ needs. Accordingly, if you are working with a blog, this metric is almost useless to you, as the concept behind the blog is quick digestion of information. However, this metric can be very powerful for the measurement of other content based properties and especially e-commerce web sites.

From Melanie Nathan, SEO Specialist

Your bounce rate is often a good indication of the effectiveness of a page. Keep a close eye on your bounce rate and tweak keywords and content as often as necessary.

Also, to help with conversions, keep everything simple and easy to locate. Got an e-commerce site? Don’t make people go looking for your return policy, shipping info, payment options, checkout button etc. People don’t read, they don’t like to scroll and their attention spans are short. You’ve only got a few seconds from the time they enter your site to grab them with simple instructions and a good call to action. Give them what they’re looking for and make it easy to obtain ftw! Make it too complicated and you’re yesterday’s news.

I usually view a successful bounce rate for a keyword as being at or below 35%. If you are below 50% you are on the right path but may need to tweak the content on your page, or reestablish the why? behind your users visit.

Anything over 50% I think you can safely say that the page and content you offer is not what a search user utilizing that term is looking for. Even if it is a term that gets great traffic, and you are only getting 1/3 of the traffic you acquire from this term to stick to your site, think about how that remaining 33.3% is going to convert.

If you are seeing bounce rates in excess of 75% you need to pull the rip chord immediately. Get a conversion driven term on that page and do it now. If you need to know where to go to for a quick term, dip into the longtail that you have been accumulating since launching your site. Harvest conversion driven longtail terms, that might even increase in value if they have an entire page of content dedicated to them.

While analytics programs can lead you to quality longtail terms, Hittail.com, offers a real time look at keyword behavior via Javascipt tags. This analytics product also offers you the ability to export the longtail terms that you harvest for direct pasting to your paid search account, which makes it incredibly useful for PPC purposes.

Another nice feature of Hittail, aside from being free for basic service, is that it gives you a basic idea of the paid search bid value your longtail terms have.

Invisible Data

Not all the analytics available to you is captured via Javascript tags and web logs.

The Internet has offered the marketer an unparalleled amount of data, and most of the time the shear amount, and how to sift through it to find relevant information can be a dilemma.

One data source you will find useful after your initial site optimization is SEODigger.com. This site offers users a look at the terms, within the top 60 million search queries, that their site ranks for in the top 20 results in the Google SERPs. With this ranking information, SEODigger.com also displays the Wordtracker and Overture keyword popularity data for that term.

SEO Digger, like all applications, has its issues. I often find that the keyword popularity data found in its reports does not match what Wordtracker itself produces. Also the listing of the Overture and Wordtracker data side by side can lead to confusion for a person just setting out in keyword research.

An effective way to utilize SEO Digger is to use the application to locate high trafficked terms, which you did not overtly optimize for, but that you are now ranking well for in the top 5 results in the SERPs. Note these terms, and analyze their productivity in terms of conversion. The question you will need to ask yourself is, “do these terms justify content created specifically for them, rather than the content that they now rest in?” If these terms are converting well (a broad, general goal is usually 2.5%, but it really depends on your market), and you are maintaining top rankings for the terms, what is the sense in messing with a good thing?

Another way I like to utilize SEO Digger is to target possible longtails buried on the second page that some optimization could bump into a productive spot. As you dig through these terms keep the why? of your visitor in mind. It’s a great feeling to rank for a term, but that energy you wasted optimizing for a term that will never convert, but is now #1, is going to cost you money, and in the end this whole process is about revenue.

You should leave SEODigger.com with a good understanding of:

1) The health of your site in terms of search
2) A list of surprise top 5 terms to monitor in terms of conversion
3) A list of second page longtails that you feel will convert, and thus willl optimize for

Another great data tool on the Web is Google Trends.

Here is Google’s explanation of this tool:

With Google Trends, you can compare the world’s interest in your favorite topics. Enter up to five topics and see how often they’ve been searched on Google over time. Google Trends also shows how frequently your topics have appeared in Google News stories, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most.

A light bulb should go off.

We can now take the data we have been collecting from our on-site analytics, Hittail.com, and SEODigger.com, and begin to compare how some of our newly found terms are trending in terms of traffic on the Internet.

Not only can we look at overall trends of online traffic for these terms, but we can compare them against each other, and against our original keyword list to reevaluate keyword placement.

Note: One thing that has not been stated, but that needs to be, that an overall site structure should be adhered to as you go about your keyword analysis. You should not simply be throwing terms all over your site, hoping some will stick. Before any of this research takes place you need to separate your site into multiple tiers, assigning keyword importance to each. The difficult and importance of your keywords should flow in a descending fashion through your site the same way link equity generally does.

The downside of Google trends is obviously the fact that it is purely visual and does not give actual numeric data, but used in conjunction with other tools, it is an effective addition to your research.

From Andy Beal, internet marketing consultant, award-winning blogger, and co-author of Radically Transparent: Monitoring & Managing Reputations Online

Before you start changing the keyword emphasis for your web site, you’ll want to take a look at some cool tools that give you a glimpse of whether a new trend is actually forming. At Blogpulse.com/trend or trend.icerocket.com you’ll be able to enter up to three different key phrases and take a look at how popular those phrases have been over the past month. Likewise, google.com/trends and facebook.com/lexicon/ offer similar insight into what topics are “hot” right now. Granted this is “past” data, but the resulting graphs will show you whether bloggers have been talking more about that phrase or less over the past month. With bloggers being on what some call the “lunatic fringe” of new trends (leaping straight past “cutting edge”) you’ll learn more from those trend charts than a regular keyword research tool.

Following these tips, and utilizing these data tools will help you look at your keywords in an entirely different way than you did during your preliminary keyword research. You are now looking at your keywords in terms of conversion with data to support your decisions.

We now have a pretty refined concept of the keywords we want to use and how they relate to our site. We have conversion driven terms, matched with conversion driven content and pages.

The next step is to take a look at how your competition is utilizing keywords.

Many marketers make this part of their preliminary research, but I feel that with all of the sub par marketing techniques on the web, without a good keyword foundation set competitive analysis could do more harm than good.

The next post in the Beyond Keyword Research series will look at how to collect and utilize competitive keyword data.

Until that time feel free to use this blog as a place to share keyword techniques based on analytics. Also feel free to use the contact form to bounce any questions or keyword research off of me.