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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Search Engine Advertising Choices

Search advertisers are offered two basic marketing models, paid-ads and free organic ads.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to both models, one clearly stands out as a better advertising option than the other. Why is it then that advertisers from small business to mega-corporation tend to show higher interest in the more expensive and least effective of the two?

Most SEOs speculate that advertisers understand paid-advertising better than organic placement. As much of search marketing is conducted in-house and optimization is a learned-skill, corporate marketing departments lean towards the very simple model of paid-search. Organic search engine placement continues to be perceived as a nebulous service that can take time to show results. On the other hand, paid-ad placements tend to show up minutes after they are established and bidding one's way to top spot is relatively easy.

With search ad-spends sometimes topping five or six figures per month, many SEOs shake their heads at businesses that refuse to invest a much smaller (generally low to mid four figure) sum on organic optimization. Ranging from small to mega sized operations, the number of paid-ad advertisers that ignore organic optimization seems to be growing.

Over the past three years, independent research has consistently confirmed that search engine users tend to click on the center column organic (free) ads far more often than on paid ads. Earlier this year, search marketers benefited from a number of published studies that clearly demonstrate the higher value of organic placements. While the results of this research is easily available to all, traditional and tech media stories tend to focus on paid-search advertising.

Two studies that made an enormous impact on the search marketing field this year are the Eye Tracking research conducted by Enquiro CEO Gord Hotchkiss and a whitepaper published by Lisa Wehr, CEO of OneUpWeb titled, " Target Google's Top Ten to Sell Online." Gord's study shows the basic F (or triangular) shape search user's eyes tend to follow when examining search results. Lisa's study found that search users are up to 6X more likely to click on the first few organic results as they are to choose any of the paid results.

A third study, " Accurately Interpreting Clickthrough Data as Implicit Feedback " , released earlier this week by Cornell professor Thorsten Joachims looked at the links users found on search engine results pages and questioned why they choose which link. The results show again the importance of high organic search engine rankings. The researchers asked subjects to perform searches and looked at which results they viewed, which they clicked on, and what happens if those links are mixed up.

The Cornell study found that search users tended to view (look at) the first five organic results with a high percentage of them (approx. 2/3) viewing the top two listings with 42% of them selecting or clicking on that link. The number of search-viewers halves to approximately 1/3 of users viewing sites appearing in positions 3, 4 and 5. The numbers drop to about 1 in 10 users tending to view the 9 th and 10 th placed sites.

When a search user views search listings, it doesn't necessarily mean they click on those listings. In this context, to view means to examine. Users tend to examine the text used to phrase the reference link as well as the descriptive paragraph appearing beneath the link before deciding to click on it. This is especially true for the smaller number of searchers who view listings found in the 3 rd to 10 th positions as users who examined those listings tended to spend more time on the results page before choosing the link to click first. In other words, 1/3 to 1/10 of users are conducting preliminary research by seriously reading the text used to phrase the results before clicking.

This finding was backed up in another part of the Cornell study that showed when the same Top2 results were reversed, the text used in the link and description had a notable influence on which link the user clicks. The research found that when results were switched around, 34% of the users would still click on the site ranked in first place, even when they had seen the now #2 site there earlier.

In his Alertbox review of the Cornell study, Jakob Nielsen succinctly notes, " If users always clicked the best link, then swapping the order of the two links should also swap the percentages, and this didn't happen. The top hit still got the most clicks."

These findings led the research team to suggest there are two biases playing out in the minds of search engine users. The first is the Trust Bias, which leads the searcher to believe that a site ranked in the number 1 position is there because it must be the best reference for that keyword. The second is the Quality Bias, which considers the text used in the results to determine which is the best site to choose from.

For search engine marketers and more importantly, search engine advertisers, there are two glaringly obvious implications.

First of all, it is extremely important to be found at the Top of the search engine results. Being in the Top10 is likely sufficient for many businesses but the sites getting the most business are found at the top. To further these findings, Gord and Lisa's research clearly shows that searchers are choosing organic placements over paid-ads.

Secondly, the copy used in your Title tag and site content has to be more compelling than that of your competitors. Search users are reading before clicking. If they have to make a choice between three sites that are all perceived to be equal (those in the 3rd to 5th positions), they will almost always choose the one with the most topically relevant descriptive text and link-copy.

Put together, the results of the three studies show that search engine users are able to tell the difference between paid and free listings and tend to trust the free organic listings more than they do the paid ones. The studies also show that search users, while still tending to put a higher bias on the Top5 results are becoming sophisticated enough to seriously consider descriptive copy before choosing to select a link. In other words, the search users are starting to make what appears to them to be the wisest choices when selecting search advertising. The advertisers are advised to do the same.

About the Author:
Jim Hedger is the SEO Manager of StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc. Based in Victoria, BC, Canada, StepForth is the result of the consolidation of BraveArt Website Management, Promotion Experts, and Phoenix Creative Works, and has provided professional search engine placement and management services since 1997. Tel - 250-385-1190 Toll Free - 877-385-5526 Fax - 250-385-1198

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Has Traditional Web Site Optimization (SEO) Outlived Its Usefulness?

We agree with most of this article from Ron Scott. While traditional SEO methods have become less important, such as link swapping, all the methods still hold value. We do agree that press releases are a great way to market and have been doing so for the past year with our own clients. The results have been spectacular in terms of marketing the site for low cost. Give us a call (804) 741-6776 or visit Big Oak SEO to see how we do SEO...right way!

When it comes to internet marketing, traditional web site optimization (SEO) still stands as the holy grail, but an increasing number of small and medium sized business owners, facing the prospect of high SEO fees, are just now beginning to turn to an alternative promotional method that is generating consistent and quantifiable results at a fraction of the cost.

LOS ANGELES, CA (PRWEB) September 17, 2005 - The cost of SEO, at least when it comes to highly competitive keyword phrases, is prohibitive for all but those with deep pockets.

"Matt Hocken, of Interactive Marketing, Inc., estimates that one can expect to pay upwards of $50,000 - $100,000 a year to secure top ten Google placement for a highly competitive keyword phrase like 'life insurance' or 'debt consolidation' and that's obviously out of the question for the small to medium sized business," Ron Scott, Fast Track SEOP's senior publicist reports.

Even the cost for placement using less popular keyword phrases can be high.

"A Houston publicist recently paid $5,000 to get her website optimized for a small number of obscure keyword phrases that Overture reports are cumulatively generating fewer than 200 inquiries a month. Not told that 50-75% of those searches are being routinely conducted by webmasters, SEOs, and website owners checking the current status of their websites, she's now wondering if she'll ever recoup the expense," Scott says.

So what s the alternative? Pop-ups? Pop unders? Banner ads? Email? Not hardly.

Unlike an organic search engine optimization program that can take months and even years to start showing results, internet press releases start generating interest the day they are published.

"A properly optimized and distributed press release will typically generate 50,000 - 100,000 actual reads the first week it goes on line," says Scott.

According to Scott, unlike traditional press releases, 98% of all internet press releases are read by consumers and B2B prospects.

"Originally, press releases were the exclusive domain of the Fortune 500 and were directed to the mass media, but not any more. Small and medium sized businesses have discovered that they can deliver their messages directly to a broad (national or international) or highly targeted (local or regional) audience on the internet and, thereby, eliminate the tedious process of media placement," he says.

Scott points out that the value of an internet press release promotional strategy doesn t stop there.

"Press releases can also be optimized for organic search which enables those who find their newly published websites residing in Google purgatory, the opportunity to secure top ten rankings in a week or less," Scott says.

To illustrate the value of the internet marketing strategy, Scott points to a release he prepared and distributed on behalf of a little known manufacturer in New Zealand.

"The first 30 calendar days, it generated 133,686 reads, drove over 25,000 visitors to their website, and generated 100s of inquiries from B2B prospects all over the world," he says. "Since that sampling taken at the beginning of June, the release has generated an additional 42,443 reads and a commensurate level of traffic and inquiries. "It's the gift that keeps giving," he says.

Has traditional web site optimization outlived its usefulness?

"For most of our clients it has," Scott says.

To introduce business owners to the comparative value of an internet, press release promotional strategy, Fast Track SEOP offers free, online introductory webinars four days a week. The company, a full-service internet public relations firm, has developed an online training program that enables business owners to manage their press release promotional campaigns in-house. To learn more visit

For more great articles, check out our seo articles.

Why Google Blog Search Matters to Your Business

According to Google, Google's Blog Search is "Google search
technology focused on blogs". It includes search engine
results specific to blogs not just in the
community, but across the blogosphere at large. You can
access it at

What the Big Deal Is

A lot of people have probably heard about this extra
version of search Google has added and are greeting it with
a big yawn, particularly since it's still in Beta. So what
is the big deal, anyway?

The big deal is that the top search engine in the world,
which was already paying particular attention to blogs in
regular search results, seems to make a subtle statement
with the introduction of blog-specific searches.

Blogs are important enough to warrant their own special
level of search, and not just as an advanced search option,
but in their own search engine.

If search engines are paying attention to blogging that
closely, you should be too -- if you want better search
engine results.

Current fans of blogs will be able to search the freshest
results so that they can see what is being discussed right
now - information that is often as fresh as the news, and
draws upon sources that the media-at-large either doesn't
have ready access to, or interest in.

So to those with even the most obscure interests or
hobbies, a blog search powered by a top search engine gives
ready access to fresh information on any subject that
someone can blog about.

And if a blog doesn't yet exist on these narrow themes? You
can be the one to start the discussion.

Why It Matters to Your Business
Speaking of the media, this is likely to become one of the
many tools that a journalist in the know would use in order
to research a story, or to find out more information about
a company, directly from the people who use its products or

Technorati, is at present, arguably a better tool, but it's
just not as well known as the Google brand. If you're a
power searcher, you already know what Technorati is. But
the key thing to understand is that most consumers - even
B2B consumers - aren't as deeply involved in the internet.

But even those folks know what Google is.

There's an even more obvious advantage to this specialized

Google Blog search has the unprecedented potential to bring
the mainstream surfer into blogging, even more than Yahoo's
RSS Headlines pioneered the start of making RSS mainstream
about a year ago. Why?

While many of your clients will fall instantly in love with
RSS, it's more fair to them to present its possibilities in
a format that's easier for them to digest. It's not as hard
to explain a blog - and if you can't, you can simply tell
them it's a more frequently updated part of your existing

When Google's Blog Search is brought more to the front in
coming months, if your site gets into position to be
visible when more of the internet population becomes
blog-happy, then the traffic potential for your site may
prove to be enormous.

The proper use of one RSS feed in one of my content
management systems doubled my traffic, with most of the new
users coming from Yahoo, this time last year. Another feed
increased my daily traffic another 75%, and brought me
additional return traffic as well.

At the time the margin between Yahoo and Google was wider
than it is today -- so the potential increase from being in
Google boggles the mind.

How to Get Listed

According to the Blog Search Help Page:

"If your blog publishes a site feed in any format and
automatically pings an updating service (such as, we should be able to find and list it. Also,
we will soon be providing a form that you can use to
manually add your blog to our index, in case we haven't
picked it up automatically. Stay tuned for more information
on this."

This means that if you're already blogging - and
responsibly pinging, you're probably already listed.

If you haven't been blogging, you're in luck. This special
brand of Google search is still in Beta, so if you get
moving now, you still have enough time to start getting
into position. And since the search currently seems to be
focused on freshness and relevance, if you keep up the
blogging once you start, and you keep your theme narrow,
you could still dominate your niche.

Do It Today
The mantra for blogging before was that, proper blogging is
a sure fire way to increase traffic, as well as build
stronger ties to your end users or clients, not to mention
that it is the simplest of the many implementations of RSS.

Now, with all three major search engines paying more
attention to both RSS and Blogging, you can get spidered
more frequently, get more of your pages indexed more
deeply, and be included in more searches.

You have absolutely no time to waste - if you're not
blogging already, you need to get started quickly. Many
webmasters are hesitating because they haven't been able to
find a blog system that fits well with their site, or find
the most popular tools too sophisticated for their needs.

There are literally dozens of free resources to help you
decide between the standard systems that were originally
built for the personal blogger, and the more robust
solutions that are aimed at the medium-sized or corporate
company - but that's another article.

Whatever you chose, the important thing is to get started
blogging today. You'll be missing out on targeted traffic
from the most dominant search engine, from the most
sophisticated surfers today, and sooner than you know it,
the mainstream web.

Tinu Abayomi-Paul is the co-owner of Leveraged Promotion,
which provides many solutions for companies who prefer to
out-source their online promotion needs. At you can find out more
about how RSS, Blogs and Podcasting can increase your
online visibility.