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It's Search Marketing, not Search Listing, *&^&$%^!

Monday, 5 November, 2012 - 15:31

I gave a talk this week at SEO Day in Cologne, Germany, about optimizing for clicks, not just rankings. The premise of my talk was: SEOs tend to think their job is done when they’ve got their top 3 / top 5 listing, when in fact you’re only half way when you’ve reached that.

For those interested, you can see my slides here:

It annoys me that we talk about rich snippets this much, and 90% of the implementations of rich snippets are reviews and ratings, and most of them are, excusez le mot, shit, at best. You’ve probably seen your own share of listings where there are 5 or 6 ratings in a search result, all 4 or 5 stars and all nonsense.

There’s more to rich snippets! There’s more to “standing out” in the SERPs. This is why I built my Video SEO plugin: Video is a really cool way to stand out in the search results. That’s why I love rel=author: it allows you to choose your own picture, to stand out in the search results. And even then, when we get to choose the picture, we forget to market. I use a light blue background for my author image. It stands out. Why do hardly any other people do that?

As I was telling people during that presentation, as you can see in the slides above, SEO and PPC combined form a trade that is called SEM: Search Engine Marketing. No, SEM is not just PPC. That M, for Marketing, is the bit that loads of SEOs seem to forget. I admit, I too like reading about Google patents all day long, I can even enjoy the occasional bit of correlation / ranking research and I can fully geek out on running my own tests and tools too. But that’s only part of what an SEO needs to do.

The most successful SEO campaigns I’ve seen in the last years were campaigns that were properly combined with television advertising and other forms of marketing. But you don’t even have to go that far.
What SEOs should learn from PPC people

A lot of “old-school” SEOs, myself included, speak about PPC with some disdain, calling it “checkbook SEO” and “anyone can do that”. When I do so, I do so in jest, and I know that most of my friends who say stuff like that mean it that way too. But we’re probably not helping our industry when we do that, because the one thing that PPC guys and girls do best, is the one thing that most SEO’s suck at the most: optimization for clicks.

No AdWords campaign will survive if it doesn’t have a decent CTR. SEO campaigns with a ridiculous CTR did survive over the last few years, but it’s getting harder. Some of the research we’ve seen recently is showing that Google is using CTR as a ranking factor in organic search too, which makes sense. They’re measuring bounces back to search result pages too, which makes sense as well.

So talk to your PPC guy or girl and go over your titles and descriptions with them, heck, try some AdWords copy in those meta descriptions. It sometimes works wonders!
Conversion Rate Optimization starts in the SERPs

On conferences, you’ll see tracks about SEO and tracks about Analytics. You’ll see tracks about Conversion Rate Optimization. But you’ll never see a track about SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization at the same time. But that exactly is what we should be studying. How does the title I use for the search results affect not only my ranking, but also my conversion and bounce rate.

Am I making good on the promise I’m making in the SERPs with my title and description, on the page that people land on? That is the question you should be answering when you got that ranking. And when the answer isn’t a very clear “YES!”, you’ve got more work to do, even though you’ve achieved that ranking.