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Festive and Holiday SEO vs PPC SEM

It is December 1st 2016 and there is only 24 days left til Christmas.

Black Friday, the 2nd busiest shopping day of the year, has already come and gone. The busiest day, Christmas Eve, will soon be upon us.

When it comes to the holiday season and spending your time and money on SEO, you might as well not even bother. Search Engine Optimization is designed for the long haul. It takes months for SEO to take effect. SEO does garner the best results, dollar for dollar - but the effects take time.

So don't bother. SEO simply takes too long and you are trying to advertise last minute. Anything you advertise in December won't see major results until months later. And that will be too late. Good for next year maybe, but not right now.

If you are trying to sell product NOW, during the Christmas rush, then your best bet is actually Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and that means paying Pay Per Click (PPC).

Lets say for example you are trying to sell a computer console game (eg. Skyrim Special Edition for PS4 = awesome game. I am hoping to get it for xmas myself.) and you want to be getting your customers to actually buy the product instead of just browsing, then you need to be focused on getting them to the checkout stage of purchasing.

This means you need to set up a PPC campaign wherein you only pay if the customer:
  • Clicks your ad.
  • Clicks a product for purchase.
  • Goes to the checkout.
Google Adwords is your best bet for getting all of that. And the great thing is that they have to do all three things before you pay a penny.

It doesn't guarantee that they actually buy the product. Half of them might change their mind and decide to shop elsewhere, but if you are offering a good sale price, free shipping, 1 day or 3 day shipping, then chances are likely they will purchase via your store. This is why you need to calculate how many people are making their way to the checkout and how many actually make a purchase. Once you know the percentage, then you can compare that to your profit margin and figure out how to maximize your returns and how much you can be bidding/spending on each sale.

Hot Tip - If your sale price beats the price of the same product being sold on, and still has a good profit margin, you are basically guaranteed to make money if you are offering comparable shipping to whatever Amazon is offering.

For example if Amazon is selling the same console game for $69 and after Fedex shipping and expenses you are making $35 off every sale at the same price, you can then lower your price to $59 (and be making $25 off every sale) to beat their sales price. You could be spending $1 or even more on paying for clicks, but if half the people who make it to checkout stage change their mind and don't make the purchase, then that doubles your marketing costs to $2 for every sale. But you are still making $23 off every sale.

All you need to do then is calculate how many products you have in stock and how many you want to sell RIGHT AWAY. If you have 1000 units of the game, you could make your daily advertising limit $2000 (which most likely won't end up being used right away, but it could theoretically happen).

If you manage to sell 200 units the first day (for a cost of $400 but a profit of $4600) you are already in the black. Then just lower your daily advertising limit to $1600.

Day 2, another 200 or so units sold.

Day 3, Day 4, Day 5. If you are doing well you sell out of units and might even order more from your distributor. Then you simply suspend your SEM PPC campaign and wait until your next shipment of 1000 units arrives. Also you laugh all the way to the bank because you just made $23,000 in 5 days. (The Fedex people are amused by you sending out 1000 small packages in 5 days, but they might start offering you a business discount in the future.)

And eventually the well runs dry. The Xmas shopping season is over.

So you recalculate your profit margins, change your prices, change your PPC bids, and continue selling products anyway at a smaller volume.

And wait anxiously for next year, trying to calculate which console games will be the big sellers and worth advertising.

Update, Jan. 2017.

I did get Skyrim Special Edition for PS4 for Xmas. Woot. Oh and it is beautiful. The graphics are amazing. Breathtaking. I already had the old PS3 version of the game, but I wanted to play the new one with the updated graphics and all the added mods, expansions, etc. Simply wonderful game to play.

Search Engine Algorithms

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is defined as the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search engine results (SERPS).

Generally, the earlier a site gains a position in the search results, or the higher it “ranks,” the more visitors will visit that website. SEO can also target several different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry specific vertical search engines.

Because Google is currently the world’s most popular search engine, webmasters generally concentrate their efforts in getting their website to rank as high as possible in the Google search results, followed by Yahoo search, and MSN (Live Search, Bing, etc).

Webmasters and content providers began optimizing sites for search engines as early as the mid 1990s, as the first search engines were indexing the Internet. Website owners started to recognize the value of having their sites highly ranked and visible in search engine results, creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO’s. Basic early versions of search engine algorithms usually relied on webmaster provided input such as the keyword meta tags on a web page.

Today SEO techniques can be classified into two broad categories:

1 – Techniques that search engines recommend as part of good design.

2 – Techniques of which search engines do not approve.

The search engines attempt to minimize the effect of the second as much as possible. The two terms commonly used today to classify these methods are white hat SEO, or black hat SEO.

* Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. Tricking the search engine into ranking a site higher than it actually deserves, often only temporarily.

* White hat SEO is when a webmasters site development and optimization techniques conform to the search engines’ guidelines and involves no deception.

By 1997 search engines had realized webmasters were making efforts to rank higher in their search engines, and some webmasters were actually manipulating their website rankings in the search results by stuffing pages with excessive, hidden, or irrelevant keywords. Early search engines, such as Infoseek, started to adjust their algorithms in an effort to prevent webmasters from manipulating (spamming) rankings.

Two graduate students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed “backrub”, a search engine that relied on a mathematical algorithm to rate the prominence of web pages. Page and Brin later founded Google in 1998. Google attracted a loyal following among the growing number of Internet users, who liked its simplicity. Off page factors (such as PageRank and hyperlink analysis) were considered as well as on-page factors (such as keyword frequency, meta tags, headings, links and site structure) to enable Google to avoid the kind of search result manipulation seen in other search engines that only considered on page factors for their website ranking algorithm.

Over time Google would downplay the importance of certain factors, like meta tags because it was commonly used to stuff keywords in there that had little to do with the site's content.

By 2007, the major search engines had incorporated a wide range of undisclosed factors in their ranking algorithms to reduce this huge impact that webmaster link manipulation was having on their search result relevancy.

Google says it ranks sites using more than 200 different signals. The three leading search engines, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s Live Search, do not disclose the algorithms they use to rank website pages. They are essentially trade secrets, and are kept secret so SEO people cannot game the system once they know the most important factors - the really experienced ones know how to game the system regardless. The SEO Checklist on for example shows 115 things people should be doing, but it doesn't cover all 200+ things that Google looks for.

Whether you are new at website design or an old pro you really should study this list of things to do, and not do, when using search engine optimization for high rankings to avoid search engines penalizing your website for search result manipulation. Just follow the rules on the Checklist and you will do well.

Remember SEO is not always an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing and offline strategies can sometimes be much more effective, it all depends on the site operator’s goals. eg. A brand marketing campaign for example might be better suited to have a Social Media aspect.

Implementing the signs of a quality website should vastly improve your chances of being ranked higher in search engines such as MSN’s Live Search, Yahoo, and Google’s search results. If you intend to make a living from working online and are in for the long haul then designing a quality website that adheres to the search engine guidelines is a must.

Offline / Online Synergy Marketing

The "billboard" advertisement shown on the right is an example of Offline / Online Synergy Marketing.

Basically what you do is do something outrageous / funny as a marketing stunt, and then you photograph or film what you did and use it for your online social media campaign.

Your goal essentially is to do smart advertising that is offline, and then use that to ultimately market yourself online.

So for example if I were to do a marketing stunt on the streets of downtown Toronto, and then other people filmed it / photographed it, and then shared what they saw on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites then I have just done two things:

#1. I probably just gained a bunch of new clients / customers who saw the marketing stunt in person.

#2. I just gained word of mouth advertising via social media.

It is a Win-Win as far as advertising goes. The billboard above is for Copenhagen architects, and frankly I have no problem giving them kudos for their smart marketing campaign.

Below is some more examples of smart advertising which also garners social media attention:

Marketing for Clients

Not every client is the same, and thus not every marketing campaign is the same either. It really depends on the methodology that the client wants. Some clients want different things. Below are some examples of different kinds of online marketing.

SEO, Search Engine Optimization (which is arguably the most effective at getting a good return on investment).

SEM (aka PPC), Search Engine Marketing via Pay Per Click.

SMO, Social Media Optimization (basically a form of Branding for the purposes of name recognition on social media).

VM, Viral Marketing - limited to unique, interesting, one time content.

Video Marketing (not to be confused with VM) - the goal is to make videos that useful to visitors to the website / youtube. They do not need to go viral or generate lots of views, the goal is to make useful videos that help clients, and in turn help generate sales.

VVM, Viral Video Marketing - the goal being to make one video go viral, which is unlikely because it is a numbers game and only a small percentage of attempts go viral. However VVM doesn't necessarily generate sales, because most people who end up watching the video are doing so because of amusement and have no interest in buying the product.
Branding, of which the primary purpose is name recognition, traffic is not the biggest concern - sales is.
Affiliate Marketing, requires people to take a commission on sales, which is often less than 0.5% of traffic or lower, depending on how good or shoddy a product is.

Or combinations of the above categories. Some clients may only want the first three things listed above, as having videos, branding or running affiliates is too much work and unnecessary for whatever they are advertising.

Note - I have (more or less) organized the above list in order of the most effective means of advertising down to the least effective means of advertising and building traffic. Some of the categories above may roughly tied in terms of effectiveness.

The Difference between Amateurs and Professionals

Saw this ad posted on craigslist a few days ago:
"Web Design Teacher Needed
We are presently looking for Web Design teachers
Be able to teach introduction to web design
Native English speaker/Fluent in English language.
Be able to teach evening and Saturdays
Good knowledge of Dreamweaver, word press"

I sent the following response:

"No self respecting professional website designer would be caught dead using Dreamweaver or Wordpress. Such things are for amateurs.
Any true website designer is hardcoding the site in HTML/javascript.
So basically what you are looking for is someone who is an amateur to teach how to be an amateur website designer. Wow. Good job."

Basically what it comes down to is that any one who is serious about website needs to learn how to hardcode a website from scratch. Any idiot can use Dreamweaver or Word Press - because those are WYSIWYGS (What You See Is What You Get), which are designed to be used by amateurs so that any idiot can design a basic looking website using the templates that are provided. To get a professionally designed website you need to be able to think outside the box, to be creative and design a chic / stylish website that engages the viewer.

It is a bit of question of amateur vs professional... to which I shall now invent a new saying:

"Who do you want as a dentist: An amateur or a professional? The results will be dramatically different."

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