Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - June 2008
Welcome to the new edition of our monthly web search and marketing newsletter, bringing you the current news and trends in the online marketing sector.
In this issue we look at the importance of increasing links into a website and how different types of content can be used to attract links and visitor traffic from other websites. We also examine some recent research in to the changing search habits seen over the past 6 years and finally we review the new Live Search Cashback service which has just been launched by Microsoft, and the possible implications for search engines in the future.
On to this month's edition...
Attracting links with unique content
The need to attract links into a website from other third-party sites is undisputed as this can be one of the most significant factors in determining ranking position - particularly on Google - but it can also be the most challenging. There are many ways that this can be achieved, but one of the most effective is through the 'natural' attraction of links by adding unique content to your website – so called 'link bait'.
Creating content on a website can be achieved in a number of ways and the more 'niche' a market might be, the easier it can be to attract attention through the addition of 'hard to find' information that the market might be looking for. We've outlined some ideas below on ways that content could be used to attract web traffic and links, but in most cases the creation of the content is just the beginning and you also need to consider how others will find this content to then link through to it.
Developing web content can also be a time consuming task, so advance planning on what to produce and how to gain attention will be an important aspect to avoid wasting time creating information that doesn't achieve its objective. Here are some ideas that you might want to consider for your business:
- Web content – this can be the simplest way of attracting links into your site and involves adding useful content or resources to your site that your target market will find valuable and which is presented in a non-commercial way. This could be a glossary of terms, some background information on your market sector (such as a history of search engines) or free advice on a particular topic that might be hard to find elsewhere. If this content can also be developed with search engine optimization in mind, it can help your site to attract visits and reference links.
- News – adding news stories about your market sector can also attract links from other sites. This could be the use of a news feed or ideally some unique news content or perspective on current issues that might not be available elsewhere.
- Blogs – these are now becoming immensely powerful tools for many companies and provide an easy way to regularly ad content and comment to your website. A blog can be used in many different ways, from commenting on trends in your market sector, to announcing new product developments or publishing opinions that can attract feedback and debate.
- Forums – external forums can be used to discuss issues in your market sector, or you can develop an active forum on your own site. This can be more difficult to achieve than a blog that attracts feedback, but can be a used as a good information exchange in a specialized market, as long as there is no outwardly commercial motivation by your site that could prevent people from getting involved.
- Articles – if you can create good content that is unique and valuable you can publish this through your own site or through many of the free article circulation websites. Other blogs or content sites may use this information in return for including your details and a link back to your site, but this type of market is now highly competitive and you need to find new and interesting angles to get your articles noticed.
- Tools or applications – another popular way of attracting traffic and reference links to your site is to provide a free tool or application that would be used by your market – such as a budgeting tool or mapping application. Again, these techniques are becoming more widespread so you need to consider your market and come up with a unique idea that could address a particular need.
All of the above elements can be developed on your website or through external web services that will create links back to your site (although note the impact of the 'nofollow' tag). You need to consider what content will add value to your customers and create interest as well as reference links from other sites.
Creating this type of 'link bait' is very much like PR and needs constant development to raise the profile of your business and website, but with the right planning and implementation the time spent can be a valuable investment, not just for attracting links but also new business enquiries as well.
If you'd like to discuss some ideas about how your business could attract links from new content strategies, please contact us.
A view of changing search habits
We reported last month on some recent research that identified the changing search habits being driven by the new 'universal' search results being shown by the main search engines. Another part of the same research looked at the way that searching habits have changed over the past 6 years and the implications this can have on search engine marketing strategies.
The research study was conducted by JupiterResearch on behalf of iProspect in the US and a follow-up posting by one of iProspect's executives on the Yahoo! Search Marketing blog sheds more light on the data that was collected by this survey.
For example, in answer to the question of how many results users tend to look at before clicking on a link, 16% in 2002 said 'just a few' whereas in 2008 that figure had increased to 27%. The same figures for those scanning the whole of the first page have also changed from 32% six years ago to 41% this year. These figures also imply that 68% of searchers will tend to click on one or more results within the first page in 2008, compared to 48% in 2002.
A second question, which asked searchers at which point they revised their search query or tried another search engines if they didn't find what they were looking for, shows that in 2002 14% would do this after reviewing just a few results, compared to 23% this year. Those who revised their search after reviewing the first page of results rose from 14% in 2002 to 26% in 2008.
These results do show an interesting trend which may indicate the growing impatience of searchers, or an improved level of searching skill using more key terms to find a specific result. It can also indicate the improved relevancy of results (and probably more people now using Google) as well as the higher number of optimised sites appearing in the search results and, through highlighted content, appearing to give users the results they are looking for.
The conclusion from this is that high ranking positions have become even more important, despite being harder to achieve, as the competition within search engine results has become more active. No great surprise there, but it also highlights the value of achieving top rankings on Google which is now extremely dominant in most countries, except perhaps for the US (where Yahoo still has a good share) and China (where Baidu currently leads the market).
Of course the Yahoo! article encourages website owners to target their paid search advertising to create relevant rankings for users and to get first page positions to attract the majority of the search traffic. It also recommends focusing optimisation efforts on all aspects of the 'blended' search results that are now being served up - such as news stories, video, images and local business listings - to ensure that all opportunities are being taken for the website to put itself infront of relevant searchers.
To find out more about the impact of this research and how it may affect your search engine marketing strategy, please contact us now.
Microsoft's new Live Search Cashback
Microsoft have just announced a new incentive to try to encourage more users to conduct their online shopping through their Live Search engine. Cash incentives are being offered to shoppers through the new 'Live Search Cashback' scheme, so that listed products could offer users discounts of up to 10% of the sale price.
This is a bold - or desperate - move by Microsoft, depending on how it works. The clear intention is to provide a monetary incentive to get users to change their search habits, since the quality of the search results offered by Live Search don't seem to be making any headway against the dominance of Google. It may certainly lead to more traffic from online shoppers looking for a bargain, but it may not significantly change their online search habits.
Microsoft says that its new cashback program covers more than 10 million products from over 700 merchants. These participating merchants will pay Microsoft a fee each time a customer completes a sale through Live Search Cashback and this fee will be a percentage of the retail price. When the purchase is completed, Microsoft will then return the fee to the consumer in the form of a cash rebate, so in reality Microsoft is simply acting as a middleman through their search tool, in the form of an affiliate programme.
At the moment any searches on the service bring up a limited array of retailers for many products and there is a strong US-basis to the service and the pricing. It works much the same as many shopping comparison websites, and Google's Product Search service, but adds the discount incentive with each product so that shoppers need to register with Microsoft to receive the discounts.
It remains to be seen how poplar this service becomes and how other services may react to it. Press reports say that this new scheme is part of Microsoft's plan to "innovate and disrupt" in the search industry, and certainly it is thought that if elements of the cashback plan are adopted more widely by other search services, then it is likely to change the Internet advertising business in fundamental ways, including adapting the ways that search engines provide an 'independent' service, to one where conversions and profits could drive search results.
To find out more about this new service and how it could affect you – either as a business or a consumer - please contact us for further information and advice.
Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench
The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:
- Google opens up about search quality
- Microsoft reconsiders Yahoo! partnership
- Threat of a recession drives search advertising
- Companies begin to publish negative reviews
- Online display advertising rate slows in Australia
- Google developing Image Search enhancements
- Microsoft pulls out of offer for Yahoo!
We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.