Google Guest Blogging Smackdown: Lessons Learned

This week, the SEO world was rocked when Google slapped a penalty on MyBlogGuest, a guest blogging network. The news shocked many who felt that MyBlogGuest was running a reputable content marketing and sharing service. I’ve been acquainted with Ann Smarty, the owner of MyBlogGuest, for years, and have followed her in social media. Everything she was doing seemed above-board – until the penalty brought that into question. (I still think she did nothing wrong, but Google begs to differ.)

Then yesterday, Google put the beatdown on Portent, a SEM firm based in Seattle. This news was even more surprising – I’ve been acquainted with Portent’s work for some time, and I count their PPC director, Elizabeth Marsten, as a friend. Their company does much more than SEO, and yet they were penalized. Mind-boggling.

I’m confident that both of these organizations will emerge from the fray stronger than before. Still, it’s a lesson we should all take to heart:

Don’t put all your eggs in the Google basket.

I’ve talked to several business owners over the years who were getting 90% or more of their business from Google, often from organic listings. Then suddenly, a Google update hits, and their business vanishes. Or they were using Adwords and doing fine, and then their sales tanked. While I never enjoy hearing these stories, I always wonder about the soundness of counting on one entity for most of your business leads.

In investing, the rule of thumb is to diversify your portfolio. Smart investment advisors will tell you that it’s never a good idea to invest all your savings in one place (Enron, anyone?).

PPC and SEM are no different. At a minimum, I recommend using both Google and Bing for PPC. Performance often varies widely, and Bing is frequently cheaper than Google. So if your Google results tank, hopefully Bing can keep you going until you figure out what’s wrong.

And that’s why businesses should use an integrated approach to marketing. Advertising in multiple channels, investing in landing page optimization, and measuring success are crucial components to long-term success in online marketing.

What do you think about the recent Google penalties? Too harsh, too soft, just right? What baskets do you put your online marketing dollars in? Share in the comments!

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SEO Never Stops

As most of you know, I consider myself primarily a PPC professional. That said, I’m also responsible for the SEO efforts at Fluency Media, and I firmly believe that SEO and PPC should go hand in hand.

If you’ve worked with websites at all, you know that the time will come when a site needs a redesign. Whether it’s a minor refresh of a few pages or an all-out scrap-and-redo, redesigns are part of any website’s life cycle. One of the issues I’ve run into from time to time is clients wanting to put SEO on hold during the redesign process.

Don’t fall into this trap!

Don’t get me wrong: I do understand the thought behind holding off on SEO during a site redesign. Why put time, effort, and money into site updates that in all likelihood will go away when the redesign launches?

Well, there are a few reasons why it makes sense to keep up at least a basic SEO effort during a redesign.

Redesigns take time.

How many site owners do you know that were able to complete even a small refresh in less than a month? Yeah, I don’t know many either. The fact of the matter is that these things take time – sometimes as long as a year – to complete. Web design teams are frequently understaffed and over-committed, and Murphy’s Law usually applies to a redesign as well.

In the meantime, the existing site is still live, crawled by search engine spiders every day. Theoretically, the site’s purpose still exists during a redesign: whether it be generating sales, leads, or whatever. The world doesn’t stop during a redesign – and neither should SEO efforts.

Optimized content is design-neutral.

Unless you’re changing your entire business model, it’s a good bet that the actual content of your website will remain relatively unchanged. While things might look different on the page, and locations of some information may change, the content itself likely will stay the same. And it’s likely that the keywords people use to find your business won’t change much either.

That’s another reason why it’s a good idea to continue SEO efforts during a redesign. Really astute clients will even provide new site access, or at least content, to their SEO professional to optimize before the site launches. This way, it’ll take the spiders less time to find your new content and realize that you haven’t gone away. A good SEO can also help you set up the proper redirects for any pages that may be moving on the new site, which also helps the spiders find their way on your new site’s roadmap.

SEO is a long-term investment.

Anybody with a 401K or retirement account has probably been advised to keep investing no matter what is happening in the market. Even if your account is losing money in the short term, you need to keep putting money in! And even if you’ve fallen on hard economic times, it’s really best to put even a small amount of money away for the future.

SEO is no different. Even if your website is as volatile as the market, you need to keep investing in optimization. Like a retirement account, SEO is a long-term investment – and you need to invest in it continually for best results.

And like a retirement account, a small investment is better than no investment at all. It’s not a horrible thing to temporarily reduce your SEO investment while you’re in the middle of a redesign, so you can focus your time and resources on the redesign itself. Keeping a minimum level of SEO going, though, will make things much smoother when the new site launches and prevent ranking & traffic setbacks.

In short, putting SEO on hold not only loses visitors while the redesign is happening, it makes it take longer for you to get found once the new site launches. Smart site owners will keep investing in SEO, because they know it pays off in the long run.

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Integrated Search Marketing – The Big Takeaway from SES Chicago

It’s hard to believe that SES Chicago was 2 weeks ago already. As always, it was a great conference, with informative sessions and fantastic networking.

One common theme throughout several of the sessions I attended was integrated search marketing. Interestingly enough, we’ve been preaching the integration gospel at Fluency Media for a while now. A year ago, I wrote a series of articles for Search Engine Watch on integrating PPC with other online marketing channels. And now, it seems as though everyone’s on the integration bandwagon.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the session called PPC or SEO: The Ultimate Search Marketing Battle. It wasn’t even a battle, really – both sides ended up saying that both PPC and SEO are necessary for maximum SEM success.

Despite my disappointment at the lack of blood in this session :), here are some of the key takeaways:

• Use PPC to inform SEO! Where have I heard this before?
• Integrating PPC with SEO yields better results, efficiency, and cross-channel intelligence.
• Combine the two to reduce your risk. You need to do both PPC and SEO to effectively mitigate your risk.
• Use SEO for niche, long tail terms. (I actually disagree with this – SEO works well for broader terms that are expensive in PPC, while PPC is great for niche & long tail terms.)
• Build your site with SEO in mind. I wish more companies did this!
• Build inbound links.
• PPC helps with immediate presence. (In other words, SEO takes time; PPC can bridge the gap until your SEO kicks in.)
• Use PPC for top ranking on competitive terms that you’ll never rank for organically.
• Use both to dominate real estate above the fold. A Google case study showed that top organic & paid listing increases unaided awareness by 17x!
• Resolution Media ran a test with their clients where they paused brand terms in PPC for a month to test. They found that not bidding on brand terms led to 42% overall decrease in traffic on paid AND natural search. I actually wrote an article for DM News on this very subject – we found that not bidding on brand terms also decreased direct traffic.
• Perform landing page testing in PPC to decide what pages to optimize for SEO. (GREAT advice!)

I thought these were great tips. Do you have any to add?

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Stretch Your Marketing Dollars – My SES Chicago Presentation Recap

Last week, at SES Chicago, I was honored to be part of the panel on the “Stretch Your Marketing Dollars” session. I presented a case study on one of our Fluency Media clients, where we used PPC to inform SEO.

I love the challenge of working within a small budget. It forces me to get really creative as a PPC manager and make sure I’m spending every cent in the best way possible. In many ways, it’s easier to work with an unlimited budget than with a small, limited one – and it’s more rewarding to see huge results from a relatively small spend.

SES Chicago is somewhat unique in that it tends to attract more in-house SEMs, as well as a lot of newcomers to search. The Stretch Your Marketing Dollars session was no exception – when I polled the audience to find out how many in-house vs. agency folks we had in the room, at least 2/3 of them were in-house SEMs.

I got a lot of great feedback after the session – one person even told me they took pages of notes! I hope the information in the presentation helps you too.

Have you had to work with a small budget? What did you do? What were the results?

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Online Marketing Integration FTW

I’ve written extensively about integrating PPC with other channels, and using it to kick up your online marketing results FTW. I’m probably most proud of the success we’ve had at Fluency Media with integrated marketing for Travel Michigan.

Travel Michigan is the official marketing arm for tourism for the State of Michigan. Their website,, has been the #1 state tourism website for 3 years running. Fully 75% of their traffic comes from search.

Most of the search traffic is organic – and we handle SEO for this client. However, we’ve been able to successfully use PPC to inform our SEO efforts, focusing on the keywords that are most likely not only to drive traffic, but to drive conversions.

Michigan also holds the #1 spot for social media, according to a study by Gammet Interactive. Guess what? We also handle all the social media for Travel Michigan. Again, we make sure all the bases are covered – so if someone sees an event or a destination on Facebook, and then later turns to search to find it again, it’s there.

Integration sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. What’s key, though, is communication between marketing teams. We have monthly “All-Agency” meetings with Travel Michigan marketing staff, Fluency, Travel Michigan’s PR team, and McCann Erickson, Travel Michigan’s traditional media agency (who, by the way, created the award-winning Pure Michigan TV ads). At the meetings, we discuss what’s going on – events, marketing efforts, new ad campaigns, whatever. No item is unimportant – what one group may think is a small thing might turn out to be big if promoted in another channel or channels.

We’re really proud of the success we’ve had with this client. What integration efforts are you proud of?

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