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Archive for the ‘ Search Marketing Today ’ Category

Sarah Matista’s post on Pagemodo recently assembled compelling data published independently by Searchmetrics and Moz regarding correlations between social media signals and search engine rankings. Both of these studies found two significant search ranking factors that could alter modern SEO practices: social media signals are showing the greatest correlations to higher search rankings, and Google +1′s are hands down the highest correlated signal of all social media signals.

While it is widely accepted in the SEO community that it is extremely important to have on-page and off-page links to major social media sites (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), simply creating these pages and gaining lots of followers does not guarantee higher search engine rankings.  Having 1,000 fans will not directly make you rank higher, but having content that will attract 1,000 fans absolutely could allow you to rank highly.

Before you begin to shift your efforts to increasing the number of +1′s, comments, shares, and likes (as Sarah suggests), it is important to understand the core reason why social media signals correlate well with search rankings: content that does well in social, is the type of content that does well in search.

Simply put, the correlation of social media signals with high rankings does not mean causation for higher search rankings. The difference between correlation and causation is subtle, but it may be the most crucial concept to comprehend, especially as social media signals continue to show greater correlation with higher search engine rankings. The relationship of social media signals and ranking factors has been a hotly debated subject since social media signals started pointing towards higher rankings; however, Matt Cutts, head of the Google webspam team, has addressed the issue, clearly stating that Google does not use +1′s, or other signals such as Facebook likes, in its search ranking algorithm.

correlation vs causation in seo and social signals

The reason Google +1′s, Facebook likes, and other social media signals have shown such high correlation to higher search rankings is because the characteristics of something that succeeds in social media are the same ones that make something succeed in search.  Namely – people find the content valuable.

If a site becomes popular through social media, the site must have compelling content that could also be optimized to succeed in search. Compelling content includes creating material that is innovative, unique, and relevant so that people will be interested in it and share it with other people. By focusing your attention solely on increasing the number of +1′s and Facebook likes instead of focusing your attention on creating quality content, the material may not be as compelling or interesting to users even if you somehow get 1,000 people to like it.

Instead, continue to earn the +1′s and Facebook likes by creating quality content that people will want to read and follow. This is a more reliable guide for attaining search success than simply generating likes. Inflating your site’s status with fake +1′s and Facebook likes will not cause your site to rank higher in search engine rankings; conversely, focusing only on generating high like counts will likely cause your content quality to suffer and thus, search rankings to plummet.

Focus effort on creating valuable content that users will naturally want to use and promoting this content to the right people and you’ll have far more success in search than simply focusing on generating likes and +1′s.  Of course, be sure to optimize that content for search engine consumption as well … we know where you might be able to get some help with that.

Last Friday, three of us SiteLabbers attended Interactive Day San Diego 2013, a conference highlighting the latest trends and best practices in marketing. There were quite a few well-known presenters from agencies and companies on the cutting-edge, including Danny Gray from Google, Wade Forst from Razorfish, and my personal fave, Rand Fishkin from Moz.

After a full-day of sessions about topics ranging from search marketing to social media to mobile and content development, I could see some real trends emerge. Here are my insights into what’s now and what’s next according to the presentations and conversions I had at Interactive Day.

Insight #1 – The Consumer is overwhelmed

Presenters from the agency side talked about the overwhelmed consumer and how we have to come up with ways to attract them to our client’s content over a competitor’s. Those on the brand side of things emphasized the importance of producing good content meaning content that the customer actually told the brand they want, the brand listened and produced it.

My favorite presentations was by Rand Fishkin called “The Nudge is mightier than the sword: What’s in store for SEO, Social Media & Content Marketing”. In it, he talked about how the consumer is overwhelmed with choices and there are several ways that we as marketers can “nudge” them towards the optimal choice for us and them.

One of the “nudge principles” that Rand and Dan Zarella of Hubspot both talked about is the fact that “Fewer choices lead to more actions”. The example they both used was the gratuitous display of sharing widgets on many websites, with well-known social media blogs like Social Media Examiner and Mashable being among the worst offenders.

Source: Rand Fishkin, MOZ presentation (Download:

Rand found that instead of offering as many choices as an Greek diner menu, offering one choice, like the OK Cupid blog does with Facebook, results in the most action (more likes).

Source: Rand Fishkin, MOZ presentation (Download:

Similarly, Dan Zarella found that the more links a brand posts, the less attention each one will get (and therefore lead to less action – a click). He told us to “Stop crowding out our own content. Let it breathe”. To do this, Dan had suggestions such as spacing out tweets and posts throughout the day; also, don’t be afraid to post during the weekend when you have the most captive audience and the least amount of noise from other brands.

Audience motivation is so important for increasing your chances that your content will be seen. As Dan said “the more value you feel you get by interacting with me, the more you’ll want to interact” — true for interactions online and off. Some ways that a brand can create value include scarcity (“I’m the first one to tweet this – cool!”), novelty (“I’ve never heard of such a thing – cool!”), and social proof (“My smart best friend likes this brand, so I do too”).  And sometimes, just by asking your audience to do you a solid by including a social call-to-action (“please retweet”) is motivation enough.

Insight #2 – Mobile. Is. It.

Anyone who mentioned mobile at Interactive Day, mentioned how it’s a must. It’s a non-negotiable. You have to consider mobile in any website, campaign, or initiative you take on.

During the morning keynote, John Durham of Catalyst S+F explained the importance of mobile very simply. It’s part of the user experience. The way we, as consumers, use your product or service through mobile is the way we use your product or service in your lives. John also called a mobile device a “life device”. He asked the audience “What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Look at your mobile phone”.

In a panel called “Sharing Economy”, Brandon Lachance of Carl’s Jr. was asked what he thought about platforms touting “mobile first”. His reply is that Carl’s Jr. won’t even consider a platform or option unless they put mobile first.

To demonstrate how we consumers put mobile first, Qualcomm’s Liya Sharif told the “Content in Context: Breaking Through The Noise In an Age of Digital Marketing” session audience about the “Born Mobile” campaign Qualcomm launched last year. In a rather disturbing, yet compelling YouTube video showing a “baby’s first text”, Liya showed how large-scale thematic campaigns using less highly produced videos like this one can be highly effective in breaking through the noise.

Insight #3 – You only need one digital marketing strategy.

Though each session followed a track, the marketing silos weren’t as clearly defined as they had been in previous years. Instead of the “social media”, “search”, “paid media” tracks of yesteryear, we went to sessions on “digital research”, “digital content” and “lead generation”.

Then Jonathan Renteria of Saatchi & Saatchi LA finally said it: “There are not many different marketing strategies (for SEO, social media), there is one digital marketing strategy.”

So, what are some ways we can build a comprehensive digital marketing strategy as brands with multiple agencies or as agencies with multiple brands? The speakers all had suggestions.

Brandon Lachance of Carl’s Jr. emphasized brand voice. He told us brand voice needs to be dialed in to make decisions and move quickly in social media. Also, a company like Carl’s Jr. has at least three different agencies – a PR agency, an agency of record, and a media buying agency. Brandon said all three agencies “play nicely” and work together to come up with campaign ideas, always going back to the brand voice and marketing goals to make decisions.

John Durham’s entire presentation was about media, not social media, paid media, or earned media, but media. He started his presentation by answering “What does media mean today?”: It’s all about the ME in MEdia. Media IS content that is going to reach ME, the consumer. And all media is digital at the core. John also said “screen size is the most important thing”. If you look at a typical 21-year old college student, they have an average of 6.9 gadgets – how are you going to reach them? Look to your digital marketing strategy.

The consumer must be at the heart of your digital marketing strategy, John says. The consumer experience is more important as ever. As marketers, we have a tendency to forget about that user experience, but it’s the only way you’re going to make a difference in reaching your goals.

To support your strategy and goals, it will also be important to look at the “new hire”. The jobs you’ll need to fill will be the designers, copywriters and technologists (read: content! content! content!) and analytics will be more crucial than ever.

Insight #4 – Media and journalism are converging

Don’t worry you unemployed journalists… you’re going to have a job in the very near future. Hint: Begin your search at Qualcomm.

All of the presenters emphasized the importance of good content, but there wasn’t an example of doing it on a greater scale than Qualcomm. Liya Sharif of Qualcomm began her presentation by telling us storytelling hasn’t changed since the beginning of time. People are still looking for conflict > drama > resolution. While many brands are losing grip on their own identities with all the feedback online, and attention spans are getting shorter and shorter (average 30 seconds), storytelling is a tried and true tactic for breaking through the noise. In fact, 78% of consumers trust brands who create their own content (tell stories), says Liya.

Qualcomm has recently undergone a major shift from exclusively marketing to a B2B audience to reaching out to consumers to care about “what’s inside” their phone too. To facilitate this challenging shift, the marketing department still is retooling to focus on brand journalism. The first outcome has been Qualcomm Spark, a digital magazine that attracts influential people like celebrities to tell the Qualcomm story through their words, pictures and videos.

Brand journalism is a new (or maybe revived) media approach industry-wide, with AMEX and Red Bull, and now Qualcomm leading the way. Everything Qualcomm does related to Spark is content-driven. Spark ad placements on influential tech sites include snippets of content that update in real-time as the content is updated on Spark. The site is lightly branded to allow for authentic, interesting or helpful content to take center stage. Video is emphasized.

Most helpful were Liya’s tips for selling brand journalism to the top. She says start with small KPIs. Also show the top brass how other people benefited from sharing your content. And my favorite, she says “Don’t be afraid of polarizing your audience. If everyone likes you, something is wrong.”

David Moye of the Huffington Post gives a tip for writing polarizing content: “Pitch to the heart and lower parts, not to the brain”. Also, remember to write press releases (and I’d say blog posts, articles, anything you’re going to be sharing) like you’re talking to your friends over beers, not to your parents over dinner. This is what gets people going.

I love going to these marketing conferences because it gives me a chance to see what’s going on outside of my little shared office in our boutique agency in La Jolla. From what I heard at this year’s Interactive Day San Diego, what’s going on is good. There was so much more emphasis on the consumer than I had ever heard before. Also, everybody is simplifying – from marketing plans to messaging.

I can dig that. Can you? Let us know in the comments if you’re seeing some of the same trends from your cubicle.

Marketing in the online environment for a product that can only be purchased offline is always a challenge. This webinar will guide you through how to meet the challenge by engaging your customers in the online and digital environments they frequent.

View the slides:

PPC MarketingOptimization is the key to a successful PPC campaign, but unfortunately it’s often overlooked. The below list encapsulates the most common mistakes we see when PPC campaigns are presented to us for evaluation.  By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it does illustrate how simple setup issues can be a barrier to your PPC’s campaign success.

  1. Analytics and AdWords Not Linked Properly – By linking Google AdWords and Analytics, additional insights into campaign performance are available.  This link will enable analysis of site usage by visitors from paid search campaigns.  Without this data, it’s difficult to analyze how campaigns and web pages can be improved to better serve site visitors. Campaigns run through Microsoft AdCenter and measured in Google Analytics will need a more complex setup in order to track this traffic as paid search traffic.
  2. Only One Venue Leveraged – Given that different keywords will perform differently, it is essential to maximize campaign budget on the best performing keywords in order to optimize campaign performance.  Any single venue will have a limited volume of search queries for a given keyword.  As such, a key tactic to drive lower cost per conversions is to simply add venues to increase the available volume for highly desirable keywords.  The addition of more than 1 venue should be tempered by the availability of resources to manage that additional venue.
  3. (more…)

Our Dallas office continues to grow with the addition of Minimally Invasive Spine Care Clinic, to our client roster. Founded by top spine surgeon, Dr. Douglas Won, MD, Minimally Invasive Spine Care Clinic (MISCC) sought agency expertise in building its brand awareness and increase patient acquisition.

Launching off successful processes developed for major brand clients of Sitelab, such as Sharp Healthcare, Wolfgang Puck and the US Navy; we were set with the task of formulating a custom marketing plan for Dr. Won’s practice. Aiming MISCC squarely in the center of the heavily saturated and competitive market of the Dallas Fort Worth area was the goal. Dr. Won was already a pioneer with highly specialized training in his industry and the procedures he performs. Sitelab just had to bring the strategy to give notice to the stellar reputation.

Along with the near instant results that Pay Per Click marketing, analytics optimization and content development can bring to a project, these processes lend to the desired outcome. Improving website usability and building upon search engine optimization of MISCC, which are the roots of the campaign that we believe converts website visitors into loyal patients.

We welcome Dr. Won and Minimally Invasive Spine Care Clinic to the Sitelab family.

Want to learn more about these services, or need help developing an online marketing strategy to reach your 2012 (and beyond) business goals? Contact

SiteLab Named Top 100 SEO CompaniesThe list of the Top 100 Best SEO Companies, compiled by, has been released for June 2012. Sitelab Interactive has found a spot on the list, being identified as a top service provider, noting that the “evaluation process for both agencies and software tools is meticulous. We review strengths, weaknesses, and competitive advantages.” is an independent authority on search vendors.

Their list of top search engine optimization companies in the online marketing industry is released monthly and features companies nationwide. Read the full SFGate/San Francisco Chronicle article and check out the list.



Lead by Following on Google+

April 16th, 2012
by SiteLab

Many of us don’t have the resources to dive into every new technology and trend in marketing, let alone be first. With the ever changing landscape of social media and search marketing, it’s hard to know which ones are worthwhile. Google+ may have been one of those that you’ve taken a “wait and see” approach with, but now it’s critical for your business to not only be present, but active there.

But Why Should I Be on Google+ now?

There are lots of smart people there, and it’s growing. Google+ now has 90 million users, and is adding 625,000 new users a day*. While this number is dwarfed in comparison to Facebook’s 750 million users, it’s quickly catching up to the number of Twitter’s active users. Who were the first people to start using Google+? The early adopters – bloggers who recognized Google+ as uncharted territory where they didn’t have to be confined by the 140 character limit of Twitter. Now these intelligent people are waiting to “hang out” with you.

They’re making it personal. With the roll out of the new Google Search Plus Your World, when you’re signed into your Google+ account, and you Google search a keyword, in addition to your regular search results, you’ll see results from “your world” including web pages shared with you by your friends, Google+ posts from people you know (in your circles), and content  that’s only visible to you (like private photos from Google+). So for example, if someone searches for “best blue widget manufacturer in San Diego”, and you are said blue widget manufacturer, you’ll show up at in their search results if someone in their Google+ circles has interacted with your brand on Google+.

Your competition is there. The “best red widget manufacturer in San Diego” (a.k.a. your competition) may already be on Google+ since 61% of the top 100 brands are (Source: And better yet, if they’re not…you’ll beat them there. The benefit of building valuable connections outweighs the virtually no risk of participation.

It’s Google. Google remains the undisputed champ in search engines. And Google products like Gmail, Google Places, Google News, Google Images, and YouTube are at the top of their respective heaps too. They’ll be integrated as part of Search plus Your World to improve the search experience. So a user can watch a video on you YouTube channel, see if their friends watched it, find new videos on Google+, and email it to some other friends. At this point, Search Plus Your World doesn’t cover content on any other social network with a more limited audience, including Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr.  More information about the convergence of Personal, Private, & Public Search Results with Google+ is available on

SiteLab - Your Google+ Marketing Experts

To help you get started with Search Plus Your World, SiteLab created a 3-month plan for you to be fully integrated in 90 days.

Month 1: Optimize your Google+ profile:

  • Confirming ownership of your site/account
  • Adding profile images, writing a description of your page and populating your “About” page.
  • Adding up to 20 photos
Compelling Content

Month 2: Create Compelling Content

We get you started on writing content for your new Google+ audience, which includes:

  • One month content editorial calendar with 2 posts per week
  • Monitoring and engaging with followers at 2 hours per week for one month
Learn and Lead Keys

Month 3: Training

Now that you’re established on Google +, we train you to post on your own and engage your followers, which includes:

  • Two one hour web-enabled training sessions
  • One page instructional cheat sheet

Price:  Contact your Sitelab account manager or fill out our form for pricing.



Be the first in your industry to lead the way.

Source: *

Search FragmentationThe search marketing landscape on January 1, 2012 will look far different than it did at the start of 2011. 2011 marked a stark shift in search marketing away from a monolithic experience towards a personalized experience for all searchers. More than ever, searchers on Google will have distinctly personalized and unique search experiences even when using identical keyword searches. This means search marketers will no longer be able to focus solely on keywords, but rather on how their content resonates with various audiences based on demographic and psychographic profiling.

With the rise of mobile technology has come the availability of vast data resources for better aligning users with their desired content.  Mobile phones contain data on everything from a user’s current location to who their friends are and what kinds of apps they purchase; all of which can be used to better focus marketing on the individual user. Even searchers on desktop computers are experiencing a vastly more personalized search experience with Google’s personalized results and their continued push toward offering incentives for users to utilize Google products such as Google+ and the +1 button.

Simultaneously, this will offer new opportunities for savvy search marketers to capture these newly personalized search result rankings by taking advantage of emerging standards for semantic web information in concert with existing best practices. As monolithic search rankings erode, websites taking advantage of emerging standards will rise to fill these gaps for users, in a highly relevant way.

 - Matt Parisi, Search Marketing Manager

Google Analytics Term Clound Not Provided ImageIt has been about three months now since SiteLab first wrote about Google encrypting search results for users logged in to a Google account. Many search marketers were troubled by the news and wondered how this would impact the overall measurement of organic search traffic to websites.

Before this change you were able to see not only what keyword/query was used to reach your site but also data showing how traffic from each term performed; a very valuable insight when determining strategy, optimizations and overall success.  Read the official “Making search more secure” blogpost from Google.

Google software engineer Matt Cutts stated that only single digit search volume would be impacted by this switch, meaning no more than 9.9% of searches would essentially be “hidden”. We’ve been monitoring this closely and have some stats that show the percentage of searches being impacted and what steps can be taken to minimize the loss of data.

Client Case Studies – % of Organic Traffic Identified as Keyword Source, “Not Provided”

  • Client #1- 14.35%
  • Client #2- 13.05%
  • Client #3- 12.92%
  • Client #4- 14.27
  • Client #5- 13.24%
Google Analytics Keyword (not provided)

Top 10 Keywords for Client #1 with 14.35% "Not Provided" Shown in Blue

You can see the trend is almost at the 15% mark in each instance. These clients were simply chosen at random, but it’s also important to note that during our research we observed cases where up to 29% of incoming organic traffic was all grouped under the new (not provided) keyword source.

The trend sure seems to indicate that this figure won’t be getting smaller in the foreseeable future, so what are some ways you can gain back the insight lost from this missing data?

First of all, you’re not going to get this information back, at least not through Google Analytics. There are a number of ways for you to break down the value and importance of this new (not provided) group, but there’s no way you can get the invaluable information back that has been taken away. That said, what you’re losing is only currently a small portion of data, 10-15% off the top. For now, the impact is relatively low but the takeaway should be that now is the time to diversify your analytics sources and end reliance on a single source of data. Here are a few other venues to get analytics data and ideas for how to track these types of metrics to help with strategizing, optimizing or measuring success of an organic campaign.

Other Analytics Sources

    1. PPC - If you run any PPC accounts, whether through Google or another platform, you can see performance indicators through the reporting features on those programs. A tactic sometimes used when starting an organic campaign for a new client or a new business altogether is to launch a low-end PPC campaign to test your keywords before devoting too much time and effort unknowingly on the terms. This testing will show which keywords are the highest converting, most valuable sources of traffic and be a good indicator of organic keyword performance once rankings are attained. Google currently does not encrypt keyword referral data in paid search campaigns, creating a situation where you can essentially “buy” more performance data where you might be lacking insight.
    2. Site Search DataIf you have a site search option you have a great source of information showing what topics are most important to your site visitors. Looking at the types of searches, terms used and how they speak about the product are all valuable tools in assessing the value of a term.
    3. Webmaster Tools – If you use Google Analytics, you should also have a Google Webmaster Tools account setup and synced with the analytics platform. If not, you should do this immediately (link?). It’s free and will add a whole new level of insight to your site management and optimizations. Webmaster Tools shows data for which search queries resulted in an impression and how many clicks were generated. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite as useful as the lost data, but this information can help fill in some gaps.

In summary, it’s really a sad state of affairs that this data has been taken away from marketers by Google. Especially when considering this information is available for paid advertisers of Google’s AdWords product and this information essentially helps Google’s search results be better by allowing marketers insights into what users want. The best way to combat this loss of data is through a multi-faceted approach to diversify your data sources. Also, don’t forget to continue analyzing the stats for your (not provided) traffic in order to gain insights into how you may be able to better serve that increasingly large segment of traffic.

While performing an SEO audit for one of our numerous recipe sites, we came across an interesting conundrum: Should we use Microformatting or Microdata ( for tagging our recipe web pages with structured data? (Structured data is data that is identifiable by type, for example data referring to a recipe (see for further explanation)) Back in 2010, we immediately implemented the new Microformatting standard adopted by Google using “hrecipe” (microformatting) as it heralded an additional tag (among many others) that could be used to communicate to search engines directly to help them understand the contents of a web page. For example we tagged recipe ingredients with a special ingredient. There are only so many ways to do this, so this new technique was exciting.

However, many competing standards have also been released, which spurred an investigation into which format is superior for ranking purposes. Does using Microformatting (hrecipe) or Microdata (itemprop, itemscope, itemtype) provide any advantages over one another for ranking?

At first glance, it appears that perhaps there is an advantage to using the Microformat method with hrecipe. It’s overwhelming to analyze search result pages where the top recipe results use hrecipe over and over again. The Top Recipe Sites;,,, etc, all use hrecipe. (more…)

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