Internet marketing – Getting the horse before the cart

November 16, 2008

Time after time, I come across businesses that have built a website and have either not considered the need for internet marketing until it’s become apparent that people won’t just magically appear on the home page, or have concluded (often with some help from the web designer), that the starting point for their online presence is search engine optimisation (SEO).

Well there’s some sense in that, as you don’t want to put your website live without some of the SEO basics, like including a meta tag title and description. But (and it’s a big but), for your SEO to be successful, you must be focussing on the right keywords. The right keywords are the ones that produce the most sales (or most valuable, depending on what you’re selling) and right now, you don’t know what those keywords are, because you haven’t had any traffic to your website yet.

You (or your web designer) may have used keyword tools such as Googles own or wordtracker, but that only tells you what people are searching for, not what’s going to effectively drive sales for your business. The only way to determine that is to track traffic from keywords through to sales, or if you don’t have a shop on your website, to actions such as completing an enquiry form. 

The logical solution to this for any business launching a new website, is to run a trial PPC (pay per click campaign), analyse the results using your own site stats and/or Google Analytics and then determine the focus of your SEO keyword strategy.

I’ve heard of companies spending thousands of pounds on SEO, without ever using PPC and to my mind, this is crazy. Apart from not knowing the best keyword focus as illustrated above, they don’t even know if they can successfully sell their products or services online (and let’s be clear, not every business can). A trial PPC campaign would also have confirmed that.

Other reasons for PPC before SEO are that PPC can be set up in hours and you can guarantee traffic from the moment your new site goes live, whereas results from natural listings produced by SEO can take weeks or months to produce results and in some cases, never achieve acceptable visibility.

The whole point of SEO is to produce free clicks through to your site. But of course there’s no such thing as free clicks, as somewhere in the process you’ve paid for that SEO. A cost that for some businesses runs into thousands of pounds. Sensible then to ensure first that such costs are justified, by targeting the right key phrases and being sure that the amount you’d have to pay for similar PPC visibility, justifies the cost of replacing it with natural results (if indeed you can as there are no guarantees of SEO success).

A balanced internet marketing campaign will usually be a mix of PPC and SEO, with the larger share of effort and cost going into PPC initially and (if it’s worth the effort) that changing to more emphasis on SEO to reduce the cost of the PPC. We advocate that you always look at both, but in the right order.

We work with numerous web designers or directly with clients, to help them determine the focus and need for future SEO work, by creating effective PPC campaings . If your’re a web designer and would like us to help you to help your clients (or you’re either thinking about a new website or unhappy with results from your current site) then we’d be delighted to hear from you:

If you agree or disagree with the logic of this please post your thoughts, we’re always open to new ideas.


Google Instant launched. How will it affect your online presence?

September 10, 2010

Google Instant rolls out in Google’s ongoing quest to make search using their engine the easiest and most effective search experience available. But how could this affect your business and it’s current online presence? First let’s explain what it does and why. Instant brings the idea behind predictive texting and applies it to search, anticipating what you might be searching for and displaying search results while your still typing (see for Google’s full explanation). This is one step further than what Google has previously done in showing a list of possible search terms as you typed your search in. This might nor seem like a huge difference, but it is.

Previously you had to click on one of the suggested terms to see results, now results appear as you type. At the start of a search this can provide some strange results. I started a search for ‘spa hotels Oxfordshire’ and by the time I’d typed in ‘spa’ a results page displayed for the search ‘Spartacus’. Now while I love that old movie, it has no relevance to my search and though the whole point is supposedly to save me time, it distracted me from my original search for a moment.

Let’s follow the pages Google Instant delivered during this search and then I’ll explain the two potential issues this may raise for your business.

S Sky

SP shows Sports direct

SPA shows Spartacus

SPA space shows  Spa breaks (interestingly, though I hadn’t typed in any more letters, simply adding a space told they system that spa was a word not part of a word so it revised it’s results and this is the point at which we start to get some relevance of results)

SPA H shows Spa Hotels (now we’re getting warmer and it stays with this page of results for the rest of the word)

SPA HOTEL space shows Spa hotels Tunbridge Wells (strangely adding the space prompts a change to a poor prediction)

SPA HOTEL O shows Spa hotel offers

SPA HOTEL OX shows Spa hotel Oxford (and stays with that for the next few letters)

SPA HOTEL OXFORDS shows Spa hotel Oxfordshire and we’ve reached the results we want having saved typing 4 letters, but having been shown 9 pages of results, of varying relevance.

So here are the potential issues. Imagine you are the owner of a spa hotel in Oxfordshire and you have previously enjoyed good results from that search term. Your website has good natural results for that term or you have it covered with PPC. The first relevant results page displayed is for ‘spa breaks’ and the first listing shown at the top of that results page is ‘Spa Breaks from £49’ from Some searchers may not realise these are more general results and think they are already being shown results for Oxfordshire and click, others may think ‘that’s cheap, let’s see if they have anything in Oxfordshire’ click. Others may think, ‘well I was thinking of Oxfordshire, but at that price let’s have a look at other options’ click. So some potential business may be siphoned off at this point and may or may not return to the search. The same process with different results may occur with each new page shown and the biggest danger is perhaps the last hurdle, where results for the rearch ‘spa hotel Oxford’ are shown and of course they are all in Oxfordshire so there is now a huge choice of highly relevant options to consider before they go any further.

So the value of search terms that were your primary focus may change and other terms may become more valuable.

There’s also a potential issue with Google Adwords and quality score as ads may be shown to less relevant searches and ads shown and not clicked on reduce your clickthrough ratio, which in turn affects your ‘quality score’ and that effects the amount you pay and your page position. Google will count a 3 second pause in typing as an impression for any ads on that page shown (on that basis I certainly triggered impressions for Spartacus, as it was such an unexpected result it made me pause).

Even bigger implications in terms of SEO as the majority of SEO success for smaller businesses is on longer more detailed searches and Google Instant means potential business may start to be redirected elsewhere before they reach the term you’ve spent years and lots of money achieving success for.

Google instant is currently only available if you log into a Google account and from their home search page (so not from your iGoogle or searches on Google that originate elsewhere) though I suspect that will change if Google finds that Instant increases its ad revenues and if it reduces the effectiveness of some established SEO results, then the short term solution at least may have to be more PPC to fill those gaps.

Facebook Ads better than Google Adwords?

March 17, 2010

I recently received a very long winded sales pitch email, the essence of which was: Forget Google PPC, use Facebook Ads instead and pay a couple of hundred dollars for some tips on how to use Facebook Ads effectively’.

Is this going to be the latest version of inaccurate, misleading sales pitches that the online marketing industry seems to be plagued with? Are Facebook Ads a viable alternative to Google Adwords? What really annoys me about this pitch is the blatant disregard for the fact that these are two completely different marketing options and one cannot possibly replace the other (with very limited exceptions). The fundamental difference is of course that Google Adwords is based on ‘search’ marketing (the exception being the content network), whilst Facebook Ads is not. One of the biggest selling points of Adwords (or other search based PPC) is that people are actively looking for what you sell, offering the advertiser the ideal opportunity to get in front of them at exactly the right time. Whilst Facebook Ads is a fantastic tool if used properly, it cannot replicate this, so the notion that you can forget Adwords and migrate to Facebook is ludicrous. I could go on for another page or two about the differences between the two and how that means that either may work better for some businesses than for others, but I think that’s another article.

The pitch goes on to rubbish Google as being arrogant and unhelpful to marketing professionals and whilst there’s certainly some room for improvement, if you’re a marketing professional operating Adwords accounts for clients and engage with them through the support channels they offer you can establish a good workable relationship, as we have. Regardless of any issues, they own the leading platform for search marketing, so you’d damn well better try to get on with them. On the other hand this pitch implies that Facebook love marketers and are delighted to work with them and help them succeed on Facebook. Then in what seems to me a huge reversal implies that there are so many ways to mess up your Facebook Ads account and get your account banned by Facebook, that you need to buy their guide to Facebook Ads.

Both Facebook Ads and Google Adwords are very simple to set up if you take the time to understand all the rules. Should you do that yourself, buy ‘how to’ guides like the one mentioned above, or use professionals who do this for a living to set up and manage your campaigns? The answer will depend on just how much time you can devote to this and what that time is really costing you vs the cost of employing a professional to do that for you. It will take someone who works in PPC a fraction of the time to create and manage a campaign that it will take you to learn how to do it efficiently. The real cost of doing it yourself can be far greater.

If you’re in any doubt as to which of these, Facebook or Adwords would be an effective route to market for your business, please don’t hesitate to ask, we’d be delighted to help. Email me on or call 01932 789572

Why use Internet Marketing?

December 28, 2008

If you’re asking this question, presumably you have a website or are about to build one. The why bit is easy. Because internet marketing can be the most direct, cost effective method of driving new visitors to your website.

Can, is the operative word. It isn’t for every business/website. There are plenty of contributory factors that determine if and how well internet marketing will work for you. Like any other form of marketing or advertising, the only way to determine for sure if it will work for your business is to try it and track the results. We’ve found that for most businesses, a 4 week trial period is sufficient to achieve this.

Of course this question is just one of many and our blog will address each of the others, such as: What is internet marketing? How much does it cost? Should I use SEO or PPC? How quickly can I expect results?

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