Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: SEM

The Impact Of “Real Time” Search On Search Engine Optimization

The interactive experience most often starts with Google.  For years Google has been the dominant search engine leader, besting competitors like Microsoft, Yahoo!, Ask, AOL and others.  Even when consumers know where they want to go or know exactly what they want, they turn to Google or another search engine and type in what they’re looking for.

Search engines, by default, exist to aggregate content across the web and provide website users relevant content to explore.  Years ago, the content search engines aggregated were just links to other sites.  Slowly, over time, search engines broadened the type of content they’d aggregate to include photos, videos, PDFs, and even music.

Over the last few years we’ve seen companies employ different approaches to return faster –and in theory – better search results.  The most popular approach is called “predictive search” and was made famous by Apple via its iTunes product.  When a user starts to type “Bob” into the iTunes search engine, Apple makes an assumption that the user is looking for “Bob Dylan” amongst other popular results.  And, it was only this time last year that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced that they would be pulling real-time streams from sites like twitter, directly into the search results page.

Google describes Google Instant as follows:

Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.

The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.

With “Instant” or “Real Time” search, users will see search results appear quicker and without having to hit the enter button.  The key here is that the search results will update in real time as the user is typing their query.  Here’s an example of what happens I type in the letter “a.”

You can see that the letter “a” is highlighted in black font.  That’s the only letter I typed in.  Google then does 3 things:

  1. It predicts my query by offering me “amazon,” “aol,” “American airlines,” and “att” as options.
  2. It returns results in the middle of the page for “Amazon” since that’s the most relevant search term
  3. It returns paid search ads in the right hand column based on the search term “Amazon”

It’s taken me some time to understand what Google Instant and the similar offerings from its competitors mean for marketers. Users, ultimately, don’t care how search engines work, they simply assume that the search engines are doing “their job” by returning relevant search results. This is a major shift, not just in how search engines work, but in how users will interact with them.

Implications And Recommendations

After a significant amount of research, consultation with leading search engine experts and exchanges with Googlers, I feel comfortable outlining the following implications and recommendations:

  1. If you’re currently neglecting search engine optimization; it’s time to get refocused.  Whereas before you could trade SEO for paid search as a means to drive traffic, you’re going to find that SEO just became as important as paid search.
  2. The time and dollar investment for SEO will increase because SEO will move from a casual marketing tool that a serious one.  The shift from casual to serious means SEO could be happening on a daily and weekly basis (just like paid search programs) instead of a quarterly and semi-annual time-table.
  3. The concept of being on the 1st page or “above the scroll” has changed. “As you continue typing and narrowing your search, the instantly changing and refreshing results below the search box will be giving you more relevant results. So if you previously looked on the second page, now those same results come to the top of the pile for you.” – Johanna Wright, director of product management for Google Insight (via AdAge).
  4. Websites will need to be updated more frequently with fresher content.  Fresher content tells search engines that a site is current and active.  With search engines prioritizing newer content over older content, even if the newer content is less accurate, the need to denote your site as one that’s fresh is critical.
  5. Greater emphasis needs to be paid to all Meta Tags.  This includes Title, Keyword and Description tags.  Meta Tags are the lifeblood of successful SEO initiatives because Google and the competition pay special attention to Meta Tags when determining the relevancy and accuracy of a site.
  6. Keywords for content will need to become more varied because users won’t need to completely type in a term to see their search engine results. Tools like Google Keyword Suggestion should become part of a marketer’s overall web strategy toolbox.
  7. Your social marketing efforts just became even more critical.  Social equals fresh content to search engines.  Social also generates a massive amount of links to your content and links are a major component of driving search engine visibility and relevancy.

Bottom line, what was old is now new again.  All the building blocks of search engine optimization became significantly more important.  SEO for years has often been a neglected area of focus for marketers because of the real-time results of paid search and the complexity of understanding the math behind making SEO work.  It’s time to make SEO a key focus of your interactive marketing strategy.

These changes represent massive opportunity for outflanking your competition. Many companies will be slow to change and embrace these new changes. This leaves the door wide open for your organization to get ahead of them

For more information about Google Instant Search, please watch this short video from Google:

and this entertaining video:

showing how Bob Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” comes to life with Google Instant.

I Want To Find – Not Search

Does anyone really want to search for something? Does anyone really want to sift through reams of files, sort through a massive list, or go drawer by drawer looking for that missing sock?

Of course not. There is no joy in searching. There is, however, joy in finding. My apologies for those of you who think it’s about the journey and the destination. In the case of search vs. find, it’s the destination not the journey. As technology evolves, companies get smarter, and expectations increase people become less patient or forgiving. People want it now. They want it quickly. Oh, and they don’t want to pay for it.

The search engine of the future, won’t be a search engine. It won’t be a tool that requires you to visit link after link in hopes of stumbling upon the desired result. Though search engines have gotten smarter, they are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. No, the search engine of the future will be a engine that focused on findability. It will be a tool that helps you FIND what you were looking for instead of browsing results in hopes of finding what you were looking for.

But, here’s the thing. In my humble opinion, the only way that’s going to happen is if people realize, understand, and accept the concept of mutual exchange. They are going to have to give something to get something. If people want a better individualized search engine, they’re going to need to provide information to help make the engine better. They will need to part with personal information. They will need to provide ongoing feedback.

People, not servers and mathematical algorithms are going make the difference. It’s the people that will cause a shift from search to find. We’re seeing this happen already with “human powered” search engines like Mahalo and Wikipedia. Last year when Google allowed people to customize and change search results with a new feature called Search Wiki we saw a glimpse of the future. Unfortunately, it was just a glimpse and nothing more. The next step for Google will be to aggregate all of those human powered changes and allow them to impact the overall search results. While, that’s the right next step, I don’t think we’ll see it happening anytime soon.

They aren’t adding more time in the day. Speed and accuracy are becoming more important. We all want answers to our questions and queries. I just don’t think we ever realized how big of a role we’d be playing in generating those quick, accurate, answers.

Ahh Spam

This just really made me laugh. I hope it does the same for you.

I am Dr. Marc Schneider and I work for Global Vibration Inc.  in Washington DC  ( Tel: 1 202-250-3645 ) – I would like to speak with the person in charge of your international clientele. Who is my contact? Who should I speak to??

In fact, after visiting http://www.thekmiecs.com , I have noticed that your website cannot be found on foreign search engines (I tested  it on Hispanic search engines, German search engines, Asian search engines,  etc.) Our company is specialized in multilingual search engine promotions in 28 languages . From the Japanese Google to the German Yahoo, from the AOL  in Spanish to the MSN in Chinese, we can show you how to develop a true international online presence by promoting your website on foreign search engines.

Let us show  you how to develop a presence on the multilingual web without having to  translate your website: It is not necessary to translate your website in  order to submit to foreign search engines, however, you need to have at least  1 page in Japanese optimized with Japanese keywords and meta tags in order to  submit to Japanese search engines, at least 1 page in Spanish optimized with  Spanish keywords in order to submit to Hispanic search engines and so  on…

I strongly suggest that you watch our online presentation which  will explains clearly how to get top rankings on foreign search engines with  only 1 entry page per language (click on the following link or copy-paste it  into your web browser): http://www.mplw.net/demo

From the Japanese Google to the German Yahoo, from the AOL in Spanish to the MSN in Chinese, get users to find your website when  searching with YOUR KEYWORDS in their Native language.

Please call me at +1 (202) 250-3645 or email me and let’s work on giving your website the true international exposure which it deserves to have with foreign native online users!!


Marc Schneider, Ph.D.

1250 Connecticut Ave N.W. Suite  200
Washington, DC 20036 USA
TEL: +1 (202) 250-3645 – FAX: 1 (202)-318-2453
Multilingual Search Engine Promotion Services since 1999.

You just have to love how savvy these spammers are getting.  I mean WOW, bummer, German search engines are finding me.

We Operate In The World Of Now – How US Airways Missed The Boat

At approximately 3:03 PM today, US Airways flight 1549, an Airbus A320, made an unexpected and certainly unplanned landing into New York City’s Hudson River. The plane was carrying 155 passengers and crew from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Charlotte, N.C. The plane literally ran into a flock of Canadian geese. The collision was enough to cause the plane to suffer engine failure. The pilot did an amazing job of landing the plane into the river. Amazingly, there were no fatalities and only a few minor injuries.  Keep this fact in mind, it’s really important.  Think about this, NO deaths.  That’s good news.

I first learned of the accident via Twitter, not the news.  I like many people decided to search for more information on the situation.  I was apparently not alone.  As Google Trends shows us, everyone seemed to be interested in the story.

As you can see it occupies the top 9 positions.  This screen grab was taken at roughly 8:45 EST.

With all this attention and interest, you’d think US Airways would want to make sure:

  1. The right information was being delivered
  2. The positive information was being emphasized
  3. They were influencing the conversation
US Airways released an official press release at 5:12 PM EST. Three other releases were issued after the first one.  I applaud their efforts in using offline/traditional channels to communicate with people.  However, I have to take them to task for the horrendous use of the most important channel: online search.  As noted above in the Google Trends graphic, there was an enormous about of interest in the situation.  To support the press release US Airways should have done 2 things:
  1. Setup a landing page/mini site for all information regarding the situation.  The site should have contained their message, their releases, and allowed people to opt-in or subscribe to a RSS feed for future updates.  The mini site would allow for a central location for all things related to the accident.  It would give US Airways a way to manage the conversation and ensure the information doesn’t pollute USAirways.com, where people would be booking flights.  See, you kinda don’t want to mix booking a flight with information about near crashes.
  2. Given all the chatter online and the number of searches they needed to get a paid search campaign up quickly.  I first made mention of this on Twitter around 5:00 PM EST.  Why I first tweeted about the need for paid search, no one had bought any terms.  When I checked again at 8:00 PM EST, US Airways hadn’t purchased any terms, but the lawyers and law firms had.  That’s a big problem.

There’s two things to take away from this image.  One, notice that Google has already started trending and recommending searches affiliated with the accident when you search for “US Airways.”  Specifically, “US Airways Crash” and “US Airways Plane Crash” are being recommended.  We can split hairs on this, but this wasn’t a crash.  The term crash is usually associated with death and destruction.  Remember, there were NO deaths.  The second thing to notice is the first paid search term is for a law firm that’s looking to make some serious money.

Had US Airways moved as quickly online as they had offline, this wouldn’t have been a problem.  But, now when people search for US Airways they’re going to be presented with language, information, and ads that are counter to the story that US Airways wants to communicate.  Simply put, they missed the boat, because they forgot that online we operate in the world of NOW.

The Devil Is In The Details – How Whopper Virgins Missed

Many of you, no doubt, are familiar with the Whopper Virgins work by CP+B for Burger King.  Even I openly admit to liking the concept, the ads, and the site.  The campaign relies on TV awareness to drive people to a web site.  Simple enough.  But, there are two giant flaws in the campaign and AdAge covers it really well here.

Flaw #1: The didn’t invest in any paid search engine marketing.
Flaw #2: They didn’t optimize the site to index against Whopper Virgins AND Whopper Virgin (sans S)

So why are these flaws?

Because nearly 50% of the searches are for Whopper Virigin (no S).  And when you type that into Google (because no one really types in the URL) you don’t see any paid search ads driving you to the right site nor do you see Whoppervirgins.com appear on the first page.

Paid search should be part of EVERY TV driven campaign.  It has to be.  People may not remember the URL, the brand, or the product, but they generally remember the story.  My favorite example of this was how GM outsmarted Ford during the 2006 Super Bowl.  You can read the full story here.  The short version is the following:

  • Ford paid a boat load of money to run a Super Bowl spot touting their Ford Escape hybrid
  • In the spot they had Kermit The Frog sing, “It’s Not Easy Being Green”
  • GM didn’t run an ad, but they did buy a lot of paid search around the concept of the Ford ads; keep in mind they can’t legally buy “Ford” or any other branded/trademarked name
  • Ford didn’t buy any paid search
  • So when people were looking for that ad that featured Kermit, guess who came up in the results? GM, not Ford.

Again, purchasing is such a basic and simple part of a campaign.  Next time we think about vanity URLs, like WhopperVirgins.com we should always try to get the misspelled versions, invest in some paid search, and optimize the site to cover a wide range of terms.

You Need To Look Beyond Click Thru Rates When Evaluating Banners

Search Engine Marketing gets a lot of the focus these days, and rightly so.  When you consider that the industry average click thru rate for display banners is around 0.05 %, it’s easy to see why so many people dismiss banners as a viable marketing tactic.  However, we need to keep in mind that the CTR is only one metric.

Recently ComScore published a great white paper that you can get right here, that details how we need to look at the effectiveness of online display advertising.

A few of the key nuggets in the report are: 

It’s clear that display advertising, despite a lack of clicks, can have a significant positive impact on:

  • Visitation to the advertiser’s Web site (lift of at least 46% over a four week period)
  • The likelihood of consumers conducting a search query using the advertiser’s branded terms (a lift of at least 38% over a four week period) – Consumers’ likelihood of buying the advertised brand online (an average 27% lift in online sales)
  • Consumers’ likelihood of buying at the advertiser’s retail store (an average lift of 17%)
This chart from the study shows that site traffic does increase when running banners, but not necessarily immediately.
And this chart shows that a greater interest in the brand, as represented through search, takes place after running the ads.
 The long story short is you can’t just look at the CTR.  That’s only one piece of data.  You also need to take into account several other measures and really focus on the main objective for the campaign.  Once you do that, it becomes easy to determine if banners are a viable tactic. 


SEO (aka Search Engine Optimization)


SEM (aka Search Engine Marketing)

At the heart of the issue is the following question: “Do you need to promote yourself to get a job, or are you so good, you’re at the top of everyone’s list?

Seriously, that’s what it boils down to. SEO is all about having a great resume. The resume is cleanly laid out, simple to scan, contains a wealth of information, has your lengthy list of references that can vouch for your awesomeness, and of course has several years of experience listed. The reason the resume looks so damn impressive and you are at the top of people’s list is because you’ve been around long enough to garner a solid reputation. But, that reputation didn’t come cheap and it didn’t come fast.

SEM is about paying for that reputation and awareness. It’s kinda like going to a recruiter, presenting your case, and having him/her talk you up and try to get you at the top of everyone’s list. You can work with several recruiters (aka search engines) and work out different fee structures. For example pay per conversion. In this model the recruiter/search engine gets paid only when you get a job.

Ideally, brands/companies would invest in SEO and SEM. However, budgets and timing don’t always allow for it. SEO and SEM can work really well together and are definitely complimentary strategies. It’s not a case of choosing one over the other, but rather figuring out the right investment ratio for them.

Search Volume Does Not Equal Sales

Thank you Google for launching Google Insights.  To me insights is a more enhanced version of Google Trends. Google describes Insights as, “With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames.”

Here is what I love about this. Everyone wants to put money into search engine marketing. I’ve been in meetings where Sr. marketers have said, let’s move all of our money from X to SEM. I think it’s great that people are jumping into search, but I’ve continued to caution anyone who will listen, that they need to look before they jump. In my opinion, search volume is not an indicator, nor is it a predictor of sales.

Here is a great example of what I’m talking about. The following chart shows the change in total car sales of luxury car brands from March 2007 to March 2008.

Change in Sales Volume for Cars 2007 to 2008
Change in Sales Volume from 2007 to 2008

If we buy into the concept that search volume indicates interest, which indicates awareness, which of course drives the top of the so-called marketing funnel.  Well, if we fill the top of the funnel, then we’ll have more potential conversions.  So, even if our conversion rate stays flat, we’ll drive more sales because our opportunity pool is larger.  Make sense?

Ok, well here is a report from Google Insights that looks at the following:

  1. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, Infiniti, and Acura search volume
  2. Period of Time: January 2007 – July 2008
  3. United States only
  4. Date segmented by “Automotive” category
Google Insights Search Volume for Luxury Cars
Google Insights Search Volume for Luxury Cars
I chose January 2007 because many classical marketers believe you need a period of time to be exposed, made aware, and re-exposed before you convert.  Do you notice anything strange?  BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus, have the highest search volume; or what Google calls “interest,” but some of the worst sales. How can this be?  Isn’t search the end all be all solution?
It kinda makes you rethink things a little bit, huh?  Well here is my take:
  1. Search is only part of the pie; you still need TV, print, display online advertising, etc. to drive overall site traffic
  2. The site needs to be optimized to keep the interest level high and send you to a dealer
  3. The dealer needs to close the deal
It’s literally that simple.  If 1, 2, or 3 are broken it won’t matter how high the search volume is.  Would love your thoughts!