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Google Penguin Update 2.0

The next generation of the Google Penguin Update (2.0) was rolled out on May 22, 2013. As was the case for many other algorithm updates, some people were rejoicing, others were holding their breath and everyone who had a stake in what happened was watching closely. As a side note, it is amazing to see how far Google has come as a company and to realize how many professionals whose livelihoods are attached to what this business does and the decisions that it makes. It’s hard to imagine that a little over a decade ago, this company didn’t exist, and today it has become a leader in online advertising. But I digress. The update, yes, the update. Google Penguin 2.0 is the next iteration that goes deeper into fighting black-hat web spam, and it offers a more comprehensive approach to that end goal.

What Does the Google Penguin Update 2.0 do?

This update is not a data refresh, and it is expected to go a little deeper than the original Penguin update. So, what does that mean, exactly? To understand what Google is going after, you have to understand where they come from as a company. Google’s original and unofficial mantra has always been to not be evil. While their views on corporate culture may have been augmented following their rapid rise to success, users remain a core focus for the company. That being true, they listen to when people are having problems or when things are happening that are negative (as it relates to Google’s search engine or other products).

The first Penguin update focused on the home pages of websites, and when Matt Cutts officially announced the launch of Penguin 2.0 on This Week in Google, he claimed that the algorithm would go deeper into websites to fight spam. While much of the detail remains elusive, Cutts explains that this is the next generation of algorithm updates, and it is designed to have a large impact on black-hat web spam.

Other Things to Expect for SEO

Google also released a video with their head of web spam explaining other changes besides the Google Penguin update 2.0.

Here, Cutts explains that Google is working harder to go after web spammers in niches that have traditionally been wrought with abuse like payday loans, for example. A notable change is that the company is working harder to communicate with web masters. I’m not sure if you have ever tried to get in contact with Google about a hacked site or malware or for any other reason not associated with spending money, but it can be a tedious process.

Google is also trying to become better at recognizing when someone is an authority in a particular area. Maybe someone publishes a lot of content on SEO that people interact with heavily. Maybe it’s something to do with cooking. Whatever the case may be, search results may be affected if someone is an authority in that niche. Cutts does not allude to what criteria might be used to determine those facts. One of the most powerful things he says in the video is that by the end of the summer, black-hat spammers are less likely to show up in results.

Why should you care?

In my view, there are basically two camps. Those who care about the algorithm update and what it means for their businesses or activities in general, and those who don’t care because they weren’t doing anything that would cause them to lose rankings. That is the one key takeaway from any press release, video or public comments from Google pertaining to algorithm updates. If you were making a great website, making great content, writing for users and, in general, focusing on building your business and not your rankings, then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If, on the other hand, you were cutting corners, gaming the system, taking the easy way out and putting low quality content out there, you will be very busy this summer reorganizing your strategy.

Have you been affected by the new Penguin update? Were you doing anything that could have caused you to lose rankings? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

How to Write eBook Titles That Grab Attention

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Want to know what these books have in common besides great titles? If you haven’t already guessed, it’s sales figures that make most people wish they had a penny for every copy sold.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll make it onto any bestseller lists, there are several things you can do to ensure you know how to write eBook titles that people will notice. Keep in mind that these tips apply to non-fiction eBooks created for income generation and marketing purposes.

#1: Identify and Leverage Target Keywords

Hopefully you’ve researched the words and phrases people generally use when searching for books like yours. If not, you need to start laying down some groundwork in the SEO department soon. This may sound like an idiotically simple tip, but you’d be surprised how easily common sense marketing flies out the window when there’s excitement around a new book idea.

You’d also be surprised at how many writers focus on obvious keywords—usually intensely competitive phrases—rather than looking for alternatives that may present low hanging fruit. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use those highly sought-after keywords, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t dig deep and use your creativity to rank a little higher. The eBook market is insanely oversaturated in many niches, so you want to find as many easy wins as possible.

#2: Become Acquainted With the Title Formulas Top Copywriters Use

You don’t have to be a copywriting ninja to learn the art of creating killer titles, but it’s good to know the structure of titles proven to work. These are titles designed to capture attention, cultivate curiosity, offer some type of benefit, and pre-qualify prospects. They generally read something like this: 25 Tasty Recipes to Reduce Cholesterol; How to Set Boundaries with Your Difficult Teenager; and The Secret to Becoming a Successful Marketer on Facebook.

Once you understand what a compelling title should look like and the elements that make it stand out, spend time writing some powerful titles for your own eBook. Use the examples you find as templates and adapt them to suit your topic and book content. I do urge you to remember you’re writing a title for an eBook and not a headline for a sales page, so keep it succinct and relevant.

#3: If Appropriate, Consider a Subtitle

Since your prospects can’t physically leaf through and evaluate the book, the only information they have available to them is what you provide. While the blurb, sales page, product description, and other promotional material will likely reveal more, the front cover often provides a great space for an additional snippet of detail. For example, you may choose a title like Avoiding Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Finances in 5 Easy Steps.

#4: Use Language That Resonates With Potential Buyers

A deep understanding of your target audience, as well as what makes them tick is critical to your success. If prospects are searching through hundreds of titles on the same topic, you need yours to jump out at them in a way that compels them to investigate further. Research your audience, understand what they’re looking for, and then use that information to pinpoint words or phrases that resonate with them. It isn’t always easy, but if you pay attention to the needs and wants of the people you’re writing for, your title will trigger a favorable reaction.

#5: Make Your Title Memorable

Memorable titles roll off the tongue. They’re simple, easy to pronounce, captivating, and marketable. These titles make your job a heck of a lot easier because buyers can easily recall them when spreading the word about your book.

#6: Communicate Your Message Accurately

Just the other day I discovered an eBook with a title and cover that suggested it was a book about photography. It turned out to be a poorly written fictional thriller, which buyers had no problem lambasting in the review section.

If all your prospects see is the title of the book without having any other information available, they should be able to identify the topic of the book immediately. Your title absolutely must convey the contents held within or you may experience backlash from readers who have purchased the book only to be disappointed.

#7: Test Your Titles

Select a handful of trustworthy family members, friends, or colleagues and ask them for feedback on your titles. Ideally, one of these individuals will fall within your target market, but it’s not necessary.

Take time to chat with these people, find out what they like and don’t like about a particular title, and then sift through the valuable pieces of feedback they provide to determine which titles appear to hit the right note. You may have to go back to the drawing board several times before you nail it, but the effort will be worth the agony.

Now that you know how to write eBook titles that are sure to grab attention, it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Great titles won’t necessarily close the sale, but they form an essential part of the overall package that does. Optimized correctly, they’ll increase visibility. Written compellingly, they’ll increase curiosity.

Are there any special techniques you use to develop titles for your eBooks? Does one method work better than another? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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10 SEO Keyword Research Best Practices

Despite the algorithmic genius of Google’s search engine and all the sophisticated SEO tactics available to speak with it, keywords remain a fundamental element of ranking a web page. Although there are hundreds of factors that contribute to where a site falls in SERPs, without keywords (or should I say without the right keywords), your site may not show up at all. The following 10 SEO keyword research best practices should help you make proper decisions regarding key terms for your website.

Avoid Broad Terms in SEO Keyword Research

Depending on your brand, industry, goals or your own personal beliefs, there will be broad words that you have to target no matter how competitive they are. In general, though, you should try and avoid broad terms for your targeting. For one thing, broad terms don’t work well in terms of searcher intent (more on that in number 4), but no one uses them. Search engines have been around for a while now, and they have gotten very good at delivering results for people. As such, we know that we can type in a 5- to 10-word query and probably find what we are looking for. If you are looking for a bed for your specific breed of dog, why on earth would you search for “dog bed” when you could search for “cotton dog bed for schnauzer.”

Use More Than One Resource for Traffic Data

There is no shortage of SEO keyword research tools to help you in your efforts to rank your web page. It doesn’t really matter which of the popular ones you use, but what does matter is getting a second opinion. If you are advertising your business, you don’t just go to one ad firm and take what they say as the end-all-be-all of what you should do. No! You talk to a few of them, you feel out the landscape, you ask your friends and then you make a decision. Choosing keywords is not that involved, but you should still collect data from more than one resource before settling on a set of phrases.

Pay Attention to Competitiveness

If you are using a tool like Google’s Keyword Tool, or Traffic Travis or whatever else you are fond of, don’t ignore the competitiveness of a keyword phrase. It is tempting to go with a phrase because you think it is crucial to your brand or your business. If you want to, that’s fine, but don’t break your back trying to rank an important page for a super-competitive term. Choose terms that are mildly competitive. Not only will you not have to work as hard, but you will get more targeted traffic because less competitive terms tend to be those that are more specific.

Think About Your Customers

Ah, now for searcher intent. This is one of my favorite things to talk about because it puts the human element back into the equation. When you are doing SEO on a site or having someone else do it, forgetting that it’s people looking for your site USING a search engine is easy to do. People have a goal in mind when they enter a query into a search engine, and that is to make this tool find content that they are looking for using words. For the most part, we can determine their intent based on the words that they are using. When you do your keyword research, don’t forget about what people might mean when typing in certain phrases. Also remember that it is very difficult to uncover what someone means when they use a one- or two-word phrase. For instance, a person that types in “dog bed” could be looking for images of dog beds, a company called dog bed, doing SEO keyword research on the phrase “dog bed” or even trying to find out if dog bed is one word or not. The truth is, general keyword phrases are not good to try and rank for because even if you show up number one for a one-word phrase, who is to say that your page will be all that relevant to the query? After all, the end goal is to get a visitor to do something on your site, not to show up number one in search.

Think About Your Business

What I mean by this is think about your target market and where it is that you do business. Is it in your local town? Your whole state? Maybe it’s the whole country? Whatever it is, you can target specific terms based on your location because searchers are using specific terms based on where and how you operate. For instance, most pizza places operate within a town or small city. Most consumers know this so, logically, they are going to type in pizza + city name when searching for a local pizza place. If your company is local or does business locally, don’t forget to target local keyword phrases. Typically, keyword + city name is a good one to go after, but also keyword + state (or province or region).

Be Mindful of Legal Issues

This one isn’t as important for SEO as it is for PPC, but you could still find yourself in hot water. If you are a reseller of well-known brands, it’s important to know you are using them correctly. If you start ranking well for a trademarked phrase, it’s likely that whoever owns the trademark will catch on soon. Make sure you have the proper rights if you are using trademarked terms on your website.

Long Tails Catch More Fish

Long tail (or less competitive and generally more specific) keyword phrases are better in terms of converting traffic. This is because they are less competitive and tend to be more specific than more competitive keyword phrases. As such, if you show up in search for a phrase that is very specific and you have optimized your page well, a visitor is much more likely to find your page relevant over others and convert faster.

Don’t Forget Your Variants

Variants are keywords that closely resemble your main target keyword, but aren’t exactly the same. For instance it might be the plural form of the phrase or the terms in a phrase might be rearranged slightly. You should include these variants on the same pages as your target key terms. Also, don’t forget to group them together when doing research. The Google Keyword Tool has a great feature where it groups related terms together for you called ad groups. This tool allows you to configure a search advertising campaign better; however, it also works well for SEO.

Use unconventional methods

As mentioned before, there are a lot of tools out there that give you raw data on how many times a query was used in search or how many websites are using it. Remember that the end goal is to use terms that your buyers/prospects are using in order to be exposed to them in search. There are other ways to get that information than third party SEO tools. For instance, you can check to see what’s trending on Twitter for your niche, you could use Google trends or maybe even research you’ve done offline. For example, you may have done online or offline surveys that uncover what buyers or prospects are thinking.

Don’t Go Crazy

This last one may seem silly, but it’s actually one of the most important SEO keyword research best practices. If you have been doing SEO or online marketing of any kind for a while now, you have probably noticed that there is no shortage of third party tools, software programs, strategies and magic elixers to tell you all about the keyword phrases you have selected for your site. There are measurements and numerical weights and indexes galore. In fact, there is so much information that it is often contradictory. After you’re done Googling “how to do keyword research” you are probably regretting ever having asked a computer the question.

My advice is to not obsess over it too much. Knowing how competitive a keyword phrase is, how tough it will be to rank a page for, whether or not you should use it and/or if it will bring you conversions and profits is more of an art than a science. Sometimes you will have to use words that are impossible to rank for and other times you will be able to rank a page with barely any effort. The important part is that you take as much reasonable data into account as is available and make an educated guess as to what terms you should be using.

Do you follow any best practices of your own for doing SEO keyword research? Have you found any unconventional methods that work well? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Broad Match Keywords and Other Match Types

Keywords are an important aspect in Google’s search advertising platform, but the way you use them is equally as important. The system is programmed to trigger ads when keywords are used by searchers; however, you can configure your campaigns to only have ads triggered when keywords are used in certain ways. This helps get more targeted traffic for your ads, and it also helps to only show your ads at the right times to the right people.

What are match types?

In general there are:

Broad Match Keywords

Phrase Match Keywords

Exact Match Keywords

The term “match type” refers to operators that can be included with your keywords to control what ads are triggered when a searcher enters a relevant query. By default, all keywords entered into an account are a broad match keyword. This means that Google will match a broad variety of phrases related to that term or phrase. This can be effective when your product/service or use of your product/service has broad appeal and applications. Much of the time, however, using a broad match keyword is not the way to go.

Match Types

The chart below shows all the different match types that are available in your Adwords account. The chart also shows how to configure the keywords in your account so that Google will recognize them by their different match types.

Chart including Broad match keyword example

Broad Match Keyword

The broad match keyword configuration is the default option in Adwords for all keywords. If you just type in your keywords or add them using Google’s keyword tool, they will be broad match. When these match types are used, Google will trigger your ads whenever there are relevant variations like misspellings, related searches or synonyms.

If you want to capture the highest volume of search traffic, having your terms be broad match is the way to go. Most of the time, however, you should be looking for more targeted traffic. By using a more specific match type, you can get users who are typing in exactly the phrases or terms that are in your ads. Users who see an exact configuration of terms that they were using in their query are much more likely to click on the ad. The drawbacks to using broad match keywords are that you will get a lot of traffic that may not see your ad as relevant. As a result, you get tons of impressions and no-clicks, which will drive down your click-through rate. Once that happens, your quality score begins to suffer.

Broad Match Keyword Modifier

This match type is very similar to phrase match; however, Google will trigger ads no matter what order the searcher’s terms are in. Google will not show your ads for related searches or synonyms if your keywords are configured in this way. The modifier is good if you want a little bit, but not laser-beam focus in terms of targeting.

Phrase Match

This match type will tell Google to only trigger ads when the exact word or phrase is matched in a string. Synonyms, related searches or a keyword phrase that is in a different order will not trigger the ad. If a phrase is found in the form you have specified, even if there are words before or after the phrase, ads will be triggered. In contrast to broad match keywords, exact match will deliver you far less traffic, but it will be highly targeted.

If your target audience is using very specific queries to find products or services that you offer, phrase match is a good way to draw them in. For example, searches with product names, model numbers, and/or specific locations are good scenarios in which to use phrase match. In general, people use longer queries to find what they are looking for online. Assuming the rest of your conversion funnel is optimized well, using phrase match can help you convert traffic at a much higher rate.

Exact Match

Like phrase match, exact match keywords will also trigger ads when the exact term you have associated with your ads is used. The difference is that when someone puts a word before or after your exact match term, your ad won’t show. Exact match pretty much tells Google, “match this word or phrase and only this word or phrase and nothing else.” This also works well for converting small amounts of traffic. The end goal here is to sell some kind of product or service. It is far better to get 10 people coming to your site who buy something than 100 who buy nothing.

Negative Match

This match type causes ads not to be shown when certain keywords are present. For example, there may be words commonly found with other words, but that you don’t want traffic for. You may want traffic for the term “women’s hats” but not “baseball hats.” You could enter “baseball” as the negative match type.

Search advertising is very cool because we can use the exact terms that our customers use to show them relevant ads. The trick is getting Google to show our ads based on searcher intent. The way we do that is by using match types. Broad match keywords aren’t that effective at bringing in traffic that will convert. They are more of a shotgun approach, which is seldom useful. Instead, by using the other operators, we can send highly targeted traffic to a website and those visitors will find the content relevant.

How do you use keyword match types in AdWords? Have you been able to increase campaign performance using them? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Google Analytics Regular Expressions

Regular expressions (RegEx) have some useful applications in Google Analytics. You can use them to create more accurate and versatile tracking scenarios than are available by default on the platform. Regular expressions are essentially special characters that instruct Analytics on which sets of data to capture and record. This post will highlight some scenarios where regular expressions are useful.

Regular Expressions in Google Analytics Goals

You can utilize a RegEx when setting up a goal in Analytics. Using this method for a goal is best when the URL is variable. Head match is another good option, but the regular expressions gives you a bit more control if implemented properly. The cool thing about regular expressions with goal URLs is that you can write your regular expression to match any part of the URL exactly and the rest of it to be variable. For instance, using the dot . matches any single character, the carat ^ tells analytics that your data must be at the beginning of the field and the * tells analytics to match zero or more of the preceding character. If you wanted to match a URL that always began with /regex but was always variable after that term, you could write ^/regex\./.*.  Note that the . after the word regex has a back slash before it. This tells Analytics that the dot is actually a dot and not part of the expression. The period after the star is actually ending my sentence. The characters .* tells Analytics to match anything.

To use regular expressions in goals:

  1. Log into your Analytics account.
  2. Click on the Admin button in the top right corner.Using regular expressions in Google analytics goals
  3. Click the profile you would like to create a goal for.
  4. Click the goals tab.
  5. Click +Goal.
  6. Select URL destination for the Goal Type.
  7. Make sure you select regular expression match from the Match Type drop down menu.Google Analytics Regular Expression Dropdown

Excluding IP Addresses from Analytics Data

Another use for regular expressions is to exclude data from being collected based on user IP address. This is a common filter in Analytics that allows users to exclude things like their own machine or perhaps a contractor’s machine if there is work being performed to a website. Another reasonable use is the desire to exclude employee traffic from a profile so that more accurate data can be gleaned from a website used by a business. Businesses, especially larger ones, utilize dozens, hundreds and even thousands of computers. Entering in an IP address for every single machine is not practical, and also would not be effective. For these purposes, a range of IP addresses written as a regular expression works to exclude employee or other unwanted traffic from reports.

You can use all of the same regular expression rules that you would use for capturing specific URLs in your goal above; however, Google has a really great tool if you are excluding one or more IP addresses from data. It’s called the IP address range tool, and all you have to do is enter in at least one IP address and click the “generate RegEx” button. You then simply copy and paste the snippet of characters into your filter field.

IP Address range tool


To set up a filter excluding one or more IP addresses:

  1. Log into your Analytics account.
  2. Click the Admin tab in the top right hand corner of the page.
  3. Select the profile that you want to set your filter up in.
  4. Click the filters tab.
  5. Click the +New Filter button.
  6. Create new filter will be selected by default.
  7. Select the Custom Filter radio button.
  8. Select the Exclude radio button.
  9. In the Filter Field drop down menu select IP Address
  10. Paste your RegEx from the range tool into the Filter Pattern box.
  11. Make sure the “no” radio button is selected for Case Sensitive.
  12. Click save.

Be sure you are applying this filter to a copy of your default profile. You never want to apply filters to the default profile. Always apply filters to copies of the default profile. That way, if something is done wrong or, for some reason, you want to look at the data again, it will still be there.

Excluding Data in Reports

Another handy use for the RegEx is to exclude or include specific URL or other data from reports. This trick is cool because you aren’t actually changing any of your data — you’re just telling Analytics to do it for that moment in that specific report. After you leave that report or Analytics in general, your reports go back to normal. For instance, in your content reports, you just click on the advanced dimension filter and let Analytics know which pages you would like to see or not see in the report.

To use regular expressions to exclude URLs from content reports:

  1. Log in to Analytics.
  2. Select the content report that you want to manipulate.
  3. Click on the link that says Advanced at the top of the report.In Report Regular Expressions
  4. Choose include or exclude depending on your purposes.
  5. Note that you must use a Dimension in order to use a RegEx.
  6. Make sure “Matching RegExp” is selected.RegEx in Reports
  7. Write your regular expression in the box and then click Apply.

This use of the RegEx is particularly useful when sifting through many URLs that may be very similar. You can then only view the ones that have a particular parameter in them, for example. Note that you can add more dimensions and other regular expressions if you wish; however, you must remember how Analytics applies these. It will apply the filters in the order in which they are applied to the report (the first one first). Subsequent filters may not work if you have thrown the data out or told Analytics to keep it using the first filter in the series.

Writing regular expressions can be very confusing at first. It is almost like learning a new language, but is even more cumbersome because they use characters that already have alternative (and well-worn) meanings for us. There are tons of great resources on the web for learning about regular expressions. Remember to create duplicate profiles in your Analytics account so that if you make a mistake or want your data back when dealing with filters, it will still be around.

You can learn more about using regular expressions in Google Analytics here.

How do you use regular expressions in Analytics? Do you find them confusing or have you mastered them already? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment or dropping us a line.


What Is a PPC Campaign? Chris Dreyer Explains AdWords Strategies

Chris DreyerThere are lots of great resources online for learning AdWords, but rarely do those tutorials provide the practical experience necessary to be really successful. Today we are lucky enough to get a glimpse of that experience first-hand from our guest Chris Dreyer. Chris is the President and Founder of Attorney Rankings, a company that offers high-quality website design, pay per click management and Internet marketing services for lawyers. In this post, he shares some of his best advice for what a PPC campaign is and how to configure one to make money for a business.

What is a PPC Campaign?

I didn’t ask this question of Chris, but thought I would touch on the answer briefly before we dive in.  A PPC, or pay-per-click campaign, is a form of paid online advertising where ad buyers pay a fee to a provider every time an Internet user clicks on an ad displayed by that provider. One of the most popular PPC providers as of late is Google, who offers both search and display advertising. There are many, many other PPC providers including private websites that sell ad space.

Q: How can PPC be used to promote a business online?

A: PPC is one of the most effective ways to advertise online for any new business because you can immediately obtain targeted traffic to your website. It levels the playing field because most use an auction-based price system, and the higher bid typically wins. SEO takes time, and it is very difficult to compete with older websites with thousands of pages indexed and already-established website authority. With PPC and competitive keyword research, you can buy traffic you can afford. It becomes a numbers game to obtain a return on investment.

Google derives most of it’s money from PPC ads, so it makes sense that they would give the best virtual real estate to the paid ads on their search engine results. The PPC ads take up nearly 75% of the screen above the fold on most queries, so even with a #1 position in the SEO results, you may receive a higher ad impression share from a #1 PPC position.

Q: How much do you have to spend in PPC advertising to be successful?

A: It depends on the niche and location. For example, most of my experience is with law firms. A criminal defense lawyer may spend $75 or higher per/click in LA compared to only $25 per click for a criminal defense lawyer in St Louis. It’s very important to set up conversion tracking so that you have the most information on your ad spend. To break it down into simple terms, you want to make more than you spend. Conversion tracking is how you determine ROI.

Q: Does pay-per-click only mean advertising on other websites?

A: Google AdWords has two main PPC options: Display Network Advertising and Search Network Advertising. The Display Network uses the Google Adsense partners. It allows anyone to put ads on their website and receive revenue sharing from a Google AdWords campaign. The ads found on the Search Network are the ones that are displayed after a search query is entered. They are most often in the top and right hand side of the page. So, to answer your question, “Does pay per click only mean advertising on other websites?”…no, you can advertise using the Search Network.

Q: What are some key things to know to be successful with PPC advertising?

A: I’ll give you the top 5 things you need to know:

  1. Do keyword research and find out how much traffic potential there is and approximately how much it costs. I use the Google Keyword Tool.
  2. Have appropriate landing pages for each keyword you decide to bid on.
  3. Set up and use conversion tracking.
  4. Maintain a very detailed negative keyword list. Here is a comprehensive guide on negative keywords for lawyers, but any industry can use it to get ideas.
  5. Optimize bidding & positioning. If a keyword is receiving a very low CTR, increase bidding, change keyword match types or pause the keyword.

Q: Besides ads, what else should be optimized to be effective at PPC advertising?

A: Optimize match types between “phrase type,” [exact match] and +broad +match +modifier. Many times there is a level of progression I personally use for optimization. Let’s say I start with a phrase match keyword, “Portland injury lawyer,” and it is receiving a poor CTR. Change it to broad match modifier: +Portland +injury +lawyer. Broad match modifier allows my ad to trigger if all three words are in a query, but they do not have to be in any order like phrase or exact match. If broad match modifier does not work, I will then move on to exact match [Portland injury lawyer], and if I still have a low CTR, I will either try to improve the landing page or pause the keyword and target a different keyword. So, here is my progression:

“phase match” > +broad +match +modifier > [exact match]

It’s also very important to get rid of any queries that will not convert into business. For example, if someone typed in “free Portland injury attorney,” that would be a terrible keyword to trigger my ad on because it contains the word “free.” “Free” would be an ideal word to add to most negative keyword lists. For attorneys, “pro bono” is another auto-include for most campaigns. You can also improve your negative keywords by going through your search query report. Add keywords that are profitable to your campaign and exclude keywords that will not return value.

Q: Are there certain kinds of websites/businesses that aren’t good for PPC advertising?

A: That’s a tough question to answer. In some cases, a niche may be very expensive and difficult to get a ROI in. That is why conversion tracking is very important. My ego wants to say no, lol, but I’m sure there are some niches that are too difficult to dive into without an already-established web presence and brand identity. My advice is to take the necessary steps to become Google AdWords Certified and learn everything you can about Google AdWords before jumping in and spending a lot of money.

Q: What if my website doesn’t have a way for people to convert online — is PPC still good to use?

A: It can be a great tool to improve your brand recognition to help improve conversions in the future. If you’re wanting to be seen online for any reason, then PPC can help if you’re willing to spend the money.

Q: What is the best way to get people to click on my PPC ads?

A: Google wants ads and their destinations to be as relevant as possible. They are looking for the absolute best user experience. If you want to get an ad clicked, make sure it has compelling copy and a call to action, you’re in the top 3 ad position and it is extremely niche-targeted.

Q: Are there any resources that I could look to for PPC advice?

A: The absolute best thing anyone can do is take the time to become Google AdWords certified. It’s currently $100 total to become certified. The preparation and study guides Google AdWords provide are very helpful.

Q: Isn’t all online advertising PPC?

A: It definitely seems that way if you put a price on your time. SEO is so difficult to do anymore with ever-changing algorithms, social metrics, link building, content development, etc. I love Google AdWords PPC because there seems to be more control on results. It’s just a big numbers game.


We would like to thank Chris for taking the time to enlighten our readers on PPC. A big part of being successful with online advertising is attaining real-world experience and getting your feet wet. Tutorials can teach you a lot, but having someone share their experiences is much more powerful. Thanks, Chris!


What questions do you have about PPC? How do you learn to manage your campaigns more effectively?

Writing SEO Content: Balancing a Brand and Website Rankings

As SEO or web marketers, our jobs are to promote web properties and get them maximum exposure to an audience that is increasingly spending more and more time online. We read posts and articles every day about the 5 greatest tips for driving traffic to a site or the 10 best ways to optimize your site. We read about thought leaders in the industry and how their tactics have increased traffic rates by hundreds of percentage points. Writing SEO content helps make a site more visible in search. So, its no surprise that when we go to design a website or write content or do anything else related to this field, we tend to think about what’s best for search or what’s best for a bot crawling the web, and not much about the users that are searching for good information.

Writing Good Content is SEO

I have young children who are starting to ask complicated questions about the world. They want to know how fish breathe under water or they ask how far the sun is from the earth. It’s probably no surprise that I do not own an encyclopedia or any kind of reference material on these sorts of things, so I do what I have been doing for the past decade. I do the same thing when I need to know a phone number for a local business or when I need to know the answer to a complicated math question — I go to the Internet and search for the answers that I need. In the back of my mind, I know that there is always the potential that what I’m reading could very well be the most inaccurate piece of information out there, because anyone with a computer and enough ambition can publish content online. For those who consistently write or otherwise produce content that is valuable, accurate, informative and otherwise “good,” that is the content that travels to the top of rankings. The pages that focused on writing SEO content may enjoy good rankings as well, but their chances are smaller for staying at the top of the charts for long.

A Balance Between Optimization and Quality Content

Now that I have prefaced this post with a phenomenon endemic to the modern Internet, let’s talk more about how we balance good content with the notion that it must be configured in a way to make it easily found online.

Writing for Users Should be the Primary Goal for SEO

I have discovered both in my own experience as well as from other leaders in this industry that the main goal of any kind of marketing online is to be helpful. In terms of content, the main goal should be, first and foremost, to produce a quality, well-researched piece. Think of those people out there searching for information about how far the sun is from the earth and how they depend on content producers to get it right. So, when you go to write your content, ask yourself if what you produce would be something that others could depend on.

Here are some tips for getting that good content

  • Primary research (things you discover on your own)
    • This means interviews, studies, trials or surveys. Data gleaned from these resources can be very valuable.
    • Secondary research (standing on someone else’s shoulders)
      • Researching information others have produced is also an acceptable way to generate good content. Whatever you are writing about, find resources like trade journals, published studies and papers, other well-researched blog posts, articles from authoritative sources or statistical information from authoritative sources.


The idea here is that before the Internet, those who published content only did so because it was both high-caliber and accurate. Now that the barriers to publishing content have been eliminated by the Internet, it’s much easier to publish (and for the public to consume) misinformation. Follow the same steps to the end goal that traditional content distributors did in order to make your website an authority in its niche and deliver good content to users.

Writing for Search Engines Should be The Secondary Goal

Writing great content is all well and good, but if you want it to get found, you must do some search engine optimization. This is the trickier part of the whole SEO profession. There is not really a set of rules that says, “place your keywords here, here and here and you will rank number one” — “Build your site according to this template, and the traffic gods will smile upon you.” It’s really a science and an art form. As far as your onsite optimization goes, these tips should help to make content easily found and highly relevant to their related queries.

  • Front-load title tags and meta descriptions.
    • Place your most important keyword phrases first.
    • Use only those keywords in your copy.
  • Re-write URLs to include target phrases
    • If you have ugly URLs or ones that don’t relate to the content the page, rewrite them. You may have to pull off some tricks with redirects in order to preserve links.
  • Optimize one page of your site for each keyword that you are targeting
    • Use one keyword per page (and its variants).
    • Place the keyword phrase in the header above paragraphs and then in the paragraphs themselves.
    • Be mindful of keyword density
      • A good range is around 2%. Don’t put in a keyword too much, and definitely don’t make your content sound unnatural.
  • Canonicalize your URLs
  • Make your home page links no-follow
    • Search engine bots follow links. If you have bots following links back to your home page, this is not good because chances are this is how they entered your site in the first place. Although dated, Matt Cutts has an interesting post about sculpting PageRank from within a website.


As marketers in the online world, we must be positioned as anthropologists and objective reporters more than sales people out to push a product. People don’t go online to be sold, they go there for information and they go there to buy. Providing web users with helpful information that will help them buy should be the primary goal, and any SEO form should follow that function. Good content makes the provider of that information look like they know what they are doing, and it gives visitors confidence that they have found the information they need to make their decisions.


How do you balance SEO and content production? Do you often find yourself writing for search engines? I know I sometimes do!


Google Analytics eCommerce Tracking

The default setup of Google Analytics provides lots of insightful data; however, business owners need to know more about their websites. In particular, they want to see data directly related to their bottom line. This is data that the default data in reports can’t provide. Webmasters can enable eCommerce tracking to get in-depth data about monetary transactions happening on their website.

What is eCommerce Tracking?

This tracking configuration for Analytics is a combination of profile settings and code deployed on a website in order to track eCommerce transactions. Normally, when a visitor comes to your site, a pageview is recorded by the Analytics tracking code. This data is then sent to Google to be processed. With eCommerce tracking, instead of the pageview data being processed, eCommerce data is sent to Analytics. Google gets this data by individual website owners using a collection of tracking methods installed manually on elements of a website.

ECommerce tracking is used for (you guessed it) keeping track of transactions on a website. Important data related to transactions can be captured and reported by Analytics. Things like transaction numbers, product numbers, product descriptions, shipping information, purchase price, tax information, store name and affiliate ID are all examples of data that can be captured. This tracking configuration is also instrumental for measuring remarketing success.

Using data from eCommerce tracking, you can make correlations among the elements of your site and visitor behavior. For instance, you can determine if your price point is appropriate or if you are charging too much or too little for shipping. You may be able to infer if your checkout process is too long or if the product pages on your site are too difficult to use. Of course, these are just examples, and you must make your own assumptions based on the products or services that you sell and your own website configuration.

Enabling eCommerce Tracking

ECommerce tracking is not enabled by default, so you must turn it on in the profile of your choice. Follow the steps below to enable eCommerce tracking.

  1. Log in to your Analytics account
  2. Click on the “admin” tab in the top right corner of the screen
  3. Choose the profile that you wish to enable eCommerce tracking on
  4. Click on “profile settings”
  5. For the section that says “eCommerce site?” select yes
  6. Click “apply settings”

You now have eCommerce tracking enabled, but there is some more in-depth work ahead. You also have to install additional tracking code on your site. For these steps, you must have access to the source code of your website. If your website is administered by someone else, you can provide the code to them and instruct them where to apply it.

Adding eCommerce Tracking Code to Your Website


Note:  Make sure to inspect which version of the Anlaytics tracking code you are using as methods for installing eCommerce code will vary depending on what you are using.


eCommerce Tracking code (ga.js)


In most cases, you will configure your code on the final page of an eCommerce transaction to send data to Analytics. Here is a complete example of how eCommerce tracking might look on your HTML “thank you” page. Note that the code example below is the asynchronous code, and is installed in the head section of the page.




<title>Your eCommerce Thank You Page</title>

<script type=”text/javascript”>


var _gaq = _gaq || [];

_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-XXXXX-X’]);


_gaq.push([‘_addTrans’,                  //This is your tracking object.  There are many different kinds

‘3456’,           // transaction ID – required (This is a required element of your tracking code)

‘Your Business’// affiliation or store name

‘13.99’,          // total – required (So is this)

‘1.29’,           // tax (Note that everything after the preceding line is not required; however, the more information you can provide, the better it is for your overall tracking efforts.)

‘5’,              // shipping

‘a city’,       // city

‘a state’,     // state or province

‘USA’             // country



// add item might be called for every item in the shopping cart

// where your eCommerce engine loops through each item in the cart and

// prints out _addItem for each


‘1234’,           // transaction ID – required

‘DD44′,           // SKU/code – required

‘your item’,        // product name

‘description of item’,   // category or variation

‘price of item’,          // unit price – required

‘some quantity’               // quantity – required


_gaq.push([‘_trackTrans’]); //submits transaction to the Analytics servers


(function() {

var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript'; ga.async = true;

ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘';

var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);







This is where the content of your page will go. Note that all the tracking code goes in the head section of your web page.




Note that the first function _addTrans() initializes or starts the transaction. The second function _addItem() associates an item with the transaction by way of the ID number. The last function _trackTrans() sends the information to the Analytics servers to be processed. These functions must be placed in this order to work. For example, you cannot send information to Analytics before it is stored by _addTrans().

Another notable element of the code is the presence of _trackPageview(). Earlier, we talked about how eCommerce tracking sends transaction data and not pageview data to Analytics servers. While this is true, it is a best practice to include the _trackPageview() function so that you can track your eCommerce pages as you would any other page on your website. Should you exclude this from your page, you would not be able to associate transaction data with other reports in Analytics.

This is a basic example similar to the one provided by Google in its eCommerce tracking tutorial. There could be many different ways you set up eCommerce tracking depending on your particular configuration.

ECommerce Tracking (analytics.js)

For analytics.js, you must load the eCommerce plugin (which speeds everything up by not loading the entire analytics.js library). You do this as follows:


Installing the analytics.js version is a bit trickier, and requires a little bit of PHP knowledge. A common snippet might look something like this:



// Function to return the JavaScript representation of a TransactionData object.  This is so Analytics can interpret the data.

function getTransactionJs(&$trans) {

return <<<HTML

ga(‘ecommerce:addTransaction’, {

‘id': ‘{$trans[‘id’]}’,

‘affiliation': ‘{$trans[‘affiliation’]}’,

‘revenue': ‘{$trans[‘revenue’]}’,

‘shipping': ‘{$trans[‘shipping’]}’,

‘tax': ‘{$trans[‘tax’]}’





// Function to return the JavaScript representation of an ItemData object.

function getItemJs(&$transId, &$item) {

return <<<HTML

ga(‘ecommerce:addItem’, {

‘id': ‘$transId’,

‘name': ‘{$item[‘name’]}’,

‘sku': ‘{$item[‘sku’]}’,

‘category': ‘{$item[‘category’]}’,

‘price': ‘{$item[‘price’]}‘,

‘quantity': ‘{$item[‘quantity’]}’






Then, in a script tag, output the data for the transaction:


<!– Begin HTML –>


ga(‘require’, ‘ecommerce’, ‘ecommerce.js’);


echo getTransactionJs($trans);

foreach ($items as &$item)


echo getItemJs($trans[‘id’], $item);






Notice how the syntax is different. In the first example, functions were written as _addTrans() and _trackTrans(). In analytics.js, they are called with ga().


Viewing eCommerce Data in Analytics Reports

To look at the data you have collected, log in to Analytics and go to the profile where you have eCommerce tracking enabled. Under “conversions” go to “eCommerce.” There, you can see an overview report, product and sales performance, transaction data and time to purchase data. You can do all the same things to these reports as others in Analytics, such as exporting or filtering them.

ECommerce tracking is a great way to get more detailed data for transactions happening on your website. The default setup for Analytics does not provide this information, and with a little copying and pasting of code into your website, you can unlock a whole world of information about your business. Using that data, you can improve your sale processes, product pages and your overall online business activity.

Do you use eCommerce tracking?  How do you use it to make your online business better? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

A Quick Guide for Creating Buyer Personas

Believe it or not, you have an expert in your midst whose perspective will transform your business. You’ve probably heard of him before—he’s called your “buyer.”

Hopefully, you haven’t forgotten him while you’ve been building your empire, but in case you have, we’d like to reintroduce you. If you’re meeting for the first time, then today’s your lucky day. Not only is he about to reveal what makes him tick, but he’s also going to give you insight into your products and services that you won’t necessarily find in pie charts and Excel spreadsheets. The only thing you have to do is map out his buyer persona.

What Is A Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona refers to an archetypal representation of a real individual who might purchase what you have to offer. This person has a specific set of attributes and follows a decision-making process that is influenced by several key factors. Observing the behavior of this buyer allows businesses to determine what those factors are and how they motivate the individual to choose one solution over another. The data gleaned can then be leveraged to drive product development and shape marketing strategies.

Why You Need To Define Your Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are crucial for your business in that they enable you to:

  • Pitch to the right person in the corporate food chain. While you may believe you need to convince the executive at the top, the reality is you really need to convince the people with the problems on their desk.
  • Gather the type of insights that influence strategic business decisions.
  • Help members of your team understand each of your target groups in terms of their problems, desires, goals, beliefs, capabilities, and limitations. You can use buyer personas to collate pieces of data into something that provides proper context and tells a story about a specific type of individual.
  • Understand the topics, tone, and style that will motivate a response, and then create highly targeted content for each buyer persona. Besides content creation, the data will also guide your content delivery strategy.
  • Prevent common design and development pitfalls, such as making decisions based on assumptions or designing a product based on the mental model of someone who doesn’t fall into your target group. Buyer personas allow you to create solutions and prioritize product features according to the needs of each buyer.

How to Create a Buyer Persona

Step 1: Gather Key Insights

Persona development is most effective when businesses use both quantitative and qualitative research methods to gain a deeper understanding of each buyer. Methods can include interviewing sales personnel, interviewing customers and prospects, conducting keyword research, evaluating web analytics reports, conducting a survey of customers and prospects, interviewing personnel in customer service, monitoring social networks, and more. What’s important here is to surface the information your business will find most valuable moving forward.

Key insights include:

  • Demographic information – age, gender, marital status, household income, education, profession, level of seniority, etc
  • The personal and organizational goals of the buyer

  • Pain points – problems that are both real and perceived
  • Factors that motivate certain people to purchase your solutions – understand why they want to resolve a specific pain point
  • The benefits your buyer expects to receive – determine what success looks like to someone using your solution effectively
  • Steps in the buying process – factors that impact the buyer’s choice during the evaluation of available options

  • Criteria on which buyers base their decisions – determine which features of competing products people view as important
  • Perceived obstacles that lead your buyer to believe you don’t offer the best solution

Step 2: Create a Draft of Your Buyer Persona

Once you have your key insights, you need to break the information down into digestible bits of data that help employees understand the buyer’s identity. When creating your draft, consider adding an image that represents the persona, assigning a relevant name, and including helpful links and video footage. The story you create will ensure your team members remain focused and empathetic towards the buyer when developing solutions and constructing marketing messages.

Step 3: Develop Additional Buyer Personas (But Just Enough)

It’s easy to get carried away when mapping out your buyer personas, but the reality is your business is only capable of supporting your efforts to a point. Besides the expenses involved in research, you may not have the resources to create a wide variety of marketing messages. Therefore, you need to assess whether there’s a significant difference between one buyer and the next, as well as consider your ability to implement multiple strategies. Don’t get to the point where you can no longer justify your investment. When done correctly, buyer personas can have a major impact on your ROI.

Step 4: Integrate and Implement

Failing to integrate your buyer personas into the sales process and disseminate the information throughout your organization are the biggest mistakes you can make. Your buyer personas can help you differentiate yourself from the competition, and guide you in the creation of persuasive marketing content that helps your brand’s voice stand out in the ever-increasing noise. Make sure that you not only share your findings with your team, but that you also ensure they understand how it affects them and your business.

Additional Notes:

  1. Buyer personas evolve over time, which means you need to maintain them once you create them.

  2. Your business evolves too, which means you may need to develop additional personas as you add to your product or service offering.

  3. Effective marketing messages aren’t based on buyer personas alone. Make sure you have a clear idea of your brand’s story first, and then start mapping out the stories of your prospects.

Have you created buyer personas for your business yet? How have they helped you transform your content marketing strategy? Share with us in the comments section below. 

Tagging URLs in Google Analytics

Tracking your ad performance is important on a number of levels, and it should be a part of any strategic PPC plan. You need to figure out if the money you’re spending on ads is worth it, if your campaigns are as effective as they could be and tagging automatically or manually on your URLs supports more detailed reporting in Analytics and AdWords accounts. This post will show you how to enable and use this feature in AdWords and Analytics.

Options for tagging your URLs

When you set up tagging, you have the option to either enable auto-tagging or tag your URLs manually. There are pros and cons to both approaches.


  • Less work:  You won’t have to manually tag all the URLs you want to track
  • No errors
  • Discrepancies in data from using both auto-tagging and manual tagging
  • More detailed reporting in Analytics
  • This method provides many more data dimensions than manual tagging

Manual Tagging

  • Can be used on websites that do not allow for arbitrary URL parameters:  Some websites display an error page when the URL used to reach the page contains parameters that do not match the destination file
  • When you want to customize reports with specific data

In most cases, Google recommends to its users that they enable auto-tagging. This feature provides a wealth of data on your AdWords account activity and keywords in your Analytics reports. You’ll be able to see the match type, the ad group associated with the visit or conversion, the destination URL, the network the ad was on (whether search or display), as well as the placement domain if it was the display network.

Enabling Auto-Tagging in Google Analytics

Before you can enable auto-tagging on your ads, you must link your Google AdWords and Google Analytics accounts so that data can be shared. This also assumes that you have an Analytics property set up and collecting data on the website you are advertising.

  1. Log into your AdWords account
  2. Click the tools and analysis tab
  3. Click Google Analytics
  4. Click the Admin tab
  5. Select the Analytics account you want to link your AdWords account to.
  6. Click the Data Sources tab and then click the link accounts button.

Conversely, you do not have to log into your AdWords account to gain access to Analytics. You can simply visit and follow steps 4-6 above.

Benefits of URL tagging

Auto-tagging your URLs allows data to be pulled into Analytics from your AdWords account. This opens up a wealth of information from your AdWords campaigns that can be viewed in your Analytics reports. You can also see what people did after they clicked on your ads and came to your website. Google does this using the gclid parameter appended to the end of the URL that is your landing page. For example, an appended URL might look something like this:


Naturally, the characters after gclid will be randomly generated, and this is the parameter that allows AdWords and Analytics to share information with each other.

Checking to See if Auto-Tagging Will Work on Your Site

There are some scenarios where auto-tagging will not work on a website. For instance, server-side redirects can cause parameters to be dropped resulting in missing visit and CPC data. You can test whether auto-tagging will work on your website before it is implemented.

A simple test on a URL that is redirected:

  • Take the destination URL from your AdWords campaign and paste it into a browser
  • Append a test parameter as follows to the end of the URL: ?gclid=123-abCD
  • Hit enter or click the browser’s go button for an address entry. If the parameter above disappears, it was lost due to the redirect
    • Note:  If you are using a landing page that is not redirected, you shouldn’t have to worry about this phenomenon. Also, if you already have parameters in your URL that begin with ?, you should use the & symbol instead of the ? after your initial parameter but before any manually applied URL tagging
    • You can troubleshoot redirect problems with auto-tagging here.

Viewing Your Data in Analytics Reports

Once you have some data accumulated, simply log into your Analytics account to look at it. You can find data related to AdWords reports under Audience -> Advertising -> Adwords. You can see overview progress for any campaigns you have running, keyword data related to your campaigns, and data related to your destination URLs among other metrics. One of the most powerful aspects of these reports is your ability to view keyword performance in relation to ad position in search engine results pages. From these reports you can determine whether some keywords are more effective at enticing users to click than others. You can also determine if users who clicked on your ads found your website content relevant by using metrics like time on site and the number of pages visited.

Importing AdWords data into Analytics is a great way to get deeper insight into how your campaigns are performing. Google can do this easily through auto-tagging on AdWords campaigns. Remember to test your URL parameters before setting things up so you can be sure that data is aggregating appropriately in your account.


How do you use auto-tagging to improve your ad performance? Do you know of any benefits to manually tagging your campaign URLs that aren’t offered with auto-tagging?