Summer Search Chores

    June 26, 2006

“Summertime, and the searchin’ is easy. Clicks are jumpin’, and you’ve got ROI”

All right, I’ll stop singing, because Summer actually is a bit depressing. Internet usage is down, the pace of business is slower, and there’s an almost irresistible temptation to slack off and head to the beach.

Still, there are several compelling reasons to try to make your Summer as productive as possible. Here are a few projects which you might want to tackle during this slow time. Putting some effort in now will strengthen your position when Summer ends, and the pre-Holiday craziness begins again.

1. SEO Projects. Achieving high organic rankings for the keywords most closely identified with your business activities is vital, but it does take time for these efforts to bear fruit. Here are some tasks which can help further your quest for high rankings:

a. Give your site an unforgiving audit and compare its performance against those of your main competitors. Does each page on your site have a unique Title tag with a call to action? Does each URL resulting from server-side scripting or other dynamic programming result in one that is meaningful to a search engine? Are you fully leveraging the power of Anchor links? Take a good look at the way your competitors are handling all of these issues. Make sure your own site equals or exceeds their execution; if not, your need to get to bring your own site up to par.

b. Give your site copy a thorough review. The best marketers have excellent copy on their sites which communicates messages in a way that’s both search-engine friendly and a pleasure to read by a human. But the copy on far too many sites contains glaring grammatical and spelling errors that make them look unprofessional and amateurish. You don’t have to hire a freelance writer/editor to get your copy in shape (although this is often a very smart move); just make sure that someone at your organization with a firm command of the English language has read every word of your site and is confident that its language is clear, convincing, and error-free.

c. Think of ways to get additional quality backlinks. The algorithms of all the search engines use backlinks as a factor influencing site rankings. Blog entries, if written well and frequently, can supply content on industry events which can attract quality backlinks. Backlinks from authoritative sites such as trade associations or industry groups can also help your rankings. Do some brainstorming about how you can attract more legitimate backlinks. Avoid link-trading or link-buying schemes, or links from sites considered by the search engines to be “bad neighborhoods.” High quality backlinks take time to develop, but provide rich rewards over time.

2. Customer Research. You may think you know who your customers are, but you can always delve more deeply into the data they provide through self-disclosure in the process of transacting business with you, or through data monitored through Web analytics. Getting a handle on this data is especially important now, because all of the major engines are introducing powerful segmentation technologies which can substantially strengthen the effectiveness of your Search campaigns. But you won’t be able to take full advantage of dayparting, geo-targeting, demographic, or behavioral targeting tools unless you already know a lot about your best-converting customers. At what times do they convert? From where? After what behavior? The Summer lull is the perfect time to begin sorting through this data, using CRM, Web analytics, or other research data.

3. Campaign Restructuring. After you’ve crunched all the numbers and developed consumer profiles, you’ll still be faced with the task of creating campaigns which can effectively target these segments. Take account of the fact that geo-targeting, dayparting, and demographic targeting settings must be applied at the Campaign level, which can be a lot of work if you’re serving many different customer segments. Make sure you’ve allocated enough resources to accomplish this task; naturally, having automated campaign management technologies available which interface directly with a given search engine’s API will make your job a lot easier.

4. Video. 72 percent of Americans now have broadband connections, and video online video distribution is taking the ad world by storm. Do you have video assets “in the can” which you could easily digitize and distribute online via one of the major video portals or through Google Adwords (which recently added video to its accepted ad types)? Whether you distribute it for free or pay to display it, having a professional looking video can raise your company’s profile and distinguish it from armies of look-alike, impersonal competitors. If you don’t have the resources to hire an external production company, consider doing the work in-house. Hardware is cheap but be aware that video projects with high production values take time to produce.

These are just a few ways to use the Summer “lull” time productively to improve your Search posture. If you can hit some or all of these objectives, you’ll be way ahead of the game by the time that Labor Day inevitably looms. Both SEO and PPC search are insanely competitive. If you take a summer vacation from your SEM best practices you may find yourself taking a permanent vacation.

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Mr. Frog is a leading Search industry visionary. Mr. Frog is a member of the Did-it Search Marketing team which accompanies him to most major
marketing conferences.