SE Reputation Management For Direct Response Cost Savings

People talk about search engine reputation management (SERM) like it only serves to hide nasty blog articles dated from 2 years before you settled the class action. I’ve noticed this for a while – but never seen it blogged – that savvy companies could use similar SERP-domination techniques for direct response. Specifically, they could save money on coupons.

Let’s imagine how SERM can save you money.

Suppose you’re Mac Cosmetics. Suppose further that your checkout process prompts people for a coupon.

Guess what 90% of people do?

They google ‘Mac cosmetics coupon’ . Or ‘promo code for Mac Makeup’ or whatever combination of (i) “money off” terminology your checkout asks for and (ii) your brand and variations on it.

What happens next?

They find an affiliate coupon publisher site. They click the link to ‘reveal the coupon code’.

And then?

If you’re lucky, all that’s going to cost you is the discount plus the commission
for the affiliate that contributed NOTHING to generating the sale…

Or perhaps you don’t give affiliate coupons, so it just costs you for the discount.

But that’s unlikely. Because clever affiliates can use the ‘click to reveal discount’ call to action combined with a “site is loading” page after that. The click-to-reveal button cookies your visitor and the ‘loading page’ isn’t there to ask for patience but really to just reveal the non-affiliate coupon. Depending on your tracking, that cookie may mean paying the affiliate even if the coupon isn’t part of the affiliate channel.

If you’re unlucky, what that is going to cost you is the entire sale. The visitor just browsed your site for 5 minutes to find the product, add to cart, go through 90% of your checkout… It’s not a sure thing they’ll do it over for a 10% discount or free shipping.

So what is this notorious “that” in the phrase, “that is going to cost you”?

“That” is a failure to use reputation management to rank your own site and pages for “Brand + coupon” queries.

Selling SEO Services: Local Lead Generation

Many SEO experts ironically find it easier to get work from contacts that they make online even though there are numerous organizations in their own areas that need their services. Selling SEO services to local businesses requires good lead generation tactics and following through with the leads that you have.

Use Your Business Contacts to Generate Leads

Just because you sell SEO services today doesn’t mean you should ignore your past work experience in other industries. These business contacts are great to start building your client list.

Make a list of the companies that you have worked with and contact them to discuss the advantages that your SEO services could offer. Assuming that you left the organization in good standing, you will have a solid reputation that encourages them to use your services instead of someone else.

Use Your Personal Contacts to Generate Leads

You should also use your personal contacts to generate leads.

Many small business owners today recognize that it is important for them to maintain a presence on the Web, but few of them really know how to use their company’s site or that blog they had installed once to generate business.

Contact friends who manage or own small businesses, home businesses, and part time operations that could use your help and tell them you’re focusing on local businesses.

Cold Calling to Generate Local Leads

There are two basic approaches to cold calling. You can either pick up the phone and call local businesses, or you can walk into their stores and ask to speak to someone who makes financial decisions. I’ve found that you almost always get better leads by visiting the business in person.

Most small business owners are busy people, and they don’t have a lot of time to chat on the phone to people that they don’t know.

When you visit in person, though, you show that you are willing to dedicate your personal time to form a mutually beneficial relationship. It is also much easier for busy people to focus on what you say when you are sitting right in front of them.

You can even bring information sheets that they can read when they have free time.  That’s almost the offline equivalent of getting a whitepaper download, with the difference that online, whitepapers are usually requested, rather than thrust on people.

Don’t Quit

Finally, don’t give up on your local business lead generation attempts.

Sometimes months will go by without your hearing a single word from all of the people that you visited and talked to! This is a frustrating experience, but you should remember that it’s the nature of the business.

Some leads will close faster than others, so if you keep plugging away, the faster closes will sustain you in the short term while the long-term leads are simmering.

New Script Builds Links For SEOs As They Sleep

By now, many advanced SEOs will have heard about Tynt, a script that lets websites with good content build links automatically. A new competitor to Tynt has just been created, and it’s self-hosted. I’m getting ahead of myself though… For those who don’t know what Tynt is, let me quote from Tynt’s site.

“Our patent pending Tynt Insight technology tracks what’s being copied off your site and automatically adds a link back to your content with every paste.”


I didn’t create that link – Tynt did. Whenever you copy off Tynt’s site, and paste the resulting content elsewhere, that new content has a link added to it. So if your content is worth quoting, you get links.

I just got an email from Brett Barros, a student at MIT, who’s coded up a self-hosted competitor to Tynt. When he told me about his Link Building Pro, I wasn’t too impressed, since I knew about Tynt. But there are some pretty important differences. As Brett puts it:

“There are a few key differences from Tynt.

1. Most importantly for SEO, my script makes use of the meta keyword [tag] for the link text. [It pulls one of the page’s keywords from the meta keywords tag and uses it as anchor text.]

2. Second most importantly for SEO, it automatically adds focused links into the text from elsewhere on the page. Thus, the paragraph itself is embedded with *added* links.

3. It is 40% smaller in file size. You can also merge the javascript into other javascript files, reducing the total files the user needs to load (speed optimization will be important with the Google Caffeine update).

4. If Tynt’s servers go down, and you use Tynt,  your site will have problems. With my script, you host it yourself [so there’s no worries about other people’s server reliability].

5. You can specify areas of the page where the script won’t activate (like in code blocks).”

Also, while I can’t seem to find Tynt’s pricing on their site, Brett’s offering his tool as a free download. How can you quibble with free?

Advertising Acronyms: How These Rats Are Gnawing At Your ROI

I’ve known for over a year now that acronyms are absolute garbage when it comes to keywords. Today, I’m going to explain why and demonstrate with a few examples.

It’s a known fact that the more specific the intent of a keyword, the better search marketers can convert the traffic. In non-geek marketing speak, the more your prospects know what they want, the easier it is to close the sale.

That’s because they can explain it to you more precisely, so you can do a better job responding to their needs.

So why are acronyms awful keywords?

With acronyms, your task is doubly difficult.

First, you have the problem that, as with other short-tail keywords, there are plenty of things the searcher might have in mind. Someone looking for “ballet” may be interested in the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre of Moscow, in ballet shoes, in ballet music etc.

Second, one acronym can stand for many things. At least with ballet you can exclude the possibility someone is looking for football boots. But consider this acronym, “CCQ.”

To anyone in the Quebec legal profession, that stands for Civil Code of Quebec.

To anyone with a Mozilla Firefox-Google address bar, (in Quebec, at least) typing in CCQ gets you the Commission de la Construction du Quebec, which means that the Commission is Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” search result.

CCQ acronym ppc

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an ad that showed up in my Gmail account where the subject line included the exclamation, “WOW!”

WOW acronym keyword advertising bidding

Similarly, I was recently studying for an exam on international law that covered the International Criminal Court, or ICC for short. I saw – and clicked on – this ad:

ICC acronym ads

Makes sense, right? Looks like an ad offering the ability to look through the archive of decisions the ICC has rendered?

Turns out the ad offered exactly what it promised… only the ICC meant the International Chamber of Commerce!

So acronyms are also bad for a third reason, which is that their ambiguity works both to attract useless impressions [which lower your CTR and drive your bids up] as well as to attract useless clicks [which drive your ROI down].

The bottom line is that acronyms, like rats, need to be purged. Your advertising ROI depends on it.

Does blackhat automatically mean unethical?

Can't believe it's not blackhatAs a general rule, blackhat SEO is NOT in and of itself unethical. Sure it tries to manipulate search engine algorithms, but that doesn’t violate any fundamental guidelines of human behaviour. But blackhat practices CAN be unethical.

(Image provided by Stephen T of )

The ethical line is drawn where blackhat SEO significantly and negatively affects humans, and not just some abstract mathematical system.

(I say significantly to avoid people extrapolating that bad user experience is unethical.)

Here are a few instances – hardly comprehensive – where blackhats’ spam is lacking in ethics.
1) Parasite hosting. Pay for your own hosting.
2) Wasting other people’s time because they’re busy moderating your junk comments/submissions etc. This also applies to disrupting the normal functioning of communities by creating massive amounts of spam threads, stories etc.
3) Cracking someone else’s site: you’re using property that doesn’t belong to you.
4) Related to #4, cracking sites in such a way that causes their SERP CTR to drop. E.g. by getting their site labelled as dangerous.
5) Referrer spamming to deliver trojans/viruses/affiliate cookies (e.g. cookie stuffing) to webmasters who you expect will check out their referring sites.
6) Google-bowling a competitor by linkspamming their domain and/or DDOS attacking them and/or cracking their site to have it deliver trojan installers.
7) Stealing other people’s content and republishing it without permission.

At the same time, there are some instances where blackhat SEO is ethical. These typically just take advantage of the limitations of automated ranking systems (search engine algorithms) without troubling humans.
1) Autogenerating content with a Markov Chain or madlib system or other technique.
2) Linkspamming abandoned sites that the owner no longer spends any time on. Of course, this is different than linkspamming someone to the point where they choose to abandon their site
3) Cloaking your content to rank higher (read:stuffing the cloaked content with keywords; not showing bicycles to SEs and pills to humans, since you’re again stealing humans’ time).
4) Using link farms, doorway pages and/or any other tactics which have no significant negative impact on humans. Doorway pages are kind of borderline since they require an extra click, but I put that more in the category of “crap usability that will kill your conversions” rather than unethical stuff.