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SEO Website Audit

Subject: High Rankings Advisor: Is PPC an Essential Tool? - Issue No. 085

January 28, 2004



*Introductory Comments:
---->   A Fun Week!

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Is PPC an Essential Tool?

*This Week's Sponsors:
---->   GlobalServers Virtual Private Servers
---->   Surfcorp Network

*Guest Article:
---->   Top Site Clinic Problems

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Chicago Full-day SEM Seminar
---->   CD-ROM of Jill's Tampa SEM Seminar

*High Rankings Forum Thread of the Week:
---->   Build Brand Equity for Search

*This Week's Sound Advice:
---->   Gaining Search Engine Rankings by Making Sense

*Advisor Wrap-up:
---->   Hang Onto Your Lunch

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!

Aside from the cold and snow, it's been a fun week around here.  Just
as things were settling down in the wake of the "Florida" update,
Google decided it was time to upset Webmasters all over again.  At the
High Rankings forum, we've dubbed the latest update "Gladys," after
the St. Bernard that used to steal my lunch when I was in first grade.
(This is my first mention of who Gladys actually is...nobody in the
forum was told this yet. <grin>)

Newsletter sign-ups continue to be through the roof (thanks Google!)
and many of you took on my challenge to prove me wrong last week, by
registering at the SEO forum also. Thanks!  We still have about 100 new
registrations to go to meet our goal.  So make a quick visit and if you like what you see,
please register! (Be sure to confirm your registration email, or it
won't count.)

Also, the response to the SEO Copywriting Kit I mentioned last week
was fabulous!  I received my copy from MarketingSherpa in the mail and
was even *more* convinced that they're undercharging for it ($99).
Well, it's a long issue today, which includes a great article from my
friend Christine Churchill discussing the common mistakes we see at
the site reviews we do at search engine marketing conferences.  Plus,
I've got information on our next full-day SEO seminar on April 23 in
Chicago, and a brand-new audio CD-ROM for sale with our presentations
from the SEO seminar in Tampa.

Let's get to it! - Jill

~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Is PPC an Essential Tool?++

Hi Jill

Great newsletter -- I read it avidly and invariably find a nugget in
each edition. Keep it up.

Here's the thing, my wife and I run a web site selling sun protective
clothing for kids and adults and we're based in Edinburgh (or
Edinboro, Scotland as you Americans so quaintly say :).  We are a very
small business, running on a shoestring budget. We're doing well but
now need to step up to the next level.

We're in Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory but as yet have not
dipped our toes in the shark infested pay-per-click waters. In your
view, is PPC now an essential marketing tool or can honest SEO
techniques still win the day alone? How do you balance cost with
global profile?

Another question is, should we "pretend" to be much bigger than we are
or should we emphasise our homespun family business values? Are people
more comfortable dealing with what seems a large organisation or would
they prefer the personal service and individuality of a site that
doesn't try to hide the fact it's a one-woman business?

I'd appreciate hearing your views but realise you cannot respond
personally to every e-mail.


Ken T.

++Jill's Response++

Hey Ken,

Glad the newsletter has been of help to you!  Your site sounds like
one that would be of interest to me, as my son could use your
sun-protective clothing. (He doesn't tan -- just burns.) (PPC), is it an essential marketing tool?  Well,
that depends.  If your site is already showing up in the search
engines' "natural" results for a good number of relevant keyword
phrases, and you're making sales off of this traffic, then you may not
gain any advantage by purchasing PPC ads.

You mention that you're listed in Yahoo's directory and at DMOZ, which
is a great start, but are you getting found through Google, MSN, AOL,
etc.?  I would take a look at your server logs and see exactly where
your traffic is coming from.  I'm guessing that the folks in your
target market are big MSN and AOL users, just based on my past
experiences with a variety of types of sites.  And of course, Google
is popular with just about everyone.

Once you see how you're currently doing in regards to your search
engine traffic, then you can make a search engine marketing plan of
action.  If you find that you're really not getting much targeted
search engine traffic, you'll want to optimize all the pages of your
site to rank higher in the natural listings.  If you've tried to do
this, but aren't having much luck, then certainly buying PPC ads may
be a worthwhile endeavor.

I'm not a PPC expert by any means. It's not a service I offer, so
anything that I tell you about PPC is based on what I've heard and
read from the experts I know, and from my experience with my own lowly
Google AdWords campaign for my site.  I can tell you that the reading
and listening I've done on the subject has helped me craft a
profitable PPC campaign for my Nitty-gritty handbook, and gain
newsletter subscribers, who often eventually purchase Nitty-gritty.

The thing with PPC is that you can't just set it up and forget about
it.  You have to track everything you do -- from the different ads you
test, to the keyword phrases you bid on and the amounts you're willing
to bid.  You need to figure out exactly what your conversion rates are
for everything to ensure that you receive a positive return on your
investment (ROI).

Once you get your PPC campaign chugging along nicely so that it is
making a positive ROI, then you're in luck!  Eventually you'll see in
your campaigns that if you get X amount of visitors from a particular
keyword phrase, Y amount will go through with a purchase.  As long you
spent less on X than you get back on Y, then you're doing a good job!

As an example, when I first started my AdWords campaign, with the help
of Andrew Goodman's book, I learned that
I needed to figure out how to tweak up my click-through rate, all the
while tweaking down my price per click.  Eventually, I worked my way
down to paying the minimum 5 cents per click for all my ads.  This has
knocked out some keywords that I can compete with, but that's okay; I
don't need to have them all.

Looking at my ConversionRuler stats for January,
my AdWords campaign that was targeted towards buying the handbook
produced one purchase of Nitty-gritty (one week after the
clickthrough).  The cost for the campaign was $18, and the handbook
sells for $49.  So, I made out like a bandit on that one, if only on a
small scale.

Now, truth be told, I have all sorts of other AdWords campaigns
running that don't give me an immediate return on investment.  I spent
$44 (for 880 clickthroughs) on ads targeted at getting people to sign
up for this newsletter.  Out of those 880, 74 signed up.  Now, if just
one of those 74 eventually purchases my handbook, then I'm about even;
two, and I'm ahead!  And if any of them eventually use any of my
services, then I'm waaaaay ahead! ;-)  So for me, it's worth the
money.  Now that I've also enabled the "context-sensitive" ads at
Google, I do have to watch things more closely.  I am spending a lot
more than I used to for ads, but I'm also getting more out of it, so I
think I'm okay for now. Recently, I disabled a keyword phrase that was
bringing in untargeted traffic.  I think that will further improve my
overall ROI for next month.

So the answer to your PPC question is pretty much, sure, why not try
it out?  But do read up on things so you know what you're doing, and
don't bother doing it if you're not going to measure the results.

Now, for your other question...should you try to look like a bigger
company than you are?  This is really just my personal opinion, for
what it's worth...

You are what you are.  (Or as Popeye and I like to say, "I y'am what I
y'am!") If you attempt to hide what you are -- or worse, lie about
it -- then I imagine it would come back to bite you sometime in the
future.  If people don't want to buy from you because you're a
one-person show, well then that's their loss.  They're probably
missing out on great customer service, or whatever.  There are plenty
of others who are only too happy to buy from the little guy, and reap
the benefits of dealing with a small company.  Heck, most of my
clients feel that way.

I always laugh when the first thing out of a potential client's mouth
is "How big is your company?"  Usually, the jig's up right then and
there, because if you have to ask, you're probably looking for a
number that is greater than one!  At first I used to stammer and
sputter when I got asked that question, and then try to explain that I
contract out different aspects of the work to others with specialized
skills, and yada, yada, yada.  But I learned that it doesn't matter
what you say after you say "one."  So now I just happily say, "it's
just me!" and they're welcome to take me or leave me.

And yes, I do think you can use the fact that you're small to your
advantage.  Like I said, customer service can generally be better with
a smaller company, plus your specific expertise is also often an
advantage.  At any rate, honesty is always the best policy.

Good luck!


~~~Guest Article~~~

++Top Site Clinic Problems++

Today's guest article is from Christine Churchill, founder of
KeyRelevance.  Besides being my friend,
she's got her hand in quite a few pies!  She is a nationally
recognized search engine marketing expert, and a member of the Board
of Directors of SEMPO, the search engine marketing industry
professionals association.

Without further ado, here's Chris!

Top Site Clinic Problems
by Christine Churchill

One of my favorite sessions at Search Engine Strategies conferences is
the Site Clinic.  This session is where members of the audience
volunteer their sites for a real-time critique by a panel of experts.
For the last couple of years I've been fortunate to be a regular
member of the panel, and I've noticed we repeatedly see many of the
same problems.  Here are some of the most common problems we see so
you can check your own site for possible trouble spots.

Bad Title Tags

I would have thought that the importance of good Title tags had been
drilled into every Webmaster in the world, but I can't remember a Site
Clinic yet where we didn't encounter at least one site with poor Title

Title tags continue to be the most important item on your page.  They
tell the search engines and human visitors what the web page is all
about.  The contents of the Title tag are what you see at the top of
the web page in your browser and are the first text you see in the
listings on the search engine's results page.  An eye-catching title
can get the searcher's attention when they scan through the results.

One of the most common errors related to the Title tag is just
sticking the company name in it or using the same Title on every page.
We've even seen sites that left their Title tags completely blank or
simply "Title."  Remember - each page on the site should have a unique

Lack of Visible Copy

The old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" isn't true when
it comes to search engines.  Search engines can't read text embedded
in a graphic.  You need visible copy on the page for the search engine
to be able to know what your site is all about.

A general guideline when it comes to page copy is to include at least
200 relevant, plain-text words on each page.  You need at least this
much to elegantly insert your vital keywords without diminishing the
quality of your marketing copy.

Lack of Relevant Links

Repeat after me: "No links equals no rank."  Competition has raised
the bar for getting a good ranking.  Now you need relevant links from
sites in a related field.

A few years ago it was possible to get a good ranking by just adding
keywords to the page, but now all the major search engines include
link analysis as part of the ranking process.  If you want a search
engine to consider your site important for a keyword phrase, get
listed in major directories or find friendly sites that already rank
well for that keyword phrase and negotiate a link from them.  Links
from your nephew's hobby site aren't going to help you much (unless,
of course, your site is about the same hobby).

Query-string Overkill

Getting feedback on how consumers navigate your site is valuable
information, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of your search
engine presence. When you start using long tracking codes and session
IDs in your URLs, you risk having your pages not picked up by the
search engines.

Bad HTML and Broken Links

Many people believe that if a site looks correct in a browser then the
HTML must be valid.  This is not true.  Internet Explorer is a very
forgiving browser, but search engines are not as forgiving.  They may
skip the error (and with it large sections of your page) or they may
just leave your page when they encounter an error.  Either way, this
is not an ideal situation.  The easiest fix is to run an HTML
validator (like the W3C's  or NetMechanic's over the site and fix the

In addition, if your page has bad links, neither the human visitor nor
the search engine spider can follow them.  Plus, your visitors may
lose confidence in your company.  The best advice is to run a link
checker every week.

Excessive Code

Losing 10 pounds is on everyone's New Year's Resolutions list -
including your web sites!  Want to know the fastest way to put your
site on a diet?  Use an external cascading style sheet (CSS).  Font
tags have been discouraged for years, but many WYSIWYG editors
(FrontPage included) stick them everywhere. That alone ought to be
good reason to motivate you to learn HTML.

If you're not familiar with CSS, there are a number of good reference
sites out there.  My two favorites are WebMonkey  and
my dear friend Brian Wilson's site, "Index Dot CSS."

Excessive code can also manifest itself in the form of long
JavaScript.  Instead of having line after line of JavaScript in your
web page, place it in an external file and link to it.  Removing it
from your page trims down the file size, reduces download time, and
keeps the JavaScript from pushing your main content down the page.

Targeting the Wrong Keywords

Some Webmasters choose keywords without doing any analysis. This is a
mistake that can cost money.

If your company sells "widgets" but the consumer refers to your
product as "wagets," you have a problem.  You have to speak the same
language as your target market and include "wagets" in your web page
copy.    If you hire a search engine marketing company and they don't
talk about doing a keyword analysis as the first step, then you need
to hire a different firm.

Look at the Big Picture

Many times we get so focused on the other aspects of our web site
(e.g., design, color, marketing copy) that we forget to step back and
take in the larger view.  Even the best of sites, Fortune 500 ones
included, can suffer from problems like these.  Take the time to
review your site and you will be able to reap the rewards.

Christine Churchill
Focused, Relevant Search Engine Marketing

~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Chicago Full-day SEM Seminar++

We've got the date and location figured out for our next High Rankings
Search Engine Marketing Seminar!

The date is Friday, April 23, 2004, and the place is the Sheraton Four
Points Chicago O'Hare Hotel.   It should be a similar program to what
we did in Tampa, but even better!  I'm not quite ready with the agenda
or exact costs, but will post more details on my seminar page
when I have them.  Registration is not set up yet, but feel free to email me at
if you're thinking of attending and I'll be
sure to save you a seat!

We've arranged to obtain a block of rooms at the hotel for the seminar
rate of only $103.00 per night. If enough people come the night before
the seminar, we'll probably have a little get-together somewhere. If
you know you'll be staying overnight, you can call the Sheraton
directly at 847-671-6000. Be sure to mention that you're part of "Jill
Whalen's Search Engine Marketing Seminar" to get the discounted room

++CD-ROM of Jill's Tampa SEM Seminar++

If you couldn't make it to Tampa in November, and you won't be able to
make it to Chicago in April, here's something to make you feel better.

You can now hear the entire seminar (except for the site clinic) on
CD-ROM.  Our professional sound studio has compiled audio mp3 files of
each session from the November full-day event.

The first half of the day was filled up by my complete "search engine
optimization basics" session, which is the same one I present when I
consult with companies (who pay big bucks for it!).

Some of the topics covered in the presentation include:

Search Engine Considerations
Design Issues
Choosing Keywords
Writing for the Search Engines
Creating Killer Titles and Meta Tags
Measuring Clickthroughs
Submitting to Search Engines
Submitting to Directories

The second half of the day contained presentations about pay-per-click
campaigns, SEO writing for your target audience, and how to analyze
your Web stats.

There are four mp3s that cover my morning presentation, and then one
mp3 file for each afternoon session.  Also on the CD are four PDF
files that contain the full-color slides from the event.  You should
be easily able to copy the files onto your hard drive and listen to
the seminar while flipping through the PDF presentations.  (Please
note that the audio portion will only play in a CD player that is
capable of playing mp3 files; some older models can't play them.)

The introductory price for the High Rankings Search Engine Marketing
Seminar Audio CD is $279 plus shipping.  We've only ordered 50 copies
of it, so you might say it's a "limited edition"!  The price is less
than half the cost of attending the actual event, but just as

You can learn more or purchase the CD here.

(Update: the CD is no longer available, but we are selling a DVD from an SEO Seminar.)




++Build Brand Equity For Search++

Here's the forum thread, which links to Fredrick's article:

Build Brand Equity for Search

++Gaining Search Engine Rankings by Making Sense++

That pretty much wraps up this Advisor!  Hope you're having a greatweek and Gladys hasn't hurt you much (or stolen your lunch <grin>).

Okay, I better go work on that CD order page.  Catch you next week. -Jill

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