Inevitably this question comes up in every sales meeting: “How long will SEO take?”
The answer, of course, is “It depends.” While some very fancy and technological sites will give us some very interesting data about domain age, link volume, trust flow, etc. there is no sure answer. However, one thing almost everybody agrees on is that 6 months is a good ballpark estimate for good SEO results in an optimal situation.
Does SEO take longer than 6 months?
Sometimes. I have had some clients who take only a couple months to get to page 1, but I’ve also seen clients who have barely budged after 6 months of effort. There’s no set SEO system that works for every type of site in every type of industry. It’s just not safe to say it will always take “X months” to get results.
In the case of online retailers, though, maybe there’s a better answer than “6 months” or “it depends.”
SEO for Online Retailers – A Case Study.
We had a chance to work with a local retailer who had only been working on a retail section of their website for a year. This retailer had put the time and effort into building over 3000 pages on their site, and had written custom descriptions for each item. They wanted to know if SEO would work for them, and, if so, how long it would take to work.
Our analysis showed that the immense effort they had already put into the site had started making a difference even before concerted SEO efforts began. They had a handful of keywords already ranking on page 1. They just needed a bit of a boost to get to the top 3.
We created a strategy that would help the in-house team optimize their work as they continued to add products and blog posts. We taught them how to set up their categories and product pages to more accurately target valuable search terms. In the mean time, we began our extensive link building campaign, where we first amplified the overall link profile of the main page, strengthening its authority. We also targeted the low-hanging fruit – those keywords that were already ranking well – and gave them a push.
Rankings improved immediately. Within just 2 months the average position of the site’s hundreds of keywords had risen noticeably. But next was actual visitors to the site.
SEO Results vs Visitor Results.
Most SEO companies consider “Results” to be rankings. And rankings are great, but they don’t pay the bills. Most important is visitors to the site.
In general, as ranking improve, site visits lag behind. Good rankings don’t generally generate much traffic until they reach the top 3 positions. So front page is good, but top 3 is the money maker.
In the case of our online retailer client, a few of their products began reaching the top 3 spots within 2 or 3 months, even beating amazon in some cases. Soon more and more keywords followed as the overall average position continued to rise. Here’s a look at some of their analytics from just a day ago (see if you can tell when we started working with them):
Paid search was a huge driver in this growth, but SEO generating more than paid was generating at the beginning of the year. Revenue has nearly tripled over the previous year. And that’s a gorgeous trend-line.
So, how long does it take for SEO to work for online retailers? Let me ask you this: do you think this online retailer is wanting to stop? Do you think they consider their SEO to be complete? The answer is that for an online retailer, it’s a never-ending process that adds more and more as time goes by, like an avalanche. Those first few keywords aren’t going to justify the cost of SEO, but the later rankings are more than going to make up for it if all goes well! 🙂
Are you looking to get your online retailing work going on its own without help from an SEO? You can get a lot of it done yourself if you follow best practices like those laid out in our DIY SEO Book.
WARNING: In this post, I call out several Las Vegas PI attorneys for wasting money, and potentially advertising themselves as available in other jurisdictions. If you’re a PI attorney in Vegas, check if you’re on the list. If you’re outside Vegas, but running ads on Adwords, be sure to read how to check your own ads.
Adwords is probably the biggest Love/Hate relationship personal injury attorneys have in their marketing efforts. Love, because if it’s set up right it can get results right away. Hate because, for PI attorneys, Adwords can cost over 100 dollars per click. That means, of course, that there’s a budgetary barrier to entry that keeps many of the small-timers who often need it most, and even the big guys can waste thousands of dollars on poorly made ad campaigns.
I’ve run ad campaigns for huge, multi-state PI firms, as well as the little guy who just wants to carve out a niche in a suburb. For everybody, prices are insane, and there’s no silver bullet to getting only calls from severely injured people who were rear-ended by a truck. However there are a few things that can ALWAYS help maximize your budget, and minimize waste.
In this post I will call out some fundamental errors on a few ads run by law firms in Las Vegas, where I am located. I would gladly call out their adwords companies if I knew them, but I don’t really have any way of knowing who set up their campaigns for them. Make no mistake, any one of these mistakes will cost you hundreds of dollars a month.
Here are some problems I discovered in just a few minutes of browsing ads for personal injury lawyers while at my desk in Las Vegas.
Problem 1: Ad Campaign Set Up By Somebody Who Doesn’t Understand How Jurisdictions Work.
The first sign that somebody just “phoned it in” while setting up an Adwords campaign is poor targeting. This is the most common mistake I see in attorney Adwords campaigns. Basically, whoever set up the campaign did the basic stuff, probably set the daily budget, set up some ads (even some nice ads like the HHtriallawyers.com example above), but really didn’t bother tightening up the campaign to ONLY show the ads to the people the firm are targeting.
This happens when you work with an Adwords team or individual who just doesn’t think of advertising in the way an attorney would. You can’t just tell google to show your ad everywhere in your market – like Las Vegas – and assume it’s going to always get it right.
In my experience, PI firms with this kind of flaw are losing at least 200 – 300 dollars per week with poorly targeted clicks.
When you consider a good Adwords management service (like ours) only costs about 250 / month… it’s worth more than it will cost you to use a good team rather than try and set it up yourself or use somebody who doesn’t know how law firms work.
Law Firms In Vegas Who Showed Up in “Personal Injury Attorney Kentucky” Searches Made From Las Vegas on 1/28/18:
Gazda & Tadayon
Harris & Harris Injury Lawyers
Kelleher and Kelleher
Mountain West Lawyers
Mossberg Injury law
Hanratty Law Group
You’re most likely not actually from Las Vegas, so you probably don’t realize that this list includes most of the “big guys” who are running all the TV and radio ads, or who dominate in search engine results. This is a problem that affects even the biggest of law firms when their PPC team isn’t taking the time needed for an attorney campaign.
Is showing up in searches for other jurisdictions against bar rules?
Ah, good ol’ rule 7.2. From a basic reading of the rules, there’s nothing to say you can’t advertise your services outside your state(s). You’re not doing anything wrong as long as you A.) Don’t seem to advertise as somebody else. B.) Don’t actually take clients outside your state. The real problem is you’re just wasting your money.
How much money? It can be hundreds of dollars a week, depending on the size of your market and your budget.
How to check if your ads have this problem.
It’s easy. Just search for your service and the name of a state or city you DON’T want to advertise for. “bankruptcy attorney canada” or “real estate lawyer South Dakota.” Do the search a few times. Did your ad show up? You have a problem.
Problem 2: Just One Ad Group
Even worse than these ads showing for the wrong keywords is the fact that some of them are showing the wrong service. In my quick and dirty “personal injury lawyer kentucky” search, I also saw ads occasionally talking about the completely wrong practice area. Here’s a great example:
This happens when the person setting up the Adwords campaign doesn’t realize that you have to have separate ad groups for you different practice areas. Ideally, you’ll have entirely separate campaigns with different budgets, keywords, etc. After all, you don’t want your divorce ad cannibalizing your truck accident ad, do you?
Get it together, Las Vegas.
Problem 3: Timing and Budget Issues Leading To Bad Clicks.
For the little guy, getting GOOD clicks is essential, since every click costs money. Across the USA, it costs an average of $1600 in Adwords spend to get 1 new PI client. Some cities are more, some are less. But you can vastly improve your odds by careful budgeting and watching the position of your ads. The problem is, if your ads are only ever showing up in position 6, or on page 2, the only clicks you’re getting are from bots. No human ever bothers to click the ads at the bottom of the page, much less page 2.
Too many PI ads are only showing up in bad positions. That means wasted money on bad clicks.
I’m also seeing some attorneys run out of budget before the month is even over, so their ads just disappear for a few days. Can you really afford to be out of the market for days at a time?
PROTIP: This, of course, represents an opportunity for the little guys. If you notice the big firms running out of money every month around the 26th of the month, why not save some of your own cash and run your ads at a lower rate during the last week? Or really go after that top spot while the big guys are waiting for their budget to refresh? Your competitors mistakes may be your opportunity!
Problem 4: Bad Landing Pages.
While most of the Las Vegas attorneys I saw had really great landing pages, one or two were just unmitigated disasters. WHY SPEND THE MONEY ON ADS IF THE CUSTOMER JUST GETS SCARED AWAY BY YOUR WEBSITE? Building a good landing page is literally STEP 1 of online advertising. Don’t just send them to your home page. Don’t use a do-it-yourself website builder. Get something nice that shows you know your stuff.
Obviously, if you need help, I would love to give you a hand. If you’re doing it yourself, well… at least put your phone number in a spot that’s easy to find, ok?
How do you prevent this from happening?
Step 1: make sure you’re getting the following data & reports from your adwords company:
Search Terms (tells you if people are wasting your money by searching for “Des Moines Bankruptcy Attorney” when you’re actually a “Salt Lake City Personal Injury Attorney.”) Is your PPC company only showing you how many clicks you got and fancy graphs, but no list of actual keywords people used to find you? That’s a big red flag.
Average Position of your Ads (tells you if your ad is showing up where people actually click it)
Conversion report or Call Tracking (tells you if people are picking up the phone or just clicking away from your site)
Step 2: Make sure your adwords company actually lets you see their work.
I’m talking about getting into the ad campaign itself. If your PPC company doesn’t let you see the ads, dig through the data, and otherwise mess with your campaign, chances are they are hiding their cut-rate performance by keeping you out.
Step 3: Talk with your adwords management team about places you DON’T want to show up.
This is just as important as talking with them about where you DO want to show up.
You can get as granular as you want. For an estate planning campaign, maybe you want to talk about specific zip codes you want to appear in and not appear in. Be specific and help your adwords team get you as targeted as possible.
Step 4: Insist on a custom landing page and tracking number for Every. Single. Ad Group.
Step 5. Use a trusted PPC manager… like, oh… Raptor Digital Marketing. 🙂
NOTE: I did not click on anybody’s ad. I would hate to waste their money. I also called or emailed EVERY law firm listed above and let them know the problem.
Greg Hamblin is an online marketing professional specializing in attorney marketing. He has won numerous awards for his web design work, including his creations being featured 4 times by the Lawyerist.com’s “Best Attorney Website” annual competition. He has managed millions of dollars in Adwords budgets, and managed the online marketing for law firms across the United States.
When we found out some of Joseph’s friends in Houston were stranded in their homes, he had to help.
See Joseph featured on Fox 5 Vegas here:
On Monday evening Joseph arrived at the nearest working airport, picked up a Jeep and a boat from a friend, and made the drive to Houston. He joined the caravan of relief workers, military, and concerned citizens pouring into the area to offer assistance.
The streets are still flooded, and many people have been trapped for over 48 hours. Some haven’t had any food in a full day.
At this point, Joseph is bringing food and water to the recently rescued, and picking up stranded individuals and families where possible.
If you want to help Joseph deliver water, we set up a GoFundMe campaign here: https://www.gofundme.com/clean-water-for-texas Your donation will be used to buy water and food and used IMMEDIATELY to help somebody. Any extra donations after Joseph has to leave the area to return home will be sent to the Red Cross or another reputable charity helping in Houston.
As always, thanks to our amazing clients who make everything possible.
We will keep this post updated periodically with photos and any updates on Joseph’s situation.
A few weeks ago, a California federal court issued an injunction that has some serious implications for SEOs of all stripes. If you’re into reading legal text, you can check out the ruling here, but if you prefer the tl;dr version, allow me:
Basically, Judge Edward Chen said that once a website like LinkedIn allows users to make data public, it can’t then decide that certain individuals or groups are not allowed to access that data.
Get it? In other words: if it’s public data, it’s public data.
HiQ has a business model that relies on scraping massive amounts of data from public LinkedIn profiles. It then sells that data to employers who might want to know if they have people who are actively looking for other jobs, for example.
But LinkedIn doesn’t like that idea. So it argued that HiQ was breaking the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of… 1986.
Yes, 1986. When the internet didn’t exist.
The CFAA is pretty clear on what’s illegal. Basically, if you get access without permission, or “exceeds authorized access” to obtain information from a protected computer. The CFAA was enacted by congress in the days when hacking was the big new scary threat. But does it still work in the internet age?
Well broadly, yes. The CFAA has been cited multiple times and enforced against people gaining information from web servers, including Facebook. However, Judge Chen astutely notes that those were instances where the defendants were accessing data protected by passwords.
Chen then agrees that if the data being accessed is literally made public by the website and user, then the CFAA doesn’t apply.
Chen further asserts that if the CFAA were allowed to apply to publicly viewable data it would potentially allow websites to “weaponize… criminal sanctions” against any user they wanted to.
Robots.txt and user agreements
Interestingly, though it wasn’t the focus of Chen’s order, the ruling seems to indicate that neither the robots.txt file, nor IP blocking, nor the User Agreement are sufficient to prevent data scraping of public information.
Of course, one need not have a profile on LinkedIn to access the public profiles on the site. This is pretty important because if a site hid profile information until you signed up as a user yourself (as many forums do) then the whole ruling might have been different.
What does it mean for scrapers?
If you do anything in SEO, you’ve probably done at least some data scraping. Even if it’s just a simple crawl with screaming frog, or a full-on extraction tool you wrote yourself, getting key data off of big sites is essential to doing our work.
But if the site’s robots.txt blocks your scraper… can you keep going anyway?
Look, I’m not a lawyer, so I will not give you legal advice on your situation. But here’s what the recent ruling seems to be indicating for us:
Public facing data is really public… for now. (keep watching, this has the potential to go to the supreme court)
Any data protected by password or requiring you to agree to terms or conditions is probably NOT public and if you try to scrape it you might be subject to criminal charges.
If a site blocks your IP, or robot in robots.txt, that does not make the data on their site less public.
The CFAA was written before the internet existed and, according to Judge Chen, doesn’t apply unless you either obtain access without authorization, or used authorized access improperly.
You can still get sued
Here’s something that most people don’t realize about our legal system. Even if you’re in the right, even if you are doing everything you should be doing, you can still get sued.
An open and accessible legal system that allows every citizen fair access to justice must also deal with madmen and corporate brutes who want to use the system as a hammer to punish others. It’s the reality of the world we live in.
That means no matter how careful you are, if somebody wants to try and sue you, they can. Protect yourself by being as reasonable and fair as possible. Don’t break terms and conditions. Keep scrapes slow. Don’t try to access data improperly.
We SEOs have some really cool tools available to us, but with great power comes great… caution. We have a duty to be responsible in how we interact with data and websites. Be smart, be informed, and be responsible in how you interact with the data of others.
We take on clients all the time who have been throwing their content down the bottomless well that is the Internet. They’re frustrated because they’ve been producing original content consistently, but it’s failing to yield the leads that content marketing articles have told them would emerge if they just followed the “content is king” strategy.
What we find is that many of these businesses have failed to develop a content distribution strategy to accompany all the blogging. Without it, your content is like an empty promise.
Fulfilling the Promise of Your Content
Did you know there are 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute? There are another 2.7 million WordPress posts every single day. Without a distribution strategy, your content will get lost in all this noise.
The first step toward developing a content distribution strategy is to determine if you’re sending the right content out into the world. Ask yourself the following questions:
Have you conducted keyword research geared around understanding your audience?
Have you worked those keywords into the content in ways that avoid stuffing, but speak to your audience in a meaningful way?
Have you tried A/B testing your content conversions to see what’s intriguing to your audience?
Have you created video to accompany your written content – and then created YouTube ads to promote them?
Are you using downloadable content to gather good, qualified leads?
Once you’ve done all you can to make good content – better – then it’s time to look at a few techniques to help promote it.
Three Ideas for Using Paid Media to Promote Your Content
You can’t just use organic strategies to fulfill your content strategy. We recommend using paid media to improve the results. Creating solid engaging content, and using email to distribute it is simply a good start. But you should also consider some pay-to-play options that will enhance your efforts. Here are some ideas:
Doubling up on a search term will give you more bang for the buck. You can use long-tail SEO, keywords, but also create a paid advertisement for the same keyword to be the king of the search engine results page (SERP).
Use Gmail advertising. Gmail has more than one billion active users every single month. Gmail ads are easy to set up, fairly low cost, but with amazing reach. You can even target your competitors’ emails with your ads. Sneaky, right?
Remarketing gives you a chance to continue to reach potential customers by staying in front of them until they are ready to buy from you. HubSpot says end users are 15% more willing to engage with a remarketing ad instead of a new one. Use remarketing if an end user leaves a filled cart on your ecommerce site. You can send them a remarketing ad with 10% off. If they bounce from the site, send them a remarketing ad with a new call to action. You can use this if someone clicks through and starts to fill out a form but doesn’t complete it, try revisiting their CTA with remarketing.
If you couple great content with these suggestions, you will start to flip the balance between throwing your content down an empty hole, and using it to fully convert “looky loo’s” into loyal customers.
That’s because I often see businesses separating SEO from the rest of their marketing planning and implementation processes.
But one without the other will impede your efforts to attract new business.
I suppose this is the natural result of SEO experts not being trained as marketers and vise versa. But the reality is that search engine optimization is marketing – and if you do it properly, the results will rival or exceed any other marketing channel.
SEO is Strategic Marketing
If marketing doesn’t go hand-in-hand with your push to improve SEO rankings, it’s like a bicycle with only one pedal. You won’t go nearly as far or as fast without the entire set of tools under your feet.
Too often I think we operate our marketing efforts in silos, and I’m not just talking about the Grand Canyon-sized gap between SEO and marketing. It happens when large enterprise organizations fail to connect user engagement across all marketing channels.
My point is the best and most effecting marketing brings together all of these pieces into one integrated, streamlined, and intelligent strategic plan.
Marketing 101 – with SEO
MindTools reminds us that marketing puts the right product in the right place for the right price and at the right time. Classic marketing 101, right? But how does SEO incorporate into this theory?
Product SEO ensures that your product (or service) will stay in the forefront of the client’s mind when they’re ready to buy. Knowing your customer means knowing how your product fulfills a fundamental need that they have. Attracting customers by using SEO means picking out the right keywords to promote these fundamental needs.
Place In marketing, optimizing advertising dollars means spending in the right channels. That’s why SEO is so important. If your business comes up first in a search, two things are true: The time is right — the user is considering a purchase. 2. You are in the right place at the right time. We already know that people do online research before they buy. That’s what makes SEO an important first link in the marketing chain.
Price Price ties into value, which ties into understanding what your customers are willing to pay. SEO marketing strategy should include discussion of what keywords or meta descriptions will show value in a search, and how those phrases could be repeated throughout your promotional efforts across all marketing channels.
Promotion Promotion is all about carving out a market niche by describing product elements that your customers value. This is exactly what the SEO process entails; you determine what keywords will resonate with your potential customers and then use them to improve rankings.
So, remember; the “S” in SEO does not stand for “silo.” No marketing technique should stand-alone. Incorporating SEO into your overall marketing strategy will give you much greater bang for your buck.
It’s another SEO Radio Hour with Greg and I! This week we talk about some tips and strategies to help your business retain employees, update your Google Business Page and more. Listen through any of the sources below.
In the world of Google, there have been a couple of updates in the last month or two that have affected a few clients. These updates are notable for a couple reasons:
1. Instead of a single day update, these updates extended over a week period or longer, with extreme shake-ups in rankings for many companies across the country.
2. Instead of targeting a single issue or feature, such as backlinks or content, these updates had no single identifying feature.
3. Even though rankings shifted significantly, there was no announcement from Google. This seems to indicate that either they didn’t intend it, or that they don’t want people to know about it.
For 90% of our clients, there was no effect from these updates. however, for a small group, there was a significant slump in rankings in the days around May 17 or June 24. For those affected by the update, rankings seem to be improving again slowly.
We’ll always keep you up to date on the latest Google updates, and you can also listen to our podcast, where we talk about these kinds of things as well.