Google Quietly Updates the Keyword Tool Interface

16 06 2011

It looks like Google made some more changes to one of their products without drawing much attention.  Sometime this week it looks like Google updated the Keyword Tool interface.  Previously when doing keyword research with the tool, the word or phrase that you were searching for got lumped into the rest of the results within the search.  With the new interface the actual search terms are presented in a separate table from the keyword ideas that are delivered:

As you can see the change was anything if not minor, but I like the idea of being able to quickly see the results for the exact search terms that I entered.  At first glance I thought that it may make the “only show ideas closely related to my search terms” obsolete, but a quick test that I ran returned some bizarre results:

Strangely, the broader search for all keywords returns 577 keyword ideas and when you click the “only show ideas closely related to my search terms,” which in theory would refine the search, Google returns 800 keyword ideas (the maximum number the tool will return).  What are your thoughts on the backwards results?  Did Google flub the update?


Tutorial: How to Install WordPress

10 06 2011

WordPress is a great solution for people in need of a website or blog, though installing WordPress can be a bit tricky.  Luckily for many people, hosting providers are beginning to roll out one button installs of WordPress  Joomla, Drupal and more.  This is obviously the easiest way to go about doing this, which you can generally find in your hosting options.  The down side of this is it can take quite awhile for them to be created, and let’s be honest, it’s just not as fun.  The following example is using GoDaddy hosting, other hosting services may look a bit different.

To install a WordPress site yourself, you will need a few things: a hosting account, FTP access and a mysql database.

1. First things first, you will need to download the WordPress install files from

2.  Extract these so you have a WordPress folder.

3.  Go into your hosting account and setup a mysql database.

4. Once here, create your database, use mysql5 if you have the option.  In GoDaddy all you will need to fill out is the Database name/User Name and the Password.

5. Once created, you can view the information associated with the Database on the next page after submitting.  Note: it can take a few minutes for it to setup.

6. Leave this window open and find the files that you  downloaded earlier.  You will find a file called wp-config-sample.php.  Rename this file to wp-config and open it up in a text editor.

7. Within this file you will see a few familiar fields associated with your database that you created:

According to our information from setting up the database, we would simply replace the lower case single quote areas with the following:

DB Name: exampledbblog
DB User: exampledbblog
Password **Whatever you set it to
DB Host:

8. Once this is done, simply login to your ftp and upload the files to your web space.  If you need to find your ftp information, you can do so through your hosting(similarto setting up your database)

9. Once all of your files are uploaded, visit the domain that you uploaded your files to(you may have to navigate to a subfolder if you put them there).  You will then see a wordpress setup page in which you create your user name, password and email associated with the site.

10. Take a deep breath, you are done!

Google Updates AdWords Traffic Estimates Algorithm

19 05 2011

In the ever-changing world known as Google products and services, Google has announced yet another algorithm update.  However, this time around it isn’t Panda 3.0 – the update doesn’t even apply to search.  The newest update has been applied to the traffic estimates you see in AdWords.  According to Dan Friedman from the Inside AdWords Team:

“Today we’re announcing an update to the algorithm behind the traffic estimates you see in AdWords. As a result of our updates, we hope to provide you with better statistics for estimated clicks, cost, and ad position. This change is effective now and affects all AdWords accounts globally.”

Nothing exciting has been done to update the actual interface, just the behind the scenes interpolation.  One of the primary differences I first noticed was that you are now required to enter a number in the “Max CPC $” field illustrated below:

Other than a keyword and a max CPC you are not required to enter any other information in order to get an estimate for the global monthly searches, local monthly searches, estimated average CPC, estimated ad position, estimated daily clicks, estimated daily cost, competition or local search trends.

However, the biggest benefit of the updated algorithm is the fact that you are able to more accurately estimate traffic and bid structure when you are building your campaign.  More info from Dan and the AdWords team:

“In order to determine if you’re setting an appropriate target bid, try entering a few different values in the Max CPC field the next time you use the Traffic Estimator. Look at how these different bids affect your statistics, and then decide which bid gives you the best return on investment. You can use the same process for trying out new budgets.”

So have at it, test out the new algorithm to refine your bidding & keyword strategy and better optimize your campaign performance.

Formic Media Seminar Series: Setting Up Google Analytics

16 03 2011

Is your company starting to implement online marketing strategies such as SEO, PPC or social media? If this is the case, are you tracking your efforts through a web analytics platform like Google Analytics? If not, you may be wasting your time as you have no idea which strategies are driving traffic and converting visitors to leads or sales. If you are utilizing Google Analytics, what metrics are you looking at to determine campaign effectiveness?

The Formic team will provide a Google Analytics setup overview, as well as dig into the rich reporting features offered by Google’s free analytics platform. Learn how to measure your efforts, and better understand what success looks like. Register today and reserve your seat as there is limited space available.

Cost: Free

Date: April 13th, 2011

Time: 5:30 – Networking; 6:00 – Presentation starts

Where: Formic Media, Inc., 300 NE Failing St., Portland, OR 97212

7 SEM Trends for 2011

8 02 2011

After spending the last month reading list after list making SEM predictions for 2011 I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring.  When you truly look at predicting anything, the best case scenario is you’re right and the worst case scenario, well at least you made an effort.  So, without further ado, here are my top 7 SEM predictions for 2011:

1.  Above the Fold Content Becomes Less Crucial

One of the biggest things to take away from the infographic craze is that users are willing to scroll if you have engaging content.  Virtually every mouse has a scroll feature; create amazing content so I want to use it.

2.  HTML5 and CSS3 Will Begin to Go Mainstream

The general population is afraid of change.  Most tech people are early adopters and embrace change.  Now we just need the people building sites for clients that are still using IE6 to let them do it the right way.  Listen to Smashing and start using HTML 5 and CSS3 today.

3.  The Death of Foursquare: As big players integrate location-based services better, the smaller pioneers will fade.

Let me start by saying I’ve never been into letting people know where I’m at so they can go to my house and kidnap my dog while I’m out drinking.  Therefore, I may not be the authority on any this issue.  However, I do hate having to juggle four different apps in order to let everyone know what I’m having for dinner, where I’m having it, that I just became the Mayor and that I checked in to save 20% on appetizers.

4.  Google’s Disdain for RSS Will Continue to Grow

With rumors already swirling about Google moving resources away from Google Reader, it’s likely that support for RSS will fade overall.  Personally, I used to be into RSS as it’s an excellent way to keep abreast to the latest news and industry blogs, however that all went away when Twitter became my professional social vehicle and Facebook became my personal social vehicle.  Using Twitter and using it right helps to filter out all the fluff and only read content that is valued by people who know more than I do.

5.   Blekko Will Become an Important FREE Tool for SEO Professionals

Blekko has already made efforts to supply SEO data to users.  I think the next step in the process is to allow the data to be exported and manipulated.  Stay Tuned…

6.  Local Search Will Drive More Customers to Brick & Mortar Stores

Yelp reported that in December of 2010 35% of all searches on came from a mobile app. Please take into account that this number doesn’t even include the people who go directly to the site through their mobile browser instead of using the app.  People are searching locally and on the go because they want to spend locally.  Looking at Google’s shift towards local content only reinforces the fact.

7.  Customer Reviews Will Take Center Stage

One of the biggest obstacles working with companies that are just now jumping on the local bandwagon is that it’s difficult to get an influx of reviews.  As local businesses begin to optimize for local search, expect to be asked to review a business more and more as you’re walking out the door with your lunch.

In the end, there were a million different predictions I could have thrown out there. Check back next year and we’ll see how I did.


What are your thoughts/predictions for 2011 and beyond?

Is Groupon a Small Business Killer?

17 09 2010

I recently read a blog post from the owner of my favorite coffee shop, Posies Cafe in North Portland. It was a blog post explaining how Groupon nearly put them out of business. The owner explains the entire process, from the call with the Groupon rep, all the way to her experience of turning down a loyal customer’s Groupon. The owner had hesitations, but knew Groupon has been the Internet darling as its traffic, subscribers and revenue have skyrocketed over the past year. And the recent press it has received about the Gap deal has really put them on the map (if they weren’t already). So, I can see why a business owner would fall victim to the hype. Thanks for telling your story, I’m hoping it helps other small businesses not fall into the same trap.

So, is Groupon right for your business? That’s a tough question to answer, and one I’m not going to attempt for you. What I will do is provide thinking points for you. Ponder these. If you decide to use Groupon, make sure you’re prepared and understand what could happen, both good and bad.

The Pitfalls of Using Groupon

The downside to using Groupon (or any deal site for that matter) can be huge, per the above story or this story of a NYC smoothie shop owner’s experience. Let’s take a look at what these downfalls consist of:

  • Heavy Response – Groupon can drive tons of foot traffic to your store, which most small businesses are not prepared for. A sudden surge in customers waiting at your counter or banging down your door when you’re not prepared can only spell disaster. If you’re a business that takes appointments, you’ll feel the same effects through your phones. Both situations will inevitably lead to bad customer service.
  • Lack of Follow Up Opportunities – The only way Groupon can really work for a small business is to drive repeat customers. Businesses take such a hit (lose revenue, see next bullet point) when doing these deal sites that the only way to recoup the  loss is to get these customers back in the store (customers that most likely wouldn’t have ever visited your establishment without the Groupon). Amazingly, no, shockingly, Groupon does not provide any customer data of those that purchase the deal. Not a single email address. That makes it really difficult for stores to follow up to get these folks back in their business.
  • Economics Don’t Pan Out – Any way you slice and dice it, the economics just don’t pan out. Let’s do some simple math. If you sell a product for $100, and your margins are 50%, you make $50. If you do a Groupon deal and offer a 50% discount off of the $100 product, the customer is now getting a $100 product for $50. Your margins remain the same at $50, so you’re breaking even at this point. We’re not done though. Groupon will take 50% of the deal price, which would be $25. You keep $25. So, in this example you’re losing $25 on every Groupon that is redeemed. It just doesn’t pan out.

The Positives

There can be some positive aspects that come from using Groupon. As a small business owner though, you must still be careful of the pitfalls I mentioned above.

  • “Affordable” Advertising – Groupon has over 13 million subscribers, and with all of the recent press they’ve received for the Gap deal they’re bound to obtain even more. With that many eyeballs, and the “free” advertising a business receives (you don’t pay to have Groupon promote your deal on their site) you can gain excellent visibility and generate awareness to folks who may have never found you.
  • Effective Sales Generation – If a business is prepared, Groupon can be an effective sales machine. The deals can drive hundreds, if not thousands, of new customers, and if you have the appropriate systems (staff, lead capture, etc) set up, Groupon can be a goldmine.

The way I see it, there aren’t that many positives for a business. The customers are the ones winning with these deals, and they don’t always win either (due to poor service, waiting weeks to get an appt, etc). If you do decide to use Groupon, I want to leave you with some tips in the hopes that your deal works for you. I want to make sure you think about how this could destroy your business before you make your choice. Don’t be put out of business because of a bad decision, and an apparently aggressive sales team that’s not thinking about the businesses themselves (see the Posies story above).

  • Do the Math – make sure you do the math to see if running a deal on Groupon will work for you. You know your margins, overhead, etc, make sure you look at all of this and understand what you can afford, and what you can’t. You have to at least break even in order for this to make any sense at all.
  • Staff Up – You must ensure you have the appropriate staff available to answer questions, take orders, serve, etc. When your business is suddenly hit by a swarm of hungry customers, you need to have a plan in place to deal with them. If you don’t, many customers will leave angry. A customer with a bad experience will tell 10x the amount of people than a person with a positive experience.
  • Customer Retention – It is imperative, for Groupon to work for you, that you capture email addresses so you can use remarketing tactics on these customers at a later date. More than likely, these are one-time customers (maybe 1 out 5 will return, maybe), unless you are able to follow up with additional messaging to get them back into the store. These customers need to come back several times just to make up for the loss you incurred on their Groupon deal alone.

OK, so there you have it. I’ve laid out many pitfalls, some positives and now tips for determining if Groupon is right for your business. In the end you’re trying to grow your business, not drive it into the ground. Don’t jump on the bandwagon just because deal services are the internet darlings of today.

Has your small business used Groupon or any other deal site? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.

PPC Creation & Management: Doing it Right

13 04 2010

To take a quote from Kent Lewis, President of Anvil Media, The good news: you can setup and manage a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program on Google, Yahoo! or MSN within minutes. The bad news: you can setup and manage a PPC advertising program within minutes. “

As a search and social media marketing firm it is frustrating to see and hear some of the services that other so called search marketing companies are offering.  I have lost track on the number of times I have met with businesses and clients who have been frustrated with the service, quality of work, and advice their previous search marketing agency had been providing.  Just like most things in life, you get what you pay for. 

With so many businesses offering Pay-Per-Click services (Yellowbook, Dex,, Reach Local, etc.) it can be hard to find the ones that will offer a quality service and product.  If you decide to hire someone to manage your PPC campaign, take note of these points.  It will save you many headaches in the long run.  If you are currently using a company to manage your PPC campaign, make sure these are being done or have been done.

  1. Research:  There should be an in-depth research phase for every PPC campaign.  This includes but is not limited to analyzing past and current PPC campaigns, competitors, current customer base and keyword research.  Look out if the research and set-up of your campaign includes only picking a few keywords, writing a few ads and pressing play.  The more the search marketing company wants to know about your business, your customers, and your competitors, the better your campaign will be.
  2. Keywords:  Ask about their keyword research process.  How do they go about selecting keywords and have them give reasons why keywords were selected.   In reality there is more to it than picking 10 keywords that relate to your business. 
  3. Management:  A PPC campaign isn’t like the Ron Popeil “Set it and Forget Rotisserie”.  When you hear something like “your campaign will be fully automated”, go running for the hills.  A business owner who does not adapt to the changing market, will eventually fail.  The same holds true for any PPC campaign.  There are many moving parts to a successful PPC campaign and they all have to be cared for. 
  4. Reporting:  At the end of the month or whenever you receive reports for your campaign, there should be a detailed account of changes or recommended changes to your campaign.  If no changes were made or no changes are recommended, that is a big red flag.  Here are some bits of information that you want to see in your reporting or end of month analysis:  What ad copy changed, what keywords worked well, what keywords were dropped, what were the conversion rates for each keyword, what was the placement of your ads, etc.  There should be a reason for every move within a PPC campaign and it should be a move to increase your business’s ROI.
  5. Guarantees:  Also, be cautious of any company that guarantees a particular ranking, level of success, or number of clicks.  Search engines frequently change their algorithms, so it is impossible to know where and when your ad will be.  In the end it does not matter where your ad is or how many clicks you get.  It is all about conversions and ROI.   

 There are dozens of search marketing companies clamoring for your business’s money.  Some only seem to care about their bottom line.  By taking into account the above points, you will be able to find someone who cares about your business’s ROI.

For more information on creating a quality PPC strategy check out, The Four E’s of a Successful Pay-Per-Click Advertising Program.

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